The drive from Delhi to Nainital was a whopping 7 hours but that didn’t stop Rewa and Mayur to make the journey to get out of the town for the weekend. The newly married were ecstatic to leave behind the scorching Delhi sun, more so their mundane routine and their exorbitant workload.
They decided to beat the sun and get on the road while it was still dark outside. They quietly loaded their trunk and backed their SUV out of the garage, silently hoping not to disturb any of the neighbors. A few hours into the drive, they were out of the city. Rewa rolled down the windows as the wilderness around them engulfed them in darkness, the full moon being the only thing lighting up their path.
Rewa leaned her head backward, letting out a soft sigh as Mayur reached out for her hand and gently held it. Rewa looked up at him with a soft smile on her face and blushed when Mayur placed an innocent kiss on her hand, his eyes fixated on the road ahead.
Almost three hours into the drive, Mayur’s eyes started feeling droopy, and they decided to switch places before Mayur succumbed to his sleep while driving. As they switched, the couple gave a wary glance to the trunk of their car. It was the first time they were traveling alone post-midnight. They had hardly encountered any car on their way. It felt as if they were the only ones traveling this summer. Rewa shrugged off whatever worry she had as she looked at her husband and told herself that nothing would happen as long as he was with her.
The two started their journey again, this time with a lot more caution and a little music to keep them lively. Rewa was a novice driver, but the almost empty road made it easy for her. Time passed, from 30 minutes to an hour, and Rewa’s eyes set on the monotonous road ahead of her. The sound of the music began draining out and her eyes started feeling heavy. She lost control of the wheel as her mind gave up to the drowsiness only to be woken up by a screaming Mayur who took charge of the situation soon. As Mayur swerved the steering wheel to keep the car from going off-road, Rewa pushed the brakes as hard as she could causing the wheels to screech on top of their voice.
The car came to halt and the couple got out of it rushing to check the damage. Rewa rushed to check the trunk of the car, while Mayur started walking upfront to check the smoking engine. He stopped midway when he heard a rustle and a groan from the nearby bushes. Rewa appeared from behind the car, her expression of fear mirroring that of her husband. Mayur followed the sounds, ignoring the cautious look from Rewa barring him to do so. As he flashed his phone flashlight into the bushes, he let out a gasp as he found a man, roughly his age lying there, withering in pain. As Mayur got closer, the man flinched, protecting his face with his elbow.
“Hey man! Chill, we got you!” Mayur said reassuringly extending his arm to help up the stranger.
“We need to leave him to the nearest town” he whispered to his wife, “It’s the least we can do”.
“But-” Rewa was cut mid-sentence as her husband was already helping the stranger into the back seat of the car.
Letting out a weary sigh, and one last worrisome glance towards the trunk of the car, she went ahead and sat in the passenger seat next to her husband as they resumed their journey.
They still had roughly three hours of drive ahead of them. No sooner did the car get moving again, than the stranger seem to have forgotten all about his injuries.
“I’m Jai. I happen to be pretty well-versed with this route. I backpack through quite often.” the stranger casually said with a light shrug.
“Do you know it is believed that this road has some kind of bad luck for people who cross it?” He continued with a vicious smirk, his eyes glued to the back of Rewa’s head making the little hair at the nape of her head, stand.
“Missing persons, unidentified bodies, mutilated cattle, a lot has been going on in these quiet forests. Can I get some water?” he said extending his arm towards a now uncomfortable Rewa.
“There you go,” she said hesitantly handing over her pink water bottle to him. This was the first time she got a clear look at his face. He had no sign of being hurt or injured anywhere on his body. He seemed to be dressed well enough to be a homeless person. According to Rewa, he had no business roaming the area at this hour of the night.
“Haven’t you heard?” He continued after taking a large gulp from the bottle. “There’s a serial killer on the loose out here. A lot of travelers have been found dead with their hearts missing. All were en route Nainital. Isn’t that where you are headed.” His face was lit with a gory smile that stretched all the way to his ears as he shared this horrifying information.
“An-Anyway what were you doing out here at this time?” Rewa asked Jai, not sure she wanted to hear the answer.
“Well, my car broke down like a million kilometers from here so I was hitchhiking my way all to the lake district. Glad I caught hold of you guys. Who knows what’s lurking behind the darkness out there!”
“You seem to know quite a lot about this area.” Quipped Mayur, looking at him in the rearview mirror.
“Look out!!!” Rewa warned him breaking his gaze from the mirror and on the road as the car almost hit a deer standing in the middle of the road. The car swerved past it with a jerk, causing the bags to get dislodged. Rewa turned out to catch a glimpse of the animal when her eyes fell on Jai’s bag which had fallen on impact. Her eyes enlarged, and red, and scared at what she saw. A large chef’s knife, all covered in blood had fallen out of Jai’s bag. Jai followed her gaze and reached out for it slowly, his smile still glued to his face.
“Hey hey, it’s not what it looks like. Guys, just listen to me” Jai said both his arms raised, the bloody knife in one.
“Get out of our car,” said Mayur, stepping on the brakes.
“Guys no don’t please! You don’t understand. This-..this is nothing, it’s not real.” By this time Mayur was already out of the car and heading towards the rear door, but Jai was too quick. He locked the door from inside, quickie getting out of the other side and prying open Rewa’s door before she could understand what was happening.
“You stupid stupid people,” he said laughing hysterically. He had his knife against Rewa’s throat. The other hand grabbed both of Rewas to keep her from escaping.
“Let her go or I’ll call the cops” Mayur threatened, taking a step toward his helpless wife.
“Stay where you are or I’ll rip out her heart,” he hissed back. “ As for the cops, go ahead and try my friend. You don’t get any signal in this part of the forest.” He crackled his evil laughter once again.
“I warned you, you never know what kind of evils lurk behind this darkness! Mmmm..I can hear your heart beating so fast!” he said sliding the blade down to her chest and piercing it with its pointy tip.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT”? Mayur screamed as his wife shrieked in agonizing pain.
“ WHAT DO YOU THINK I WANT? I want her heart. And yours of course. And this Amazing car.” He said cockily. “C’mon, open the trunk and show me everything you’ve got before I serve you your wife’s heart on a platter and make you eat it”
With trembling fingers, Mayur unlocked the trunk.
“Please, just take everything you want! Please let her go. We won’t tell the cops. Take the car and everything in it. Take me as well. Just let Rewa go” Mayur begged Jai, falling down to his knees.
Chuckling hard, Jai walked towards the trunk and pulled open the tailgate. As he did so, he dropped the knife in disbelief at what he was seeing. His face left all color and beads of cold sweat started appearing on his forehead as he looked down at what looked like the dead body of a man. An expression of fear, forever frozen on his wrinkled face and a huge cavity where his heart was supposed to be.
Jai took a step back from the trunk. Before he could make another move, he felt a huge knife stab him from the back. As he looked down at the blade that came out of his chest, he recognized the tip of his own knife he had been using to scare the travelers to surrender their precious items.
“Careful babe, you don’t want to puncture the heart now,” Rewa said turning around with a small grin on her face.
“Yeah yeah, well you are the expert here miss” Mayur winked at her, handing over the knife.
Rewa knelt over a quivering Jai, as he lay there taking his last breath. “You were right Jai. You never know what dangers are lurking in the dark.” She whispered into his ear before one final stab to stop his heart forever.
Once again the newlyweds loaded the trunk and got on the road. Mayur reached out for her hand and gently held it. Rewa looked up at him with a soft smile on her face and blushed when Mayur placed an innocent kiss on her hand, as they drove into the sunrise.