Homecoming | Cheryl Rynjah Beyond the Panorama November 10, 2021

Homecoming | Cheryl Rynjah

There’s a reason this house is so cheap

We just couldn’t stay with my mother any longer. She was irritating Avinash to no end and the house was just too small. We’ve been in Shillong for over a month now, Avinash wasn’t too keen on staying here but what happened in Bangalore just erased any love I had for the place. I told him he could stay in Bangalore, that he didn’t need to come with me, but he wouldn’t hear of it and said he could work remotely. So here we are standing in the living room of the eighth house we’ve seen this week just so we could get away from my mother.

“There’s running water and the property stretches behind to a good 3000sqft.” The lady in the orange jaiñsem is talking and he is listening intently. I am distracted, I have been very distracted ever since we entered this house. “It’s so familiar,” I say more to myself, but she hears me.

“Hmm,” she walks over to me, “Were you here when it was constructed? It must have been 10-11 years ago. You would have heard about what happened, it was the talk of the town for a while.” My mind goes back to ten years ago, I would have been seventeen, a very rebellious seventeen-year-old. Just starting my eleven classes and believing I was amazing for securing a spot at a prestigious school with a boyfriend who was the envy of every girl my age. “Well in any case… I should let you know about what happened here,” she goes on.

Slowly the fog of uncertainty rose and a memory that I had repressed years ago reared its ugly head.

“What happened here?” Avinash asks out of genuine curiosity. “Well,” the lady says as she rearranges her jaiñsem to sit down, “Someone died here during the construction. Suicide, so sad, she was just seventeen.”

“Okay, but that doesn’t explain why no one has lived here in a while,” Avinash looks at me but my mind is elsewhere.

She opened her eyes wide at this, “How did you know?”

“It’s obvious, everything is covered in dust, and it has that musty smell places get when no one has lived there in a while.”

I am lost and quietly staring at the wall as I am beginning to remember what happened here.

“Becks, come here,” he pulls me gingerly into his arms and I bury my head in his chest. The lady in the orange jaiñsem is clearly uncomfortable with this display of affection so she clears her throat to make it known. “Well…. about the living situation……several families have complained of… uh…things happening.”

“What things,” he has one arm around my waist keeping me close.

“Things moving, unexplained noises, hearing voices…. silly, of course….”

“Are you telling me that these people thought the house was haunted?” he cannot stop himself from giggling and looks at me for reassurance, but I have gone pale. “Oi…. Ghosts aren’t real.”

“I know, but still, someone died here,” I say softly.

“Yes, ten years ago.”

I turn my head around taking in the house, it’s different albeit the last time I saw it was ten years ago when it was still under construction. “Ghosts aren’t real.” I say to myself.

“Well……other than the fact that it’s haunted it is perfect. It is just within our budget. We will not get another offer like this,” he is taken by the house, it is so obvious.

“Yes, you’re right,” I say, “It’s big enough. We can each have an office and it is far away enough from my mother.” I pause and take a long breath before blurting out, “We should take it.”

This house has a history with me, but we have looked at so many houses this last week and they were all way over budget, we have certain needs with the property and this one meets all of them. I must remember there is a reason this house is so cheap, and it has somehow worked in our favour.

It was this window

We moved in all our things within a week. My mother was not at all pleased with the fact that we bought a house and that we were going to stay together unmarried. “You two have been together for five years, just go to the court if you don’t want a fancy wedding, at least get a marriage certificate!” she said as she threw my clothes into a box. “Ma I already told you, we don’t believe in marriage. We are just as devoted and committed as any other married couple.”

“What will I tell my friends?”

“You will tell them that your daughter is happy, and I am, I am very happy.”

She cursed under her breath while stuffing the clothes in. “Will I get grandchildren?”

“Time will tell,” I say suppressing a smile because I know what her reaction will be.

“Hooid, you two live together in sin but give me grandchildren out of this. I want to hold your baby Rebecca and spoil your baby.”

“Yes Ma,” I say as I give her a hug.

“Stupid girl, running away from me again,” my mother is holding back tears as she speaks.

“I’m not running away from you. I am literally just fifteen minutes away. You know I can’t stay here Ma. It’s already crowded with Duh and her family. Avinash has no place to work here and you,” I say playfully jabbing her, “keep bugging us to get married.”

“Ok fine, just have the baby and bring it here; you two go, live your life,” I start laughing at this.

“I love you Ma.”

“Hmmm..yes..yes,” she replies. Affection was never her strong suit.

At the house Avinash has got a lot done. He’s hired cleaners and movers and gardeners and anyone else he could think of to make this house more of a home. The first floor is full of people, the living room came with all the furniture in it and the cleaners are busy buffing and wiping things down. The living room opens into a formal dining area which is connected to the kitchen, pantry, and laundry room. I’m on my way upstairs carrying a big box full of office supplies. At the top of the stairs to my left are three room and two rooms to my right. The rooms on the left have been designated for our offices and a closet. The master bedroom is on the right and next to it is a room we left free in case of guests or maybe children. I try the first door on the left and it is unlocked. This is supposed to be his office. He’s already got his workstation ready and decorated the shelves with his stuff, a few pictures of us, a row of action figures and a few books. I keep the box on the floor and head over to the next room which should be my office.

Inside I can see he has put up my bookshelf with all the books our friends sent over from Bangalore. My desk has my laptop on it with a huge stack of papers next to it. The room feels cold, and I can see that the window is open. The windows on the second floor have no bars on them which is strange considering what happened here. I walk over to the window and look outside. The property stretches another 20 feet from here, but we have no neighbours. At least not on this side of the house. It is rather quiet, and the sun is just starting its descent behind the hills.

Standing here now, alone, and away from the hustle and bustle downstairs my thoughts go back to the incident at Bangalore. I suddenly feel flushed and panicked. We need bars on all these windows.

As I am standing here watching the sun set, I cannot shake this sense of déjà vu. I’ve done this before, standing here. Was it this window? The memory of what happened here years ago is getting clearer and clearer with each passing day. The laughter, the alcohol, the blood, the crying, and the lies. So many lies. I cannot believe I am in this house again. With the sun finally behind the hills the cold bites through my skin. I close the windows, lock them, and draw the curtains.

She didn’t jump

“Get off me……………………….”

I’m awake and covered in sweat. I must have been dreaming. Next to me, Avinash is sleeping peacefully. He’s such a heavy sleeper, an earthquake couldn’t wake him. I turn to look at the alarm clock – 4:15AM, damn it’s early but I can’t go back to sleep now. I get out of bed and think about making myself a hot cup of tea. On my way downstairs I notice the door to my office is open. Strange, I swore I closed it last night. I step inside and have a look. Nothing has been moved from yesterday. Maybe I’m mistaken then, I might have left it open. I’m about to close the door when I feel it. A cool breeze travelling up my arm, from the corner of my eye I see the curtain moving with the wind. The room is dark, and I cannot make out if the window is open or closed. I walk up to the window and draw the curtains back. They’re open. I quickly latch the windows shut. I closed these windows yesterday; I know I did. My heart is thumping in my chest. No, no, no…….is it happening again. I run back to my bedroom and shake Avinash awake.

“Oi, oi, what happened?”

“The window, the window, did you open it?” My voice feels stuck and I’m starting to cry. “Did you?”

Now he’s fully awake, “What window?”

“The window in my office, it’s…. open. Go check. Please.”

He gets up hurriedly and makes his way to the office. I can hear him walking around, opening, and closing the windows again. I’m in bed now pulling the covers around me as tears stain my cheeks. I can hear his footsteps as he closes the office door and comes back to the bedroom.

“Did you have a bad dream again?” he’s getting in bed and pulling me close.

“I think. I don’t know, I don’t remember,” I push my face into the pillow trying to make my voice sound calm.

“Maybe,” he says gently pressing his arms around my chest, “maybe it’s time you see a professional. We’ve never really talked about what happened.”

“No.” My body stiffens, and I sit up straight. “I don’t need to talk to anyone. I will deal with it myself.”

I hear him sigh audibly, he’s tired. “You were assaulted Becks, that is not something that you can just deal with yourself. You need to talk to someone about what happened.”

At this I get off the bed. “Becks listen,” he’s calling for me as I’m about to leave the room, “Just try, please.” I know he means well but I do not want to revisit what happened that night. I want to just forget about it and go on with my life. I was able to do it ten years ago, something bad happened and I forgot about it, I didn’t let it affect me. I just need to get bars on the windows and double locks for the doors. I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.

Ghosts aren’t real

The morning went by in a blur, Avinash had errands to run, and I would usually go with him but after the whole window fiasco I decided to stay home and catch up on some work. I opened my laptop and was immediately greeted by an avalanche of messages from work. The first few were the standard ‘take care of yourself’ but it soon changed pace, and a few were details on some upcoming projects. I was just starting to type out responses when I saw the curtain move. My body froze and a terror rose in me. It’s the middle of the day. I am fine. I leaned back taking a long look at the window. Still closed, it must have been the wind. The combination of the lack of sleep and constant nightmares has started making me hallucinate. Get a grip.

I didn’t realise how quiet the house was until I had stopped typing. Avinash would still be a few hours. I suddenly felt very alone. I stood up and locked the door to my office and checked the window once again. I threw open the curtains and let the sunshine in. It still didn’t feel right.

It was so quiet I could hear myself breathing. Calm down! It’s fine, I am fine. It feels like that day. I need some noise. I open the browser on the laptop and start playing some music. I listen to one song and then another and then another, by the fifth song I realise I wasn’t really listening to it at all. My eyes kept going to the window. Did it move? I saw something!

“……..crrrrrrr……” the sound makes me jump out of my chair. I immediately close the laptop and listen again. Something is in the house. I know I heard something move. I’m flushing and panting; I feel a tightness in my chest and I’m shivering.

“………..crrrrrrr………” Again. That was inside the house, but I am stuck where I am standing. What can I do? Should I just run out and confront whoever it was? No. no. no. It’s happening again. I want to cry but if I do would they hear me? I walk over to the door and put my ear next to it. It is eerily quiet now. What should I do? Pressing my face against the door I feel something wet on my cheeks, I put my hand to my face and realise it is me, that somehow while all this was going on I started crying. I wipe at my face hard.

I can’t stay in here. I need to know what’s going on. I open the door gingerly and take very light steps. The whole house is illuminated by daylight. Could anyone be so bold as to try to enter an occupied house in the middle of the day? Maybe thieves were desperate here. I stretch my neck as far as it would go down the hall keeping one foot firmly in the room. Nothing.

I come out and start looking up and down. The front door is closed. I slowly make my way downstairs, there’s another door in the kitchen that leads outside, also there are knives in the kitchen.

I’m halfway there when I hear it again “……crrrrrrrrr……..” That sound, its coming from… I look up and I see the door to my office is open wider than I had left it. I rush up the stairs. I don’t know why. What was I going to do?

At the top I jump into the office and frantically look around. Nothing. There is no one here. Am I losing my mind?

“Hi, I’m back.” I can hear Avinash calling from downstairs.

“Up here.”

“Oi, what are you doing?” He asks as he steps into my office.

“Oh, nothing. Just working,” I’m back at my desk with the laptop open. I smile warmly at him as if nothing is amiss.

“That’s great Becks,” he plants a kiss and my forehead and turns to leave. As he’s walking, he stops by the window and draws the curtains open. “Need some light in here.”

I don’t remember closing the curtains when I left the room.

There’s someone in my house

“Should we talk about your dream last night?” The tea leaves just hit the water and it was turning into a beautiful red colour, the cups were laid out and Avinash was busying himself with the sugar. “Well?” he asked.

“I don’t know if there’s anything to talk about,” I say as I lift the kettle off the stove and get ready to pour.

“Becks you haven’t had a good night’s sleep ever since what happened. You refuse to see a therapist and you haven’t even told your mother.”

“My mother has nothing to add to this,” I say irritated.

“You tell her everything and maybe talking to her could help you.”

“How would it help?” I say putting the kettle down. I turn to Avinash and he looks scared. “How? Tell me. Should I just go up to her and say ‘Yes, Ma, I came back from Bangalore because I couldn’t stay there anymore. Because a man broke into my house and assaulted me. That I thought he was going to kill me. That the only reason I’m here is because Avinash got off work early and walked in on me getting beat to an inch of my life’. Yes, Avi I’m sure my mother would love to hear that!”

“No,” he is by my side instantly, pulling me into his arms. “No, no. You don’t need to say anything, but don’t you think you should?”

“Why? It won’t change the fact that somehow someone managed to get into our apartment. God, I feel like it could happen here!”

I’m crying now. “It won’t happen here.”

“Avi we had a security guard and it happened there. What could stop it from happening here?”

“I won’t let it, ok,” he lifted my chin up so my face would meet his, “I won’t.”

I want to tell you what happened today, but you will just think I’m paranoid.

I nod my head, “Tea’s getting cold.”

It’s 3AM and he’s fast asleep. I’m staring at the ceiling. When I try to sleep, I start thinking about everything that’s happened. Avinash is right, I haven’t had a decent night of sleep ever since then. I’m barely functioning in the daytime.

Is this karma? Is this punishment for what happened in this house? Nothing in my life has gone right ever since that day.

I push these thoughts away, it was ten years ago, I was just a child, we were just children, mistakes happen.

You could have told someone. You didn’t tell anyone.

I sit up in bed and take out my phone, maybe a little mindless scrolling will help me put my mind at ease. I go from watching videos to typing in her name in the search bar. The search results greet me with articles on her death. Scrolling down I find one article that goes into more details of her life and the tremendous loss suffered by the community.

“Gifted Student Falls to Death”

……………early hours of the morning her body was discovered by joggers………………..took part in many national seminars……………..possible suicide………….awaiting further details

Phila I’m so sorry.

“…………..crrrrrrrrrrrrrr…………” it’s the same noise. Someone is in the house. I hop out of bed without thinking and run to the source of the sound. It’s coming from the kitchen. I run downstairs quickly turning on all the lights as I do. Inside the kitchen I grab a knife from the counter and start looking. “…………..crrrrrrrrrrrrr…………” there it is again. It’s coming from upstairs now. Whoever it is, they are not getting away so easily now.

I make my way upstairs. The door to my office is open again. I grip the knife tightly in my right hand and turn the lights on. Empty. I look everywhere frantically. They couldn’t have hidden themselves that well. Then it hit me, the window. I throw the curtains open and look out, but I can’t see a thing, it’s too dark. Flashlight, I need a flashlight. I fish my phone out of my pocket and try to get the flashlight on, but I am shivering so much I can hardly get it to open. Just then I feel a hand on my shoulder, and I scream. I turn immediately raising the knife poised to kill. Before I could bring it down though I saw who it was that touched me.

“What the hell?!”

“Avinash I almost stabbed you!” I scream.

“What are you doing with that knife?” he is pale and scared.

“I….I… heard a noise.”

“Why didn’t you wake me?” he asks taking the knife from my hand.

“You wouldn’t believe me,” I say softly.

“What? Why? What’s going on? Is it this damn window again?”

“I heard a noise in the house…in the daytime but no one was there…but I swear I heard a noise, and it was coming from inside the house…I know it was. Then just now too, noise. My office door,” I said pointing to the door, “wide open. The window keeps opening and closing but I’m not opening and closing it.” Avinash looks at me like I’ve lost my mind.

“There is no one in this house except us,” he says, “I know you are still traumatised from what happened, but you have to believe me no one is in this house.”

“No,” I say pushing him away, “This has nothing to do with what happened in Bangalore. There is something in this house. You have to believe me.”

“Is this because of what that lady said? Ghosts aren’t real, you know that.”

“Em, em, em, em, it’s not that. I know this house, I know, I know…” I’m crying now.

“What do you mean you know this house?” Avinash is looking at me strangely.

I compose myself as best as I can and say, “I mean, I know the girl who died here, I knew her.”

Avinash sits on the floor and puts his head in his hands, “Why didn’t you say anything? We wouldn’t have taken the house.”

“That’s why I didn’t say anything. This house is perfect,” I can see from the way he’s looking at me that he doesn’t believe me, I don’t believe me right now.

“You know it’s a little messed up that you didn’t tell me this before, right? I would have liked to know. This would explain why you’ve been acting so strange ever since we took the place. There’s some unresolved shit here and you’re not telling me.”

The window.

Suddenly I’m up and I’ve got the flashlight on. I throw open the windows and look around. I can hear Avinash getting off the floor and walking away.

Next time I’ll be prepared. Next time I’ll catch her.

I’m Sorry, I Didn’t Tell

It’s a been a week of quiet in the house. I haven’t let my guard down though. Avinash looks at me like I’m losing my mind. I’ve been marking potential areas for attack in the house and sleeping with the knife under my pillow. He’s been asking me to see a therapist, but I am coping fine and once I catch her and show her to Avinash then he’ll have to believe me. It’s been so quiet in the house that I haven’t been able to sleep. Everytime I close my eyes I see her. Everytime I close my eyes I see him. Or maybe I don’t see anyone. I don’t remember anymore. He attacked me. Did I attack her?

Why are you in my head? It’s been ten years!

Avinash has started taking anti-anxiety medication. Why he is so anxious I don’t understand.

“You need to see someone!” We are getting ready for bed and out of nowhere he starts talking.

“That’s the most I’ve heard from you in a while,” I reply.

“This isn’t normal. You don’t sleep and don’t think I haven’t noticed the knife under your pillow. You either book an appointment or I’m leaving.”

“What?” I turn to him. Is he serious?

“Please,” his voice is hoarse and tired, “I don’t know what else to do. I love you but I can’t live like this.” He pops in his medication, settles in bed, and turns off the light. I’m still standing stunned by his ultimatum. Then leave.

“…….crrrrrrrrr…………” My eyes dart open. I knew it. You couldn’t stay away. Just like you couldn’t stay away from my boyfriend back then. You just had to be better than me at everything.

My hands search for the knife. I’m out of bed but this time I don’t turn on any lights. I’m going to catch you this time. I’m going to make you leave us alone. I was a child when it happened. You were the one who wanted to come here in the dead of night. You were the one who wanted to drink. You bought the damn alcohol! I told you I didn’t want to. You were the one who started the fight.

I make my way slowly downstairs careful not to make much noise. You just went on and on about this guy you were seeing. It was my guy. You thought I was an idiot that I didn’t know what you’ve been telling people about me. Then you had to rub my face in the fact that you were selected, once again, to represent the state. Everyone thinks you’re so perfect, but I knew the real you. What a friend you were! You made me feel like shit. Like dirt, no, dirt was too good for me. Why? Why?

“Why!” the word was out of my mouth before I could stop it.

Then I heard it, the unmistakable sound of feet running up the stairs. I knew exactly where it was going. I gripped the handle tighter and ran up. The door to my office was open and I bounded in without turning on the lights. I ran straight for the window. I saw a figure behind the curtain frantically trying the windows. This time you’ll stay dead! I raised the knife, and a frenzy took over. Again, and again, and again, the knife went in and out, finding flesh and exiting, dark sticky liquid oozed out of the orifices, it was everywhere. I got down on my knees and continued. Again, and again and again. The dark sticky liquid, it was all over me. Finally, some peace. Finally, leave me alone.

I didn’t mean to push you out the window. You wouldn’t stop. I needed to make you stop. I watched you fall out. I stayed till your body stopped moving and then I went home. You were dead. You are dead. Stay dead! Stay Dead! STAY DEAD!

I woke up late, I shouldn’t have taken two pills last night, but I was so stressed and needed the sleep. I turn in bed and she’s not there. Her side doesn’t even look slept in.

“Becks, Becks!” I call out. I’m out of bed and looking for her.

She isn’t in the kitchen. That’s strange. I look up and notice her office door is open. Maybe she’s finally getting back to work. Maybe this time she will see the therapist.

I make her favourite tea and take it upstairs as a surprise. We’ll have a proper discussion today. I love her and I will do whatever I can to help.

“Becks, honey,” I call out from the hall.

Inside I am greeted by a body slumped over by the open window. Blood everywhere. The knife that she keeps under her pillow next to it. I am shaking. No. No. No. It’s her. It’s my Becks. What did she do?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: