11 Nov Demon’s Den
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"Demon's Den"Written by Monica Mishra
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Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
I moved to London from India immediately after my wedding with Karan. My husband was living in London for 6 years and his then accommodation was a shady studio apartment, which to me was simply uninhabitable. After a lot of coaxing, he finally agreed to look for a new place. I had just started looking for a receptionist job, so we planned to look for a humble one-bedroom apartment. Along with applying for jobs and preparing for interviews, house hunting became my day job. Two weeks into the search, I realized that for the price we were willing to pay, the only place we could afford was a shady studio apartment. I finally gave up this pursuit and instead decided to focus more on finding a job. Good things come to you when you stop looking, this is what I believed to be true when one day while going through job openings I got a pop up for a just posted house rental advertisement. I wish I knew then that this was far from good, it was going to be the biggest mistake of my life. I’m really lucky to be alive to tell the tale.
We went to view the house the same day I saw the advertisement, because I didn’t want to lose the house to another early bird. One look at the house and I was mesmerized. For a person coming from the second most populated country in the world, living in a beautiful and spacious 3-bedroom Victorian house, overlooking a garden, away from the hubbub of the city, was a dream come true. Karan’s office too was only an hour’s commute from there. The rent on this place was almost the same as we were paying for the studio apartment, so Karan didn’t mind, though he was a bit skeptic about such low rent, so we checked the house thoroughly before signing the contract. The owner was British Indian, so he agreed to further reduce the rent for his fellow countrymen. We handed over our one month’s notice letter to end our tenancy to our landlord, and within that one month I got a decent paying receptionist job in a multinational company in Central London. Just married, new country, new job and a beautiful house, it felt so surreal. But this joy was to be short-lived.
We moved into the house on a weekend since I was on probation and couldn’t take leave. We just had a few possessions to move, but it wasn’t a problem since the house was fully furnished and the previous tenants had left all of their kitchenware and a few other things behind. This surprised me as the crockery looked pretty expensive. When I asked Bij, our landlord, about this, he said that the couple living there before us had to move to Scotland in a hurry, and thus didn’t bother to carry fragile stuff with them. I was so naive to have believed him. If only I had tried to dig further or reach out to the previous tenants.
Our first week in the house was pretty uneventful, it was spent arranging stuff and buying some supplies. Everything in the house worked as expected; washing machine, refrigerator, showers and faucets, no signs of any leakage or creaking floorboards. Karan’s suspicions about the house were finally put to rest and he was convinced that there was no foul play. I wish it had stayed that way, but things took an ugly turn the next week.
Karan used to play badminton early in the morning on weekends with his pals, while I preferred sleeping till late. I woke up while Karan was about to leave for his game. He gave me a quick peck on my cheeks and left around 6 am, it was still dark outside. I again went to sleep, but soon woke up with a jerk from a nightmare where an ugly old woman was strangling me. I was covered in sweat and short of breath. It felt like the atmosphere had changed, the silence felt unusual and it was obvious that something was off. I couldn’t describe it really. It was just this feeling that something unnatural was happening and just then I heard someone crying. Initially, I thought I was still dreaming and it was a part of the same nightmare, but it really was happening. I tried to calm myself and look for the source of the sound. On concentrating hard, it sounded like a cat crying. In India, a cat crying is considered a bad omen, it usually means the death of a loved one. First the nightmare, and now this, I was very scared. I headed towards the source of this cacophony, which had increased in volume and now sounded more like wailing. I got more concerned than scared now, what if the cat is really hurt, and needs help. The sound originated from the garden. The garden’s entrance was through a door in the kitchen. I mustered up some courage and turned the doorknob.
Sitting on the fence opposite me was the most grotesque cat I had ever seen. It was an old, wrinkled and skinny black cat with bright red eyes. As soon as it laid eyes on me it stopped crying and started hissing. I could see pure hatred in its eyes. It looked at me with murderous rage. I simply stood there staring at this devilish feline. I was still clutching the doorknob when, without any warning, the grotesque being pounced at me from its sitting position with Godspeed. This broke my spell and I quickly pushed the door shut in time. I expected to hear a thud from when the cat must have hit the door, but I didn’t and neither did I hear it crying anymore. Everything had gotten eerily quiet, except my heart, which was beating so fast I thought it would come out of my chest.
Karan came home to find me passed out on the kitchen floor. He splashed some water on my face and I struggled to open my eyes. I felt very weak, and standing up on my own took a lot of effort. I told Karan everything that had happened, but I could see it was hard for him to believe that a cat was planning to murder me. I couldn’t blame him for that. Karan helped me calm down by suggesting we call animal control, and they will take care of this stray cat. I assumed it was a stray as it was so skinny and dirty.
After talking to animal control, Karan took me to the movies followed by a lavish dinner to take my mind off the nasty episode. And it worked. I felt much better. We came back pretty late in the evening and directly went to bed. Sleep came almost instantly as I was very exhausted. Around three in the morning, I was woken up to whispering noises. At first, I thought maybe Karan couldn’t sleep and is watching TV, but then I turned and saw he was out cold. I sat still on my bed and tried to figure out what I was hearing, it sounded like a woman chanting something in Sanskrit. I had never studied Sanskrit, but I could still make out some of the words. Amura, which means devil and Amritata which means immortality. This really scared me. Considering all that was happening, I could only think of one thing, the house was haunted. The chanting grew louder now. I wasn’t feeling so brave this time to get up and investigate. It took me a good five minutes to wake Karan up from his deep slumber, and another five minutes to explain to him about the chanting sound. But the chanting had ceased by then and he looked at me with some concern. I immediately regretted waking him up. We were just married and I didn’t want him thinking his wife is a nut job. Before he had a chance to comment I lied saying that maybe the move and adjusting in my new job took a toll on me, and that I just needed a little rest. He looked convinced and sympathetic. But I was very sure that I had not imagined any of this.
The next three days passed without any incident and I didn’t see the cat again. I felt foolish for thinking the house was haunted. Karan was a network security architect and was working on a critical project and in order to meet the deadline, he was asked to work extra hours. I wasn’t too happy about it. Even though nothing odd had happened lately, I was still pretty shaken up from last week. I came home from work and fixed myself a quick supper, Karan was going to have dinner at the office. With nothing much to do after dinner, I planned to watch a movie. But my laptop wasn’t connecting to the wifi network. I’m pretty bad with computers so I didn’t try much and instead decided to connect to LAN, but couldn’t find a LAN cable. Just when I was going to give up on my search, I thought of the basement. Maybe there are a few spare cables lying out there. This was the first time I was going to see the basement. Karan and I never bothered to check the basement till now as we didn’t really have anything to be kept in the basement yet.
I opened the basement door and it creaked, it was pitch dark in there. I tried to feel the light switch with my hand and finally found it. The light was very dim, but sufficient to see everything. There were 15 or so steps to the basement. The wooden steps creaked under my weight. The basement was pretty big and all the stuff was covered in a white sheet, which was more brown than white, and completely covered in dust. I lifted one of the covers and what I saw filled me with dread. Lying on a bid wooden table were many locks of hair, tied together by a red thread, nails, human bones, pin stuffed dolls, and a skull. There were cardboards with ancient symbols and a terrifying picture of a devilish creature, sketched on them in what seemed like blood. I felt like I was going to throw up. The most upsetting part was that the blood seemed fresh. I had to get out of there. Suddenly the room felt very cold. The hair at the back of my neck stood up and I froze, I knew then that someone was watching me. I could smell rot, and the air had turned putrid. I felt some movement from the corner of my eye. I started shivering and tears started rolling down my face. I felt so helpless then, but I wasn’t going to give up. I gathered all the courage I could muster and turned around to run upstairs. That’s when I saw the horrible face that I can never forget in this life. I still see her in my dreams. Standing near the foot of the stairs was a woman, or rather she was a woman once. Now she was a hideous being with long, grey and dirty hair spread across her wrinkled face, red eyes glaring at me with hate, claws for feet and gnarled shadowy hand with long and uneven fingernails. She was smiling at me, showing her few rotten teeth. This made her look even more hideous. She was wearing a dirty and tattered black sari. I knew then that she was the cat who had tried to murder me. She hissed at me and called out my name “Mira”. It came out as a shriek and my blood ran cold, I knew then that I can’t get out of here alive. There was no point struggling.
It’s strange how during your last moments your whole life flashes in front of you. How I wished I could tell Karan and my family one last time that I loved them. The hideous thing once again pounced at me, and this time there was no door to shut. I fell on the floor and she started strangling me while chanting some mantras. I come from a very religious family and since I was a kid I wore an amulet around my neck, which wards off evil spirit. I never thought much of it and always kept it tucked under my blouse. During the struggle, the amulet came off and the devil woman accidentally touched it and her hands started burning. She shrieked and hissed for a while, and I could see the fear in her eyes. She ran into the wall opposite me and vanished. Till took a good ten seconds to register what just happened. But I had to get out of there quick fearing she might come back. I held the amulet in one hand and started crawling. I don’t remember much of how I escaped from the house.
Karan told me later that he found me lying outside the house in the freezing cold. I was taken to the hospital and it took me two days to recover physically, mentally I was scarred for life. Karan was in the hospital with me the whole time as I wouldn’t let him go to the house alone. This time Karan believed my story as he could see faint red marks on my neck. I couldn’t live in that house anymore. We went back only once to get all our stuff, and Karan told me later that he saw a skinny black cat in the garden while leaving.
Our lives went back to normal, but I was not going to rest until I knew what was wrong with the house. I never went back to the house to investigate, but I spoke with a couple of previous tenants and found some old newspaper articles that gave me the story I was looking for. The ghost haunting the house was Maya. She was Bij’s great grandmother and a tantrik. She used to practice witchcraft in the basement, and sacrificed small animals to please Amura, who in turn would have offered her immortality. But by sacrificing just animals, she would have returned as an animal, not human. To come back as a human, she had to make human sacrifices. With an obsession to return back as a human after death, she chose to sacrifice her own son, but her husband came home in time to save him. He knew his wife was a trantik, but he didn’t have much problem with her sacrificing animals, but not his son, that was too much. He took his son with him and left her alone in the house. She died an old and spiteful woman. And my guess is, she came back as a cat after her death. She is still out there looking for her next victim to please Amura.
My request to anyone reading this is, never rent or buy a house if the deal is too good to be true.
Credit: Monica Mishra
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