Friday, November 20, 2015

Brushsh with Bush - Chapter 5: The Monster Seeks them Out

And most importantly, she was scared. She could sense that her children were scared too. She
Illustration by 13-year-old Rithika Murugan
wanted to leave before either of them came to harm.

But she could not. Not without Udit.

The bat blocking that entrance seemed significant. Even injured, it looked scary, and add to that the monsters staring at her. She looked back at the monsters and counted five. But one of them had become smaller, another was shrinking. She frowned thoughtfully and turned to face them fully.

“Go! What are you waiting for?” the tallest one shouted and the shrinking monsters again swelled up with a bushsh sound. Sulekha recoiled in fear and nodded, wondering if the gesture would even be visible in the dark.

But she was not leaving without Udit. What was the worst that could happen? She advanced towards the bat determinedly. The bat started attacking her, the monster started shouting louder and suddenly a blaring noise jarred the atmosphere. As she neared the entrance, she dashed in, her kids in tow.

The bat chased her in. She ran up the stairs and reached the first floor. She could see three doors and rushed at one of them, asking her children to try the other two. One of them gave way and they rushed in. So did the bat. On an impulse, Sulekha pushed her children out and rushed out, closing the door behind her. She heard the bat dash against the door and hoped it had injured itself. If that was a live bat, then she was a robot.

She heard footsteps above her. Desperate, she rushed down the stairs again, frantically pulling her children along. When she reached the entrance, she noticed the niche under the stairway and quickly the three curled up. She heard the men push the door open in the first floor and make a lot of noise. “It is only to scare us,” she whispered.

Then she heard them come out. “She has killed it, kill her!” one man shouted. She trembled and hugged children more tightly.

She heard them troop down the stairs and head towards the entrance, all the time shouting orders to find the woman and the children and kill them. Sulekha shut her eyes. The niche was not very deep, so she pressed against the wall, hoping the enveloping darkness will hide them. The group did not think of examining this neglected spot and rushed out.

She stole a glance at them and quickly dashed up, hoping the sound made by the monsters outside would drown what little sound their feet made on the steps.

When she reached the landing between the first and the second floors, she saw a dim light at the far end of second floor. She climbed up quietly and slowly, her children imitating her action. Suddenly she heard someone shout, “Did you check under the stairs?”

“I will!” someone replied.

She hurried up the steps, to where the light came from. She heard the man shout, “Nobody here!”

“Where could the woman have gone!” the first man responded frustrated. She heard the monsters scream too. “Search, search. Floodlights on!”

Sulekha blinked as the lights came on in the common area. The light flooded the room from an open window at the other end.

The three of them were exposed. If someone were to glance their way, the trio would be caught. But there was no time to think. She was caught between the people outside searching for them and the unknown beyond the open door.

She entered the room cautiously and looked around. She could see no one, but she detected a camera at the top corner on the wall across the door. She dropped on her fours and slid behind a large sofa right next to the door, away from the wall. It was a tight fit, so she gently pushed it forward, hoping no one was watching the camera just now. He children followed her softly. She assessed the place carefully from under the sofa and saw that it was a small flat with a drawing cum dining room. There was a washbasin to the right in a small foyer, with three closed doors around it. The one behind was the bathroom, she guessed, and the two on either side were bedrooms.

She leaned against the wall, glad of the respite but knowing that it wouldn’t last. The men would return any moment. She could hear the monsters clearly. They were now shouting instructions. “Where could she go? Have you checked in the building? She has to be out there somewhere. Check behind every door, break open the doors if needed!”

She looked back at the children and saw their eyes widening in fear. She felt lonely and miserable, blaming herself for putting her family in danger. She wished she could reach out to someone…

(To be continued)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Brush with Bushsh - Chapter 4: The Warning

Any way she turned, she felt she was being watched, but could detect no one. She even turned rapidly, hoping to catch the prying eyes unawares, but met with no success.

Her children whispered to her, “Mommy, where is daddy?”

She covered her eyes with a hand and sighed. Why hadn’t he come down yet? Where was he? Was he alright? Were there other monsters nearby?

By now, Sulekha was fairly sure that these ‘monsters’ were not going to run them down and tear them to pieces. If they had not done so till now, they were definitely not waiting for an auspicious moment to start.

Though she could detect no soul around her, she knew she was being watched. She stared at the stationary bat steadily. It stared back. She knew it was no ordinary bat. She stepped closer. It moved back and then plunged towards her. She squealed and ducked. Her children scampered, shouting in fear.

The bat hovered at a distance. She felt it was watching her warily. She glanced at the stairway from which it had come. She wondered if there were more there. Normally they lived in colonies, or whatever a group of bats was called. She had no interest in exploring the social life of bats. And she assumed that Udit was not up there.

She went back to the first block near the gate and slowly made her way up. She could smell bats here too and a couple whizzed over her head. Her children cried out. “Mama, please, let’s go to the car and wait for daddy!”

She climbed down, only to try the next one. She went through each of the blocks and realised that the bat smell was missing in block three, the block from which this current, watchful bat had emerged. Her children glanced here and there as they followed her up and down in her frenzied search, not understanding what this was all about.

“What are you doing?” Param asked her. They had stopped bothering to whisper now. The bat was right behind, hovering, but not attacking.

“We are going up block 3. Come,” Sulekha said headed back to the third block.

She explained her guess as they walked hurriedly. The bat whizzed past and hovered in front of them. It seemed to block her way, confirming her suspicion that that was where she should go. She looked around, and finding nothing hard, removed her shoe and flung it at the bat. The bat moved, but the shoe caught it’s right wing and it rotated at the impact, hit a nearby wall before it righted itself. Something fell, apart from her shoe, that is. She sent Param to get her shoe as she bent to examine what it was. The bat seemed unsteady. She picked up the piece and noticed it was black and felt like the part of a gadget.

She looked at the bat thoughtfully. It was unsteady but still in the air. She took the shoe from her son and was about to throw it at the bat again.

The big monster boomed, “Nnnnoooo!!! Stop that, woman!”

The sudden sound after much silence startled the three of them.

“If you want to leave this place in one piece, stand still!”

Sulekha was stunned. She was drawn towards the one that had bent to speak to her when the voice boomed again. “Stop! Don’t move and drop that weapon!”

She stared at her hand before she realised the monster meant the shoe. She dropped it and wore it discreetly.

“Vacate this place if you value your life.”

The monster sounded menacing and as if it meant business. She trembled. Her children huddled around her. One monster straightened and stood tall against the dark sky.

She felt small and insignificant in front of it.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Brush with Bushsh - Chapter 3: Missing Husband

She turned to run, dragging her children with her, and bumped against something hard. A pillar... She grabbed her children, pressed her body against the pillar and pulled the children close to her. She saw the form bending and flailing, as if looking for them. She used the cover of the pillars and the darkness in the parking lot – for she realised this is what it was – to stealthily make it to their car at the entrance.

The car stood with the bonnet closed. Standing on its own, with no Udit in sight. Where was he! She looked here and there and went around the car. But there was no sign of him. Worried, she turned back to look at the building. She saw the giant forms looming large, but the original one seemed shrunk in size. In fact, it was shrinking fast! Her heart beat raced. What if the shrunk form came running towards them? Where was Udit when you needed him!

Had he run away? Had he come looking for them? She looked towards the building, her heart sinking. She could find no clue and the dark made it difficult to make out anything. She took her mobile phone out and dialled his number. She heard the phone ringing, and the sound seemed to be coming from inside the car. She looked at the complex again, wondering where he was. She felt certain that he had gone into the complex but the two had missed each other.

Now what should she do? She decided to wait, hoping he would come back. The monsters were still swaying, but she realised that the shrinking one had not followed her. Had that caught Udit?

As the seconds dragged to minutes, it seemed like hours to her. If she were alone, the question would have been easier to answer. With two preteens on her hand, her dilemma deepened. Obviously leaving them behind was out of the question. Not looing for Udit was out of the question. What was she waiting for? She turned to her children and said softly, “Your papa is in. We have to go back and look for him. You have to come with me… Be quiet, okay?”

The children nodded gravely.

She turned to face the colony gate and braced herself for the worst. She could still see the monsters swaying. It sent a shiver down her spine. They looked eerie. She determinedly ignored them and hoped they would ignore her too.

She glanced around and could find no trace of any movement. Where should she look for Udit?

There seemed to be at least 70 apartments in the complex. She ran a quick eye and noted that there were 8 blocks; each block had three floors; each floor seemed to have three houses, though it was hard to be sure of that.

Was he climbing up and down each block looking for them? But they all seemed abandoned and dark. Even the prospect of meeting him in one of the blocks could not motivate her to step into any of them. She decided to wait. He was bound to come down.

She was exposed, in case someone was watching. But that also meant Udit would be able to spot them from any of the floors if he cared to peep out. Only, there seemed no chance of that.

It was eerie and she felt scared, she reluctantly admitted to herself. But she didn’t let it show, for the sake of her children. “What are we waiting for?” Manya whispered.

“Where do you think daddy is?” she whispered back.

“Shall we split and search?” Param, the devourer of detective novels, asked.

Sulekha shook her head firmly.

She glanced behind her. It was dark and impenetrable. The complex was at least visible to her in starlight, and the monsters etched obviously against the dark sky – darker than the sky.

She observed them, to see which direction they would move in. It dawned on her that they were rooted to one place. They bent forward, backward, swung their arms… But they did not move from the spot they stood in. Even the one that had shrunk had not budged an inch.

She frowned, wondering if she was overreacting. Maybe they were harmless. But why were they there? She moved forward slowly, egged on by curiosity, forgetting Udit for a second. Forgetting even her fears. She ducked into the shadows, forgetting to be visible when Udit came down. She entered the parking space, glad that it was at ground level and not underground. The cover of the apartments above protected her from the prying eyes of the monsters. But what else lurked in this place, who could tell?

She looked at the stairway entrances on this side. Something whizzed suddenly, brushing against her, and she squealed before she could stop herself. She turned and was relieved to see it was just a bat. Just a bat, she thought and smiled wryly at the irony. Once upon a time, that would have freaked her out. She kept an eye open for more bats when she thought she heard a humming sound.

The bat hovered around her and the sound was coming from the bat. Her heart stopped. She stared at it. Bats tend to circle, she knew. But this one hovered above her. She did not know much about bats, except that there was a vampire bat that sucked blood. She wished she had paid closer attention to the photographs. Right now, in this darkness, she couldn’t make much out.

She reached out for her children and told them to keep an eye on the bat. Gingerly she sought for some weapon to chase the bat away.

It was then that she realised that though the bike was mostly empty, there was one truck standing near the compound wall, outside the parking area.

She started moving towards that but stopped because the bat seemed to follow. She turned to look at it squarely. She remembered Udit, and that he had not come down yet. She realised the monsters were still swishing but had made no move.

Her children and she were silent and yet moving all over the place. Everything else seemed to be humming and moving and yet were at a standstill.

Chapter 4

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Brush with Bushsh: Chapter 2 – Spooked Out

Sulekha looked at the surroundings. Unkempt fields with tall grass made her wonder what lurked within. She quelled her trembling heart and entered the colony. She looked around and felt butterflies in her stomach. She had to admit that the place looked a bit spooky. She had expected to see some activity, some children maybe, mothers, men, servants… Someone, anyone… But there didn’t seem to be a soul around. No security, no random resident, no visitor... Except them. She looked back. She could make out their car and Udit still puzzling it out.

"Mom, I want to use the bathroom," Param whispered as they moved through the passage between two buildings. Sulu's heart was beating fast. In the near dark, she saw a drain, partly covered. "Quick, do it there and let's get back," she urged.

A sudden 'bushsh' sound startled them. They stood frozen. The sound didn’t stop. White foam rose from the gap. It started small and fluffy. It was so incongruous, so unexpected that the three chuckled involuntarily. But they stared fascinated as the foam grew bigger and bigger. Suddenly, it was not so funny. The bushsh sound had amplified and it filled their ears. They saw two foamy limbs pushing itself up from the drain even as it kept growing in size. A scream froze in their throats as the foam became their size and then grew bigger, towering over them menacingly. They stepped back instinctively.

Mother's instinct kicked in. Sulekha reached out, pulling her children to her. The foam bent towards them as if examining them. Sulekha felt suffocated. She felt her children clutch her back and she felt hemmed in from all sides. "Mommy, mommy!" Param and Manya cried out. The foamy monster straightened and seemed to touch the sky.

“HHooo arrrre youuu?” asked a metallic voice. Sulu realised that it was coming from the monster, though it didn’t have a mouth. It was creepy. She looked around, to see if she could slip away with her children.

She stepped to a side. “Aaaa minnnnutttteeee lady,” the monster said, looking down, as if peering at her.

Sulu felt her throat go dry. Her hands were damp. She clenched it. The gesture reminded her of the mobile phone and she wondered if she could reach for it in her pocket without the monster noticing. She was paralysed with fear.

She put her hand into the pocket slowly.

“Nnoooo… Nnnnoooo guns pleeeeaaaassseee…” the monster said. Then it cackled. “OOOOr mobbbbile phonesssss.” She realised it was laughing. That did not reassure her.

She caught the sound of another hiss that was growing larger on a side. She glanced up and saw another monster. It was dark now, but still, the monster seemed carved against the sky, darker than the night.

For Chapter 3

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Brush with Bushsh: Chapter 1 Car Stops Suddenly (Children's Story)

Udit stopped the car. Or so Sulekha thought. But it turned out that the car had stopped on its own. Their 8-year-old twins - son Param and daughter Manya - looked at their parents sleepily. "What happened?" they asked in unison.

"The car stopped. Let me check what's wrong," Udit said, getting out of the car.

Sulekha looked around and didn't like what she saw. They seemed to be outside a housing colony - the blocks of houses looked old and dirty. It was dusk, and the dimly lit building seemed eerie. She could see no one around.

She frowned. Were they in a ghost town? She looked around. The housing colony probably had about a hundred houses. Strange that there was not a soul walking about or peeping from the balcony. She peered closely and saw that even the balcony doors were all shut. None of the houses had lights on though the common area near the entrance had a few tube lights on.

The family of four was returning from a holiday. Udit had missed a turn and urged on by a spirit of adventure, they had decided to keep driving on the road instead of returning. They had travelled on mud tracks, surrounded by farms, with houses few and far between. When the sun was shining, it had seemed fun. But clearly, they were off by miles from any civilisation.

Luckily Sulekha had packed some snacks and so they were not hungry. Fields had provided them with enough open and private space for nature breaks. But, they were all fed up.

And just as they seemed to be nearing some civilisation, the car had given up.

Sulekha got out of the car. She looked at the time in her mobile phone. 6.15. Maybe lights will come on shortly. She looked at her sulky children. "C'mon, let's explore," she invited them.

Udit looked up from the bonnet and said, "Don't be a fool, Sulu! We don't even know where we are!"

She waved indifferently. Caution was his middle name. Adventure, hers. She winked at her kids whose eyes widened in excitement. It may all turn out to be boring, but hey, it was better than being stuck inside the car.

“We’ll find out. We do need to take the right road out of this place after all,” she pointed out sensibly to placate his irritation.

“Be careful,” he called out. "I can see nothing wrong," Udit informed her, peering in again.
"Can you start the car?" he asked Sulekha. She grimaced as she sat behind the wheel, thinking it was Udit’s ploy to stop her from going into the complex. Her children giggled seeing her expression. She turned the key. Nothing. She looked at him and shook her head.

"Did you turn it on?" he asked, irritating her.

"Of course!" she replied.

He dived into the bonnet again - figuratively, of course. She quietly got out and gestured to her children to follow her. He looked up, hearing the car door shut. "Hey, where are you going?"

"To look for help," she lied smoothly. But now she was more excited about stumbling on skeletons and some exciting secret.

"Don't stray off," he cautioned. Manya snorted in an attempt to control her laugh. Sulekha pretend-glared at her.

(Clicke here for Chapter 2)

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Stream of Thoughts

Where does it begin?
Where does it end?
All I see is
It flowing forever
Sometimes winding
Sometimes straight
Sometimes mingling
With other thoughts that might
Start in parallel,
Later or before
Jumbled or lucid
Taking new shapes and forms
Pools of memory
Fossilised foam
Clouds precipitating
Storms that roar
Some vanishing
Some merging
Demanding or subtle
They all flow
In an unending stream
Stopping not even when in dream.

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