Previously – The boy hears the voice again when he looks at a man in the bus stop. 320 it says. And then after some time, he hears it again. 198 it says. And then the man collapses. Dead. That night, the boy gets a crazy idea into his head. But he dismisses it. He’ll found out how wrong he is now.

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I’m late. I’m late. I’m late!

I barely have half an hour to get ready. And today is the last day of the semester. From tomorrow, we have a 10 day break for preparation for our externals.

I brush and bathe hurriedly. I decide there’s no time to comb my hair and hurriedly sit for breakfast. My dad’s there at the table for a change.

He is a software engineer. He usually goes for work by the time I wake up and comes back after I sleep. As a result, he is always tired. But today he’s there at the table, eating breakfast. He is looking bright and fresh. I can’t remember the last time I saw him like this.

“Morning dad!” I said, putting a chapatti in my plate.

“Good morning, Sidhdhu,” he says, pouring some dal in a bowl. “So what’s your story today?”

“Huh?” I take the bowl and scooping some dal in a folded piece of chapatti, I start eating.

“Why are you late today?”

“Ah-I could not sleep well last night. Some numbers kept repeating in my head.”

“I know you love math, but leave it alone at least in your sleep!”

I did not correct his mistake. It was those numbers I heard I was thinking about. And that voice. And that sensation. And my impossible theory. I shake my head and say,

“So what’s your story? You’re not going to office today?”

“I’m taking a break. I heard you’re having a break from tomorrow. Thought I’d accompany you.”

I groan inwardly. My alone moments at home just vanished.

“SIDHARTH, HAVE YOU SEEN THE TIME?” my mom yells from the kitchen. I jump a little and look at the watch.

Shit, I’ve just got 5 more minutes until my bus arrives. I leave the half eaten chapatti and take my bag and rush out.

“Bye!” I yell out on the way.

“Bye!” yells my dad and mom back, together.

I make it just in time for the bus.

Throughout the day, I find myself looking into people’s eyes involuntarily. In the college, among my friends, in the class and in the canteen, I catch people’s eyes. Some look at me strangely. Some turn their heads away. A girl frowns in my direction.

I hurriedly look away. My friend, Vidhyut thumps me on my back.

“What’s the matter with you today?” he asks, giving me the look.

“Me? Nothing! What’d I do?” I try to squirm my way out.

“You’re staring at everyone! Girls, I can understand. But boys too! Don’t tell me…”

I punch his shoulder.

“Shut up and eat!”

“Ow!” he mockingly cries out. Turning back to our friends, he says,

“Did you see the match yesterday? 49 all out!” he continues about the RCB vs KKR match. And the conversation turns to IPL.

There is that sensation again. Heavy. Disgusting.

I’m in front of my apartment. The security guard was eating his lunch sitting at his table. There was no one else around.

“Meow!”

I saw the cat then. It was in front of the gate. It looked like it was coming out from the apartments. It turned its head towards me, its eyes staring at me, watching my every move.

29.

That voice again. I shudder involuntarily. That voice was familiar. I again try to remember where I heard it before. But I can’t.

At the same time, I start to count down in my head.

  1. 24. 23…

I was subconsciously trying to prove my theory.

Nothing happened. Everything was silent. Or as silent as it would be when you have mild traffic nearby.

  1. 18…

The cat was still staring at me. I was still. Counting. Counting.

  1. 14…

There was an engine sound approaching. A car made its turn into the lane.

  1. 8…

The cat started to move slowly. I was still unmoving. I was standing diagonally to it.

  1. 4…

There was a sudden clattering. The sound made even me jump a little. The security guard had dropped his steel containers on the floor. They were empty, so the sound was greater.

  1. 2…

I happened in a moment. Startled by the sound, the cat jumped. It immediately started to run. I ran straight onto the road. In the direction of the approaching car.

1.

The car moved away, leaving the corpse of the cat on the road. All I was thinking at that time was how little blood was spilled and then remembering the numbers,

‘Shit!’

I was in a daze the whole way home. My father and mother were out. I put my bag down and go to the sink to wash my face.

I look up. The first thing I notice is my hair. It was a mess. Did I go through the whole day with this bed hair? I sigh. Then I look at myself.

The voice is back in my head. This time I was looking into my eyes.

‘583207,’ it says.

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