Gaslit | Sachin Sharma


Gaslit

Sachin Sharma

The Logical Peril Award


 

When I think of fear, two truths come to the fore. First, that most fear is the fear of unknown. The second, ‘better the devil you know’. But what if that wasn’t true. What if our worst fear was the one right in front of us. What if we’d been in danger this whole time, and never knew it until now.

These were the thoughts that reined my mind as I went through the little blue book – my first diary. 

“Dear Diary, 

I Wanna hide my face, go someplace where no one can ever reach me, bury myself.

What a crazy day! I spend the entire afternoon and evening in the temple, eating Prasadam. And as I write this sitting in god’s own abode, I am hoping that the divinity will heal me and the lord shall kill all the lizards in our house.

This afternoon I was at my uncle’s. I go there to play with my cousin. 

My uncle’s family lives on the first floor, in a two storey building. My parents have taken the ground floor. You know how it is, when you live in a joint family and everybody divides the ancestral house, like a cake. My cousin and I,  we mostly live on the staircase.

But today, he had stepped out with my Aunt to buy me a surprise birthday gift! 

“Getting you a flute,” my uncle has a thing to kill surprises. He is my favourite. He takes us to all crazy places where kids aren’t allowed, like old haunted buildings and sometimes to the horror movies too. 

When he was our age, he’d captured a ghost in a glass bottle and bury it in a cave on the hill. The hill is visible from the terrace and he has promised to take us there someday. I am not afraid of ghosts but I hate one thing like no other about this country – lizards!

It was a hot day and I felt drowsy since morning. As I waited for my cousin, uncle had made me a glass of lemonade (which did not help much) and I lied there, on his cot like a rock. I could hear a rhythmic lullaby of hammer and tongs from the labourers working in the neighbourhood.

I was tossing and turning in that uncomfortable bed, half awake. And then, I noticed the most fearful thing ever. There was a long slimy brown monitor lizard on the ceiling. Now I wish I could yell and shout and jump out of the bed. But I did not move a finger. Staring at the monster I passed out, trying to forget it like a bad dream. May be if I close my eyes that lizard with greenish veins visible on its neck, will vanish.

It looked like it had worn itself inside out, with a skin that looked like a boiled groundnut.

It was walking the ceiling. Oh God! The lizards generally don’t do this. What was it thinking?

I was flinching in my sleep and contorting my face. 

And then, a comforting smell of my uncles chest made everything bearable. And I went back to sleep. 

There was a part of me that shouting, “Get up! Move…LIZARD!” But my other drowsy self smothered that voice, like the sea engulfs the sand.

And…then what I experienced, was not fear. It was disgust – The lizard was in my mouth! Trying to crawl inside my throat. I should have died.

Next thing I remember I was slapping my face with both my hands. I was crying my gut out. Disgust and hatred. My biggest fear had been inside my mouth. And how I wish I could forget everything – temperature of that lizard’s body, texture, it’s serpentine motion and many other things that I can’t put in words.

God! Please take these monsters away from us children!”

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