Blood

posted in: Short Story - English | 4

“All set?”, whispered Akash climbing the marble steps that led to the lavish opal entrance door of his neighbor’s house with a knife on his hand. “Shall I try the door?”

“Everything else is set,” mumbled Keerthi adjusting her glasses. “But, I don’t think I am”

“Oh, not again, Keerthi! Remember? We have cut the deal. Just forget everything else and focus only on your task. On the count of…”

“Just tell me the truth, Akash. Are we really doing the right thing?”

“No. But we have exhausted all our options. It’s this or nothing for us. So, whatever happens…”

“But we really don’t have to try to kill them, we could…”

 “One…two…”

“Akash, let’s…”

 “THREEEEEEE!!”

If Akash’s voice was dissolved in the creaking sound the door had made when he pushed it open, there was nothing in that house that could take away the terror that they felt when they took in the scene that unfolded before them. The magical white floors that they had once known had started to turn crimson. But they did not have to look further to know the source from where the floor had started bleeding. On the far-left corner of the hallway, as if kneeling in prayer, was the corpse of a woman they had just met that morning. Next to her, as if unaware of her state or the intrusion he had received from two strangers, was a man cutting the long locks of hair that covered his fallen wife’s face, with a blood-stained knife.

“KEERTHI, RUN!!”, screamed Akash when the intensity of the scene finally sunk in.

When Keerthi stood there as in a trance, he pulled her away with such force that her glasses got thrown off. In his haste to get hold of the broken glasses and protect his wife from the danger that awaited them if they stayed there, he missed to realize that he was leaving  behind the knife that he had brought with him for the misadventure that they had planned.

“The glass is broken”, wailed Keerthi as the two of them ran towards their house. “Does that mean…??”

“NO”, yelled Akash. “NO. It couldn’t be… But, if it is, we are as good as dead.”

                                                                                                                                 *******

Keerthi and Akash had always known each other. Growing up in the same neighborhood to parents who were the best of friends, they were aware of each other’s existence from as long as they could remember. For the same reason, it did not feel very odd to them, when the idea of an arranged marriage was put forward by their parents. It was just as if they were getting a chance to know each other better.

And the more they got to know each other, in the six months they had had before their big day, the better it had become. For instance, Keerthi, for the fashionista that she was, was never happy within the bounds of corporate structure that she was initially part of. She breathed an air of freedom, when Akash helped her channel her passion into her profession, by opening an event management company which exclusively dealt with high end wedding planning. For the workaholic that he was, Akash found a great support system in Keerthi too. To have worked in a similar setup for five years, she was so understanding of Akash’s corporate work patterns and never complained about anything, even when they had to cancel many planned events, as she now knew how passionate Akash was about his work. When it finally came down to the preparations of their grand wedding, the soon-to-wed couple surprised their family and friends by gifting themselves with a beautiful residential villa that would become their home of joy after their lavish destination wedding in the summer of 2020.

But even the best of the best planning can go wrong when done in the oddest of odd times. Like everything that was succumbed by the pandemic, Keerthi and Akash’s destination wedding was also called off. In the little arrangements that they could manage amid the restrictions of the lockdown, the childhood sweethearts got married in their new home in the presence of close family and friends. Though the initial days of their wedded life were happy and peaceful with absolutely no interruption from work or family, with every passing day, uncertainty started to unfold.

When she started her own business seven months back, Keerthi was very confident of the possibilities of an exclusive wedding planner in the city and her instincts were proved right after the firm started getting positive feedback from the customer base that she was slowly building. But seven months later, with a pandemic in between, wedding planners looked like a thing of the past. If Keerthi was left with little or no work to do, Akash on the other side, worked like there was no tomorrow. The software company he worked for had made all arrangements for all its employees to continue their work from home even before the country went into complete lockdown. So, what began as work-from-home had literally become work-always-from-home for everyone he had known. If a workaholic like Akash started complaining about the workload he received, there was no question of how much work the software professionals had to do when the rest of the working force of the country went into a state of blankness.

Thus, the conflicts between all work and no work started getting messier in the lives of the newly-weds. Keerthi who was so uncertain of her career was so depressed that she started throwing tantrums even for little things. Akash too found it a good reason to relieve all his frustration on her. Just three months of matrimony and they had had enough. When she realized that everything was going out of her control, Keerthi decided to take a sharp turn in life. Afterall, that was what everyone else was doing these days. If they can do it, why not us? For her, it will be a good excuse to pass time. For him, it will be a good opportunity to bust his stress. For them, it will become another source of income.

“Akash…”, started Keerthi softly, but sternly. “Let’s start a YouTube channel.”

“Let’s start what?”, exclaimed Akash.

“You heard me right. A YouTube channel”, replied Keerthi. “Don’t you see? That is what the whole world is doing right now! I mean, look at me. I am literally unemployed. I have a lot of time but have nothing to do. You have lots of work to do but are stressed all the time. Don’t you think a YouTube channel will be a getaway for both of us?”

“But what do we do? There is no dearth of YouTube channels these days. But to get recognized, you really need strong content, unless, of course, you are famous”, said Akash. “We are not famous. We need good content, which unfortunately, I don’t think we have.”

“We may not have it now. But we could create. Nothing is impossible!” argued Keerthi.

“Okay. Fine. What kind of channel are we trying to create?”

“Ummm… I have prepared a small list. Why don’t you check this out?”, Keerthi handed a checklist to Akash.

“1. Music or Dance channel. Okay. I didn’t know you were going to employ someone to work for this channel. Because, neither do I sing or dance. Same applies to you. So, who are we going to employ for this?”

“These are just options, Akash. We could just… No, no, no. Don’t leave. Strike it off. Go to the next one.”

“2. Movie review – Old and New. This is perfect, especially for you, Keerthi. But you will have to tell me the name of one movie that you have watched without falling asleep in between.”

“But you don’t sleep in between a movie. You could write the script and I can present it. My presentation skills are not that bad.”

“Na. I don’t think I can write interesting content about movies. I am striking off this one also. Okay. 3. Cooking channel. LOL! For that, could you first please learn to toast a slice of bread without burning it? Then we can consider this.”

“Akash!!!! Very funny. Go to the next one, then ”

“Okay. 4. Travel channel. Are you serious? We go out only to buy essentials these days. Maybe around November this year, we can think of this. Not now. Are you ready to wait until then?”

“Go to the next option, then.”

“5. Life Hacks. This one seems fine, but we will have to stay updated and create relevant content. We might be able to manage a few, but then, it will be back to zero again.”

“We could get ‘inspiration’ from other channels, then. There might be lots and lots of these in different languages.”

“Hmmm… Let’s see. I am not striking it off. Let me go to the next, though. 6. Comedy or Spoof. No comments. Next.”

“Hey, what’s wrong with that one? You are the one who usually laugh out loud when you see these comedy stuff that come online.”

“Excuse me. It takes a good deal of effort to make someone smile, let alone laugh! With God’s grace, both of us lack a good sense of humor. I have never seen someone laughing at my jokes, not even you.”

“That’s true. But see, I am smiling now.”

“7. Defame progressive thinkers. Now, what’s that?”

“That’s just simple. We just need to oppose content put forward by all the progressive thinkers and follow the psyche of the majority. The more we are against the progressive thinkers, the more supporters, we will gather.”

“That’s so mean, Keerthi.”

“I know, even I don’t support the mob mentality, but that’s one quick way to get noticed.”

“Hmm… 8. Showcase activities of son or daughter. Whose son or daughter? We got married just three months back!”

“Ahhh. That’s right. Shall we adopt a child, then? We could go to an orphanage and adopt a talented baby. Hey, isn’t that great? ”

“Keerthi, Relax! You don’t have to panic. We will figure out a way.”

“I have given you all these options and you are not convinced with a single one? Then what do we do? That was the last one in the list!”, shrieked Keerthi.

“So, you mean to say that you are really serious about this?”, asked Akash thoughtfully.

“Dead serious”, said Keerthi grumpily.

“If you are that serious, why don’t we try a prank video first?”, asked Akash earnestly. “If all goes well, we could continue. Otherwise, we could go for another theme. Prank video just needs an average script. We don’t have to have any talent. If we can manage to act a bit, that should be more than enough. And for your information, a huge majority of people love watching such things that give them the sheer pleasure of seeing others getting insulted.”

“But how do we plan it? Will we look convincing if we try to prank ourselves?”

“We are not going to prank ourselves. We will prank someone who doesn’t even know who we are.”

“But who is there like that? We can’t just go outside and try it. There are restrictions…”

“Why don’t we prank our neighbors?”

“But all of them know us well. Though we moved in recently, we have been hanging around here for almost a year now. You said we will…” stopped Keerthi when she saw the smile on Akash’s face.  “Wait, do you mean the ones who moved in today morning to the opposite house?”

“The very same. I still think I have seen that guy somewhere. This will be a good way to meet them also”, smiled Akash widely.

“Hmmm… Okay. But, we will have to develop a script and…”, stopped Keerthi again. “Why are you smiling again? You have the script also ready?”

“Let’s try to kill them!”, hissed Akash.

“What…are you mad? I mean, isn’t that a bit too risky? I mean… You know what I mean”

“Listen. Don’t get too excited. It is going to be all right. I have a friend who used to do travel videos. He has different types of cameras that he uses to capture his videos. One of them is a wearable camera glass which can store videos in a memory card. Come here, let me show you a similar one on Amazon.”

And thus, the script for the prank video was designed. Akash borrowed the wearable camera glasses from his friend which, according to him, could shoot good quality videos from a distance. Because they had visited the house when its previous owner lived there, they did not have much of a problem envisioning how they would execute the script. Akash and Keerthi would reach the opposite house at exactly 8 PM that night, try the front door first and if it doesn’t get opened, will knock the door thrice and wait for an answer. Keerthi will stand behind Akash and will be wearing the glasses with the camera. When the door opens, Akash would show the knife to the neighbors and try to create a scene. Being the champion wrestler that he was, he might be able to put up a good show if the circumstance demands it, otherwise, he will manage with some tactics that come to him on the spot. When the situation becomes a bit grave, Keerthi would have a little bit to play before they finally reveal their actual intention. The prank video will end with their neighbors asking the viewers to subscribe to their new channel.

                                                                                                                            ********

“All set?”, whispered Akash climbing the marble steps that led to the lavish opal entrance door of his neighbor’s house with a knife on his hand. “Shall I try the door?”

“Everything else is set,” mumbled Keerthi adjusting her glasses. “But, I don’t think I am”

“Oh, not again, Keerthi! Remember? We have cut the deal. Just forget everything else and focus only on your task. On the count of…”

“Just tell me the truth, Akash. Are we really doing the right thing?”

“No. But we have exhausted all our options. It’s this or nothing for us. So, whatever happens…”

“But we really don’t have to try to kill them, we could…”

 “One…two…”

“Akash, let’s…”

 “THREEEEEEE!!”

“KEERTHI, RUN!!”, screamed Akash when he finally realized that he was at the heart of a crime scene witnessing it with his own eyes.

 “The glass is broken”, wailed Keerthi as the two of them ran towards their house. “Does that mean…??”

“NO”, yelled Akash. “NO. It couldn’t be… But, if it is, we are as good as dead.”

If there was one word that best described the current state that Akash and Keerthi were in, it was ‘Trapped’. On coming home, they identified that the glasses were not just broken, the memory card which should have recorded the events of the night was in fact lost in the mayhem. Real terror struck when they finally realized that even the knife got misplaced somewhere. And the killer? What about him? Has he seen them? He looked so engrossed in what he was doing with his victim’s hair, but that need not mean that he was not aware of their presence, after all the commotion they had created. All these thoughts were racing through his mind when Akash recollected the image of the name that was etched on a nameplate on the entrance door. Anand Dev. Just like the face, the name also sounded familiar. Anand Dev. Who are you? And who was that girl with you? Why in the world did you kill her?

“What did you say his name was?”, asked Keerthi, waking Akash from his train of thoughts. Still in panic, she held her phone as if it was about to explode.

“Anand Dev. Hey, what happened?”, demanded Akash sensing something terribly wrong in Keerthi’s voice.

“Look here.” Keerthi held her phone for Akash to see what she had just found out.

It took a while for him to process what he was seeing. “A short-film maker?” Akash asked her bewildered, seeing the profile of Anand Dev on Facebook.

“Scroll down and check the entire thing”, said Keerthi handing over her phone to Akash who scrolled down to look at the poster of a short film which was getting released on YouTube in two days’ time. There were two distinct faces on the poster. The very same faces they had seen just some time back. Right on the center, the name of the movie was written in crimson in a flowing style. Just like how blood was flowing on the marble floors of the house they left in haste. It read, “Blood. Featuring Anand Dev and Aditi Anand. Two days to go.”

“I bet they will get more views if they feature our so-called prank attempt as a prank that they had played on us!”, giggled Keerthi.

 “Oh my! This is so insane! I just can’t believe that this was all part of a short-film shoot”, said Akash rolling his eyes. “You know what. They must be really clear about what they want. I mean, they did scare the hell out of us, didn’t they? The entire setting looked so convincing. I just can’t wait to see how the actual movie is going to turn out. I really hope we haven’t ruined their shoot. By the way, shouldn’t  we go and apologize to them?”

“It’s too late now. We will go tomorrow”, smiled Keerthi. “Let’s get some tips from them for our channel as well.”

                                                                                                                                    ******

If it was because of the fatigue that they felt after that night’s tiring series of events or the excitement that they had in meeting the people who had tricked them so well, Akash and Keerthi went asleep as soon as they touched the bed. They were so engrossed in their sleep that they failed to hear the noise of the vehicles coming and going past their street in the early hours of the next day. Like any other day, Akash’s alarm clock woke him up at seven o’clock in the morning. Keerthi would usually sleep for another half an hour, by when he would make a cup of tea for each of them. But today, things felt a bit different. What’s wrong with me today? That dream… Can it be for real? And what’s this noise on the outside?

At almost the same time, Keerthi woke up with a start. “Bad dream”, she added quickly.

“What is it?”, asked Akash.

“No. It’s just nothing…” Keerthi’s voice trailed off.

“You can tell me, Keerthi”, urged Akash.

“Well. In my dream, I saw that yesterday’s events were not like how we thought it were. I mean, uhhh”, Keerthi took a deep breath. “I mean, I saw that this guy had really killed his wife, but he made it look like we killed her. He even had the…”

“CCTV footage to prove it?”, completed Akash.

“Yeah. I know it’s absurd, but…” Keerthi stopped short. “Wait. How do you know that?”

“I too saw a similar…” Akash’s response was interrupted by a long press on their calling bell switch. I have seen this somewhere. But I don’t want to see the rest of it the way I had seen it. I don’t want to see an officer in uniform holding out a handcuff towards me. Akash rushed towards the door, closely followed by Keerthi, and opened it with a sigh. Though he was not in uniform, there was no lack of clarity as to who was standing in front of them. Instead of a handcuff, the police officer held out a phone on one hand and a knife on the other. The knife they had lost the previous night had blood stains on it today.

“What do you have to say about this?”, asked the officer while playing a footage posted on Anand Dev’s YouTube channel, which clearly showed the couple in front of him entering Anand’s house the previous night, with the same knife he was holding now, and exiting the house in a run, shortly afterwards.

                                                                      ****THE END****

Name : Namitha Sugathan

Company : UST, Trivandrum

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4 Responses

  1. akhil.karikunnath

    good one Namitha… could relate well to current scenario especially youtube channel !!!

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