by Annapurna Sharma
Fay had been busy for the past several weeks, globetrotting. As head of the marketing department of Micro Software Systems, a reputed IT firm, she had been attending seminars and presentations, meeting deadlines, checking the company’s software services and a whole gamut of other work. ‘On the move, maybe for more than a month,’ she thought. Jetlags, irregular food, drink and sleep patterns have jeopardized her system.
“Did I have a say in the matter? No. My ambition to reach to the top echelons of power in the company is the drive behind this rat race. I wouldn’t stop, at least not now, when I’m at the peak of my career. It’s a life-style choice that I made,” Fay said aloud, with a smirk on her face.
“Now all that aside for a while, I had taken a weekend break, after a very long time. My first priority would be catching on my ‘sweet sleep’,” she murmured to herself.
Continuous travel had taken a toll on her health. She looked at herself in the wall mounted mirror in the living room. ‘Gosh! How terrible? I look ghastly. My eyes have bags under them.’ She was thin, pale, and malnourished. Unhealthy food had upset her stomach, she often had queasy feelings. She needs a complete overhaul. ‘Eat healthy and sleep wealthy,’ would be the motto for this weekend.
Fay went into the kitchenette, ‘I am ravenous, I need something to eat,’ and she yanked the refrigerator door.
“Aw! It’s almost empty, except for bread. Hmm! For now, I’ll have bread and butter. Maybe I should run to the stores and pile up the food stocks; then I won’t have to hop out for my weekend meals. I should eat right, no more restaurant meals for a while,” muttered Fay.
Sitting at the kitchen table, she gorged a few slices of bread layered with plenty of butter. Then made some coffee, and strode into the living room with her mug of coffee. Settling into her favorite chair, she sucked the smell of freshly brewed coffee, ‘Hmm! A luxury!’
After a few sips, ‘Should I go to the stores now?’
Frankly, she didn’t want to step out of the house. On second thoughts, she decided against going out.
‘I will order a pizza for lunch, and then late afternoon I can set out to run my errands,’ she decided.
“What now? How about reading a book?”
Gulping the hot beverage, Fay went over to the book shelf to get a book, ‘It’s been ages since I purchased a book, I must check on the recent fiction books in the market. Maybe I should ask Stella, she’s an avid reader.’ Fay made a mental note to buy some books. Stella was her best
Selecting a book, she made her way to the bedroom, settled on the bed and started reading.
Fay felt something heavy. ‘Somebody pressing hard on her chest. Ow! She was choked, as two hands grasped her throat. She could feel the load on her increase; she struggled hard, her feet fluttering violently. Smothered, she couldn’t shout for help. No words came out of her mouth. She grasped the sides of the bed with her hands, her head steady on the pillow. What’s happening? Somebody is trying to strangle her. Her mind was racing, as she made every effort to free herself. Who? She has no enemies. Is it a thief or a murderer? Oh! It must be the serial killer, is he in town? But why her? He was after young women. She could smell him, wet and sweaty. Did any of his victims escape? No. Then this is the last of her too, no one to save her. She should have been careful. The alarm was not set, she didn’t have a gun. ‘I’m afraid it is the end of me.’ No, she can’t let this happen to her, she must help herself. The hands tightened their grip on her neck; she struggled harder to break loose.’
She caught hold of the hands and pushed with all her might; she gasped for breath. She opened her eyes, shadows moving on the ceiling. Sweating profusely, she sat on the bed. It was dark; she groped for the light switch. The room flooded with light. ‘There was no one.’ Shiver running down her spine, she was scared to death. Her bed was wet with her sweat. Her lips and mouth parched; cautiously she reached for the water bottle on the bedside table.
She looked down. The murder mystery book was on the ground. She picked it up and flipped through the pages. She had fallen asleep while reading about the attack by the serial killer. ‘My! What a nightmare?’ She glanced at the digital clock, it showed 22:22. She had been sleeping for several hours. She quickly gulped a few sips of water, and tried to calm herself.
Then what about the shadows? Should I check or should I call for help? Thoroughly shaken she didn’t dare do it herself.
After a while, mustering courage she got up, went over to the window and looked out. Dark and silent out there, the trees swaying in the night wind.
Making up her mind, she switched off the light, gazed at the ceiling, shadows still moving. ‘The trees,’ she said aloud and switched on the light.
Her stomach grumbled, she forgot to order pizza, now she had to survive on bread for dinner. She chuckled, the price for her ‘sweet sleep’. ***