The young cocaine dealer whom Virkar had nicknamed Bandra Boy didn’t know whether he was hallucinating or whether there was actually somebody lurking in the shadows behind him.
It was past 3 a.m., his usual time to return to his small family home in Bandra’s Chuim Village. As per his routine, he had been dropped off after a night of heavy partying by his friend at the head of the Chuim Village road that began at the corner of Union Park and Ambedkar Road. Most of the Goan-style houses there were dark by that time. Stumbling along the winding road as usual, he planned to quietly slink in through the back gate to his bed in the back room.
But tonight, as he began walking down the dark, deserted road, he heard soft footfalls a few feet behind him. Thinking that it was another Chuim villager returning home, he turned back to offer a few words of alcohol-soaked camaraderie but, to his surprise, all he saw were shadows. He stopped for a second and examined his surroundings as best he could in the drugged-out, and inebriated state that he was in.
‘Who’s it, men?’ he shouted to the shadows. The whine of a dog made him step back hurriedly but didn’t deter him from reaching for a stone and launching it towards the shadows. ‘Ya kutreya, you bitch!’ he cursed at the dog. The clank of the stone on a stray piece of tin startled the dog, who yelped and rushed past him down the road. The Bandra Boy turned to face the direction of the running dog and raised his arms over his head, letting out a war cry that only made sense to him. ‘Don’t fuck with my luck, you zhunt…I am the king of Chuim!’ He was so engrossed in proclaiming his supremacy over the dog that he didn’t notice a slim man-shaped shadow detach itself from the darkness behind him.
The shadow walked purposefully towards the still-cursing Bandra Boy and, creeping up behind him, snaked its arms around his throat and held him in a vice-like grip. The Bandra Boy’s stream of obscenities got stuck in his throat as the chokehold around his neck began to tighten. His thin, scrawny body began to flail its limbs about but with every movement that he made, the Bandra Boy only felt the arm around his neck squeeze tighter and tighter. A black cloud began to form in front of his eyes. As the oxygen supply to his brain decreased, the Bandra Boy couldn’t help but marvel at the high that he was experiencing. Suddenly, all other highs seemed to pale in comparison to this one. He stopped struggling and embraced the experience. His brain began to float on a gentle tide of wooliness. Now the Bandra Boy could only experience the sense of sound, which seemed to have heightened to a remarkable degree. He could hear the shadow’s breath in his ears. Or was it the breeze? Perhaps it was the waves crashing against the sea that lay beyond Chuim Village. As the Bandra Boy slipped into slow death, he finally realized that the sound in his ears was that of the blood raging inside his head.
Even after ten minutes of the Bandra Boy’s body going completely limp, the shadow continued to hold his neck in the unrelenting grip of its arms. It was only when the dog returned and let out an errant bark once again that the shadow released the pressure somewhat. But it did not release its hold just yet; instead, the shadow began to walk backwards, dragging the Bandra Boy along. The dog sat on the side, watching the scene. At first, the dog didn’t realize where the shadow was headed but as it lifted the makeshift tin covering a manhole, the dog began to whine incessantly. That hole in the ground was the dog’s hiding place and he didn’t like strangers messing around in it.
But the shadow didn’t pay him any attention. Instead, it raised the Bandra Boy’s body straight up by holding it under the armpits and began to lower him into the hole. Suddenly, the shadow let go and with a loud plop, the Bandra Boy’s body fell almost eight feet down the hole before getting stuck on a jutting edge. The shadow stood watching the mouth of the hole for a few minutes, almost as if it expected the Bandra Boy to crawl out of it at any moment. Finally satisfied that the Bandra Boy had found a permanent resting place, the shadow turned away and walked towards the mouth of the Chuim Village road. The dog whined once more as it watched the shadow walking away.
Somewhere towards the head of the road, the shadow melted back into the darkness.