Monday, June 12, 2017

कुंडली

The procession of robed and blindfolded men moved in the darkness of the night, grasping each other’s shoulders like a long centipede of humanity crawling through a path of gravel in the forest. They were surrounded by trees, serenaded by nocturnal wildlife, and led by a torch-bearing man who was the only one without a blindfold for obvious reasons.

Aaron was one of the men who joined this midnight trip. He did his best not to stumble as they traversed the nether trail, feeling his hands quiver as he grasped the shoulders of the person in front of him. The same also happened to the hands that clutched his shoulders. Fear made their limbs tremble as there was not even a single chilly breeze in the air.

Just like the rest of the blindfolded people here, Aaron was an enthusiast of everything horror. Frightening movies and heart attack-inducing screamer videos gave him a rush that was akin to a mind-numbing orgasm. He was always on the hunt for the next thrill of a heart-stopping fright, so when he came upon an online ad that promised the “ultimate scare”, Aaron didn’t hesitate to sign up.

He and a dozen fellow aficionados met in an abandoned warehouse where a trio of bald men in business suits gave them the robes. They were then made to wait until midnight before they began the trek through the wilderness.

Their march abruptly stopped. Aaron felt the gentle wisps of wind rustle his robe. The torchbearer ordered them to remove their blindfolds.

Aaron rubbed his eyes after removing the cloth that covered it for almost an hour. They stood in a clearing in the middle of the forest, with dead leaves on the ground illuminated by moonlight. At the center stood a trio of square stone blocks. The torchbearer knelt next to it and pressed something on its base, causing a small part of the earth around the blocks to sink, revealing a spiral staircase made of stone.

The group followed the torchbearer as they descended into the passage, into a short earthen tunnel, and into a huge round chamber carved out of the earth and illuminated by a string of wall-mounted torches. They stopped at what appeared to be the edge of a depression on the ground that sloped to the center, making it look like a small asteroid crater. A glacial chill crawled down Aaron’s spine and it made his heart pump in excitement towards the impending scare, much like how a child looked forward to a Christmas present.

Silence filled the air once the footsteps stopped and the participants were at the edge of the depression. But a strange muffled noise became audible, like the distant whimpering of a trapped animal.

The torchbearer stood on the side and spoke, “We are gathered here tonight to celebrate our fascination towards what others find terrifying. We are a unique kind of people, yes, and we deserve only the best when it comes to the things that excite us.”

Aaron’s vision adjusted to the darkness and what he saw made every hair on his being stand.

Dark thin oval shapes formed a spiral on the sloped depression at the center of the chamber. They were chained to the earth perhaps to prevent them from rolling off. At the core was a stone pedestal riddled with carvings of tentacles, and on it sat an orb as black as night. Aaron saw something swirl inside the orb, or maybe the dim lighting was just playing tricks on his eyes? He heard the others gasp as they saw the bizarre display.

Aaron noticed one of the oval shapes was positioned near where he stood. He crouched to take a closer look at it as the whimpering sounds became much louder. He had to squint his eyes to see the shape properly.

Until it squirmed. Aaron bolted upright as the shape wriggled on the chains that grasped it. His ears picked up a faint yet familiar sound out of the sniveling that echoed throughout the chamber.

“Help.”

“Help me please.”

The reality of the situation sank in and, for the first time, it brought with it a kind of terror that Aaron did not find enjoyable. This was the kind of horror that he didn’t want to see, that he didn’t want to experience.

“The horror that plagues our media nowadays are nothing but child’s play, an insult to what brought fear to our ancestors hundreds of years ago. Ghosts? Killer clowns? Psycho nurses? Zombies? Bah, they’re but feeble imitations of the true art of terror,” the torchbearer’s voice drowned out the chorus of groans and whines that became clearly audible.

The other participants realized what the shapes were, and three of them bolted out of the chamber.

Three gunshots echoed afterwards.

The torchbearer moved towards the nearest oval shape and sank a curved dagger into it, causing a trickle of blood to flow towards the pedestal. He then cast a glance straight at Aaron and said, “You claim to find satisfaction in fear. Now’s your chance to fulfill your ultimate wish: to witness the pure heart of dread that lurked in the minds of our cave-dwelling ancestors during the ancient times.”

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