Such an intriguing Photo prompt. Thanks, Sue this one really pushed me to write out of my comfort zone. This is my first ever attempt at writing a horror/thriller story. Hope you guys enjoy it.
Raj made his way through the dense forest, his footsteps muffled by the damp foliage. Fog hung low over the winding mountain trail as evening slowly crept around. Back in the city, evenings meant traffic, congestion, and insane crowds. Raj eagerly waited for the weekends when he could backpack and retire to the peace and quiet amongst the trees. The stillness of the forest was what he loved; it was an escape that he yearned for.
But not today…Today the forest was unusually silent and the air thick with fog. He could barely see a few feet ahead of him. Something was definitely off; he could feel it in his guts. The eerie silence of the forest made him uncomfortable or maybe it was just his thoughts. It had not been one of the best days. He was late to a meeting, lost a Pro Bono case, fought with his wife, got a parking ticket, and to top it off lost his mobile too. He never really liked birthdays, but today’s was turning to be an exceptionally bad one.
Darkness was closing in fast so he pitched his tent in a small clearing near a narrow stream. The silence that generally lulled him to sleep was troubling him tonight. He could hardly sleep. Sometime around midnight he crawled out of the tent and made his way towards the stream. Moonlight sparkled on the waters as a soft breeze rustled through the trees. Lost in his thoughts, he did not hear footsteps crunching on the gravelled stones nor did he feel the sudden drop in temperature or the unsettling stares of a strange pair of eyes.
He was returning to his tent when he saw her, standing near a large oak tree looking lost and tired. Her hair wet, clothes frayed, trekking gears and the backpack weighing her down, her eyes light golden brown. She looked strong yet vulnerable and so beautiful, so so beautiful! He couldn’t deny when she asked to camp in with him. The night crept by slowly as they sat around the campfire drinking and exchanging stories. One thing led to another and soon they were snuggled together in his sleeping bag.
He woke up to find his face pressed against her soft breasts. She was still sleeping, her legs wrapped around his waist. He wriggled out of her embrace and propped himself up on his shoulder. Seeing her laying there naked made him think of his wife Neha. He loved Neha but right now, just a single thought of her was enough to anger him. Their argument was the reason he had set off to camp alone. It was a silly fight, both knew that, but each had a big fat ego and refused to back down. “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,” It seemed that he and his wife had turned into the rage and the fury themselves! Hardly a day passed without a fight and when they were not fighting the long hours stretched out in dead unnatural silences.
He looked down at the girl lying next to him. He had forgotten her name already. Chaya, was it? Who cared! They would part ways soon and all this will be a forgotten dream. The chilly mountain air was giving her goose pimples and her nipples stood erect. Without any guilt, he nibbled on them, woke her up, and got lost in the sweet oblivion that followed. This was definitely going to be better than what awaited him back home.
He and Chaya had spent the remainder of the day in his tent and by the time they had said their goodbyes, it was very late in the day. He got home later than expected. Neha welcomed him with a nice warm dinner but he was distracted. As he took a quick bath, he thought of Chaya and his camping trip. This birthday had turned out to be the best one so far.
Chaya…he thought, he had joked about remembering her name but she said she wouldn’t let him forget her. She was Chaya, the shadow, that’s what her name meant and shadows never leave. How he wished that she had never left and was still in his arms.
He woke up the next morning with strange unsettling feelings. A weird emptiness troubled him throughout the day. He was missing something or someone. Maybe it was Chaya. He scoffed off all the uneasiness and found the strip of paper on which Chaya had scribbled down her number. After talking with her for almost an hour, he felt good. They decided to meet again this weekend at 10 o’clock. The thought of meeting Chaya again was as tantalising as it felt to be in her arms. But the weekend was still far. Camping in the mountains held a new attraction for him now.
The week was progressing slowly and he couldn’t concentrate anywhere. His work was already affected. He goofed up on a major agreement of sell on Tuesday and today he almost approved a malicious property transfer. He hardly slept at nights, had struck down his meals by half and doubled his alcohol intake. He felt half and incomplete, the emptiness was driving him crazy. There were long gaps in his memories. He would wake up in a place having no recollection of coming there. He lost track of most of his movements. He craved for something, someone! He craved for Chaya. With each passing day, his longing and restlessness grew as he eagerly waited to meet her. How he wished he could call or message her again, but she had forbidden him.
Saturday finally dawned and he was out of his house before Neha was even awake. He left her a note saying that he planned to spend the entire weekend camping. She wouldn’t mind that, he knew. He rushed through the familiar trail and arrived hours before 10 o’clock. After pitching his tent, he set out to gather firewood. The climate was pleasant today. Rays of sunlight streamed through the thick cover of trees. He settled down waiting for Chaya, reminiscing their time spent together last weekend. He heard her on the gravelled path, her footsteps soft and slight on the stones. She looked beautiful in the streaming light, her eyes even more golden. Her shadow reached him before her, kissing his legs and creeping up long and shapely around him, teasing him. He ran to her and scooped her up in his arms fiercely kissing her, their hands fumbling at each other’s clothes. After spending a few hours wrapped together in the tent, she left off halfway through their trip.
His stomach tightened the minute she disappeared behind the trees. He didn’t like the idea of spending the night alone in the forest. He wanted her, he missed her. The tent felt weirdly big and empty without her. Night came silently and he couldn’t fall asleep. He kept hearing her laughter in the rustling of leaves, kept sensing her presence in the empty darkness. Troubled, he went to the stream in hope of finding her standing near the oak tree just like the last time.
There was someone standing there, shadowed by the thick branches of the oak. He saw a misshaped figure and absentmindedly walked up to the tree as if drawn to it by some familiar longing. His pulse pounded loud in his ears as he drew closer to it. He wanted to stop, turn back and run to the safety of his home, but he couldn’t. He screamed but no sound left his lips. Every instinct in his body wanted him to run away from her but he couldn’t. He struggled against the pull, screamed, but nothing could stop him. Chaya’s decayed body cast an eerie long shadow which licked up his own self, slowing taking over the control.
Unwilling his hand reached out to touch her face. Her eyes flashed open, shining golden brown in the night. Fear gripped his heart and he could hardly breathe. He heard her in his head, begging him to take her in his arms and make love to her. He felt his body move closer to her mangled remains. He insanely fought against it. As he involuntarily took her in his arms, he felt something shift inside of him and let out a short scream. Her voice grew louder in his head but he finally had control over his own self. He threw Chaya’s body away and ran through the darkness tripping over the snaking roots. In his delirium, Raj didn’t notice a dark shadow stealthily trailing behind him the entire way back to his house.
Scared, he stumbled around his house to find Neha. She had fallen asleep on the sofa whilst reading her favourite book. When he finally found her cuddled up in their living room, he rushed to her side and collapsed. He felt safe with Neha, he held her hand and lied down beside her. Exhaustion took over and he drifted off to sleep. In his dreams, he was running down an unending tunnel. He could still hear Chaya’s voice in his head. She was accusing him, her laughter ringing in his ears as she mocked him for trying to run away. There was no turning away from her now. She was Chaya, the shadow, and shadows never leave…She reached out to him and he felt his throat tightening. He struggled in his sleep, his own hands chocking him.
Raj woke up screaming and saw a frightened Neha staring at him. He hugged her tight and broke down in her arms, apologising and full of guilt. No amount of reassurances soothed him and he refused to let her go. He held on to her and followed her everywhere. He knew it in his heart that the moment he is alone, Chaya will come and haunt him. She was here somewhere, he felt her presence, heard her in his head. She kept calling out to him, threatening to take over if he didn’t come to meet her.
The day went by but as night crept in, he felt a familiar longing and emptiness in his stomach. He kept close to Neha and snuggled closed to her. Neha’s expressions suddenly darkened and she screamed out of fear. He was startled at first but soon realised that it was he who changed. He still held on to Neha but now his hands began to claw at her flesh, hurting her chocking her. Neha broke out of his clutches and ran away from him. He kept apologising and calling her back to him but no sound left his lips. He was again trapped in his own body. He ran behind her and caught her by her waist, but inside of hugging her, he slapped her hard across her face. Terror and fear that rose inside him were reflected in her eyes. He kept saying sorry but his hands gouged at her once again leaving deep gashes on her forearms. Neha was screaming and begging him to leave her but Chaya was whispering in his ears to hold on.
Raj wanted to let Neha go but the more he fought against Chaya the more she made him hurt Neha. He tried to fight off the dark shadow that was eating him up on the inside. He had smashed most of the furniture by now trying to hurt Neha. The darkness inside him wanted her dead. She was the obstacle that kept him away from it. With the shadows still whispering in his ears, he sought after Neha like a madman, crazy for her blood. He found her hiding beneath their bed. He pulled her out and kicked her. It broke his heart to hurt her like this. His pain knew no boundaries and he hardly realised what he was doing when he doused the entire room in kerosene and set it on fire. As the fire licked up around them, burning their flesh, he heard Chaya laughing and saw her long shapely shadows creeping up the walls. His hands were yet again clawing at Neha’s throat. He begged Chaya to let Neha go. But Chaya just laughed and made him continue the slow torture. He shrieked out in grief and pain as Chaya whispered in his ears. It was simple, the shadow said. It would be less painful for everybody. He just had to kill Neha. It would all stop then.
He frantically searched for Neha and found her cowering in a corner trying to stay away from the fire and away from him. Her screams shattered through the dark veil that Chaya had drawn over him. But before he could gather his senses and ask Neha to run, Chaya has taken over again. Chaya laughed in his and warned him against trying to shake her off. She would never let him forget her. She was Chaya, the shadow, that’s what her name meant and shadows never leave!
He locked his eyes with Neha trying to explain this madness. She looked so confused and scared when he held her. He tried to convey a lot of things in his touch but she shrank away from him. Tears ran down his face as he felt his hands reach her out. Chaya had felt his emotions and was angry with him now. He could feel her anger course through his veins. It filled him with a psychopathic rage. His grip on Neha tightened and helplessly he watched as he strangled his wife with his own hands…
© 2018 Ashwini Nawathe, Kaleidoscope of My Life
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