An unprecedented terror had seized the city. Speculations of emergence of a new dark cult was doing rounds. The ongoing mystery disappearances had got people lock themselves up in their homes. I had recently returned to practice after the tragic accident that almost made me succumb to darkness. With so many cases of people disappearing everyday, it was grimmer than ever. The officials suspected it to be a psycho play but the locals had surmised the presence of an external force. There were absolutely no traces of people that went missing. There was no origin to begin with. No lead to follow. No direction to proceed and absolutely zero sign of the culprit. Never in my fifty year long life had I imagined myself to be a part of such gut wrenching nightmare.
I was working for a local research firm when I nearly lost my eyes in a chemical explosion. It took me around nine months to find a suitable donor. It was one of the most difficult times for me and my husband. After I recovered, I started working from home as a counsellor but as soon as the number of my clients increased, we moved out from our countryside ancestral home to an apartment feasible for my job. But we made sure to spend our weekends in our own house.
Amid the unusual mishaps when most people sought out internet or telephonic assistance, a client named Clara kept on paying frequent visits. She told me she knew something about the things happening around the city and made me promise her that I'd keep it a secret. There was something about her demeanor that irked me. She, in my opinion, had some pretty traumatic past experiences that caused her all the instability. But eventually it became difficult for me to comprehend her entirely. During our first meeting, she paid me a hefty amount to stay in the city for her. All she wanted me to do was to be an ear to her confessions. What I felt was, she badly needed a listener. It often happened with people driven by strong emotions who kept their ordeals burried in deepest graves. Clara was in her late thirties. She didn't blink as much as an average human did. Every time she spoke, her ferocious brown eyes would gawk at mine. The first day she told me about her family; her husband Jacob and her four year old daughter Luna. The session wrapped up in a nick of time and she fixed her next appointment on Monday. I spent the weekend at my old house and that night I couldn't sleep due to some musky smell filling the atmosphere making it unbearable for us to breathe.
The following Monday Clara showed up at the prescribed time. The talk between us that day was pretty intense. She told me she knew who was behind all the kidnapping and murders.
"Murders?", I exclaimed petrified.
She wide opened her brown bloodshot eyes and smirked. "Yeah. But you know, the one who watches and approves everything is at a higher degree of charge.", she cited calmly.
"Who are you talking about?" I asked hesitantly.
"He is not a human. He is a force beyond our reach and understanding", she said looking at her watch.
"I must leave now, Luna must be waiting" she said and left after handing me a cheque with an insanely huge amount of money for my fee. Our next appointment was scheduled to be on Wednesday. I didn't know what to feel about the situation. It was a source of easy money without having to do much. Clara was a maniac who just needed sympathy. Contrary to the bright side, missing cases of mostly children were increasing rapidly along with ridiculous news items like graves being dug and dead bodies being stolen was soaring like a wildfire.
The following Wednesday, she sobbed in my shoulder. Upon being questioned repeatedly, Clara told me that she wasn't fond of the idea of leaving Luna with her father. I asked her if there was a particular reason behind it. She quivered and spoke one word at a time - "Jacob is a very religious man. Although his ways are a bit too harsh sometimes, I know he always wants the best for us. He has sworn to never commit a sin and expects the same from us. He is a man of extreme ideologies. He is so pure that I often see heaven in his eyes." What I could fathom from her words was that Clara was a rebel and not the type who followed strict rules. It was clear from her habit of never wearing a wedding ring. Looking at her doe like pitiful eyes, I asked her to bring Luna with her the next time she visited me. She nodded. That day along with my fee, she handed me a family photo. I looked at the old photograph and remembered my own children studying abroad.
That night after supper, I showed the picture to my husband. His response hit me like a streak of lightening that fell directly on me - "It's Jacob, your donor. Where did you find it?" I felt numb realising it's that Jacob. He had passed away nine months ago. I disclosed everything in front of my husband and then he pointed out at the obvious - the picture was taken some five years ago. The child in the photograph must have been four or five at that time. A shiver ran down my spine.
Next day rolled by and I was expecting Clara at my chamber with a recorder and CCTV camera installed to fetch all the evidence. I had slowly begun to believe that she was behind all the kidnapping and murders. But she didn't show up. I was both relieved and scared at the same time. My husband proposed we should spend some days at our old house, away from all the mess and I couldn't agree more. By the time we reached, the rotten smell was all over the place. It was suffocating us. We didn't know where it was coming from.
It must have been quarter to eleven at night when the door bell rang. It was an odd time to receive a visitor. I rushed down only to find Clara standing at my doorway, holding a suitcase, smiling at me. At that moment, I completely lost my mind. I started shouting at her like a psycho myself and didn't calm down untill my husband comforted me. The very next moment, my husband and I were seated in our couch with Clara lurking down at us like a vulture waiting for its prey to die.
"Here's my daughter Luna", she said and unzipped her suitcase. We were at the edge of our seats, oblivious, preparing ourselves to witness the worst. A decaying carcass of a human child or more specifically a heap of bones with a lump of rotten fresh dangling here and there lay in front of our eyes in our living room. With tears in her eyes, Clara explained how her daughter passed away in a road accident when her father was teaching her how to cross the road. Jocob labelled it an accident. Just an accident. He could never commit a sin afterall. Whatever that followed was no less than a nightmare. She told how notoriously wild she grew after the incident. Starting from digging graves to stocking dead bodies in their own home, Clara didn't leave a single stone unturned to prove it to Jacob that the one who lives in filth is a filth himself. Many things happened in front of his eyes that he could neither prevent nor control. With every crime she committed, she spent a great deal of time looking at Jacob's eyes as if they're a portal to heaven, washing away all her sins. Unfortunately, hours before his death, Jacob planned to donate his eyes and my husband bought them for me.
"But why all the murders" I questioned in a timid voice.
"Self expression"- she said - "I had to break free from the naive harmless image that I had while I was with Jacob. Killing people and watching them scared for life gave me a sense of superiority."
"What do you want from us?" My husband enquired.
"To take care of my Luna", she said slyly. Comprehending our confused looks, she added - "I have a deal. You take care of my Luna and other dead bodies rotting at your attic or I'll commit suicide with a claim that you both are responsible for my death and all the other deaths & that you extorted money from me in lieu of my life. Your bank statements will definitely support those claims with those bodies in your beautiful bungalow serving as a cherry on the top. I'm selling away my house so from now on you'll take care of my baby. I'll visit time to time." My husband and I fell on our knees, helpless. He had no other option.
After four months of living with corpses lying in our attic and a special one in our guest room, we have learnt enough about dead and how to keep them fresh without them stinking. This particular episode made me a lot wiser. It taught me that nothing comes easy, sometimes the best things come at the price of someone's peace and someone's death. However, I still wake up in the middle of night fearing Clara walking on to us from the guest room crying- "I see heaven in your eyes."
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