Continued from Part 1….
However a shocking scene awaited them all. A scene so horrifyingly fascinating that even the most fearful amongst them had also not imagined it possible.
It was beyond any horror flick they had ever seen…and it was happening right now at this moment in their lives.
The sight in front of them seemed unreal. Not a single chair was empty. Seated in each of the 30 chairs was a member of the group. ALREADY.
They were staring across at mirror images of themselves. As if someone had placed a giant canvas of live multiple selfies in front of them!
Involuntarily all of them shuddered and huddled closer. The air suddenly seemed to be charged with a sinister tinge. A stray dog’s bark from nearby seemed to indicate it was the only one with a voice at that moment. The rest of them all were shell shocked into silence.
Nagma looked at her own seated self. The other Nagma was staring right back with eyes that were unblinking, unwavering. Those eyes seemed to have an un-earthly glow in them. Her smile seemed to have been frozen in a twisted curve.
Nagma had experienced fear many times before in her life. But what she did not know was that it could exist in this form too.
Pritish who worked as an HR executive at a top tech firm was standing almost at the front of the group. He let out an unprintable expletive and stood transfixed. The first thing he noticed was his favourite cap that the other Pritish was wearing. It was exactly similar.
With a startled look he quickly realised that not only the cap but right from his maroon sweatshirt to his blue denims and to the “Just Do It” logo on his shoes- everything was eerily similar. Had the other Pritish copied his style or was it vice versa?
Hena could not fathom what was happening and why. She closed her eyes and felt her heart beats quicken. A strange fear gripped her.
Someone with a distorted sense of humour had created a weird art piece.
(Art by Subhajit. A talented youngster in NIFT, Bhubaneshwar)
Sofia the popular Odia Tv star had already done a couple of double roles in her acting career. But the same happening in real life came as a shock. She did a quick scan of the seated group and sure enough found the ‘other’ Sofia. That person seemed to be saying something to her but by the time the words reached her they seemed to be swallowed by the breeze.
Was it even in her language? Sofia simply could not comprehend their meaning.
Mrs.Premalata Mishra, a retired school teacher resided with her septuagenarian husband on the 1st floor in Flat 101. Feeling a bit under the weather her spouse had backed out of the picnic.
Immediately Mrs. Mishra regretted coming with the group and the thought crossed her mind that she should have stayed back home with him and watched her favourite TV serial instead.
Sushree’s thoughts already in alarm mode went immediately to Pratik, her only child and teenage son. She was a bit comforted to see his tall, familiar figure standing nearby shrouded in darkness. They resided in Flat 305 and suddenly the warmth of their home seemed far away!
But what did not comfort her was a feeling that an unknown pair of eyes were piercing into her. She looked in that direction & sure enough the other Sushree seemed to be beckoning her towards herself with a slight nod of the head.
Sushree touched the sweat bead forming on her forehead. It seemed strangely cold on her hot feverish skin.
All this was happening simultaneously and in a matter of seconds! The temperature of the place had dropped un-naturally.
Despite trying hard to control herself Sunanda could not stop the involuntary shudders passing through her. She was a nature lover and had been really looking forward to this trip. This was totally unexpected! It was as if she had stepped on a live voltage wire. Unable to take it any longer she hurriedly sat down on one of the steps.
13-year-old Srishti felt her 6-year-old sister Shreyasi’s little fingers wrap around hers and tighten as if seeking protection. Her own pink dress seemed to be stifling her and sticking to her back – drenched in a mix of sweat and fear.
At the far end of the picnic spot was a watch tower overlooking the rolling greens and blue waters below. A staircase made of wood with bamboo railings wound its way to the top. Many a tourist who had come here earlier had climbed them up and sat on the mini platform atop enjoying the breeze while munching away goodies.
Pooja was an NRI and resided in the UK. She was visiting her brother in this Christmas vacations. She was a devout believer in God and was now reciting a powerful mantra furiously under her breath. She was standing just opposite to this tower. Now as if guided by an unseen force her eyes fell upon it.
Immediately there was a quick intake of her breath! Standing on the platform with his hands resting on the railings was a dark hooded figure. It seemed to be looking down at them. It stood absolutely still & for a moment Pooja thought maybe she was imagining its presence. She wasn’t sure anymore to believe her eyes.
By now Monica, who was a neighbour of Mrs. Premalata Mishra had somehow collected her wits and managed to herd all the children together including hers. She made a dash down the path which all of them had ascended upon only a few minutes earlier.
However, to her it seemed that was ages ago!
Suddenly a realization hit Monica with a sharp thud and she felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. There was only 1 car at the bottom of the hill, and they were 30 of them. Escape for all together no longer seemed an easy possibility now.
In this children party was 15-year-old Anum. In her mundane existence until today she had always craved for some excitement in life. This thrill however was even more than what she had bargained for. She swore under her breath as she rushed downhill with a flashlight in her hand. She quickly paused to have one final look at the scene.
What she saw made her blood chill and she froze to the spot. With her heart hammering and her mouth turning dry she let out a piercing scream!
The chairs were beginning to fall empty now.