It was Friday and Rhea was taking her evening walk. It was her routine for the last five years. She was familiar with every stone, turn and shrub on the route. The walking track was in the colony she and her husband had moved into five years back. She was a teacher and used to get free by afternoon. Lunch, afternoon siesta and the evening walk, which she really enjoyed was her routine. She found inner peace and time to think when she would stroll around.

#

Rhea was nearing the temple, when she felt a bit uneasy. She had never felt this way before. She carried on thinking about the day’s events. She noticed from a distance that the house on the dark side of the road was having an unusual glow. It looked eerie, very out of place. She saw a shadow standing outside the gate of the house. This house was at the far end of the colony and hence had a deserted look. It was occupied by Mr. Mehra, the forced bachelor who was staying away from his wife due to his job commitments.

The dark man was looking more like a shadow than a physical person in flesh. Rhea could not identify the face clearly, as he was hooded. He gave her a stare and looked towards her. She had never seen him before.

At the same moment she saw a stray dog barking and howling nearby. The dog crossed her path and was aggressively wagging his tail. Rhea found it strange, as the dog was very familiar to her. Most of the times he accompanied her on the walks. But today, even he was behaving a bit odd. He moved across the road towards that house.

#

Mr. Mehra was outside the house, lying on the ground. He was breathing shallowly and was gasping in between his breaths. He was an alcoholic and was fighting his battle with it. But now, he seemed to be in trouble. Rhea saw him and felt concerned. She thought that it must be his alcoholic binge and that’s why he was lying on the floor. She thought he needed help and tried to move in that direction. It was then that she again saw the dark man. He was keenly observing her. As soon as she started approaching Mr. Mehra, he walked towards her and blocked her approach. He started waving and motioning her away from him. He was signaling her to move away from there.

But Rhea was determined and continued moving. He then became a bit aggressive and directly moved towards her. She got scared.

Coming close to her he said in a gruff voice, “Go away. You cannot help him. Nobody can help him. It’s too late.” He motioned her to go away. This scared Rhea and she took off. She felt a feeling of choking sensation, as if somebody was pushing her away and warning her to stay away from whatever she had seen!!

#

Rhea woke up gasping for air. She was almost screaming and uttering some gibberish with her face distorted and beads of sweat on her forehead. It scared her husband who woke up from his sleep. It was five in the morning. He tried to pacify her but to no effect. She was in some kind of trance. He gave her a couple of slaps on her cheeks. Finally she broke away from that trance and came back to her senses. She was still breathing heavily and blabbering uncontrollably.

“Save him, save him… He is in trouble. Somebody please help him.” She was literally screaming. Sandesh tried to pacify her.

She recovered from the dream like state and came back to reality. She told him everything she had seen and felt. She was still crying inconsolably. Sandesh comforted and told her that it was just a dream. He would ring up Mr. Mehra immediately and find out about his health, he assured her.

Sandesh rang up Mr. Mehra at about eight. He greeted him cheerfully and confirmed that all was well with him. He responded by saying that he was very happy that his daughter had secured admission to an engineering college. He would be visiting his family shortly. With that information Sandesh hung up and wished him all the best.

Rhea felt better and it relieved her tension. Now she did not feel any burden of not being able to help Mr. Mehra. She assured herself that it was just a dream. It had passed away and that there was nothing to worry. But still she could not comprehend why she should see Mr. Mehra in her dreams. She hardly knew him. It was something which still bothered her.

#

Rhea woke up to the ringing doorbell. It was the milkman. She saw Sandesh was still buried inside the blankets. With the doorbell ringing, he cuddled up himself and covered his face with the blanket. Rhea looked at him and grudgingly moved out of the bed.

As she went downstairs she heard the telephone ringing in the bedroom. She shouted back at Sandesh and asked him to answer it. She took the milk bags and headed towards the kitchen. She put the water in the kettle for tea.

She headed back to the bedroom. Sandesh had answered the phone. She saw him sitting on the bed. The receiver was in his hands and he had a vacant look in his eyes. The color had drained from his cheeks with a few beads of sweat on his forehead.

“What happened Sandesh? Who was on the line?”

He just nodded, and looked at her blankly.

“What’s the matter. Tell me, please.”

“Mr. Mehra ……” he paused and looked at her disbelievingly.

“What’s with him…tell me.”

“He is dead…. Mr. Mehra is dead. They found his body in the morning. He had collapsed near his bed and had vomited and suffocated to death.”

***

We appreciate you rating the story out of 10 along with your comment in the comments.
The above story is an entry into the writing event(Feb. 02nd – 20th) hosted by ArtoonsInn: #PullTheRug #UniK-3

Event rules and guidelines: https://artoonsinn.com/pull-the-rug-unik-3-writing-event/

Check out Manoj’s space here: https://artoonsinn.com/author/manojpaprikar/

***

Photo by Quenten Janssen

***

Written by Manoj Paprikar

Manoj Paprikar is a doctor by profession, a gynaecologist. He is an avid trekker, traveller, reader and a writer. He has a blog and has published a book. He plays Table Tennis and loves playing guitar.