Today is probably the last day of my life.
Damn, I really hope not.
Let me tell you a few things about myself.
I’m Aditya and a third year student at BITS Pilani Hyderabad Campus in Computer Science. I’m a workaholic and love to-do lists.
I just have one thing on my to-do list today.
Stay alive, Aditya.
I extend my arms, trying to feel the musky, dusty walls of the A-Block stairs around me. Nobody ever takes these stairs, and the maintenance personnel also haven’t bothered to clean it up. I had turned a corner and suddenly it had grown pitch dark. The walls are cold and hard, the varnish peeling off. In the quiet, I become aware of my loud breathing and heavy footsteps and I catch my breath. The silence is deafening, the darkness blinding. The air is heavy with humidity. I feel like I have a fallen into a bottomless abyss.
Above me, I hear a loud thud. That must be him. I kneel down to my knees and remaining as still as a statue, I wait for the minutes to pass. But my mind is racing. I can’t be here in this building for even a moment more than I can spare. It’s too dangerous. But I have nowhere to go. My mentor, my only friend, who took me under his wing and cared for me like an older brother, is dead.
I have no safe place to go.
Everyone thinks he committed suicide but I know that he was murdered. Tortured and killed. And now the assassin is after me. His dark, shadowy, hooded figure is lurking in some cold corner of this very establishment, hunting for its next prey. Who he is and how he got into campus premises, I do not know. And I have no evidence, so no one will believe me. They think I’m a sociopath with no friends making stories up in my head to keep myself entertained.
So, I have no safe place to go.
I realize that I’m zoning out and pull myself together. I have to act fast. I need to escape this killer. In my mind, I draw a map of the Academic Block. The cold stone walls and the peeling varnish must mean that I am in the 1st sub level, the one which is rarely in use, except for a few labs which are under renovation. Few people ever come here during the day, and none at all at night. My car is parked in the lot two stories above me. I have to get there somehow.
I turn around and tread lightly back in the direction I came from. I turn the corner again and somewhere ahead I see a hint of electric lighting. I follow it to a flight of stairs and up above to the ground level. The Information Systems Lab. I shut my eyes and I can visually stimulate my brain cells to picture him sitting right there at the desk, hunched over his computer, scribbling into his notepad, his brow scrunched, hair untended and unruly. I can see him, that genius young man, explaining his topic of research to me for the very first time, with his face glowing, and his eyes glinting with excitement. I can see him, as I did this morning, hanging from the ceiling in a dark corner, his skin blue, his eyes rolled back into his head. A young Prof. Satya, smart and ambitious, had just been beginning his thesis after completing his Master’s degree in Computer Science. A chill runs down my spine and I pull myself back to reality.
Act fast. You don’t have much time.
I take a quick look around to make sure the lab is empty and scurry to the staircase that will take me to the parking lot above. I am uncertain. It’s way too quiet. Where did he go? A tsunami of frightening possibilities washes over me and my knees wobble with fear.
Relax. Don’t panic. You’re going to get out of here safely.
I take a deep breath and make my way up the staircase. I am met with a rush of cool summer night breeze. I recall the suffocating blackness right below me and cringe.
Move! You don’t have much time.
I sit in Prof. Satya’s car and turn the key. As a third year student, I am not allowed to have my own vehicle on campus but Prof. Satya is. The car doesn’t start. I fumble with the key a couple of times. My hands are sweaty and shivering as I grab the steering wheel and hit the accelerator. I’m not even out of the parking lot yet when I see a glint of light reflected just behind me. I hit the brakes and stop short. I’m not known to do well under pressure.
Just then a pair of scruffy, rough hands grabs my neck from the back seat.
TO BE CONTINUED.
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– Nikita Mandapati