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“Wow! The concept is too good. I would like to have the completed movie within a week. It’s short. So, probably it wouldn’t take much time,” rambled Pritham, the Chairman of Short Film Association.
“Thank you Pritham. I am starting the shoot tomorrow. The casting has been done,” said Tanmay, a 25 year old aspiring film director, folding his completed manuscript and placing it inside his bag.
He walked out elated at the thought of winning the Short Celluloid competition. As he progressed, he chalked out the complete plan in his mind. Beginning with the settings till the final editing, he had it completely sketched within himself. All he had to do was to jot down the film plan in his diary which he maintained for movie ideas. He entered the parking lot, climbed on his bike and rode away with the chill breeze sweeping across his face.
He stopped by the Crosswood Cemetery situated in the heart of Bangalore. Having bought a bunch of beautiful marigolds, he made his way through the graves to find the one he often visited. And he found the grave within no time even though each and every grave looked alike, polished in hues of white. He placed the bunch of flowers on the grave and knelt beside it. Tears flew down from his eyes. There were none in the graveyard except him. Though it was only 5 pm, the cold air and the eeriness of the atmosphere made him cringe. He let his tears flow for a few more minutes and then spoke, “Thank you my darling. This wouldn’t have happened without you. I love you…” He was speaking to the tomb of Anushkriti, his girlfriend who had passed away two years before.
He stood up and went out of the graveyard as fast as his legs could take. Though he was a non-believer of ghosts, something about the place horrified him. Maybe it was Anushkriti’s memories or maybe it was the trauma which he underwent when he saw her final journey to heaven with his very own eyes. He raced for his home to catch some much needed sleep.
Back in the graveyard, there came a muffled moan from Anushkriti’s grave.
Tanmay creeped inside the kitchen to drive away a black cat that had entered in his absence. The cat was peacefully sleeping in the kitchen’s window sill. Sensing human movement, the cat stirred. The next moment, it turned and stared into Tanmay’s eyes with its green shining eyeballs. Tanmay screamed in horror and the black cat fled from the scene, jumping out of the window. For a few moments, Tanmay couldn’t comprehend what had happened. Sweat beads formed on his forehead. He wiped them off and realized that he had frightened a poor cat, instead of silently shooing it away. He couldn’t believe himself that the fear of a black cat’s eyes had gripped him. Heaving a sigh of relief, he opened the fridge and took out the roasted chicken which he had saved for the Christmas eve.
With the sumptuous dish in his hand, he dimmed the lights in the hall and plopped down on the cosy sofa. “Should I watch Insidious 1 or 2?” he spoke to himself. There were two DVDs on the tea table. He closed his eyes and slowly hovered over the DVDs with his index finger. Suddenly the concurrent rings of the telephone pierced the tranquil atmosphere that prevailed in the house till then. Adrenalin gushed from the bottom of Tanmay’s stomach and spread throughout his entire body. He opened his eyes and frantically gulped some saliva. His legs wobbled as he stood up to attend the call.
“Hel..hellooo..” he stammered.
“Tanmay beta, how are you?” the voice on the other end asked.
Tanmay heaved a sigh of relief. He wondered why his mom did not call to his mobile phone.
“Ma, I am fine. I am so glad that you called me. I was shivering with fear a few seconds before.”
“Oh my god! What happened beta? Anything bothering you?” asked his mom, with her usual mommy concern.
“Nothing Ma. I just feel creepy to live in this big house all alone. Even a small cat or a telephone ring terrifies me. I don’t know what happened to me. I used to be a brave guy. But…”
“Don’t worry about anything dear. You will get accustomed to the house. It’s just been two months since you have moved in. You will feel alright after a few days. Be friendly with your neighbors so that they might help you if you are in trouble.”
“Okay Ma, I feel better talking to you,” saying so, Tanmay began playing with the end of the oval mirror that hung on the wall above the telephone. His eyes slowly moved over to the mirror to catch a glimpse of his face. He smiled at his own reflection. But he was so wrong. There were two reflections in the mirror. And the second one was of a girl standing behind him.
“Aaaaaaa…” he screamed at the top of his lungs. The receiver slipped from his hands and hung down. He turned back to see. But there was no one around. He hunted the entire hall for the miscreant. But she was not there. He was sweating profusely. He opened the bathroom to check if anyone was present there. After double checking all the rooms, he was sure that he was hallucinating things. Closing the doors of all the rooms, he moved to the hall once again. He picked up the receiver and placed it back on the base. And the telephone rings continued. He knew his mom might have panicked. But he just couldn’t attend any calls. The serene mood of the house was disturbing him. He remembered the gala days which he had spent with his family back in Jaipur.
Slowly, he sat down on the sofa and reached for the water bottle. He sipped some water to hydrate his dry throat. And the next moment, the water turned red. It was blood.
“Yuck!!!” Tanmay spit the water and threw the bottle away. His eyeballs widened as he saw the rolling bottle on the floor.
“This can’t happen,” he said to himself. There was only water spilled on the floor. No blood.
“I saw blood a moment before. How can this happen? I can’t hallucinate this much. I have not been affected by anything…” But there was no one to comfort him. He was his own partner. Remembering his mom’s words, he looked out of the window to call any neighbor to strike a conversation. But there were none. Everybody were probably celebrating Christmas inside their homes, along with their family. He could only see a beautifully decorated X-mas tree and a shining pink star dangling in the house opposite to his.
Exactly after ten minutes, everything was back to normal. Or Tanmay presumed so. He was gobbling up the roasted chicken in small pieces, savoring each and every bit of it. He then chose Insidious 1 and inserted the DVD inside the player. The movie began with its title and the characters’ names. The B/W eerie images which were displayed along with the names sent a chill down his spine.
“I should not be watching this now. First it was the cat, then the telephone ring, then the girl-like reflection and then the water turning red. Something is really wrong with me. And yet I have chosen to watch Insidious,” he thought to himself. Though his mind cried out to switch off the TV and go to sleep, he never budged from his place. He fixed his eyes on the screen for the movie was about to begin.
He clutched the hand rest of the sofa as the sequences began to play on the screen. He shuddered and shivered when he saw a Hindi movie being played on the TV instead of Insidious. He stopped the player and ejected the DVD. He checked and it was indeed Insidious 1 movie. He entered the DVD in his laptop to check. And it was perfect.
“How come?” he thought and once again entered the DVD in the player. The title showed ‘Insidious’ and the names were being shown. And then, another Hindi movie scenes began unlike the previous one. Then the TV automatically turned off!
Tanmay was too stunned to move. He was sure that he had inserted Insidious 1 DVD. But what he had watched was beyond explanation. He became aware of the presence of a spirit inside the house.
“I am not hallucinating. There is a ghost in here.” He wondered how he could believe in ghosts. But whatever happened in the past one hour was enough to make him believe in everything that was scary. He tried to stand up but his legs weren’t cooperating. Suddenly he felt hands on his shoulder. He was not able to turn his head around. The grip of the hands turned firm. He felt someone breathing near his neck. He could smell the fresh fragrance of a cologne which he had known for many years.
“That’s Anushkriti’s perfume,” he thought.
“Who are you? Come and stand before me!” he yelled at his perpetrator. A shrill of devilish laughter echoed through the house. Tanmay’s heart pounded with fear. His face expressed complete agony. Even then he thought that the impostor was a human being and not a ghost. The hands engulfed his neck and he choked. The impostor placed her chin on his head and let out a laugh. She then placed her hand below Tanmay’s chin and made him to look up. And he saw Anushkriti. Her hair was dishevelled. Her teeth were stained red as if she was chewing on paan. Her eyes were shimmering and her cheeks had scars. She was deadly in appearance. Tanmay had a panic attack and his brain stopped responding. His eyes were transfixed on Anushkriti. He felt numb and he could feel her fingernails burying deep into his neck. And then blood gushed out and soaked him completely. Anushkriti closed his eyes with her palm and let out a tiny squeak of joy.
“Ghosts do exist!” she said and vanished, leaving behind Tanmay’s lifeless body.
And then the screen in Room no.7 of SFA Studio turned black. The words appeared in bold letters:
A film by Tanmay Sharma
The credits began to roll and the spectators were jolted back to reality.
“Woooohoooo!!! Tanmay you nailed it yaar!” Tanmay’s friends applauded and carried him as a mark of victory. Tanmay looked at Pritham who was still in some kind of trance after watching the movie. He came over and congratulated him.
“Well done Tanmay! I haven’t been scared like this before. This movie gave me the jitters. The first half which you played yesterday kept me guessing what would happen next. I even made out my own scenes of how the character ‘Tanmay’ would realize the presence of ghosts. And the second half beginning from the black cat was just mind blowing. You have brought all the elements of a perfect short horror movie.”
“Thank you soooo much Pritham. I am overwhelmed!” said Tanmay, with happiness dancing on his face.
“ Well, casting yourself was a great idea. What about the girl in the movie?”
“Ha! That girl is a look-alike of Anushkriti, my deceased girlfriend. I had almost launched a hunt through the entire city for this doppelganger.”
Pritham’s expression changed to that of shock. He asked, “But don’t you think casting someone in a dead person’s identity would receive the wrath of the dead? That too Anushkriti being your loved one?”
“Hahaha…is this some kind of joke Pritham? Do you also believe in ghosts? There is no such thing. Chill out man!” said Tanmay, patting on Pritham’s back.
Pritham smiled uneasily and waved him a good bye, promising to showcase Tanmay’s Christmas Eve movie in Short Celluloid competition.
Tanmay swung his bag over his shoulder and started the bike. It was 10 pm. He was singing a happy song to himself. He was glad that Anushkriti’s death had brought something useful. Being Christmas eve, he felt merrier than before. He thought about the roasted chicken that was waiting for him in the fridge. He reached his home rather quickly. Parking his bike in the shed, he walked towards the entrance. To his horror, he found the main door ajar. Immediately he concluded that a burglar had broken his house open. But there were no signs of breakage. The door was opened as if using a key.
“Who is there? Come out! I am gonna call the police,” he yelled.
Suddenly he heard the sound of anklets, followed by a shrill of laughter. He looked around to call a neighbor for help , thinking that the thief was a girl. But no neighbor was in sight. The sound of anklets turned heavier and it reached the main door soon. As Tanmay had his eyes fixed on the floor, he saw a pair of girl’s legs appear at the entrance. He looked up and then he froze. Standing there was a translucent version of Anushkriti. She spoke in a whispery voice,
“You played with the dead. Now is the time for the dead to play with you. Merry Christmas! Come inside. Let’s have some roasted chicken darling…”
Tanmay was pulled inside by an unknown force and the door shut behind him.