- 18 Mar - 24 Mar, 2023
Saying this she left me and started walking towards the opposite direction. I kept on looking at her. She was going towards the exit of the park, until I followed her and stopped her:
“Farheen stop, please don’t do this.”
She turned around and looked at me. I spoke politely:
“Why are you acting so childish? We were good friends, weren’t we?”
“So why can’t we be a married couple?”
I was speechless again.
“You love me but you’re not admitting it,” she spoke in an annoying manner.
“Alright fine!” I raised my voice. “If that’s what you want then let’s do it. But not too soon!”
“And let me add one more thing here, you are not usually like this. Today you’re acting really strange. Don’t be like this again.”
The three students were sitting together outside the ward. One of them was writing a report. Their professor came by and asked them:
“Have you understood anything about the case?”
“Yes,” replied one student.
“These women were hit by a tragedy,” the professor explained, “and all of them were hit at the same time.”
“So that tragedy led to this mental illness?” the student asked.
“Of course, its tragedy most of the times that ends up people like this.”
“Is there a cure for such illness?”
“Well, the scientists are working on it. Some researchers say that medicines are enough to cure this disease. Others however, differ in their opinion. The cure is not available in Pakistan at the moment.”
“Sir, you told us that one man Zubair Karwani was responsible for their mental condition, so does that mean he was the one who caused this tragedy in their lives.”
Another student interrupted their conversation:
“Can I see that photo of Sarim Waqar?”
“Here,” Professor Zeeshan said handing over my picture to her.
“So Sarim Waqar,” she said looking at my picture, “those patients know him as Saad, Abdullah, Ahsan or Rashid.”
“Yes but his real name as you all know was Sarim Waqar.”•
“So you’re saying that you’re willing to become a murderer?” Wajeeh asked me.
“Hey, I am a harmless person,” I replied. “I have never hurt anyone. These stories of becoming killers after living at that place, I don’t know if they’re real or made up but they can’t change my decision of wanting to live in privacy.”
“How about you wait for one more week and in the meantime I search for some other place?”
“Search for some other place?”
“Yeah,” he replied instantly.
“One week? Really?”
“You can stay here in the meanwhile.”
“Oh no, I mean thank you for the offer. I appreciate it, but I need my privacy quite soon and I would like to stick with my first choice.”
“So you’re not going to stay here anymore?”
“Look please, don’t get me wrong, but I am not feeling comfortable. You know that I’m crowd phobic.”
He got silent and looked down on the table. I wanted to apologise for my behaviour but it seemed either awkward or unconvincing which was why I didn’t say anything.
“Alright fine,” he spoke after a short moment of silence which actually felt like a long one, “I’ll give the number of that apartment’s owner. That’s all I can do…”
“That would be enough, really.”
He smiled courteously yet sadly and picked up his cell phone from the table. He searched for a while and then dictated the number.
I noted the cell number on my phone and saved it.
We had a little more talk until I suggested that we should sleep. He went to his room and I went to mine. I saw that his room was shut now. Seeing the opportunity, I picked my wallet and kept it in my pocket. I held my phone and then began to walk slowly trying to create minimum sound. I opened the main gate and stepped outside without making any noise. Within few minutes I left my friend’s home.
Next afternoon, I was walking on some footpath. I dialed the apartment’s owner’s cell phone number for the second time and as before it was powered off. I uttered:
Come on man, turn on your phone, please!
I was so desperate and worried that what if he didn’t answer my phone. I had to find a place to stay. And I couldn’t risk. So anyways I went to a restaurant nearby and had my lunch.
While I was having my lunch and had almost finished it, I heard my cell phone ringing. I don’t know why I expected the apartment’s owner’s call despite that I knew that it wasn’t possible but anyways as I saw the caller’s ID, it was Wajeeh’s call.
Oh God, no!
This was what came to my mind as I saw the ID. So anyways, I ignored it and continued eating.
After I had paid for the lunch and had stepped out of the restaurant, I made another call to the apartment’s owner. This time the number was powered on and the bell was ringing. I got kind of excited as he answered my call:
“Sir this is Sohail Lalani, you don’t know me but I’m a friend of Wajeeh. I was actually looking for an apartment and I was told that you have one.”
“Oh I see, well, yes there is one but it’s a little too vacant.”
“You mean there’s no furniture.”
“No, except for one, anyways if you can bring your own furniture then I have no problem I can give you the keys to the apartment.”
“Well, I don’t have any but I can arrange. Anyways, how much will you charge?”
“Charge? You mean how much rent?”
“Yes, yes that’s what I’m asking. The cost is not an issue however.”
“Well, the rent is thirty thousand per month. If you can give me cash.”
“Done! No problem,” I replied spontaneously. “I’ll arrange the cash.”
“Can you meet me within an hour? There’s something I have to warn you about.”
“Regarding the house?”
“Yes, can we meet today?”
“Sure, just text me the address and I’ll be there within few minutes.”
Few hours later, inside his house’ guest room I was seated. He was seated on a sofa opposite to mine’s. He repeated what I just told him:
“So let me get it straight, your plane landed here but your luggage is still not here. And it’ll take a little time for them to get it here?”
“And secondly you don’t have a place to stay but you have enough money to rent an apartment?”
“That’s right, and I want a quiet and lonely place.”
“May I ask why?”
I chuckled courteously.
“Should I be concerned?” he asked looking at me.
“Don’t worry, there’s nothing to be worried about.”
“Okay, well before handing over the keys to the apartment, I must give you some instructions. Those instructions are more of a warning if you know what I mean.”
“Okay, I’m listening. But before you begin you must know that I won’t change my mind about living in a vacant apartment that had bad consequences in the past.”
“Well, I suppose Wajeeh has tried to warn you before about what I’m about to?”
“That’s right,” I replied. “Anyways, go on please.”
“There’s a red piano in the center room. It is a grand piano. I’ve kept it at the corner of the room and there’s a chair next to it. It might appear attractive but I got to warn you that it’s a dangerous thing.”
“Dangerous?” I asked with sarcasm.
“Yes,” he replied quite seriously. “My tenants, all of them became serial killers after they went close to that piano. They were normal people; in fact, they were quite kind hearted people. But after they touched that piano and played it for a while then you better believe it. They became murderers.”
I got to tell you. I wanted to hit this guy as much as I could on his face. The kind of rubbish that he was telling me, I just couldn’t bear it and wanted to beat the hell out of him. But at this moment I had to bear it and attain the apartment’s keys from him which is why I listened to him patiently.
“So all I can do right now…” he continued, “is warn you and suggest you to find someplace else to stay. If there’s no other option, then you can have the apartment’s keys. If you go near the piano and play it just for once, then you’ll want to play it more and if you’ll continue playing it then it’ll become an addiction.”
“May I say something?” I interrupted his speech. “I sir have never played any piano in my entire life. I don’t know how to play it and neither am I interested in any kind of musical instrument.”
“That’s one thing, but the piano in my apartment is not just another piano. It’s a kind of thing you’d like to sit closer to and…”
“…Let me tell you sir,” I interrupted him again losing yet controlling my temper, “I am a kind of person who has no interest in music at all. Music is a waste of time according to me. No offence, but your musical instrument means nothing more than a piece of…”
I stopped speaking feeling as if it was inappropriate to go further. I continued after few seconds:
“Sorry, look sir you have nothing to worry about from my side. You’ll get the rent on time and it’s probably about one month only. In fact, you can have the entire cash in advance.”
He didn’t know what to say so he remained silent. I asked him:
“When can I get the keys? I’ll hand over the entire cash that same moment.”
“The key is here with me. I don’t need the cash in advance. All I want from you is to stay away from the red piano.”
“You got it? Anything else?”
He stood up and walked outside the room. After a whole one minute he came holding a set of two keys. I stood up. He spoke:
“Let me give you the address…”
Several hours later, I was standing outside the apartment. I was holding a triple folded mattress that I had just purchased. The keys of the apartment were in my hand and I was looking at the door that was painted white.
The house must be quite messed up. There must be dust and spider’s web everywhere. I must be mentally prepared for it. I told myself that I shall clean the house entirely except for the piano. The piano must remain the way it is.
Anyways, I unlocked the house’ door and opened it. As I entered inside and turned on the buttons of the tube lights, I got amazed to see that the house was entirely clean. And by clean I mean there was not a single spot of dust as far as my eyes could see.
I kept the mattress inside and shut the door. I looked at the white house. Everything seemed white as if it was painted recently. I kept on looking around and enjoying the view until my eyes saw the red grand piano. I got to admit, I was kind of startled. Why wouldn’t I be? People had been warning me about it as if it was some kind of wild animal. I kept on looking at it. It was red like blood. It was shining too. Seemed imported and expensive.
I walked towards the piano until some kind of alarm rang inside my head that made me stop walking. I shouldn’t go near it. Yes, that’s what I was told.
Alright fine! I uttered. I won’t come near you. Don’t even want to.
I turned and started to walk towards another room until I heard the voice:
Or do you?
I turned around to see who just spoke. It was actually a voice from my own thoughts but the emptiness of the house made me feel as if someone else spoke those words. I ignored it and kept walking towards the room. The room was big and clean. I decided to make it my room for sleeping. The door that led to the balcony was a sliding door made of glass.
It would be comfortable here. I told myself.
For a whole one day I didn’t go near the piano. I ordered my favourite food from nearby restaurants and ate them in order to entertain myself and keep myself from getting bored. I listened to FM Radio on my cell phone while lying on my mattress. Other than all this, I exercised a lot in order to get myself tired and then sleep.
The second day, I tried to do the same. It wasn’t really helpful the second time, this time I was getting bored and needed something else to entertain myself. That second day, my cell phone began to ring. And as expected it was Wajeeh’s call.
I ignored his call and didn’t answer it. I was guilty was I? I don’t know and I shouldn’t care probably.
The third day as I woke up on my mattress, I got frustrated realising that another boring day had just begun. What to do? How should I pass my time? No such thing as entertainment.
I got up and had my breakfast. My breakfast was last night’s left over food. This was my life at the apartment, dull and colourless.
I did what I shouldn’t have done but I did it. I walked towards the piano. I stood close to it. For one minute I felt entertained enough, just because I was seeing something so beautiful. I bent and slightly touched its keys until some voices echoed in my head:
to be continued...