It was a moonless, rainy night and I was curled up on my couch under a warm blanket, sipping a cup of steaming hot chocolate filled to the brim with fluffy marshmallows on top. I was reading The Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie which perfectly fit the mood of the evening.
The book’s sense of mystery and suspense was what invited me to it in the first place. Today’s evening was a relatively pleasurable one when compared to other recent ones, considering the late-night shifts at my new workplace.
Outside, the rain came pouring down, as if a celestial dam had broken open and the Gods were celebrating. It resembled the sound of a thousand sticks hitting the surface of a drum all at once.
I switched on the radio to catch up on the latest news. The signal was weak, owing to the heavy showers. As soon as the radio was able to catch a slight signal, the speaker announced, “We have been notified by concerned authorities, that there is a serial killer on the loose. We request you to stay calm…advise you to stay indoors…lock…doors and windows…go outside only if it’s an emergency…the serial killer is described as a m–”
I’d lost the signal! I was petrified as I realised that I wouldn’t know if the serial killer was in my neighbourhood. Tensed, I got up and paced around the room, thinking of a possible solution. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the ancient sword that had been in my family for centuries. I felt slightly reassured–if I were to have an unexpected rendezvous with the serial killer anytime soon, I could use the sword in self-defence.
Satiated with security, I walked back towards the couch. As I was about to slip under the warm blanket and return to my book, I heard a loud, firm knock on the door. Horror struck, I plodded towards the door. I looked through the peephole and saw a man. He was crying and looked as if he had no money on him. I opened the door and asked him how I can help him.
He cried out, “Madam, I’ve heard that there is a serial killer on the loose. I am an innocent beggar and I sleep on the pavement. I have got absolutely no place to go. I am extremely terrified, Madam. I do not wish to die.”
Wailing, even louder, he continued, “Madam, I…I’ll…I’ll give you whatever I have. I request you, Madam.” He handed me a fifty pence coin from one of his pockets. My mind told me I shouldn’t be doing this, but my heart felt differently so I invited him inside. I sat him down on one of the sofas, and ran to get him a blanket and something hot to drink. I returned soon, only to witness a shocking sight. I was at a loss for words.
The beggar was holding the ancient family sword, as he flashed me an evil smile and said, “In your next life, on an eerily silent, moonless, rainy night, never let a stranger in.”
Simran Aneja is 14-year-old student at Mayo College Girls’ School, Ajmer. She enjoys writing poems, essays and short stories. Her favourite writer is Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.