A dying cigarette in the ashtray was drawing a thin line of smoke in the air; the glass of alcohol was half empty and the table lamp was flickering, going on and off. John had fallen asleep on the writing table itself, his hands resting on his diary that he used to write every night before the alcohol put him to sleep. He was an alcoholic struggling writer who came to New York about five months back. It was raining that night. Not that heavy, but the slow peaceful kinds.
It was one in the night, when the doorbell rang a couple of times pushing John out of his slumber.
He slowly opened his eyes, everything was hazy, it appeared as if he was suffering from cataract or his vision had weakened, but, he knew it was the alcohol. He gently picked up the small alarm clock lying there on the table, trying to take a closer look at the time.
“Fuck, who’s it at this time?” He mumbled in an irritated voice as the doorbell rang again.
“Jesus Christ, I am coming, just give me a second, OK” He screamed as he stood up and tried to gain back his composure holding onto the chair he was sitting on.
It was an old creaky one, just like the apartment. He fumbled at first, but then slowly walked towards the door which was just a couple of steps away.
He closed one his eyes to take a look through the magic eye on the door to see who it could it be at this time. But, there was no one outside.
“Stupid fucks, must be the neighbourhood kids. They won’t let me be at peace even at this time” He frowned.
But, as he turned around to walk towards the bedroom, the doorbell rang once again. He had enough; he quickly turned around and opened the door in a lighting fast move that could put even the flash to shame.
“You son of a…” he couldn’t even complete his sentence as there was no one outside. He turned his head from left to right frowning, hoping to see something or someone, but the entire apartment floor was empty.
He took a step forward to get out of his apartment, he was mad and he had decided to take a walk around. But as soon as he had taken a step, his foot hit something, he looked down; it was a small old wooden box.
“What the hell” John murmured and slowly bent down and picked it up to take a closer look at the box. He then once again looked sideways to see if anyone was there. No luck this time either.
He closed the door as it made a screeching sound and took the box inside. He kept it on the writing table and sat down on that old creaky chair, the lights still flickering.
The flickering irritated him. So, he adjusted the bulb a bit and finally it was stable and he could now clearly see the wooden box and the markings carved onto it, they looked something like ancient Jewish symbols with words and phrases written in Hebrew all over.
“This thing must be at least a thousand years old” he said to himself as he tried figuring out how it opened.
The box had strange looking locks on all sides held tightly by a locking mechanism unlike John had ever seen before. It appeared to be something out of an Indiana Jones movie. As he played around a bit, he hit a small switch like mechanism underneath the box, and all the locks came alive, as one by one, each one opened.
“Wow, that was cool” John smiled watching the locks open. His eyes widened in curiosity as to what could potentially be inside the box.
Inside the box were a few notes.
The first one read, “She would be coming for you, just look around. She is everywhere and tonight is the night you become hers.” John grimaced as he read the note and kept it on the table.
He picked up the second one.
It read, “The drops of the rain will wake her from her slumber and as the clouds cover the moon, you will hear her coming for you.”
“What is this, some kind of a joke? Ya dude, right, she is coming. You know what asshole, she better be smoking hot, I haven’t tasted pussy in months.” John scowled looking at the second one.
This time he just threw the piece of paper on the table and lit a cigarette. He took a deep long puff, till he could feel the smoke fill up his lungs and exhaled.
“Let’s see what you got to say” He said looking at the third note lying inside the box.
He opened the note and it read, “The nearer she is to you, the farther away her voice would be. So when you hear her scream from a distance, she is standing right next to you. When she whispers in your ears, she is yet far away.”
Now there was only one last note left in the box.
It read, “If you had not committed great sins, we would not have unleashed her upon you.”
John laughed reading the last note taking a swig from the half-filled whiskey glass lying on the table, when all of a sudden he heard some noise coming from the kitchen.
He turned around and heard someone whisper in his ears, “Remember me John? I know you missed me!” Followed by the giggles of a woman; the whisper now echoing all over the house.
“What the fuck, it can’t be…” John exclaimed, his voice reeking of nervousness and fear. He quickly got up from the chair and rushed towards the kitchen to investigate the noise.
There was no one there.
“Maybe I drank a lot tonight. It’s all in my head.” John reassured himself clearly startled by the almost familiar voice of the woman he had heard whispering in his ears.
“John, I am not in your head, I am home.” He heard someone shout from the other room. John felt a line of sweat fall from the edges of his temple and all the way down his cheeks.
John recalled the third note, ““The nearer she is to you, the farther away her voice would be. So when you hear her scream from a distance, she is standing right next to you. When she whispers in your ears, she is yet far away.”
His legs trembled and he began shaking nervously. He ran towards the door in the hopes of escaping the apartment. But, to his shock, where once there used to be a door, now was a wall.
“What the fuck, what the fuck.” John screamed as he hit the wall again and again in a sign of distress.
As John struggled to figure out a way, he felt a shadow pass behind him. He could literally feel a cold chill down his spine and the hairs on his body stand up. He turned around, his eyes wide open but there was no one. He was scared shitless, and without the door, there was no way he was escaping the apartment. So, he did the only thing he could, he ran into the bedroom and bolted it from the inside.
His heart was beating so fast he could literally hear every single beat. Facing the bedroom door, he took a few steps back and hit the edge of the bed and slowly sat down while wiping the sweat off his face and head in a single clean sweeping motion. He stood there for a minute waiting for it to pass, when someone knocked on the bedroom door.
“Let me in John. We let you in once, remember?” the voice whispered in his ears.
“Just go away. You can’t be for real” John screamed with all his might till his throat hurt and began crying.
“Just go away” he whimpered one more time.
He tried to regain his composure and looked around if there was anything that could help him escape the dreadful situation he was in.
There was nothing in the room, just an old bed he was sitting on, a closet in one of the corners, some dirty laundry lying on the floor, a laptop and a landline on a table by the window. He got up and fumbled his way to the laptop, pulled the chair and sat down.
The laptop was in hibernation mode. He turned it back on typed in “Old Jewish wooden box” in the search engine. The results flabbergasted him, for one of the results which turned up was similar to the one he had received. He clicked on the link and an article popped up, titled ‘Dybbuk’.
The contents of which left him trembling in fear. For he now knew that someone had released a blood curse on him and that whatever it was, it wasn’t going to leave him alone.
He got up from the bed, and walked towards the window, sobbing, shaking and fearful of what was just outside the door waiting for him. He looked outside; it was raining heavily, with the clouds covering the moon in perpetual darkness. So much had transpired in so little time that John’s head was thumping.
“If you had not committed great sins, we would not have unleashed her upon you.” John recalled the last note realizing what it meant and why would anyone send a Dybbuk after him.
It was in the month of July; John had been on a visit to the countryside when his car broke down on the road. It was a place unknown to him. However, this peaceful place was not only serene, but had an old world charm, inhabited by simple people who were yet far away from the modern ills of the society—greed and selfishness.
When John couldn’t find a mechanic to fix his car, he went out in search of a place to stay. But, it was a small village without a hotel or an inn. This wasn’t a place on the itinerary list of any traveller anyway.
As he walked around aimlessly with no respite in sight, he saw an old pickup truck headed his way. He signalled the truck to stop hoping that maybe it could drop him someplace where he could spend the night till he found a mechanic to help him fix his car.
The truck stopped. Inside was a man who appeared to be somewhere in his eighties, his face full of wrinkles, with each fold holding a story of its own. His eyes covered in a white cloud hiding behind round glasses indicated that he required surgery for cataract or he would totally go blind in a couple of years. The old man had only patches of hair on his head. He was wearing a Kippah, which gave away his Jewish origins.
“How can I help you young man?” The old man asked in a frail voice turning his head towards John.
“My car broke down and I have been walking around since an hour, but couldn’t find a mechanic. I would really appreciate if you could please drop me at a hotel or an inn where I could spend the night.” John replied taking a step closer towards the vehicle.
“Shalom aleikhem, I am Abdiel Aaronovich, I just live down the road. You can spend the night at my place son.” The old man smiled extending his offer of hosting John for the night.
“Thanks sir, I am Johnathan, you can call me John. It would be great if you could just drop me at the hotel. I don’t want to trouble you” John said extending his hand towards Abdiel to shake hands trying to appear modest.
“This place hardly has anything in the name of a hotel John. Ours is a small village; hop in, it’s getting dark.” Abdiel insisted, shifting a bit towards the right to open the door of the pickup for John.
John smiled and stepped inside.
“So where are you from son?” Abdiel asked John trying to focus on the road ahead with his hazy vision.
“I am from Kansas, but have been living in New York since the past two months. I am a struggling writer trying to enter the big bad industry.” John smirked, thinking about how many times he had been rejected by publishers.
“I am sure you will be successful one day” Abdiel reassured John sensing the doubt in his voice.
“Yeah, I hope so.” John muttered.
“There we are… that’s my house.” Abdiel said pointing towards a small house at a distance with his shaky old hands, in his shaky old voice.
Perhaps, he had Parkinson’s or something, John thought to himself. However, John wasn’t the kind to give a fuck. The pickup slowed down and turned towards the left to get off the road before passing by a letter box which read ‘The Aaronovich’s’ and slowly came to a stop.
The house looked pretty old, outside was a clothesline with clothes hanging and swaying slowly with the wind. There was also an old rusty bicycle lying beside the swing which appeared to have not been used in years; outside the door stood an old woman, perhaps in her late seventies.
“That’s my wife, Aliza” Abdiel told John while looking at her.
“She is very beautiful sir.” John replied back while closing the door of the vehicle waving his hands towards the woman.
“Look Alizah, we have a guest tonight” Abdiel exclaimed while slowly walking towards his wife.
John observed that the old man could hardly walk. He definitely had Parkinson, for his whole body was shaky as fuck. He watched as Aliza helped Abdiel climb a couple of stairs leading to the entrance of the house.
“Come inside John, make yourself at home” Abdiel said with a smile. Aliza too, smiled and somewhat repeated what Abdiel had just said.
John stretched a bit and followed them inside. The couple appeared deeply religious. The entrance had a Mezuza, a Jewish item of worship, inside which reside the first two paragraphs of the schema, one of two prayers specifically commanded in the Torah. On the wall hung a Tallit, a four cornered garment that is worn during the morning prayers.
The living room was pretty ordinary. An old sofa with a centre table, an old television set and a bookshelf filled with books written in Hebrew. That was all there was.
“People still believe in this shit?” John whispered to himself taking a closer look at the books.
“Come John; let me show you your room.” Alizah said warmly gesturing towards John.
“I saw an old rusty bicycle outside by the swing.” John asked inquisitively since he hadn’t come across any child in the house.
“That’s my granddaughter’s bicycle. She lives in the city with our daughter and son-in-law. We put up that swing for her to play whenever she comes during the holidays.” Alizah replied in a warm tone which reminded John of his own mother.
“That’s sweet” John replied back looking at Alizah.
This was the very first time John saw her up close. She had a very beautiful motherly smile on her face which had a lot of wrinkles, but not so much for her age.
Her hair was all white, but silky as satin with a touch of black here and there. And even though her vision had deteriorated over the years, her deep blue eyes were mesmerizing.
“She must have been very beautiful when she was young” John whispered, but loud enough for Alizah to be able to hear him.
“I can’t say for sure, but people considered me pretty when I was younger.” Alizah said looking at John, her smile making the wrinkles around her eyes more visible this time.
“You heard that?” John was embarrassed on getting caught off-guard.
Alizah took him to a room upstairs and opened the door for him. “Make yourself comfortable. I will call you once dinner is ready.” Alizah said closing the door.
It was a small room, but big and clean enough for anyone to feel comfortable. It had a single bed placed beside the window with a small night lamp. An old gramophone kept on a small stool lying in a corner with a few records neatly tucked underneath with a chair in front of it.
Perhaps, whoever stayed in this room was fond of music and most probably spent his time sitting on that chair listening to the records. John jumped onto the bed and laid down, all the walking and wandering around had left him tired and he soon fell asleep.
Alizah was in the kitchen next to the living room cutting vegetables and meat. Abdiel had finished his evening prayers and was sitting on the sofa surfing through channels on the television.
“He seems to be a good man Abdiel, doesn’t he?” Alizah asked slicing a carrot in two.
“Yes he seems to be, it’s good that he found us. Otherwise he would have just wandered around.” replied Abdiel.
“I am making chicken soup, steak and mashed potatoes for dinner.” said Alizah.
“Umhmmm” Abdiel replied.
“Do you think she will like it? I mean she is very finicky when it comes to food.” Alizah was confused.
“She loves steak. You know that.” reassured Abdiel.
“Why don’t you go check on her Abdiel? She has been on her own since last night. I am worried.”
Abdiel helped himself up from the sofa and slowly walked towards a door under the stairs leading down to the basement.
The wooden door made a creaking sound as he opened it and turned on the lights stepping on the stairs leading to the basement.
The basement appeared damp with the sound of water dripping into a half filled bucket. The wooden stairs were making a crackling sound and the overall darkness coupled with the damp and cold ambience of the whole place made the basement look creepy. Moreover, there was the sound of someone walking around.
“Esther, ma shlom-kha? Your mother is making steak tonight.” Abdiel said, slowly climbing down the few last remaining stairs.
The silhouette of a woman walking around began to appear at a distance.
The woman appeared to be speaking gibberish and one could see scores of text written in Hebrew all over the place in whatever light was available. Abdiel walked towards the woman, she had stopped walking around and stood there facing the wall, absolutely still.
“Esther, it’s a-ba.” Abdiel said softly placing his hands on the woman’s shoulder. She turned back slowly.
“a-ba, I don’t like it here.” The woman replied in a coarse voice.
“I know Esther, just a few more months and then we will send you to the city to live with your sister.” Abdiel reassured her.
She was dressed in black with a scarf on her head. It seemed she was in her late twenties. Even though she had sharp features, her face was covered in scars, as if someone had poured acid on her.
However, the most startling feature were her eyes, as both of her eyeballs were independent of each other. So, while her right eye was focused on Abdiel, the left one was looking right and then left as if scouting the room. The woman appeared pregnant. Maybe, she was in her sixth month of conception.
“Come, let’s sit, your mother would be here in a minute.” He said holding her hand and helping her walk towards a table placed in the middle of the basement with two chairs placed on either ends.
Both of them sat at the table. Alizah too, came downstairs holding a tray with some steak, mashed potatoes and some boiled vegetables. She kept the tray on the table and began feeding Esther as her right eye looked at Alizah and the left at Abdiel.
John must have been asleep for forty minutes, when he suddenly woke up. He was breaking in a sweat. Perhaps, he had a bad dream. Ever since he was a kid he had this recurring nightmare where he saw himself standing on a railway track with his brother, playing.
They would collect stones and then begin walking towards the tunnel at one of the ends of the track shouting and throwing stones trying to figure out who could throw it the farthest, before entering the tunnel and getting hit by a train. Ironically, his brother died as a kid on that same railway track, till date, no one knows what happened.
“I am sorry brother; I didn’t do it on purpose.” John exclaimed, as he felt a tear roll down from one of the corners of his eyes.
He got up from the bed and walked towards the mirror on the wall to make sure he looked okay. He didn’t want anyone to see him like that. He just stood there by the mirror for a while with one of his hands firmly resting on the wall and the noise coming from the old ceiling fan adding a bit of drama to his already troubled soul.
He gathered himself together and thought it would be best if he went downstairs and talked with Abdiel and Alizah for a while. He couldn’t sleep more anyway.
He climbed down the stairs and the smell of the freshly cooked steak made him feel hungry. He walked towards the kitchen and opened the lid of the frying pan to take a whiff.
“This steak smells and looks so delicious dude. Shall I?” He said while thinking of helping himself to one, but stopped, thinking it would be too rude.
He observed that the house was completely empty, “Where are they?”
He began to look for Abdiel and Alizah.
He walked around the kitchen and the living area and even looked outside but couldn’t find anyone, so he came inside. This time, he could hear some faint whispers coming from behind the door underneath the stairs.
He walked towards it and slowly kept one of his ears on the door. “Come on Esther, just a little bit more. You need to eat; it’s good for the baby.”
“That sounds like Alizah” He said to himself.
He was intrigued and wanted to find out what was going on. He opened the door just barely enough to take a peek. However, it was dark inside and he could barely see anything.
He thought of opening the door just a little bit more, when he heard Abdiel’s voice “Esther, you stay here with your mother and finish your food. Alizah, I think I should go upstairs and check on John.”
John reacted quickly and closed the door back without making any noise and tip toed his way back to the room above. It was easy for him, as Abdiel, with his shaky old legs would be taking a while to climb the stairs anyway.
Meanwhile, John went inside the room and sat on the bed pretending to have just woken up. He was expecting Abdiel to show up any minute.
The door to his room opened. “So you are awake young man, I hope you were comfortable.”
“Yes, I slept for a while. Just woke up from a really bad nightmare.” John said touching the bridge of his nose.
“I see, come dinner’s ready, I will see you downstairs” Abdiel said standing outside the door.
John, Abdiel and Alizah had a really good meal and chatted for a while before deciding to call it a day and go off to sleep. But, John had other things in mind.
It was two in the night and John hadn’t slept. He was intrigued to find out who Abdiel and Alizah were talking to in the basement and he decided to go down there. He opened the bedroom door and walked down the stairs slowly, so as to not make any noise.
He gently opened the door to the basement and turned on the flashlight on his mobile, he needed the light. He was tip toeing to avoid detection. Down below he could see a girl sleeping on a bed by the side of the wall and he slowly went towards her.
He was being very careful to avoid startling whoever it was. He must have been a few feet away from the bed trying to look at her when suddenly she just got up from the bed and came hurtling towards John in a flash.
John noticed that her left eye was hooked on to him and her right eye was scouting for others in the room.
“What the fuck?” John couldn’t stop himself from screaming as he looked at her face and dropped his mobile. The flashlight died, plunging the room in complete darkness.
“I don’t like it here” he heard a faint whisper in his ears.
The hair on his body stood up. John was scared and he was now moving in circles in the basement using his hands to find his way around the room. He hit something, probably a rod lying around in the basement. He picked it up and started using it as a blind man uses a stick to walk around the room.
“You are here for me, aren’t you?” he heard someone whisper again from behind this time. He hurled the rod and he hit something. Just went the lights came back on.
“Esther, what the hell have you done?” cried both Abdiel and Alizah from the stairs. They had heard all the noise and had woken up.
John looked down and there she was, lying in a pool of blood. He had killed her. He didn’t say anything and just ran pushing both Abdiel and Alizah out of his way. The old man and his wife didn’t stand a chance and they fell down the stairs. Alizah hit her head on the floor and snapped her neck. Abdiel rolled down the stairs, but somehow survived the fall.
“My daughter was sick John. I will find you. You will pay for this” Screamed Abdiel.
“We offered you shelter and food and you took everything away from me” cried Abdiel in desperation.
He had lost three people that night, his wife, daughter and his grandchild.
John heard Abdiel screaming and crying but he didn’t stop. He just ran out of the house and vanished into the night never to be seen again, or at least, that’s what he had hoped for, that night.
“Aba” whined Esther; her breathing was deep and the pain in her voice clearly audible. Abdiel could barely pick himself up, but somehow miraculously his old bones now had the strength.
“Esther, you will be OK.” He kneeled down beside her keeping her head on his lap. But deep down, he knew she was dying.
It was a difficult choice but he had decided to do something that no father could even think of doing to his daughter. He dragged her dying body across the floor and placed it in the centre of the basement and walked towards an old rusty trunk kept in one of the corners of the room. It made a cranking sound as he opened it and took out a few things which resembled materials used in rituals along with a worn out book written in Hebrew.
Next, he drew some ritualistic markings on the floor around Esther. He had decided to turn his dying daughter into a ‘Dybbuk’.
He picked up the knife and carefully cut her stomach with the precision of a surgeon to separate the unborn baby from the mother and kept it besides Esther. It was yet to develop fully, but by the looks of it, it seemed, it was going to a baby boy.
Esther wailed in pain.
“It will all be over soon my child. This pain and the suffering will all be over.” Abdiel exclaimed as tears rolled down his eyes.
He took a one last look at Alizah, her body was lying just where the stairs ended. Her eyes and mouth were both wide open. It was a sight which Abdiel knew would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Then, he looked at Esther for the last time before running the blade across her throat, finally killing her. He performed a ritual that night and placed her soul into an old wooden box.
She was now a Dybbuk; a vengeful spirit that won’t stop before it achieves what it was created for. That night he buried his wife and his dead grandchild by the riverside and threw Esther’s body into the river with a stone tied to her, watching on as her body slowly vanished into the depths.
It was important that her body never be discovered.
Standing by the window, John was looking down at the street recollecting the past, when there was a bright flash of light and the sky roared. That is when he saw a glimpse of him, even though it was just for a moment-- an old man with a kippah, drenched in the rain, staring at him.
The landline on the table rang and John picked it up immediately.
“You killed my daughter because you got scared that night. She wasn’t a freak. She had a rare condition that made her eyes like that. Some people had raped her and then burned her. She survived, but lost her sanity. She got pregnant and we didn’t want to abort, so we hid her from the world. You took everything away from me. But, tonight I am giving it all back to you. She will always stay with you John. Always” whispered a frail old voice on the other end of the line.
The phone disconnected.
The tables had been turned. This time it was Abdiel who slowly vanished into the night and it was John who was screaming, crying and wishing for a miracle to happen, while one by one, the lights kept going out.
“John, let me in” whispered a voice in his ears. The room was engulfed in darkness and he couldn’t see a damn thing.
And then, he heard a scream so loud his ear drums almost burst, “I will always stay with you”.
He felt as if someone was behind him. He could feel someone’s cold breath over his shoulders. He took out his mobile phone and turned on the flashlight. He turned his head around a bit and there she was.
Her hands resting on his shoulders, her right eye staring at him, while the left, moved side to side.