I returned to my room shaking. My parents were hiding something and I had a feeling that it was something really bad. I got in bed but sleep was miles away. I stared at the roof of my room. The fluorescent stars that I had glued to the roof last years twinkled at me. I cursed the moment that I decided to pick that locket up. I could have just taken the music box and things would have been just fine. I had no idea then that the locket was not the problem, I was.
I fell asleep with my mind full of various theories about the locket. At some point a large noise woke me up. I looked around to see if it was one of my brothers who were up again with one of their tricks. It wasn’t them, it wasn’t either of my parents. My room was empty. I sat up and looked carefully but there was no one in the room and yet I was sure that I had heard the noise quiet closer. Suddenly I heard the same noise again but this time it came from outside the house. It was a loud cackle, like the sound of a branch breaking from a tree. I moved to the window and with shaking hands moved the curtain a little bit to peek outside. The garden below was empty. A silent breeze was flowing and the trees and bushes swayed along with it. Darkness had begun to lighten but it was still an hour or two before daybreak. The streetlight threw enough beams in the garden to help me scan it for the presence of anyone or anything. There was nothing around. I was about to turn back and go when I saw it. A shadow stood under the guava tree and was looking intently at my house. Fear gripped my heart. My legs began shaking. I could not move. I could have shouted for my mother but suddenly the shadow looked up at me. I could not see its face but I was sure that it was looking at me. I stood transfixed and just like it had appeared, it vanished suddenly.
“It was there, mom. I am not lying. There is someone in the garden.” I was telling my parents in a shaky voice after half an hour. Though they were trying to hide it, my parents looked shaken too. Adhir and Ohan, my brothers stood on either side of the window and were looking at the exact spot where I said I had seen the shadow. For some reason I had a suspicion they knew something. After some time they turned back to us and were about to say something when I saw my mother sternly look at them. “Fine!” Adhir sighed. Ohan came to my side and said “If you wish I can… or we can…” he said pointing to Adhir, who nodded “we will sleep in your room until you feel better. Ok?” I nodded but I knew I was not going to feel better until I had this mystery solved. There was something going on in my family that I had no inkling about and I didn’t like to be left out at all.
I could barely pay attention in school the next day. While I was returning home from school a strange thing happened. A black dog began to follow me from the bus stop to home. He came back till the threshold of my house and stopped right at the door. When my mom opened the door she was taken aback.
“He won’t leave me. I tried to shrug him off. Can you give him some milk?” I asked in a tired voice.
She stared at the dog for a minute then said, “Okay, you get in. I will pour some milk for him.”
I went in to change while I heard my mother pour some milk in a saucer. When I returned back to the living room I heard my mom talking to someone.
“You can’t follow him like this.”
A gruff voice replied “He needs to be protected.”
“Not like this…” My mother heard my footsteps and stopped abruptly. I went to the door to see who she was talking to. There was nobody just the dog quietly sipping the milk.
“Who were you talking to?” I asked her, little expecting her to tell the truth.
“The dog.” I looked at her surprised. She broke into a laughter and said “I was just telling this little buddy to not follow you around.” And she bent down to pat the dog on his back. The dog raised his head and gave both of us a curious look. After finishing the milk he went over to the fence and sprawled under a tree to sleep.
My mother turned to me and with a tired smile said “I don’t think he will leave you alone.” And true it was. From then on, wherever I went the dog would follow me around. He went with me to the little ice cream store down the road, he followed me to the backyard garden and next day I found him wagging his tail at my school exit. I looked around for my parents’ car wondering how he got here. I boarded the school bus and by the time I deboarded at my stop the dog had already arrived. He walked with me to my home and stopped right outside the fence gate. I stopped too “What happened? Won’t you come in?” But he wouldn’t budge. He kept staring at a certain point and when I turned to look a scream escaped my lips. The shadow I had seen under the guava tree was standing near the house on the opposite side of the street. In the daylight I could see it more distinctly. He was a man dressed in all black and his face was covered with a dark cloth. His eyes were barely visible but were red like flames. He was staring at me and all I could do was stay transfixed. Suddenly the man moved and I could see that he was not walking but gliding. He came closer to me and stretched his hands. I fell backwards and closed my eyes. I could feel an icy finger touch my face but before something else could happen I heard the dog bark and the man pulled back his hand. I opened my eyes and saw that the dog had bit onto his arm and hung to it.
I heard the front door of my house open and saw the shadow man retreat back as quickly as he had come over me. By the time my mother came to me he was nowhere to be seen. I was shaken by this incidence and so was my mother. She brought me inside and called my father on his phone. In the next hour all my family sat huddled together in the living room. The curtains were drawn and we sat in darkness for some time. The dog that had saved me was also present and was walking up and down the room.
After some time Adhir broke his silence, “You have got to tell him. How long are you going to hide it?” He was addressing our mother. My mother sighed, “Anvay there’s something we need to tell you.”
“No, let me speak to him.” It was the gruff voice I had heard the previous day talking to my mother. I looked around and had he not been in front of me I would never have believed that it was the dog who was talking. I rubbed my eyes and looked at him again. It was indeed the dog who had spoken. He now sat on the sofa opposite me, his back legs hanging from the sofa and his front legs placed firmly on the arms.
“Son…” he addressed me. “There is something of extreme importance that your parents have been hiding. They were waiting for the right time but we can’t wait anymore.” He stared directly at me. I stood looking at him hypnotized. His gaze had fire in it. I could feel my body feeling warm but it didn’t help me. I was stupefied by what was happening. I was afraid and suddenly I didn’t want to know anything. I mumbled.
“What?” the dog asked.
“I don’t want to know anything.” I said a little loudly, my voice shaking.
“You don’t have a choice my dear.” He stopped and exchanged a look with my father and then addressing my mother said “You were supposed to handle it.” My mother looked guiltily at her feet.
“Ok Son. There’s a lot for you to know but right now we will keep it brief…” but before he could say anything else the floor began to shake.
“Mom is it an earthquake?” She looked horrified.