A short story by Shobha Diwakar
The day had not yet broken. The silver beams of the moon still relayed its silvery streaks into the curtain drawn room. Somewhere it seemed as though an owl hooted. An eerie air fluttered into the room and just as I yawned and stretched, it faded into the background. I managed to pull myself up and with a confidence that seemed to recede, I tip toed to the window.
The breaking dawn was yet reclining on the bars of the wind. The garden flushed with the morning dew rested meekly on the rosy petals and the lawn. I wished I could just lounge forward and taste the fragrance of the flowing breeze with the melting scent of the brilliant roses adorning the humble branches. The ‘mogras’ (sweet scented small white flowers), bowing tenderly to its touch; but wait, did I hear a sound or was something moving around?
I checked myself, and hush, that wee sound again rang into my ears. There must be someone lurking, I muttered to myself, and plucked up my solitary diminishing strength to explore. It was less than a fortnight since I was alone, as my parents had decided to visit some relatives who had come from abroad. My exams were in full swing and so had to trail behind. It was obvious someone knew they were out of town and had grabbed the opportunity to break into the house.
Well, I decided I was not going to be a booby and allow anyone to do that. Stealthily, I moved out of the window but faintly forgot to close the shutter. A loud rap almost drowned me. I controlled my agony, though I unabashedly lost my wits and sat on the edge of the bed, my mind now working fast in many directions. I suddenly remembered my old hockey stick patiently lying prostrate under the bed awaiting revival. I slid beneath and armed myself confidently with it. A good blow on the head would blast anyone’s brains. I cuddled and petted it as if I had just retrieved a long lost friend muttering,” A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
I halted. Now there was no sound except of the running fan and the soft breeze. There was no howling in the air, no owls hooting or frightened birds twittering. Time seemed to hang in the air. Just as I decided to roll onto the bed, that silly grilling sound penetrated deep into my very being. I sat up instantly like a Jack in the box wondering what was going around. I tightly clutched the hockey stick although I was literally shaking like a leaf with fear. I consoled myself that the stick was enough to frighten anyone; I felt its power and the hit, so it was fine to face the intruder.
I was confident that whoever was in or out knew I was my solitary self. All sorts of dreary ideas leaped into my head as I meekly stepped out of the room. I could hear water running and tumbling down with a splash, as though someone was taking a bath and weird sounds reverberating. “Was there someone inside,” I candidly asked myself and the hold on my hockey stick became firmer. I peeped inside ma and papa’s bedroom but everything appeared to be serene there. I stepped inside the living room, it was meekly quiet as though asleep after the raucous music I had heard, Now it was time to turn into the dining room… and halt what do I perceive? A shining black coat furry cat with green eyes shining like glistening pieces of glass, staring into my face. I startled at the cool dislike she displayed on her agitated screwed up face.
It took me a second to regain my balance. Since I had not switched on the lights I moved forward to reach the point and all but slipped as something horrid touched my foot. A shriek rang out, which startled the cat and it purred angrily at me. By now, I had somehow managed to turn on the lights; the room was flushed in brightness and lo! What could it be but a dead mutilated rat lying on the floor upon which I had so rudely tread; no wonder the cat was annoyed, I had unknowingly destroyed its appetizing dinner, which it might have enjoyed after playing with it for awhile.
Since my dread and my sleep, had both betrayed and forsaken me by now I thought it better to check the kitchen. To my surprise, I staggered at the disoriented sight I beheld. Glasses and boxes lay strewn on the floor. Rice, sugar, pulses all lay dead gaping into space, daring me to pick and collect them. I could see some nibbling crudely spluttered here and there as if some grand party had been arranged. Then I heard a gritting sound. Peeping under the platform, I caught sight of a rat struggling to escape from a glass into which it had climbed into to save himself from being ripped open by the ferocious cat. It was their jumping and catch-me –if- can strategy that had created the uproar. All that I could do was to roll the glass near the outlet so it could escape the sharp claws of the dreadful cat. With all this commotion I clearly forgot about the dripping tap which now I gathered was because of the racket and the duel between the rats and the cat. I heaved a sigh of relief as I retraced my steps into my bedroom only to be greeted slyly with the black cat perched snugly asleep on my pillow.
The looters had looted my… peace, my kitchen, my sleep, … and also… my bed….