Capital Letters III: The Visitor

I am one of those people who don’t believe in ghosts, and yet wish they were true. My scepticism comes from my impatience towards superstition of all kinds, and from the conviction that every ‘inexplicable’ phenomenon can be rationalised by common sense. That said and done, I am a lover of the unknown. I like ghost stories, horror films, cryptozoology, unsolved crimes, urban legends, and conspiracy theories. And I am partial to sunny days rather than dark and stormy nights when it comes to the right moment for supernatural manifestations, because there’s something intrinsically eerie about a quiet afternoon that gets under one’s skin the way nights – when one is invariably on one’s guard – do not. I also harbour a strong wish to spend a night (or maybe an afternoon) in a haunted house. But to my regret, so far I have not been able to be in one of those situations that people recount to entertain each other in parties and gatherings; the sort of experience that starts with “There was this time I was alone in this house/apartment/PG/hostel…” and very soon betrays its roots to some famous story or other.

That is, until now.

It happened last Saturday. I was in my bed, sleepily trying to find out what was it that had woken me up at 6:30 in the morning. I was alone in the quiet second floor apartment, but I had indulged in my usual habit of shutting (but not locking) my bedroom door. When I realised that the cause of my interrupted slumber was a series of rapid knocks, my first thought was that they have been made on this door by our maid, wishing to gain admittance to clean the room. I mumbled out a “Come in!” in the relevant direction, and put my head back to the pillow. Several seconds later, I gathered that no one has entered the room. So I reopened my eyes. My second thought was also of the maid; maybe she was knocking at the front door because the key entrusted to her was not working (the front door lock is a bit tricky). It never crossed my mind then that she usually engages the doorbell in such cases. I was simply eager to let her in and get some more sleep. So I got out of bed, stumbled out of the room without my glasses (this would be important later), and lurched my way to the front door. Personally, I am very myopic, and feel quite vulnerable without my glasses. But it being early morning I didn’t bother to waste time by stopping to put them on. So I reached the front door, felt for the door handle, and opened it.

No one was there.

No, not exactly no one. Something moving close to the floor caught my eye. With my blurred vision I could make out a quadruped shape going silently down the stairs. It might have been a dog, but there was something off about the body language; it was more like that of a monkey or a human child, walking unaccustomedly on all fours. Halfway down the stairs, it stopped and looked back at me; or so I felt. Then it resumed its descent, and vanished around the corner. It was only then that I realised the hair on my neck and arms was raised, and my heart was thudding madly against my ribcage. I locked the door, went back to bed, and mercifully, fell asleep almost at once. I woke up a few hours later, and found out that the maid hasn’t come after all.