Highly Commended Story - The False Identity
“The False Identity” by Mishti Punamiya, Rustomji Cambridge International School, Dahisar, Mumbai, India, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
The False Identity
My name is Wenna Pitt, at least that’s what I told everyone. This all started, four months ago and since then, the time has almost flowed with glacial slowness. I went out for my early morning stroll, unaware of the bad times that would struck and linger in my life. The freezing fog wrapped around me like a blanket, the everyday familiar sights of the street lay mysterious, hiding, loomed out at me in their whitened haze. Thickening veils of gauze rose from the damp fence in the relentless stream of early morning sunlight, and they rose in smokey swirls, dissipating into the mild zephyr. The sounds of birdsong and motors that should have been filling the air around me all disappeared, and even my foot-steps had been swallowed by the greedy beast. As my eyes travelled to the edge of the woodland the trees became silhouettes against a blanket of white. Then slowly as I moved towards, I observed shadows like black funeral pennants. A dark figure crawled, ominously advancing as I walked hesitantly down the marooned street. An ear-splitting roar assailed my ears from nowhere. The noise engulfed me, completely capturing my brain, rendering any logical thought or conclusion possible. But I didn’t have the time to find out what made that noise, because I was too scared to even look behind. As I walked suddenly became aware of the gloomy shadow of the cat that was following me. My eyes were glued to the figure a few meters ahead. As soon as the dark figure walked closer and towards me, I was recoiling with terror. The horrifying figure was near me! My heart was pounding, skipping a beat and by that time I didn’t know what to expect. The figure rose out of the murky depths, and as I tried coming back to my consciousness, I was also too curious to know who it was. I turned back to return to my usual pace and tried to distract myself from that figure. But to my utter surprise, a hoarse voice caught my attention. “Hey Wenna, don’t be afraid it’s me Rachael. “She sighed in a tone full of stress and I could feel the discordant quality of her voice. A flicker of the street lamp and I momentarily lost her, and to my horror she was gone as I turned back again!
My insides were flipping with fright. I couldn’t recognize her. “Could it be Rachael from my company, or could it be Rachael from my university!” ,I thought to myself. My palms were sweaty and the adrenaline coursing through my system was shutting down my ability to think logically. I somehow mustered up courage and forgot about it the next day. My life was going well, everything was normal just when that Monday morning, the silence broke. The headline read “Devon no more a safe place to live, Rachael Zeus uncovers a legend about a supernaturally-cursed, ripped hat circulating throughout the country. As soon as anyone uses the hat, he or she has exactly 31 days left to live!”. My brain stuttered for a moment and my eyes took in more light than I expected, every part of me went on a pause while my thoughts caught up. The most shocking part of the breaking news was that it was Rachael ...Rachael Zeus, my college mate. It was her that deadly morning. As soon as I caught hold of my laptop, I tried searching for her whereabouts. It then came to my notice that she was a detective and also owned a crime investigation department. Just then, my cell phone shrilled from somewhere deep in my room. “Hey Wenna, it’s me, Rachael, we bumped into each other that morning, I guess. I was hoping we could catch up today, if you’re free?”, she asked me hesitantly. “Hey Rachael, it’s so good to finally converse with you after so many years, and sure I am in for today’s plan. But where do you want to m ...”I asked her, but she hung up the phone.
Just then I received a text from an unknown number and then realized that it was Rachael and that she sent me the address of where we were going to meet and at what time. The curiosity of knowing more about the article was slowly killing me from inside and I could wait no more. I reached the address she sent me. In the corner of the workshop was a refrigerator, quite ordinary, white, with a smaller upper section above and a larger one below. Still I was too curious, because it was too clean. I took some steps towards and came to a small rectangle of light and guessed it was a pantry window. As I walked further to check the worker’s reaction I was shocked to see that there were no groceries in the pantry. Whatever, was in there worried me. Perhaps, this was the location after all. Suddenly a series of staccato taps were heard like on a typewriter and as I turned behind, I saw Rachael. She was in the grip of silent panic, wide eyes, pupils dilated, heart racing, brain on fire. Suddenly she racked with shuddering sobs of tears. "I asked her if she was alright and to reveal everything to me about the hat. She told me that the doomed few appear to be ordinary people during the day but when photographed, they look skeletal. When Rachael first got hold of the hat, she refused to believe the superstition. A collage of images flashed into her mind : a goldfish balancing on a painter, an old newspaper headline about a hit and run accident, a pigeon with hooded eyes ranting about hands and a well of blood located in an urban place. Fright consumed every cell in my body, swelling them with terror. I knew Rachael wouldn't lie but something in my conscience stopped me from believing it. Rachael handed me an address of where I would find the hat and a book that stated solutions of destroying the curse. I headed to the place where the address led me. The walkway leading up to the house was cracked and knobbly. The house's wall showed mottled grey decay by neglect. As I opened the door a musty, dank odour crept into my nose. A perfect mat of cobweb which had been formed for many years had sealed up the entrance. My frosty finger tips turned pale and my throat tightened due to the thick dust drifting through the misty wind. The air shimmered and my eyes unwillingly shot a glance at one of the windows. I tried searching for the ripped hat, but couldn't find any trace of it. I also kept looking for the book Rachael told me about. Somehow I was convinced that Rachael was just bluffing with me and it was all a prank. When I turned to leave my senses were attacking me from inside. Suddenly, all the lights were viciously glowing, winking like a lighthouse through the cracks of thick fog. An appalling patina of yellow and green grimness ran through my body. I saw Rachael there and was relieved that she came to my rescue. She convulsed with laughter, leaving me in a dilemma. She took out a knife, walked towards me and suddenly stabbed me. The blood left my stomach in a race to my feet and my knees melted to follow. A spidery vein of red on my white shirt front. Now you might be thinking how do I know all this, because that is not possible, Rachael killed me right? The truth was bound to come after all. I am Rachael and not Wenna. It was me who killed her and faced the world by living with her identity. Of course why would I want to get arrested. The cursed hat was all a myth, this was a planned murder by me Rachael ….Rachael Zeus. But for everyone I am Wenna, just like I said in the first line.