THE EARBUD CHRONICLES
2. THE VENGEFUL FIVE
2. THE VENGEFUL FIVE
“Make way, make way, hot crunchy finger-chips on the way,” sang rotund little Varun. He backed in through the door with a large tray piled high with their favourite fries.
“Yummmm…that smells delicious,” chirped Alisha, skipping to the table.
“And here’s the sauce,” Poonam placed the bowl with a flourish. “OK now, everybody, gather around. The midnight hour is tolling and time is ripe. Let’s begin our party!” She was the eldest by a whole year and made sure the others followed her lead.
“Where’s the magic earbud?” Prashant demanded impatiently.
Sri burst through the door panting, “Here.. here. The tip is dripping fresh. Let’s begin.”
During the day the town hummed and buzzed with life but at night it was a perfect haunt of ghosts. The innocents always slept blissfully though, while the guilty shuttered their doors and windows tight and cowered indoors. The little town, quickly rising to infamy because of its ghosts, was the worst on moonless nights. Clouds shrouded the starlight and as the clock tower in the central square tolled signifying midnight, street dogs always set up a peculiar unearthly howl. The town children huddling under their bed-sheets, before they fell into peaceful sleep, often recognised the howls of ghouls in pain. Ghost children, on the other hand, knew that such nights were perfect for their job -- Child Calling.
Having polished off the tray of fried fingers, a necessary diet to process an important ingredient for their potion -- Varun spitting out a stubborn nail that refused to be masticated -- they were ready and assembled around the steel surgical table in the middle of the room. Sri placed the earbud reverently on the table and they raised their arms and stood ready. At the count of six, they started. Clap, swing arms, a half turn to slap their neighbour’s palm, back, clap, turn the other way… At the same time they chanted:
Lizard stools and tadpole slime,
Mix in villain’s blood with sprig of thyme;
Rat droppings and pig’s tail hair,
Burst balloon from a children’s fair;
Temper with the spice of mice,
Cool it smart with a smelly fart!
Just a drop on the ear-bud’s tip
Will knot a villain in our whip.
Now Aditya, do jump out of bed
You’ve been chosen to avenge the dead.
As they chanted, and hopped and skipped and swung round the surgical table, the rhythmic clapping of their hands seemed to cause the sky to rumble and the Earth tremble. A cool breeze rose in the room, picked up the earbud and carried it out through the broken panes of the large plate window. The earbud floated through the crumbling corridors of the ruined hospital, a site of the heinous crime of organ smuggling it was rumoured. A trail of rustling dead leaves followed its progress out of the hospital until it disappeared into the night sky.
Across town, ten years old Aditya, jumped out of bed. A blue earbud seemed in a tearing hurry to shove itself up his nose if he did not act sharp. Plucking it out of the air, Aditya was immediately aware of the course of action required. He sprinted out of his house to the ramshackle cottage on the corner of the street. It stood in a sea of stinky garbage, rusty junk and over-grown thorny shrubs. The children of the neighbourhood always avoided this house and its lone resident, a pot-bellied giant of a man.
Tonight, Aditya did not think twice as he ran up to the door and hammered until it was opened in a fearful rage. To be woken up in the middle of the night by a small kid! But before the angry man could begin to bawl him out, Aditya shoved the drippy end of the earbud into the fat gut in front of his face. Then with a quick about-turn of his heel, he returned to his bed to dream of deeds of great valour in which he saves the world.
At the other end of the earbud, though, it wasn’t at all a pleasant sight. A spiny whip had materialised out of the earbud and lashed itself painfully tight around the man. He opened his mouth and shrieked in pain, but a swift wind carried it away, leaving undisturbed all innocents’ slumber. The whip dragged him out of the house, thrashing and wrestling and screaming, through the junk in the yard and down the gravelly road, to the ruins of the old hospital. There the five ghostly avenging angels awaited, ready with fitting retribution. They were God’s helpers, sent to rid the world of crime. The man they had trapped tonight was an organ smuggler.