Darkness had descended. The street seemed haunted. There was no soul in the vicinity, except one, Rishabh. He was a psychology student, outwardly things did not scare him, things inside one’s mind did. It was past midnight and he was walking briskly towards his accommodation from the bus stop.
The secluded street was devoid of any street lamps. Crescent moon and the coy stars were generous enough to slightly illuminate the surroundings. The knee-length waving grass on either side of the pot-holed road exuded a constant buzz. Rishabh was well versed with this route; nothing seemed awry to him, except the sound of the footsteps.
He had experienced it once or twice earlier, but never in the past two months. He wondered why have they returned, or did they ever leave him? Every time he kept his foot on the ground, he could hear an extra one from behind. That was accompanied by a shuffle in the adjoining grass. A chill went down his spine once but then, science took over. He wasn’t weak hearted; he was unfazed, only till a point when he felt warm breathe on his neck.
His first reaction was to turn back, but he defended it, took a step ahead. With wide eyes, dripping sweat and panicking legs, Rishabh’s walking speed increased, and so did the footsteps. His mind started projecting scenarios, and the heart was pounding. Rishabh was about to run but he did the unthinkable, he stopped and turned.
He turned to see a priest wearing the whitest of the robes and holding a three-feet wooden cross in his hand. His fair face was blood-red, drops of which stood out on his outfit. Rishabh was stunned looking at the figure. The grass beside the road continued to shuffle.
The priest offered the cross to Rishabh, he held it as if he was meant to. Their eyes met and the stare did not break for minutes. Rishabh’s jaw was held firmly by the priest as he continued to stare at him, alas he stepped back. Rishabh was helpless, he was no longer thinking, or thinking right. The priest opened his arms, mumbled few hymns and Rishabh stared and stared and stared blankly.
Magically, the ghastly figure conjured a miniscule transparent bottle with a silver liquid in it. As he opened the bottle’s lid, a scent emerged from it that seduced Rishabh’s senses, whatever was left of them. The priest, still mumbling the hymns, held out the bottle to Rishabh and ordered him to drink it.
The student obliged his master and was about to reach out to it. The wooden cross in is hands was taken back by its original holder and the bottle was about to exchange hands. This time, the grass did not just move, it did not just shuffle, it did not just make a buzzing noise as it did everytime Rishabh walked this street, a hound pounced from it. Darker than the night itself, the hound did not allow Rishabh to touch the bottle, and pushed the priest down. His mumbling had stopped, Rishabh was still dazed!
The hound growled and his big sharp teeth looked ominous. He was a healthy canine. The priest was the one who was sweating now. The blood-like liquid started fading away from his face. The mumbles gave way for bated breaths. His bluff was caught. The priest crawled backwards, turned and was about to run when a pound of flesh was snatched from his calf by the dog.
The hound would’ve chased him but he was more concerned about Rishabh, afterall Rishabh had protected him once, rescued him from coming underneath a truck. He had fed him, played with him, maybe for a while but he had loved him, at least the hound thought so. Years had passed, Rishabh forgot about the incident but the hound remembered, and ever since, the hound watched over his protector.
Next day, the local newspaper headlines read: Villagers beat-up fake priest, thug practicing hypnosis and looting pedestrians exposed!
About the author
Yash Pawaskar is a traveller, author, movie buff, music lover, photography enthusiast and a cricket fanatic. When he is not busy protecting Gotham or wandering at Hogwarts, he plays God to the universe and characters created by him in his stories.