Copyright 2018

Hide and Seek  

(Psychosis)

Rahul Shirke

I never liked hide and seek as a kid, but I really took to it as an adult. Last Saturday, I spent two hours hiding behind the bed. He didn’t find me, which meant that I won. I’m quite good at hiding, you see. So is he. In fact, he’s so good at hiding that I’ve never even seen him.

The first time I heard him start counting, the dish slipped from my hands and clattered into the sink. I hid behind the kitchen counter, curling up next to the waste bin, making sure my feet wouldn’t show. Away from the hiss of the rain, I waited for his footsteps. I waited for him to find me. By the time he gave up searching for me, it was dark in the kitchen and the hissing rain was gone. I had beaten him.

The following day, I hid in the bathtub, curtain drawn, pleading with the faucet to stop its dripping. Then I hid in the attic, behind the pile of old media equipment that my parents never threw out. I hid in the closet. I hid in the pool (it was empty). I hid in the garage, inside the car, trying not to cough.

We even started playing outdoors. I crawled underneath my table at the restaurant and stayed put for some fifteen odd minutes. The waiter and the manager made a fuss of it, even after I explained how I was on a winning streak. Thankfully, I managed to slip out of the place without him noticing me.

I adjusted my hair in the wing mirror, and grinned like a winner. But then I heard him start counting again, so I crept over to two other, closely-parked cars and squatted between them.

 

Three women stared at me as they walked past, too distracted to suck on their soda straws. At first, I was worried they’d give me away; but then they quickened their pace, whispering and glancing back and forth.

*

If you want to find someone who’s hiding, you have to keep an eye out for the slightest of movements. You have to watch out for shadows that should not be there. There are sounds that you’re not supposed to hear, if only you care to listen closely.

You have to make sure you look in both the obvious and the not-so-obvious places. No hiding spot is off-limits. I’ve searched for him in the men’s bathroom; in the water tank on the roof of the office building; in the back office of the local supermarket; below the underground metro platform. These places were all good hunches, but he wasn’t in any of them.

Another tip for when you’re playing the seeker: you can’t just go about strolling down the cubicles in the office. If you do, he’ll notice you coming and slip out to find some other place to hide. No; to catch him dead in his tracks, you have to sneak up very quietly, and then jump and startle. This technique did not go down well with my colleagues, however; I ended up interrupting their porn too often.

At home, I set up closed-circuit cameras to track his movements, but he wouldn’t show up in any of them. He’s wicked smart like that.

Eventually, I stopped going to the office. I stopped going to a lot of places, like the supermarket, and the doc, and the gym, and the park with the geese. I was pretty sure that he wasn’t hiding in any of those places.

Besides, he knew where I lived. Why would he play anywhere else?

*

Every night, before I go to bed, I open up a notebook and make a record of the number of times I caught him, tallied with the number of times he caught me. The notebook is filled with zeroes. The previous five notebooks are also filled with zeroes.

I see myself opening the notebook one night, and finding a ‘one’ at the end of the zeroes. I begin wondering how this could be, and as I sit there wondering, that’s when he creeps up

behind me and bang, I lose.


Rahul Shirke is a freelance writer from the sweltering suburbs of Mumbai. He maintains a daily writing blog called Sulfurous Dreamscapes, and his stories have been previously published in Déraciné.