My car sputtered and coughed ; I cursed and prayed. Not again! The last time this had happened, I was stranded for hours before my engine could cool down enough to start again. I looked around as a thick arid smoke began to emanate from my bonnet. I was in a strange little town. I hadn’t even bothered to check out its name and it didn’t show anywhere on my map. Must be too insignificant, I guessed. It seemed to be a primitive little place, as far from the modern city life as it could get. The houses or hovels more like, were tiny and seemed quite identical, probably consisting of a room or two. There were torch holders set into the mud walls and the thatched roofs were in workable condition. Whoever lived here probably rarely ever saw a car. Good goddamn mess I’d gotten into.

I got out and looked around for someone to talk to. But it being the wee hours of the morning, I figured the place was deserted because everyone was asleep. I walked around a bit and decided to wait a while for someone to show up. Meanwhile I left the bonnet of my car open so it could cool off, I also made a mental note to keep my eyes open for a well. Cool water would do wonders. The day drew on, and I was down five smokes, my patience was wearing dangerously thin. Besides, the sweltering heat made it all the more unbearable to just stand there and wait. I tried starting up my car a few times but it just wouldn’t. I figured, fuck it and decided to knock on the door closest to where my car had broken down.

The door was solid wood, I could feel it under my knuckles as I knocked on it. The lock on it was one of the inset ones that requires a big metal key. The rest of the structure wasn’t as flimsy as it had seemed from afar either. There was a smell of cow dung and something acidic in the air, probably cat piss. I lit up another cigarette to mask the odor and knocked again. And again. No reply. I tried calling out but to no avail. I looked around to make sure none of the other houses’ occupants had been roused, and then peered in through the window. The glass was shattered and crunched under my feet as I leaned in to get a good look inside. The inside was dimly lit and I saw two figures fast asleep. . The room was bare save for their sleeping mats and a small table fan. I opened my mouth to call out to them – when it suddenly hit me. The stench of rot. I gagged and instantly drew back. It was overpowering. I covered my mouth and nose with my handkerchief and peered in again. The two people in the room weren’t asleep; they were dead, and had been for a while. The bodies were emaciated and something writhed under them. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I stumbled away from the house, took large gulps of fresh air, and then went back to the door. I tried to kick it in, but it was bloody strong. I pushed against it with all my might and it still wouldn’t budge. I decided to call for help and went around to the other houses. Believe it or not, every single one, same fucking story. Dread filled me and threatened to take my sanity. Here I was, stranded in the middle of a literal ghost town without a dead car and a dead phone. I counted a total of fourteen houses. I was sweating profusely, and it wasn’t just the heat. This was shock and terror. I ran back to my car and pulled out the Glock 19 that I kept under the dashboard. I checked the cartridge- it was full. I also flicked the safety on and off just to be sure. I hadn’t used it in ages. Just having it by my side made me feel a little better though.

I went back to the first house and tried the door again. Wouldn’t budge. I pulled the gun out and aimed at the lock. I drew in a deep breath and pulled the trigger. Click. Fuck! I undid the safety and pulled again. The deafening boom of the bullet tearing the wooden door to shreds bounced inside my head. It felt like a huge gong had gone off in my skull.. I tried the door again. But while the lock was fucked, it still held. I aimed again and this time, the lock gave, I clearly heard the tell-tale resounding metal on metal ring. I pushed the door and it swung open. I walked in and then promptly ran out, the stench was too much. I threw up around the side of the house and went back in, this time I had my kerchief covering my nose.

The house was a large, single room. It was bare as bare could get. The bodies lay on the floor next to each other. Both male from the looks of it. Maggots crawled and squirmed under them. The state that they were in suggested that they had died of starvation. I looked around – and Jesus Christ,, I wasn’t ready for what I saw. There were deep claw marks on the inside of the door. The poor bastards had desperately tried to get out. There were chips of nail and drops of dried blood too. Someone had locked them in and left them to die slowly. Who’d want to do such a thing! I looked around a little more and saw an iron chest and a small gas stove in a corner of the room. The chest contained clothes but they weren’t normal clothes. These were the attire of ascetics.These were goddamned monks. Bare saffron robes to cover just enough of the body.. I also found meditation beads and holy books. This must’ve been some sort of a retreat for monks. I got out eventually because I couldn’t take the stench ; besides, I don’t think there was much else to see.

I lit another cigarette and tried my car. Still dead. The fucker had been dead for four hours now. Everything in this goddamn town was dead, everything except for me and the bloody maggots. I finished the cigarette, lit another and checked the other houses. I wasn’t going to blast open every doorbut a look through the windows told me enough. Many of the occupants had died lying down and a few had died with holy books in their laps, a final gesture of devotion I guess. On my second round of the town I noticed that there was a well a little way off from the houses. It sat in a field of wheat or barley. I figured I’d have to get out of this place to get the cops and decided to fetch some water to cool the engine.

The walk to the well was strangely soothing, the fields swayed oblivious to the horror that had occurred just around the corner. For a few minutes, I felt like things were alright again. I reached the well and dropped the bucked in. Instead of the sound of splashing water, I heard a dull thud. I looked in, but it was too dark to see the bottom. I got my phone out and shone some light in. I reeled back in terror. At the bottom of the well, his neck bent at a weird angle and body in a state of utter decay, was a child. At least he didn’t have to starve I thought and looked in again. This town man. I’ll never forget that day or the look on that boy’s face for the rest of my life. I still have nightmares each night.. Maggots crawling all over, just lazily going about their business. It felt so wrong! I would have shot the little bastards to hell if I’d had enough rounds on me.

while I was deciding what to do next and chewing through cigarettes like a wood chipper, I noticed something as I looked down into the well again. The boy had a small book that lay half submerged under water next to him. I dropped the bucket in and tried to scoop the book up. I must’ve tried like ten or twenty times, I don’t know, before I managed to get it out. The book was wet and stank. moss grew on its leather hide cover and most of the ink inside was smudged. From what I could make out, it was some sort of a diary. I saw an elm tree and sat in its nook to read. The boy had recorded his every day activities in the book. He was some sort of an apprentice monk. His english wasn’t the best. Between that and the state of the book, I couldn’t make out much.However, when I reached the last page, I froze. The entry was made about three weeks prior. The last few lines are forever frozen in my mind.

‘Today I play elders….. Steal key fr.. master… Lock in hou… for hours….. .

The kid must have decided to play a prank on the elders of the village and lock them all in one night. He must’ve thought that he’d let them out after playing around a bit, but instead he had fallen into the well. He must have had all the keys on him – either that or there was one master key that worked forall the houses. The elders had tried their best to get out but couldn’t. They all died of starvation, and their only hope, of a broken neck.

About The Author

Sharath Kumar

Sharath drinks and he writes things. Sometimes they don't suck.

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