It was Ritika, crouching on the beam like a beast about to strike. She gulped her tears and called out, “Come here baby! Come to mommy!”
She snarled in response. Her hair was matted, covered with flecks of ash and soot clinging to her face, glistening with sweat. Her soft ivory skin was yellow and sick looking now; eyes were so black that the white was no longer visible.
She begged piteously again and again, she could see the flames closing on around them. The girl only glared at her, baring her teeth like a wild beast. She could not reach out to her because she was crouching quite expertly on one of the beams of the old theater; at least a storey above the floor where she was standing.
The flames were licking the building ferociously crackling and hissing like her.
Why did she have to come here!
Jayant has asked her again and again to never visit his hometown; no matter what happens.
When he disappeared six months ago without a trace she decided that she will pay his family a visit, in case they can say something which she did not knew. Some hidden past …. Or an ugly enemy; things took a nightmarish turn after settling down in her father in law’s mansion.
It was a huge mansion, three stories high, with a roof where banquets were held on religious and social occasions.
Surrounded by acres of fruit and flower trees, ponds and small temples of unknown deities; she could realize then why his family disowned him when he married a catholic European.
“I hope you will understand Angelica, don’t be upset, people down here are superstitious so when you are on your own or with us please don’t enter the premises of temples or other religious places.” Her mother in law has requested her on the very first day.
She has only nodded, she certainly was not in any mood for sight-seeing but in case something cropped up she will avoid these places and others.
Changes started to show up in Ritika, the chatterbox girl became shy and silent. She was Angelica’s shadow, now she was nowhere to be seen. In the beginning Angelica was too busy gathering information about Jayant but then she started to note her withdrawal and absence.
“She too must have been brooding after her father Angie.” Her mother has said. “I am in regular contact with the LAPD, will let you know if they have some information.”
Today morning she saw that she was alone in bed, Ritika was nowhere to found. They started to look for her, she was searching on her own when something guided her to a direction she has never been before.
She saw her from distance, she was sitting on the high platform adjoining the old, dilapidated temple; her forehead was smeared with vermillion.
“Ritika!” she called out.
She lifted her head and stepped back inside the temple.
“Ritika, come out darling, you know you can’t enter there. I have told you.” She implored standing outside the small temple. It was dark inside, even during the day light, mid noon. She could not see her; most probably she was hiding in some dark corner.
She looked around her; there was no one in sight. The temple was absolutely hidden in a thick cluster of old trees, vines were hanging from them, indicating this part of the garden was not maintained.
She climbed the stairs and entered the temple- it was empty but there was an opening in one of the walls, it was pitch dark inside. She fumbled her bag, there was a torch inside it; she kept it with her as a precaution against snakes and other unsavory things.
She entered the narrow passage; there was no reason to doubt that Ritika has escaped through this.
Heaven only knows for how long she has been walking when the passage ended in a huge hall.
She recognized it after a while. It was an auditorium.
“That property is jinxed. Nothing can be built there. There was an old temple there which British Governor ordered to pull down. He first built his own bungalow there; the night they shifted in it fire brought it down. None could escape that carnage.”
Jay ant’s cousin told her its history when he saw her gazing at that creepy building with smoke blackened bricks, charred body and jutting out metal rods like skeletons of a monster.
“The second and last attempt was made by a millionaire fifty years back, he poured down money like water and built this auditorium, it was an amazing beauty, the same thing happened only in horrific way. It burned down to ashes with a packed up hall of viewers. Heaven only knows why none could escape! Your father in law was one of them.”
“Jayant was only seven years old then, his mother bundled him away to USA to her sister to spare him the pain and trauma.”
“Auntie used to spend quite long time there before he got married.”
She could see all around her because patches of sky were visible from the places where roof has fallen in.
It was a creepier place from inside, the charred remains of seats and other things made the place look like the scene from a horror movie. She would not have been surprised if the ghosts from past came out of the dark corners of the huge hall. Dusk was gathering outside, she could sense that from the elongating shadows.
“Ritika!” her voice sounded scary in that empty hall. There was no response. She called out again then she heard the slow hissing and crackling.
She headed towards that and reached a smaller hall, the ground was cracked in multiple places in that room, golden tongue of fire was shooting out from them, licking the gathering darkness.
This time she screamed out her daughter’s name. Her cell phone beeped. It was her mother.
“Angie do you have Ritika near you? Then just take her and get out of that city now! I mean now! Don’t even pack. Leave everything there, just save yourselves.”
“Do you hear me?” her mother almost screamed.
“Why?” she whispered, she could barely recognize her own voice, it was twisted with terror.\
“A woman paid me a visit a few minutes ago. She was married to one of the men of that town. The thing that happened with you, happened to her too twenty years ago. LAPD contacted her when they came to know that her husband too has vanished without traces. She was an angel to come and pay me the visit.”
“They practice some demonic cult there honey. The woman said that one of the hell’s doorways is in an old auditorium built on remains of an ancient temple.”
“They call demons through that doorway to grant their wish.”
“The price is their first born child on his or her seventh birthday. Ritika’s seventh birthday is today.” Her mother whimpered, paused and then continued.
“Your father in law tried to save your husband…He smuggled him to his relations, that very night he was killed in an accident.” She urged desperately- “Save Ritika, get out of there now!”
“I can’t find her mom!” she screamed into the phone as it went dead.
She heard something in the hall she has left behind and quickly re-entered it, there was nothing in there. Then she looked up. Long beams were stretched across the hall to support the roof, the roof has almost caved in but the strong beams were intact. Ritika was sitting on one of them, looking down at her.