The Black Smog
The Black Smog8 mins 666 8 mins 666
Finally, it was lunch. I slouched my way into the cafeteria, and after a long wait in the queue, I was handed my daily meal of tasteless potatoes with a side of undercooked plasticky rice. I caught my usual seat near the television and of course, the news channel was switched on. Mostly boring ones, things no one cared about. News of a black smog was also broadcasted on the channel. It had apparently been first sighted near Delhi. Well, I didn’t pay much heed to it since anyway the pollution there was booming, so nothing special. I had a busy week at my office, with Mr. Ram, my boss making me work like a dog. He assigned almost 13 hours of work every day, and since being a new recruit, I had to meet these unfair demands.
After a long Friday of tiresome working, I got into the daily night bus, and reached the Patinampakkam Bus Stop. I had to walk a short distance to reach my home and during my walk, I saw people hurriedly buying bags of supplies and torches from the local grocery store; but I honestly didn’t care since I just wanted to go home and be done for the day. I reached my 3 – storey house, cleaned up and unpacked the food parcel given by my office. I turned on the TV, and since I had forgotten to subscribe to my cable, only the free news channel was on. Immediately, I was attacked with shouts of the news reporters and the screaming of civilians. I heard cries and the reporter was panicking.
“The deadly smog is engulfing everything and alienates the space within…It is the end, the apocalypse is nearing!”, said one man who was running. As soon as he said this, it created mass hysteria in the surroundings. People were causing havoc and there was chaos. The landscape changed to a dark area and amidst all this madness, Ramesh Chakraborty, a reporter started speaking, with his voice quavering and eyes nervously moving around, “We are reporting live from Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh. This is being filmed a few kilometres away from the main city and the smog is still visible. Eyewitness reports say that it is suffocating, and visibility is reduced to a few feet. This is a nation-wide emergency. Please be ready…Experts are clueless about the smog and even Mr. Dutta, the most experienced professional in environmental studies is unable to identify what kind of smog. So, viewers please stay safe. Continue watching News India Dail….” Ramesh’s voice was cut off with static and the channel malfunctioned.
I was only slightly disturbed by the smog but nevertheless, I decided to get some ready-to-eat meals, cup noodles, a torch and a few batteries from the nearby convenience store. With the supplies in hand, I made my way back to my house. I stashed the batteries in some drawer and the ready-to-eat meals and cup noodles in the larder. With that, I was completely exhausted, and I lay down. I had a lot of work for the weekend and I spent all my time completing the tasks I had. I forgot about the black smog throughout the weekend.
Monday evening, I was coming from the office. Surprisingly, Mr. Ram didn’t overload me with work, so I caught the evening bus. There were some people wandering about in the street. Few North Indian women were talking in high-pitched voices, in a language that was unknown to me – so it sounded like gibberish. Walking past the tea stall, I was overpowered by the nasty smell of cigarettes.
Suddenly, the sky went dark. I looked up, and I saw the black smog settling in. I started walking faster. It was too late. The smog had set in already. It was gripping me, and I found it hard to breathe. The fast-paced chatter of the North-Indian women was replaced by fits of coughing. The smell of cigars became faint, and this musty smell became dominant. I couldn’t see much, it seemed like it was night. Due to muscle memory, I managed to find my way back home, just tripping a few times on the way. I covered my nose with a hanky, but it only made it worse.
Every moment I spent inside the smog terrified me; there was something about the way the smog made you feel. The smog was not normal, that was for sure. There were no words to describe it. I could see vague silhouettes moving around in the fog. Their movements were loose and creepy, similar to a skeleton. Once in a while, I could hear a menacing howl of a wolf. Everything was fuzzy and nebulous.
I thought I was hallucinating. Only thing, I wasn't...
I unlocked the door by moving my hands around the handle. I went inside and sat clumsily on the couch. Thankfully, since I like every single window to be fastened, the smog hadn’t entered the house. I switched on the lights, and my mind took a while to process what just happened. I switched on the news channel, and the reporter was frantically saying, “The smog is deadly. Mr. Ramesh Chakraborty of Andhra Pradesh, one of the most talented reporters is unable to be found ever since….” He gulped and I could see his Adam’s apple moving up and down, “that incident with the smog yesterday…We have received intel that the smog has hit Tamil Nadu…”
The cable network wasn’t clear, so the channel kept breaking. I started to panic. I got my phone and tried calling emergency helplines as well as my friends. There was no network. I could hear people outside; trying to figure out what happened. Often, I heard gasps outside my door and sudden thuds on the ground outside. Nothing was visible from the windows. The sudden noises cutting through the silence was maddening.
Inside the house, it was hell. The TV stopped working completely and the electricity was shut down. My phone’s battery had died. The daily parcel of rotis was drier than usual and the side of channa dal was overcooked and soggy. I lost my appetite. The clocks at my home were all digital and not battery powered, so without electricity, they stopped working. I was scared. I had no clue what the time was. Everything was pitch black. I was shrouded with fear of the cryptic darkness.
I didn’t know what to do. I decided to take a shower to cool. Every time I climbed a step, I felt a chill running down my spine. After what seemed like an eternity, I reached my bathroom. I undressed and went inside the bathing area. The cold water falling on my bare back felt heavenly and refreshing. I re-dressed myself in fresh and clean clothes, and my nose took into the floral smell of my clothes.
Suddenly, I saw a figure on the window. It was shapeless and abstract, and I could only see its silhouette. My heart started thumping rapidly. As my mind tried to figure out what it was, it morphed into what seemed like a face. The features became more defined in the blackness. Its skin hung limply from its face, as though it could fall off any time. The wrinkles were so evident that I could even see it from its outline. I freaked out. I shined my torch on its face but that only made it worse. A creepy grin formed on the face and I could hear it knocking on the window. It was hideous.
Like a bat out of hell, I flew down the stairs. What was even more blood-curdling was that the figure was visible on the 2nd floor. I was absolutely terrified. My phone was dead, and I was alone. My heart was pounding and my mind was racing. I was so oblivious to what the figure was. I needed to calm down. I regretted taking that shower. I was surrounded by a melancholy aura. I was too scared to even leave the house.
I made some cup noodles, got my torches and made my way to the bedroom. I really hoped that I would sleep. I lay down on the bed, curling myself up in the thick bedsheets. That’s when I heard it again. That spine-chilling knocking from the bedroom window. I was terrified. I had no choice but to shine the light on its face because I had to know what/who was knocking. The beam of light shined brightly over its face, and now I could clearly see its face. Or what was left of it…
The place where the eyelids should have been, there were 2 cross marks. Its lips were sutured up using some sort of thread. Blood was dripping from its ears and a grin was plastered on its cut-up lips. There was a black liquid dripping from its lips, and it kept knocking on the window rapidly.
I let out a horrendous scream. Instantly, I heard thousands of knocks, coming from downstairs, upstairs, everywhere! It made my ears bleed and my brain fuzzy. I threw my empty cup noodles on the window and the face disappeared. I got down and decided to do the same for every single window if that was what that makes those figures disappear!
As I stepped out of the bedroom, the face reappeared, banging its head on the glass window. I ran downstairs and I inspected every window. A face was there on each one, each one more menacing than the other. I was shining my torch on the last window when I saw it. It was a wolf, with blood dripping down its teeth. I could see it hungrily looking at me. It was sinister and disturbing. I threw my torch on the window. I instantly regretted it. I sprinted across the room, far away from the window.
I flung my body onto the floor. It was cold and hard. I started weeping loudly. I heard a menacing howl that was petrifying. Suddenly, I perceived a glass window breaking. I became voiceless. My heart was beating rapidly, and my mind was racing, but my other parts were paralysed with terror and fright.
I shrunk into a ball in fear, hoping it wasn’t the wolf’s window that broke.