5 year old Piyali ran through the house, running her new truck over every wall, table, door and surface she could reach.
“Maaa…..when is bhaiyya coming home? Why isn’t he home yet?”
She ran after her mother, pestering her for answers as she continued playing.
“He will be home when he will be home. But he won’t love you if keep being so noisy and annoying.”
Piyali let out a peal of laughter. “Bhaiyya will never not love me. He loves it when I annoy you.”
She ran the truck over her mother’s behind and leaped out of reach before she could be caught. Laughing maniacally towards the door.
Deepali sighed in resignation. Her husband had been out of state for a fortnight on an official tour. One more day for him to come home. It was difficult for her to cope without him. But thankfully her elder son Deepak was a self sufficient and responsible man of the house. Except for the fact that he spoiled his sister too much.
“Maa…bhaiyya is home”
Deepali rushed with a glass of water to the door and froze. Something seemed off. Deepak stood there, silently, expressionless. He stepped inside, as if in a daze.
“Wha…” She took a gulp to wet her dry throat “what happened Deepak? Are you ill?”
“Uhh…I feel sick” he mumbled as he stumbled towards his room. Avoiding looking her in the eye.
“Bhaiyyaaa….you promised to play with me..” Piyali whined as she clung on to her brother.
He smiled weakly at her, patting her head. “We will…let me get some rest first. You can tell me all about what you did today.”
Her phone started ringing before Deepali could contemplate why her usually upbeat son was behaving so off and upset.
Heavy, raspy breathing on the other end.
Her entire being went cold.
A number of things happened within moments…but that moment seemed to last forever.
The line went dead, and the phone dropped from her hand as the door to Deepak’s room slowly swung shut, even as she leaped to reach her daughter, whose smiling face looking adoringly at her brother as the door shut on her would remain etched in her memory forever.
When she reached the room, which took forever, it was empty, without a trace of her children. Before she could scream out in terror, the phone ran again.
Her nerves on her end, shaking and shivering she cautiously picked up her phone. It flashed her husband’s number. After a long pause she picked it up, not knowing what to expect or if it were really her husband what to tell him.
“Ufff…..why do you take so much time picking up your phone Deepa? It could be urgent you know?”
She broke down crying hearing his familiar voice.
“What happened? Why are you crying?”
She couldn’t calm down enough to be able to utter any comprehensible word. Even if she did, she hadn’t any idea at all how to say it.
“Accha baba! Dont worry… I will be back home tomorrow. I might be a bit late though. Actually we had to start late from here. The company ran into some troubles with the locals here. These superstitious people wouldn’t allow us to start the construction because of their old temple being on that plot. It’s already ruined and nobody even worships. But they still won’t let go of it. We had to call the cops and I had to personally remove the idol because even the workers were bloody scared. Stupid superstitious lot. Anyways, stay safe and take care of those annoying brats till I am….OI…WATCH OUT!!…”
Deepalis eyes bulged in horror as she heard the crash, scream and grating sound of metal grinding over broken glass as the line went dead on her for the second time.