Tag is the worst game to play in the woods and not only because of the wild habitants. The things hiding in the dark were the greater threat. I should have explained this to my sister that day.
On the last day of our stay in a rented cabin, Riya insisted on exploring the area. So, I had to take her for a walk.
“Reyansh, don’t go too far, okay?” Mom said. I nodded. Riya grabbed my finger as I led her out of the cabin.
The wind ran through the branches of the trees, making the leaves rustle in symphony. We walked along the gravel path as the floral scents wafted our way. The sun was slowly sinking below the horizon, and we had to go back before dark. I decided we only walk around the area from where our cabin would be visible. Riya had other plans. She released my finger and darted away.
“Riya, come back here!” I bawled.
She stopped. “You have to catch me first.”
When I ran towards her, she ran too. For an 8-year old, she was fast. “Riya, stop this moment!”
She did not listen and kept running and laughing. Just when I was getting closer to her, I tripped over a stick. Luckily, I did not get hurt. I stood up immediately and looked behind. The cabin was out of sight. I turned back and continued chasing Riya, who had finally come to a halt in front of an abandoned house.
I called her again but ignoring me, she went inside the house as if it was luring her. I had heard rumours about that place. People believed whatever you see in there could be a sneak peek into your future. That place was one of the reasons I came here. I sneaked out once or twice to look for it. Riya was not supposed to go in there.
“Riya!” I called and then followed her inside.
The lights were on, even though no one had lived there for ages. A cold breeze brushed my face, sending a chill down my spine. The entrance door slammed shut, making me jump out of my skin. I tried opening it but failed. My body trembled when I thought about Riya. I ran across the entire ground floor, calling her name, looking behind curtains, going through every room. She was still missing.
“Riyaaaa!” I cried as loud as I could. My voice echoed. And then I heard the echoes of her comical little chuckle reverberating around the house.
Shivering feverishly, I tiptoed up a staircase, hoping she was up there. Just halfway on the flight of stairs, I heard a sickening thud. A rush of fear washed over me. Following the sound, I darted upstairs.
I saw a door, ajar, and went through it, revealing a large room. And the next thing my eyes witnessed has been haunting me since. My 8-year-old sister was lying in a pool of blood.
“Nooooooooo.” I dashed towards her. But the lights went off before I could reach her. I bawled again. My head began to spin. I reached within myself, frantically scrounging for words to call for help. Closing my eyes, I tried to scream, but no sound escaped my mouth.
I don’t remember for how long I remained that way. When I opened my eyes, the lights were back on. Her body had disappeared.
I heard Riya’s giggle again. I turned around, and there she was, standing, hale and hearty. “I scared you.” She laughed. Her hand was on a light switch. I wrapped my arms around her. A tear trickled down my cheek and fell down on her fur coat. Another tear broke down. I did not want her to see me crying so I wiped it away. Then I pulled away, stood up, held her hand, and led her downstairs. She kept smiling and giggling all the time.
When we came down, the entrance door was open. Once outside, there was no looking back.
On our way back to the cabin, the only thing in her mind was that she pranked me. And the only thing running in my mind was the rumour.
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