It was happening again.
I went to sleep around eleven o’clock in the night, as usual.
My wife was watching some insipid (for me, at least) TV serial on Star Plus, as usual.
I pondered over the exciting happenings of the day, which were nought in my retired life, for a long time before sliding into sleep, as usual.
I woke up startled. I thought I heard a howling sound. Without sitting up, I tried to concentrate on the sound as much as was allowed by my woolly mind.
The source was close to me, in fact, right beside me! My wife! It was not howling but her snoring!
Satisfied with the explanation to an ostensibly paranormal phenomenon, I diverted my attention to my next problem, the pressure I felt on my abdomen.
‘Was someone sitting on me?’
Alarmed, I sat up and realised that it was in and not on my abdomen. Another threatening paranormal issue dispelled. My prostate-ridden bladder was full. I had to answer Mother Nature’s call, immediately. I made to get down from my bed.
It happened again.
We always keep the door to our bedroom ajar, with a crack of couple of inches, so that the illumination from the night lamp in the kitchen would not disturb my wife. While she cannot see outside our bedroom, I can, from my position on the bed.
The illumination from the CFL night lamp in the kitchen was throwing creepy shadows across the dining and drawing rooms. I always sat in a reclining chair in front of my LCD TV in the drawing room. It would be logical to expect my chair to be empty, since I was in bed, wouldn’t it?
‘Then, who the f**k is there on my reclining chair? Or, is my mind playing tricks?’
My heart was beating rapidly. My bladder was threatening to burst. I must go immediately.
‘Shri Anjaneyam, Prasanna Anjaneyam…’ I tried to derive strength for liberation from the fear by invoking Lord Anjaneya, the slayer of daemons.
I pushed my feet into my flip-flops and moved towards the bedroom door.
The door swung open slowly with the mildest of creaks! My hand was nowhere near it!
I almost screamed.
‘Who opened the f**king door?’
Was it the strong breeze from the ceiling fan, running at full speed? For a moment, I thought of waking up my wife for moral support during that moment of crisis, but gave up the suicidal idea imagining the tongue-lashing that I was sure to receive. Slowly, ever so slowly, I shuffled through the door into the drawing room, avoiding seeing my chair.
Slowly, the door swung back to its ajar position. I was not frightened since I knew the answer – the breeze.
A soft creaking sound sent shivers up my spondylitis-affected spine. I wondered what it could be.
‘Is some intruder in the house? Or …’
All the spooky scenes from Hollywood horror movies floated in my overworked brain – The Exorcist, Paranormal Activity, The Messengers – everything.
‘Was it Regan MacNeil’s neck twisting? Or, the crows’ wings fluttering? Or…’
I was trembling in fear.
‘God! Why the f**k did I see those movies?’
I remembered reading somewhere that, due to temperature fluctuations, wooden furniture expands and contracts, making creaking sounds in the night. I felt better after the scientific explanation alleviated the irrational fear of the paranormal.
I slowly turned my neck and looked at the reclining chair.
‘Did the seat cloth move?’
There was nobody in it. I sighed in relief and continued my short peregrination to the bathroom that was becoming rather long, as usual.
The journey from our bedroom to the bathroom would take me through the drawing room and the dining room. Adjoining the latter is the first bathroom. Beyond the dining room lay the kitchen and the living room with another bathroom attached.
What I meant to say was that the bathroom was only fifteen to twenty feet away but at nights it always seemed to me like it is on the other side of the moon.
I was just entering the dining room. Suddenly, in my peripheral vision I saw a dim flash of light. It disappeared in a fraction of second. My heart was in my mouth.
‘Oh my God, someone is shining a flashlight!’
I froze in my stride. I was certain that someone was there in the house.
‘There, the same flash again!’
I panicked and almost cried for help.
‘Let me check the main door.’
I picked a small flashlight from the dining table and shone it on the main entrance door. I was relieved to find that it was still bolted, bolted (there are two bolts on it), and chain-locked.
‘No intruder.’ I thought smugly. A moment later, it hit me like Tyson’s punch. ‘If there is no intruder what flash did I see?’
I had this habit of investigating. I mean, unless I knew the reason why something happened I would be agitated, much to the chagrin and irritation of my wife. (‘Honey, wherefrom did this onionskin come?’)
‘There is only one source of light, the night lamp in the kitchen.’ Eureka! I patted myself.
‘But what about the brief flash? God, my bladder will surely burst.’
I rushed into the bathroom, leaving aside investigations of the paranormal activity. The exercise took me several minutes, given my prostate problem. I came out, shutting and bolting the bathroom door. I felt relieved.
The flash, once again!
I looked at the light source, the night lamp in the kitchen. I also saw something moving, describing short oscillations would a better expression.
‘Good God! That’s it!’
My wife had a penchant for simple interior decoration and she hung lot of things from every available hook. (Somehow, I escaped!) She strung up some kind of a festoon, made of rudraksha beads, across the horizontal top of the kitchen doorframe. From that string, a number of small diamond-shaped mirrors dangled. The mirrors were gently moving, reflecting the light from the night lamp! The reflection was the flash I saw!
‘But what made the mirrors move? Oh God, I am back to square one.’
My temporary reprieve fled. The breeze from the ceiling fan in our bedroom could not have oscillated the mirrors in the kitchen.
‘Then, what moved them? Or is it who…?’
I was sweating profusely and my heart was thumping away in my chest. I opened the fridge and drank a gulp of water. When I shut the fridge door, I was surprised to see the dangling mirrors slowly swing. That’s it! The fridge door disturbed the air and caused a waft, which in turn moved the mirrors!
‘The imbecile I am, I didn’t see it. When I opened and shut bathroom door, it disturbed the air, which in turn moved the mirrors, and the swinging mirrors reflected flashes of the night lamp. QED!
All my questions were answered. I got it all figured out. There was no paranormal activity going on in our house. There was nobody in the house other than my wife and me. I confidently walked back to our bedroom. This time, I opened door and shut it behind me after entering.
I shut my eyes tightly and tried to resume my blissful sleep, which was interrupted by the imaginary paranormal activity.
A few minutes later, the door gently swung open with the mildest of creaks!
‘…And the idiot thought he had it all figured out…ha ha ha…’
Shyam Sundar Bulusu