I was in 6th standard when I met Edmund. He came in the middle of the term. Edmund hardly talked to anyone until we sat together in geography class. The more we communicated the more I realized he is not that shy. He was very friendly. He told me his parents shifted to this new town to stay with his grandma, whom he met for the first time. But whenever he talked about his grandma, I could see sorrow lurking in his eyes.
I liked being friends with him. The way he dressed up and carried himself was enough to circle him out as the ‘Rich kid in town’. Edmund wore new clothes almost every day and his dad came to pick him up in a Mercedes. Soon we started to hang out after school. Ed came to my house almost every weekend and we played the entire day.
Ed mentioned a new video game that his father just bought him and secretly I was hoping to get an invite to play it with him. My wish was fulfilled immediately as Ed forcefully took me to his house after school. Ed’s father wasn’t a very chatty person. The entire ride he didn’t even address me once which felt a bit off-putting.
As we reached near his house, I got a bit surprised. Knowing how excessively rich these people are, I was expecting a big mansion but instead, it was a two stored normal wooden house. But then I recalled they are staying with his grandma so it’s understandable. Ed rang the doorbell and his mom opened the door with a smile.
But as soon as she saw me that smile faded away. Ed introduced me and his mother gave a fake, cold smile saying – “You two go play in Ed’s room. I’ll bring some juice for you.” And walked away with Ed’s father. I understood none of them was happy to see me. Maybe it’s because I’m not another rich kid. Anyways, I shrugged it off because went upstairs with Ed.
A narrow corridor lied upstairs with doors to separate rooms. The first door led to Ed’s room. It was a moderate size bedroom with a bunch of toys and superhero decorations, that was recently put up. We sat near his computer and started playing. Ed’s mom gave us juice and crackers. After playing for almost half an hour I felt the urge to pee. Ed told me the washroom is down the hall. I came out and walked through the corridor. I was going to enter the washroom when suddenly my eyes went to the end of the corridor.
There was a room at the end of the corridor which I didn’t notice at first due to the dim lights. I could hear whispers coming from that room. I was just trying to listen carefully when the door opened all of a sudden. Ed’s mom came out and our eyes met. She immediately closed the door behind her but in that small moment, I saw a glimpse of an old woman lying on a bed with an oxygen mask placed on her face. Ed’s mother looked at me with wide eyes and said – “I think your parents will be worried now. Ed’s dad will drop you home.” She walked away to tell Ed that it’s time for the uninvited guest to go home. Maybe I was a kid but I didn’t fail to read between the lines.
After another silent ride with Ed’s dad when I got home; I felt very insulted. I promised myself not to go to Ed’s house ever again. I had no idea that rich people could be this mean. Time went by and I started avoiding Ed in school as well. He understood that I was pissed off with his parents’ behaviour so one day he confronted me during recess.
- “Look, I know they were rude to you. I guess it’s my grandma’s poor health that’s keeping them worried all the time.”
- “What happened to your, grandma?”
- “The day we arrived here, we dropped mom at the house and went to buy gifts for grandma. I mean, I was meeting her for the first time. All these years my parents didn’t even mention her. Dad says grandma got mad at him because he married mom. So, we thought that little alone time with grandma will help mom to reconnect with her. But as we reached home, we found grandma lying on her bed unconscious. She was in a coma for a long time and no one knew.”
- “Then why don’t you take her to the hospital?”
- “Because sometimes she wakes up on her own. Also, mom is taking good care of her. She will get better soon.”
I felt bad for judging his parents too fast. I had no idea about their struggles. We sorted things out and became friends again. Ed came to my house that weekend. We were playing in our backyard when he said – “Hey, why don’t you come to my house for a sleepover tonight? My parents are going out of town for some work. They won’t be home until tomorrow evening.” Even though I swore not to go to his house ever again, I couldn’t stop myself.
- “What about your grandma? Won’t she be angry?”
- “Come on, she doesn’t even come out of her room. We can play video games all night.”
I told my parents about this plan and lied to them saying Ed’s parents have invited me. My mom knew Ed too well already so she didn’t say no. I packed a small bag and rode my bike to his house. I rang the doorbell and Ed opened the door with a big smile. He took me to the backyard to show me his new bike as well. It was costlier than mine. There was an electrical bell attached to it. We played there for an hour and as the sunset, we went back inside.
“Let’s eat something!” – Ed ran to the kitchen and I followed him. There were lots of cardboard boxes scattered around the kitchen floor.
It’s been quite a long time since they all moved here but it seemed like they still have a lot to unpack. Ed stood in front of a big shiny freezer that appeared brand new to me. He opened the doors of that freezer and I found myself standing in a world of ‘Willy-Wonka’. I mean not just chocolates; the freezer was brimming with foods and drinks. I grabbed as many tasty treats as I could and shoved them inside my mouth.
After converting our stomachs into big fat bellies, we went back to his room to spend the rest of the night playing video games. I was having a great time no doubt. We played levels after levels like crazy and there was no homework, no parents to tell us to go to bed. Hours passed by when the clock in his room struck 9. An alarm started to go off creating an annoying electronic sound.
- “Why did you set the alarm for 9 pm?”
- “Oh, I almost forgot. It’s time to feed grandma. Can you go?”
- “What! Me? I don’t even know her…”
- “Doesn’t matter! She will be asleep anyway. You just have to put the food tray near her bed and come back.”
Ed pestered me to do this saying he is in the middle of the level. I had to agree because it was my turn after him. Ed showed me the food tray kept on his desk. The entire house was in dead silence. I stood in front of that narrow corridor with that food tray in my hand. An uncanny feeling started to churn inside me. I slowly walked to that door. Every time I took a step the wooden floor creaked in a spooky way.
I twisted the doorknob quietly and stepped in. The gloomy red light of the room creeped me out. A smell of weird chemicals triggered my nostrils like an electric shock. There was a worn-out couch, a wooden table filled with lots of medical supplies and a bed on the right corner of the room. I have already seen that bed and also the frail, old woman lying on it.
The beeping of the ECG monitor, mixed with the heavy breathing of Ed’s grandmother gave me a feeling that I’m not supposed to be here. I noticed the stand next to her bed and tip-toed to drop off the food tray. My eyes widened as I took a close look at her face. Her eyes were closed and her breath was creating vapour inside the oxygen mask. The smell of chemicals was even stronger near her. I put the tray and turned to walk away when my hand accidentally hit a candle stand and it fell on the floor creating a loud thud.
I immediately picked it up. I was keeping it on the stand when my eyes went to the bed again. And this time, SHE WAS AWAKE! Ed’s grandma was staring at me with wide, scary eyes. Her bony body trembled and an inaudible sound came out of her mouth.
- “I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to wake you up…Ed told me to bring the food…”
What happened next, happened so quickly that I still struggle to recall the memory. She got up on her bed and pulled out that oxygen mask in one go. She then grabbed my hand and pulled me right next to her face. She opened her mouth to scream at me and God, her mouth! There was no tongue in her mouth! Someone chopped off her tongue making the bloody, rotten, flesh gush out. She grabbed my neck and started to choke me like a maniac. I was sweating like a dog and gagging like a pig at the same time.
There’s no way I could free myself from her tight grasp. Just then, the room door opened and Ed entered. He rushed to me and started screaming at his grandma while trying to free me – “Grandma! Why are you hurting my friend??? Let him go!” He pulled me away and I fell on the floor panting for air. He walked to her and said – “Mom and Dad will be home soon! You better finish dinner and go to bed like before…you are sick! You need rest!”
As Ed went on screaming at her, I saw the burning hatred rising in her eyeballs. She grabbed Ed by his neck and bit off a chunk of flesh from his cheek. He screamed in pain and I screamed in horror. I pulled him away and we ran out of the room with our lives in our hands. Unlike me Ed too never expected his grandma to act this way. We rushed into his room and locked the door. We dialled 911 without wasting a single second. Abrupt footsteps were running around the corridor and suddenly stopped near our door.
Ed screamed – “Grandma! What is wrong with you?” Just then loud bangs appeared on our door. His grandma was going insane. She was not only thumping the wooden door with her fists; she was kicking it like a mad dog. When the cops arrived and took her into custody the entire incident unfolded in an unexpected way!
That tongueless, crazy woman was neither crazy nor Ed’s grandmother! Yes, she is the actual owner of that house who was living on her own until Ed’s parents illegally barged in. And Ed’s parents? They were bank robbers on the run for the last 5 months. They made an evil plan to take shelter in this old lady’s house. Everything they owned or bought was, with stolen money.
While Ed was busy buying gifts for his grandma which I believe was also a part of their plan; Ed’s mother cut off the poor woman’s tongue so that she can’t scream for help. Not just that Ed’s father gave her sedatives every day to keep her unconscious. When the old woman saw me and Ed, she took us as threats and acted on her defense. Ed’s parents were sent to prison with serious criminal charges. Whereas, Edmund was transferred to a foster home. I still remember the day I saw him for the last time. He hugged me with tearful eyes and said – “I never had a grandma, and now I don’t even have parents.”