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The Path



By Nandini Mittal

The three greatest terrors known by mankind are death, hunger and walking across a lonely street in the dead of the night. Every rustle of leaves, every chirping of the birds seems loud. But, the silence felt is deafening. My only companions, that day, were my footsteps and the streetlights that flickered ominously.

My heartbeat quickened when I heard some distant howling of the wolves. I lived in the middle of the city. ‘Must be a dog,’ I told myself to calm down. My house was just around the corner now, so I picked up pace to enter my safe haven. Just at that moment, I felt someone tapping my shoulder. My entire body stiffened under that grip and in a jerking motion, I turned back. It was the neighbourhood watchman.

“My dear, a girl like yourself shouldn’t be out of her house at an hour like this. You know how times are.” I nodded and was about to turn onto my way home when I heard a blood-curdling scream. It was from within our neighbourhood. We tried but couldn’t pinpoint the source of the scream. We called the police for investigation and they arrived shortly after.

The investigation was unfruitful and everybody returned to their homes. But the mystery haunted the neighbours in peculiar ways. Every night a person went missing with no dead bodies to be found. And during the day, shops were looted. The town soon became unpopular with disgrace to its name and the culprit still out on the loose.

One day, when the whole town was at the church, praying for evil to subside, another scream was heard. This time within the church hall. Some went and hid while the others chased the sound. With vengeful ambition, the entirety of the hall went on a wild goose chase.

After hours of ridiculous theories and outrageous hypotheses, a pattern could be observed. Firstly, the target was always a female. Secondly, she was the only daughter in her family. After the target was secured, her father’s shop was looted in the morning. And I, who matched the conditions immaculately, was the only target left in a town as small as ours.

After a long negotiation with my parents, it was decided that I will be used as bait to lure the predator. I deliberately walked alone on that ominous path on which the entire mayhem started…

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