Grey Clouds

By Shobha Diwakar

The night was dark, the night was grey; no stars shone, the moon went astray. The overhanging clouds lost their way somewhere up in the sky, their silver- lining disappearing from human eye. Somewhere the owl hooted, little birdies snuggling in their nests gave a wee cry and nestled under the wings of their nurturers. Just then, a deep growl of the clouds, shuddered the trees as the leaves trembled and shook under its weight and a strong breeze upset the delicate nest in which lay little birdies fast asleep against the breast of their mama bird. Was this some bad omen?

A gurgling sound crashed the environment as lumps of hailstones pelted the ground just out of the blues. Bang-bang sounded all around as signboards crumpled to the ground. The chaos led to the howling of dogs and it seemed as though ghosts were tromping around. Yes, tonight was no night to go out for a stroll after dinner as usual because nature today appeared violent and breathtakingly ferocious. Was there some mysterious happenings going on behind this unseen sudden change?

Inside their double storied building, all was calm and peacefully quiet. Grandma Saroj was fast asleep after an early dinner. Anand and Amrita had retired to their bedroom upstairs and, were busy watching their favorite serials C.I.D. and, Savadhan India. All of a sudden, they heard a thud and ran out to catch whoever had climbed up. A queer smile crossed their faces as they watched a black cat trying to cross the threshold, obstinately nudging ahead towards the open doorway to loot the glass of milk that stood sheepishly on the table, uncovered. Before they could retrace their steps, the devilish cat had enjoyed the prize it had so cunningly won while the rest was splashed on the floor. A black cat with piercing deep green eyes like the devil incarnate, did it carry some gruesome message for the couple?

A bit shaken up at the officious umbrage the couple remained disquiet for a while. Lurid thoughts crossed their mental frame but both remained silent, yet reading each other’s shriveling, dissipating sentiments, they held each other by the hand with an effort to drive away the turbid uneasiness and give comfort.

“Don’t worry it was probably a hungry cat that smelt the milk and disturbed us. I think the TV serials have acted upon us so from tomorrow we will not watch these murderous serials but listen to some soothing music,” said Anand to console his wife who was completely shaken up by the flux of natural events outside and inside the house.

“Are you sure everything is ok? My mind is not at rest and I anticipate something ominous. Don’t you think we should lock up the staircase and then turn off the lights? I seem to have  an uneasy premonition about some impending danger. Call it my intuition,” chided Amrita.

However, men are men and never think beyond their own decisions. Women for them are boobies who feebly give in to silly ordeals and silly superstitious omens so Anand ignored, and there the matter ended. Like all traditional Indian wives, Amrita gave in to her husband’s version of interpretation. She switched off the TV, the lights, drew the curtains and pretended to fall asleep with an aching pitch in her heart.

It was around past midnight Amrita woke up with a start. She had distinctly heard another forced thud on the terrace and surely, it could not be the black cat again. “Now what?” she mumbled to herself and a certain fear seized her so that she felt herself go cold. She strained her eyes to see in the dark but could not peer out. She shook her husband but he snored away as always, turned around, grumbled in his sleep and snored off.  There was nothing she could do so she decided to hold on to her presence of mind, armed herself with a fruit knife that was idly lying on the table rusted and blunt, but a knife is a knife all the same and stealthily tiptoed out of the room.

Amrita had barely taken a few steps towards the staircase when she felt she saw a dark figure duck behind the Sintex tank that stood at one corner just outside the side window of the bedroom. She stood rooted and her legs refused to budge forward. She tried to open her mouth to call her husband but no words came out. Her tongue felt dry and limp as she froze like a statue cut in alabaster. All that she could mumble was ‘uh, uh.’

The terrace lights were off as Amrita had forgotten to turn it on when she stepped out of the bedroom. Now it was too late for her to retrace her steps and just then, a dull, gross figure lurched out from behind and rushed towards her with a vicious dagger ready to run through her. Another fellow caught her and even as she shrieked for help, the next moment she lay dead in a pool of blood.

All this while Anand was still fast asleep; when he stretched forward with a big yawn and felt no one by his side, he jumped up like a jack –in-the-box and called out to Amrita, but got no answer. At first he thought she must have gone to ease herself but after a while when she did not return he called out again only to hear a frightening, drowning  shriek that came from somewhere near the staircase. Hastily he got up, turned on the lights, slid his feet into the slippers and ran out. Too late, he found his wife sprawled dead on the floor. He bent down to feel her and even as he did so, someone crept from behind and stabbed him. Now there were two dead bodies and no one the wiser about what had happened upstairs.

Grandma Saroj was up as usual and gone out to the temple. She had followed this practice as a daily routine over a number of years. On her return, she made tea and called out to Anand and Amrita. When the two did not turn up even after half an hour, she climbed up the stairs to wake them up thinking they must have watched some late night movie and were therefore still asleep. Yet, for the last time she felt it would be better for her to ring the bell so she did likewise, still there was no response. Finally, she lost her patience and slowly climbed up the stairs planning to shake them off their slumber. The moment she touched the last step, she let out a loud wail and collapsed. Her neighbors heard her shrill scream and rushed to see if the old woman was ok. Not finding her downstairs they ran up and stood stunned to see Anand and Amrita lying in a pool of blood, their stomachs ripped open and the old woman lying stunned on the floor, as if half-dead, unconscious.

Someone ran into the kitchen, brought a glass of water and sprinkled on the old woman’s face. After awhile she regained consciousness, but could not utter a word. Her son and his wife lay murdered in cold blood while all the while she laid asleep downstairs. Her mind was all muddled up. Who entered, how did these criminals manage to crawl up and hide themselves were questions that rattled her senses with no answer, wondering how did she miss seeing anyone going up the stairs. She was all confused and grounded with umpteen questions that boggled her mind, yet remained tongue-tied.

By now, someone had informed the police and a shrieking van stopped at the entrance. A crowd gathered outside and the police shooed them off to no effect. They enclosed the area with strict instructions that no one cross the barrier. The bodies were as cold and frozen as one could imagine when they were carried on a stretcher to the waiting ambulance and taken to the hospital for postmortem. Of  course, they were stiffly stone dead. Postmortem report stated cold- blooded brutal murder.

Soon began the police and CID interrogations and then it was discovered that the son, Ganesh was out of the city on a business errand since the previous evening. A search party went out to bring him back and tell him that his parents had been ruthlessly murdered the same night he had left. Surprisingly, the boy showed no grief, no tears flowed down his cheeks; he simply sat glued, looking blankly into the void. Something in his behavior raised the police curiosity. They brought him home, and then showed him the dead bodies in the mortuary and from there took him straight to the police station.

After severe grueling and interrogation the boy broke down and confessed he had plotted the murder… but not of his father; he wished his mother dead because she did not allow his father to give him money to squander, which annoyed him bitterly. He hoped after her death, his father would support him. He also confessed that he had paid and hired professional killers and let them in through the back door, which he had left unlatched before boarding the bus to ‘earn’, a perfect alibi, but which misfired.

A misled young boy, fallen into bad company had finally lost his parents as well as his sister whom he detested because she had run away to marry the man of her choice and for which, the parents often held him responsible. The wavered young boy had taken this too at heart and out of sheer emotional torment had committed a heinous crime… to rot in the jail. His hatred enveloped him to such an extent that he refused to attend the cremation… no remorse, no sorrow for the deceased.

The boy sentenced to life imprisonment remains impenitent. His conscience does not sting him despite the fact that he is aware how repugnantly and barbarously he has betrayed his parents and become the black sheep of the family. The grey clouds are doltishly hanging around the deserted house; the once evergreen garden is now parched and swamped. A ghostly silence greets passersby and weird noises, crying for help at the dead of night can be heard by the neighbors. Many have sold their premises and shifted elsewhere while those remaining shudder to think of the calamity fallen upon the family.

This is a fictional crime story and has no relevance to any person living or dead.  It shows how our youth has gone astray with changing morals, time and societal values. We read all about it in our National dailies, and hear about it on News channels besides witnessing crime serials.

About the Author: Dr. Shobha Diwakar lives in Jabalpur, India and retired as the head of English department at C.P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur. She has published many research papers, stories, poems and essays in national, international and online journals. She contributes regularly to writerslifeline and Indian Periodical. Dr Diwakar  servers on the Advisory Board of www.writerslifeline.ca. 

2 Comments

  1. Ms Diwakar’s short story portrays very vividly what can happen to any one of us. It surely gives goosebumps to think how our children can go astray & their power of hatred can lead them to murder even their parents. It’s a very well written story …An eye opener to what life has come to be today and it’s high time something was done to make our youngsters understand the values before they not only go on a murdering spree but destroy their own life too.

  2. It is a matter of immense concern for all as to how to handle children and guide them psychologically instead of attempting to bring them under the thumb. Times have changed drastically and media is full of these heartbreaking incidents. To prevent such incidents one must remember just as you handle with care your precious objects , similarly handle your children with care and TRUST. Be Lamplighters and brighten their path.

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