Read Chapter 3
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.