It was an unpleasantly cold Monday morning and I, a girl of 9 years, was all set to leave for school. My bus was due in 5 minutes, and I couldn’t help but gulp the juice and swallow my toast. As soon as I took the final sip of the yellow liquid, the bus honked and I flew out of the house.
I enjoyed being at school, more than I enjoyed being at home. Everyday, after school got over, I hopped back on the bus and reached home for lunch. Everything around me was so perfect that I never thought if it could be better.
However, this Monday was a bit different from other Mondays. As soon as I exited the school premises, I found someone looking at me attentively. I looked at him and he smiled. I decided to confront him. As soon as I neared him, the man of almost 40 years addressed me and said,
“Heloo Asya! I am glad to see you. How are you?”
“Hello Uncle, I’m fine, thank you. How are aunty and Chaitrali?”
The uncle stopped smiling and answered in a grave tone, “They’re fine.”
Suddenly, he started smiling again and asked, “So how is your school going along?”
“It’s going great! You know, next month we have this fest in our school, and we are all participating in a group dance, I’m super excited!”
It didn’t look like the man was paying any attention to what I was saying; all he did was stare at me. Just then, I realized that it was time for me to go; after all, I didn’t want to miss my bus. So I bid farewell and went towards the bus. All this time, I could feel my uncle’s eyes burning into my back. When I boarded the bus, I tried to avoid my uncle’s gaze and started talking with my friend.
Several days passed. My uncle now surprised me after school with frequent visits. All the time, glaring at me and making me uneasy. Not only that, he even started visiting my home recurrently. My parents were ignorant of their relative’s new habit that always left me uneasy.
However much I try, I cannot say no to people for my love and respect for them. I couldn’t ignore my uncle when he came to meet me and I couldn’t excuse myself once we started talking. I wanted to stop my uncle from coming to my school almost everyday, but I knew not how.
A month had passed and the fest at my school was due in two weeks. My uncle was the most excited. He used to ask me the timings and the rest of the details time and again. When I said that I would be glad if Chaitrali and aunty also accompanied him to the function, he mumbled something and quickly changed the topic. I was surprised at how my uncle always changed the topic when I mentioned his family. Nevertheless, finally the day arrived and my family accompanied me to the school at the scheduled time. When we reached there, we found my uncle already standing at the gate, waiting for us. I didn’t fail to notice that he hadn’t brought his family along. I went ahead to question him when I had to go back-stage because I was required there.
My group and I performed brilliantly, bagging many compliments. The fest had ended smoothly. When I returned back to the company of my parents and uncle, my uncle was trying to touch me, to embrace me to congratulate me by stroking my cheeks. I was powerless. I couldn’t get away. This gave my uncle a sense of control and power. He went on to say that since I wanted to meet Chaitrali, he can take me to his home to meet her and then drop me back to my home safely. My parents saw no trouble with that and agreed. They failed to notice the expression of protest on my face…
I was made to sit on the front seat in my uncle’s car, while my uncle took the driver’s seat, beside me. All the way through, my uncle engaged me in a conversation which I was more than willing to end. Sometimes he talked about my performance, sometimes about how good I was looking in my costume, sometimes he was praising me and then talking about how Chaitrali was going to love my surprise visit. He was having a tough time keeping his hands off me and so he kept patting my shoulder or squeezing my wrist or tapping my knee from time to time. All of this was making me restless. Impatiently, I asked,
“How far is your home? … I … I can’t wait to meet Chaitrali!” and I faked a grin.
“Oh! Oh I see, well, it’s not far from here you see, just a little more time.” He grinned and ran his tongue over his lips. “Hey?” he said suddenly, “Would you like to grab an ice-cream on our way?” I began to decline when he kept his hand on my knee and said, “Oh c’mon! What are ya? Nine, right? And you telling me that you don’t like ice-cream? I think I know better than that!!” I shifted uneasily under his touch and said that I didn’t feel like having ice-cream, when he replied, “Oh please! I mean just one scoop! I mean how often are we gonna get a chance like this, huh?” and he licked his lips again.
I didn’t want to take a chance, so I succumbed. He couldn’t suppress his delight due to the response. He swerved the car in the next turn and noticing my expression of surprise, said, “Oh don’t be alarmed! We’re going to the ice-cream parlor. It is right down the corner.” and he kept driving.
I couldn’t believe how defenceless I was at the time. All I could do was pray. We were now entering a remote neighbourhood and I was sinking deeper in despair. I didn’t know what to do; shouting would be of no help as there was not a single soul in sight. I just prayed…
Suddenly, he stopped the car in front of a white cabin and said,
“This is my friends place. I have to collect a few things before going home. From here we’ll go to the ice-cream parlor and then to my home. So come along!”
“No, I-I’m fine here.” I stammered. “I’ll wait in the car.” I smiled.
“Oh no. No! It’s not a safe neighbourhood, Asya. Come in, it’ll take just a few minutes.” He licked his lips again.
I didn’t know how to refuse. So I got off the car and dragged my feet in, with his hands on my shoulders.
He rang the bell. A man of about his age, opened the door and greeted my uncle with a hug and me with a stroke on the cheek. I cannot describe how badly I wanted to run away from that place, to escape the two hideous men. But I didn’t know how to do that without failure.
My uncle and I stepped inside the shack and his friend closed the door. My uncle and his friend sat on the sofa, while I sat on a stool, in the corner of the room. They talked while I saw what was around me.
The room was scarcely furnished. It had a single window, which was painted black. There were two other rooms, one of which was the kitchen and the other, I assumed, was the bedroom. The entrances to these rooms were dim, due to the scant light.
Suddenly, my uncle asked me to bring my stool forward, while his friend looked on. I hesitated and when he again urged me to do so, I did. My uncle said to his friend,
“She is Asya. Isn’t she a beauty?”
“Oh yes, she is.” he grinned. Then, looking at me said in his quiet voice, “Hey Asya! You know, you look really cute in that dress of yours.”
Before I could reply, my uncle said, “Oh its her costume. We are coming from this fest that was organized by her school.”
“Oh, is it?” he asked me. “Its really cute. And it suits you very much.” he smiled at me again. I tried smiling back but was so worried, that I couldn’t, so I simply said, “Thank you.”
He replied, “My pleasure.” and kept grinning.
I didn’t know what to do, so I kept sitting. I couldn’t concentrate on or understand what they were saying, so I started thinking.
I hope that I reach home as soon as possible…I don’t understand why mummy agreed to send me with him. I could have gone to meet Chaitrali with them as well! I don’t know what’s wrong with my uncle. I’m feeling so uneasy. Should I ask him if we can go? Oh God! Help me. I’m so scared…I hope its nothing bad…I feel like crying!
Gathering courage, I finally asked my uncle, “Uncle, its getting late, can we go?”
“Yes. Yes. Late it is. We should go.” he answered, then turning to his friend, he said, “Hey, where is that thing you were going to show me?” and he licked his upper lip.
The friend responded and said, “Oh yes! Its kept in that room.” and he pointed to a small entrance through the kitchen. I hadn’t noticed it before. He proceeded, “Asya will you be kind enough to get that box from that room? It’ll be easy to identify, it is wrapped in pink paper.” I was uncertain, but I went in that dark room, nonetheless.
It was dark, but I could make out that the room was full of boxes. They were lined neatly against the wall. However, I couldn’t identify the pink box, so I called out, “Its way too dark…I can’t see the pink box.” He asked me to turn on the light. And I said that I couldn’t find the switchboard. “Alright, I’m coming!” I could hear the impatience in his voice. I waited. He didn’t come. I called out again and got the same answer. I waited still because that way, I avoided their company and constant scrutinization. He didn’t show up. I don’t know how much time had passed when suddenly I heard the door behind me bang shut! I shouted! No answer. “Let me out!!” They didn’t reply but I could hear their ugly laughter.
I kept shouting, pleading and crying but to no avail. “Please, please let me go!!” I cried. They didn’t let me out. My doubts were substantiating. I was right! Something is wrong. My uncle and his friend are not good people! I sobbed.
I sat down on the floor and kept crying, thinking of what to do. It is so dark in here!! I got up to search for the switchboard. There was no switchboard; I searched all the four walls, feeling them with my hands…but without success.
My uncle had been stringing me and my family along with a pack of lies for almost a month and nobody suspected anything! I sat down on the cold floor again. I was so terrified that I couldn’t think of anything. I sat there staring at the door. And then without thinking, I got up and locked the door from the inside. I thought that maybe that old door could save me. How foolish!
I sat there, clueless about what was to happen. All of a sudden, I heard one of them unlatch the door. I stood up, looking for an escape although I had already scanned the mouse-hole! When the door didn’t open, I heard my uncle, I think, say to the other man, “I think that b***** has locked the door from within!” The calm voice of the friend (I was sure it was him) replied, “Does she think that’s gonna save her?” and he laughed and my uncle laughed too.
I wondered what time it was, and if my parents had called him to ask, how long it was going to take before he drove me home.
After an eternity had passed, and when I had almost fallen asleep, I heard someone pound the door. I stood upright. “Hey open up!!” I didn’t reply. “Open up or we’ll break the door open. You know we can do that!”
“Go to hell!!” I knew it as soon as those words escaped my mouth – Asya Mukherjee, you are the biggest idiot ever!
Soon after, they started banging and pounding the door and I saw the door smash to pieces in front of my own eyes. Then I saw the two men, coming at me. My blood congealed in horror.
“We told ya we could break the door open…but you chose not to listen…” said the calm voice.
“Lets get it over with” said my uncle; the uncle who my parents had entrusted me with.
God knows what got into me that made me say, “Mom is soon going to call you, what will you do then? You’ll pay for this! I swear to god, you’ll pay for th—” The next thing, I was lying flat on the floor; my uncle had smacked me hard.
“You think I’m that big a fool? Huh? You think??” yelled my uncle. “Your ‘mom’ already called. And you know what? Huh? She…is…NOT…expecting you till…tomorrow morning!” My horror-struck expression made him laugh.
“W-What?” I inquired.
“Your mom thinks that you are having a sleep-over at my place with Chaitrali. And you were so tired that I thought you’d not love another long drive. Would you? ‘cuz that’s what I told your mommy!”
“Sh-She didn’t ask for me??”
“Oh I told her that you were already asleep.”
“What did you say?”
“NO! You’re nothing more than a rotten egg!”
“B****!” and he punched me so hard that I lost consciousness. He was smiling as I fainted and the expression on his friend’s face was grim.
I was regaining consciousness. I was half conscious when I saw my uncle enter the room. Everything around me was spinning. I had a bad thumping in my head and I could barely open my eyes because he had punched me right in the face. I saw him unbuttoning his trousers. By the time I realized what was about to happen, it was too late. He was already on me. I didn’t even have the strength to call for help, to protest. I was so weak!
I wasn’t exactly sure if it was happening to me in real or if I was just dreaming. Everything was so hazy. Just then, I felt a searing pain within me, the pain was so strong that I couldn’t take it and I pushed him away with all my leftover strength. With my heart in my throat, I crept back. It failed to dissuade him. He attacked me again like a wild beast; pouncing on me, his hands tying my wrists down. I could feel the diseased and inhuman hatred that was growing inside of me. The hatred, the cold, the fear, the pain, all of it made me quiver. I didn’t know how to get away from him. I had never felt so miserable, so vulnerable in my entire life… So helpless! I was emotionally numb and physically exhausted. The pain within me was so strong, so excruciating that I couldn’t move an inch. I lay motionless in a pool of blood on the cold, stone floor. I could feel myself dying within me…
Once he was done doing what he was, he got up, buttoned up his trousers and looked at me. “You’re beautiful…you know that. Don’t you?” I wanted to kill him right then, right there. “That’s why I love ya…The way you glare daggers at me…Oh it kills me! It really does!”
“Get lost!” I mumbled.
“I pity you.” and he kicked me, punched me and kept doing that again and again and again till I moaned and then … fell silent.
He walked out of the room, slowly and silently. His friend asked him, “Are you done? Is she still unconscious?”
“She…She…” The words died away on his lips.
“What? What is it?!”
“WHAT?! Are you out of your mind? C’mon! The joke’s over!”
“I’m serious. I…killed her.”
Both of them fell silent.
Soon after, Asya Mukherjee’s body was found in that abandoned shack’s storeroom. Her uncle and his friend were nowhere to be found. They had fled. Asya’s family was devastated. The parents had no one to blame, but themselves.
Asya was no more but her memories remain. She died of internal bleeding and lacerations and damaged internal organs.