Finally, I am strong enough to reveal the truth. This incident took place in the offices of a leading newspaper in the city. None of what follows in fiction. Unfortunately, and gruesomely, every word of it is true. This is definitely not for the faint of heart.
I am a little apprehensive about sharing this incident with you all, but then, it’s about time I set the record straight and confess to everyone why I left journalism.
I’ll try to report exactly what happened, objectively and without any emotional bias. Oh, who am I fooling? I’m going to tell you exactly what happened. Trust me, this is scary…
It was 2 in the morning, and the office was deserted. I was on the night shift, and had just finished a satisfying smoke and was walking up the old staircase to my workplace. There wasn’t a soul anywhere in the huge office. The only sounds I could hear were those of the air conditioner clanking up a notch and the occasional roar of a speed devil out on the road. There was a chill in the night air, and I hugged myself for warmth and entered the office. If I stood still and strained my ear, I could hear the footfalls of the people walking on the pavement outside. I glanced at my watch and decided it was high time I packed up and went home for the day. Being on the Internet/technology desk of a newspaper isn’t a comfort. More than anything, it’s a hindrance. Unfortunately for me, this newspaper was widely read, and so I had to stay back till two in the morning to give those insomniac readers the latest update of who killed whom in the world.
I returned to my desk and started to close all my open windows in the computer, switching off the AC and the muted television, where the cricket match of the day was being shown again. As I heard the satiating jingle of windows being turned off, I switched the monitor off and picked up my bag, and stopped…
My bag seemed exceptionally heavy. I didn’t remember bringing any books to work and I distinctly remember the bag being very light. Now, I noticed that there was a slight bulge in the bag’s midsection also. My bag is one of those horizontal zipper bags that require to be slung across the shoulder. These kinds of bags are great for carrying books, but are woefully inadequate for anything slightly bulky like water bottles and tiffin boxes. They stand out like a pregnant belly. There was a similar bulge in my bag. I was confused.
I looked down at the bag again and placed it back on the desk. Frowning, I opened the zipper and looked inside. I almost screamed out…
There, lying in a pool of dirty papers was the most hideous looking head I’ve ever seen. And the fact that there was a HEAD in my bag almost made me faint. It looked up at me with this horrendous expression fixed on it. I couldn’t speak, my mouth was dry. I wiped the sweat off my head and looked around to see if there was anyone who was watching me. There wasn’t a soul…
Now, I’m a pretty rational guy, and my mind quickly switched on the rationale. I started thinking of how this head could’ve gotten in my bag. Obviously, someone must’ve placed it there when I wasn’t at my desk. Now, there were only two instances when I was out of my desk – once for dinner and once for my habitual two a.m. smoke. I could rule out dinner, because the office was packed more tightly than a circus at eight.
So, obviously, someone had put the head in my bag at two, when I was out smoking. This made me feel a bit frightened, as I was sure that there wasn’t anyone in the office!
Or was there…?
I felt goose bumps rising on my arms all over. A streak ran down my spine. “Relax,” I told myself. “There’s no such thing as ghosts!”
“Yeah,” replied my brain. “But there’re serial killers and murderer and psychos!”
Now, I felt really scared. I am a well-built guy, and I could hold my own against anyone looking for a fight, but the thought of defending myself against a crazed lunatic who’d just dumped a frikking head in my bag?
Well, I frankly preferred the quiet life…
The phone rang on my desk, suddenly and shrilly, making me jump put of my skin. The sound of the phone seemed unnaturally loud in the quiet office, and scarier with a head in my bag! I approached it gingerly and picked it up. I could hear my heart beating against my chest.
“H-hello…?” I said.
“Nikhil?” came a gruff voice that I couldn’t recognize.
“Yeah, who’s this?” I demanded, slightly strung out, hoping that the person, whoever it was, wouldn’t notice the tension in it.
“Are you alone?” the voice asked.
“What?” I asked, now scared. “Who is this?”
“Do you have the head?” the voice said.
I was terrified, and a bit angry. “Who the hell is this? And what’s the meaning of this sick joke? Whose head is this?”
“Joke? Mr. Nikhil, I assure you this is no joke. Didn’t you find my note?”
“What note? Who the fuck are you?”
“You don’t recognize me, do you?” he asked.
“Obviously not, asshole!”
“Check the note next to your computer. That head is mine,” he said, and the line got cut.
I held the dead receiver next to my ear for a long time with sweat running down my face, and finally put it down. I looked next to my computer and found a yellow post-it stuck on the side of the monitor. Why hadn’t I noticed it earlier? Curiously, I pulled it out and read what was written on it. And I almost fell down…
I looked at the head in my bag and back to the note I was holding in my hand, and vowed never to do night shifts again. I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Nikhil,” the note began, “please find the head of cabbage in your bag. Keep it in a fridge and bring it tomorrow. I don’t have a fridge at home. How was dinner? Thanks. Ranjit.”
That asshole colleague of mine didn’t even tell me! Imagine finding a head of cabbage in your bag when you least expect it! I am freaked out…
I resigned the next day. I prefer the quiet life. Without heads.