The Final Exam

I don’t really know why she appeared in my dream. It wasn’t like we were great friends in the other, more familiar form of reality. I mean, I’d seen her a couple of times in the hallways- sometimes on her way to work, sometimes heading out with friends. She was always dressed well and had that joie de vivre – the kind of thing you read in some old novel but seldom see in a living human. She was presumably from a conservative household back in… I don’t even know which town she’s from! So you can imagine my surprise when I first saw her in my dream the day she died.

She seemed remarkably unfazed for someone who had recently been deceased. She just stood out in my dream. I was dreaming of some weird carnival place that I used to visit with my family after every year’s annual exam when I was younger. Considering the fact that the day she appeared in my dream was two days before my final public exam, the dream was saturated with wish-fulfillment. No psychoanalysis required, thank you very much. I was caught off guard by how sober she looked in that setting. Not sad, but, something oddly unsettling about the way she was nonchalantly standing there, amidst the wild colours and screaming noise of the carnival.

I noticed she was wearing something simple – just a pair of torn black jeans and a dull blue t-shirt. Hardly blending in with the absurdity of the carnival- if she was trying to, that is. When she saw that I was looking in her direction, she called out to me. Oddly drawn by the juxtaposition of her sobriety in that vibrant world, I walked towards her.

She extended her hands towards me and it was only then that I saw some marks on her wrist. She looked at me and my eyes were drawn to the beautiful aquamarine earrings she wore and the matching aquamarine necklace around her neck. It was the same set I always saw her wear when I bumped into her in the hallway. When she thought I had moved close enough, she looked into my eyes and said simply and without much emotion, “I need your help. I’ll see you again soon.” And then, after a pause, “Thank you for finding me.”

Startled, I jolted awake to the other, less harlequin reality of preparation for an exam. Harlequin. I like that word. Maybe that’s why I rather liked that movie. Her character depth is of course explored in the comics, with the arc involving Poison-

I digress easily when it comes to studies and usually that is not a punishable offence. That’s not the case when I’m staring down the barrel of my final public exam. Biology.

I got out of bed and brushed my teeth. My parents were at the dining table when I got out of my room. My mother made a face at me since I was still wearing my night-clothes. One of the cardinal offences at Chez Kumar. My dad was buried in his newspaper. A habit he had been indulging in over the last week. I guess some WhatsApp forward had convinced him that the only true source of news came in the newspaper. I mean, it’s not like the stories could be strategically placed to reflect the political leanings of the media house that published the paper or anything. Cue eye-roll.

I greeted the parents and sat in the chair to my father’s right, near the window. The place practically set aside for the youngest resident of the flat. My mother greeted me and made her disapproval of my attire known as she plopped the plate of dosas in front of me. The father grunted from somewhere behind the mess of papers.

I gobbled down two dosas in the time it took my father to fold up the papers and assess the morning. He was dressed to go in to the office – breakfast was the last pitstop before stepping out into the big, bad world.

He said in a low voice with some relief, “The police have identified four men in connection with the assault and murder of Sangeetha.”

My mother called out from the kitchen to warn my father not to speak of such things at breakfast. My father responded by saying that we could use some good news.

“What is good about this whole thing?” My mom said angrily as she walked out of the kitchen and rested her weight on one arm, leaning against a chair.

“That justice is served.” My father responded coolly. “Think of how many such cases go by without being noticed!”

“That is not cause for celebration! Think of her poor family. They’ll see this news and then the next day, we’ll find out that the four men will not be put in prison because they’re affiliated to some political figure. What justice is that?”

I looked at the folded picture and saw the faces of the men and a slow anger rose in me. Anger that such monsters walk around in our societies, masked as everyday men. My fists balled up. I realised that the oil from the dosas was spreading on my hand and I realised I had to go wash my hands. I got up and walked towards the sink in the kitchen, with my plate in my hand.

My father replied, “With the support of social media, these criminals will not be allowed to roam scot-free! Look how fast they were caught!”

I started to wash the oil off my hands.

My mother begrudgingly admitted that social media could be beneficial in these cases. She was not a fan. She caved when I said I wanted to be on social media and consented on the condition that I don’t use it around the time of my exams.

My father then got up, picked up his laptop bag and walked towards the door, bidding us both farewell. I called out over the sound of the gushing tap. My mother walked into the kitchen with my father’s plate. Apparently at some point in the conversation, my father finished his breakfast.

I finished washing my plate and dodged my mother’s request to change into something less pajama-y by saying I needed to study.

After intermittent breaks to grab water and the odd snack from the fridge, I managed to reach my target for the day by dinner-time. Miraculously, I also changed into regular house-clothes, much to my mother’s satisfaction.

That night, at dinner, we all sat down to eat after my father got changed out of his sharp office clothes.

We caught up on each other’s day and then somehow, the conversation steered back towards the Sangeetha case. Apparently, the four men in connection with the assault had been kept in police custody all day for investigation.

I didn’t want to bring up the fact that I saw Sangeetha in my dream last night. My mom would flip out and not let me leave the house ever or something. I blanked out as my father talked about forensic evidence and stuff. Absent-mindedly I ate and thought about her family somewhere, waiting for something pro-active to be done. I wondered if she had visited them, just as she had visited me.

Dinner ended without my complete focus on the meal itself. I saw my mother gathering up the plates a little more hurriedly than usual. I was left with my hand still in the air, food dried up on it. I went to wash my hands and into my room, still a bit dazed.

I tried to do a little recap of the things I studied, but just thinking of the word “Kreb” put me off. I lay in my bed, thinking about my target for tomorrow but all of a sudden my mind was drawn to the images of the four men I saw in the newspaper earlier in the morning. Somewhere, those four feral freaks were pleased with themselves for what they’d done and being released. My father mentioned something about the forensic report not being conclusive. It sickened me to the pit of my stomach.

With that thought, I found myself drifting off to sleep.

I was in a biology lab. Specimens lined the shelves that surrounded me. I could see that the shelves went on for as long as I could see. Nearest to me were some familiar plants. I walked along the shelves in what seemed like a neverending stretch.

Plants gave way to fruits suspended in the malodorous mix of chemicals that our biology lab seemed to reek of on a good day. Fruits gave way to flowers. The flowers looked remarkably bright and recently preserved, unlike the tomato I walked past.

It was then that I realised that I was walking down the pathway on my own in the lab. Suddenly I heard the sound of footsteps behind me. It first sounded like it was just one person. Then I turned around and I saw it was actually four people walking side-by-side, comfortably within the gap between the shelves. I don’t need to tell you who those four were.

I picked up speed and they did too. I was panicking and just about to scream for help when I suddenly saw her approaching from out of nowhere. She was wearing a long white lab-coat. She held out her hand to me and as I touched it, we were taken to some other place that I’d never seen. Only, it seemed familiar.

It looked like our flat, but not quite. The decor was far better, for starters. She was wearing something different. Something less scientist-y.

Then it struck me. We were in her flat. I’ve never been inside her flat. Well, until now.

She asked me if I was alright. I said I was. I was starting to feel my heart beat faster.

“I’m sorry they were chasing you. I didn’t expect them to come.”

“How am I seeing you?”

“I can’t tell you that just yet…”

“Why, because I’m too young?” I felt the indignation in my voice rise.

She laughed, but it sounded a little too sad to be a genuine laugh. “Sadly, there’s no such thing as too young any more,” she said and immediately I knew what she meant.

“I need your help. But you are totally within your rights to decline.”

“Er, okay.”

“It’s just – once you start, I’d rather you finish the task.”

“This isn’t a video game quest, is it?” I tried to defuse the tension with a little humour. She chuckled. Victory, I thought to myself. Well, that’s a funny thing to do in a dream. Thinking to yourself, I mean, not chuckling.

“Have you seen their faces?” she asked plainly.

“The face- oh yes. It was in the newspaper today.”

“Good. What I need you to do is to kill the men responsible for what happened to me.”

“Wait, sorry, what?”

“I know that they’re going to get away from the grasp of the law on a legal technicality.”

“So you need me to kill them? Hitman style?”

She laughed. “I don’t need you to shave your head or anything as drastic as that!”

“How do I do it, then?”

“I’ll show you. But I won’t be back until next week. Focus on your exam.”

“Yeah, like I can think about those now!” She laughed as I said this.

I looked around the apartment for a brief while before I found myself ejected from the dream and the room.

I woke up to my room and the sunlight. I was curious to know more about what she said but I couldn’t spend too much time thinking about the assignment now when I had my exam to get through.

That morning at breakfast, everything was as the day before. My father seemed more determined than yesterday to look for updates on the case. Nothing new could be found. At dinner, he talked about the case and even read out updates from some article on an online publication. Apparently the four men had been released. On a technicality. There was no forensic evidence tying them to the crime as the body had not been recovered. Their lawyer maintained that his clients, Messieurs Prashanth, Prakash, Rajan and Shankar were wrongfully accused of this crime because of some misguided bloodlust. There were even questions raised about some boyfriend of hers and how she had put herself in harm’s way. The usual garbage approach to malign the victim and portray suspects as victims of having their life “ruined” by the allegation. I immediately thought of Sangeetha’s parents and started to tear up a little.

I excused myself from the dining table and tried to cram the last bits of my zoology text book into my head. But I was drawn to find out more about the case.

I opened the article that my father was reading from and saw the faces of the four men. Their smug faces not betraying relief but a twisted sense of invincibility. And why shouldn’t they? The system would never punish them. This drove me mad. I had to force myself back to my zoology textbook. That didn’t stick so I went to sleep. The combination of the anger regarding the whole case and the anxiety surrounding my biology exam made me sleep rather restlessly. I did not see Sangeetha in my dream that night. Only stacks of biology specimens.

The next morning, the day of my last exam, I stepped out of my flat for the first time in three days and I turned to the right to see the door to Flat 404 boarded up. Sangeetha’s flat. I turned away so as to not fall down the rabbit hole.

The exam itself was not spectacular and went fairly well. After the exam, a few of my friends and I went out for a celebratory round of ice lollies at the beach.

It wasn’t until I was back in my building that I was reminded of the tragedy of what befell Sangeetha. I could scarcely look at her flat door without letting the anger rise in me. I answered a few of my mom’s questions about the exam, told her that I had dinner already and walked straight into my room, fell onto the bed and cried out of anger into the pillow. Anger at the world that would do this to a woman and blame her for things that happen to her. Anger at myself for getting an ice-lolly when these things were happening to girls everywhere. I wanted to do anything I could to help her. I fell asleep soon enough.

I was sitting beside the footpath on the beach, crying a little as I looked at the ice lolly in my hand. As if she could hear my crying, Sangeetha appeared on the beach and sat down next to me.

“Are you okay?” She asked.

“Yes. Tell me h*********l them. I’ll do anything to help.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” And Sangeetha smiled. After that, she said, “Follow me.”

She got up and walked out into the sea. I followed her.

We walked into the sea but we were able to breathe underwater. Of course. We were in a dream. We didn’t need to breathe down here!

There was ahead of us an apartment building. Underwater.

She led me into the building and up the flight of stairs to the right of the elevator.

We came up to the third floor and she stood in front of flat 3E while waiting for me to reach her.

She looked into my eyes as she held out a dagger. It was silvery and had a red jewel at the base of the hilt.

“How did you get this?” I asked her.

She silently shook her head and said, “In due time.”

I took the handle. It was warm, pulsating. I was about to ask her what I had to do when the door just opened on its own.

I saw a sofa in front of me, facing the other direction and the outline of a man’s head stick out from the sofa. I walked closer to him. I suddenly became aware of the sound of the television some five feet in front of the sofa. The updates of the case were being read out on the screen. The man on the sofa was laughing.

That did something to me. I walked around the side of the sofa to look at him, dagger held behind me. It was the man named Prashanth. One of the four faces on the newspaper. He looked at me and continued to laugh. Oh well.

I brought the dagger from behind and right into his throat. The laugh died in his throat as he gurgled with the blood spurting upwards. Sangeetha laughed from the doorway. Only then did he scream briefly, but by then it was too late. He died in his sofa. The telly died out with him. Like that song about a grandfather’s clock.

Suddenly the flat started going dark and Sangeetha told me to run outside. I did as I was told.

We walked in silence down the staircase and out of the building. I walked a little behind her as she pushed her way through the water and led us back onto the beach and right back to the walkway where I met her.

She held out her hand and I knew she wanted the dagger. I hadn’t even noticed that it was now bright as before. The red jewel appeared a little duller than before.

I gave it back to her and she smiled a peculiar smile. It wasn’t a smile I’d seen on any human face.

“I’ll be back again soon.” She said. She walked away from the beach and I woke up at that point.

It was all very bizarre. I woke up not knowing where exactly I was. It took me a few minutes to remember who I was and what was going on in my waking life.

I rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth and went to the dining table. My dad was looking at the newspaper again. My mother was running around the kitchen opening and closing cabinet doors to gather the necessary vessels since the breakfast was ready. Finally she laid some bowls out in front of us and sat down.

There was some small talk about my plans for my vacation, college enrolment and stuff. I wasn’t really into it. Apparently there was no update on the case. I was a little disappointed. What was I doing then?

Sometime before lunch one of my friends came over and called me to roam around the beach again. We were out the whole day and only got back a little after evening fell. I thought about telling my friend what I’d dreamt about but decided against it. I bade farewell to her and went up the stairs to my flat. I looked at Sangeetha’s flat and felt the strangest thing. I felt like she was inside, getting ready to go out on a Friday night, as she used to. When she was alive. I was almost moved to knock on her door. I took a few steps in the direction of her flat then stopped myself. I turned around, back to our flat. As I put the key in the lock, I was certain someone was there. A muffled screan came from within. “Kavita!” I heard coming from the inside of the apartment.

That’s my name.

I quickly turned the key in the lock, pushed the door open, pulled the key out and slammed the door shut.

My mother looked at me questioningly. I just said I needed to sleep after an exhausted door. She asked me no further questions.

I went to my room, locked it shut and lay on my bed.

I closed my eyes and processed the events of the day since last night.

In no time at all, my mind drifted off to sleep. I found myself at the beach again. My friend was beside me. I was talking to her about our exams and hanging out at the beach everyday.

The voice that responded was not my friend’s, but Sangeetha’s instead. I was a little startled.

“Are you ready?” She asked me as if we were about to go and watch a movie.

“Yes, I guess.”

“Look, I need you to be certain.” That was an odd thing to say.

“I am… why do I need to be, though?”

“Let’s just say that’s the only way this works.”

With that she got up and I followed suit. We walked into the sea again, as we did the night before.

This time she led me to a medium-sized bungalow. We walked upto the front door and opened it easily enough. Just as before, I walked quietly into the house after receiving the dagger. The jewel in the hilt was a little more lustrous than when I gave it to her the previous night. Sangeetha stood outside.

This guy seemed to be watching a home video sort of thing that was playing on a projector right in his living room. I saw the video was shot as if he was taking it with his own eyes. It was his memory.

I walked up from behind and raised my hand, dagger pointed at his neck. Just as I was about to bring my hand down, I saw a lady walk into the room. Our eyes met briefly. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the man’s hand move from the side of the sofa over to his lap and rested on his crotch.

I plunged the knife into the side of his neck and twisted it inside. Sangeetha started laughing from outside. The lady screamed at the sight of the man’s neck spouting blood. She moved towards the man and I pulled away. Sangeetha called me out of the house. I ran out of the house. As we did yesterday, I followed her back to the beach and handed her the jewel. Once again, the blade was clean and the jewel was a little darker.

I woke up after she walked away.

Another perplexing night. Another perplexing dream.

The day rolled by without much to note. I stepped out of my house just once to sign for a parcel. I barely looked in the direction of Sangeetha’s flat. I still felt something was calling out to me in that short span. I shut my door on the delivery guy almost a little rudely.

I don’t normally like sleeping during the day because it throws me off my routine. I don’t take a nap unless I’m sick or really exhausted. So even with no exam to study for, I managed to stay awake through the afternoons and read some random articles on the net.

No developments had been made in the case, but my dad seemed to be hunting through the paper for even a few short words about the hunt for the criminals. I imagined somewhere, Sangeetha’s dad must have been doing the same thing but that took me down a dark line of thought. We barely spoke at dinner as my father’s obsession with the case was starting to annoy my mother and I was just too shaken from my dreams to really chat.

I said goodnight to them and went to my room.

Door shut, I flopped onto the bed. Sleep was almost immediately upon me. It’s almost like I was being drawn into the dreams a lot more easily these days.

I met her on the beach again.

She led me to a small hut that looked like it was a little too cramped for a single person. I hoped there was no one else inside like with the previous house.

Sangeetha gave me the dagger again. This time as I looked into her eyes, I saw the irises shine with a dull red hue. I didn’t have time to ask her any questions about that. She opened the door and in I walked.

This guy was sitting in a corner to the left of the door, holding his knees up to his chest, looking at something on the opposite wall. I couldn’t see it at first and then I understood. I could hear the Sangeetha’s voice. She was conducting a regular conversation. Suddenly, the voice was less sure and it was asking repeatedly, “Where am I?”. He turned to see me. He looked at me imploringly and yet puzzled, somehow. Like he’d never seen a face before. I raised my dagger, walked towards him and obliged. The pleading voice inside the room was drowned out by the sound of Sangeetha’s laughter from outside.

We walked back in silence to the beach. We exchanged a nod as the dagger swapped hands. Sangeetha held it up to the sun and I saw the red in the jewel match the red in her eyes now.

“Nearly there,” she said and put the dagger down.

We parted and I woke up, as usual.

That day, my friends had planned to meet up at someone’s house for lunch. I was a bit apprehensive at first since that meant coming back home in the evening and looking at Sangeetha’s flat but I couldn’t really talk my way out of it.

So, around noon, the friend with whom I had an ice lolly turned up at my house. She was fiddling with her scooter key as she waited for me to get ready. Made small talk with my mother about colleges and stuff. Once I was finally ready, I said bye to my mother and was about to walk out of the house. My mother pulled me inside just as I reached the doorway.

She told me to be careful and to always travel with a friend. I told her that the boys I knew were a good sort and that nothing bad would happen. She smiled gravely and said that of the ones we know: “we don’t really know what they’re capable of”. I found that needlessly ominous but I suppose parents worry.

I walked out and went down the stairs with my friend and had to tell her that my mother warned me and told me to be careful about attention from boys. My friend said she got the same thing over at her house. I guess it’s more universal than we’d hope to admit.

The outing itself was fun. We watched a pretty ridiculous movie (the kind that generates easy laughs) and we all talked about the colleges we’d applied to and hoped to hear from.

Around 6 p.m., my friend and I pushed off. We reached my building and I was almost tempted to ask her to come upstairs with me but thought against it. I hugged her goodbye and walked up the stairs.

Just as I reached the flight of stairs between the third and fourth floor, I bumped into a man. He apologised and when I looked up at his face, it looked almost familiar. Before I could register who he was, he rushed down the stairs.

I reached the fourth floor and walked towards our flat briskly.

From Sangeetha’s flat, I heard my name being called again. Gently, like a faint afternoon breeze carried it to me.

“Kavita! Noooo!”

I stood in front of my door, hand reaching for my key. My hand fumbled as my nerves got the better of me.

Then my eyes fell upon a pile of bouquets at the base of the door. There were five.

I found it odd that only five people had made an effort to remember this vivacious lady. My heart broke a little. Then I wondered if the bouquets were left by the people who killed her. That turned the sweetness sour right in its tracks and I couldn’t think of people being so twisted as to gloat in that manner. I softly whispered to her, “I’ll make sure they pay for what they did to you.”

Turning once more to my own door, I tumbled into my house. Dinner was largely quiet. Dad was engrossed in the papers almost day and night, looking for anything to do with the case. It went silent all of a sudden.

That night, I went to the bed and I had scarcely closed my eyes when I saw myself at the beach. I figured the anticipation was getting to her.

She led me into the sea and to another apartment building, not too different from my own.

We went through the ritual of her giving me the dagger and this time I saw that the redness was more pronounced in her eyes. Again, I chose not to remark upon it.

I walked into the house, dagger exposed.

The man was pacing in the front room. He stopped in his tracks and looked directly at me. He was the only one who did so. We looked at each other for a brief moment and I recognised who it was. It was the man I bumped into on the staircase!

He looked directly at my face.

“It’s you!” He said.

I didn’t have time to chit-chat. I was on a mission.

Raising the dagger to my shoulder level, I walked right up to him and stabbed him right in the chest. He just stared at me as he went down. The lights were dimming, as they did in other hosues. Just as I walked out of the room, I saw a woman and child walk into the room and sob by the man’s side.

We walked back to the beach and when I returned the dagger to her, I asked her, “Why did he recognise me? The others didn’t.”

“The human mind can only recognise faces in dreams if they’ve seen them in conscious, waking moments,” she replied nonchalantly.

“And since I didn’t meet the others…”

“They didn’t recognise you. But you’d seen their photos in the newspaper, yes.”

“Oh. So, that’s it, right?”

“No. One more.” She said, as she regarded the dagger in the light of the sun once more.

“But the newspaper said there were four… I haven’t seen the fifth person. How will you take me?”

“You’ll know when you see them.” The corners of her mouth curved up just as she turned around and walked away.

I woke up then.

It felt incomplete. How was I to know who the fifth person was?

I then thought of the five bouquets and how sickening it was that those men had come so close to our flat just to put flowers on the door of the girl they’d assaulted.

Brushing my teeth felt like such a task but I had to do it anyway.

At breakfast, my father was excited by something he read in the newspaper. My mother was, too. Apparently the four men connected with the case had been found dead in their beds. My father was livid that justice had not been served. My mother was angry that they got to die peacefully in their sleep. “Well, not peacefully,” I wanted to tell her. She was also angry with my father for having disappeared into the newspaper through all meals at home on account of his case. Goodbyes were rather strained. Not really wanting to watch the news, I locked myself in the room.

So I really did kill those awful men. I spent most of the morning reliving the images from my dreams.

It felt… good. I lay down on the bed and looked up at the ceiling, thinking about how it felt to take the life out of each of them with the dagger in my hands.

“Sangeetha, I wish I could do this all the time. I wish you could come with me and we’d just kill all these degenerates. It feels so good.” I said softly to myself. Hoping she’d hear me, wherever she was.

Almost in response, I suddenly felt a wave of drowsiness come over me. Against my better instincts, I fell asleep.

I saw her on the beach, eagerly waiting for me like an excited puppy.

“Last one?” I asked, knowing the answer.

Her eyes shone a lustrous dark red. “Yes.”

I walked behind her as she walked into the sea.

She took me up to a building that looked like something from my complex. Same logo up front. It was the same block as ours – I recognised that lobby with the post-boxes.

We walked up the stairs until we reached the fourth floor. My heart started beating much faster.

We walked towards the door numbered 403. That’s my flat. We stopped outside my flat.

“What are we doing here?” I asked her as my voice faltered.

She said nothing and gave me the dagger instead. The door clicked open.

I didn’t want to go in.

She stepped around me and gave me a nudge.

I stumbled into the flat. She stood in the doorway as she had in all the other houses.

A blizzard of newspapers flew into my face. I took a few steps away from the doorway, just out of her reach. My right hand, with the dagger, was behind my back. I fought off the blizzard with my left hand. I was hoping someone else was at home, visiting us. Anyone.

There, at the dining table sat my father.

He looked at me. I looked at him with a mixture of revulsion and confusion.

I didn’t want it to be him.

“Is it you, Kavita?” he asked me.

“Yes, dad.”

“You know I’d never do anything…”

“I know, dad.” I stayed close to the doorway. I didn’t take a step closer.


“Did you?”

“Do you think I would?”

“They’re two different questions, dad.” I wiped away the tears that were building up with my free hand.

He got out of the chair and took a step towards me. Behind me, I heard Sangeetha hiss in contempt.

He took another step forward. I took a step back.

“You know you can trust me and not this girl, right?”

“Did you hurt her?” I looked from him to her and back to him.

He refused to say another word. He saw my pull the dagger out from behind me.

“What will this achieve?” he asked. “Who will this help?”

“Now is not the time to be concerned about karmic balance, dad.” I stood my ground.

“It will achieve nothing!”

At that point, Sangeetha howled loudly than anyone’s lungs could allow them to. The papers fell to the ground immediately in obeisance. She glared at the man inside the flat, her red eyes aflame.

“Do it, Kavita!” she yelled. “He resents nothing.”

I was torn. I didn’t know what to do.

“Do it!” she yelled again. Then she started howling again. A hollow resonating how with a piercing melancholy. I knew I had to finish it. But. Not this house!

I ran past her and towards flat 404. The door was open. I ran inside and closed the door behind me.

She started ramming her body against the door. The howling never relented. I could see the door cracking open. I stood away from it. I looked around me at the aquamarine coloured paint on the insider of the flat. I’d never noticed it before.

She finally managed to break the entire door down. But she couldn’t get into the house. I found this odd – it was her house after all.

“I’m sorry. I know I let you down.”

She didn’t stop howling.

“Kill me and take control of my hand if you must, but I can’t kill my father.”

No sooner had I uttered those words than I heard another voice, almost drowned out by the howling.

It was Sangeetha’s soft voice from somewhere inside the flat. It came to me like on a soft afternoon breeze.

“Kavita! Nooooo!”

The howling got louder and louder and I wished it would end. I saw the deep red eyes glowing back at me, matched in intensity by the howling.

I woke up, profusely sweating.

I looked at the watch on my left hand to see that the time was four in the evening. Great! I slept for two hours. I suddenly became aware of the weight of something in my right hand. It was the dagger, gleaming red jewel in the hilt and all.

How did it come here?! I was shocked. And a little afraid. “What had I gotten myself into?” I wondered.

I set the dagger on the study table to the left of my bed.

Why was there a second voice?

I spent the evening thinking about the dream and what it meant. And what I hoped it didn’t mean.

“Maybe I’m just stressed because of the whole case.” I thought to myself.

After spending some time thinking about the dream and its possible meaning, I was able to reason it out: I just dreamed that I saw all of that because I got used to seeing that format. After all, in the other cases, I was asleep at night when I killed them. And only four people were identified as being connected to the case. The newspapers were probably just some admonishment my mother had for my father’s habits of late that sunk into my head.

But there were five bouquets.

That was purely some coincidence. After all, I didn’t see the names on the flowers so maybe I was just tying the two up.

But she hadn’t lied to me until now.

I couldn’t work my way around that.

I was disturbed by the sound of a knock on my door. It was too early for dinner.

I quickly picked up the dagger and, not being able to find a place to hide it quickly enough, stashed it behind my back. “Coming!” I called out, buying some time.

Great. What do I do with the dagger?!

I ran into the bathroom, right next to the study table and kept the dagger inside the medicine cabinet above the wash basin.

There was another knock.

“Yep!” I called out and went towards the door. I took a deep breath to calm myself down.

It was my father, smiling. “Sorry to disturb you!” he said sheepishly. “Can I come in?”

“Of course!”

He came into my room and closed the door. Still reeling from the events of the dream, I regarded my father with a certain curiosity.

He pulled out a box that he had in his laptop bag.

“Your mother has been annoyed with my table etiquette, as you well know. I feel I need to make a statement to pacify her.”

I mumbled something incoherently to indicate that I guessed where this was going.

“So, I need you to tell me if you think if this gift will do the trick!”

He then opened up the box and proudly presented a necklace with matching earrings. An aquamarine set.

Aquamarine. Like the colour of the sea into which Sangeetha led her.

Aquamarine. Like the colour of Sangeetha’s flat.

Aquamarine. Like the necklace and earrings I saw on her in the first dream encounter.

Aquamarine. Like the necklace and earrings she wore almost everyday when she walked out of her flat.

The nausea rose in me. Suddenly I could hear her howling all over again. I couldn’t control it. She was right.

It was him.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, concerned.

I pushed my way past him and into the bathroom. The howling continued.

I looked at the mirror on the medicine cabinet and took a few deep breaths.

Then, as if on autopilot, I opened the medicine cabinet and pulled out the dagger. I closed the medicine cabinet. The howling didn’t stop but with the dagger in my hand, it seemed to be less jarring in my ears.

I looked at the jewel in the hilt.

It was as red as the eyes that looked back at me in the mirror.

“Are you okay, Kavita?” Karthik Kumar’s concerned voice came through the door.

“Yes, dad.” I heard her voice through the howling. Her voice. Coming from my throat. I was a spectator in my own head!

This obviously startled him and he opened the door and ran right into the bathroom and right into the dagger.

I felt my hands move, no longer my own, slicing through his torso with the dagger still dug in.

The blood seeped through, staining his shirt and falling onto the stainless blade. The blood trickled down the blade and into the hilt, as if it was fuelling the red jewel.

As the life drained from him, so to did the howling.

At last there was silence.

I looked up from my father’s body and there stood Sangeetha. Eyes back to their normal dark brown colour. She was wearing her necklace and earrings and smiling at me. I still felt like I was watching things happen around me.

“Thank you!” She said emphatically as she looked into my eyes.

With that, she was gone. That was the last I saw of her.

My father’s body disappeared from my bathroom floor as well. As did the dagger.

“How did-” I was puzzled. It was like I had suddenly woken up.

“You have done well,” said a voice that came from somewhere inside my head.


“We may call upon you later. For now, you have our thanks.”

“But my father?”

“Oh, he’s been dealt with.”

I wondered what that meant. I mean, it sounded rather ominous, but what could it possibly mean, really?

I sat down at the dining table waiting for dinner time. I asked mom where my father was. She said he’d come back early from the office earlier today because he wasn’t feeling well.

My mother fidgeted restlessly and finally sat across from me at the dinner. Her fingers tapped on the dining table rather loudly.

“Did he go to sleep?”

“Yes, darling. He went to sleep about half an hour ago. He should wake up now.”

Except I knew then that he wouldn’t.