The Cycle Trap

“What kind of noise did you hear?”. When I asked her, she said she heard someone breathing heavily near her window. This time I realized she was not bluffing, there really was someone out there.

“What kind of noise did you hear?”. When I asked her, she said she heard someone breathing heavily near her window. This time I realized she was not bluffing, there really was someone out there.

This is about a small, funny and spooky incident that happened during my school years. My sister and me were busy with our studies as our annual exams were just around the corner. I was in the 10th standard and my sister was in the 12th standard. As teachers used to say, we were at some sort of “turning point” in our lives. Subsequently, my mother came down from Wayanad to Kannur, where we were doing our schooling, to help grandma ensure that we pass through this tough phase of our life. The most challenging role for her was to handle me as I was not as studious as my sister. She took this challenge so seriously that we were made to get up at 4 am everyday, and were told to study in different rooms as she thought I would probably be disturbing my more “intelligent” sibling.

We had been following this tough routine for a while when that strange occurrence happened. We were studying in opposite rooms, when one day, suddenly at around 4:50 am, my sister ran to my room yelling “Juju, someone is outside near my window, I heard some noises.” We tiptoed to her room and checked, but there was nothing. We went back to our studies. Next day, same time, she again came running to my room and cried “Juju, there is someone, I’m sure!” “What kind of noise did you hear?”. When I asked her, she said she heard someone breathing heavily near her window. So, we got up to check, which was when we heard the receding footsteps of someone running away. This time I realized she was not bluffing, there really was someone out there. We reported the incident to our ‘Super Mom’, who comforted us by telling that the next time something happened, we would tell her about it, and she would take care of it. For a few days, nothing happened.

But then, other strange things started happening in our colony. Two of our neighbours complained that someone had been stealing their undergarments, which they left outside for drying, and they mentioned something about the familiar, unsettling heavy breathing noise. We also heard a local rumour that a ladder was found by the wall of the nearby women’s hostel, leading us to realize that we were not just the ones experiencing troubles; there was actually someone out there having cheap thrills at the residents’ expense. This was no doubt helped by the fact that our colony, Talap, was a small locality in Kannur with a high number of female residents. The layout of the colony was such that all houses were situated on either side of a steep downhill road, which made it really easy for a mischief maker to simply jump from one house to another. In between a few houses, there were tiny pocket roads that allowed cycles and auto rickshaws to ply.

A few days passed before it happened again. At 4:50 am, one an unusually cold morning, the heavy breathing voice was back. As usual, my sister got up and came running to the kitchen to our super mom, who simply went and opened the bedroom windows to scare him (or whatever it was) away. She did not find anything unusual, and returned to the kitchen to prepare our morning tea. Suddenly, me and Priya heard a glass break in the kitchen. We rushed and saw a pale-faced super mom, eyes popping out, no voice, and a trembling finger pointing at the kitchen window . After she gradually got her breath, and voice back, she confirmed that she saw a man standing near the kitchen window, breathing heavily, and when he realized he was seen, he jumped from our compound to the next house uphill, not to be seen anywhere.

Being the super mom she is, amma realized one thing immediately. She theorized that our ‘visitor’ came in at the same time every morning; and there were only two people who came to our colony in the wee hours of the morning, the milk man and the newspaper boy. And both of them used a cycle. We rushed out to see if there was any cycle at all, and believe it or not, there it was, parked right in front of the gate. The stranger had forgotten to take it along amidst all the drama that unfolded in the morning. Priya and I were super excited with this development and we took custody of his cycle.  Who was the culprit? Well, it was the newspaper boy; we smartly deduced it from the newspapers stacked behind the cycle.

Amma was sure he would come back to retrieve his cycle, and she needed someone to help her catch hold of him. She asked Saji uncle who stayed two houses away, as he was a very fit person. He said he knew the person and would look out for him and try to bring him to us. After three or four hours, Saji uncle was at our door with a stranger. Me and my sister were a bit disappointed to see a thin, ordinary-looking youngster instead of a hairy, scary Bollywood-ish villain. But the lack of movie villain looks hid a personality with absolutely no sense of shame, guilt or regret. When mom questioned him about his motives, he simply bent his head, looking at the floor, giggling. This made Saji uncle livid and that’s when he planted two hard slaps on his face.

After prolonged questioning and threatening to call the police, the chap finally gave in and admitted his mistake, begging amma to return his cycle (and newspapers) as it was his means of income. Super mom told him she would, but made him promise that he would just stick to his job and never do something like this again in the future. He started crying and promised the same.

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I’m not sure if he kept his promise or not, but one thing was sure – we never ever heard the heavy breathing again.

Image Source: Unsplash

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