As a not so frequent customer of insomnia, I used to (and still do sometimes) spend a few wakeful nights in absolute terror.
My favorite past time those nights would be to disturb the peaceful sleep of my family; particularly my brother, whom I used to envy his untroubled sleep.
My other employments would be, making a variety of noises and waking up my parents.
But this particular night, however, I could not employ myself in any of these wonderful amusements, for we were home; in Kerala and my granny was fast asleep in the next room.
I dreaded waking her up.
And so there I was, laying down on the floor of the tiny room, quilt over my face, not daring to lift it from my eyes, for the fear of finding some horrifying creature, with protruding, creepy eyes, and dirty, contorted fingers, clinging to the wall; staring at me and grinning like a maniac.
....I laid there for about an hour or two. ...
The whole house was silent, except for the echoing tick-tock of the antique clock and the occasional scratches of rats in the attic overhead.
The beautiful voice of a songbird sounded far away in the mountains. An old owl would seldom join her, with a humble hoot. I felt as if time stood still.
A long time passed- it felt almost like a millennium. My shoulders and backbones ached, for I was not accustomed to sleeping without a bed, and was acutely parched too.
I could lay still no more. So, I made up my mind to spend a few minutes in an 'adventure'.
Now dear readers, before I narrate any further, there are two things, that you ought to know about me; first, of course, is that I am very brave (I'm not being sarcastic, you know.You would have figured that out by now ; ) )
and second is that, though faint-hearted, I am a huge fan of horror movies. Let's say, I have a thirst for thrill and adventure. Back to the night.
The 'adventure' that I was so keen to embark on, was a bit cumbersome. I had to pass through three antique doors, as quickly as possible, through the wilderness of the night.
I chanted a few prayers; took a small cross from underneath the pillow; grabbed up a small torch (papa gifted it to me on New Year's Eve),
got up; and glanced once again at the dreaming faces of my family. "How lucky they are, to sleep undisturbed." I sighed.
Then I tip-toed towards my first hurdle- the first door. The house is a pretty old one, almost 30 years old.
The doors are old-fashioned, with enormous locks- wooden bars slipped across two vertical panes of door. When moved, the old, worm-eaten bars would creak.
Slowly, careful so as not to make any noise, I drew the bar and opened the door. I saw nothing, but absolute darkness.
I lighted the torch, clutched the cross tight, and paced a few steps across the cold and gloomy hall. Opened another door and yet another once again. "Ah! At last."
I emerged triumphantly into the kitchen and helped myself with a glass of water. And then, I got myself ready for the journey back to my lair.
Yet again I tiptoed, tracing my way back to the hall through my granny's room. I closed the kitchen door with ease.
The door of the hall took more time than the previous one since the latter had survived the ravages of time better than the other.
I strolled into the lonely hall, closing the door cautiously behind me. I glanced at the primitive clock hanging in the wall. "12 o'clock. The feasting time of ghosts." I said to myself.
Once again, my mind, which till now, was quite occupied in my little adventure, shifted to the terrible topic of apparitions.
A slight chill ran down my spine, and with quite an effort, I got control of myself. And just as I turned back, the front door of the house opened, and a silhouetted figure emerged.
My heart sped; limbs froze. My mouth gaped and all my hair stood on their ends. My sense and reason abandoned me; leaving my brain quite vacant.
The scenes from horror movies, of ghosts of all shapes and sizes popping up from the darkness, flashed before my eyes. I wanted to shout and inform my family about the imminent danger.
But no matter how hard I tried, no voice would come out. In the ignominious dark, the blurry 'thing' stood quite still, like my brave self.
Horrifying thoughts rushed to my mind, "Perhaps, it was deciding on how to kill me." The songbird's song, which I was so fond of, till a few minutes ago, sounded like the herald of death.
The 'thing' advanced one step towards me. I gulped. In the low light, the uncanny figure looked quite human. "It is perhaps a vampire or maybe a werewolf." I thought.
I wanted to run, but my legs refused. I wanted to shout but my lips remained obstinate. "I'm done for." Thought I and closed my eyes; brimming with despair.
Just then, I heard the most welcome voice of my father. He turned the light on. Reason rushed back to me. I was relieved to the core; and at the same time, ashamed at my folly.
I realized how foolish my heart is, that I couldn't even distinguish my dearest father in the dark. I couldn't help smiling. My father smiled too. He knew me and my bravery only too well.
I asked, "Why were you out in the dark, papa?"
"I heard some noises and went to check it out. It is a marapatti (civet), I guess." he replied.
Mocking him, I said with a smile, "I know you got scared, seeing me all of a sudden in the dark, didn't you Papa?"
"Me?" he asked me back, his voice overflowing with laughter.
"Yes, you. If you didn't, then pray tell me, how come you stood dumbstruck at the door?" said I.
"My dear, I know how brave you are. I knew you would be scared of seeing me in the dark. I stood still so that you would not shout and wake the whole house up.
Accept it, you took me for a burglar, didn't you, Pops (for that is how my nearest ones call me)?" Said he.
"Ah then! you don't know me that well, at least not so well as you claimed. I swear, I didn't imagine you were a thief." said I, unable to suppress a smile.
"I only thought you were a blood-sucking monster." The last sentence quite inarticulate.