Well, Come In!

On a weekend night, Ana was dozing in front of her computer screen while watching another long, high-rated television series. When a guest visit turned her boring lonely night into a everlasting memory, probably more appropriate to call it a nightmare.

… …

The computer was turned on and she had her ears covered with the headphones with volume up to the notch. Although it was a high-rated television series, but she couldn’t take it anymore and probably felt a small nap to be a better place than her boring and lonely real world.

The episode had completed since more than half an hour now and the silence in her house was only affected by the constant rumbling of her old computer’s cooling fan.

*Buzzzzzz*

The doorbell rang and Ana got up with a jolt and hit her leg with the table. She hopped on one leg to the door and watched through the peephole to see who was it. She saw the opposite door and the empty hallway otherwise.

The doorbell rang again. She startled and immediately withdrew from the peephole. Little hesitant at first, she then opened the door to check on the prankster.

“Hello beta! It seems that my son has gone out and isn’t picking up my call right now. Can I wait at your place till he returns home again? He lives in that apartment… That one, with a laundry bag outside the door.” the old lady said pointing at the door at the end of the hallway.

Ana had never seen anyone go towards that flat and thought may be the guy must be having a different work shift was the reason for them never meeting.

She smiled and invited the old lady saying “Well, Come in…!”

The lady came in and looked around Ana’s house in amusement. “You’re pretty neat for your generation.”

Ana smiled and went on to bring some water for the lady.

“What does your son do? I haven’t actually seen him or anyone go towards that flat since I’ve been here. Does he work unusual shifts?” Ana enquired.

“I don’t know actually. We haven’t talked since a while. I live at our family house in suburbs and couldn’t visit him due to family commitments. This is my first time here in the city. He used to call everyday earlier, but then since a few months, he doesn’t call us that regularly. So I thought to surprise him with a visit.” Lady went on. “Work environment these days! Eats out your time like a leech and doesn’t allow you to spend time with the people you love. Isn’t it?”

Ana nodded in agreement, although she had ample time to spend with someone, just she didn’t have anyone to spend her time with.

The lady and Ana talked about varied topics and time flied soon. Ana talked with someone this long after a long time. She last talked for these many hours last time when she had visited her parents. But that was a long time ago.

After a while, the dearth of topics was understandable in their conversation. And the portion of silence went increasing between two conversations.

“So, you’re here to stay a while? As I had a really nice time with you Aunty, and would want to meet you again.” Ana said up brightly.

She saw the otherwise grim look on the lady’s face turn pleasant and happy to hear that. Probably she was lonely in her life too. Void of love and attention from her son, care from her other family members. Her wrinkled face seemed sore and tired of years of dedicated care-taking of her family, where her own wishes and needs had dried up like the moisture in her skin.

“So sweet of you beta. We will surely meet again if you want. Just come over to our house next time you feel like talking to anyone. You’re like my daughter, beta. I’d love to chit-chat with you.” Lady said smiling, the only time her folded face still looked beautiful.

Ana smiled and stood up “Excuse me for a second.” and went towards the washroom. She was happy to find someone with whom she could spend some time now that she wasn’t around her own family and friends. And an elder company is better once you grow up enough to get bored of the usual partying and wasting time at all crazy activities with your friends.

She came back, beaming “Aunty… I am terrible cook and you’ll have to teach me some dishes, so that I…”

The room was empty and the front door was open.

She went to the door and looked outside in the hallway. It was empty. Probably the lady’s son had come and took her home. But that was weird that she left without saying goodbye.

She went back to her couch, closing the door behind her. She looked at her computer and the boredom was returning, little faster than she had expected.

*Buzzzzzz*

The doorbell rang again. Ana went to answer the door and opened it without looking through the peephole. Probably it was the lady, come to explain her sudden exit.

It was the uncle next door. “Do you have today’s newspaper. There’s an ad that I have to check out.” the uncle continued in his usual withered tone.

“Yes uncle. One second…” and Ana went to bring the newspaper.

She handed him the newspaper and hesitantly asked him “Uncle do you know who lives in that last house, right at the end of the hallways.” Ana asked pointing towards the end house.

The uncle looked at the end of the hallway and looked back at her, his face paler than usual.

“That house is empty. No one lives there. The last tenant died in a car crash and the house has been empty since then.” the uncle answered her question, and asked with confusion on his face “Why?”

Ana was setback. “When did that happen? The accident?” She asked in a worried tone.

“Just a few months back. I don’t remember, but recently though.” the uncle said while scratching his bald head. “Okay thanks for the newspaper. Goodnight.” And he went on towards his house.

Ana nodded in reply of that farewell, but her head was filled with questions and worry. That lady must be unaware of the unfortunate accident with her son and was waiting for her son to call her since last few months. It wasn’t a surprise visit, it was  to calm down her anxiously worried heart. But it wasn’t going to calm down, not now.

Ana was staring at the opposite wall and her face was filled with worry. The uncle next door looked at her while opening his house door, and saw that expression.

“What’s up with you child? Any problem?” He asked as a friendly neighbor.

Ana let go of the staring-at-the-wall position and looked at him. “Does his family know about his death? Had anyone informed his family about the mishap?” she asked the obvious questions.

“Well of course. The story gets more sad here. The police had tracked down his family and had informed them about the incident. The body was delivered to them too for final rituals. I heard from others that everyone in their family was setback with the bad news. After all, the only son, only child to the parents died an unfortunate death. God bless!” he said while looking up, praying. “The boy was a good person. Never did we hear any complain about that section of our hallway. None from residents or visitors. Poor mother of his. They said that her mother was the most affected with the news. She wouldn’t believe that her son was no more in this world and would urge on to come visit her son here.”

Ana’s face was now all white with all these information. It was hard to digest all these facts at once.

“Her mother… She knows! Still… Where… How’s she now?” Ana asked in a uneasy voice.

The uncle replied with an even sad face “Oh she died, I hear. Couldn’t bear the pain I guess. Better that way. Than living in a pretense of his alive son. Anyway, why you ask about that family? You knew them?” the uncle asked, rather suspiciously.

But Ana was not in a position to answer that. She wasn’t in a position to answer any question for that matter. Last few hours were flashing before her eyes. That doorbell, that touch of her hand on her head when she had bent to touch her feet to ask her blessings. That whithered skin on her face. That beautiful smile, while the ever longing worry for her son. That desire to see her son in her eyes, that merriness and love in her voice when she talked about her son… What was that?

Ana closed the door without answering the uncle’s question. She didn’t bother to lock the door or to turn off the lights or to do anything for that sake, but went to her bed and lay there, her eyes closed. Her heart beating fast and with each beat, she felt that excruciating pain for that lady that couldn’t meet her son for the last time.

Her smiling face came to her thoughts and she remembered telling her that she wants to meet her again, that she liked to spend time with that lady…

The Unusual Driver

A lady returning from office, late at night on a desolated street, trying to find a cab but finds goons instead. Read on to find out how she manages to run away.
… …

The telephone rang after ages and its ring seemed extra loud, as if it was screaming for proving its existence.

Riya got surprised on hearing that unfamiliar sound. The call was from her home, they were tired of trying to reach her on her ever-silent cellphone.

It was half-past twelve, mid-night. By this time, the helper staff would have left the building and security personnel would have slept in their cabins. And Riya knew about this. She forgot to look at the clock in making the presentation more appealing. After all, it was her first big prospective order from a reputed client and she had to give her best.

She left the building after closing her office, rather reluctantly. She never liked to lock this building as she had grown a special attachment to this place. It was from here that she had started her own business, that was all hers – no dependence on anyone. But her business was growing and so was the need for a bigger office.

It was a business street and was covered with offices all the way to several intersections ahead. So, at night it seemed deserted and a little scary to people not familiar with this road.

Riya wasn’t afraid of this road, the darkness. She had walked on this street for all her life. She took the second exit from the first crossway. It was very easy to find a cab on that street, had it been a normal office leaving time. At this time, the street looked more deserted than the desert.

She went on walking while trying different apps to find a cab. But she couldn’t find anyone operating in that area at that time. And she could call for cab only if the cab is operating in the nearby vicinity. Technology has its limitations after-all.

She was desperately trying to get some service online when a gang of vagabonds appeared out of nowhere on the next carrefour. It seemed through their behavior that they were probably drunk. And it still wasn’t very safe for a lone girl pass by a group of men in this country.

She was wondering what to do, whether to take another road or to walk through that situation strongly, thinking positive or to walk while calling someone or pretending to do so… when a car horn startled her.

At once, her mind started shooting different thoughts – whether it’s another mob of trash people who have come to kidnap her or whether it’s just another patrol van, which will be more grievous for anyone at night as they will hypothesize a filmy situation of crime and adultery and will demand proof for one’s righteousness without having evidence of any offense.

When she turned she was happy to see the yellow colored number plate on the car. Finally, a cab had arrived on that forsaken street.

The cab stopped ahead of her and the driver looked directly at her without saying anything. She looked at him, saw the green light saying ‘Available’, was about to hop in the car, when thoughts started pouring in her mind again. Riya found it hard even to trust the cabbie.

The cab blew a squeaky horn that got her attention. She stopped again, and considered taking the cab. She saw those drunk strangers up ahead the crossway and found somehow more safer to go with a single stranger instead of a bunch of ’em.

She sat inside the cab and told him her destination. The cab driver started driving without a word. He didn’t even look back at her. However, Riya was constantly looking directly at him and then at the navigation in her cellphone. She kept an eye out for any wrong turn the cab might take.

He wore a normal sweatshirt and rugged pants with a not-matching cabbie hat. His dashboard was unacceptably clean for a taxi. And there was a small family picture pasted on the only empty space on the dashboard. The backdrop looked ancient, and the driver was weirdly young comparing his picture and his current face, Riya thought. The cab had a distinguishing smell, as if the upholstery was polished recently. The dashboard design was also very old compared to the cab nowadays.

“How come you don’t show up in the taxi app? I tried searching for cabs, but there weren’t any on the app.” Riya’s suspicion was still on.

“I haven’t connected my services with those apps. I still believe in the old ways. Streets were more safer back then.” driver replied without looking at her.

Riya looked at the antiquated taximeter, which was working surprisingly. She was comfortable to be sitting in an unregistered cab. But, she hadn’t enough options. She didn’t ask any further questions to the cabbie, and hoped to reach some active street, if not crowded at this hour.

All the things were causing her to be suspicious but then…

“Don’t worry madam. You’re safe now. Those drunk people, or anyone for that sake, won’t be a problem to you anymore.” Cabbie said.

Finally she trusted the cab driver enough to sit without suspicion. The cool breeze and the calm ride took Riya into a quick nap, unknowingly.

After a while, when she woke up, the engine sound was off. The car had stopped. She abruptly got up to see where she was. But then calmed down to see the familiar neighbourhood. She had reached her destination.

She turned to talk to the driver but stopped when she saw the driver was sitting without any movement or any motion whatsoever. She saw the meter for the fare and shuffled through her purse to get the money out. She dropped the amount in driver’s box without looking at the driver, where something caught her eye. The box was almost empty, but had a few old, outdated currency in it. That currency wasn’t in circulation since years.

“Thank you madam. You’ve paid generously.” the driver spoke in a weird voice.

Riya almost got a heart attack when she heard his husky, changed, broken voice. She dropped the currency notes that she was examining from the driver’s box at his abrupt break, and looked up to find that the driver had turned to look at her – for the first time all this while.

His face was deadened and a large, slant cut on his face that ran through his eyes agitated Riya. She stopped ajar at the sight of him, but she didn’t ask anything to him. She just smiled and hurriedly left the car. On her way out, she saw the rear-view mirror just for an instance but she couldn’t see the driver.

She panicked and ran a few steps. But then, she must have seen from a different angle, the driver must have shifted while she saw that mirror, or she might have just imagined that in her mind. She just wanted to take another look at that scarred face, to see that vintage cab again and feel that smell of new polish, she wanted to ask the cabbie how he got that scar, she wanted to take another look inside that mirror… she wanted to thank him from dropping her at the right place.

Having walked just a few steps from the car, she gathered all her courage and turned back towards the cab. Out of all the things that she could imagine, she wouldn’t have imagined this.

The car had turned from a vintage car to a scrap, and was broken into trash as if a truck had hit it. The windows were broken and sparks were flaring up the car. There was once a moment that she could see the driver burning inside the cab. The driver’s head turned back in his seat and saw directly towards Riya through the rear window.

Riya was terrified deep down to her every nerve that she couldn’t even move an inch at that horrific sight.

Just a blink and everything in front of her disappeared. As if the car was never there, the cabbie was her imagination and all these events were just pen downed by some horror-stricken writer; the street ahead of Riya was as clean and as empty as ever. The night was calm and silent again.

But then, she had come all this way from her office to her home. It just cannot be an imagery all inside her head. Can it?

There are many streets untraveled by people at night. And this cab lurks around those roads, not to harm anyone, but to prevent a harm.

But would you trust it? …If you find one that is, or if it finds you…