This article has been submitted by Maitrayee Dixit for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think it’s a good read, ‘Like’ the article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘Comments’ section below.
It was winter when I moved in. I had just gotten engaged to my fiancé and we had bought the house the hour we saw it. It was a beautiful old Victorian, with ornate windows and musty, but beautiful carpeting. It could be centrally heated and best of all, was in a quaint little locality. The street was lined with houses close to each other, which was the reason that each house had a lot of heavy drapes, to keep the roving eyes of the neighbors away.
“It’s a beautiful house, sir,” said Mr. Walters as he showed us around the house, “a typical example of the beautiful style of Victorian architecture.” He pointed at the ornate carvings, the beautified beams, the vintage carpeting. My fiancé was nodding and smiling, and I was busy yawning. “Victorian houses are generally very airy, with special emphasis on air circulation. They have decorated windows in the front and back of the house, mostly. Look at the carpeting; it was bought from Persia, sir! No less. A mirror is in every room tastefully placed, decorated. And the flooring! Pure teak, pure teak…” he murmured.
It was a steal. It had been in a state of decay since it was last owned by some deranged alcoholic, who didn’t care about the ‘Persian carpets’ as red wine stains were everywhere on it. Washing was needed. The flooring near the washroom had gotten damaged due to leaky taps, and the carpets in the master bedroom were soiled and smelled of old alcohol. My fiancé looked at me and said “you’re doing the washing.” I grunted.
She had some work pending at the university, so she decided she would finally move in after a week or so. We cleaned the carpets, washed the sheets, and arranged the furniture. There were two spacious rooms on the first floor of the house. One was our bedroom, and the other I wanted to convert into my “man cave” or as my fiancé calls it, “my office.” It took half a month, but it was worth it.
She had gone to the university that day, and had strictly ordered me to arrange the furniture in my office. I sulked and fussed, but she didn’t budge. I finally decided it was time to do it. She’d be back in an hour or so and it was already getting dark. Do the work or no dinner.
I was moving my table when I spotted something stir. I looked up, alert. It was a window on the sidewall of my room. I walked up to it, sat down and peeked.
Like all houses on the street, our neighboring house was very close to ours, so much that I could see what was going on there. I felt guilty, but curiosity got the better of me. It was a frosted window, and I could see a man sitting, presumably with his back turned towards the window and a tall figure standing in front of him. Some serious discussion was going on. I couldn’t hear a thing because of the wind and before I could try harder I heard my fiancé downstairs. Better move or no dinner!
It became my pastime to look into the other guy’s house, and very obviously, it distracted me from arranging the furniture. All my posters lay rolled in the corner and my walls stood bare, unlike my wallpapered bedroom. Sometimes the tall figure was present and interacting, or the man sat alone near the window. He must be an old man with an unruly son, like my father. He used to sit too, back facing the window, with me standing in front of him, head bowed in shame. Sour memories…but memories, nevertheless.
Some days the man would stand closer than usual, tip his head a little. I was sure if I did this during the day with my fiancé at home she would absolutely kill me, so I did it when she went out to the university in the evening. It was my harmless way of killing time.
One day my fiancé called in sick, and slept at home the entire evening. That meant today I couldn’t catch a glimpse of the son shaming, what a bummer.
“Hey”, she said to me.
“Hmm?” I responded.
“I think the thermometer is in the first aid box in your office, can you get it please?”
“Yeah, let me just finish reading this article.”
5 minutes later, she was fast asleep due to all those antipyretics. I climbed upstairs.
I switched on the light and grabbed the box. I was just heading out when I saw that the light was on in the neighbor’s house too. Curiosity got the better of me and I peeked.
The tall man was standing near the man, with a knife in his head, shaking.
OH MY GOD. Was he killing the man in a drunken stupor?! I had to do something! I ran down the stairs, simultaneously dialing 911 and screaming at my fiancé to get up!
I ran because I knew the police would be late, I had to stop this myself! But what could I do?! The window! I ran into the small gully that separated the two houses and looked up for a stairway to reach the window.
There was none.
Because there was no window. Only bricks.
“Victorian houses are generally very airy, with special emphasis on air circulation. They have decorated windows in the front and back of the house, mostly.” Mr. Walters had said.
There was no window.
“A mirror is in every room tastefully placed, decorated.” Had said Mr. Walters.
There was no window.
It was a mirror.
It was then that I heard the bloodcurdling scream of my fiancé, as the door of my house swung shut.