The day I received a text from my own number wasn't different from any other day. I was working till pretty late in the night. The next day we had an important client meeting and I had to submit the presentation deck for the same.
My phone buzzed. A simple text saying ‘Hi!’
Since it was pretty late and I wasn’t done with my work I dismissed the notification. My phone buzzed again. The notification read, ‘You shouldn’t work this late.’ My phone buzzed again. The same number had sent me a photograph.
I opened the chat window. It was a photograph of me, in my room, working on my laptop. I checked the number. It felt familiar. Took me a second to realise it was my own. How is that even possible?
I left my desk and went to my brother. “While it was interesting, you will have to do better,” I said. My brother and I prank each other whenever we get a chance.
“What are you talking about?” He paused his Netflix.
“How did you even text me from my number? How did you get that picture?” I asked. He gave me a confused look.
I opened my WhatsApp to find the chat but didn’t find anything. Crazy. Did I imagine it? Must be the stress of working late. I shook my head and returned to my room. After finishing the deck, I mailed it to my manager, then changed into my comfy pyjamas.
My phone rang. A call from my number. It shouldn't be possible. I picked it up with apprehension.
I heard heavy breathing. A man.
“Hello,” I said.
“The blue suits you, Shreya!” the man said.
I looked down. I was wearing the blue Mickey Mouse t-shirt Dad had gifted me. “Who is this?” I asked. “How are you calling me from my number? How do you know what I am wearing?"
“I know a lot of things.” His voice was familiar. “Wanna have a look?”
I received a link. I opened it. It was redirected to a website — ‘www.lifeofshreya.com’. A live video played showing me sitting in my room in a blue t-shirt. There's a camera in my room?
“How did you put a camera in my room?” My heart was pounding. “Who are you?” This wasn’t my brother’s stupid prank. I started recording the call.
“Recording the call won’t help.”
“How did you know about that?” I was sweating profusely. I had never been this scared. “You ruined my life.” A long pause. “I have come back for vengeance.” The line went dead.
For a few seconds, I was stunned. My heart was pounding loudly. When I came back to my senses, I started searching for the camera using the live video footage as a reference. I didn't find anything. So, I called my brother for help. “I think there’s a spy camera in my room.”
“Are you serious?” he asked in a concerned tone.
I showed him the website playing the live footage of us in the room.
He gave me a crazy look. “Why are you showing me a Candy Crush ad?”
“What?” I could still see us on the screen. “Are you sure?”
“Is this one of your pranks?”
“Please answer my question!” My voice had a hysterical edge to it.
“It's a Candy Crush ad playing on loop,” he answered flatly.
A cold weight settled in my stomach. The call recording, I thought. Let me show him that. I checked the call recordings folder but did not find any recorded calls. My heart skipped a beat.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Not wanting to worry him, I took a deep breath and nodded. After he left, I tried to find the camera for another hour but to no avail. I was tired from a long day’s work and this crazy incident had exhausted me. Dismissing the whole thing as imagination, I went to sleep.
While I was asleep, I felt like someone was scratching my face with sharp nails. I tried to ignore it. But the intensity increased. My skin felt on fire. I woke up with a start. A shadow of a man hunched over my face. I shouted.
My brother rushed into my room listening to my shout. “What happened?” He switched on the light.
The shadow had vanished. I was panting loudly, the arms covered in goosebumps. “You are bleeding!” my brother said, his eyes wide.
Bleeding? “What?” I checked my face in my phone’s camera. There were large bloodied scratch marks on my face. It stung. Tears welled up in my eyes.
“What is happening?” he asked.
I started crying as I told him everything. “Come with me,” he said. “Let’s get you some first aid.” He did my first aid and I slept in his room.
In the morning, after my brother left for his office (essential worker), I was alone in the house. My meeting went well and I took a break. I was in the kitchen, preparing a sandwich when I heard footsteps from my bedroom. A chill passed down my spine. The night’s incident was still fresh in my mind. The scratches on my face still hurt. I wasn’t going to go check on those footsteps. I have seen a lot of horror films to know it would end badly.
My phone rang. A call from my number. I rejected it. It rang again. I let it ring. I received a text, ‘You ignoring me, you dumb bitch?’ It was followed by another text, ‘I will have to force my way.’
Shit. I can’t be in the house. I ran up to the door, unlatched it and pulled hard…
...but the door didn’t open. I tried again, and again, and again. The door didn’t budge even an inch.
I heard laughter from inside my bedroom. My phone rang. A call from my number! I picked up the phone. “Why are you doing this to me? What have I done?” I cried. “I told you I have come back for vengeance,” he said.
I cut the call and dialled my brother.
He answered, “Who is this?”
“It’s me. I am trapped in the house. Please come fast!”
“Can you tell me who this is?” my brother asked.
My insides churned with dread. “I am your sister!”
“What nonsense is this? My sister has been dead for years,” he shouted.
“What are you talking about? We live together! It’s me, Shreya!”
“Ma’am, if you call me again I’ll report you to the police.” The line went dead. A text. ‘You are dead to him? Haha, so sad.’
I tried the door again. Locked. I started banging on the door. “Somebody please help me. HELP! HELP!”
When I got no response or attention. I texted my number, ‘Please let me go, please.’
I received an audio file. I played it. A familiar voice singing ‘Love Me Like You Do’. My legs felt heavy. I exited the chat window and searched for my ex’s name - Nikhil. I opened his chat and went into the media section. I found the audio I was looking for - Nikhil singing ‘Love Me Like You Do’ with his horrible voice. I trembled inside, my hands cold and clammy.
My number texted me, ‘Remember me now?’
I was cold with dread. ‘Nikhil?!’ I typed. I had dated Nikhil for a year but I had to end it when he had raised his hand. He had committed suicide and blamed me in his letter.
My phone rang. I picked up the call. “You ruined my life,” the voice said.
“Please Nikhil, I am sorry. I am so sorry.”
“It’s too late. Now, go to the kitchen,” he said.
I didn’t want to, but my legs started walking towards the kitchen. I had no control over them. “Turn on the stove.”
“Please Nikhil. Please don’t do this.”
“Turn on the stove,” he shouted.
My body didn’t obey me. I involuntarily turned on the stove. In a few seconds, the kitchen smelled of gas.
“Grab the matchbox.”
With shivering hands, I grabbed the matchbox. “Niks, please.”
“Don’t say another word.”
I tried to plead with him but my mouth felt stuck. As if someone had glued them.
The smell of the gas was overpowering. My bell rang. “Shreyaaa? Are you there? Your gas is leaking.” Meena Aunty. My neighbour. Hope flared in my heart. “Is anybody home?” she shouted as she rang our bell.
I tried to run to my door but my legs won’t move. I tried to shout but no words came out of my mouth.
“There is no escape for you.” He laughed. “Now can you please light the match?” I did.