She came home drenched that evening. The summer sun had suddenly given way to rain clouds and she had been caught in the deluge unexpectedly. As she stepped home, she was not surprised to see that the power had been cut as the transformer had blown. ‘Where is Satish? How many times have I told him to get the inverter repaired, but he always forgets,’ she entered the bathroom muttering to herself. She changed out of her wet clothes in the dark bathroom and pulled on a bathrobe. She stepped into the bedroom to look for a set of dry clothes to pull on. In the light streaming through the windows, she was a little surprised to see her favorite cotton dress arranged neatly on the bed. “Satish? Are you here? When did you get home? I thought you are still stuck in office!” she called. Receiving no reply, she assumed he must be in the living room or out in their covered terrace. Feeling a little better, she went into the kitchen to make tea. Normally, she did not have tea at this hour, but the soaking rains had made her wish for tea. As she entered the kitchen, she opened the drawers and took out a few candles. As she lit them, she was surprised to see a cup of hot tea kept on the kitchen platform. ‘Wow! How sweet of Satish to make me this tea!’ she thought as she sipped the soothing warm liquid.

She then began to think about what to make for dinner. She was feeling a little tired that evening and did not have much energy to cook. ‘I’ll make some pulao! That should be filling and I won’t have to spend too long standing in the kitchen,’ she decided. She went to the refrigerator to pick out the vegetables for the dish, but the doors wouldn’t open. She tried once again, but they didn’t budge. ‘Huh? Now what is wrong with this old thing? Why won’t it open?’ she fumed. “Satish! Please come into the kitchen! I need your help! I cannot open the fridge!” she called. Still no response. “Satish?! Can you hear me?” she shouted. Finally, feeling frustrated, she headed towards the terrace to tell him in person. Knowing her way around her home, she didn’t even feel the need to pick up a candle. Just as she was to reach the kitchen entry, she banged against someone. “Thank God you heard me Satish! I am feeling very tired already and this refrigerator is acting funny. We need to call the service guys to fix the door again. It acts funny every time the power goes out,” she said and turned back into the kitchen to set the cooker on the gas stove. She measured out the rice and washed it thoroughly. She turned her head at a sound and was glad to see the basket of vegetables on the counter next to her. “Thanks Satish. You go on ahead to the terrace. I’ll join you as soon as I set the pulao in this cooker,” she said without turning to look at him. It took her a few minutes to chop the vegetables the way she liked them for the pulao and took care to add some dry fruits just the way Satish liked them. She set the cooker and thought, ‘I’ll enjoy a nice cool evening watching the rains with Satish. We can gaze at each other in the candle light and chat to our heart’s content. No phones and TV to distract us today.’

So she lit up a tea light and placed it in its holder. As she made her way through the living room towards the terrace, the tea light whiffed off even though it was covered. ‘Oh no! No one makes any quality goods these days! Even the wax seems to be defective.’ she grumbled. Wanting the much needed romantic evening, she made to go back to the kitchen to light it again. ‘I’ll carry two tea lights now,’ she thought to herself. She again slammed into someone. “Satish! Stop walking into me. One of these days I am going to fall from being walked into so much,” she smiled. But she didn’t know what to think when she was able to just suddenly walk through without feeling Satish make way for her. And why wasn’t he saying anything? She went into the kitchen, but was shocked to see that the gas flame under the cooker was off and try as she might, she could find neither the matches nor the gas lighter. ‘I am sure I had switched the gas on for the cooker. Or did I think I did and just forgot?’ she wondered. Anyway, now let it be. We can order something from outside and eat in the terrace,’ she thought. “Satish! Please call up the nearby restaurant and order something hot and spicy for us!” she called. “Or do you want to go out for dinner? We can take the car,” she suggested. A pair of hands gripped her arms from behind. “Oh! So the rains have brought out the romantic mood in my husband?” she teased. But she felt uncomfortable. Was it her imagination or were the hands gripping her so cold? And did they feel much rougher and larger than those of her husband’s? She tried to turn around, but the hands held her firmly in place.

“Please let me go Satish. I need to check the milk in the fridge,” she said. The hands released her immediately and she went to the fridge. From the corner of her eye, she saw light streaming from under the main door. ‘Oh, the power is back up. She flipped the light switch but no lights came on in the house.’ Now she was really scared. She ran towards the main door to escape, but the door wouldn’t open. She checked, but was shocked to feel all the locks and latches were unlocked, and yet, the door didn’t give an inch. “Help! Somebody help!” she began to shout. Just then, the same cold large hands covered her mouth and stopped her mid scream. Her throat went dry with fear and she didn’t know what to do. Just then, she saw something gleaming in the corner. She realized it was Satish’s cigarette lighter. She stopped fighting and her assailant loosened his grip. She inched her way towards the lighter and closed her hands around it. She quickly brought it up to her face and switched it on. He blew it off even as she was lighting but not before she caught a quick glimpse of his face. Her scream caught in her throat and she recoiled in horror.

He looked like something that had walked straight out of a horror movie. His face was distorted and his hands were huge. As he edged towards her, she saw that his legs were bow shaped. He walked with a slight limp. His hair looked dirty and disheveled and his eyes… oh my God! His eyes were blood red! She wanted to shout for help, she wanted to run, but she was frozen in place with fear. Her brain had ceased to function and she couldn’t think. She felt around for anything that she could use to her aid, but everything seemed so far away. Her brain finally kicked into gear and she managed to stand up. ‘He doesn’t want to kill me. I am sure he would have killed me ten times over by now had he felt the desire to. He even helped me by bringing out my clothes, fetched me the vegetables from the fridge… he was here all along. Why didn’t he harm me then? And what does this monster want from me?’ she wondered. She tried to look calm and relaxed her tense shoulders. She even mustered up a smile for the looming monster and said, “I am sorry I screamed. But as you must already be aware, I was scared by the presence of an unknown person in the house.” At her words, the monster stopped in his tracks and looked at her. He raised both his hands as if in surrender. She relaxed when she saw him go easy. And then… he lunged. She screamed. There was no sound at all for a few minutes and then, she opened her eyes. The monster was getting off the floor and held a bloodied knife in his hands. She could see a pair of legs on the floor. “Who have you killed? Let me see!” she shouted. He pushed her back and stood in her way. She tried to look around him but could not see anything beyond the legs.

With her heart trying to jump out of her throat, she moved back into the passage. The monster guided her towards the bedroom. He pushed her to sit on the bed and went out and locked the door. She was completely off balance by now and had no idea how to react. She just sat there like a stone and trembled over the past hour. In just a few short minutes, she heard a scrape at the door of her bedroom. She turned around, fearful of what might come next. The door opened and she nearly fell off her bed in shock. Satish walked in nonchalantly and asked, “Why are you sitting alone in the dark? Why have you not switched on the lights?” Before she could reply, he flipped on the light switch and the room shone with brightness. She was shocked. She could not form coherent thoughts. He walked towards her and she flinched fearing that the monster might leap out any moment and kill Satish. ‘But why was Satish so calm? Hadn’t he seen the body lying on the living room floor? And how had he gotten in? The door had not moved when she had tried.’

“Satish? When did you come home?” she asked placidly. He went to her and replied, “I have just come home. And I am very hungry.” She suddenly remembered the pulao and said, “Oh! I am so sorry. You freshen up and get changed. I’ll serve you dinner in a few minutes,” and rushed out of the bedroom. She was completely in a daze and could not understand the events of the past hour. As she stepped out of their bedroom and made to go towards the kitchen, the monster came out of the living room. Now she was really worried. She didn’t want the monster to see Satish or harm him. So she went to him thinking she would reason with him. But before she could say a word, the monster pulled her into the living room and she stumbled with the force of his grip.

It took her a moment to regain her bearings and as she looked up, she broke into a huge smile. The entire living room was decorated with flowers and all her friends and family had gathered there. A huge placard on one of the walls read, “Happy Birthday”. Satish walked in carrying a huge birthday cake. But wait, why was the monster heading towards her husband? Much to her shock, the monster and her husband exchanged a high five and the monster in all his scary gory look, turned towards her and sang “Happy birthday to you” in the most gruesome voice. Unable to bear it any longer, she went to him and took off his mask. Her squeal of delight could be heard five stories down… behind the monster face was her son who lived in the United States. He had come home to surprise her on her fiftieth birthday! And the legs and the bloodied knife? Well, they were all props to add to the scary scene!