August 30, 2017
"Bhaiyya! Bhaiyya, come here quick!" the urgency in the voice was so intense that I did not waste a second before I darted out the main door and found my little sister standing a short distance away, her mouth covered with her hands and eyes wide.
"What is it?" I shouted, running towards her.
She pointed her little finger ahead of her. I looked in that direction.
Casey, our cat, sat on all fours, fur raised, tail curled. A thick black goo hung down it's lips and it's white whiskers were stained red.
''Wha-'' I began but then stopped.
A black lizard, about six or seven inches long, with scales along the length of its body, lay dead before Casey. Its tail was neatly severed and thick black and red liquid had congealed over the open wound. A small puddle of blood had formed on the ground. It glistened in the morning sun.
''Is that why you shouted your throat off?" I asked my sister, looking down at her, my hands crossed.
''Look what Casey has done!" she exclaimed in horror. ''She did a bad thing!"
I shook my head in an elder brother way.
''It's what cats do.'' I explained. ''It's their nature. There isn't anything to worry about.''
''Come on now,'' I broke in. ''Let's get back inside. I've got my homework to do. And you better finish yours too. Ma will be checking it soon. Let's go.''
And I pulled her away from the crime scene.
But just as we were about to step into our house, I stole a quick glance behind my back. I hadn't seen such a lizard before, ever.
It was a strange lizard.
"Casey! Casey!" my sister called, standing on top of the foyer stairs.
''Is she not back yet?" I asked her, rubbing my damp hair with a thick dry towel.
She just shook her head. No.
I stepped down the foyer stairs, slinging the towel over my neck.
''Well then,'' I said, looking back up at my sister. ''I'll search for her. You go have a shower. I've left the geyser on.''
She stayed there for a while, her arms around the cylindrical pillar that supported the canopy above and looked at me with a defiant gaze.
''What?" I asked her, irritably.
She puffed her face and stormed into the house.
She's blaming me for all this! Huh!
I shook my head and went about searching the entire outer perimeter of our house.
I found nothing.
Casey was nowhere around.
''She'll be back,'' Papa said, seated before the television set, flicking through the channels.
It was ten past eight at night.
''But it was in the morning that I last saw her,'' my sister complained sullenly. ''She's been missing since then.''
''She ate a lizard you say?" Papa asked, taking his eyes away from the set, only for a moment, to look at my sister and then back again.
My sister shook her head vigorously.
''She didn't eat the lizard. She only swallowed its tail.'' and then added,
''I saw it with my own eyes.''
Something had piqued Papa's interest on the television, for he made no reply.
My sister nudged him with both her hands.
''Uh- Wh- Oh, yeah,'' he stammered. ''She's probably a little sick. Lizard tails aren't among the list of their dietary supplements you know.''
''But Bhaiyya told me that it's a cat's nature to swallow lizard tails.'' she complained, pointing at me.
''Hey,'' I countered, looking up from the book I'd been reading. ''Why are you dragging me into this?''
''Because you made me leave Casey all alone with that lizard.''
''What do you mean I ma-''
''Yes you did. You ar-''
''I have noth-''
''Casey is missing beca-''
''Hey, hey, hey!" Papa growled, looking at us both. "I can't watch the news with all the racket you guys are making.''
He looked at my sister and continued.
''Casey will be coming back on her own accord, you needn't blame your brother for it.''
''But I didn't do anyt-'' I was cut short.
''And you mister,'' he said, pointing at me. ''Is that the way you speak to your little sister? You're supposed to act mature.''
I was sixteen then and she was five years younger than me. Exactly how mature was I supposed to act, I had no clue. I remained silent and sat back in my chair.
''Now,'' he looked at both of us, ''either you can sit here in silence or could go to your room and scream as much as you like. I have to watch the news and I want to watch it in peace.”
However neither I nor my sister would be screaming next. It'd be Ma. From the kitchen.
''What happened?" Papa almost shouted, his hands pressed against the sides of the kitchen entrance. My sister and I stood on either side of him, our hearts beating loudly against our chests.
Ma looked at Papa and then pointed at the line of wooden cupboards studded onto the wall. One of the cupboard doors was open.
''What?" Papa asked again, a little irritably.
''In there,'' Ma replied, in a weak voice, still pointing at the cupboard.
Papa walked unsurely to where Ma stood and then looked up at the open cupboard.
I was about to follow him in when he held out his hand and warned,
I stepped back at once.
My sister came up to me and hugged me. I hugged her back. It felt safe.
Papa walked a few paces close to the cupboard and slowly, and most cautiously, rising himself a little, peeped into it.
My sister dug her face into me. I pulled her tight and peered through my half closed eye lids.
Ma held both her hands against her chest, her fingers curled into a fist.
Papa moved closer and closer and then stopped.
He looked at Ma and then at us and then back into the cupboard.
''What is it?" Ma whispered.
Papa made no reply. He raised his hand and slowly moved it into the cupboard.
''No, don't!" Ma whispered again, shocked.
''Shh...'' Papa gestured with his finger against his lips.
I felt as if my heart would burst out any moment.
Papa's hand disappeared into the blackness of the cupboard and for a while remained out of sight.
Finally I saw his hand retract.
I closed my eyes shut. Tight.
''So this is where you've been hiding?"
I felt my sister loosen her grip on me and push me back as she ran into the kitchen.
I opened my eyes.
Casey lay still in Papa's hand. Her head and legs loosely dangling on either sides of Papa's firm grip. Her eyes were dull and she seemed to be sick. Very sick.
''Oh, Casey!" my sister cried, as she took the cat from Papa's hand and cradled it in her arms, like a new born baby.
''I missed you so much! I really did! I missed you...''
She snuggled her head against the unresponsive cat and cried.
She lifted her head up and looked at Papa.
''Why isn't she responding, Papa? Why isn't she saying, 'Meow'?"
Her face was red and tear trails glistened on her cheek.
''She's not feeling well, dear.'' Papa replied in a reassuring tone. ''She needs some rest.''
He knelt and was at face level with her.
''Come, let's try to get her to drink some milk and then we'll put her to sleep.''
He wiped the tears off her face and they both walked out of the kitchen.
I looked at Ma and then followed Papa and my little sister into the living room.
Casey had sipped only a few spoonful of milk that night and had dozed off on her thick round mattress. My sister had planned to spend the night besides the mattress and she did. After a couple of sleepless moments on my bed, I too joined her on the living room floor; Casey in between. Later that night, however, Papa shifted us both back to our beds.
Days passed by but Casey's health only seemed to worsen. A veterinarian had visited our house and treated Casey and had prescribed some medicines. But Casey remained weak and sick.
The sickness had taken a toll on my sister. She'd sit by the mattress and talk to the cat all day. (She had refused to leave Casey all alone and consequently had remained at home and missed her classes.) She'd give it some milk and would cry out in jubilation whenever the cat made an effort to drink some milk. Which, as days progressed, were very rare.
All the while, with the passage of days, Casey's stomach, for reasons unknown (even to the doctor), grew in size and she'd whimper in pain, as she lay helplessly on the mattress.
Casey no longer resembled the snow white furred cat with a black patch around the left eye that she once used to be and as time ticked away and days marched ahead she was no more than a skeleton with a huge stomach.
A week passed when the most unexpected and deeply heart wrenching thing happened.
It was a Saturday. Papa and Ma were out shopping. I had no class to attend that day (and my sister anyways hadn't been to school for days now) and that meant we had more time to take care of Casey.
I was in the kitchen pouring out milk from a carton into Casey's little bowl when I heard my sister cry.
''Bhaiyya! Come quick! Bhaiyya!"
The carton dropped from my hand as I ran out of the kitchen.
When I reached the living room I found my sister bent on her knees and before her, Casey was quivering in a great frenzy as if being electrocuted.
''Come here!" I called to my sister. But she seemed to have been glued to her place.
I ran to her and pulled her away from the mattress.
Casey continued to quiver, as we stood helplessly, fear coursing through us both.
All of a sudden, as if by a press of the button, the violent trembling ceased.
We exchanged glances and, swallowing hard, made our way to where Casey lay breathing deeply.
When we were only a few inches away from the mattress, Casey's eyes flew open and she was up on all fours at once.
We stumbled back in horror and a cry of fright escaped from our throats.
Casey darted across the living room and towards our parent's bedroom. We ran after her, having recovered from the shock a little faster than we expected.
As we entered the bedroom we caught a fleeting glimpse of Casey crawling under of a large almirah, that was placed against the bedroom wall.
I let a moment pass before I walked slowly, and noiselessly, towards the almirah, having warned my sister to stay a safe distance away.
As I neared the almirah, I could hear strange noises emanating from its underside. I lowered myself on all fours and listened with heightened senses.
It sounded like a whine of intense pain, horrid and utterly dreadful. I had never before heard cries of such agony.
I felt the hair on the back of neck stand.
The whimpering seemed to last forever.
And then the noise dwindled.
I felt my sister walking towards me.
''Stop!" I warned, voice lowered, gesturing her to not move an inch.
And she didn't. She stood rock still. Her face a plethora of emotions.
''Go to Sharmila Aunty's house and ask her to phone, Papa. Tell him to come home as soon as possible. Go!"
It seemed as if she hadn't heard me at all, for, there was no evidence of the contrary being the case.
My temper rose and I was about to raise my voice at her when all of a sudden she gave a start and blinking her eyes, she nodded her head.
''Well?" I asked, irritably. ''Go!"
Looking once down at the underside of the almirah and then back at me, she darted out of the room.
A scratching noise sounded from underneath the almirah. I watched her run across the hallway and out through the main door.
A lightning bolt from the previous night had rendered our telephone useless and we had no cell phones at home back then. Hence Sharmila Aunty, our next door neighbour, whose house was a good ten minutes away from our own, and mama's distant relative, was our nearest source for placing a call.
However it was not just to phone Papa that I had sent my sister to Sharmila Aunty's house but more importantly, it was to get her away from the inevitable sight that I was about to confront.
The sight that'd haunt me for the rest of my life.
It's been seventeen years now since that day. And all these seventeen years not a day has passed by that I haven't woken up from my sleep, screaming and sweating, heart pounding against my chest, furiously.
As days gave way to months which in turn gave way to years, my nightmares were replaced by sights and premonitions that still fill me with the deepest dread I can't possibly convey.
As I sat there, kneeling before the almirah, as a fifteen year old, I bent lower and looked underneath it.
What I witnessed then would forever remain etched in my memory. No matter how hard I try, I'll never be able to wipe it off, it'll never fade.
From the light that poured in through the large open window on one side of the bedroom, the underside of the almirah was illumined enough for me to witness one of the most gruesome and ghastly parturitions of my life.
Casey lay still and unmoving. Her eyes closed. Her bulged stomach expanding and contracting. And as I stared with unblinking eyes and terrified senses, Casey's stomach ripped open, a slit at first, which then grew wide enough for the creature inside Casey's stomach to be born. To be resurrected.
For a moment I remained motionless, too stunned to move a muscle. But then my senses were alert once more as the creature, it's red eyes blazing, began crawling towards me. To the open.
I gave out a scream of horror and hurriedly crawled back on my hands and legs.
I felt too weak to get on my legs. To run. To hide.
It was just then that the creature darted out into the open from within the darkness.
It was covered in blood. Deep red and shiny, its scaled body glistened in the morning sunlight that flowed in through the open window. It stood still, raised on its four webbed feet and looked up at me with those huge blobs of eyes, that were as red and as black as every other part of its body. Its snout was elongated with teeth as sharp as needles, stained with fresh blood. Its long thick tail swayed from side to side, slowly, lethally.
A streak of thin smoke fumed from its wide nostrils.
It stayed motionless for a whole minute, eyes trained on me, unmoving and sinister, before it began to crawl towards me. Slowly yet deliberately.
I tried to move. To get to my feet. To run.
But I couldn't.
I was paralysed with fear.
I was numb.
As the thing crawled towards me its paced quickened, with the fumes, emanating from its nostrils, growing grayer and darker.
I could only stare in horror.
With a loud ominous hiss it leapt into the air, towards me, and I blacked out.
To this day, I feel the presence of the creature around me. I know it is near me, waiting, lingering.
Each day I know it's getting nearer. Each day I am withering and crumbling from within. Each day I'm growing more fearful than the day before. Each day I—
The window, there was a-
The eyes! The eyes!
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