‘Boo’ by Shinie Antony is a well-crafted collection of horror stories written by some of the renowned names of the literary circuit.
This Halloween, here’s an excerpt from ‘He-Ghoul’ a spooky story by K.R. Meera, to send a chill down your spine.
She put on the lingerie she had chosen, many years ago, for that last rendezvous. The steps leading down to the cellar were next to the staircase, which climbed up from the drawing room with its tall marble pillars and arches, wound in a semicircle around the entire dining room and ended near the kitchen. After dinner, when she stood gazing at the antelope heads on the drawing room walls, the caretaker’s wife came up to her to mark her forehead with kumkum from the Mariamman temple and tie a piece of blessed string around her wrist. That made her flinch. Her lover had also anointed her forehead with kumkum before their first lovemaking. Once the caretaker and his wife went out to the watcher’s shed, she was all alone. She untied the string from her wrist, wiped off the kumkum. Then she strained to imagine into presence her lover’s lost soul. Sex and fear were the same to her. She could not feel either until they were roused to fullness in and through her imagination.
But the ghoul revealed himself only after she had fallen asleep. A dog howled and woke her up. A thousand dogs howled after that, one by one. It was pitch-dark all around. A scream flew up from below the stairs. Then, a scary silence crept everywhere. She got up and opened the door to the balcony. The French windows stood completely open, and also the door to the corridor. Someone was running, panting.
Then, at the very end of the corridor, he appeared. She started, and snapped, ‘Who’s that?’
He vanished. She went back into her room and shut the door, suspecting a thief, and picked up her mobile phone, scanning it for signs of a signal. Her mind focused on what to do if the thief broke in; her heart thundered. It had pounded thus only at their last rendezvous, she remembered. Don’t thunder like this at the presence of a mere thief, she scolded her heart. The wind blew harshly. As if infuriated by her indifference, it pulled down the objects on her table, pulled free her tied-up tresses, tugged up her nightdress, and made her gasp for breath as it forced dust into her eyes and nose. Instantly, she realized that it was her lover-turned-ghoul that she had run into. Opening the door, she stepped into the balcony and, from there, turned into the corridor. Suddenly, the lights blacked out. Darkness invaded every corner. She kept moving forward. She imagined her lover-ghoul sucking her lifeblood, killing her. That would be such a romantic way to die. She too would embrace death in the very same bungalow where he was killed. Her blood would spread over the scars of his dried-up blood on the floor. Maybe no one will believe this; maybe he didn’t deserve it at all—but what a tale of love, so intense!
That house of glass windows and crystal cupboards was built way back, when kings still ruled. Just a few months ago, the relative of a friend had bought it for a song. The rooms were filled with the musty odour of termites. She had noticed a large candle and a matchbox on the dining table at dinner. So she went towards the dining table in the dark, found the matchbox, and lit a matchstick. For the first time in her life, she saw a He-Ghoul. A man of glass, a hollow man. Of no flesh, no marrow, no hair on its head, no fangs, no blood dripping tongue. A body fissured and fragmented. A neck that looked as if it would snap at any moment. Whitish and motionless eyeballs deep in their sockets. Anyone else would have screamed in fright seeing him. She felt no fear. What was terrifying was the sheer hardness of the He-Ghoul’s face, it’s very hollowness and its naked inferiority, impossible to hide even after death. Even when he’s a ghoul, a man is a man; he shows off more than what he’s got.
He was playing He-Man before her now, stretching his body tall, beyond the bungalow’s upper storey. He raised his brittle arms of glass above the darkened ceiling. As vain as ever, he held his crumbling neck erect. ‘Admit it! I am the stronger one even now!’—that was a silent plea, but it resounded everywhere. In a final gesture of frustration, he pulled off a ceiling fan and flung it down. It nearly hit her, but he knocked it aside and went all billowy, as though he had done her a great favour. For this favour, should you not forget the crimes I committed when I was alive? he asked her soundlessly. Should you not be grateful? That amused her. She had loved him so when he was alive; she had been ready to die for him, deluded that he deserved the highest sacrifice. Now she imagined courting death for this lover long dead. What a poetic death that would be. Embracing the end in the very same cellar in which he died just before he was to step onto a high pedestal in politics! She would seize him from the blazing depths of hell. Even if that were impossible, even if that would make her scorn herself, what a love story it would be, one that could mesmerize the masses!