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MAITHILI

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Three flight of stairs and after a lot of wheezing I finally landed on my floor. Looking back at the stairs I reminded myself why I chose to rent am apartment in this building with no lift facility. 

“The apartment is in good shape. The rent is in your budget. Just a few months until you get promoted and then you’ll be out of here.” I chanted the mantra in my head. 

I entered in my one bedroom, kitchen, one bathroom apartment and dragged my two giant-size suitcases in and locked the door. I might be 24 years old but it was the first time I was outside of my home town and as if that wasn’t enough I was even living alone and was terrified. So no matter what I wasn’t taking any chances. I looked around my new “home”. All the other stuffs except my suitcases were already there, a bit messy albeit. 

After almost 3 hours my apartment was looking good enough to spent the night. I decided to arrange rest of the things the next day. It wasn’t before 3 days that I had to be at my new job and before that game I promised myself that I’d make this apartment look exactly as I had dream my home to be like. 

“Yeah…maa…offo atleast listen to wha….. God maa you’re freaking out unnecessarily. This is a good part of city and this building just give apartments on rent to either families or girls. So there is nothing to worry about my safety. Okay? Calm down. Now you go to bed and I’m also tired so let me sleep please ha? ….Good. Love you and I’ll call you tomorrow okay! Bye!” I hung up the phone and lay flat on my new comfy-comfy bed.

“Finally. I made it. Dream job check. My own place check. Out of that horrible place check. Now it’s time to sleep. Good night me. See you tomorrow.”

As usual I pampered myself and closed my eyes.

“.. c’mon c’mon c’mon! Seriously! After all these months you are still so stubborn. Ah! Finally!”  K woke up to some girl’s voice. 

“Thud…thud” Another sound came like someone closed the door loudly. Panicked I grabbed my cell phone and silently opened the door of my bedroom.

A girl, looking like same age of mine, was shutting the main door of my apartment. Her dress, weirdly, was exactly like what I wore today just in different colours. She put her handbag on the kitchen counter and went to fridge.

“Who the hell are you?” I nothing bit shouted.

She jumped and looked at me. 

“O my God! You scared me!” She exclaimed, holding the water bottle to her chest.

“I don’t care! Who are you? You know what it doesn’t matter I’m calling the guard.” I started searching the guard’s number.

“Wait, what? Are you crazy? Why are you calling Sharma uncle?” She started walking towards me.

“Don’t come near me! And who’s Sharma uncle? I said don’t come near me!” I again all but shouted her and yet nobody from my floor came to my rescue. What kind of people live here? I thought to myself.

“The security guard, I call him Sharma uncle. And would you stop for a minute and listen to me? I’m your roomie. Didn’t you notice my stuff when you came?”

This time she, too, shouted at me.

“You don’t get to shout at me, you… wait WHAT? ROOMIE? I don’t have a roomie!” I was really getting angry.

“Wow nobody told me an insane girl was going to be my roommate. Are you blind or what? These are my stuff, those wall hangings, the foldable bed with closet in the bedroom, this carpet you’re standing on. You thought an apartment comes with all these things? What a freak!” She was looking at me exactly like that chick from Goa was looking at me in my college. She was judging me!

“You’re a freak! And about having a roommate, nobody told me about it. I’m calling the landlord right now.” I had his number right on top and dialled his number.

“Yes you do that and well let me show you my contract paper of this apartment. Wow, I have to prove my innocence like I’m some muggler.” She sighed and start going through her purse.

“This stupid network. The call is not connecting.” I mumbled.

“Oh! That’s his phone’s issue. It always get disconnected. But here, I found the papers. I carry it around with me because some days our old landlord even forgets I live here.” She offered me the papers. I looked at her slender wtist, decorated with a single ultra-thin gold bracelet, with a dangling little heart. I loved it. 

I accepted the papers and found out she was a tenant of this apartment. Her name was Maithili Parikshit. Sounds classy.

“Um, I’m sorry. I really didn’t know anything about you. Even when I came to see this apartment Mehta uncle told me that the tenant will leave before I’ll arrive and when I asked him about all the stuff he told me to not touch it and that he’ll take care of it.” I made my innocence face at her.

“Ah! That’s alright. That guy is a freak! You will get used to him. Well, hi…I’m Maithili.” This time she offered her hand.

“Um, hi, I’m Ekta.” I smiled at her and shook her hand.

“Since, our first meeting was so warm, do you want a cup of tea?” Maithili cocked her head to a side and smiled crookedly at me.

“Haha! Sure. And in my defence I was being careful.” I defended my behaviour.

“Uh-huh. If you say so.” She walked graciously into the kitchen and started making tea.

“Whatever. By the way, why you came so late? It’s almost..um..wow, it’s almost 3 AM.” I exclaimed at the time.

“I just like this part of night. So I wander.” She looked straight into my eyes. For some reason it sent chills into my spine. Then, she gave a tiny smile and turned to the cupboards.

I don’t why my heart was racing suddenly. Something about this girl was quite not right. It was a weird feeling. Same feeling I get when I know I might be walking on a dangerous path. I turned to look back at her and.. 

“Oh my!” 

“Your tea…why you look so scared?” She was right behind me looking at me like I was some sort of intruder or looter. She offered me the tea.

“Uh..no, nothing. It just you frightened me. I didn’t hear you coming behind me. Sorry.” I smiled weakly at her and accepted the tea.

The realisation hit me like a cold wave. I looked at her and said

“I haven’t yet unpacked my stuffs of kitchen and there wasn’t anything in there before. How did you make this..”

I looked down into the cup and it was filled with a black liquid and in it was little creepy worms were floating.

“Ahh!” I threw the cup on the floor and looked at Maithili.

“What are you talking about? There is no tea.” Her face was dead serious and was terrifying.

I looked down at the floor where I threw the cup but..there was nothing but the dust and prints of my slippers.

“What the hell!” I patted my forehead and turned at her and she was no where. 

I looked around but couldn’t see her.

“Maithili! Maithili where are you? You’re scaring me! MAITHILI!” I didn’t care that I was shouting now but I was scared as hell.

“Thud, thud!” Someone was knocking at the door.

I looked at it for 10 seconds when a male voice came.

“Hello, um..I’m your neighbour. Are you okay in there?” Oh thankgod!

I ran towards the door and opened it.

“Whoa! You look scared. What happened?” A guy, maybe a few years older than me, was there. I looked into the hallway and saw a woman standing in front of the door to another apartment. 

He followed my gaze and said, “My wife. She woke me up. She said she heard your voice before too and now again. She was scared for you.” 

He was looking at me for an explanation.

“I…well…I don’t know what to say. A girl, who’s supposed to be my roommate, suddenly disappeared. Do you know any Maithili?” I asked him since she claimed she was living here so these people must knew her.

“Maithili? Maithili was the daughter of the landlord. Though nobody has ever seen her. We’ve just heard stories.” He shrugged at me. 

“Was? You mean she’s dead?” My mid went numb at that time.

“Yeah. She fell down at the stairs. Used to live in this building. But why are you asking all this?” He asked.

That was a dream. That has to be a dream. I was trying to control my fear. 

“Nothing. Nothing. I’m sorry I disturbed you guys. I am fine. Thank you very much.” I smiled at him and his wife. But his wife was looking at me with a fear in her eyes. Like she knew what was happening to me. I withdrew my eyes and moved back into my apartment. I closed the door behind me and stood there, looking into the apartment. There was no handbag, no papers, no broken cup on the floor. My boxes were unpacked. There were a few things hanging here and there in the wall which my landline said will take care of.

You’re just sacred in the new city. Relax. 

I told myself and made my way towards the bedroom.

As I lay down on my bed, my hands rubbed one another and I felt something on my hand.

An ultra-thin gold bracelet. With a little heart dangling from it. 

I sat up in my bed and saw her… Maithili… standing at the foot of my bed. 

“How dare you enter in my room?” She was looking at me with so much hatred in my eyes that my breath hitched.

She jumped at me, hands stretching out like claws…

I woke up.

My throat was aching for water, it felt dried and scratchy. I looked around. Everything was same as I left it there at night. Stupid nightmares, I mumbled to myself and went into bathroom.

My apartment was completely set now. I decided to go for a walk and to buy some groceries. As I was passing by the hallway on the ground floor I saw some pictures hanging on the wall just beside the desk of security guard. I found a face in the pictures I thought was only iny imagination. Maithili.

The name slip beneath the picture said MAITHILI MEHTA (1996-2019).

I was freezed. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t breath. 

“Beta, are you okay?” The gurad asked.

I drew in a long breath.

“Yes…yes I’m fine.” I ran back into my apartment.

I started packing my bag.

‘I can’t live here. This place is driving me crazy. I’ll talk to Shikha, she’ll probably let me stay in her PG.’

I took my bag and left the bedroom and froze. The living room was…. different. It looked beautiful with lots of colourful handmade crafts hanging on the walls, two orange cushions were arranged around a wooden table. A vase was on the table with some orange flowers in it, which looked like they were also hand-made. They looked so alive! 

“Beautiful no?” I jumped at the voice and turned.

Maithili was there, in an orange t-shirt and black cargo pants. My eyes themselves fell on her wrist and there it was, the thin golden bracelet.

“I loved crafts. And I loved this apartment. I even made my father promise me that even if I leave, he’ll never let anyone else use this apartment. But look, he gave it to you. He broke his promise! Now you tell me Ekta, where am I supposed to go? This is my home.” She was almost in tears. I wanted to go to her and calm her down but my limbs were frozen. With every passing second her skin was turning into a deep colour, her t-shirt from bright orange was almost ugly brown. Her lips were now chapped and a scar was in her chin up to her neck.

I started blinking rapidly, to clear my head.

‘This has to be another nightmare. I have to wake up!’ My mind was working rapidly while my heart was thudding in my ears. It felt like my nerves were about to explode out of fear, the floor felt like it was tilting to a side.

“You okay sweetheart?” I felt her stale breath on my face. I dared not to look upwards from the floor. I could see her bare feet, with black and chapped toenails. Suddenly her one hand was on my face.

“Look at you, you’re so scared. Don’t be. I haven’t had anyone here for a long time. Only a couple used to live on this floor. The man was nice but his wife, ugh, she was a real mood killer. She never played with me and used to shout. Ah! Well they left and since then nobody came here to live. But now I have you.”

Suddenly she bent her face and I was looking right at her. I was paralysed. My limbs were shaking but I couldn’t move them an inch. My lips felt like concrete, completely shut. My lungs were shrinking inside my chest and my throat was so tight and dry that it felt like I was just a dead body.

“There would be no pain. Just close your eyes.”

I knew there was no choice. I couldn’t run. I simply closed my eyes and waited for my death.

I wander in the lobby. Looking out of windows, on the street. I listen to the chatter of people, families living on the other floors. Maithili comes and goes as she feels. She is all I’ve got. She likes to scare people who pass by the stairs on this floor. I don’t. 

I just like to….kill them.

Like she killed me.

I have made 2 companions for myself.

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