Chandan Mishra had a good life. He lived in a small hut in a posh slum in the middle of his city. He was a proud man for he had started as a small time labourer and risen to become a small time contractor. His life was like every other small time contractor’s life with its own twists and turns. He was man with varied tastes and bad habits. Famously infamous among his people, he lived life with zest.
One fine night as the contractor was returning from his midnight activity he walked on his beloved street that led home. It was an inconsequential street with its own share of open sewers and cow dung. But it was his street. On this very street he had contributed in the construction of the new showroom and the famous mall. This midnight the street was just his for there was no other sign of life anywhere. He spoke to himself, “Build all the modernity in the world and my city still sleeps by 11.” He laughed to himself and walked on the street back home as he had done a million times. However tonight was different. Because instead of going back home he stopped. Something had caught his fancy. Something that never really happened every night.
He stopped to look at an old building that stood between his modern marvels. It was an old style four storey building that stood shamelessly on the street. Old, damp and in ruins was how it appeared. But to the contractor it looked like a past he had almost grown to forget. The building was an ordinary building with its own share of cracks and broken windows. But what caught his eye was the fact that on a street where everyone slept by 11 someone was awake. On the rightmost corner of the third floor a light glimmered. A yellow eerie light that shone out the window and caught the fancy of the man standing across the street. He couldn’t take his eyes of it. It seemed to call out to him to keep looking. Oddly mesmerised our contractor stood there as a dazed spectator and kept looking at the window. The window showed a simple room and the light reflected of the wall right in front. There was no activity just that yellow light. For a normal night and a normal person this wasn’t such a spectacle. Many would have confused the contractor’s fancy as a perverted invasion of someone’s privacy. Yet despite no movement the contractor kept staring. In a few moments he saw some movement. In the yellow light a beautiful woman emerged. He couldn’t see her face but from her shadow he could make out that she was beautiful. Slowly and gracefully she took of all her clothes almost as if she was teasing the contractor. She pulled out a long cloth and wrapped herself in it. She had some magic in her for the contractor felt a pang. He couldn’t help staring at her. She disappeared somewhere and showed up again. This time she threw something out of the window. Our silly contractor should have left but his curiosity didn’t let him leave. Instead the fool got up and ran towards the bag she had thrown. He wanted to know what his mysterious muse had thrown away. He searched through the trash pile and found the bag. Before he could look into it he turned around. To his horror he saw his muse staring at him with a look of terror and fury combined. She was dangling half out of her window with her long hair falling on her face. Her hand was outstretched as if she wanted to grab the intruder by his throat and her mouth was twisted in a scream that never came out. Chandan felt fear and he ran. For some reason he ran. He didn’t even apologize but he ran with the bag clutched in his hand.
As he reached his hut he shut his door behind him. He felt uneasy but he pulled the bag he had just stolen closer. He should have left it there but in his panic he took it with him. The woman that had just terrified him had a hauntingly beautiful face. He looked at the bag and with trembling fingers opened it. He found among the contents a broken bottle of perfume that smelled of roses, a huge chunk of dark black hair and a bloody blade. He was terrified further. He knew he couldn’t keep this in his house. So he got up and threw the bag with all his might over the wall that surrounded his slum. He came back and went to sleep hoping he’d forget the entire night.
The next morning chandan woke up in a fit. He was sweaty all over and shaky. He knew last night had happened and the woman had haunted him in his dreams all the while saying, “ You shouldn’t stare!” convincing himself that all that was just a dream he got up to go to work. As he was about to leave his home he saw the same bag right across the street. He shook his head to shake of the creepy feeling and went about his day. He kept saying, “It’s just a normal day!”
His job today was easy and he wanted to get over with this day. All he had to do was demolish an old building. He followed his herd of labourers towards the decided address. As they were walking he recognized his own street and in a few moments to his horror he stood face to face with the very building that he had ogled at last night. He was perplexed. They couldn’t tear down a building still inhabited by people. He took out his papers and as he read through them he realised that the building had been uninhabited since the past five years. No one was living in the building and a team of government officials had sealed it a month back.
To hold onto his sanity he had to check himself. He ran into the building hoping to find nothing there making the last night a mere drunken haze. As he climbed the building he saw that every house had been locked and sealed. No lady could break those locks. He reached the home he wanted to check and found it sealed and locked like every other house. He stood there for a few moments. Convinced it had all been his imagination he started to descend and that’s when it happened. He smelt rose. A strong sent of roses began to envelope him and he felt suffocated. Panic stricken he looked all around but could find nothing. He began to run down the stairs and a voice filled his head, “You shouldn’t have stared!” it was a silent whisper but it followed him throughout. He came running out and he was back on the street at midnight. He saw a man seated across the street with a beautiful woman. He was drunk and she was beautiful. She smelled of roses. He remembered. He saw them ascend the stairs, he followed. They were in a different time he could feel it. He saw them stumble into the house on the third floor. He followed them inside. She kept giggling and he wore a smirk on his face. She dragged him to his bedroom. As Chandan gaped around he could see that he was in the woman’s house. The walls were adorned with photographs of the other man and woman.
In a sultry voice she said, “Do you want to do it in the dark or do you want to turn on the lights?”
He said, “I always like it in the light where I can see what I am doing?”
“What if someone sees us?”
“In a city that sleeps by midnight, who will? Now take of your clothes and do it slowly!”
“You are the boss.”
And chandan saw her undress. She grabbed the blanket on the bed and wrapped herself in it. “I’ll be right back!”
She went inside and came out with something hidden behind her back. The man waited for her on the bed. And chandan stood there watching the whole scene play out in front of him. She came out and told him, “I hate your beard! It makes me it itchy!”
He laughed and told her, “You want me to shave? Now?”
She giggled, “I can do it for you! And i guarantee you it will be the best shave you have ever had!”
He nodded and half naked she approached him, sat on him and slowly began to cut his hair. As she progressed Chandan saw a change. Her motions became violent. And the man’s moans turned into screams of pain. Like a maniac she cut his neck and her face was splattered with blood. She rose wiped her face on the blanket. She looked at him with furious eyes, “ You unfaithful bastard! You deserve death!”
She grabbed a bag lying on the table. She collected all the hair and the blade in that bag and threw it outside the window. “We shouldn’t make a mess now should we, you asshole!”
As she was at the window Chandan walked towards the bed and had a look at the man who had just been brutally murdered. As he saw the face he felt a shock. Right in front of him mutilated in the most monstrous way possible was the man from the photographs on the wall. Stabbed and bloody. He got up confused and afraid. He stared at the calendar right in front of him. he was in another decade. He didn’t understand. As he turned she stood right in front of him with a twisted smile.
The last thing he heard was, “You shouldn’t have stared!”
-Shweta and Denny