By Sunil Sharma
The first one to greet was him only. And to scare was his habit. As the families would stream in and then settle down and kids would wander off, the uncle would materialize from thin air and say, Hullo!
The kids would scream and run away. On long nights, surrounded by children, on the terrace, with lights beckoning of the far-off city, he would tell stories, while women cooked for the extended family. The children liked the man but got frightened easily by his story-telling skills. His fav one liner was: “There is a resident monster in the sprawling house. He will get the naughty ones among you. Beware of the ogre! He seizes the victim suddenly.” Then, he would tell about bad things such creatures can do in the real world like mutilating the body.
The most gullible was Mini. She was a game to such stuff. The bespectacled child read lot of fairy tales and was always, a bit lost. But the idea intrigued her the most. She wanted to do monster hunting.
Monster! In the house! And nobody knows it.
Uncle insisted: He is here but unseen!
Wide-eyed kid believed the claim every year. Often she searched the cupboard but found relics and other items of no use but kept there in that large house full of shadows and whispering trees in the backyard, off the main village road, near the forest where wolves were supposed to roam and eat the innocent and children.
Where is the monster? Mini asked.
Well, look closer. He is there, everywhere, hiding. Search closely. In rooms and halls.
The child did but never could find the ogre described vividly by the uncle; details that were chilling on most hot afternoons! She rummaged corners but found no trace. Only shadows in the house. This summer also, it happened on predictable lines. This time Mini wanted to confront the fiend–alone. And bust him.
The 12-year-old searched through the dust of the cupboard but found nothing. No green monster lurking. Just a howling wind and a dust devil outside.
It is a joke! Big silly joke.
She went inside another room—another big steel cupboard, behind curtains.
Nothing there, old trinkets and diaries and magazines. No monster, finally. She felt relieved.
It was not.
The ordeal was about to begin. Lulled by exhaustion and cool interiors, she drowsed and felt asleep. Then, the breathing, the groping, some heavy weight placed on her belly.
And a cooing voice.
Then the searing pain!!!
The child woke up with a start in the dark room on that afternoon. And found the monster lurking over the frail body. She shivered and screamed and tried to run but in vain, trapped in that room.
The family found her bleeding and silent, outside, in the wheat fields that evening. Her eyes said everything. Who is that monster? They asked, angry and helpless. Her numbness was stark; eyes vacant; lips bruised but mind searching for the answer: How come the resident monster carried a strong resemblance to her dear uncle standing with her father there and crying?
About the Author: Sunil Sharma based in Mumbai and is a widely-published Indian critic, poet, literary interviewer, editor, translator, essayist and fiction writer. He has already published three collections of poetry, one collection of short fiction, one novel and co-edited five books so far. His six short stories and the novel Minotaur were recently prescribed for the undergraduate classes under the Post-colonial Studies, Clayton University, Georgia, USA. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award 2012. Recently his poems were published in the UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree-2015.