The girl opened her eyes with some effort. Her head hurt as though she had been hit. She tried to touch the part that hurt her, but realized that her hands had been tied with a thick rope. The rope—made of pure coir—had cut into her fair flesh and even in the near-darkness, she could see the blood trickling down her wrists.
The fear came over her like a storm. It was an immediate explosion of memories: returning home after her extra practical classes at college… standing at the bus-stop alone at that late evening hour… the shuffling behind her in the bushes… the sudden sharp blow to the back of her head… and then, blackness.
She tried to yell, but at that moment she became aware of the gag that was stuffed in her mouth. She looked down and was horrified to see—it was her own blouse. Stripped off her body, stuffed into her mouth.
All her dreams turned to nothing in that one instant.
Topper in school and college.
The only girl in the Physics class.
Will go far; will become an engineer.
Will marry a wonderful man; have wonderful kids.
Nothing!—It meant nothing now.
The only thing she wanted was release.
To escape from this unknown place where she was tied to the floor, naked like a hog, terrified beyond measure.
An awareness of pain followed the sense of shame. The pain arose from her thighs, and she looked down at them, frightened of what she might see.
Her fear wasn’t unjustified. It was a strange pattern—four parallel curves intersecting four other parallel curves forming a crisscross spiderlike pattern. She looked at them, amazed and somewhat fascinated at their artistry, and then realized—the pattern wasn’t drawn on her thigh with a pen; it was cut into her flesh with a weapon.
The redness was not ink; it was blood. It was the source of her pain.
Once the consciousness of the pain set in, it refused to go away. She wanted to hold the wound, contain the blood flowing from it, but her hands were tied. She kicked the only free part of her body—her legs—but doing that only made the pain more intense. The cuts were thin but deep, and more blood oozed as she moved her legs.
She squirmed and tried to break free from the pillar where she was tied by the wrists. They began to bleed too, and trickles of the warm fluid started moving along the sides of her torso and mixed in the pool that was already accumulated below her.
It was too much blood. She wondered how such a spindly wound could cause so much blood to flow. It seemed unreal, but the slight tinny smell in the air around her told her otherwise.
The darkness of the night was receding now, but she couldn’t see anything beyond her toes. Then, as her eyes got acclimatized to the darkness, she became aware of something. A figure in the darkness. A man.
He was seated at the far end of this room or whatever it was. She could only see his head and his naked chest. He sat without making the slightest movement, like a mannequin in a departmental store. But the most frightening thing about the man was his eyes. There was something quite wrong with them. The darkness did not tell her much, but she could sense their oddness, and she could sense their unmoving gaze upon her. She squirmed, trying to break free, or to at least move away from the unflinching gaze upon her. But, the more she moved, the tighter her bonds became.
Then a rat, of which there was no dearth here, emerged from behind the head of the distant human and darted towards his eyes. Why did the man not move? He stayed put there, even as the rat sniffed all over his face, and then began to nibble, right into his left eye.
That was when she realized.
She was staring at a long-dead corpse.
The blood loss began to take its toll on her, and she was again plunged into darkness.
The hapless girl woke up with a start when she felt someone touching her breasts.
Fully alert now, she attempted to focus her vision, and the shape of a man squatting next to her materialized. There seemed to be a smile on his face, but there wasn’t anything cordial about it. Yes, he was ugly. And the ugliness was not merely of his warty face or his unkempt hair. It came from somewhere within him—from the diabolical look behind those smiling eyes, from the stench of death that underlined his strong odor. For a moment, she forgot the excruciating pain arising from her wounds.
Pain, like everything else, has a limit. It is acute when fresh. It is at this time—when the aggravation is newly inflicted—that it is the most unendurable. But if it persists for a period of time without being allayed, the nerves of the body get familiarized with it. The receptors still carry the physical impulse, but the effectors do not bring back any biological response. It is then that the pain begins to weaken, or rather the body becomes stronger to bear it.
However, this also makes things much more frightening. When one can see a gaping wound in their body and the blood oozing out of it too, but cannot feel the pain, that’s when things become the scariest. It’s enough to drive anyone nuts, and this was just a fragile college-going girl.
“No… Don’t pass out again,” the squatting man pleaded. “I want you to see. Will you do that much for me? Will you stay awake for me? Please?”
It was a plea, like a beggar beseeching for food.
Then she saw the weapon in his hand. Not exactly in his hand, but on his knuckles. His fingers passed through its four joined metal rings, the ends of which had sharp, pointed nails. The nails were soaked in blood; and she realized it was the blood of her own flesh.
Still smiling that vicious smile, he plunged that knuckle thing deep into her body, this time right into her chest. She could not see this new wound, but she felt it for sure. There was a sound too, a sickening crunch, and her educated mind told her what it was. A memory of a twig she had once stepped on came to her—the poor twig had broken into two with the same crunch.
As warm blood trickled down her torso, she was surprised she still had blood left in her body to flow out of the new wound.
Then, she reacted. A shriek of the newly-generated pain formed on her lips, but the sound died out before it could emerge. Her weakness overcame her response to pain.
She looked into his eyes and, as she could not speak, her eyes did all the talking. Her vision was becoming groggy now; and yet her eyes pleaded, implored, begged, made an earnest request to leave her and to spare whatever was left of her—both in body and in spirit—and, for a moment, she thought that he understood. For he took her head in his arms and took it close to his chest and, smoothening her hair, said, “Don’t worry, dear. It will all be over soon. It has to be done, you know? We all have to atone. Believe me, I am sending you to a happier place.”
There were no more tears, just the ones that had been already let out, drying up on her bloodied cheeks. The last sight of her short life was that of the dead man she had seen before, the one in the distance. His face was still turned towards her in the same manner, motionless in all other respects. But now some daylight streamed into the room. She could see a little more. His face seemed pale; and where his eyes had been, she could only see bloodied hollows, and the tails of rats emerging from them.
“I’ll get started now,” her tormentor said, holding her chin up as though he meant to kiss her. “I’ll get you out of the misery right away.”
Her heart was stopping now, her brain still flickering with its last dredges of life. Her vision stilled itself upon the man. She saw now how white his body had become, drained of all its blood. White as a sheet. White as dead. And, on that white skin on his chest, she saw the dried up mark—the same mark of the spider that she now possessed.
“Oh, him?” her killer looked in the direction of her gaze and said. “It’s been a while since I had him over for dinner. He’s become a bit stale now. Don’t feel like going to him anymore, and why should I? I have you now, don’t I? But let me tell you this—his kidneys! So juicily healthy and wonderful! He made an excellent dish of roasted kidney beans on toast.”
That’s all for the sample! Get the full version of Maya’s New Husband at the following links:
Paperback on Amazon India