Rocky and Roma had purchased a new house. Rocky’s job as a sales manager did not bring them a lot of money; but they had a seven-year-old son, Rehan, who would need a room to himself soon. This was the perfect house—it was cheap, it was big, and the best thing was that it came furnished. For the little family, the house was a steal. All they had to do now was make it a home.
Among the furniture that was already present in the house, there was a baby’s cradle. Rocky and Roma did not know the previous family, but the cradle indicated that they might have had a baby. Perhaps the infant had outgrown the cradle and the family had no use for it anymore. Rocky and Roma did not need it either. So, they put it on sale. Until they would get a buyer, they decided to keep the cradle in Rehan’s room.
Everything went on well for the first week. The house was perfect and they were all happy. And then, without any warning, strange things started happening.
That night, Rehan went to bed as usual. He had the room to himself. A few hours later, he got up all of a sudden, feeling thirsty. He blinked to adjust his eyes in the darkness. He tried looking at the time, but it was too dark to see. However, Rehan wasn’t afraid of the dark like most children of his age. He got up on his feet and moved towards the windowsill where his mother had kept water for him.
He blinked into the darkness, tip-toeing as he did. Softly, he placed his feet across the floor. Just then, he heard a voice. It was that of a crying baby!
Puzzled, he looked around. There certainly was no baby anywhere! Then whose voice was it? With dread thumping his heart, he realized that the sound was coming from the corner of the room, where the cradle was kept!
Terrified but curious, Rehaan peeked into the corner. What he saw there made him almost collapse in shock. The cradle was swinging on its own! There, in the darkness, lit only by the moonlight streaming through the window, that empty cradle was rocking to and fro, accompanied by the wail of a baby!
The terrified Rehan ran to his parents’ room and woke them up. He told them about the incident, but they did not seem to understand. He dragged them to see the cradle, but they found it perfectly still, as if nothing had happened!
Rocky and Roma assumed that their son had had a nightmare. They allowed him to sleep with them in their room that night.
The next day, Rocky left for office as usual. Roma went to the kitchen to prepare lunch. Rehan was once again alone in his room. He was still curious about what had happened the previous night. He went to the corner and investigated the area around it. There was the cradle, looking quite innocent. Rehan was confused and thought that it might have been a nightmare after all, like his parents had said.
He sat down on the floor and started to draw, which was his favourite hobby. He put his pencil on the paper and, suddenly, his hand started to move on its own! He felt as if somebody had clasped it violently and was making him draw! He had no control at all!
A few minutes later, the drawing was complete. But when Rehan saw what he had drawn, he was horrified beyond belief. He had drawn the ghastly figure of a man! Tall and lanky, the figure looked almost skeletal. He had a hood over his head, and somehow, inexplicably, the man had no face. He only had eyes…blood-red eyes. The drawing was so real to him and so horrific! It felt like the faceless man with his red eyes was staring into his soul.
Rehan ran and showed the drawing to his mother. “What is this, Rehan? Why have you drawn such a scary man?” she asked.
“My hands…were…moving on their own. I don’t know how I did this,” said Rehan.
“Oh, don’t pretend! It is a good drawing. But try to make something more cheerful the next time!”
That night, when Rocky returned home, he brought a gift for Rehan. “Come here, Rehan! I have something for you,” he said.
Rehan brightened up. “Wow, Dad! What is it?”
“Check for yourself.”
Rehan tore open the gift wrapper. There was a box inside. When he opened it, a clown toy popped out of the box. He had a large pink face with red lipstick and a red stub on his nose, dressed in a merry blue-and-silver sparkling robe. He laughed in a weird but crazy voice, which Rehan loved. He thanked his Dad and went to his room. He slept early that night, tired after playing with his new toy.
Late in the night, Rehan was woken up by a noise. It was a bizarre cackling laughter. Terrified, he peeked out of his blanket to see what the sound was. And there it was—the clown toy. The clown was on the bed-stand next to him, laughing. And then the clown’s laughter turned to a baby’s cooing. In the darkness of the night, it sounded most terrifying. Then, to Rehan’s utmost horror, he saw the red paint on the clown’s face becoming redder, and as he looked more closely, he saw a thin line of baby’s drool leaking out of the corner of his mouth. Rehan tried to hide himself inside the blanket, but the voice was now loud. It said, in a baby’s squeaky voice: “Save yourself. Hide. Your life is in danger.”
In shock, he slapped the toy off the desk. It dashed against the floor and broke.
The next moment, he heard a creaking. All at once, he knew it was the creaking of the hinges of the cradle. It was swinging again. Screaming, he fled into his parents’ room again. But, once again, they only thought he had had a nightmare and made him sleep between them.
Rehan was now frustrated. He knew something was happening in the house, but his parents would not believe him. He was also scared because of the warning. What could he do? He then hit upon a plan. He remembered his father’s camera! Yes! He would set it up that night in his room and let it record everything that went on.
Rehan somehow spent that night in his room.
The next day, Rehan played the video for his parents. At first, they scolded him for taking the camera without permission, but when he insisted, they sat down to watch. Rocky hooked the camera to the big television and hit the play button. As the video started, they watched with bated breath.
The camera faced the cradle. Rehan had put the night vision mode on. For a long, long time, nothing happened. It was an entire seven hours of video. Rocky started getting frustrated. Rehan then fast-forwarded the video, and he hoped that whatever it was that was terrifying him, it would show up.
Then, at the 3:10 a.m. mark, there was something! Rehan let the video play at normal speed. It was the cradle. It was moving! Only so slightly, but it was moving! Rehan screamed, “Dad, see! I told you!”
Rocky jumped. The cradle was indeed moving on its own.
“There’s something else,” Roma said.
They looked carefully, and yes, in the corner behind the cradle, there was something. A man.
It was the faceless man!
This time, Roma shrieked. “Rehan drew this same man yesterday!”
“Our house is haunted!” Rocky said. “I never believed in ghosts, but this proves it.”
The couple realized how terrified their little son must have been. They took him in their arms and kissed him.
The mystery was revealed on Sunday.
Rocky and Roma tracked the local news articles. It was with much difficulty that they got their answers. About thirteen years ago, a mad man prowled in these areas. He was a baby-killer; he stole children from their cribs and killed them. People believed he was not even human, because he could enter houses even through windows that had grills on them. Rocky was shocked to read an article which suggested that a baby was stolen from the exact same building that they were in, probably from the same house! Was it their house? Did this cradle belong to that unfortunate baby?
Shaking in fear, Rocky and Roma realized that the ghost in the house was probably now after their son. They wasted no time to call a priest and get the house blessed. The cradle was sold off the very next day to the scrap-dealer, where it was destroyed.
They sold the house soon after and moved to a new house, which was smaller and more expensive, but at least they had peace there. But even now, on lonely nights, they sometimes shrink in fear when they hear the sound of a cradle swinging in the dark.
Author : Gilmore D’Silva
Gilmore D’Silva studies in Grade 9 at Children’s Academy, Malad. A star-performer in his school, Gilmore was the Standard Coordinator for three years and has won Best Student for two years. He is a regular participant at interschool competitions for literary events. He won the First Place at a quiz contest at the Bertha Pereira Memorial Interschool Competition conducted by the St. Joseph’s School, Malad West. He won the Third Prize at the P-ward Interschool Competition for a speech on martyr Tukaram Omble that he had penned and delivered. His hobbies include singing and sketching. The Haunted Cradle is his first published story.