Seeing the end near, I closed my eyes and prayed to the Gods, whom I never believed in. I could hear him breathing down my neck. Kneeling down in the pile of garbage, I waited for him to strike and end it- once and for all. Turn of events since last evening, which brought me to this moment, flashed before my eyes.
A few hours ago, I was reading the newspaper in the train. It dated- Thursday, November 12, 1981. It had been a week since I left home. After sending my latest manuscript to the publisher, I left for my solo-trip to Africa. As a writer, I made a rule to take a vacation before starting a new book. It helped me to rejuvenate, and to find a new setting and ideas for the next book. I relied on real places, situations, and people for my stories.
Putting the newspaper aside, I stretched my legs on the berth. As I gazed at the star-studded sky from the window, my thoughts drifted to Lucy, my wife.
When I met her for the first time, I was a struggling writer. For me, it was love-at-first-sight, but she didn’t pay attention to me. I kept chasing her and wooing her, till she noticed me and finally fell for me. In those few years, I earned two bestsellers under my belt and became famous in my small town. We courted for a few years before we got married. How I wished she was with me all the time!
A few minutes later, I fell asleep. There she was again, in my dream. I was stroking Lucy’s cheek. Her curly blonde hair cascaded over my face. Pulling her down, I was about to kiss her when someone woke me up. As I opened my eyes, I realized it was late night, dark inside and outside the train.
“Bwana, tikiti chonde.*” Said the man wearing a black jacket and a grey cap.
“I don’t speak Chichewa.” Rubbing my eyes, I sat up on my berth.
“Ticket.” Keeping his black bag on the berth, he said a word I could understand.
“Of course!” I responded with a squint trying to see him without my glasses.
I instantly put my right hand in my right pocket. To my surprise, my wallet which had my ticket wasn’t there. How is it possible? I remembered keeping it in my pocket. I checked rest of the pockets in vain.
As he repeated ‘ticket’ several times, I noticed exasperation in his voice. I tried to explain him that my wallet was missing, he refused to understand my language or my circumstances.
He kept repeating “Tsika*”, pointing out towards the door. As the train halted at the next station, he ruthlessly gestured me to get off. He said, “Go Police.”
Shrugging my shoulders, I took my luggage and got off the train.
“Pitani ku gehena*” He screamed those words. I understood that he was biding me adieu, not so politely though. I sighed in relief that he didn’t get me arrested in a foreign land.
Rummaging through my bag, I found my extra pair of glasses. As I wore my glasses, I saw the train chugging away.
I looked around, there was barely few souls on the platform.
Reaching the information counter, I asked, “Police”. The man behind the desk pointed out.
I asked, “Taxi”. He again pointed out.
Left with no choice, I carried my luggage, and came out of the station. The place felt erringly familiar. It was darker than before, as there were no stars in the sky, anymore. The road was canopied with tall trees. I turned left as I could see some distant lights. After walking for about a mile, I got tired and stopped to catch my breath.
“Remember me?” I heard an unfamiliar voice. The voice was disturbingly soft; it lured me to turn around. As I turned, I saw his face; the face that I had imagined many times.
His naked eyes were looking into mine.
“Dr. North!” I exclaimed, my eyes popped in shock.
“Please! I prefer ‘bloodsucker’.” His smirk sent shivers down my spine.
“You can’t be real.” Murmuring, I wondered if it was a dream.
He dug his long- curvy nail into my arm.
“Is the pain real enough for you?” Draining the blood from my arm, he asked.
“So precious!” Saying he bent down, and licked it. My blood curdled and my skin crawled back at his touch. Till that moment, I hadn’t realized what monster I had created. Putting my suitcase on the ground, I covered the wound. It wasn’t a deep wound, yet the pain was too much to bear.
“How did you manifest…” Before I could finish my sentence, he removed my glasses. I didn’t protest. I stood frozen.
“Ha ha ha!,” His blood-curdling laughter echoed. “How does it matter? I always find a way. You know that very well. Let’s just say, I have evolved.” Looking at me with his piercing eyes, he said.
I remembered he could read thoughts.
“Yes. I still can read your thoughts.” He replied, the hate dripping from his words.
I kicked myself for my overactive imagination which birthed this monster. His eyes. If I don’t look at him. He can’t read my thoughts. I closed my eyes, but I could feel him. His dark aura was nearing me. Now I knew what the victims must have felt when he cornered them.
He whispered in my ears, “Clooney, see what I made for myself. Do you remember how it all started? Do you remember our first kill?”
His words reminded me of my first bestseller, ‘The bloodsucker’, in which I introduced Dr. North. His stepfather, who physically abused him, became his first victim. As I wrote the story, I saw my own stepfather in his. And I made Dr. North kill him. Secretly, I took pleasure in killing the man who ruined my childhood. It was cathartic for me.
“But then I hated the way you ended that novel, which made you so popular.” He gruffed.
“We do what we want to do”, both of us said together. I stopped but he continued.
“As if I had a choice.” He hissed in his hypnotic voice. I couldn’t risk opening my eyes. He would see fear, that was what he wanted.
“What do you want?” I asked.
“You know that. Don’t you, my creator?” He scoffed.
“Didn’t you say that you have evolved? New desires, maybe?” I asked again.
“Touché. Yes, I have new desires. Do you want to know?” He glided without making any noises. I could feel his breath on my left shoulder.
As I nodded, I imagined him nodding too.
He must have smirked when he said, ”I want to be you.”
Ah! He wanted to replace me, to take my identity. Could he? As he said those words, I realised that he looked just like me. I couldn’t believe my own imagination. Yet, he looked so evil and I so normal, or so I thought.
“What about me?” I asked.
“You can take my place” He replied.
“You can’t do this to me, I created you…made you famous”. I pleaded.
“You mean, notorious. My diction isn’t as good as yours. But I can tell the difference. My notoriety made you famous.”
He was right. I had written two novels before ‘The Bloodsucker’, which didn’t even get a publisher. I became successful only when I wrote about him. It became a bestseller. Revelling in the gory murder of victims, I cashed on to his notoriety.
“I beg…” Joining my hands, I pleaded and opened my eyes. I noticed him carrying a bag with him. Was he the ticket checker in the train?
“Yes, that was me. See I have your wallet, bwana*.” Wiping his drool with his dirty ivory shirt, he waved my wallet.
“You took out my wallet when I was sleeping.” My voice trembled in anger.
“Oh… you feel betrayed? Really?” Hearing his words, I closed my eyes again.
“I’m your creator,” in desperation I urged him.
“Don’t play that ‘God- card with me!” He hissed. “If you were God, why did you put me through everything?” He questioned.
I didn’t have an answer. One by one, I made him kill the characters- inspired by people in my own life: my competitors, my publisher, my editor, my friends- when I felt betrayed or when someone irked me. But it was all in the stories. It wasn’t real.
I knew I didn’t have time; I couldn’t fight him for long so I decided to open my eyes. He was gliding from right to left and then left to right. Then he halted, I knew he was reading my thoughts. I didn’t blink. He was slowly inching towards me.
With a clink, he brought the knife to my throat and asked “What say now, Clooney? Do you want to feel how my victims felt?” I could feel the steel’s coldness onto my skin.
“Do what you have to do.” I surrendered, I was no match for his strength or speed.
“Remember? You made me keep the trophies from my victim – their hair. In last one week, I killed them all in real life too. One by one, I killed them all for you.”
And then he dropped the contents of the bag on my head.
The hair of all sorts- long black, wavy red, short auburn hair…and at last, I spotted the curly blonde hair. As I held those curly locks, it dawned on me that he… oh God!
“How could you?” I screamed.
Smirking, he glided backward. Tilting his head, he looked at me.
Somehow in that moment, I saw Lucy standing next to me.
“Why did you kill me, Clooney?” As Lucy said those words, I realized that North killed her pretending to be me.
It was painful to hear her voice, to see her face.
Yes, I killed her in one of my novels too. It was the revenge of a jilted lover. I wrote that novel before she loved me back. I dropped on the floor… sobbing.
As he glided towards me, my eyes had no fear. They were filled with tears of regret. He pointed the knife at my throat, ready to slit it.
Closing my eyes tightly, sitting in the pile of hair, I prayed to the Gods I didn’t believe in. Kill me, please! I waited for him to do it swiftly.
He whispered, “Your death will be painful, indeed. But that will be far too easy.”
After a deafening silence, he continued, “I let you live so that you die every day. When you go back, you will be caught as the killer. I killed those people just the way you taught me, with a teeny-tiny difference – you made sure nobody ever found any clues to catch me, but I’ve left enough for them to find you.”
With these words, he disappeared in the darkness of the night.
*Bwana, tikiti chonde- Sir, ticket please.
*Tsika- Get down
*Pitani ku gehena- Go to hell.
==>This is an entry for Artales-17, #DrNorth, an ArtoonsInn writing event.
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