The Spider’s Web

petrichor-and-clouds

The alarm goes off, piercing through the cold December morning. It is still dark – all the stars seem to have died. A tangible darkness, like a shroud. Like my shroud. I’d felt at peace while asleep; the alarm changed that, allowing the darkness to sit on my chest like an incubus paralyzing me.

It sings a pleasant tune – more a lullaby than an alarm. In its pleasantness, I sense an evil. A smile that holds knives at the ready. A smile that will slit your throat even as you smile back. Yet it won’t stop ringing.

I grope at the darkness and find a drawer whose steel handle is like ice. I’m about to shove the alarm in, when I find the things I’d lost. Things I thought I’d lost. A long time ago. And among them, a mirror with a golden frame shimmers through the darkness, inviting me to look.

I do and I see again the ugliness I’d forgotten, a resignation, a despair, all woven in. I throw the mirror in after the alarm, and a brief flash shows it to me – shows me the spider’s web in the corner.

I collect my resignation, I collect my despair, and I walk towards the web. I bite my thumb to draw blood. I spit out chunks of skin, erasing off the prints of my fingers. My swollen eyelids burst in pain. And I get the spider’s attention.

My knees tremble for I know it’s the end. Yet I keep walking, one foot after another, on a single silken thread. I see it rise from slumber, its drool spilling, my ugliness mirrored in its ugly eyes. It smiles and reminds me of my alarm clock, the clock that started this mess. I feel no desire to turn back. I walk, I surrender, I’m consumed whole. Then there is nothing but darkness. All the stars seem to have died.


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Monthly Delivery – A #200WT Story

The old man circled the date on the calendar. The preceding dates were crossed out.

“Today!” he grunted. His voice had the gravelly quality of one rarely used. He set down the pen, and carried his heavy frame laboriously towards the low-ceilinged kitchen, the wooden boards of the cabin creaking under his boots.

Just as he set his plate and carefully chosen cutlery down on the table, there was a loud knock on the door. The man grinned, displaying large, greyish teeth. He opened the door, and found the package – wrapped up neatly in brown paper.

Continued here.

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To find out what happens next, please head over to the 200WT Blog. If you wish to submit a story of your own, please see the tweet below for this month’s themes and submission guidelines:

The Price Of A Stolen Plot


Oh! How I loved her! Her tinkling laughter, her jet black hair that fell in waves till her waist, and swept lightly against my chest as she slept, her dark eyebrows that stood in such contrast to her skin, her mind – oh, her deadly mind, camouflaged so completely by that cherubic face! 
What wouldn’t I do for her – my Kamala, my love, my life! I sat there thinking, as she brought me my morning coffee and the edition of the day’s Bangalore Times which featured my interview on the fourth page.  She smiled, a smile that held secrets that only I knew. Or did I? With Kamala, you knew and yet, you never knew. Those eyelashes were treacherous; they brushed a lot under the carpet in one sweep.
I glanced at my interview. They had altered some of my statements, made it look a little more colorful. Unrealistic, somehow, but written to seem like “an author’s words”. I chuckled briefly. What farce! As if authors were expected to speak like douchebags at all times.
What farce, that the interview was a part of the promotional activities for my new book.
What farce, that the story was not written by me at all.
And I lived in constant fear that I would be found out – exposed to be the fraud that I was! I knew now what the metaphorical sword that hung over your head was. 
It was not that whatever I had written so far was unoriginal material stolen from other sources. No. I had written and published several original works. I had earned the reputation and title of a “masterful storyteller of India”. But this latest could very well be the one that destroyed all that I had built for myself. What would Kamala say if she knew?
Were Kamala finding out or being exposed my only fears? Or was it the real issue that gave me sleepless nights filled with cold sweats? The one that I hid under these inconsequential matters such as my new wife and the literary world finding out I was a fraud?
Yes, I had recently married Kamala. I had desired her for far too long, but the truth remained, Kamala was my friend Naresh’s wife. Naresh, who met with an unfortunate accident a year ago. An accident which led me to offer my sympathies to his young widow – my sympathies, my shoulder to cry on, and very soon, my house to live in, as my wife, to remove the title of “widow” from her young self. An accident, after which I worked on my latest literary masterpiece, which was receiving so many accolades.
An accident, which I wasn’t quite sure was one.
Naresh and I were at the bar that night. He was narrating to me a story – a crime thriller. A plot he had been playing with but just did not have the focus to type down. A plot he was foolishly narrating to his writer friend. He had had too much to drink already, but I egged him on. I drank a peg or two, knowing I had to drive back. When it was time to leave, I courteously offered my friend a ride back. I might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Kamala, I thought.
“No, man, you go on. I’ll be fine,” Naresh said with a wide, bland, drunken grin on his face.
“But how?” I asked, mustering enough concern in my voice.
“I’ll book a cab right away!” he said.
As I pulled my car out of the parking lot, I saw a staggering Naresh ahead on the side of the road, staring at his cellphone screen. It was late and apart from some drunken revelers, there was no one in sight. I hit the accelerator, and after making sure no one was looking, drove towards him and hit him. Hit him hard enough to make sure he fell on the road, but not hard enough that the blow would kill him. At least not immediately. Luck may have been on my side, for Naresh fell headfirst on to the pavement, and I heard a cracking sound. I rushed out of the car, but the revelers ignored us. I lifted my friend and put him in the backseat. I rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The case was marked as an accident, and they said the victim was too drunk to be aware of his surroundings.
Reading the interview this morning, the guilt weighed heavily upon me. Perhaps, I should tell Kamala the truth. Because it is only truth that can set you free. My book will be banned. I will be jailed, surely. But I will still be free – free from all the fear of being found out one day. Wouldn’t it be better if I came clean on my own? Yes, that would definitely be better.
I was about to call out to Kamala, when suddenly, I was gripped by a coughing attack. It wouldn’t stop, and soon I could feel my shoulders and chest aching. The next thing I knew, I was spitting blood.
“Kam-!” I tried to call out between the coughs.
She did come. She looked at me. There was a sinister smile on her face.
“Yes?” she asked sweetly.
I was now bleeding through my nose; my palms and fingers were covered with the crimson liquid and saliva.
“You thought I would never know?” she asked. “Well, dear husband, let me tell you something. That story you wrote – you didn’t get the idea from Naresh. It was my idea that the fool narrated to you! And you thought I didn’t know you wanted me? I always did. But I never thought you would murder my Naresh for me and a paltry plot! Enjoy your coffee, dear.”
She picked up the newspaper, and sat cross-legged on the edge of the bed next to the chair I sat on, the smile not leaving her face.

Micro-Fiction – 12

We knew he’d return someday. One night, I heard my mother screaming and I knew he was back. It was time for him to claim another victim.

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Maybe this isn’t our time and maybe love isn’t always enough. Perhaps when the time is right, it will be, and I hope we meet again…

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With time,the pain will seem easier to bear. But the axe that killed you – that will be stuck in your chest for all eternity as a reminder.

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She could’ve shot him. Instead she decided to chop him. Fingers first, one by one. Oh! The joy of watching him die a slow, painful death.

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For a long time I stood listening to the waves.

After a while, the breeze stopped carrying the screams. I’m lucky, no one rescued her.

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“There is a way out. But of course, it isn’t free.”
She hesitated, “Tell me.”
The devil grinned,”You’ve to leave all your joys here.”

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That creep-up-your-neck feeling, every time I crossed that particular tombstone, that had the these words inscribed, “Still watching you.”

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The quiet bothered me more than the cold. The arrival of others should’ve comforted me. But that’s when I realized – I was in the morgue.

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“You don’t know my mother,” she said “When she smiles like that, it’s the calm before the storm. Before the children begin to vanish.”

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They warned me, I didn’t listen. It felt so peaceful in the woods.
But it came out after dusk,screeching,wailing.
Now I’m trapped forever.

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“That simmering fear is your conscience.It wont be long before you explode and confess.”
“But… I didn’t commit the murders.”
“I know.”

 

The Grey Building With The Grey Flag Against The Grey Sky (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here
Every instinct of mine was forcing me to turn away from the wall that had sprung up in the middle of the road. Turn around and walk in the other direction, turn towards the stench and find what it was, turn anywhere, but not towards the menacing looking wall. But my feet didn’t listen. Through the searing pain, they seemed to mindlessly disobey what my instincts were telling them. I wanted to scream, as walking hurt so much. But it was a pain in my lower back that drew my fingers to it. I rubbed the spot, touching the skin drenched from the rain. But the moisture I felt was more than that – it felt like pulp. 
How badly was I bleeding? I looked at my fingers. Yes, it was a bloody pulp, but it was not just blood. There was dirt in it, brown, green dirt, mixed with my blood. I smelled it, to check if that was what was causing the stench. It was not.
The urge to cry increased with each passing moment, but I refused. It was not possible that I was alone. Everyone must be there, somewhere. I just had to keep looking. No way was I completely alone in this grey world.
I kept walking towards the wall ahead. The road in front of me held chaos on its narrow strip – signs of an explosion, but not one caused by arms or bombs. There were pieces of what looked like human flesh, but it looked like they were torn apart by savages. Crushed glass, broken bottles, shattered mobile phones, it was all there, scattered like feathers from a pillow pulled violently apart. The taste of mud still lingered in my mouth; more than the taste of mud, I believe it was the taste of knowledge, that there was mud, and probably worse in my mouth, but this was no time to worry about that.
I reached the wall. The wall extended, endlessly it seemed, to my right and to my left. It was high, with bricks laid haphazardly all the way up. When I touched the wall, I was pushed back. I had a vision of myself scratching the surface of the very same walls until my fingers bled. I shook my head to get rid of the vision and saw, I hadn’t been pushed. I was still standing in front of the wall, arm extended, palm raised to touch it.

What had I seen?

–To be continued–

Micro-Fiction – 11

None of the keys fit into the lock. The house had been abandoned for years. As they tried another, a voice called out from inside, “Hello?”

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“Last cell on the left,” the orderly said. She saw the human test subject – half a frayed wing on his back and compound eyes on his face.

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“Daddy’ll be home soon,” he told her every time over the phone. When he went back, there was no house,no daughter. It had all burned down.

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He’d been on the phone with me when his car crashed. It threw us into a time loop, with me having to make that call every day and hear him die.

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She disappeared without a trace. Her journal entry mentioned a call about aliens (?) but that’s just conspiracy theorists making stuff up.

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She saw red when his new girlfriend insulted her. Wild with rage, she pinned the girl down and pushed the chopstick into her eye.

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It was a lovely day for a swim. But without a warning, she was torn apart. All she saw was blood.
They thought it was a shark.

It wasn’t.

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All serial killers have quirks. This one had one too – he sliced off the eyelids of all his victims, leaving their eyes open and bloodied.

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For years they searched for the missing plane. The little boy, now grown up, never spoke a word about the brief flash of fire he’d seen.

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It was time. Humans had finally rendered the devil redundant. Unemployed and furious, he raised hell’s fire to the skies.

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The endless night had sucked all their hope. They were thankful when they finally saw the fog clearing. Then they saw the flaming sky.

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She insisted she saw eyes in the dark They called her schizophrenic One by one, she killed them all And then, she scooped their eyes out

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The lake – its cold waters called out to me. Curiosity overrode fear & I peered in. In the dark, my reflection had red, smoldering eyes.

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The cracks in the road should have been the first warning. But by the time the bloodsucking creatures flew out, it was too late.

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For many nights she wondered why he screamed “I am here!” One night, he was so close that she finally asked,”Who are you?”

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“Why!” He choked out in agony as she twisted the knife in his ear “You spread a lot of hate against me. Now I am giving you a reason.”

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They watched fascinated as the shoots rose from the cracks in the parched earth. But they penetrated people’s heels, killing them slowly.

Micro-fiction 10

He trudged up the mountain despite the burden and the thinning air. Once he reached the summit, he hid her corpse in its icy grave.

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Death is an easy escape,she thought,standing at the edge of the cliff Screaming,she woke up in another world-a world of unthinkable pain.

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“Mmm,” she mumbled, as she served him home-cooked dinner. He didn’t know the appetizers included cut and baked tongues of former lovers.

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Sibling rivalry is pretty common, but this is odd and unthinkable – she took her brother to the woods, cut him up and COOKED him!!

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It was all fine till the last act. That’s when the boy who played the ghost vanished into thin air right in front of everyone’s eyes.

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And afterwards, every woman he murdered reminded him of the only woman he had ever loved: his wife; his first victim.

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She sensed him. “Are you there?” she asked. “Yes” came his reply from the air. He materialized, his head still a bloody pulp.

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I won’t say the psychotherapist’s methods were questionable or unthinkable; but you be the judge – you stop whinin or your kid gets shot.

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DNA alteration was pure fiction a few years ago. But today, its consequences include homicidal rage. So far, there’s no law against it.

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My first murder was flawless. I used a sword! It neatly sliced through his neck, his heart, & out his stomach. Came out clean as a cake!

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The heart was still beating. I was growing impatient. How long do I have to wait before it stops, and I can add it to my lobster gravy!

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At first, I bit into his shoulder in the heat of the moment, you know…
But then I tasted the blood.

I didn’t even hear his screams!