Wingword Poetry Prize 2020 is now open. Submit your poems today!

A Veil of Deceit

Charitra Sree Senthil Kumar

“Following the events of the alleged killing of the 12-year-old boy by his own mother, the online community has uncovered yet another important evidence- a suicide note. The mother was allegedly witnessed pushing her son to his death on the night of March 20, 2019. The CBI had closed the case as first-degree murder three months later, and Alma, 12-year-old Alex’s mother is currently in custody, awaiting trial. Previous updates from her lawyer led to the speculation that they will be pleading not guilty for reasons of insanity, but things have taken quite a turn since the last hour when a suicide note surfaced online. A picture of the suicide note was uploaded on the blog, youcantseeme.com, the same website where many disturbing details were revealed regarding this case in the recent…”

The stone-faced female reporter from last night droned on tirelessly from his smartphone as Dani looked around the unfamiliar room. It mainly housed a desk, cluttered with papers covered in dust. A wooden chair, with a broken leg managed to barely stand in front of it. At the center of the desk however, something was clearly missing, as the fine layer of dust covering the entire room had not managed to creep in there yet. Dani was ready to bet everything that it was @youcantseeme’s computer. As a freelance investigator working for no one currently, Dani had nothing much to lose, and a whole career to gain if he managed to unveil this mysterious blogger, neck deep in this sensational story. After searching through the dusty clutter, Dani fished out a crumpled printout of the first blog post that had gone viral, two days after CBI announced the case as “closed by arrest”.


[
June 27, 2019 8.58pm

1. ALMA IS A SLEEPWALKER

Isn’t it easy to believe everything on the news from the comfort of your couch? Read that again.

Yes, Alma was a sleepwalker, a crucial fact that has been repeatedly hidden by the officers and media alike. She has been a somnambulistic from the day Alex was born- something that had bothered Alex’s dad for a very long time, especially after she unwittingly walked over their four-month-old baby. Of course, baby Alex was stronger than a couple of rib fractures. It was Alma who had needed attention at that time, but no one cared. Not even her husband.

Now, why do I think this piece of information is crucial to this case? Stay tuned for more updates on this space.
]


Dani remembered the backlash and outright threats the mysterious blogger had received from the enraged readers of his blog, for portraying Alma as anything but the deranged killer that she was considered to be. On the one hand, @youcantseeme was accused of being a cheapster, making up stories to earn an unethical living and on the other, his follower count increased by the thousands every hour.

The next day, the @youcantseeme had come up with answers to the accusations, which Dani was holding in his hand right now. A photocopy of the divorce papers Alma had received from her husband in late 2007, about six months after Alex’s birth. The grounds for the divorce were stated as, “disability to care for child and spouse.” @youcantseeme further wrote that the divorce was never served, as the grounds were found to be false, but the marriage broke irreparably. Apparently for @youcantseeme, it had taken only a few images of photocopied document to gain the unwavering trust of his followers, which had crossed a million by now.

Back in the room, Dani’s feet were starting to ache now. He’d been scouring through the contents of the room for the past two hours, but it looked like the third blog post was never printed out. In the end, he accepts defeat and opens the webpage on his smartphone. Due to the sensitive nature of the information revealed last night, the Telecommunications Department had blocked the access of the webpage, but Dani was not disheartened. A simple Google search brings up hundreds of images of the page he was looking for. He balanced himself carefully on the broken chair, trying to rest his tired feet for a couple of minutes.

A photocopy came up dated February 22, 2019, a First Information Report filed by Alma following the death of her husband, exactly one month before Alex died. In that, she claimed that her husband would have never killed himself, and that it had been murder. “An eerie murder,” in her handwriting. In an image of the comments section, internet’s investigators were hotly discussing how, after a recent arm injury and still in a sling, can a man hang himself? Alma and young Alex had been close by, playing in the living room when it had happened. “How did they not hear the crash of the chair falling?”, was the most upvoted comment, and Dani agreed. He pressed the upvote button on the comment, realizing then, that it was just an image. A hasty Dani clicked on the ‘>>’ at the corner of the page and it took him to the picture of the fourth and final blog post.


[
July 7, 2019 11.48pm

4. ALMA DID NOT KILL HER OWN SON

She would never! Especially after losing her husband, he was all she’d had. Let me tell you how you all have it wrong.

The night in question was one among many where Alma would sleepwalk to the terrace, always taking the elevator to the 22nd floor. The ding of the elevator would usually wake either her husband or Alex who would then run after her. Since the death of her husband, she had been really disturbed, adding a severe depressive disorder to the array of things torturing her mind every day.

I am going to throw something out there now. Something that only I know to be true. You know I have been telling nothing but the truth. I am relying on the 1.8 million minds to decide the truthfulness of what I’m about to say next.

Alma and Alex (even the father, probably) were being tortured by something that was more difficult to comprehend than mental illness. Something that wasn’t natural. Something that spoke only to their minds and had complete control of them. Many of you had wondered how they missed the crash of the chair while the husband was killing himself. Maybe there was no crash. Maybe a rope did not strangle him. Maybe an inhuman hand squeezed the life out of him first, and then mounted him like a specimen for everyone to see.

And on the night of March 20, 2019, when Alma was sleepwalking to the terrace yet again, Alex had already been there. He had been there writing a letter to this “friend” that he had never seen, just a few minutes before he threw himself from the 22nd floor, right in front of Alma’s unseeing eyes. Strangely, neither the mother nor the son had sensed the other’s presence. If only they had, probably none of this would have happened and I would have no reason to exist. When Alma heard a scream pierce her silent night, she finally woke up to see her son lying dead in a pool of his own blood, and herself, just a few feet away from the parapet wall. The rest is history.

And now, here is the letter Alex wrote minutes before he fell.
]


The next image was the strangest part of this case. It was also what had brought Dani to this room. He had been one of the very few people who had actually seen the blog post go live, before it was taken down by the CBI moments later. He’d had the wits to download everything, and for that, he thanked his lucky stars. None of the other posts had yielded any information about the writer behind these posts, but this one had. Attached to this final upload was an IP address, visible clearly to everyone who knew the nuances to look for it. It was as if he had wanted to be found.

Today, in the early hours of morning, a few minutes past 3.30am, Dani’s partner had called him, yelling the address of the location Dani was standing in right now. This was where @youcantseeme had uploaded the final post from. He turned his attention back to his phone. Although he had read the letter at least fifty times, it still gave him the chills.


[
Dear Friend,

I am here, where you told me to be when I write this letter to you.

I am doing everything you told me to, in the hopes of seeing you. Mama doesn’t believe you are real. Papa told me about you once, so I know he knew, but he is not here anymore, is he? And when I haven’t seen you myself, how can I convince Mama?

I still remember the first day I sensed you. You almost shut the door on my face and gave me such a fright! I don’t want you to think that I am a coward, but I was quite scared of you in the beginning. Especially every time you accidentally locked me in the closet. You loved hiding in the darkness behind closed doors. Well, you always made me search, and despite my fear, I never got tired looking for you. Once I told Mama about you, and she checked everywhere, even under my bed, but we never found you. But now I know of course. I know I have to do what you told me to, in order to finally see you with my own eyes.

Also, the way you used to tap on my window endlessly, whenever I fall asleep too soon- that used to creep me out the most. But later I just started sleeping with my window open, so that you can climb in whenever you wanted to. Somehow your invisibility didn’t stop us from becoming best friends.

Hey, wait a minute... Are you the one leaving spiders and cockroaches under my bed? They keep getting bigger each day. And they keep increasing too; Mama complains a lot these days. But I don’t really care about them. Easy conquests for science projects.

Oh, remember when we were playing hide-and-seek, how the ceiling fan almost fell on my head because you had been sitting on it? I still laugh when I think about it. What a mess! That was exactly one day before you sent me your first letter. You told me to look into the mirror if I wanted to see you, and I did look! You weren’t there. I guess there is no end to the games that you play, is there? Or maybe you were just testing if I was ready, like Papa was.

I can already imagine you laughing at my silliness when you read this letter. Anyway, where are you? You promised you’d be here. That’s the only reason I creeped up to the terrace as soon as Mama fell asleep. I climbed 20 flights of stairs to see you. The elevator is too loud at this time of night. Hey, you have to promise me about the other thing too. You told me I will be able to see Papa one more time. I hope you meant it. You know how much he means to me…

Oh, wait! I think I hear you. I see your dark shadow near the parapet wall. Ah, I think you are playing games with me again, but like I said I am not afraid of you anymore. I just want to see you and Papa once and I promise I’ll leave you alone. Are you somehow reading what I am writing? I just saw your shadow move away with a giggle. Don't go please! Wait…

I can see you crouching on the slanting roof beyond the parapet wall! What do I do? Hmm, it’s going to be tricky to climb over, but I am coming over, wait. I’ll leave this paper and pen here. We can come back to it.

See you soon, dear Friend.
]


The goosebumps never settled on his skin as he finished reading the letter. But he was terribly disappointed as well. After hours of searching, he had failed to uncover anything new here. When his partner had discovered this location, he had hoped there would be something to find here. Whoever this guy was, had let him come this far, but no more.

His phone rang in his hand. It was his partner.

“Dani, did you watch the news? Alma is dead.”

“What the fuck are you saying?”

“Yes dude, it’s all over the news. She killed herself. Threw herself from the terrace of the facility she was in. They’re claiming she was sleepwalking again. Were you able to find anything there?”

“Umm, nothing. I really thought there would be some new evidence here.” He could taste the disappointment in his partner’s sigh. “Anyway, let me get back to you.”

Dani was beyond flabbergasted right now. What did this mean? With the emergence of the suicide note, Alma was probably going to be cleared of all charges. And now this? Had she really been sleepwalking or did the “friend” have something to do with this? It was difficult to think straight. He walked over to the sole window and opened it. Daybreak was stretching in front of his eyes and a mild breeze cooled his sweaty face. There was a rustling sound behind him- paper rubbing against each other, and Dani went back to the table with renewed energy.

He saw a small slip of torn paper lying at the center of the desk now. There’s no way he would have missed it earlier. It was as if it had come out of thin air. The handwriting on it looked very scratchy, but comparing it with the one from the FIR, Dani could swear it was Alma’s writing. His heart was racing as he read the words written on it. He couldn’t fathom how it got here! He knew this was the moment his life was going to change.

“Dear Friend or whoever you are, just let me see Alex once. I’m begging you. Please.”


1 comment

  • Wow.. Well written and it really got me glued. Supernatural horror genre was never my thing but I couldn’t stop reading this one. Good work. And please continue…

    Vinny

Leave a comment