Cera11 mins 241 11 mins 241
“Mama… mama… “ I could hear my daughter scream as I rushed up the steps. Panting, I stopped next to her bed, to see her sitting on it petrified, clutching the bed covers. “Mama, I am scared. Help me,” she cried, pointing to the mirror. Consoling her, I looked at the mirror. To my horror, I could not see my child, instead of a girl who looked like her, but her head was hanging at an odd angle as if her neck was broken and blood was dripping from her mouth.
I woke up with a start, sweating profusely and with a hand to my chest. Andrea, my 7-year-old daughter was sleeping peacefully beside me. Heaving a sigh of relief, I went to drink a glass of water and went back to bed. The next day passed uneventfully, but I had a horrific dream again that night. This time Andrea was lying in a bloody heap at the bottom of the steps and that thing laughed from the top of the stairs. I could not go back to sleep that night. An atheist by choice, I did not pray but instead did some deep breathing exercises to calm my mind. Why were these thoughts plaguing me after so many years, I wondered. Were they even related to that incident in my past, I did not know.
The next night, I left the light in my room. I was plagued by unseemly dreams and woke to hear some strange noises downstairs. I had an iron-clad security system installed, but switching on all the lights, I went downstairs to investigate. I looked through the rooms, but nothing seemed amiss. I came up again and opened the door to Andy’s playroom. I could not believe my eyes. Each of Andy’s dolls which sat on the shelves in the room had been dismembered. Some had hands missing, some a leg. The clothing had been thorn and eyes gouged out. But the common thing about all of them was that each and every doll had its neck broken. The head of the plastic dolls had been yanked apart and those of the cloth dolls had been twisted. The dolls seemed to be looking at me accusingly and a vision of Annabelle flashed through my mind. But this was not a film scene, it was my home, my reality and a chill enveloped my bones. Suddenly, Andy screamed from the bedroom, and I ran to the next room with my heart pounding in my throat. She was sitting straight on the bed, crying helplessly as blood oozed from scratch marks on her face, neck, and hands. Her hair had been yanked and some clumps of it lay on the bed. I reacted without thinking. I grabbed her from the bed, ran downstairs, picked up my car keys from the plate near the door, and drove away from the house. I was terrified, trying to console Andy with one hand, driving with the other, while wondering where to go and what to do. I could not make any sense of what was happening to us.
I was a single mother, living with my daughter. The work that I did as an interpreter/ translator of languages paid well for me to live comfortably. I had bought my house with help from my parents when Andrea was born and we had lived there ever since. It was our safe haven from the world outside and today was the first time that we had been threatened. Being an atheist, I believed in neither God nor Satan and was not easily spooked by stories of ghosts, Dracula, or houses on haunted hills. But this was beyond me. If this was not a paranormal activity, I did not know what was. After a couple of hours of driving around, I calmed down enough to go to Mariamma, who was a second mother to me. She ran an orphanage and had been my pillar of support when I had put my baby, Cera, up for adoption.
Andrea and Cera were the twins I had borne but had to give up one for adoption as I was an unwed mother with no means to support me and two kids. It had been the most heart-wrenching decision of my life, but there had been no other way out and Mariamma had consoled me saying that Cera would be placed with the best set of parents she could find. I had personally spoken to them and had explained my circumstances and they had promised to take good care of my daughter. Their only condition was that I was to not keep track of her or contact her in any way. Helpless, I had agreed.
I reached the orphanage and woke up Mariamma and tried to explain what had happened. Mariamma shrugged it away, saying it must have been a bad dream and Andy must have scratched herself in the night. I was not convinced, the dismembered dolls being witness to something else at play. But being exhausted, I did not argue and clutching Andy, fell into a fitful sleep in one of the rooms in the orphanage.
The next morning Mariamma woke me up with a grim look on her face which told me that something was very very wrong. The news she shared was horrifying. Though we had ensured that Cera was placed in a loving home, things had gone wrong for them, about the time Cera turned 4. The husband had lost his business and had become an alcoholic. He abused his wife who in turn, took out her anger and sorrow out on Cera. Apart from the beatings she regularly got, she was also told repeatedly that she had not been wanted by her own mother and so had been given away and her twin sister was the one who was loved by their mother. A couple of days back, Cera had been found in a tangled heap at the bottom of their staircase. Her neck had broken and she was no more. The whole incident had been written off as an accident, but the neighbor who told Mariamma this felt that the adoptive parents may have had a role to play in her death.
I sat numb. I mourned the loss of the innocent child. Like my daughter, I had mourned her loss 7 years back. Cera was a stranger to me now. But in my heart, I knew that it was she who had come back from the dead to destroy her sister, who according to her adoptive parents had been the cause for all their misfortune. In broad daylight, I recounted all the events of the previous night to Mariamma, who now believed me and gave me the name of a priest I could speak to. I, who a day back would have scoffed at the idea of an exorcist, could not get to him soon enough. He was an old stooped man, dressed completely in black, with only a white beard to relieve the darkness. He wore a large cross around his neck. He had a sympathetic face and he gave me a patient ear as I poured out my story to him.
He gave me two bracelets with a cross on them, one for me and one for Andy, and asked us to wear it at all times for our protection. I had left Andy with Mariamma and hoped that she would be safe with other kids around. The priest made me wear the bracelet and sit in front of him. He planned to communicate with the spirit in my house to see if it was indeed Cera. He closed his eyes and after a few minutes, I could feel a chill envelop me. The sun was still up in the sky, but there was a definite chill in the room. I could see the condensation on the window panes and feel my teeth begin to chatter. The priest opened his eyes and confirmed my belief that the spirit was indeed Cera. She was angry and wanted to lash out at Andy. Cera hated me, but she hated Andy more. If Andy was not there, Cera believed that she would have been loved by me. And she would be appeased by only one of our deaths. And again, as soon as it had become cold, it was warm again. The priest looked disturbed. “You must go to Andy,” he cried. “Cera is angry and she has left. I think she means to hurt Andy again,” he shouted.
I did not wait. I drove as fast as I could and burst inside the orphanage only to see Mariamma and Gardner try to open a locked door. My blood ran cold as I could hear Andy screaming from inside. I shouted and banged on the door. “Cera, please stop it. Don’t hurt my child,” I pleaded. “Cera, please take me, leave her alone, please, please, please.. “. My voice hoarse, I hurled myself against the door. On the third try, it swung open as if released from inside and I could see the bloodied body of my daughter lying on the floor. Half insane with grief, I lifted her bodily and the gardener drove as we rushed to the hospital. She was taken through an emergency and admitted to the ICU.
I sat in the waiting room numbly. Seeing my child’s almost lifeless body had left me physically paralyzed, but my mind was ticking with the priest’s words. Appeasement, appeasement, appeasement. I would ask Cera to take my life instead of Andy’s. Though they lived far away, Andy would be taken in by my parents who had already been named her guardians. Losing Andy was not an option. She was my life, and if something happened to her, my life would be worthless anyway.
I had managed to put the Cross Bracelet on Andy’s wrist and begged the doctors to leave it on. At least no harm would come to her now. I went back to the priest’s room and outlined my plan to him. He was hesitant and tried to counsel me, but I was resolute. Cera could kill me, but she had to spare Andy. With a sigh, the priest agreed. He would try to talk Cera out of it, but he could not guarantee success.
He closed his eyes and gradually the same chill enveloped the room. I had taken off the Cross Bracelet and was seated on a chair in the middle of the room. The priest started talking to Cera, but it was not sounding good. He pleaded with her but it seemed that he was not succeeding. The blow to my face came when I least expected it. A heavy book on the priest’s table flew off and hit my temple with a resounding thud. I was thrown off the chair and hit the floor hard. For a moment, I was winded, but when I got my breath back, I started a chant. “Sorry, Cera. Please take me. Spare Andy,” I said over and over again. The blows kept coming. I doubled over with pain as I felt a kick to my stomach. The chair on which I was sitting went up on its own and crashed on my back. Angry scratch marks started appearing on my hands and face and I could not feel my body, just as a big mass of pain. Hysterical childish laughter started echoing on the walls as the light covers shattered and rained down upon us. I was dragged with my hair and my face was run against the wall till it left a red stain on it. It seemed endless but it may have gone on only for a few minutes. The priest was chanting with his eyes closed, but his chants grew louder and slowly the tempest seemed to ease. The laughter changed to sobs and heart-rending sobs could be heard in the room. I dragged myself along the floor and propped myself against the wall. My eye was bloodied and one hand hung limply to my side. I could feel the swelling along my legs, but I was alive. If there was a mirror, I would not have recognized the swollen scary face staring back at me.
I was startled to see a shape slowly materializing in front of me. It was Andy, but again, it was not. This girl was thin and malnourished. Her hair hung limply to her shoulders and she was sobbing uncontrollably. I could do nothing, but open my arms to her. I did not know if she was real or not but I could feel her weight as she settled on my lap. I could only hold her and whisper and tell her how much I had loved her and how sorry I was. I could see the priest slowly coming towards us with the cross in his hands and saw as he placed the cross on the sobbing girl’s head. For a minute, I was terrified as to what would happen, but Cera seemed to calm down. A beatific smile brightened her face and she looked like the beautiful girl she was. She looked peaceful that instant. The vision in front of me wavered and she disintegrated as my hands holding her lost her weight. The events of the previous days and the pain racking my body caught up with me and I slid to the floor in a dead faint.
I came to, lying on a hospital bed next to Andy. My hand was in a cast and my leg was attached to traction. I knew I was on heavy painkillers, but the presence of my parents and Mariamma next to our beds comforted me. So also did the little hand which crept into mine as my darling Andy said: “Hi Mama.”