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Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Not all of us are brave enough to face the demons in our lives. Even when these monstrous creatures are sucking out the last rays of hope, many broken spirits let them until darkness consumes them.

“Inbound” by Manognya Bethapudi narrates one such tale of a person set to fail and fall. Until a true sense of revenge and survival pushes them to slay the demon that is leeching on someone else’s pain.


A knock on the door with a familiar voice calling out. Suddenly all the surrounding sounds drowned out, making the heartbeat get seemingly louder.

It always begins with a knock. A knock followed by the harsh sound of a door slamming against the wall. A man enters and pads through the one-room like a monster on the prowl, eyes bloodshot with the drink. He corners the trembling child. His movements are slow and deliberate, like a seasoned actor theatrically pulling out a well-worn brown leather belt. He holds it by the end, the golden buckle swinging in the air threateningly, and starts curling it around his fist. The shiny metal of the buckle reflects in his squinty eyes. He snaps it in the air, the sharp sound echoing in the small room, looking at and savouring the fear emanating from the child.

Cover Photo by Krishna Guttikonda

More than the red welts shining on the skin, this is what he loves and feeds on - the palpable fear, the shining tears, the dead look in the eyes, the resigned acceptance of her lot in life. He hits the child where it hurts the most - over the wounds of yesterday and the day before, over the cigarette burns and the fading bruises. Over and over again, the dance of terror continues. The power, the look of pure evil that sneaks into his eyes, the satisfaction of feeding on pain of a child, a bare waif that can’t stop this barbarism because she just doesn’t know better.

I continue watching from the sidelines. Can he look through me? Am I even in the room? Is this a dream?

The child wails, curled on the floor, shielding her heart. He keeps kicking her, dragging her by the arms and aiming at her stomach. She shouts, “Not the bun! Not the bun!”

The man screams, “It’s not a bun, you dimwitted bitch! It’s a baby, a good-for-nothing, dumb defective baby just like you. Now shut up!”

But her whimpers continue. I want to go help her up. Stop this man, but I am frozen, mind and body stuck in limbo.

With a guttural scream, he grabs her by the hair and bangs it on the side table. And she finally falls silent. The only sound is that of the spilt water dripping from the side of the table.

He slumps off to sleep in a corner. Soon, soft snores and the rattle of the clunky window are the only sounds heard.

By the following day, nothing had changed. The man continues to lie spread-eagled with blood drying around his neck and on his face and a kitchen knife piercing his neck.

And I remember. I remember feeling the cold steel in my hand. I remember… I remember standing up with the support of the table and walking woozily, then seeing his unscathed face and seeing red. So I doused him in red, took his blood, and painted his face.



This contribution is reviewed by R. S. Chintalapati, edited by Tarun Chintam, proofread by V. K. Telkepalli & photographed by Krishna Guttikonda.



This flash fiction is available in a paperback & ebook.

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