First Line Friday: September 13th, 2019
THE 13TH FLOOR
By Neel Anil Panicker
The elevator stopped on the thirteenth floor with a lurch. My very feeling, a premonition you might say, even before I pushed aside the wrought iron rust filled sliding gates, was that something was not quite right.
A dank putrid smell invaded my nostrils as I sidestepped past a damp little pool of muddy water on which floated a melange of dead insects and fleas. In the near indistinct light of the distant moon that streaked in from the windows, I think I could make out a small bird’s legs, wings, entrails as well as a lizard’s tail, in an eerie orange hue, scattered on the mud floor all around me.
I remember thinking at the moment that I had made a bad decision by not listening to my friends who had warned me against coming here.
“The railways yard?…It’s haunted…no one ever goes there”, they had all averred.
“I will just check out. I have a feeling…”, I had protested.
“You do what you want. There’s now way we will go with you. And don’t say we didn’t warn you, Neel”, they___Akhtar, Karim, and Harish___all childhood friends, had very resignedly said and walked away.
Not heeding their advice, I had turned my back and now found myself staring into near nothingness, my feet shaking with fear, sweat trickling down my nape, my head swirling and a maze, but still desperate to find the answer to the question that had beguiled my mind for the past few weeks___”How did Prasad Uncle die? Was his death natural___as the villagers said, he being run over by a passing train___, or was he murdered, as I believed after having seen his lifeless body lying beside the tracks, his head smashed to pulp, the limbs dismembered, both the eyes yanked out of their sockets.
Is that the way people die when run over by trains hurtling down at a 100 miles per hour speeds, my teenaged mind wondered.
Somehow, unlike many in the village, I wasn’t just about able to reconcile to the theory that Prasad Uncle had drunk one too many, and fallen into the tracks and run over.
Something, an eerie feeling, perhaps, had led me to the yard a mere fifteen feet away from the tracks.
I knew this deathly abandoned thirteen story decrepit ghostly building had something to do with Prasad Uncle’s death.
As I stood there, in the dark, surrounded by dead insects and blood, and as fear enveloped and invaded my inner being, some instinctive sense told me that Uncle’s death was not an accident.
He was murdered____why, by whom, and how?
All questions whose answers I needed to find out.
As the long shadows of the night wrapped me in its constricting folds, I once again took the creaking lift downstairs and walked the grassy path towards my house, the night chill sending spasms of frightly cold down my spine___my mind racing with a multitude of what nots and what ifs.
#neelanilpanicker #flash #fiction #shortstory #FLF #TTC