After writing and editing multiple academic books, Nitin Sharma tried his hand at fiction. His stories have been shortlisted or published in various magazines, anthologies and blogs, such as The Horror Zine, Dark Moon Digest, McKenzie Publishing anthologies, and others. He writes in multiple genres and in two languages, English and Hindi.

Nitin was a guest author at New Delhi World Book Fair (2013). Indian delegations have taken his books to different nations. He firmly believes in an ancient Sanskrit phrase that translates as “Entire world is one family.”

When he’s not writing, he is probably cooking at his home in Gurugram, India.


by Nitin Sharma


“I sense death.”

The entire valley knew that the bald Abbott of Hill Monastery never lied, and he was seldom wrong. As his ominous words struck his meditating disciples like lightening, they opened their eyes, baffled and shaken. Tashi, the one widely considered the successor to the Abbott, jumped up. “Whose death?”

Seeing all eyes in the cavernous wooden meditation hall fixed on him, the Abbott spoke again. “My vision does not allow me to know who.”

Leaving them bewildered, he closed his eyes again. Even impending death could be no excuse to stop Sadhana prayers.

But the disciples, despite their intense practice of emotion control, had all gone pale. Tashi was crying silently. What if it was the Abbott himself? The Abbott was a beacon of spiritual light, a father figure to the village. Tashi felt he wasn’t replaceable even by himself, who was next in line. He now regretted that no one had prepared for the Abbott’s possible untimely death.

And what if it isn’t the Abbott at all who is to die? Tashi wondered. What if it’s one of the rest of us?


After the prayers were finished, Lima followed the rows of lit earthen lamps along the path to monastery to welcome the death. It made the monastery look like an eager bride waiting for her groom.

But Lima soon slipped out of the group and crept to the kitchen. Once there, his hands ran over his sweat-drenched face. Lima knew he was the Abbott’s favorite, so he relished the idea that he was able to get away with a lot. At the thought, he exhaled in relief. “Bloody old bat senses too much,” he muttered out loud. “For a moment I thought we were caught.”

Suja, his companion and builder, was disguised as a monk—yes, Suja was hired by a local builder who wanted Monastery Hill for his dream hotel but hadn’t been able to coerce or buy the monks—looked around to see if anyone was listening, but he needn’t have worried; Lima was too clever to get caught.

Lima often questioned his beliefs. He never entered the Monastery voluntarily like most of the others; he was dropped off there when he was six because his family was too poor to support him. So when he was offered a large bribe as an adult, he eagerly took it.

Tashi came into the kitchen. He looked at the verge of tears but maintained his composure. “Make kheer today,” he told them. Kheer was rice pudding. “Abbott likes it.”

Lima pretended weeping, and nodded. Yes, he would serve the Abbott whatever he liked as his last supper, and other monks would eat it, too. That’s going to wipe out the whole lot of them in one go; or at least the majority of them. The rest was the builder’s headache.

Lima had sent for white rat poison that blended well with sweets and savories alike. The moment Tashi left, Lima beckoned Suja to go and collect the main ingredient from an apothecary’s man who’d be waiting in the wood behind the monastery. Suja met the man, took the white powder, told him to wait at an old sage in the jungle for balance payment, and returned to the kitchen.

Lima cooked the tastiest pudding he could—in addition to usual rice, milk and sugar he added aromatic rose essence, cardamom, saffron, and entire packet of white powder, then stirred and simmered the cauldron extra long to make it thickly rich.

Now it was time to escape; his absence would surely annoy the monks but they would manage the service part. Pure beings were gullible beings and since they didn’t do evil, they couldn’t see others who did.

Abbott would be the first to eat, of course, and the fool had already proclaimed seeing death. Lima couldn’t believe how lucky he was!


While the pudding cooked, the Abbott took his spouted bronze kamandala vessel and walked as usual to the hill cliff jutting out over the village. At the edge he took a palmful of water and sprinkled it toward the tiny houses in the valley, his lips moving rapidly with mantras for peace.

When he started back toward the monastery garden, his eyes fell on a little girl in a white frock. In the light of monastery lamps and the full moon, she had drawn hopscotch in the dust with a stone.

Abbott went close, curious as to how she was there all alone. “What are you doing, alone here in the dark? Did your parents leave you behind?” People visited the monastery daily to seek blessings for their kids.

“Yes.” And her cute smile brightened the night. “Will you play?” She nodded at hopscotch.

“Oh, I’m too old to hop around,” he told her. Then a thought hit him. “Are you more than you seem?”

“What?” the little girl asked, her eyes wide. “What do you mean, what I seem?”

“Oh never mind,” the Abbott said.

“You scare me,” she said. “I thought you were a good person. I thought you were an Abbott. But now you scare me. Are you what you seem?”

“No one is,” the Abbott responded.


Lima and Suja were escaping the monastery. Tashi looked around and his eyes found them. “Hey there!” he yelled.

Both stopped dead. Suja wanted to break into a run but Lima caught his arm; one careless mistake and all their effort would go wasted, and the builder would kill them. Lima pulled him along to Tashi. “Yes, Master?”

“You two going to the village?”

“Yes, Master.”

Tashi brought the little girl to him. “Take her along. Leave her in the village with the IPS. You know, the Indian Police Service. They will find her parents.”

Lima felt his life coming back. “Absolutely, Master. Come, child!”

The two started toward the village, little girl trotting along to keep up with them. They walked quietly until they were out of everyone’s sight. Their minds were focused on the two hundred thousand rupees they were about to receive from the builder. Then they could abscond to the city forever.

After about a mile the muddy path bifurcated—the left trail led up into the forest and the right trail went down to the village.

“Child,” Lima said to the little girl, “you know the way to your home, don’t you? Just go down this road. We can’t take you any further. Go, go!” He gave her a little push.

The little girl shot him an angry look, then started downward. Lima and Suja took the upper trail. It took them more than an hour to reach the sage tree where the apothecary’s man was waiting for his remaining payment. They waved at each other.

“Ten thousand, isn’t it?” Lima asked casually.

“Fifteen!” the man protested. “I stuck out my neck for you.”

“Hmm. Suja, give him what he deserves. We can’t leave any witnesses.”

The concealed knife flashed in the dim moonlight as it came out of the robe and slashed the man’s cheek. The man wrestled hard but Suja was too strong for him. He caught the man’s hair and stabbed him in the ribs. That took all the fight out of him. Lima caught his head up as Suja slashed his throat. Flowing blood stained the land.

“There’s your fifteen,” Suja said, wiping the blade of knife on dead man’s shirt.

“Let’s move on,” Lima ordered. The builder was waiting in the neighboring village and he ruled the region. He could increase the reward if they reached him before the set time.

After a while Lima stopped near a big rock.

“What?” Suja asked.

“I need a moment to catch my breath.”

Suja was peeking around when he ducked just in time to save his head, and he parried the second blow with his forearm. “I knew you’d do that, you greedy bastard!” he cried, and took out his knife.

Lima grasped a cleaver he had stolen from the kitchen. They both jumped on each other like hungry hounds, each eyeing sole possession of reward money. They slashed at each other, meaning to kill.

It was obvious that Lima had underestimated thin Suja, and he paid the price with some of his blood. Nonetheless, he was stronger. The moment Suja missed a blow, Lima cut his right hand’s fingers, then his tendons, and eventually crushed his head with a stone.

Exhausted, he leaned against the rock he had just peed on and took a few deep breaths. So the Abbott had seen death for sure, Lima thought.

Then he perked up. Elated by victory, he raised his arms and cried wildly, looking at the night sky. Two hundred thousand were all his! He was the lion of the jungle, and all alone in the middle of the night.

Or was he?

Clink! Clink! Clink!

Ringing musical anklets, right there in the forest, at this hour! He turned around, and was astonished to see the little girl he had escorted from the monastery.

“You!” he cried angrily. “Didn’t I tell you to go home, child? Perhaps I must take one more life tonight.”

“Not you, I must take one more life tonight, Lima,” she said sweetly.

“Who are you?” he asked, unable to hide his fright.

“Death,” said the girl. “You can’t run from me, Lima. I am your fate.”

Trembling, he pushed against the mound to keep away from her, begged for his life, recited mantras to keep death away he had learned in his days at the monastery, even confessed that he had sinned there and begged for mercy.

“Don’t waste your breath on confessing things that I already have the power to know,” Little Death smiled sweetly. “They never ate the pudding, Lima. The Abbott died a moment after you left of natural causes, and his was the death he envisioned. The angels took him. Now a devil will take you.”

As she advanced, Lima’s lifeless body fell with a thud.

A little girl hopped away, ghungroo bells ringing with her every step. A builder’s house was about to catch fire soon.