Born to Die
Bam … bam … bam … bam … her head banged constantly against a wooden headboard. The man on top of her reeked of beer, sweat, tobacco and pepperoni pizza. She tried hard not to choke on her own vomit as the man grunted, pushed in harder and came in sputters, while mumbling ‘Sweet Jesus’; over and over again. His coarse beard brushing against her soft skin, and his belly almost flattening her ribcage.
She tried to imagine Sean instead, but the asininity of the man’s touch and his filthy stinking mouth made the task impossible.
Once he was done grunting, he handed over two pink pills to her and said, ‘Next time you need a fuck, make sure you pop that pill first. Felt like I was fucking the Virgin Mary.’
She hurriedly stuffed the pills into her pocket, dressed, and ran down the stairs of that dingy building behind Brigade Road. She stopped beside a dumpster in a dark lane and threw up the pasta that she had had for lunch. She cursed her luck, the money from her last commissioned paintings blown on drugs, drinks, and getting wasted. And now, the last thread, her dignity, snapped dead. She had to resort to sleeping with drug dealers to get her fix. As she started walking towards the road, she popped one pink pill into her mouth.
Come, take a walk on the wild side
Let me kiss you hard in the pouring rain
You like your girls insane
Choose your last words
This is the last time
Cause you and I, we were born to die
Headphones plugged in, Anya walked down M.G. Road, as Lana Del Rey sang Born to Die in her ears. It was close to ten p.m., and Anya was looking for an auto rickshaw to take her home. The cold December wind stung her face, making her shiver to the bone. Bangalore is cool round the year, but bitterly cold when it rains. That night, it had rained. Rained hard, and it was still drizzling lightly, creating puddles on the potholed streets. She was glad she had worn the thick, fur-lined jacket with the hoodie. She saw people hurry down the street, covering their heads to avoid the intermittent drops of rain. Cops stood at various corners of the street, staring down anyone who dared look at them. Nervously, she fingered the pills in her jeans pocket.
She waved out to the first empty auto she saw coming.
’Elli Medum?’ he asked in Kannada. Anya couldn’t make out his face. All she saw were bloodshot eyes in the monkey cap he wore. The rest of him was wrapped in a red woollen sweater and khaki pants.
’Wilson Garden. ’She paused to gauge the distance and mentally counted out how much money she had left. She had enough to reach home.
‘One and half, Medum.’
Anya checked her watch, past ten in the night. This was expected.
’Sarri … hogi.’ Anya got into the rickshaw and quickly covered her face with her warm woollen stole. Just as always, she took her phone out of the bag to text the rickshaw’s number to Sean, her boyfriend. Then realised, that he was no more her boyfriend. It had been a month already since he had walked out on her, yet Anya’s hand would often go to her phone to dial Sean.
How could he end it so abruptly? Their seven-year relationship, of which five years they had lived together. Their flat, which now belonged solely to Anya, was filled with Sean’s leftovers. If she tried hard enough, she could still smell him, his musky scent.
Tears streamed down her face, the cold breeze making her eyes red and weary. There was nothing left for her, her life was over. She simply couldn’t imagine a future without Sean. For days after the break, Anya had called Sean, but he just wouldn’t pick up. She would. Anya could never bring herself to talk to her. Anya’s messages to Sean never received a reply.
She fingered the pills in her pocket once more; maybe she finally had the answer. She thought of all she had to go through to get the pills, but she was desperate. Desperate enough to sleep with another man.
For the first time in seven years, Anya had slept with someone other than Sean. No one would understand, but Anya alone knew the pain of it, how she had tolerated the other man’s vile touch on her. Her face, her lips, her breasts, her deepest core.
They reached the lonely roads of Wilson Garden. With not a soul in sight, the slow chugging of the rickshaw was the only comforting sound that Anya heard. Dark buildings on either side gave the impression of complete abandonment. That night, Wilson Garden was nothing but a ghost town. Anya shivered as she spotted a single person, a tall slender woman, standing in the far corner of the road, holding a crib. She wore a fitted red dress that reached just above her knees, her straight hair left open and combed rather severely with a centre parting. Her eyes were big, a very light shade of grey, almost white. She had darkened her big eyes with kohl and wore scarlet lipstick. She would have looked familiar, if not for the crib she clutched tightly with death-white knuckles. The crib was grey and empty.
Anya felt her stomach sink in fear. Who was this woman standing at the corner of an empty road so late in the night? Was she real, or was Anya imagining her?
A full moon night, a clear sky. An empty road lit by a single streetlight, illuminating a solitary woman in a red dress. Her hands steady on an empty crib.
Yes, she would definitely paint something like that.
As her rickshaw crossed the woman, Anya kept looking at her and the woman’s gaze too seemed to be fixed on Anya.
She asked the auto driver whether he had seen the woman in red. He responded drily, ’Yaaru (who), Medum?’
Anya didn’t ask again. Was that a sign, her seeing a ghost? A sign that she should do what she intended to do. Perhaps it was. But before that, she needed to paint one last masterpiece; she couldn’t wait to get home.
She craned her neck out of the rickshaw, but the woman in red was gone. A pit formed in Anya’s stomach and grew deeper, yet her mind felt alive and exhilarated.
As soon as she got out at her building, she hurried to her flat on the terrace. The only flat on the seventh floor. She opened the door and shouted, ‘Sean!’ but of course, Sean wasn’t there. He had left her, for another woman. It did not matter now, tonight was the greatest night of Anya’s life. Tonight she was going to fly, but not before she produced a masterpiece. She quickly dialled Sean, she had to say goodbye.
She picked up his phone.
‘Hello, is Sean there?’ Anya asked in an excited whimper.
‘He is, but he doesn’t want to speak to you. So please stop calling.’ Her voice was thick with contempt.
Anya decided that if Sean did not want to come and speak with her, he could just go suck a dick for all she cared.
‘Alright, Natasha. Please tell him I need my pink lace thong back, you will find it in his wallet.’ With that, she hung up and grinned at the hell Sean would go through that night.
Anya changed into her white overalls, dragged the easel out into the living room, along with her paints and brushes. She popped another pink pill in her mouth before she started sketching the woman in red on the canvas.
She was furiously sketching, when she heard a sound. She strained her ears to catch the faint creaking of tiny wheels on coarse floor. She walked up to the huge glass window and pressed her nose against it. She could barely make out anything in the dark. So she turned around and went back to drawing furiously, but a few seconds later, she heard the creaking sound again. Try as she did to ignore it, it grew louder and louder. Finally, her ears ringing with the jarring sound of wheels, she switched on the lights of her porch and walked up to the window once more.
Anya’s breath caught and her body paralysed. Standing in the terrace across, in the building opposite hers, was the woman in red, staring at her, rocking an empty grey crib back and forth.
Pinto walked across the scattered crowd in Brigade road. He was covered head to toe in a black dusty overcoat, his hands firmly wedged in the thick woollen pockets. Tonight was exceptionally cold, and his short lean frame braved the screaming wind that threatened to freeze people into immobility. Pinto needed his fix, and he needed it bad. It had been a while since he last did chemicals, they were not so easy to come by and they cost. But tonight was special. He had gotten massive tips from this shady nightclub where he performed regularly. Tonight, it was LSD on the ‘All you can eat’ menu, some hard and fast stuff.
He walked fast and turned right into the dingy street just behind Brigade road. He passed glassy-eyed beggars, the two girls in pigtails who sold roses, a group of bikers with neon hair, and the trans genders dressed in tight t-shirts and tighter jeans.
He hoped that Mallya would be awake and ready with his fix. Pinto had called him earlier, around 9:30 p.m., and Mallya had grunted, heaving hard. ‘Fuck you, man, cuz I’m busy getting my piece of ass tonight.’ After some pleading, he agreed to see him past midnight, and here he was, Pinto, ready to get his piece of ass.
Pinto stood outside the yellow building, and spat in distaste. Although Mallya’s dilapidated building was supposed to be yellow, it had turned brown and weary. The downtrodden locale was empty, except for a creaking noise, like someone was dragging a wheelbarrow on rusty wheels across the deserted road. Pinto wrinkled his nose at the acrid smell of piss, puke and beer. He held a kerchief to his nose and took the stairs, two at a time, to the third floor.
As Pinto reached the third floor, he saw that the door to Mallya’s flat, the only flat on the floor, was wide open, but the room inside was washed in darkness. He groped around for the foyer light switch, but couldn’t find it. He pulled out his lighter and shone its weak light across the foyer and into Mallya’s living room.
The walls outside Mallya’s flat seemed to be washed in streaks of bright red paint, the streaks dragging all the way up to the terrace on the next floor.
Pinto decided to ignore this and entered Mallya’s flat, calling out to him. As he walked across the filthy living room, strewn with empty boxes of pizza and discarded bits of crust, something squished under his foot.
‘Damn these filthy people, living in a dumpster,’ he muttered, and lifted his foot to see what he had stepped on. He brought his lighter down to the pink lump bleeding red on one side.
Pinto’s breath caught as he realised that this was no piece of pizza, it was a human tongue. He took out his phone, dying at 4% battery, and used the flashlight. Mallya’s living room was full of him – parts of him that is. Pinto could make out a ear, four fingers in different parts of the room, a toe, an eyeball, and what suspiciously looked like intestines.
Pinto gagged and ran out of the room, where he saw the bright red streaks of what he had assumed to be paint. He knew he should call the police, or at least call for help, before he followed those marks to their destination; the more he looked at them the more they looked like blood. But his gory sense of curiosity compelled him to shuffle his feet, one step at a time, towards the terrace. There he found the rest of Mallya pinned onto the Dish TV antenna, his stomach cut open and the rest of his intestines billowing in the cool breeze.
This time Pinto couldn’t hold back the urge to throw up. When he was done, he dialled 100, his hands trembling, his voice equally shaky, and reported the ghastly murder, when he heard the creaking of wheels somewhere far out on the empty road.
Anya had no idea how long she stood there paralysed. When she came to, she saw that the terrace opposite was empty. She knew it was the LSD running in her veins that gave her those illusions. Anya’s hands trembled with drug-induced stimulation and nervous energy coursing through her body, her eyes had taken on a glassy hue. She knew she must channel all that energy into making her masterpiece. As if recharged, she walked back towards the easel. The room was awash with bright yellow light, when it struck her – her painting was all wrong. She had sketched the woman standing across the road under the streetlight, but now she was halfway past the road, closer, more of her visible. A haunting smile played on her full scarlet lips. The three storied building behind her too had changed. At the window of the first floor was a face – a chubby face with a beard and one eyeball missing.
Anya couldn’t fathom how this had happened. She thought about it furiously for a full minute, then decided to add some splashes of colour to the painting. She knew she did not have much time to correct this. And anyway, it hadn’t turned out bad at all; in fact, if anything, the effect was more ominous now.
As she stood there, busy painting in the murky sky, in the periphery of her vision, she thought she saw the woman in her painting move. Anya felt her pupils dilate further and she started giggling uncontrollably. With a sudden jerk, she fell to the floor flat on her back. As she lay there, staring at the ceiling which was crawling with bats, bats with bloodshot eyes, holding her stomach tight, she laughed aloud. Her laughter, maniacal and hysterical, rang raucously through the empty room. Her body tingled in anticipation and desire of what was to come.
Natasha lay on her bed, staring vacantly at the ceiling. She hadn’t asked Sean about the pink thong she found in his wallet. She had spat on it and carefully stuffed it back in his wallet. She hated that whiny, desperate, needy, creative, beautiful, crazy Anya. When she had met Sean for the first time, she had pored over his Facebook page to understand any competition she was up against. What she found there did not make her happy. Leaning against Sean’s tall, muscular frame was Anya, a willowy woman with straight black hair, big grey eyes and luscious inviting lips. Anya was what Natasha was not. Lithe, yet curvy in all the right places. Her skin was pale, almost translucent, and her pink lips beckoned like a Venus flytrap. Anya looked like a forlorn Russian beauty, carrying the grace she had possibly inherited from her Russian mother.
From the first moment Natasha set her eyes on the woman, she abhorred Anya. And Sean, he was her salvation, her wonder wall. The man who made her laugh, lighten up, feel secure. She had to have Sean all to herself. Now Anya could have any man she wanted, but not Natasha. No she couldn’t. She wanted Sean, she needed Sean. She had never met anyone like him. His smile, his eyes, his touch ... every time they met, he would send her body into a tumultuous rollercoaster of sinful desire.
Over the years, climbing the steep corporate ladder, Natasha had learned well how to use her body to her advantage. Make any man fall for her wistful charms.
Slowly and steadily over the next year, Natasha found ways to be alone with Sean, to touch him and to allow her hands to linger more than necessary. She even tried her wilful ways at a house party that Sean and Anya had thrown for their friends. Anya was so busy laughing and dancing around their terrace, caught in her own drugged stupor, that she hardly noticed anything. Eventually, even Sean could not resist Natasha’s pull. Later, Anya’s increasingly eccentric behaviour after her second miscarriage drove Sean further into the comfort of Natasha.
Then one night, while travelling for work, with her exotic dark looks and voluptuous body, Natasha seduced Sean.
But Natasha knew that Sean was still torn between staying with her and going back to Anya. And that was why it was important that Natasha did not tell him about Anya’s call. The less he was reminded of that wretched woman, the better it was for her, Natasha.
She watched his taut frame now, silhouetted against the cityscape, shrouded in darkness, the lasts mouldering bit of his cigarette dying in the cold night. She waited patiently for him to finish his cigarette and come back into the room. She had changed into a red negligee, one that accentuated her ample breasts and small waist. Her straight shiny hair was loose, falling about her waist, just like Anya’s did. She wore grey lenses and had applied a generous dash of kohl, just like Anya did. She knew, if only her hair and eyes matched Anya’s, Sean would ravage her like a wild beast and give her the release she had been craving for all day.
Just as Natasha was about to carefully lie down on their bed, in a posture meant to give Sean the most inviting view of her cleavage, Sean came running inside and picked up his jacket.
He ran to her side and spoke urgently. ‘Baby, Jayanth has met with an accident, and I need to rush to the hospital.’
Natasha lay there tongue-tied as Sean gave her a quick peck on the cheek and stormed out of the flat. All her hopes of a wild night to follow lay dashed in a moment. She stomped her foot on the floor in a fit of agony, muttering, ‘That jerk Jayanth, couldn’t he meet with an accident tomorrow! All of Sean’s friends are assholes, in cahoots with that bitch, Anya.’
And then she walked up to her locked closet and pulled out a dildo. And that was when she heard the faint creaking sounds of tiny wheels just outside their bedroom door.
It was almost 4 a.m. by the time Sean finished the hospital formalities. Jayanth had been badly wounded in a hit-and-run. At the hospital, Sean had registered himself as next of kin, and ensured that Jayanth was comfortable. He thought of calling Anya and asking her to visit the hospital as well. After all, Anya and Jayanth were great friends, but he decided against it. Had he called Anya, he would have had to wait for her, and then drop her home perhaps. Sean knew that if he saw Anya again, as much as he wanted to, he would end up sleeping with her. Which would be wrong – he had already suffered enough guilt over cheating on Anya; he did not have to repeat the same mistake with Natasha.
He walked into Natasha’s apartment a little after 4. It was biting cold and hauntingly dark outside. He made his way towards B block and punched the button for the lift. As he waited, he could hear the sound of something thumping against the wall of a ground floor flat right next to the lift. He was torn between the need to stay in the warmth of a partially covered corridor and walking back out into the cold breeze to check what was making that thumping noise this late in the night. Ultimately, his sense of moral duty won, and he walked out wearily.
The first thing he noticed was a pool of blood forming on the ground, growing bigger by the second. Fat drops of crimson fell in a puddle, the ripples shining under the light of the full moon. Sean’s stomach lurched, he had never seen so much blood. He was terrified of looking up. Yet, as if his neck had a mind of its own, it craned upwards and saw Natasha hanging upside down from the ceiling of the veranda of their first floor flat. Her legs were twisted at an odd angle and seemed to be tied around the balcony railing. She was still in her red negligee and her long hair hung low with what looked like just a small piece of her scalp attached to the brain. Along with the blood that dripped heavily from Natasha, parts of her brain tissue fell with a plop.
Somewhere in the distance, wheels creaked across a cemented road.
Anya stared at her ceiling, giggling uncontrollably. This was amazing, thousands of bats hanging there, glowering at her with blood-red eyes. She rolled over and crawled up to her painting, she did not have much time. She had to finish her masterpiece before she slipped over the teetering edge of madness.
Anya stared at her work for what felt like endless minutes, then let out a shrill, cackling laugh. She threw the large canvas down on the ground and crawled across it on all fours. She resembled a beautiful hyena, ready to devour its prey. Her painting had transformed again – the woman was closer this time, her body clearly visible up to her knees, her white face expressionless, the irises so light that they were almost white, her lips dripping red, merging with the red of her dress. She stared straight ahead at Anya, as if she saw through Anya’s tainted soul and knew what Anya was planning. She smirked, as though in encouragement. Behind the woman, there was another face at the second floor of the building, a dusky-skinned woman with ample breasts and a dildo stuffed in her mouth.
For the life of her, Anya couldn’t figure out, why the woman in the red dress looked so familiar.
For the next few minutes, Anya alternated between giggling and painting furiously, when she heard footsteps behind her. She turned around, still on all fours. She couldn’t believe her eyes. It was Sean standing there, in flesh, in their home. Sean had come back. Anya salivated. He seemed to fill the room with his six-foot three-inch frame, his eyes wide and focussed on Anya, nerves popping out of his neck and arms. Anya wanted to run up to him, tear that beautiful blue linen off and make wild love to Sean. She slowly crawled towards Sean, her eyes never leaving his, and she twisted her body up gracefully until she stood tall in her full five-foot seven-inch body. With one flick of her hand, she dropped her overalls. Sean’s eyes widened further as he took in Anya’s naked body, shining with an unearthly glow.
He gulped. ‘I came to see…if you were alright.’ When he got no reply, he continued. ‘I found Natasha dead!’
Tears streamed down his eyes now, and Anya stared at him with wild, dilated pupils. She walked towards him slowly, and with shaking hands, and started unbuttoning his shirt. Her cold hands lightly brushed his warm, hard chest. Sean shivered involuntarily. It had been so goddamn long since he had heard Anya’s wild moaning, the arch of her back; her baby-soft pale skin, her delicate lips that felt like crushed rose petals when he bit them. He craved for how she would always bring him to the brink of mad ecstasy and then deny him release, until she first came herself. Her body was a perfect wet dream, how could he even think of leaving Anya to be with Natasha? He was a fool. This was what he wanted, this was the woman of his dreams, this wild nymph who drove him to insanity and brought him right back again. Sean was past caring, he needed to wipe that gruesome image of Natasha’s body out of his head.
He grabbed Anya by her hips, lifted her against the wall and kissed her hard. He had to conquer this woman, this wild animal with the wild grey eyes, full lips, silken hair and a body to die for. As Sean dreamt of conquering her once again, Anya threatened to drown in the pleasure of Sean’s desire, but checked herself. No, she remembered, she knew what she had to do. She gave one last look at the painting on her left, the woman in red smiled at her in encouragement.
With a flash of realisation Anya knew, it was her. The woman in red was Anya herself!
Asking...no, tempting her to fly…fly high…fly unto eternity.
Only this time, unlike other nights, she was not flying alone.
With superhuman strength, Anya drove herself and Sean to the edge of their terrace and toppled over with the love of her life.
The residents of Woodcreek Apartments, Wilson Garden, heard unearthly screams in the wee hours that morning, followed by a large splat. They ran to their balconies only to see the beautiful couple from the seventh floor lying splattered on the ground. The man, with his head smashed into the pavement, wore only jeans, and the naked woman glistened in the moonlight, a smile on her red lips, her grey eyes, the whites showing more, wide open, and an increasing pool of blood forming a crimson halo around her poker straight hair.
In the background, they heard the rusty creaking of a crib’s wheels on the pavement.
Next morning, the cops had no idea where they needed to be, with two murders and one murder/suicide, it was one hell of a December night in Bangalore.
By way of information, all they had to relate the murders was that the woman on the first floor flat who died, was Natasha, and her boyfriend was Sean, who died as well at the hands of Anya, who seemed to have committed suicide. Anya’s painting, her last work, had her own portrait in a red dress, with three faces etched in the window of a building behind her; the faces of Mallya, Natasha and Sean.