The Twist

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
After losing in a game of rock-paper-scissors, a young boy goes through various incidents, before finally being able to spend an hour in a ghostly building, which he realises is the task set by his friends to surprise him on his birthday. Things start to take a wrong turn when his best friend warns him about eerie happenings just an hour before the decided time. What's going on?

Submitted: July 01, 2017

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Submitted: July 01, 2017



“Scissors! I won!” cried Ramesh, “So I guess Srujan will have to risk his life, eh? What say Srujan?” I knew I was going to lose. My fate was against me, I was sure of that. “Arey, but at least listen…” “No buts.” interrupted Sumit, “You will go there and come out within an half an hour.” “Yes,” said Ankush, “and if you don’t listen to us, you’ll see the worst of me, okay?” he said while cracking his knuckles to invoke fear in my mind which had been already there since the beginning of the pathetic game. “Bye loser! See you on 25th, if you make it,” said Sumit, chuckling like villains in Bollywood movies. They went away, leaving me standing with Sneha, on the green and grassy pine knoll. “I know it’s difficult, I can feel you,” she said, putting her hand on my shoulder. “You don’t know anything.” “Even if I don’t know anything, I still know better than you.” “What?” “Oh come on! There have just been, let’s say, five ghost sightings in that building. That’s not much…” “Don’t be stupid! There are no such things as ghosts,” I tried to reassure myself. “Arey, I know, but you have to complete your task…” “Going to an abandoned building and risking my life? Just because I lost a stupid game! Which kind of task is that?!” I was enraged. I kept shouting at her, “It’s because of retards like you that thousands of people have forgot to enjoy their lives! Please leave me alone.” But Sneha just smiled, fondled my hair and said in a soft voice, “I know how you feel.” “Oh please, you don’t know…” “Shhhh. Calm down my bestie, and listen to what I’m saying.” “Yeah say,” I said in an irritated tone, scratching my head. “So listen. If 25th of March is going to be a risky day for you, it’s going to be a busy one for all of us,” she said in a soft, seductive voice, patted my nose and walked away, smiling. Sneha and I have always had liked each other since kindergarten. We’ve done many things together, be they school projects or pranks. The list is endless. Sometimes I think we were best friends since birth, but that’s just me. But the only thing I dislike about her is her suspicious nature. She chides me to call anyone else my best friend. She gets very jealous if I do so. However, I like her and I’m not going to replace her with anyone else. But I kept on thinking of her words. What she could be implying, I thought to myself. However, as if a bolt of lightning had struck my head, I remembered, all of a sudden, that it’s my birthday on 25th! I rested my arms on the back of my head and thought for a while. It was clear they were planning to surprise me at the dark, abandoned building, and singing ‘Happy birthday to you’ all of a sudden. “I was such a fool,” I thought. I lied down and stretched myself on the lush green grass. The sky seemed to be abuzz with activities done by the clouds. I tried to make various shapes and objects out of them. I can’t remember when I dozed off, but when I woke up and glanced at my watch, it was half past five. The sky had grown darker. I knew I was going to get grounded. I stood up and began to walk. The walk became a trot; the trot became a run; a stumbled, frightened run, and I didn’t stop till I reached home. Surprisingly, I wasn’t even scolded. -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- The next day my parents went away to Delhi to attend a seminar. They would return on 26th. Today was 24th. Just twenty four hours left for the day which comes only once in a year. School was closed as it was a Saturday. I had been up to nothing so far, except drawing and writing things. I was alone at home, after having sent the maid to her house. Passing time was quite difficult. It wasn’t until 2 o’clock in the afternoon that I heard a knock at the door. It was Sneha. “Can I come in Sruji?” she asked, chuckling. I forgot to state that Sneha had this habit of calling me ‘Sruji’. That’s cute, I guess. “Hmm, of course,” I led her in. “So have you calmed down?” she asked. “Yes. Nature healed me,” I said. “That’s great! By the way I heard you were alone at home, so I thought of spending some time with you. Where have uncle and aunty gone?” “Arey, they had to attend an important seminar at Delhi. They’ll return day after tomorrow.” “OK. But first, let’s go sit on the terrace. It’s too hot in here.” She carried two chairs up to the terrace and I took a table. We sat there and began to talk about various movies; discussing their plots, rating them and comparing them with many other movies. Not more than twenty minutes had passed when the atmosphere became humid. There were clouds overhead, dark clouds burgeoning with moisture. Thunder blossomed in the air. We both smiled. The monsoon was going to break that day. I knew it; the birds knew it; the trees knew it. There was the smell of rain in the air. And Sneha and I responded to this odor with the same sensuous longing. “It’s going to rain,” I whispered, and she smiled back with equal excitement. A large drop of water hit the windowsill, darkening the thick dust on the woodwork. A faint breeze had sprung up, and again I felt the moisture, closer and cooler. Then the rain approached as if a barrel of water had been splashed on us. Sneha sprang up from her chair. “Oh no Sruji quick, get these things down!” she shrieked. I hurriedly grabbed the table and brought it down, again went up to grab a chair, and within minutes, everything was done. Fortunately, we didn’t get much wet. We sat near the window sill downstairs. Outside, the rain marched heavily down the street. The crowd dissolved quickly. A garland of marigolds swept across the stairs of the temple. The frogs started their orchestra. As soon as termites fell around them, they would gobble them up quickly, knowing that such a day won’t come very soon. There was hubbub all around. The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started. The day was dying, and the atmosphere had become cold and more saturated. “It’s time for me to go, Sruji,” said Sneha and began to leave. “Wait! I know your plans,” I said, “so don’t try to fool me.” “What? What do you mean?” she asked, sounding puzzled. “You’re trying to surprise me, right? Tomorrow on my birthday?” “Oh, is it your birthday tomorrow? I didn’t know. Must have slipped out of my memory. Okay bye, Sruji. Good night! Take care!” she said and left. Her words gave me a shock. I felt a wave of anger, then a wave of pain; was this the person who I called my best friend; this cruel, forgetful wretch, who didn’t even remember my birthday? What was the reason behind her sudden indifference? Such thoughts distorted my mind and imaginations. Without having dinner, I went to sleep with a heavy heart. -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- Finally arrived the special day. Having woke up very early, I decided to take a stroll through the bazaar. This would at least help me forget the words of my ‘bestie’. And so, I walked out of my home and made way to the bazaar. It was half past four, but almost every shop was open. People in those parts woke up very early. I often visited this bazaar, not because I was short of provisions, but because it soothed my soul to witness the onset of day-to-day lifestyle. The bazaar was mainly famous for its clock tower, which got a new coat of paint every year, naturally. Last year it was purple. Now it’s a livid green. Few shops were present. There had been many, but they were ruined due to various natural calamities. On the outskirts of the bazaar, in an elevated area lay the green, grassy and windy pine knoll, surrounded by a lot of shrubs. Just before it was the tea stall of Tillu. I made my way towards his shop and sat on a bench underneath an old cherry tree. “Tea or lassi?” Tillu asked, and I chose the curd preparation, which was sweet, sharp and very refreshing. “And oh, happy birthday Srujan babu!” he said, with a tinge of enthusiasm on his face. I smiled. “Thank you uncle. But how did you know?” “Oh, it’s common in these parts. Remembering the important dates of regular customers,” he said, pouring the drink into a large glass. It was six o’clock. The sun was rising, and a cool breeze added to my comfort and happiness. It’s very common for winds to blow at unusual times on the countryside. I touched the bark of the majestic cherry tree. It responded by shaking its exotic, enchanting branches with vigour, making a sound which was so soothing to the ears; the sound of the rustling of leaves. Even Tillu seemed to enjoy that moment. I could say from the way he poured the lassi onto a Tulsi plant instead of pouring it into the glass. “Hehe. Uncle, look at where you’re pouring your lassi,” I chuckled. In a second, he was conscious. “Oh sorry babu. It happens, you know, when you are lost in thoughts,” he said, giving a laugh. “By the way, how old is your shop uncle?” “Oh! Ten, fifteen years, I do not remember.” And why should he? People in those parts had no relation with the past and future. They always enjoyed their present. Maybe that is why I loved the countryside and its people. “Hey! Loser!” called a voice behind me. I looked back. Ankush was waving at me. I raised my hand to signal him that I was there, and he came up and sat beside me. “Eight o’clock, okay?” he said in an aggressive tone. I knew what he meant. Still, to be sure, I asked, “For what?” Almost immediately, there was a look of scorn on his face. He stood up and grabbed my collar, leaving me speechless. “You fool!” he said, almost spitting the words on my face, “Don’t you remember you have to complete your task?!” “Babu, tea or lassi?” Tillu asked in an innocent tone. “Water!” cried Ankush, still grabbing me by my collar. “Yes! I know. But please let me go first,” I retorted. He let go of me and drank the water in five audible gulps. Wiping his face against his shoulder, he came up to me. “Since you forgot your task, you will stay in the building for not thirty minutes but one hour.” “What?! Are you crazy Ankush?” “Yes I am. Didn’t you know? Now shut up and say yes to what I say!” “How can I say yes if I shut up?” “SHUT UP!” I kept quiet for some seconds until he exploded, “Why are you quiet?! Say yes!” “Arey but you said…” “SAY IT!” “Okay Ankush. Fine. I accept it. Okay? Now please let me go,” I said with fear. At this, he pushed me and began to walk away, twitching his face with rage. “He is like that since birth. Never mind him babu. Here, take this cherry,” said Tillu, handing me a red, lustrous cherry. “Thanks uncle. I got to be going now. See you later!” I called my goodbyes and made my way to the pine knoll. The weather was cloudy and windy. Tall, lush green ferns swayed happily to the silent tune of the wind. The knoll was along the side of the main road. I crossed it and entered into the grassy place. The trees seemed to welcome me by rustling their leaves altogether and shedding a few leaves as I arrived there. The wind intensified and became more aggressive. Just as I approached the oldest tree in the knoll, I saw a girl sitting there, facing the eternal blue hills. I approached her but she didn’t seem to notice me. I suddenly caught a glimpse of her face and for a moment, I was dumbstruck. “Sneha?” I called out. She looked towards me and smiled faintly. And truthfully, that smile almost made me forget everything. She was looking so beautiful at that moment— a charming girl with her hair let loose, playing with the cold wind; ravishingly black eyes, and a face with so much resemblance to heavenly angels. “Forgive her,” said my heart. “Don’t!” cried my brain. My emotions were in violent conflict with each other. I was confused for some moments. Finally, I decided to wait. I went up to her and sat beside her, on the cool, green grass. She bent her knees and wrapped her arms around them, turned her head downwards and started playing with her toes. “I am sorry Sruji,” she said in a low voice, “I didn’t mean to hurt you. It had just slipped out of my mind...” And at that moment, I decided to listen to my heart. I pulled her closer to me and put my arms around her shoulder. “Come on dude!” I said happily, “Besties are there to forgive only. Chill, I am not angry on you anymore.” At this, she smiled in her most appealing way, and held my hands tightly. “I knew it! I love you so much my bestie! Happy birthday!” she exclaimed and pressed my hands tighter, which tantalized me for a moment. “Ahem ahem...” said a voice behind us. We both looked back to find Ramesh and Richa smiling and clapping their hands. “Looks like we have two new additions to our Couples’ group on Facebook, what say sweetie?” Ramesh chuckled. “Yes, honey. Sneha, how come you never told us?” asked Richa. By that time, I had hurriedly gotten up and was feeling very embarrassed. “Listen, it’s nothing like that. We are just friends. Nothing else,” I spoke. “Richa, I never told you this because of some reason. I’ll tell you later. Now please leave us alone, for God’s sake,” Sneha said in a sharp voice, leaving me confused. “Okay Snehu, as you say,” said Richa and turned towards Ramesh. “Let’s go honey,” she added. “Hm. And remember Srujan, eight o’clock is your reporting time. Record your stay in your phone as we won’t be there with you,” he said and walked away with Richa. “Reporting time? Is this a school?” said Sneha giving a laugh. “What did you mean?” I asked. “Arey I meant what did he mean by reporting time? Does he think this is a school?” she replied. “Not that. Of which reason were you referring to while talking to Richa?” “Oh, that. It’s nothing. Just to make them believe.” “Believe in what?” “Why are you making things more complicated? Let’s go. And please call me after you come out of that building, okay? Bye Sruji!” she said, and trotted down the knoll. I glanced at my watch. It was just half past nine. Nine hours left for me to risk my life. I decided to sleep throughout the day. I reached my home within an hour. I removed my socks and clothes, fell flat on my bed, and went to sleep immediately. -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- I woke up by the sound of the alarm. It was exactly seven o’clock. I stretched myself a little. Honestly, I didn’t feel like going out. Frustrated, I checked my phone. Fifteen missed calls and a long message from Sneha! I tried to call her. Her phone was switched off. I hurriedly opened the message thread. It read, “Srujan, it’s very urgent. I passed by that building an hour ago and saw some strange activities going on there. Nothing’s right in that darned place. Please, please, please don’t go there. I tried to convince Ankush and Ramesh but they didn’t listen to me. Please insist them. I beg you Srujan, this task is definitely not worth your life. That building is haunted. I swear. Please, please try to call them. Take care.” At first, I thought she was joking. But after seeing fifteen of her missed calls, several doubts arose in my mind. I tried to figure out what had happened. What she could have seen there that scared her to such an extent, I thought. I called Ankush. He didn’t answer. I then called Richa and Ramesh. Their phones were busy. As a last resort, I tried to call Sumit. He answered the phone after almost a minute. “Hello? Sumit?” “Hello Srujan. Ready for the task?” “Shut up Sumit. This task isn’t worth my life!” “What do you mean?” his friendly voice turned into a sharp one. “I mean what I intend to mean, you moron! Sneha just messaged me, saying that nothing’s right in that building. She just passed by it.” “Oh. Sneha, right? You mean your girlfriend, eh?” “Sumit, have you lost it…” “Come on dude! She cares for you way too much, that’s it. Nothing more.” “But Sumit, what if she is right?” “Listen dude. I don’t care whether you come or not; but mind it bro, if you won’t, then Ankush will handle the rest. Record your stay in your phone. We won’t be there. Good luck!” “Sumit please listen…” But he had cut the phone seconds ago. The balance notification came up immediately. Half past seven was the time by my phone. Which meant I had to leave my house and venture out into the night. I put on my warmest and thickest jacket and covered myself as much as I could. I stepped out of my home and locked it securely. I put the keys in a corner inside my jacket, and my phone inside my chest pocket, the camera protruding outwards. I decided to take a shortcut through the pine knoll. During the night, the pine trees made sad, eerie sounds that kept most people to the main road. But I wasn’t a very nervous guy. I crossed the road and entered the dense foliage of a variety of shrubs, of which I couldn’t distinguish one from the other because of the darkness. I turned on the flashlight of my phone and began to walk slowly. The sight of a torn woman’s garment made me quicken my steps. I was relieved when I finally stepped out of the knoll. After some minutes of brisk walking, I saw a building at a distance. As I walked through its roofless entrance and reached its interior, I was struck by the deathly silence that surrounded me, the absence of people, the flickering tube lights; the sense of complete desolation. The silence was so absolute that it seemed to be ringing in my ears. But there was one thing of which I was becoming increasingly aware; a human figure in front of me, just a few metres away. It was the silhouette of a woman, with long, loose hair. I freaked out. As soon as I turned back, I felt as if the figure was drawing closer to me. At once, it sprang upon me from behind and covered my mouth with its hands. But the touch seemed very familiar to me. I was taken aback as soon as I saw its face. “Sneha?! What the hell are you…?” “Shhhh. I knew you were going to come here! Don’t worry. I’ll stay with you till your time is up,” Sneha whispered, giving a nervous smile, “Now let’s find a room for us to sit inside.” “Room? What are you talking about?” “You are really stupid. There are lots of ruined rooms in this darned place. I hope we can find one to be comfortable,” she said and looked around. “And I hope you’re not a ghost,” I chuckled. “What did you say?” she said, giving me an annoyed look. We began to wander about the ruins. I wasn’t scared of the atmosphere anymore. All of a sudden, we both heard a sound coming from a dark corner. “Isn’t it the sound of...?” “Knives. Rubbing against each other,” I said with a smile. “Srujan?! How can you smile in such a situation?” she asked with a horrified look on her face. “You might want to go and check out that noise,” I said to her. “Srujan, you aren’t coming with me?” she said with a sad look on her face. “I am fine standing here. And besides, I want to see how your plan advances.” “What plan are you talking about?” “Nothing. Please go and check that noise.” She slowly went to the dark, gloomy corner and disappeared. I waited for some seconds until suddenly, I heard a bloodcurdling shriek and the stabbing of knives. “AAAHH! NOOOO!!!” “Yeah, yeah. Don’t be silly. I am not vulnerable to such types of scares. Not anymore,” I said calmly. “Srujan help me! Please! Oh nooooo! Argh! Oh my God! Help! SRUJAAAN!” “I know you all planned this stupid stunt to scare me! But I’m not a freak. I know everything Sneha! Everything!” I shouted. “Srujan please,” her voice became fainter, “Please... AAAAARRGHHH!” There was silence. “Sneha, enough of your overacting. Come out!” I said and dashed to the corner. But there was nothing, no one. Just a long path to infinity, being lighted up by the flickering tube lights every now and then. “Sneha? Are you there?” I called out. No answer followed. I was beginning to feel uneasy, when immediately, the lights went out. Once again there was absolute silence, except then, I felt an unknown presence around me. I couldn’t move; my legs were almost paralysed. “Sruji?” called a faint voice. I had frozen with fear. It was Sneha’s voice, with a ghostly accent. “Sruji, are you there? I know you are here. Just in front of me,” the voice became more seductive and whispery. I felt a hand near my throat. It reached up to my face... “AAAAAAAAAAH!!” I screamed on the top of my voice. “BOOM!” There was a loud, heart rending explosion of a firecracker and several diyas lit up one after another, in a straight line. “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Srujan, happy birthday to you!” I hurriedly looked back. Ankush, Sumit, Sneha, Ramesh, Richa and all my other classmates were smiling at me, clapping their hands. “Seriously, guys?” I asked, annoyed. An hour later, the night saw us at De Francois, the hotel mainly famous for its French cuisine. The six of us were sitting around a table. “Pardon me guys, I have to go get a bottle of Chateau ‘61,” Sumit said. “So, how was the experience, monsieur Srujan?” Ankush asked, smiling like an angel, which took me aback. “Well, your plan was great, though there were some flaws,” I said. “What flaws?” asked Ramesh. “Well, there was this...” “Woo-hoo! Champagne!” Sumit came up and shouted, before I could complete my sentence. “And now, we will all present our gifts to Srujan. Happy Birthday!” he added, while handing me a beautifully wrapped box. “Happy birthday!” said one by one and gave their presents, except Sneha. “Thanks guys!” I said and looked at her. Richa gave a mischievous smile and said, “Well, we got to know that Sneha is gifting you something special. Right Sneha?” Sneha just looked down and smiled. “Oh look! She’s blushing!” Richa said naughtily, “Come on dude! Hand over your present to your Sruji!” She rummaged her hand through her bag and took out a box, gave it to me and said, “Open it now.” I opened the box. There was a photo frame of me and Sneha, below which was written, “Do you love me?” I looked up. Everyone’s gaze was focused on me. I turned towards Sneha. “Yes,” I said, smiling. “YAYYYYY!” Ramesh shouted and pushed me towards her, and in a second, we both were in each other’s arms, feeling a little embarrassed. “Congrats, both of you. And welcome to the Couples’ group on Facebook!” Ankush said with excitement. Richa and Sumit stopped clapping after a minute. Dinner had arrived. The others got engaged eating and discussing about movies, while Sumit, Sneha and I began talking to each other. “Your plan could be seen through, though it was good,” I said. “But what were the flaws?” asked Sneha. “First of all, your overacting was extremely... disgusting. What was the need to scream so much?” I said. “When did I scream?” Sneha asked, puzzled. “Yes, dude! She didn’t scream at all when she called you from behind,” added Sumit. “Not that time. When I entered the building, she was there, right? Finding rooms, sounds of knives and screaming so much while pretending to be stabbed was too much. Yes, but when you disappeared all of a sudden at that corner, I liked that. How did you do it?” I said. They both looked at me like fools. “What are you saying dude? Sneha was with us the entire time.” “Ha ha! Don’t lie dude. At least not now,” I chuckled. “No Sruji. He is telling the truth. I was with them the entire time. And why would I wait for you there,” said Sneha and showed me a photo in her phone. It was a group photograph of all my classmates. She showed me the details of the picture. “See? This pic was taken half an hour before the lights went out completely,” she said. “What?!” I exclaimed. “Yes bro. But what happened?” asked Sumit. There was a pregnant silence among us. “But then... who was that girl?” I asked nervously. Outside, the sound of a stray dog was heard. There was hubbub all around the hotel, but it seemed to me as if everything was silent. As if it was a dream.

© Copyright 2018 Srujan Sahu. All rights reserved.

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