“Some time to be back from a vacation.” Viji thought to herself, in her deserted cubicle of her deserted floor, as she saw the clock creep past 11.00 PM on a lazy Friday night. “Friday is the most horrible day to come back after Vacation.” she mused. “Oh, Why wouldn’t Sathish Sir just give me this day off too.” But Viji herself knew the reason. It was the end of the year, and almost everyone she knew planned their vacations around this period. She was lucky that Mr.Sathish Raman, her boss at office, allowed her the indulgence of a week’s leave on the condition that she would be working overtime from Friday, to cover for the thin workforce at office. The joy of a possible vacation had blinded Viji’s little eyes so much, that she had immediately agreed to the condition. And hence, the sullen soliloquy was a direct consequence of that. She felt worse especially today, when not even a single soul was available in office.
She waited for her printer, to start printing out that 200 page report, as she loaded sufficient paper into the tray, and hit the ‘print’ button. Despite the real-estate boon, Raman Builders could only afford large, primitive, ink-jet printers. She had so wished, that a company like hers, which had grown from a single room establishment near Vadapalani to afford itself a couple of floors on a sufficiently posh commercial building on TNagar, could have thought about investing in a Laser printer. She imagined how simple her job would have been then. Simple, fast and noiseless. Perhaps, a Laser Printer could have saved her from what was about to happen to her that night. Perhaps…
As the inkjet printer commenced the monnotony of churning out hot printed sheets from the slit at its top, something pierced the eerie silence, like a hot knife through butter. A shrill, cry of a man in pain, echoed through the building, sending a cold chill through Viji’s veins. “Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh…” The shriek lasted a few seconds, followed by something hitting the ground, hard. With the air conditioning turned off, and not a soul in sight, one could hear the faintest heartbeat. The eeriness of the sound, made her heart go into overtime, and prompted cold blood to go rushing through her body. She gathered only her wits, leaving the bundle of paper that she had dropped spread across the floor, and rushed to the nearest exit. She ran as fast as her delicate legs could take her, with a fear of someone following her. Now Viji was in no way, a scary cat. No Sir, not by a long shot. She had once walked around mid-night, through her notorious street, dotted with several bars and wine shops, with drunk mortals, allowing a few drops of smelly liquid become more powerful than the muscle in their heads. A lame and foolish act of Viji’s, no doubt, done more in desperation than choice, with which she tried to advertise her bravery to all her friends who were amazed at her courage. But tonight, it was different. Tonight was going to be very different.
As she walked by her floor’s access door, the empty hall-way, which echoed with eager and chatty employees in the morning, reverberated now with the unsure footsteps of a young lady playing Agatha Christie. The printer was still printing that report of hers, and she was secretly glad, that there was something she could hear, to which she could attribute a source to. She moved slowly, measuring each of her steps, with a prayer on her lips. As she approached the switched off lifts, she heard someone running in the stair-well. Fast hurried steps, and heavy panting, which sounded like someone was being chased. Chased, by someone, or perhaps some ‘thing’. The footsteps passed through her floor, and Viji just stood there out of fear. Slowly the sound of the steps faded out. The lifts weren’t working, and her only way out were the stairs. Although, her mind felt otherwise, her footsteps crawled towards the stairs to figure a way out. As she inched near the huge white door with the round glass window, she prayed that she found only an empty stair-case on the other side of the door. As she pushed the heavy door open to a spooky, creaking sound of the hinges, her heart almost stopped beating. Just outside the door, a dark, brooding figure stood with a torch shining at her face. Thankfully for her, she recognized the silhouette before she could pass out of shock.
“Aaaaahhhh! Kannan Thatha? What the hell?” She cried, more out of relief than anything else…
“Aaah… What? Who? Who’s there?” Clearly she had scared the poor, old, Security Guard – Kannan, out of his wits.
“Viji? Viji madam? What are you doing here at this time child? You almost gave me a heart attack there.” said Kannan, as he recognised her lovely little face in the glare of the torch.
Kannan Doraisamy, was an old timer at the office. A security guard by profession, he pre-dated most of the employees at Raman Builders. He sat on his little desk at Ground Floor, and carefully kept a watch at any one or any thing coming into or going out of the building. He had this old world charm around him that made everyone passing him greet him with a warm smile. He called the employees, almost less than half his age, as Sirs and Madams, and they in return honoured him by calling him Thatha or Grandpa. People said he came from a Military background or something, which clearly reflected in his nasty temper. But age had caught up with him. He had withered over the years, shoulders had began to sag, and his imposing baritone was punctuated with bouts of dry cough. But Kannan Thatha, was clearly, the man who protected the employees of Raman Builders. Someone, who Viji was glad to have around her at this time.
“Overtime, Thatha… I was about to leave in another half hour, when I heard someone shout. I got scared and ran out. I am so sorry for having startled…”
Even before Viji could complete her sentence, they heard footsteps again at the floor above them.
“You stay here child. I’ll check that out.” Kannan ordered, as he marched with an absolute resolve to put an end to this.
“No Thatha, I am coming with you.” yelled Viji, as she tried her best to keep up with the aging, yet fit frame of her hero of the moment. Kannan tried to shoo her off his trail, but Viji was way too scared to stay anywhere alone. She tagged along.
As Kannan led the way shining his torch through the dimly lit stair way, he mumbled reassurances to Viji. “Don’t you worry ma, I’ll take care of this. I’ll see who has the guts to enter my building under my watch.” Viji felt comfortable with those words of re-assurance. She was so calm and composed, that she almost did not shriek, when she saw a dark sinister figure standing at the exit of the top floor of the building, shining a torch at them. The figure had a strange build, almost human. Except for the head which looked un-proportionately bigger. The scary silhouette was clearly startled by their presence, and darted into the floor, bursting the door open and blinding Viji and Kannan temporarily by the light from the fully lit fifth floor. Kannan winced for a second, and then darted behind the figure in equal gallop. Viji, needed more time to get her eyes accustomed to the light, and gingerly followed in the direction where the two had disappeared.
As she entered the fifth floor lobby, her heart was pounding like a jackhammer. It was insanely silent there. Silent enough to drive her mad. She thought twice before taking a breath, lest she advertised her whereabouts to that mysterious thing in the fifth floor. She tried to shout out to Kannan, but not even a whimper escaped her terrified lips. as she reached the middle of the lobby, trying to peak in at the other side for any sign of Kannan Thatha, the uneasy silence was broken by the lifts coming to life. As her body trembled at this sudden development, she pacified herself that Kannan might have flicked the switch of the lift. While trying to drive fear out of her mind, she heard hints of a struggle from the direction of the electric mains. As she limped towards the direction of the commotion, she was stopped in her tracks, by a torch being flung in her direction. She immediately recognized the torch as Kannan’s, as she had seen him carry that a lot of times during his inspections.
By this time, Viji decided that she had enough. She wanted to be as far away from this insane commotion, as humanly possible. Gathering all the energy that she could muster, she turned around and hit the button of the lift. She did not want to take the stairs, as she knew that her heart could not handle another scare. The lift reached her floor soon, and she ran into it amidst fast paced footsteps in her direction. She pushed ‘0’ and kept on hitting the close button. “Close… Come on Close the door… God, save me. Please…” she prayed as she kept hitting the button. As the door was about to be closed, a hand jammed in to open the door. Viji’s legs couldn’t hold her now. She collapsed on the floor of the lift, and with her tear laden eyes, she saw a middle aged man enter the lift, forcing the door open, with an expression on his face that could have scared even the boldest on Earth. He wore a monkey cap, with a cheap shawl folded up as a turban on his head, and another shawl covering up his body. He seemed to be trembling too. Viji realized the silhouette. It was the ‘thing’ that stood at the door.
“Don’t hurt me. Please don’t hurt me… Please, God, Please…” She begged, crying her heart out.
He said nothing, looked at Viji with shock, and went to repeat the same exercise that Viji had indulged a few seconds ago. He punched the close button as hard as he could, and waited for the lift to reach Ground Floor.
Those were the longest 30 seconds of Viji’s life. As the lift hit Ground Floor, Viji dashed out of it like a raging bull. The other guy also followed suite, as Viji dashed towards the front exit, she found it locked from inside. Before she decided to give up on her life, she heard a deep, yet trembling sound behind her.
“That gate is closed madam. Please use this.” said the guy who shared the lift with her.
He had got rid of his ugly shawls and stood there wearing a blue full hand shirt, with a logo on his pocket that seemed vaguely familiar. ‘The Creature’ was human after all. Viji strained to look at him, and relaxed after she saw the logo. “Raman Builders Security” it read in bold, as Viji came out of the building, onto the busy TNagar road along with the guy.
“Building Security?” She asked him gingerly, still keeping some distance from him.
“Yes Madam. You must be an employee? I see your ID card.” he enquired.
“You bet I am. And what the hell just happened there? I saw Kannan Thatha running in…” she was cut short.
“Madam. You are right. I saw him too. It was horrible. He just went about running over there. I was so scared that I just screamed my guts out.” he explained.
Viji hinted a smile. Some security guard he was. Scared of just looking at the other Security Guard? Creating such a ruckus and giving a poor employee a heart attack. She shouted at the guy.
“Are you crazy. Don’t you know that it is just Security Thatha, our Kannan Thatha, your senior. Why the hell did you have to shout like that. Look, you must be new, and you are just too paranoid and unfit for this job. I’ll complain to Thatha once I see him. What is your name? Where are you..” She kept on saying, releasing her vented up fear as anger directed at this guy.
“No Madam. Wait. You don’t understand Madam.” the new guy tried to composed himself unsuccessfully, as he continued with a tremble…
“Kannan Mama died 3 nights ago while chasing someone in the fifth floor. He died of a heart attack, running those stairs. I am his Nephew – Karthi. I am supposed to be his replacement.” he whispered, looking at the building, bathing in the full moon’s light, as if sporting a sinister smile.
Viji stood there stunned, fighting the temptation to conveniently fall into the comforting arms of unconsciousness. She realized, that she wasn’t the only one. Someone else had also stayed Overtime at Raman Builders tonight.
*** THE END ***