By Victoria Kim
In the days of celebration, whenever I am required to pick special clothes out of the special closet, I back away with fear. With the closet come the passionate screams, terrorized soft whispers, the shuffling of the monster’s body as it readies to devour its prey. With the closet comes numerous memories, memories I wish would wash itself away from my brain. Now I know many of you have been thinking, passionate? Must be a romantic rant, but it isn’t. Had it been romantic, I would have associated roses with the closet, but I can’t even associate thorns; I would need something much scarier.
It was my twelfth summer. I was labeled an innocent child, a true replica of the sweet virgin child expected of someone my age. I was quite ruthless as I was raised alongside my two elder brothers Ravi and Sam. I was far more interested in playing soccer with my brothers than going inside the kitchen to help my mom prepare food for the guests soon to arrive. My mother wanted to go on a tirtha to pray for the longevity of her family. She had asked me to accompany her.
Well, what I would I have preferred to do now? Go barefoot for miles and bang my head across the temple floors, asking God to reconsider my sins? Or would I prefer to lie in bed and get up only to reply to nature’s call?
I preferred the latter, which disappointed my mother, as she went on to give me an hour-long lecture on how unreligious I was. I was the type to pray to God before a test, asking God to help me get above a 90. I was rather joyful at the fact that I got to stay home with my brothers. Now we could spend the entire day playing soccer without having anyone screaming at us for not arriving home early for dinner.
However, my mother’s antagonistic character prevented me from living my life. “There is no way I am going to leave you home to the hands of men!” said my mother.
“Men, they’re my relatives! I know them, and I grew up with them!” I said.
“Have you even thought of what the neighbors would think? What would they think of me if I were to leave you in the hands of men?” she said.
The old fleabag really didn’t know how to stop. No matter how much I fought with her, she would always have it her way at the end. It would be better if I listened to her now rather than get a few beatings later on.
“Then where do you want me to live? On the streets, where a random stranger can come and pick me up anytime?”
That got her. I knew it would. She gave me a shocked face full of horror, possibly wondering what kind of idiot she had given birth to. Her only daughter was thinking the way all the women of her family were taught now to.
“Why, of course not! I’m not that bad of a mother, for heaven’s grace! You have many relatives. I’ll arrange your stay with one of them. And if none of them are available, then I will have no choice but to take you with me.”
From that moment on, I started praying earnestly for one of my numerous relatives to let me live with them for a while. God must have felt the eagerness from my prayers, seeing as He answered them. My aunt and uncle said they would love to have me over until my mother came back.
As grateful as I was, I didn’t know what to think of the situation. Although my aunt seemed somewhat softhearted, my uncle was cold and distant from others. Whenever we would gather together for special occasions, my uncle would excuse himself from the rest of us and sit alone in the family library, casually reading the newspaper. My aunt was kind of pitiful, to be honest. She had lost her parents at a tender age. Her aunt and uncle were empathetic towards her, which made them adopt her whilst having a daughter themselves.
Although my aunt wasn’t treated maliciously, she wasn’t given the same special treatment as her cousin. When it was time for her to be married off, her aunt and uncle did their best to marry her of to a respectable family, and they succeeded in doing so. My uncle didn’t lack anything. Not only was he handsome, but he was also wealthy and well educated, as he owned his own entertainment industry.
When my aunt was married, everybody was happy for her. At last! She can taste joy in her life for once! However, things didn’t necessarily go as planned. She was left all alone on her wedding night since her husband had a matter of business to take care of. He would distance himself from her every day as my aunt tried to get closer to him.
My uncle was notorious for bringing people home. He would often claim that they were rookies who were waiting for a chance to hit it big in the music industry, but nobody knew what happened behind the doors. He would often bring home men ranging from adolescents to middle aged and take them inside his private chambers. When his servants started creating a scandal out of the whole issue and calling him gay, he started bringing home women of all sorts. My aunt didn’t say much about her husband’s disgraceful actions. She closed her eyes and blindly trusted him since she was afraid she would create a rift in their nonexistent relationship if she said anything to him; so, she kept quiet and let her husband’s cryptic acts pass.
I started packing my clothes and valuable items into a small suitcase my mother gave me. My aunt had sent a chauffeur to pick me up and take me to their estate. It was considerably nice to be swimming in luxury once in awhile, but the fact that I would have to encounter about my uncle eventually chilled me to my bones.
When I got to their house, my aunt rushed me into their estate while the servants greeted me enthusiastically. I locked eyes with my uncle, and I bowed down to him to show respect, which he acknowledged and left after greeting me back.
“Don’t worry about your uncle. He will be back with us for lunch. He is often busy with his work and giving the new rookies work,” said my aunt.
Although she was smiling at me, I could see the glint of sadness in her eyes as she showed me to my room. “If you need anything, just call me over. I will be in the room across from yours, so don’t hesitate. Just get comfortable and treat this house as if it was your own house.”
My aunt was the only one who reassured me that I was indeed living with loved ones and not a mental institute. Lunchtime came, but my uncle didn’t. When my aunt asked for his whereabouts, the servants replied that he had gone to his workplace to judge the audition of new trainees who wished to be a part of his agency.
My aunt’s face went pale as she put down her fork and knife. She looked at me and said, “Vicky, continue eating. I must have had a lot for breakfast, as I don’t seem very hungry at the moment.”
I nodded back to her and eagerly dug in to my four-course meal. Later that night, I lay on my bed and thought of my uncle. Was work so important to him that he couldn’t spare a moment for his loving wife, who had spent hours making lunch in hopes of him being there? If I had a job where I couldn’t see my family, I would have quit.
Sleep came after homesickness, because now I wanted to go back home were everybody wasn’t living their lives as fugitives and captors. I wanted to run home and jump into my mom’s arms, asking her to take me to her boring tirth. I wanted to go home and kick a soccer ball with my brothers. I wanted to go home and accompany my mom in the kitchen. I wanted to go home and do everything I once hated to do, anything but be here.
I woke up at the crack of dawn. The sun was still rising, as was I. I needed to find my aunt and ask her to send me home to the comfort of my brothers and the aromatic kitchen. I darted out of bed and went across the hallway to the room where my aunt and uncle were. I knocked softly as I said, “Auntie, Auntie, are you there? May I come in?”
No one replied. I twisted the doorknob to find it open. Did my aunt not fear the dacoits in the night? I tiptoed inside the room and closed the door behind me, preventing much noise. There was nobody on the four-poster bed. The lights were off. What was going on? If my aunt wasn’t there, then where was my uncle? Did he sleep in his office, too? Suddenly, I heard noises. It was the roars of the monster and the screams of its prey.
Now alert, I turned my head at the speed of a hawk’s, determined to figure out where the noise was coming from. The closet. The closet was shaking. Was it giving birth to a new monster? It shook so vigorously that I was afraid I may land underneath it. With each courageous step, I took in a deep breath, adamant about opening the closet. I needed to know what was in there. My hands shook as I turned the lock to open. In a flash, I opened the closet with the speed of lightning, and I screamed at the sight to behold in front of me.
The monster held its prey captive, bound with ropes. The prey’s wrist was bleeding as the ropes dug into its flesh. As for the monster, it looked like a deer caught in headlights. I looked the monster straight in the eye as it dared me to open my mouth. I was terrorized and shaking violently as I slammed the closet door and ran with all my might into my room. I shut the door closed as my legs let out. My aunt was really pitiful. Where was she? Did the monster devour her? How was I to tell her that the monster was no one else but her husband!
Until this day, I haven’t returned to my aunt’s house. In fact, she stopped coming to family reunions, along with the monster. The monster never came out of the closet. In fact, it is still known to secretly take its prey inside the closet and devour them. The monster hides itself like a coward. While some know its reality, it still hides from the world. To be honest, I now wish I had never seen the monster carrying out its rituals. Had I not, then my aunt wouldn’t seem as pitiful as she already does. From that day on, I would ask my mother to open the closet and pick out an outfit for me. I refused to look inside it. The closet had become my nightmare, my worst nightmare.
This story was inspired by Ismat Chughtai’s horror story, “The Quilt,” originally written in Urdu in the 1940s, from our unit on sexuality.