The Dread

Hearken! Oh! dear people! I know I have been labelled much for no fault of my own, but tell me what anyone else could have done in the face of this monstrosity. This ghoulish intervention in the calm and sanity of a rational person like me. But you know well when visages such as these continuously creep out of their grave of non-existence to haunt you, sooner or later you start holding them for truth. I fell victim to the same.

It so happened that the talks of a frightening creature breezed through the town. It was said he feasted on the flesh and drank the blood. It was spread that he trolled the streets of riches at the night, as he was created by the so-called atrocities of the rich over the poor. Of course, in the beginning, I judged this news to be a rumour perpetrated by the ramblings of a drunk paranoid in one of those bacchanalian orgies attended by my wife, in which, fortunately, I never participated. I never believed in it, but my wife did. She seemed appalled whenever I threw a mere probability of entertaining such a discussion.

Her disquiet, to my unspeakable annoyance, soon turned into an obsessive dread. It was tolerable at first, but then I had enough. She lost her calm, and soon started sleepwalking; sleeping by my side and waking up to some another corner of the house. This became a routine. To liberate her off such malady and despite her frenzied requests, I set myself out at exactly one O’ clock at the night. I was adamant to show my innocent wife that her dread of the creature was nothing but the fallacy of an ideal mind. The distance I calculated to plod was around the neighbourhood, but for a person like me, it was ample area to affirm the theory. So, out I went and soon realized I made a grievous mistake.

I remember walking along a stony pavement, humming to myself and tapping the street with my stick. The breeze bloomed by the aroma of baked dough and sweetness emanating from a nearby bakery. It amused me to find people working at such late hours. It was a perfect place to be. So, I increased my hum and danced to the aromatic tune of the breeze. It was just I noticed a shadow in my front wall. Initially, it intrigued me, and I also admired it as though it was the visage of some irresistible maiden. But as minutes passed, the shadow grew in size and form, twisting to such abominable depths that it no longer invoked the blithesome feeling in me, instead it derived pure terror.

My body wept and shivered out of the pure horror, of which I was a helpless witness at the moment. I should have run then and there, but as all of you know, human inquisitiveness is an infectious vice, which often arrives in inadequate situations. I too became its victim, for worse. As the dread within me rose to heights, my curiosity also toughened up. My whole body autonomously tried to pull me away, while my eyes were glued at this twisting and progressing. I feared that the force would pluck my eyes out of the sockets at any moment. Fortunately, heaven was benign enough to kill my petrification at the right time. My body, which had been a stone until now, shot like a cannon under its regained freedom. I scurried away without witnessing the full form of that ghoul.

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Now, I escaped the imminent threat, but you all know how excruciating is the reminiscence of the possibility of a horrifying expiry is. The same culpability haunted me for days. It borrowed into my consciousness to an extent that now I began feeling the deplorable creature strolling my own premises at night. I was appalled to my core, and even a slightest unprecedented sound I heard made me jump on my feet. It only made it worse when I saw the news about the same in a newspaper certifying the concreteness of the creature.
My wife, lord bless her for her compassion, fruitlessly tried to pacify my disquiet. She even ignored her malady in this attempt. But what did she know of the fear one has when a supposed delusion turns out to be a stark truth. So, I continued to live in the fear.

Some time passed. Condition of our house meddled up. My trepidation, however, did not. Then, one night the sound of calculated footsteps rung in my ears. It could have been anyone; one of the maids, or my wife walking in her sleep. But tell that to an uneasy heart and you will know how I acted.
For my peace and stability, I had to ascertain myself about the truth of these footsteps. I slipped quietly out of my bed and tiptoed downstairs. It was dark. Only the frailest blue of the moon, filtered through the curtains like a diffident child. It sparsely illuminated the floor but was enough for me to tread the trail, and tread I did.

Carefully walking past the furniture, I made my way towards the east-end room. It was at that moment my wife’s unsettling groans trespassed my ears and I stopped dead in my tracks. They seem otherworldly; as though mauled or possessed by that fiend. An inevitable cold swirled inside my body. As a responsible husband I ached to push that demon away from my beloved and tear him to pieces, but also as a sensible and timid person, I knew very well of the consequence of such attempt. So, unfortunately, my person side won this battle of conscience and I lurked behind a shelf situated beside the defunct fireplace.

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For how long I waited? I didn’t know, but for each second only the thought of wife’s safety troubled my mind. I prayed over and over for that inhuman entity to at least spare her life. All this while my body shivering and my hand covering my mouth to keep my panic inside. Then, it ended.
I saw a crooked and black figurine slipping out of the room where my wife’s verbal peril originated. It was swift like a hawk and silent like a sloth. While making his way across the room, he twisted and turned to a threatening extent. My heart gave in and I moved restlessly in my place. There, I made a grave mistake. In my agitation, I accidentally nudged a vase behind me. It made a hollow sound and attracted the creature’s attention, who stopped and looked in my direction.

I was unsure whether he could see me or not, but I felt the dread his dark and purulent eyes drifting all around. Then(or I assumed such) his rancid lips curled upwards in an abhorrent smile. To me, this was a message of the finality of my beloved wife’s fate. It shook me and I left out a moan, and as though, mocking my agony, the creature also moaned.
You all will be amazed to know how even in the most frightening conditions when a loved one’s peril is mocked, one draws an unbelievable amount of courage. In my case also, rage replaced the dread. I grabbed the fire iron and stormed in his direction.

The creature twitched to threaten me, but I didn’t stop. Once nearing him, I swung the fire iron with all my strength and rammed it against the creature’s head. It again howled in threat, but I wasn’t dissuaded. I kept on beating him, ignoring his threatening howlings.
Soon, when my wrath subsided, to my surprise, I found the ghoul lying motionless on the ground, upon his own black and the pungent pool of blood. How mighty is a man’s courage is which slew even this creature of the hell? I thought and smiled in victory. At that moment someone’s arrival distracted me. My heels spun me in that direction.

My wife stood a few meters away from me. I studied her. She appeared unharmed, which meant the ghoul was only playing with me. But, at least, the threat was eliminated.
‘Don’t worry, my beloved, for I have eliminated the beast that was haunting our locality.’ I assured her because her shocked expressions told me she was also flabbergasted by my greatest feat.
She stared me for a moment or two and then ran in my direction. I also opened my arms to offer her my warmth. However, to my astonishment, she fell on her knees beside me and implored the fallen demon with her hands. I assumed she still was under the influence of the creature. So, I gently kept my hand on her shoulder to pull her back into reality, but she shrugged me off and turned towards me with most deplorable expressions ever.

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‘You monster!’
I chuckled, ‘You might have mistaken, dear. I am no fiend. He is.’
She pushed me away. By then, the maids and footmen had arrived at the scene, with lanterns. My wife gaped at them.
‘He is a monster! Slaughter him! Throw him in the prison!’

I chuckled again and turned towards the others, ‘Worry not, she is under the spell,’ I said, ‘Tell her what this creature really is.’

At this moment something odd hit me too. My domestic help also stood in a state of shock. Their eyes were fixated where my wife sat. I turned my eyes on that spot, and now under ample light noticed that it was no fiend, but a man. The eyes weren’t purulent and neither were his lips rancid. The blood was not black and pungent, but deep red and odourless. And upon it lay my wife. She held the body in her arms, uncaring of the blood, crying like she never did for me. Her heart appeared torn into many fragments. More than it was ever full of contentment while she laughed with me. His face now registered its introduction in my mind. He was the editor of the newspaper which delivered me the news of that deplorable creature! The entire scenario right from the first mentioning of the beast till now played again in my head. Everything became clear to me. My wife’s sleepwalking, the shadow which spooked me on the street, the news, and her unsettling groaning. Everything started making sense.

Oh lord! How wrong I judged it all, and what deeds were committed behind my back? I chuckled at my ignorance. Only this time my chuckles didn’t stop. They turned into interminable laughter. I buried my face in my hand and slumped in the chair behind me, lost in the amusing hysteria, unheeded of others’ horror-stricken eyes on me.

Cops came and threw into an asylum, but they were all ignorant. The creature conjured by my wife and her lover to keep my head buried under the sand has turned real. He strolls outside my cell. He desires my soul. I won’t give it to him. After tonight, he has to content himself with my futile cadaver. He won’t haunt me anymore, ever…
-by Nishant Verma