On a Night Like This

by Neeru Anand

On a night like this, he would not have been out. But tonight was different. This was an emergency. The consignment had to be delivered. He glanced back at the life-like statue covered in brown-paper. One of the antiques being shipped out. This would make his fortune the man had assured him. But the night worried him. He preferred nights to be dark and cloudy, the rain falling down in torrents, the stars hidden, the wind howling?all that ensured security guards huddled together, more than ready to wave him through.

Tonight the moon was shining in its fullness and the wind was calm, too calm, not a leaf seemed to stir. The silence was just a little ominous as his van traversed the dirt-roads. He tried the radio once again. No luck, again only silence. He pressed on the accelerator, glancing in the rear-view mirror. The statue was looking at him, eyes wide open. The van skidded and almost went off the road before he could control it. He looked back. The package looked innocuous lying over there. God! He really was imagining things. He started once again, tunelessly humming a song.

?It was then that he heard the breathing, very soft as if the person was trying to hold his breath and not succeeding. A drop of sweat poured down his face. Slowly, with all the nerves in his body tingling, he looked back. For one brief horrible moment, he thought he saw the cover flutter as though the idol wrapped had taken a deep breath. But then there was no movement. He turned back, wiping the sweat off his brow and pressed the accelerator, the sooner he got this particular statue off, the better it would be.

The ripping sound echoed in the silence. He screamed, even as the van shuddered to a stop. With infinite slowness, he craned his neck. The movement of the car had, apparently, ripped the covering because one hand of the statue was hanging out. He took a deep breath and leaned over, trying to wrap it again. His hand touched cold human flesh rather than stone. He screamed, trying to open the door and flinging himself out. But a vice-like grip caught his hand. Hypnotised, he watched, as the statue of Kal-Bhairav sat up.

?I am hungry. I want blood.? The Dark Lord smacked his lips, eyes glowing eerily in the darkness.