The Man With The Axe

“I don’t know if it’s all real or is it just me seeing things.”

“Oh it’s real, boy,” said the mysterious, wrinkled old lady sitting across the table from me.

“Really? I haven’t even told you anything yet.”

“Well, then maybe you should start telling me. ”

I looked around the shabby old room in this shabby old hut, lit only by a couple of light bulbs on two opposite corners of the room. There were visible cobwebs along the walls. Layers of dust seemed to have found a permanent refuge all across the room. There was a rather small bed on the opposite wall, probably just big enough for the old lady, who could not have been more than 5 feet in height. Nothing in the room looked to be less than 50 years old, in fact probably a lot more. I shifted a bit in my chair, and the wooden floor underneath me creaked audibly. I sighed and put my arms on the dusty old table, and began my story…

“I’ve come here to work on a company project. I arrived in town day before yesterday afternoon. My company put me up in the bungalow on 23/1. It seemed really good living accommodations – a comfortable bedroom, bathroom, a well-stocked kitchen, all the basic things that a person needs! I had also been provided with a car for the duration of my stay here. A chauffeur drove me from the airport to the bungalow. However, henceforth I’d be the one driving.

Now, it all started with the dreams. I haven’t told anyone about the dreams yet. I didn’t want people to think of me as a complete nut job, especially in my office. But I’m desperate now, and don’t want to leave out any important detail with you.

After arriving at the bungalow, I showered, changed, fixed myself a quick lunch and then decided to lay down for a bit of a nap. I’d set my alarm about 2 hours from then. That afternoon was the first time I’d had that dream. I’ve had the same dream several times since then, and each time it starts from the exact same point –

I’m looking down at a couple of thick, hairy legs, wearing some sort of very old lumberjack boots, with an axe resting against the right leg. A big muscular tattooed arm with a bunch of really ugly scars comes down and picks up the axe. I slowly shift my gaze up. I see past his worker’s shorts, his red checked half-torn shirt, and then I see his face – the most vicious face that you could possibly imagine – scraggly beard covering most of it, the areas that could be seen covered mostly by a crisscross of scars. And those eyes, those yellow eyes. Yes, they weren’t white by any means. They were a pale yellow. And they were vicious, they looked like the eyes of some creature about to devour its prey. And this… man… he lifted the axe above his head, held it steady with both hands, and aimed it right at my neck. He then pulled the axe back for the swing. That’s when I started screaming…

And that’s how I woke up – screaming! I eventually felt a bit relieved that it was only a dream. I looked at the clock, I’d slept for barely 20 to 30 minutes. And I knew that I couldn’t go back to sleep then. The sight of that man, with that monstrous face, aiming for my neck with an axe – I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. It kept haunting me for hours after that. I tried to concentrate on other things. I looked up some of my office work. We had an important meeting the next day. That kept me occupied somewhat. I somehow got through the rest of the day.

That night I had the exact same dream again, and once again I woke up screaming. I looked at the watch. I had slept for about half an hour, at max. The nightmare was still playing out in my head, when I noticed something strange – the curtains of the room were wide open. I was certain that I’d closed the curtains before going to sleep. It’s a general habit, I always close the curtains before heading off to sleep. As I headed to close the curtains, I noticed that even the window panes were left open. And I’m also quite certain that I’d closed the windows before going to sleep.

When I went to close the window panes, I looked outside and that was when I first saw him – the man with the axe, the same man that I’d been dreaming about. He was standing on the opposite side of the street, leaning against a big tree, his axe by his side. There’s not much on that side of the street, just a long continuous wall, and what looks like just rows after rows of trees on the other side of the wall.”

“There’s a path through those trees,” the old lady informed me, “that leads to a very old cemetery. It’s been closed for over a century now.”

“Well, I did not know that,” I admitted. “Anyway, I can’t tell you the fear that I felt the first time that I actually saw him, the man with the axe – that’s what I keep calling him now…”

“Actually saw him?” interrupted the old lady. “What makes you think that those dreams weren’t actual?”

Maybe it was the way she said it, or maybe it was the implications of what she said, or maybe both. But those words sent a chill down my spine, and lots of unpleasant thoughts crossed my mind at that instant. You’d think I’d be used to that by now, given the events of the past couple of days.

After a rather long pause, I managed to mumble something along the lines of “Well, they’re dreams. They’re not supposed to be real!”

“Oh you have no idea, boy” she said as she shook her head.

“Anyway,” I continued. “I immediately closed the window and pulled the curtains. After that I went to the kitchen to get myself a glass of water. When I got back I found the damn window and curtains once again wide open. When I looked outside, I once again saw the man with the axe standing on the opposite side of the street, leaning against the tree. He was exactly where I’d last seen him. He saw me, grinned and waved at me. It was a terrifying, evil grin. And those pale yellow eyes were his prominent features from all the way across the street. His look, attitude, everything indicated as if he was there, waiting just for me – as if his entire existence was for the sole purpose of making my life miserable.

I was terribly scared then, far too scared to be able to sleep. I had no idea why I did anything I did the rest of the night. But I eventually decided to close the window and curtains once again, and just observe them. That’s right, just observe them and see if they opened by themselves, or maybe even just spread apart a bit… I don’t know, maybe anything of that sort. There was a rocking chair in my room directly opposite the window. I took my seat on the chair and kept observing the window. Meanwhile, I kept thinking of any plausible explanations for any of the events since I arrived here. Nothing that made any kind of sense came to mind.

I’d been sitting like that for quite some time, a few hours at least. I was tired and sleepy, yet still too scared to sleep. I eventually needed to go to pee. So I left my seat and went to the bathroom. When I returned, once again the curtains were pulled back and the window was open. Right on cue. But this time, in addition to the window, my bedside drawer was also open. And no, I had not mistakenly kept it open. Utterly scared and confused, I slowly and hesitantly made my way to the drawer. Inside, my wallet’s flap was open and my driving license was kept just beside my wallet. Again, this was definitely not my doing. Someone had clearly come inside, opened my wallet and taken out my license. Nothing else seemed to be missing from the wallet.

After closing my drawer, I noticed some footprints on the wooden floor. The footprints led away from the drawer. Curiously, there were no footprints that seemed to lead to the drawer. They were big muddy footprints, very clear, very prominent, and left by the kind of boots that you don’t really see people wearing every day. Then I recalled my dream, and the old lumberjack boots. These were the kinds of footprints that could be caused by exactly those kinds of boots.

Scared, my heart racing, I decided to follow the footprints. On the way, I picked up a lamp that was present in my room, unplugged it and discarded the lamp shade. I planned to use it to protect myself, if required. As I followed the footprints very slowly and very cautiously out of my room, I thought I could hear my own heart beating louder than a thousand drums in unison. Gradually the footprints led out on to the landing area and towards the main door. When I reached the door, I found that it too was wide open. Again, I had most certainly not kept it open. Very, very carefully, weaponised lamp ready to go, I first poked my head out a bit and then looked left, and then right. There didn’t seem to be anyone there. I stepped out of the house, but only just. That’s where the footprints ended. I looked across the street, and once again I saw the man with the axe. This time, he was standing straight up, and holding his axe very authoritatively in his right hand. Damn, he looked huge! He must’ve been at least 7 feet tall. He pointed his axe straight at me. It definitely wasn’t a friendly gesture. More of a ‘I’m going to hack you to pieces’ sort of thing.

I went back inside. On my way back to my room, I suddenly noticed that the footprints had disappeared. This was all very freaky. I closed the drawer, didn’t bother closing the curtains or window this time, and took my seat on the rocking chair. I couldn’t see the man with the axe right then, which was a minor relief. But I was still totally freaked out, scared, continuously contemplating the events since I landed here. It was all so… inexplicable. In fact, supernatural, and I’m someone who really does not like to use that word.

It was about 40 minutes later that the man with the axe once again came into view. He looked at me, smiled that menacing smile again, and leant against the tree once again. He kept his gaze fixed on me. Even I kept my focus on him. However, he seemed to be really enjoying this. I clearly did not.

We stayed like this for some time, just looking at, observing each other. I mean, I was observing him, he was probably just toying with me. I guess I just assumed that if these strange things were indeed happening and not just in my head, he had to be the one behind them. That’s probably why I just sat there, looking at him.

It was probably another hour before the man with the axe finally moved. He stopped leaning against the tree, stretched out a bit and then just disappeared behind the tree. I mean he really just disappeared. Just walked around to the back of the tree, and that’s it, he just vanished. I went up to the window and tried to see where he’d gone. There was no trace of him.

I noticed that the sun had just begun to appear over the horizon. I looked at my watch, it was close to 6 A.M. I sat around staring at where the man with the axe had just disappeared for around 10 more minutes. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. So I decided I’ll try to get at least some more sleep in. I closed the windows, set my alarm to 7.15 and lay down. I dozed off soon enough, but I didn’t have to wait for the alarm to wake me up. That’s right, once again I woke up screaming to the exact same terrifying dream.

I looked at my watch, it was just 6.45. I figured I’d got all the sleep I would be getting, so I just started getting ready for work. I showered, got changed, had some breakfast as well as packed myself some tiffin and I was ready to leave by 8.15.

I was extra careful locking up my bungalow before leaving. I got into my car, and was just about to turn on the ignition when someone tapped on the passenger side window. I looked up, it was the man with the axe. He was smiling mockingly at me. The expression was quite like a school bully picking on some poor kid.

I shouted out, ‘What the hell do you want?’ He didn’t really respond in words. He knocked on the window again with his knuckles. The expression didn’t change one bit; if anything, the smile became even broader.

I hurriedly turned on the ignition, and backed the car out of the driveway. The man with the axe didn’t even seem to flinch. When I was sure, I’d gotten past him, I looked up at the rear view mirror. He was heading in my direction, with his axe swung above his shoulder like this.”

I made a motion bringing my right hand over my left shoulder. Then I continued, “This was one time I was glad this town isn’t very crowded, and there’s not much traffic on the street. I was comfortably able to leave him behind, and get to my office without further incident. The directions they had given me turned out to be pretty explicit and easy to follow.

Everything went smoothly for some time. There were pleasant introductions, a couple of my colleagues helped me get setup. Only one inconvenience was that I still felt a bit sleepy owing to my lack of sleep the previous night. By noon, we were in the scheduled meeting.

The meeting was being held in a conference room which basically consisted of a very large rectangular table with chairs on both sides. All of us were easily accommodated, and there were some chairs left vacant on the far side. Everything was normal for about an hour. But then the man with the axe suddenly just walked in through the door on the far side and sat down on one of the vacant seats. And yes, he still had his axe with him. Having sat down he waved his huge hand at me, and grinned slightly.

I was probably a bit dumbfounded for a while. But when I regained my senses, I nudged the guy sitting to my right, pointed at the man with the axe, and asked, ‘Does that guy work here?’

He looked in the direction I was pointing, and seemed confused. ‘Which guy?’ he asked back. I pointed again and said, ‘that guy, the one sitting with the axe!’

‘What? Axe?’

The guy seemed utterly confused. The man with the axe seemed fully aware of what was going on though. He once again waved at me with that mocking expression that I was getting more and more accustomed to.

At that moment, my boss, who was the one speaking at that point in the meeting, probably sensed something was going on, and asked me if everything was fine.

‘Yeah sure, it’s nothing,’ I tried to wing it.

‘Are you sure? You look a bit pale,’ he noted.

I said I’m fine, and the meeting went on. I was far from fine. Could my colleagues really not see that massive seven feet tall monster sitting in the conference room with us? Was I the one going mad?

I mean, you can tell me right now if you think I’m hallucinating or going insane or whatever it is.”

“Oh no boy, I don’t think anything of the sort,” assured the old lady. “Please continue.”

“Well, the meeting went on, umm… normally… for some time. I was barely concentrating on what anyone was saying. I kept stealing nervous glances towards the man with the axe. He caught me looking most times, and grinned that mocking grin every time.

After a while, he stretched his massive arms leisurely, and then got up. His axe was lying by his side, and he picked it up and casually started walking towards me.

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