The heat permeated the small studio apartment as the humid air swallowed Sharad. Under normal circumstances, sleep came to him easily. On this night however, he struggled to attain it. Sharad had a big promotion interview scheduled for the next morning and the nerves had finally sunken in. He was unsure if he was worthy of receiving such a prestigious position at the university, and yet, his boss and mentor, Kalyani, had seen fit to offer him up for the position. He did not want to let her down. He was sure of his knowledge about worldwide myths and legends, but at the age of 32 he was still unsure if he was qualified.
The minutes dragged on as sweat poured from Sharad’s coffee brown skin. He wiped it away, hoping that somehow, that would cool him down. It didn’t. The minutes continued and eventually, Sharad’s eyes grew heavy, and with several slow blinks, he drifted to sleep. The last thing he noticed before darkness ensued was the time on the alarm clock by his bed: 1:30 AM.
A loud crash awakened Sharad from his slumber. He opened his eyes to see his alarm clock flashing 12:00. A power outage, he thought. The heat remained and the sky was still illuminated by the moon that seemed to lazily hang in the sky. Sharad let a silent curse pass his lips as he noticed the open window. A wind gust must have knocked down one of his collectible art pieces, he thought.
Sharad didn’t bother to get up from his bed and fix things in his apartment. He had an important day tomorrow, and besides, his phone alarm would keep time. It would wake him when he needed to be awake. He closed his eyes again and held them shut in hopes that sleep would grip him and carry him softly into the dreamland. Instead, a sharp itch on his thigh grabbed his attention. Sharad reached his hands down to his thigh and vigorously scratched. His chewed fingernails dug into his skin and provided some temporary relief.
The itch returned, stronger this time. He scratched a bit longer until he no longer felt the need to scrub his jagged fingernails against his thigh. To make matters worse, a moth found its way inside Sharad’s dark apartment, it flitted and fluttered around, agitating Sharad. The itch persisted. Sharad scratched and scratched, and eventually, he stopped for fear that he would begin to bleed. The itch, though, persisted.
Finally, Sharad rose from his bed and made his way to the bathroom, he had to see what was bother him. He had to know if there was something there; something that would explain the itch. He flipped the bathroom light on and immediately became struck by his own appearance. He was pale. Paler than he’d ever seen himself. He looked as if he’d been playing in baby powder. He noticed his eyes. His pupils were huge, almost like he’d taken some sort of drug, but no, Sharad had no memory of doing such a thing. Besides, Sharad’s’ “experimenting” days were over.
The itch persisted. This time it seemed to radiate around his neck. Sharad scratched, and the moth that made its way into Sharad’s apartment continued to flit around; this time circling the bathroom light like a stream of water circling a drain. He swatted at it and missed. The moth went on its way into another space in the apartment. Sharad continued to scratch.
He dug his nails deep into the nape of his neck and scratched back and forth. His nails seemed to dig deeper than before. He reluctantly stopped scratching and looked at his hands to make sure that he didn’t make himself bleed. There was no blood. It was then that he noticed that his nails seemed slightly longer and sharper than the night previous. Maybe it was his imagination, he thought, the product of some undisclosed wish that his fingernails would grow.
Sharad left his bathroom, hoping beyond his wildest dreams that maybe, just maybe, he would be able to get some sleep. As he passed the threshold of his bathroom door though, he felt a sharp sting on his bare foot. He yanked his foot back quickly away from the sunlight.
Sharad did not understand what was happening to him. Why had that hurt him? Why was he itching so badly? He sprinted across the room towards his phone, careful to avoid that rays of sunlight that poked through the blinds of his windows. He needed to cancel that interview. He had maybe an hour of sleep and it didn’t seem like he would be getting anymore. He grabbed his phone that lay next to the clock that was still flashing 12:00. He texted Kalyani that he wouldn’t be making it to the interview.
In the meantime, he had to find a way to keep the light out. The poisonous light, the dangerous light. Not even the slightest ray of sunlight could be allowed to make its way into his apartment. He sat on his bed, scratching his now scarred skin. That’s when the idea struck him. He ran to his kitchen and grabbed his roll of black trash bags and a roll of duct tape from his junk drawer in the kitchen. He began methodically taping the black trash bags to the windows to block the light. It wasn’t perfect, but it would do; he thought.
He was finishing the last window when he heard a knock at the door. At first, he didn’t feel the need to respond the knock. They had to just be some salesperson trying to make their commission. If he didn’t answer, they would leave…. right?
The knocks began to increase in frequency and loudness.
Several minutes passed, and finally an exasperated voice made itself known to him.
“Sharad?” the voice said. “Sharad? It’s me! Kalyani. I just wanted to come by and make sure you’re okay. Please, come to the door and let me know something!”
Silence fell for just a second, and then Kalyani broke the silence once more. “Sharad! I’ll ask once more, are you ok? I’ll have to call the police if you don’t answer me. I need to know you are alright. I don’t think you would have cancelled that interview if it weren’t dire. I managed to work some magic! The board will hold the interviews until you feel better. Please! Answer me!”
Sharad contemplated. It was wonderful that she was able to make things work out for him. The least he owed her was to show his face.
Sharad made his way to the front door. Upon opening it, he felt a wave of feeling. Hunger, thirst and arousal.
“Hey, Kalyani,” he managed to say before feeling overwhelmed by the itching that now consumed his entire body.
“Oh, good! You’re alive. I was worried there for a second. What’s wrong with you? You running a fever, chest cold? Do you need some soup or medicine?”
“No, I think I’m okay…I’m just not feeling my best. I’m really itchy all over and I feel cold.”
“Oh, okay Sharad. We need to get you to a doctor. You are so pale. You need to get checked out.”
Sharad heard her words, but he wasn’t sure he fully understood them. He was beginning to be consumed by the only thought that would come to fill his mind. Hunger. It was all he could think about at this point. He wasn’t just hungry for normal food though. Something about the way Kalyani moved made his hunger increase. Eventually, he could no longer restrain himself. He lunged at Kalyani like a lion on its prey. He bit into her flesh, surprising himself with just how sharp his teeth were. He felt the warm liquid that sustained her life seep through the puncture wounds that now marked her skin.
He drank and he ate. He ate and then drank. When Sharad was done, nothing remained of Kalyani except the tiniest bit of decaying flesh with Sharad still slowly eating at her flesh and trying to make the most out of what remained of his dear boss and mentor, Kalyani.
It wasn’t until very little of her body remained that it seemed his senses returned to him and he realized what he had done. He looked around and noticed the giant splashes of the blood on the wall. He grabbed a bucket, a mop, and some towels. He had to clean this up. No one could know that Kalyani was there. And so, for the next few hours he spent his time scrubbing every inch of his home, hoping that should someone come around asking about Kalyani there would be nothing to tie him to her. He put her bones in his trashcan and waited for night to fall before he disposed of them.
Night fell, and Sharad grabbed the bag, which was heavier than he expected. He made his way down the stairs with the trash bag in had and once he got around to the back of the building, he tossed the remains of Kalayani into the trash. Hoping to never have to think about the atrocity he’d committed.
As Sharad reopened the door to go back to his apartment, a man approached.
“Hold the door open for me will you?” The man said.
An unmistakable feeling swelled inside of Sharad. He let the door close and the hunger overtook him.