Gone Astray: Chapter 5 – Remember

Uncle James’ doorbell seems to echo into the space of his house. It’s been about two minutes and he hasn’t answered the door yet. It’s been a couple of days since I’ve seen him and I thought I ought to make a visit. This’ll be the first time I’m going to his house after Keisha’s kidnapping.  He’d been such a huge help over the past couple of weeks, trying to raise my morale. The development was slow, but I think I’m able to hold it together now. But that’s not the only reason I’m here. The hallucinations still appear, the voices still speak, but I can get over it much quicker now, except for the one time when I saw Keisha in James’ window. That one vision keeps haunting me every morning and every night and I can’t get it out of my head even though it’s been a week. I need to talk to him about that too, to at least seek a little solace from the fact the she’s obviously not in his house. I sigh a little as I wait just a bit for a response, and ring the doorbell two more times.

Finally, an answer. I hear a latch unlock on the other side of the door and a second later it opens a crack. James’ face appears within the gap. I look down at my watch. It shows 9:46 AM. Clearly he wasn’t expecting anyone to come by his house at this time. His eyes are drooping and shaded by black circles. His mouth is in a distinct frown. His skin is pale, like as if it hasn’t felt the sun’s kiss in forever. It’s like he’s been working on something in that house day in and day out, non-stop. The fatigue his face shows is unbelievable. But the moment he recognises me, his face lights up a little and he opens the door, inviting me in with a tired smile. The interior of his house is so dark I can’t even see the opposite wall. I step in and Uncle James closes the door behind me. I manage my way into the hall, stumbling blindly across the junk-ridden floor. As my eyes adjust to the darkness, they manage to catch stray light permeating through the thick curtains. The whole place is filthy. A thin layer of dust covers everything except for his sofa and his dining table. This whole place is like a horror house for anyone with a dust allergy. James then asks me to sit on his couch as he drags a chair from the kitchen. I never thought a guy like Uncle James would maintain a house this badly.

We have a long conversation. He asks me how I’m coping with my emotions and he seems happy that I’m able to overcome them now. What a nice guy. As I gaze around the hall I’m in, my eyes glance over a door. After I think about it a bit, I realise that that is the room in which, in my vision, I had seen Keisha in. James notices me staring and tells me that that’s his bedroom. The conversation then turns towards Keisha, about how the police couldn’t find her still and that they are working tirelessly to find her. His concern for Keisha is astonishing. But his face still contorts awkwardly every time he says her name and I find it really weird. Before I know it an hour passes. Now we’re idly staring at the floor, not knowing what to talk about. My nose catches something off about the place. It’s a foul odour that’s really faint. But the more I focus on it the stronger it becomes. It’s like something you’d smell in a public bathroom. I notify James about the smell. At first he’s puzzled, he doesn’t seem to know what I’m talking about. Then he catches on and blames the plumbers who had apparently been here last month for not fixing the drains properly. Uncle James gets up from his chair and yawns softly. He offers to make tea and I politely accept. As he walks towards the kitchen I notice him limping. He’s hobbling pretty badly, I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed it earlier. But what could I have seen in the initial darkness? Concerned, I ask him why he’s limping. He merely lifts his shorts up and shows a huge bandage around his thigh. He says he doesn’t remember how he got it. Is such a severe injury something you can just forget about? I don’t persist any further. James disappears into the kitchen. Sitting on the sofa, I can’t help but look back at the bedroom door. I know it’s silly to think that my sister would be in there, but that hallucination was so powerful I can’t help but wonder. I hear Uncle James moving around the kitchen and decide to peek into his bedroom. As I get up and walk closer to the door, the foul smell keeps getting stronger and stronger. I ignore this and try turning the knob. It turns halfway before getting stuck. Locked, I think. But before I retreat I spot something by the foot of the door. It’s a crowbar covered in a sanguine shade of red. I bend over and observe it a bit more closely. It’s actually covered in a red liquid that’s dried out. And it looks a lot like…

The noises in the kitchen stop. I quickly resume my position on the sofa as James brings in the tea. That was a crowbar covered in blood. But I was scared to ask him about it. Could he have killed a rat with it? No, that was too much blood to come from some rodent, unless he smashed the hell out of it. So what could have caused it? I nervously drink my tea in silence. As I do so, my ears catch some vague noise. It sounds like whimpering. I point this out to Uncle James and we try pinpointing the source of the noise. It seems to be coming from the bedroom. He says he’ll look into it and tells my intrigued self to take it easy. He pulls a key out of his pocket and unlocks the door. He takes a peek inside and abruptly jumps back in astonishment. The emotion passes on to me too as I jump from my seat. What happened? As I approach him he quickly closes the door and locks it. After this he just walks to his chair and sits. I just stand in one place, dumbfounded. What was that noise? Why did he react like that? And what’s happened to him now? Something about him feels off now. His expression and his walk seem slightly different. I ask him about the noise. He simply responds saying it’s his new dog. As the whimpering continues, I wonder if I’ve ever seen his dog before. Do dogs whimper like that?

James looks at me for a while and asks if it’s time for me to leave. Huh? Even his speech differs slightly. Weird. Anyway, I thank him for the tea and he escorts me to the main door. He opens it and the light from outside blinds me for a second. Then my attention falls on something next to the door. I had missed it while entering because of the darkness, but now the sunlight reveals it in its entirety. There is a coat stand. There’s a beige coat on it and its right sleeve is stained red. Above it, at the apex of the stand, is a grey hat, and by the foot of it, a pair of black shoes. I know I’ve seen that apparel before… Before I realise it, I’m out of the house. James bids me goodbye and slams the door shut. I hadn’t even noticed him pushing me out. Where had I seen that attire before?

 

 

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Tejas Harirajan

Jack of a few trades, master of some. Loves League of Legends, beatboxing, basketball, Frisbee and writing stories.

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