I had returned home from my board examinations when we learned about my grandma’s heart attack. She lived alone at our ancestral home in Kochi and my mom was devastated. Dad was away on a business trip and my mom had to decide between waiting for his return or leave me alone at home just for one night. She frantically tried to find someone to stay with me but in vain. Finally, our domestic help, Maria, hesitantly agreed to send her teenaged daughter Sarah to stay with me.
It was already 7 o’clock and Sarah had not turned up yet. The Ola driver honked for the third time and my mom could not afford to miss the train. She had no choice but to leave me alone until Sarah joined me. She repeated her safety instructions for the hundredth time.
“Do not open the door to strangers. When Sarah comes, look through the peephole, make sure it is her before opening the door”.
It did not help that I have not met Sarah before.
She didn’t feel amused when I mimicked her instructions and scowled at me as she kissed me goodbye.
“Take care. Be strong and give me a call whenever you feel like it,” she said as she closed the door.
Sarah came around 7.45 PM.
My alarm showed 2 AM when the first thud landed on the front door. Sarah and I jumped up in shock. Sarah, fearing that it could be the burglars, insisted that we stayed put.
My stomach tightened in fear when a female voice called out, “Open the door, kid.”
Sarah ran down the hallway screaming, “It’s my mom.”
I tried to stop her in vain.
I didn’t budge from the bedroom. The voice strangely did not sound like Maria’s.
“Mom, what are you doing here at this odd time?” I could hear Sarah, delirious with fear, frantically trying to open the latch.
Suddenly there was a piercing shriek. I double locked my bedroom door and got under the cot.
I, frantically, tried to call my Mom and Dad with no luck. I was numb with fear and held to my cross praying the whole time that whoever it was, doesn’t find me.
As the daylight streamed through my window, I was exhausted punching the ‘try again’ option on my mobile. Then, my mobile went blank.
I had no choice now. It was now up to me. I cautiously opened the bedroom door. There was no sign of Sarah. I stepped into the hallway and approached the main door, my heart jumping to my throat at every step.
I went out to the wicket gate and peered into the street. Where did Sarah vanish? Who took her?
As these eerie thoughts filled me, I saw Maria coming. What she said next would haunt me forever.
“Baby, are you are alright. Sorry. Sarah could not come over last night.”