Every year, around Christmas, I am blessed with a nightmare or two about things that truly scare the shit out of me.
Very few things scare me as much as penguins do. Yeah, it’s a rare phobia to have, and I am one of those very few people in the world who are afraid of the flightless demons. They are evil and they won’t hesitate to kill you and eat you, every chance they get. They walk like they are on a mission to hunt you down and their stare is enough to turn your blood cold.
Last evening, I had one of my frequent penguin nightmares. But it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I dreamt that I was being hunted by a penguin dressed as Santa Claus.
I found myself in a strange room with three doors and no windows. A loud, disembodied voice called out to me, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Nikhil!”
More intrigued than scared, I looked around the room frantically to locate the voice. From somewhere, a draft of cold air blew threw me and I shivered involuntarily. That’s why I realized I was naked. There were absolutely no clothes on me at all. I tried to search for the source of the breeze but couldn’t find any. There were no windows, as mentioned, and no vents or cracks in the wall. There was no furniture, no electric sockets or appliances of any kind. Despite the lack of light bulbs or any other artificial source of lights, the bare room was strangely illuminated in natural light. I wondered what the hell was going on.
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” came the voice again. It was a deep, guttural voice that was a bit menacing as well.
“Santa?” I whispered.
“Have you been a good boy this year?” asked the voice in a lilting tone, as if daring me to say yes.
“Wh.. What? Yes! Yes, I’ve been a good boy!” I stammered, now thoroughly scared. I could feel my bladder filling up.
“Liar!” screamed the voice. “You’re a liar!”
“No, No! I swear!” I yelled back.
Then, the door on the far right flew open with a bang and I couldn’t see beyond the darkness of the doorway.
“Run,” said the voice simply.
I stood there, frozen on the spot. Where was I? What was going on? I took a gingerly step towards the open door when the door on the far left flung open and there, framed in the dark doorway, stood a penguin, three and a half feet tall, wearing a blood-red Santa hat and brandishing a gleaming knife. It had a sneer on its face that almost seemed to tell me that my time was up.
It waddled towards me in the sinister way that penguins do, and spoke in the same creepy, bone-chilling voice, “I said, run.”
Then came the laugh. The laugh that echoed all over the room, penetrated deep into my very soul and made my balls shrivel up into tiny dots. The laugh that seemed to cut open my skin and suck all my blood out. The laugh that echoed all around me and inside me and threatened to rupture my brain. The laugh that forced some feelings into my frozen legs and made me break into a run through the open door on the right, away from those menacing, blood-shot eyes of the crazy bird-beast.
I ran, sweating and panting and unable to scream or shout out for help. I ran as fast as I could in the darkness, not knowing where I was headed or where I was stepping. I could hear the pitter-patter of the beast’s tiny flippers chasing after me. I could still hear it laughing as it ran, as if the beast were toying with me.
“Run faster, Nikhil,” it called out to me. “Is that the best you can do?”
I could feel the voice growing louder which could only mean one thing. The penguin was gaining on me! I increased my speed and felt my lungs burning for oxygen. Every muscle in my out-of-shape body ached and screamed in pain as I forced my legs to work faster.
“Merry Christmas, Nikhil!” said the penguin-beast and laughed out one last time. I could feel the cold steel on my leg. It had caught up t0 me and was slashing at my legs! I found my voice and screamed out loud.
I woke up, drenched in sweat. I saw a Santa hat lying on the floor next to my bed, the hat that I had purchased from a roadside vendor that very same afternoon, in my misguided Christmas cheer. I glanced at my clock and saw that it was almost time to wake up. I swung my legs off and stood up, snatched up the Santa hat and threw it in to dustbin. I put the trash out and made sure that someone picked it up and recycled the bloody thing.
Merry Christmas, you say? I’d say it’s a fascinating start so far! Even now, I sit here and wonder: what might have been behind the middle door, the one that stayed shut?