La Belle Annabelle

What should have been a fun movie review outlining how good the movie is, how the scares and the scare tactics work, how the movie’s subtle plot points connect well with the Conjuring universe, Unfortunately, it was not the kind of horror that I thought I’d be watching.

The day started off nice and easy. The I-Day. It felt nice to celebrate the day in a way that I could. Spur of the moment decision and I opted to watch a movie, Annabelle : Creation , later in the evening. A quick hop to Leicester Square later, I knew I had arrived an hour before the show could start .It was going to be a good evening after all. I loitered the streets, shot a few pictures, the smiling faces of Londoners was as pleasant as they have always been. With a little time to go, I made it to the movie hall. A large bag of salted popcorn later, the show was all set to begin.

This was a first of many kinds. I’ve been a purist when it comes to picking movie halls. BFI – IMAX. Period. Unfortunately, BFI was still showing Dunkirk, a movie that I seem to be avoiding for no warranted reason, I made that choice to try Super Screen in Cineword Leicester Sq. Italian leather seats, Oh I picked the balcony, which made it even more flamboyant. The balcony was smallish and cozy. I knew I’d enjoy the show. I had picked a nice strategic seat. Bang on Centre to the screen. The horror was all that I needed. Like a junkie after a fix, I was excited about the show that was to begin.

The funny thing that added to the sense of horror in that balcony was the simple fact that when people walked in, the entire room would feed shock waves. Two false jumps later, I had gotten used to the movement and the aftershocks. The ads had started. There were a dozen people sharing the balcony with me. Small crowd. That enhanced the eeriness to the movie watching experience. Perfect.

The floor rattled once again. I had grown wiser to it’s rumble. I ignored it. It rattled and rattled some more. The rattling persisted and I realized that something was going on a few seats away. I slowly turned away from the screen towards the side to see what was going on. Two blokes had kick started a fist fight. They were about 10 seats away from me, a row above.

My initial thought was that they were just a bunch of kids, teasing each other and landing soft punches to kill time. With the clock ticking, the punches didn’t sound soft any more. Yes, I could hear each thud landing. I could hear each fist getting in contact with a body.

Lets just say things escalated really quick. I’ll skip through the gory details. Watch American history X instead. I saw the same thing. Thank god, it wasn’t an execution.

I sat frozen in fear. I didn’t want to be on the path of the two idiots hell bent on killing each other. I made a split decision to run down the stairs and notify the manager , or flag it to the cops who were there on the streets. The message now conveyed, the cops now engaged, as I walked back to the hall to collect my bag, the victim walked past me. The horror still remains in my head and his blood remained splattered across my shirt. I didn’t realize it when he walked past me.

Testimony and witness account narrated to the cops, the movie resumed. With the movie now watched, only when I walked under the lights of the street did I notice streaks of red plotting fashionable tangent across my white shirt. I grew sicker and sicker on the train ride back home. I knew I was hallucinating the smell of blood. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t real. It felt all too real to me. The sanctity of my sanity had been breached.

It was the moment when the horror had finally caught on.

What drives us to deliver horror in real life? For what it’s worth, the movie was good and it’s horror was pale in comparison to the one which I didn’t volunteer to witness.

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The secret in her eyes

The nagging headache was back again. It came in sporadic bursts. The first few times, I tolerated them and dismissed them as a part and parcel of life. Work did come as a package and I assumed that the headache was something that I signed up for. The classic case of not having the time and the inclination to read through the fine print!

As they became a regular occurrence, my friends put the fear of the lord with thoughts about aneurism into my head. Happy , smiling and walking one minute and dropping dead another. The fear had sunk in. I rushed to the doctor for an opinion. The doctor had dismissed it as a harmless eventuality. Drink water, exercise , don't strain yourself a lot and you should be a-ok, he had adviced. That was a proper waste of £100 flushed down the drain in the name of professional consultation. My mom would tell me the same every bloody morning. As always, I'd carelessly ignore her pearls of sensible wisdom.

And so I drank my water, I exercised a bit. I tried to relax through the days of challenges and mental pressures. It worked for a while and the headaches seemed to recede. Things came back with a vengeance this afternoon. I had breached the limits of my tolerance. I packed my bags and decided to head home and sleep things off. St Paul's station was a minute away from work. I made it to the tube. Tuesday afternoon was a little lean on the commuting. I wouldn't know any better. I had never bailed off at 13:00 ever. The compartment had twenty odd people. I boarded the train. As it started to move, I could feel the pulsating throb in my head. Slowly , a shooting pain was sweeping up to a crescendo.

"I wonder how she'd be doing now".

I looked around to see if anyone was trying to have a quick chat with me. No one. I was standing alone by the window. I scanned the vicinity to find the source of that voice. I failed in spotting anyone.

"I shouldn't have come to work today. I hope Emma doesn't have the flu"

I could understand what was being said, only couldn't understand who was saying it. I looked around frantically like a madman. Luck eluded me.

"Who the hell does he think he is!!!!!! I hope he burns in hell"

Far away from little Emma and her possible bout with the flu, this statement was way out of the ballpark. Anger and disgust oozed in it. I could feel the intensity behind that hatred.

I stumbled upon the answer. I realized that each time I made an eye contact with the fellow passengers, I could hear the things running in their heads. I wondered if they could listen to my thoughts! I assumed that they'd consider me a nut case and shake their heads disapprovingly. I decided to validate the thesis. I tried gazing into a few more eyes inconspicuously. It was funny, the way the city worked. One could make an eye contact for a second and nobody would make anything out of it. If one continued to keep staring, people would usually avoid confrontation and would shift their eyes elsewhere. The body language and the signals shared would be obvious. People would gracefully turn their backs to the prying eyes and that would usually be it.

"Damn, it's still a long way to Friday"

"It better be a negative. I don't think we are ready for this"

"Why is that weird bald man with his clumsy pony tail staring at everyone"

The last one made me panic a bit. I tried to slow things down. I felt assured of what was going on around me. I could hear thoughts by gazing into people's eyes.

The train stopped by Green Park. I saw her walk in. She walked past me, searched for a seat to occupy. For some reason, she decided against sitting and stood right beside me. We were facing each other. We were separated by generous inches but in thoughts, I knew I'd be a lot more closer to her.

"That was a rush"

I smiled at her as I did when my eyes met strangers. It was a social norm. She was no stranger to it. She smiled back. I was beginning to enjoy this game of thought- voyeurism. It felt oddly satisfying to know what others thought was a hidden secret.

"It's sad that it's over. But yeah, It's nice that I can start again"

It was a bit stranger that unlike the rest, hers wasn't a thought of concern or a conclusion to the events of the day. She was actually having a conversation in her head. I felt the excitement surge in me. The anxiety kindled the headache. I felt the throbbing in my head again. I shut my eyes tight and decide to mentally clench my mind to supress the pain. It seemed to work.

"I wonder if he'd bleed any different. I guess chubby folks have more blood in them or something. A soft precise cut here, the thin chrome blade slicing through the skin, I wonder if he'd feel the cold from the steel"

WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She was contemplating a murder. The way her thoughts were structured, I couldn't help but assume that she was not a novice to the dark side. It so appeared that she had done that a lot of times and her curiosity were now part science and part amusement. I scanned the train to see if there were any other chubby folks in it besides me. For the first time, I felt exposed and unsafe. The angelic blue eyes , that soft tanned skin, her black curly hair no longer felt like belonged to the heavens. She was possibly HR from the department of Satan.

"Indian… I don't think I've ever played with an Indian before. I wonder what that'd be like"

I could sense my heart palpitating at this point. She was talking about me. In her mind, she was orchestrating my murder. I felt trapped and helpless. I couldn't cry out for help. Who'd believe me. Besides, thinking of murder and actually committing one were two separate things. I'd be a nut if I accused her of thoughts of violence. I'd be dead on her table, if she actually did what she was thinking about.

The pain had taken over by this point. I closed my eyes to supress it again. The pain shadowed everything else. All I could see, hear and feel was a blank black emptiness. Everything else had faded into it. I think I had blacked out. Ah damn it.

I opened my eyes with a strain. The bright white light strained my eyes and it was a challenge to focus on what I was seeing. Everything felt blurred. I saw her again. Same blue eyes, same black curly hair. She was looking down upon me. My heart raced. I couldn't figure out how I landed on her table of death. The serials and the movies had sensitized me to the ways of hidden psychotic killers. They all seemed to have their own operating table of murder. The posh ones sure did. She had one. There was a strange sense of adventure, knowing that I was going to be her victim number whatever, and there was a surge of adrenalin in hopes of the preservation of self.

"Easy there" she softly whispered.

I couldn't tell if it was her eyes reminding me that resistance was futile or if she had really spoken the words to pacify me.

I struggled to get up. My hands weren't tied but I was groggy. That made things difficult. This must have been her MO. Obviously she had sprayed something that had left me immobile. I couldn't understand how she managed to sneak me out from the train. Then again, beauty and brains, I didn't think it would have been hard for her to not accomplish most things that she had set her mind to achieve.

"Relax. Take it easy. Now what's your name"

What? Why was she asking me for my name. She was a sick sicko predator. She was toying with me. I tried to scream but I could barely hear my voice through the silent room. My throat felt dry.

Before I could say anything else, before I could get a pulse of my surroundings, all I saw was her readying the plunger of an injection. The she-wolf was now all set for the kill. I accepted defeat and decided to not struggle anymore. This was it. Everything blacked out again.

"Dude".. "Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude".. the word seemed to echo.

"Eat man. Been telling you that for bloody ages. You freaking passed out on the train. You caused the Central line severe delays. Folks from the hospital called. Thank god, you never did have your phone secured by passwords or finger prints. They reached out to the recent calls and gave me a call."

Where am I man? I could see the familiar face of my bud. That was assuring.

I learnt of the events of that afternoon. I had blacked out. In and out of consciousness, my mind had conjured up realities that weren't there. An hour later, I was good as new. I had dressed up and was ready to leave. I asked to meet the nurse who had helped me. I learnt her name was Emma. Apparently, it was her day off, she was battling the flu, but had decided to turn up for work nonetheless. I guessed she'd have cursed the doctors a bit. All of it was now making sense. Subconsciously, I had picked up conversations and my mind filled in the rest. I hugged her and thanked her for saving me. Ah well, happy endings and smiles ever after.

Two months later, the headaches had seized. It was a Friday and I had decided to leave work early. The same old tube, similar crowd in the mix.

Hi, came a familiar voice. It was Emma. We chat for a bit, giggled at silly jokes and decided to hit a coffee shop by Covent Garden.

She was nice. I was glad that fate had managed to bring us together. The last two months, we had kept in touch. Silly greets and whatsapp messages. I'd probably not say that there was something that was going on, but the chemistry was sure there.

We ordered mocha and decided to take it on the go. We sat by the market to soak in the sights of the evening.

Things felt good. Things felt in place and then I felt a shooting pain. Something had pricked me.

Emma smiled her angelic smile."I've always wondered what it'd be to play with an Indian" her soft soothing voice carried.

Ah crap!

Karthik