Friday, October 24, 2008

The Children of the Night

Another short story of mine which won a competition! The topic was a line from Bram Stoker's Dracula: “Listen to them, the Children of the Night, what music they make”

The Children of the Night

I stepped out of the taxi, holding my bag nervously. This was the fifth orphanage that I was being sent to. I never seemed to last long at any of them. The nuns and the doctor would whisper sympathetically about my traumatic experience when they thought I wasn’t listening. They seemed to think that it had affected my social skills, making me quiet and withdrawn. I could have told them that it had nothing to do with the incident. I had always been what they termed an introvert. I didn’t interfere with others, and it would be a lot better if they didn’t interfere with me.
The steps on which I now stood were of the Cross Academy, reputed to be the severest in the country. It was reserved for the worst cases among orphans, children who were the most ill-behaved or showed minimum potential. Brute force was said to be the mode of enforcing discipline here. The orphanage was situated in the outskirts of the tiny town of Pachmarhi. It was in a secluded grove which looked as though no man had come across it in a thousand years, and indeed no one would wish to. The building was an old English bungalow with a few more wings that seemed to have been added later. Behind it tall fir trees loomed, announcing the beginning of the forest. The forest surrounded the house on three sides, an effective shield. It seemed to be guarding the house along with its secrets.
Dr. Chetan, the head the academy, ran out of the large front doors at this point, interrupting my musings. His eyes glinted in a pleased fashion behind his shell-rimmed glasses as he looked me up and down. He extended his thin bony hand, deeply calloused with numerous burns, and let out a hearty welcome. I shook his hand briefly, and then followed him inside the house in silence, tuning out his enthusiastic patter.
I was introduced to everyone. During the introductions I noticed that everyone had the same sunken look in their eyes, as though they were well past caring about anything or anyone, and certainly unconcerned about any new arrival. The doctor alone radiated any energy. The only help he had running the establishment was from a girl who would be about eighteen years but looked much older. She cooked the food and swept the house. Otherwise the children were supposed to clean up after themselves. The children in this place were different from those in the other orphanages I had been to. Their faces had lost all colour and their eyes were dull and lifeless. They had none of the impetuous curiosity or wicked sadistic instincts that the children I had previously known had had.
I found that we had rooms to ourselves, another discordant factor, but a pleasant change from noisy dormitories. It was tiny, since each fair sized room of the bungalow had been partitioned into eight such rooms, but it was private. The partitions were hand made. Someone had put a lot of effort into this.
I could not sleep that night, not an unusual occurrence for me, so I did what I usually do on such nights- I went for a walk around the house. In fact my tendency to wander at nights was one of the reasons I had been sent away from so many orphanages. The night always made me feel more alive than the day ever did.
I wandered into the hallway and stood looking out of the large old fashioned windows set deep into the walls. The air was completely still outside. Suddenly, in the midst of all that stillness, a haunting melody arose from deep within the forest. It was as though many small voices were humming this eerie tune. The song slowed down for a few seconds, and then began with a new, even more haunting melody. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end.
“Listen to them, the Children of the Night, what music they make”, said a voice softly in my ear. I spun around, my heart hammering, and saw Dr Chetan standing before me, a strange smile playing about his lips as he too gazed out of the windows.
He then turned to face me, and said with an even broader grin, “You seem to prefer the night. That’s good”
When I made no answer, he continued: “I heard your parents were murdered”. I noticed that he did not say ‘are no longer’ and avoid the word ‘murder’ the way other adults did. Perhaps it was his bluntness, but his words made a scene rise unbidden before my eyes- My parents, covered with their own blood. Their eyes horrified, fearful, disbelieving… their voices pleading… to no avail.
“I see”
He stood there staring at me in silence for a few minutes.
‘The children here’, he began suddenly, his voice taking on a new tone-hushed and excited, “they aren’t ordinary kids. They are special creations of mine”
I made no reply as I continued looking out of the windows.
“I am a scientist, and with these children I have accomplished something extraordinary”. His voice was fevered now and there was a manic gleam in his eye. He gestured towards the forest as he referred to the children.
‘I came here thirty years ago and it was then that I heard the legends of the children of the night- creatures looking deceptively like children walking amongst us. They were supposed to be musical and possess great powers. Since then it had been my greatest wish to create such creatures of legend and have them do my bidding”
His words tumbled into each other with rising passion. His eyes, as they gazed into mine, were alight with a sort of religious fervor.
“I have experimented with the orphans under my care. Oh they can sing, but they are of little use besides...” his voice was filled with disgust. “Ah! But you…You seem different ... And you may have power…I need power!!” the last words came out in a shout, and the singing voices in the forest immediately fell silent.
He grabbed hold of my arms. “You, my dear, shall be my greatest project till date…you will bring me power, glory...” He started pulling me across the hall towards a room at the end, which had been heavily padlocked the day before, but now stood with its door wide open.
It happened in an instant. We were halfway across the vast hall when he abruptly let go of my hand and wheeled away from me. He fell with a thud on the floor and looked up, his face pale with shock. Blood was splattered everywhere, shining wetly in the moonlight. I leaned over and gently ran my tongue down the rip I had made in his cheek. Placing my fingers on his chest, I made another rip, causing a fountain of blood to burst out.
I bent down and started feeding hungrily, quenching the thirst of many years.
When I was sated, I straightened up and looked into his dying eyes.
“The children of the night cannot be created. They are born, to parents unfortunate enough to have them”
I walked back to the window and stood before it. Lifting my gaze to the crescent moon, I hummed a melody. Immediately I was answered by a dozen melodies as one by one the orphan children appeared before me. They came and made a silent circle around me, waiting expectantly.
“ I have found you, my flock, after much searching. Now we belong together”
I smiled, finally at ease amidst company of my own choosing.


Sanjay Kataria said...

Nice piece of writing!!!

Rumbling Ranter said...

I have read this story before and I have said this earlier too but I will say it again. Amazing work! Creepy. But amazing! I can never ever write like you. EVER.

adithya balakrishnan said...

You're writtings are BEAUTIFUL!