Tag Archives: Horror

W is for Writer’s Block

WI wrote this for a prompt exercise where the theme was horror. This is my first attempt at a scare-story. Tell me what you think. Too obscure? Not chilling enough? In today’s A to Z Challenge we look at a writer’s worst fear, W is for Writer’s Block.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

W is for Writer’s Block

I had woken up that night. The cigarette ashes near my bed should have been indication enough. I remember it clearly. But the memory is behind my eyes. You’re going to need to see the evidence in the form of those ashy streaks. What’s the point? You aren’t even listening, anyway. You don’t know how to. You can’t. Did I awaken in a cold sweat? A dull feeling in the pit of my stomach? No, no. I just opened my eyes and there the world was, and I was awake. It happens often enough.

I used to lie awake for nights on end. I’ve spent hours watching fragile, wispy thoughts dance about. It’s an ugly thing they do, solidify into words. Nasty buggers they become then, rattling about inside your head. I used to wonder how coin slot machines felt. You know the ones that have a zillion, hard colourful balls inside them that whir around when you put in the coin? And if you’re lucky, one drops into the slot. You pop it into your mouth and stroll away, never even knowing how glad the machine is to see you go, how it envies your nonchalance. You’re ingesting, masticating, devouring what it struggles to vomit, shit, eject out.

Listen to me. (Nobody does, of course, but me). I’m so verbose. Perhaps I should start taking care of my words, even if I’m the only listening. But it’s so hard, so hard to. HRMPH. Say it again. It’s hard. I feel like there’s…I have diarrhea and I can’t shit it out. It’s clogged inside my entire body, this diarrhea of words. Better. Time to go out. Get some cigs.

I don’t even think about what to carry anymore. The notebook in my pocket is as good as a bankroll. I pat it to check it’s still got enough pages. I step out, and as usual, the memory of that first morning floods me. It’s always first morning now, no matter how many I’ve had since then. It’s gotten so I notice things I should have but didn’t, on the first morning. Infinite rewind.

No scrawls on the walls. Paan stains galore and something that always looks like shit smeared on the second last step. The signboard at the gate is missing. No scratches in the paint, either; only peeling in broad strips. There is a pile of sacks of cement near the wall, where it’s broken. They’re covered in the uniform grey that creeps out of tears in the sack fabric. But no names, no penmarks visible. How did I never catch that? Because I automatically avoid construction sites and materials, that’s why. They make me sneeze. This pile is about ten feet away and I could have read the black or red letters that usually mark such sacks. But I never noticed. My mind wears a breathing mask to thoughts my body does not like.

The road is busy as always. But the sounds never fail to shock me. The machine noises are all there – cars moving, road repair machines whirring. And there’s a steady hum underlying it all – human breathing. Human beings breathe real loudly, did you know? But no voices. Well, there is an occasional gasp and plenty of sneezes. They don’t know the word ‘pollution’ but they suffer it anyway.

I’m nearly at the cigarette shop at the end of the road now. The smokers mill around near it. A lady steps up through a gap. The shopkeeper hands her a loaf of packed bread. She puts down a lemon on the tiny counter. He catches it just before it rolls off and drops it into a jar behind him. I can see it also has a bunch of leaves, spinach maybe and a green chilli or two. It bounces off the top of a tomato and settles on the leaves. He shuts the jar and turns back.

I step up to him and he already knows which brand I want. He holds out the packet. The cigarette pack shows a badly scanned image of a bare-chested man superimposed by a picture of blackened lungs. No face. No name. No mandatory ‘Cigarette sniffing makes your eyes water’ message. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. ‘Cigarette sniffing is injurious to hair’? ‘Cigarette sniffing is halibut to injury?’.

I give up just as I note the frown on the shopkeeper’s face. The other smokers are edging away from me. Just because a man takes a minute to think. Bloody amoeba. What would they know? What was that saying my grandmother used to parrot? Bandar kya jaane ice-cream ki sugandh?

I reach for my notebook and I tear out two pages from it. The shopkeeper reaches out and I swear he does this gingerly with the tips of his fingers. He plucks just one sheet off and sets it down on a looseleaf pile to his right. I watch the first page of the sixth chapter of my next novel settle in with toiletpaper remains, slightly dusty tissues, a sheaf of oil-stained brown paper and a cardboard square. I know he uses that pile to wrap unpackaged things. Maybe he’ll use my worded page to giftwrap somebody’s special purchase.

I slide two cigarettes out of the pack and put it back on the counter. He frowns again, this time even more troubled and looks around his tiny shop. Then he turns and takes out the tomato, lemon and a few leaves from the jar behind him. He packs them deftly in the oily brown paper and hands it to me.

Well, so my noted paper is worth more than a couple of cigarettes. Not that I know what to do with a lemon, a tomato and some leaves. But what the hell, eh? In a world that doesn’t value your currency, you’ve to learn to value their’s.

Back at home, I drop the vegetables on my table and survey the cupboard. I’m a rich man then. I think I’ll start with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, first. It might even buy me a car. But perhaps I should invest it instead. Charcoal, first. I’ll have to figure out something to write on. Leaves? Tissue paper, I decide. Cover them with words and letters. Look at me, I’m a money mint! It’s not counterfeiting if it’s the original. Call me an artist.

I wake up, this time in a cold sweat. Hot sweat, actually. My eyes start watering the minute I open them. The smoke is so thick, I can’t even see the door. I drop to the floor and ease my way out. By the time the fire engines arrive, I’m crying so hard, my face is streaked with snot down to my throat. The books are gone, all gone. Our world has truly lost every last word now.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

W is for Writers Block

*Image via thaikrit on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

E is for Evil

EI’m really late with this one. This is E is for Evil, Saturday’s A to Z Challenge prompt. I struggled with finding the right E word. I wanted to do something dark and all the E words I could think of, were positive and bright (Exuberant. Elaborate. Excess.). Fortunately a friend suggested EVIL (how did I *not* think of that?) and the story began to take shape. Here it is.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

E is for Evil

She trudges down the gravel path, one fist held to her mouth. The other one is clamped over a doll. The doll’s golden hair is dragging in the gravel and the edges of it are dotted with black dirt specks already. She’s near the line of parked cars, next to the entrance now and there are three cars. Blue, white and blue again. The second bell rings and all the kids are inside already. Still she doesn’t hurry. Instead, she stops. She takes away her hand from her mouth, a little spittle string stretching from it. Rooting around in her pocket, she brings out a key.

A tall lady appears at the entrance.

“Rubina! Come in at once! What are you doing? Your classmates are already inside.”

Her heels make a tick-tocking sound on the gravel path as she hurries up to rush the girl in. The key has disappeared, not into the pocket, but elsewhere, hidden. The girl knows not to hide things in the same place more than once. A firm, smooth hand clamps over her wrist and pulls her towards the door.

Dragging along a little behind the teacher, she makes a scraping sound on the gravel with her shoes. But she stops suddenly and in a flash, sticks the chewing gum from her mouth, on the teacher’s tight skirt. It’s such a smooth motion, so light, the woman doesn’t even feel it. She will only see it later, in the laughter in the room, when the chair sticks to her skirt. Just the thought satisfies the girl and she allows herself to be herded to her classroom, without resistance.

It is geography and the master is drawing a map on the board. The girl yawns, her mouth opening wide. Immediately a gasp goes through the class. She looks around surprised. The boy sitting to her right edges his desk away, with a loud scraping sound. It makes the master turn around.

“What is this noise?!”

Everyone is staring at her and following their gaze, the master looks at her too.

“Rubina, come and sit down in the front desk. Come here at once!”

The girl stands up and gets out of her desk. Her classmates all lean away from her, as she passes to the front desk. There is an outburst of whispering.

“SILENCE! Go back to your maps!”

And he turns around. The class is silent. But she can feel forty pairs of eyes boring into her back. The girl on her left is not even pretending to look at her map, but is staring at Rubina openly. She’s the only one with a smile on her face. Rubina turns to look at the rest of the class. They’re all staring at her but no one says a word.

The girl on her left, Natalie, leans back and whispers to the boy behind her.

“See, I told you.”

The boy gapes at Natalie, too scared to look at Rubina. Natalie holds her stare and eventually, he is compelled to follow it to Rubina’s face.

Blood, he mouths.

When the bell rings, the class stays put instead of running about as they usually do. The master looks surprised but doesn’t want to be late for his next class so he rushes off.

Rubina gets up, to go back to her seat. Whispers turn into a rumble.

MONSTER.

She hears it and whips around, an unusual movement for her. And when she turns, she sees the trail of blood that she has left behind on the floor. She stares at it, puzzled.

Then, a pencil hits her sharp on the side of her neck. It clatters to the floor. She looks around angrily but she can’t tell who threw it. She decides to pick it up to see if anyone has etched their name on it. And when she bends, she notices the stream of blood down the side of her ankle. She looks up and sees the blood on her chair. There’s a streak down the front leg of the chair. And on the seat, there’s a spattered mess of red. Dead.

The kids get to their feet in unison and run around her and out of the class. She stays in position, crouching. When the last of the footsteps die away, she stands up. Reaching out a finger, she touches the seat. The blood has dried and crumbles at her touch. She traces a line through it, the red powder caking under her fingernail.

Suddenly a boy appears at the entrance of the class.

“KILLER!! KILLER!!”

he shouts and runs away.

Rubina looks down at her fingers. They are flecked with red and brown. She stares down at her ankles, one with a red streak and the other with a brownish wound. The marks on the seat match one ankle and the spots on the floor, the other. It could be true. She looks up, a little smile playing on her lips and surveys the class. One fist goes up to her mouth. What should she kill next?

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

E is for Evil

*Image courtesy mack2happy on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

MayShortReads 05: Remember Me?

“Remember me? Remember me?” I want to run down the corridor, screaming. And you’ll look at me with disdainful non-recognition. Then, when I stop crestfallen and stumble on the last step, you’ll throw your head back and laugh. My cheeks burning, my eyes stinging and my nose suddenly all water but I’ll press my chin into my chest.

“Aww, the little baby’s crying? Crybaby! Crybaby!”

And your voice is getting closer and I can see the tips of your shoes now stepping up to me. But I still won’t look up. Because I’m smiling and I don’t want you to know it.

You’re circling me now, your voice getting softer and huskier. I wait for your feet to come back in sight. Silence. I flick my eyes to the right, then to the left. I start to raise my head. The sound rings through my right ear and down to the base of my neck. It hits me so hard I fall down and my eyes are running too now, with my nose. My right ear is ringing the static of televisions playing hide-and-seek. Even my eardrums co-operate with the games you want to play.

I become conscious of my hair fallen over my eyes and I open one tentatively. Slightly. You’re standing over me. I can see your jeans and your shirt, almost all the way to your collar. And your arm reaching out. I wonder what your palm will feel like on my head. I’ve got soft hair you know. You’d know if you’d ever touched it. The top of my head, perhaps. Or cupping my head, wrist at my nape, a palmful of my soft hair.  I wait, wondering which it’ll be. I wait. I wait. I wait. Oh, please. Give me more waiting.

You don’t. The pain on my forehead forces me to look up but my eyes close of their own volition. It stops and I wait. More waiting. Please. The lock of hair has fallen over my face and I can feel it from the tips that grazed your wrists to the roots that still smart. Waiting. Feeling. Living. Alive. Still waiting.

You took off at this point because the watchman came around the corner, yelling. Too bad. I cried into my beautiful, soft hair for the first time in the day, not caring who knew. You weren’t around to see or catch me out. You weren’t around to be caught out. The game was over and I lost.

I gather my memory-sensations back to me and turn off the ignition. I’m wearing high heels today. And make-up too. Mascara that could run. Lipstick that smudges. Eye shadow that comes off onto every thing and incriminates. Are you up for the game?

You’re the first thing I see when I come up to the door. You’re all I see, everyone and everything else, objects in an obstacle course. Nostalgia conversations, food counter, playground tactics in adult clothes, dance floor, networking, bar, hook-ups. I take it all in, charting my path to you in all its iterations. Shortest route, most discreet, least distracting, most moral-support boosting, easiest to the door on the other side of the room. Which maneuver should I play? I take a single breath and pick one.

As I near you, you look up. I look back, cool and silent. Your eyes glow briefly and my breath catches. Your breath quickens and I remember, no, I see your chest rise and fall just a little faster. I see heat unfurling in your eyes, but it’s moving too fast. I dig deeper but I hit a cold concrete wall, no recognition. Then I see me through you. A beautiful stranger. Your concrete wall disgusts me. I curl my lip and I walk away.

It must be my hair. It’s trendier but it’s not as soft as it was. Colouring treatments and rebonding have given it a hard, metallic quality. My eyes prickle. No, that’s not it.

I should just have gone with “Remember me?”

Panchou

Panchou (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reverb 10.28: Hell & Back Is An Achievement

Grrr to another repetitive and uninspiring Reverb10 prompt. So I’m going the opposite way again. If I was frivolous in the last post, I’ll be ridiculous now.

December 28 – Achieve

What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

(Author: Tara Sophia Mohr)

I’ve said it so many times in so many ways and here it is all over again. I want to have that novel done with and out on the shelves next year.

How do I think I’ll feel after that? I’m petrified that it’ll actually happen. What’ll I do after that? Go back to spreadsheets and emails to clients about meetings? Return to a world where matrimony is the single biggest event in a woman’s life? And wait for the resurrection in importance, also known as motherhood? I’m seeing spots, I think I’m going to throw up. Okay, I’ve written that down.

Hmm. Queasy and petrified. Ten things I can do to feel that way today:

  1. Turn off the lights and watch a horror movie alone. Any horror movie, even Ramsay Brothers. Especially Ramsay Brothers.
  2. Go to Delhi
  3. Watch a double bill of Action Replayy and Tees Maar Khan
  4. Build a time-machine, go 48 hours into the future and stand in the middle of a Mumbai road. (Hint – HAPPY NEW YEAR!)
  5. Get back with the abusive ex-
  6. Go back to the boss-from-hell (who screamed at me daily from across the office & sabotaged my computer)
  7. Drink too much tequila
  8. Do 7. on an empty stomach
  9. Work my way through stale, suspect fried food after 7. and 8.
  10. Torture myself through a list like this simply because I have to have ten

The Whole Tooth & Nothing But The Tooth

I had a wisdom tooth extraction earlier this week. Don’t haha (or heehaw) at me, you merciless thugs! Everyone I’ve been talking about this, before the appointment, has insisted on regaling me with their own horror stories.

My cheeks swelled up like a chipmunk’s and then someone came and pinched my cheeks affectionately! – @shaaqT (Facebook friends, there’s even a photo illustrating this moment at twestival; check out her demonstration and my horrified expression!)

I couldn’t feel one side of my face for a month! – nameless person at twestival

My tooth was embedded in a bone so the dentist has to drill it out! – @melodylaila (which comment lost me my appetite and I had to look away from the delicious tray I had amassed at Candies)

Mine cracked and left behind half inside the gum that had to be root-canaled out! – Don’t even remember who (the ghastly ghost!)

Can you tell that I have really gleefully horrible friends?! But as Baz Luhrman (playing in the background) says, advice is a form of nostalgia. I will dispense with my own now.

The extraction itself was relatively simple in my case. That’s not compared to the horrendous accounts of my friends, that is harking back to my childhood of frequent earaches (my ENT specialist really should have given us a ‘Preferred Patient’ embossed card) and other pains in the vicinity of the crunchers. I’ve had cavities, numerous extraction and the cherry on the cake – braces!

Sometime remind me to tell you about the horrors of being an orthodontist’s patient. Orthodontists are like dentists, only worse, a hundred, twenty-thousand times worse!! Mine had a sense of humour as well, which is really the worst thing for a person to have, especially when he has both his hands inside your mouth and is leering over your scared face because you can’t laugh at his jokes. What’s more, you’re afraid he’ll be offended if you don’t laugh and he might give you an inadvertent nip with his evil-looking pliers…on the wrong tooth!

And then there is the orthodontist’s office, strewn as it is with foul-looking casts of other people’s teeth structures, sculpted in green plaster of paris. It boggles the mind, how he manages to identify which one is yours and fish it out from amidst that dental array. Never mind the horrors of mouth-roof-plates (to ensure that the teeth did not go back to being Bugs Bunny-like on removal of braces) and the *shudder shudder* torture of rubber bands (hooked on to lower-back teeth braces, brought forward to string onto top-front teeth). Imagine the agony of one of those rubber bands snapping right inside your damn mouth!!

Suffice to say I have gruesome stories of my own regarding tooth-doctors and their ilk. Which is why I say I survived this extraction reasonably well. Except I started burning up with a fever almost the instant I stopped taking painkillers and antibiotics. Hmph, I never thought I’d have to sing “You give me fever” to a piece of calcium my own body created!!!

Anyway, I’m going to be brave soldier with stiff upper lip and all (not that I have much of a choice, all local-anaesthetic things considered…). It tickles me to think of having a wisdom tooth extraction coincide with my hitting 30 and all the resolutions that have followed. I was a mature adult at 16, an ambitious go-getter by 21, I never did the silly-young-thing thing. I feel like my body is also accepting and giving me the full g0-ahead. Now that I’ve lost my wisdom, I can get down to the business of being all silly and giddy-headed with gusto!!

Oh and by the way I have another appointment next week to extract the other tooth. I’m still vaguely confused over whether we have two or four wisdom teeth. I read an article online that said that excessive calcium could create even more wisdom teeth, the highest record being someone with 12 wisdom teeth!!! Gaaaaah, all the more reason to be silly, giddy-headed and errm…..avoid milk like the plague!

Movie: Fear’s New Address Is Not 13B

Flush with the success of my earlier movie plan which turned out such great results, I decided to go one extra and spice up my next movie outing as well. So, I proposed ‘Kitsch is Kool’. The idea was to do something unusual with a touch of whackiness, all in the name of entertainment. I decided to pick something different. Comedy…nah, we did that last week. Oscar winners…too bloody high-brow (Besides it was more fun to diss celebrity style)! Drama…umm, show me something else. How about horror? And what could add more ice to the chills than watching it in a rundown, semi-seedy theatre to add atmosphere? No comfortable plush sofas to sink your face into during the scream-moments, no multiplex comfort food of caramel popcorn and seat-delivered colas. Just rattling, creaky rexine seats where your knees bumped into the cold metal of the seats in front of you, each time you shrieked. 13B at Chandan cinema was the plan.

I’d love to tell you how, full of daring and adventure, I set forth with my brave bunch of movie-buff friends. Instead, every single one of them chickened out!!! Even my plaintive sell of

But guys, just imagine the thrill of facing up to your fears! After all, darr ke aage jeet hai!

was met with,

No!! Darr ke aage nightmares hai!

Like that. Hmph, so I ended up mall-ratting as usual and watching 13B in the aforementioned multiplex complete with comfort food. So not kitschy, definitely not kool. Maybe that took away from the experience, maybe my review would have been nicer if we had gone with the original plan.

13B is driven forth by Madhavan who despite his cult status in Kollywood (the Tamizh film industry, for the uninitiated) has failed to make a splash on the rest of the Indian audience. To his credit most people have fond memories of him in Banegi Apni Baat and Sea Hawks but the big screen seems to be rather cruel on South-Indian men, doesn’t it? Considering the hero is a very large proponent of a movie’s appeal, it already starts off with a handicap.

m_still412347804751

In addition, 13B is playing in that rather unfashionable genre of Bollywood horror movies. After the steady Ramsay brothers diet of B-grade potboilers (Veerana, Khooni Murda), the Indian audience was introduced to relatively more sophisticated offerings minus the ketchup-blood and clay-masks of yore. Ram Gopal Verma played guardian angel to this movement with Bhoot and Darna Mana Hai. I don’t know how commercially successful they were, compared to the other Bollywood fare but they certainely ushered in a new age of horror in Hindi movies.

Cut to the present. The audience has been seeing a steady stream of ‘experimental’ movies right from the short-length skits favoured by Nagesh Kukunoor to NRI flicks to collages (Darna Mana Hai, Dus Kahaniyan) to audience-targetted films. Purely from a marketer’s standpoint, now would have been a good time to take a leap forward in the undeveloped theme of horror movies. By that premise, 13B is over a decade too late. Raat was made ages ago, Urmila’s wide-eyed Bhoot has shocked us all years back. What else is new?

The characterization of 13B is extremely dated with a honey-sweet joint family that precedes the generation of saans-bahu politics. None of the characters really stand out. Poonam Dhillon in her comeback avatar could have done so much more, had she just had a bit more to do than look annoyed at being disturbed during her noontime soap viewing. Sachin Khedekar (who shot to fame with Sailaab, a king among Hindi TV soaps) was perhaps a little too larger-than-life for TV but shrunk to his podgy-man frame in the movie. The movie doesn’t exactly make the best case for Madhavan to kick-start his Bollywood career either, since he alternates between huffing & puffing up the staircase (what on earth was that about the broken lift anyway??), wide-eyed mania and goofy grins. That boy needs a lesson on not smiling too much, it makes me want to call him Mr.Cheese (and not as in Kya cheez hai!).

13b1

What’s worse, there was actually a background score! Not a soundtrack to add dimension to the horror theme, a fullblown honest-to-Hindi-movie-goodness, background score complete with running around trees and *shudder shudder* an item song! This was about the only scary thing in the movie (and trust me on this, I’m a real ‘fraidy-cat otherwise).

With a theme like Sab Khairiyat Hai, I was rather hoping this story would experience a Stepford Wives-esque ephiphany and explore the sublimnal horror of mind-controlled perfection. No such luck. By the end of the movie I’m only left with the feeling that there is someone who’s even more petrified of gadgets and technology than I am! After all, my  nightmares have never been of spooked television sets (even if I did entertain a haunted lift once). It looks like the makers were rather spooked with the idea of making a movie too. If you’re looking for chills down the spine, ask a friend to dump an ice-tray down your shirt. Don’t bother with 13B.

The lift

Tuesdays are a killer. Sometimes. Not always, not like Mondays which are uniformly, predictably misfortunate. Tuesdays have that way of lurking in the corners and you don’t know till you’ve passed them whether you’ll survive them or they’ll just leer and let you pass. Just when you think that having survived Monday, the week will be better….wait till you get a whiff of Tuesday

She wasn’t thinking of it. At 8:20 a.m., running late for the bus and downing a slice of toast in lieu of breakfast, no one thinks. The blur of a weekday morning came and passed. She stopped to catch her breath as she jumped into the lift, the ancient metal bars clanging behind her. She turned to survey herself in the mirror during the descent.

Except the lift was going upwards.

The teensiest groan escaped her. Must be the kid upstairs. Stoically she continued her scrutiny of her face, trying not to think of the missed bus. Finally she turned around. Why is it taking so long?

Because the lift has stopped at the floor….the silence whispered back at her.

Silence….yes. This lift was never silent. Between creaking rhematically up and down the building and yowling in a ear-shattering electronic rendition of some song whose original had been erased from everyone’s memory…between all these…oh but there was no in between. Like the steady pound of the heartbeat, this building proclaimed that it was alive through its noisy lift.

So why wasn’t the music playing?

Because there is no one there to get in….Silence muttered maliciously. Now the non-noise was taking on a personality of itself.

Who encounters silence in a busy metro? Or darkness? All shadows, beyond the metal bars and the halo of the lift light. Just clear enough to see that the landing was empty. There was no one there to call the lift.

She had only heard of the phrase “paralysed with fear”.

That’s not happening to me….dammit, I’m not getting spooked by a lift.

Turning to the panel, she gave it a smart jab.

Nothing.

She was all alone, suspended in thin air…standing just outside the deserted top floor inside a lift that no one had summoned.

Now what? Someone leered and she didn’t even wonder anymore about how she could hear that noiseless someone.

Onetwo….threefour…..five…..six…..

When fear is creeping up on you, start to count its footsteps. Or someone does.

Suddenly the lift whooshed down.

On the ground floor, the sun was shining. And the milkman gaping like he had never seen her before (like he did everyday). From the corner of her eye she could see the bus turn its corner.

She would get on it. And buy a ticket. And ride it to her destination. And mingle with the hundreds in a crowded city. And run through the day, laughing, frowning, joking, eating, sleeping. And all the while, wonder.

That night, she took out her notebook. On the top of the page, she began,

“Tuesdays are a killer. Sometimes.”

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