A Writer's Life

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Monday, April 15, 2019

A Short Story (Paranormal/Horror)

A Paranormal Experience

I entered the building on a bet. I was down on cash and didn't buy into the old legends of the old building, to begin with, so fifty bucks were more than enough to get me to do it. The legend more like a rumor was that no living person could reach the 45th floor and that it was haunted. Now the task sounded simple. Just reach the 45th floor, shine my flashlight from a window. The building was old and broken, including the elevator, so that meant hiking up the stairs. So up the stairs, I went. As I reached each platform, I noted the paint displaying the floor numbers. 15, 16, 17, 18. I felt a little tired as I crept higher, but so far, no ghosts, no cannibals, no demons. Piece of cake!
I can't tell you how happy I was as I entered that last stretch of numbers. I joyfully counted them aloud at each platform.
40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 44…
Puzzled, I stopped and looked back down the stairs. I must have miscounted, so I continued up. 44. One more flight. 44. another 44. Yet again. 44!
And so it's been for as long as I can remember. So really, insanity isn't doing something repeatedly and expecting different results. It's knowing that the results will never ever change; that each door leads to the same staircase, to the same number. It’s realizing you no longer are asleep and dreaming but the reality is bizarre, beyond your comprehension. It's when the confusion makes you sob and the sobbing slowly turns into laughter. For a second, I thought I am not leaving this building alive.
But just to win this stupid stupid bet, I flash the light from the 44th floor, assuming my friends won't realize its 44 or 45. I went down. I felt some footsteps following me. The thump thump sound slowly turned indistinguishable. I couldn't differentiate it from the loud heartbeats within me. I was scared. So I raced down the steps. I heard the footsteps now speeding up to match my pace. I think I even heard a loud gasping breath right behind me, but I chose to not look behind and resisted the urge that is so reflexive in nature. I don't want to die, I remind myself time and again, repeating in my head like a loud bang. And then when I finally couldn't handle the fear, fearing my heart would explode, I spoke out loud. I DONT WANT TO DIE in a loud, fearful yet less affirmative, more authoritative tone. I heard the footsteps backing off but with a small evil laugh, more like a giggle. It was creepy. I wasn't sure if my mind was playing tricks or was this real. Did someone laugh or was I just overthinking? At times like these, everything is mixed up in your head: the panic, the fear, the unknown, the known, and most importantly, the thoughts and reality.
I still did not succumb to my reflexes and didn’t turn around for confirmation of my fear was the last thing I ever wanted. I reached the bottom of the stairs and I left the building. I met my friends outside who were relieved to find out that the 45th-floor rumor was actually a rumor, or so I made them believe with my flashlight. They were not much worried about the money they lost in betting with me. But only God knows how petrified I was. There was something not completely normal about me. There never was. I was always on the look-out for bets and life-threatening stuff. My curiosity always got the better of me and not on a normal level. Normally, in this situation, someone else would have totally tried to erase this whole episode out of their mind and taken to religious beliefs or start being a God-fearing, a good man. But me, no! I really wanted to know who dared scared me. Also, to be honest, I was scared like hell but not shattered yet. That would happen only to my ashes once I was dead and gone and why did that entity leave me alone, without doing anything to me? Just a laugh, really! What must have the entity thought of me? Let this scared fool run away and spread more fear among people with his tell-tale stories? That's not going to happen. I was hell-bent on going there again and finding the truth for myself and not be one-in-many to just sit back and let the ghost think they had the better of me.
But how? And what should I do to make sure no harm befalls me. I was not the one to believe in taaveez (an object to protect you from evil) and all and if I did get it to protect me, my whole purpose of bravery was lost. Nobody wants death and I too feared for my life but I wanted to confront it and get it over with, once and for all. That's how I prefer to end things. Now I needed a plan! I spend endless sleepless nights not just in thinking of how to end things with that ghost but mainly because that giggle, that whole experience haunted me enough to scare me. But as I said, my curiosity had the better of me. So I thought of an idea finally.
I needed a scape-goat. Now that I had already told my friends there was nothing up there, I was sure they believed me as I came back alive and according to my flashlight story, I was on the 45th floor. So I got my camera pen and gifted it to my friend Sunil. Then after a few days of pretending everything is normal, challenged him to go see for himself and get rid of that little bit of fear he may still have in his heart, all thanks to the rumors. Sunil rejected my idea, upfront. I peer pressured him by letting him down in front of our other friends and mocking at him. Now, this is the problem with men, who live by their egos. Question his manhood, and he will do anything to prove you wrong. So finally my plan worked and he went up there. I told him to carry the pen that I gifted him and gave him a paper to write down all’s well here and throw it from the 45th floor. That way, he would take the pen with him and the camera would capture everything that happens to him. The events started recording on my phone.
Sunil started climbing and with my heart thumping hard and my conscience questioning my actions, I was filled with guilt and remorse, already. In my heart, I felt like running behind him and stopping him from entering up there. But I wanted to know. The knowledge of the place was more important to me than the life of my friend. As much as I felt bad about it, I was trying to convince my conscience by thinking if I could come alive, so would he. And also I’d know what is lurking there. Time was ticking, Sunil was climbing. The most awaited moment arrived. Sunil left the 44th floor and was climbing towards the 45th or the expected 45th floor. Soon, he reached and the paint on the wall read 45th. I was puzzled. How come Sunil didn’t have to go through the recurring, endless 44th-floor climb. How did he happen to escape that? Meanwhile, Sunil wrote something on the paper and threw it down from the 45th floor. I kept looking up at the paper and waited impatiently for it to fall off. And the paper flew, following no directions of gravity and slowly landed; when it wanted to, where it wanted to. I picked it up in an instant, so what if it landed on the graveyard right next to the building. The reason for the rumors began in the first place. I picked it up and read, Sunil had simply written, “...ALL IS WELL HERE.” I turned the paper hoping to find something more written on it but no, nothing. And I know for sure he did manage to climb on the 45th floor, which I couldn’t. This mystery just refused to resolve itself. Dejected, I put my head down and started walking towards the entrance of the building, where all my friends awaited Sunil’s victorious arrival. Sunil came back, in glee, all happy and excited and screaming, “I did it, I did it, I did it.” Everyone hugged him and he most certainly erased the blot on his manhood. But I was worried.
We went to a nearby restaurant to celebrate his victory. I wasn’t an active participant in all that chatter and started questioning my sanity. Just then my phone rang and it was my mom on the other end, just inquiring the usual, concerned on my whereabouts. After the usual answers I give her, I disconnected the call and it’s then that it struck me to check the recording as I was busy looking at the paper drop, forgetting all about the recording. I forwarded to the part where I left off and there lied all my answers. The 45th-floor entry had the 5 written afresh, with fresh paint. The 4 was erased. I still didn’t quite get it, I was thinking that Sunil had prepared for this beforehand. But just then, Rajiv put his hand on my shoulder. I turned around and Sahil too was there. I fumbled and tried to hide away my phone in vain. Rajiv and Sahil then laughed aloud. It was them all the while. It was they who planted this plot. It was they, who had told me about the rumor and had gone up the flight of stairs to this under-construction, legally disputed and dilapidated building. They went up the stairs and changed the numbers from 45 to 50 floors to 44. Obviously, someone who would climb so high would be so tired to try climbing more than 5 flight of stairs to confirm this belief. This would suffice. The truth behind that scary giggle had been caught had I the guts to turn around, I would find Rajiv standing there, said Rajiv gleefully on the success of his plot. But something still didn't seem right. However, I was the laughing stock for them. Disappointed and guilty for putting Sunil through this, I went and apologized to Sunil for being too inquisitive and inhuman to try the experiment on him. But he, in turn, sympathized with my situation and insisted I see the paper again. I took the paper in hand to find out what I had missed. As soon as I took the paper in hand, a sudden waft of wind blew and the paper was blown away from my hands. I rushed after the paper only to find it landing finally at the same place in the cemetery, where I had picked it up from. I opened it to found traces of blood on it. Not possible, how could I ever miss something so obvious. I started thinking and just then, my eyes fell on the tombstone that read the name ‘Manyata’ on it.

Manyata is the name of the ghost they had mentioned in the rumor. I was so confused. This name is not that common for my friends to use when planning the story for the rumor. And the blood, what did that have to say? Why did Sunil point it out to me? What is his role in this story? I thought of clarifying it with my friends and I turned to go back to them. I was thinking about brainstorming them with the questions on my mind, just then, I felt the same aura around me, an inexplicable uneasiness. I heard the same breath right behind me, not so warm like normal, and then the giggle. This time around, I turned to look, letting my reflexes take over me and then I see her there...with Sunil. Their eyes had the glint. They were smiling at me and then looking at the paper in my hand. I unfolded it yet again and the mystery was finally solved. The paper read, “Dare to try the 45th floor again?”

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