He wouldn't be out on a night like this, but tonight it was different. Ryan thought of the fat raise his boss had promised him, not to mention all the adulation that was bound to come his way . . . after this. His heart thumped in his chest. This was it, the opportunity he'd been waiting for. His moment of glory was just hours away. He could feel the adrenaline surge through him as he switched his car to action and sped across the highway. The howling wind screamed obscenities in his ears. He glanced at his watch repeatedly as the minutes ticked away. Somewhere there was a crack of thunder, followed by a deep rumble.
"I have to pull this off," he thought aloud, as the lighting cut zigzag paths in the sky.
Ryan worked as a radio jockey for a popular FM station in the small, sleepy town of Eva. He connected well with the listeners - people admired him for his ready wit and crazy sense of humor. He seemed to have it all - a job that paid well, did justice to his aptitude and allowed him to connect with the masses. Yet, there was something amiss. Ryan longed for that one big chance that'd change his life forever. He wanted to be part of something no one had ever done before. Even if it meant stepping out of his comfort zone. No amount of risk was too big when it came to pursuing his dream.He must have been dating lady luck when the station head had had that brainstorm two weeks ago, Ryan thought with a smile. Tonight his job was to report live from Draycott Mansion - an old, abandoned house that was rumoured to be haunted by a mysterious figure called the 'Phantom'. Legend had it that no one could ever spend a night at the mansion and return home safe ― whoever had dared to stay there beyond the midnight hour was found dead the next morning. The body of each victim had borne a strange mark : a dagger with a 'P' on it.
Ryan did not believe in spirits. He had scoffed at the stories of Draycott Mansion, dismissing them as old wives tales.
"This is going to be easy. C'mon, it isn't even an outdoor broadcast. All I have to do is report live from an old dilapidated house for a couple of hours. Laura is going to take care of the rest," he told himself.
Yet, there was something that made him uncomfortable... almost nervous. Damn! He had to shake the feeling off! It was a big day ― a huge event in the history of Star FM. They had been advertising about it for two weeks now. Ryan knew the whole town would be tuned in to the 'Ryan & Laura Show' on Star FM tonight. He couldn't let himself or his people down.
The show kick-started with the usual flavour at 10:30 that night. Ryan's partner, Laura was at the studio, conducting the show in her vivacious style. She was connected to Ryan through the phone, bringing him live on air at regular intervals. He gave an interesting description of the interiors of Draycott Mansion, cracking jokes about haunted houses, and also creating an air of suspense as he spoke. People listened to him with baited breath ― not a single soul was sleeping that night. The man sure knew how to keep his listeners hooked on to their radio sets.
The show went on smoothly. Ryan noticed nothing unusual during the first hour. But he knew people were waiting for midnight to know what ill-fate would befall him. Just as the clock was about to strike 12, Ryan felt a strange sensation of discomfort...
"Guys, there's a sudden change in the atmosphere of this room. The air seems kind of... suffocating. It's getting difficult to breathe." he said.
People sat up in their beds. Children clutched at their mothers' hands, not knowing what to expect.
"Wait a minute, I hear a sound too. Are these footsteps? Yes. Someone's coming up the stairs! Bu. . .but. . .I remember locking the main door. Wh. . .who could it be??"
Ryan's voice was trembling now. People had never heard him speak in this manner before.
"The air's getting more and more suffocating. These goddamn windows! They refuse to open! And the f...footsteps are getting nearer now. Oh my God! He's here! Just outside the door, whoever it is. . .I can sense his presence. Yeah, he's here! Good Lord, help me! He's turning the lock. I can see the door open. . .And. . .and standing in front of me is. . . .OH MY GOD. . . . . .!" Ryan's voice trailed off.
The blood-curdling, unearthly cry that followed was enough to cause panic in the entire town of Eva. The Star FM team geared up to leave for Draycott Mansion. Laura's face had gone stark with terror, when Ryan's voice suddenly came back on air:
"Hahaha! Scared you all, didn't I? How did you like the eerie cry I uttered? Awesome, right? Haha! Chill people, it's just a little prank that I pulled on you. Your RJ Ryan's safe ― all hale and hearty. May I request you to check the time? It's way past 12 and I'm still alive and kicking. This 'phantom' dude is just a myth!"
Relief surged through the listeners. This was just like RJ Ryan. What a crazy prankster he was! He had managed to give them all the shock of their lives! People came out of their houses, laughing and chatting. Ryan had turned into a hero overnight. He was the sole survivor of the dreaded Draycott Mansion till date. At the station office, celebrations had already begun. Star FM would now experience a massive surge in listenership and hold the top position in the rankings.
Ryan was showered with accolades when he returned to office in half an hour's time that night. The show was on and he was happy to join his partner Laura at the studio.
"Ask someone to pick my cellphone from Draycott. I seem to have dropped it there," Ryan called out to his station head as he entered the studio.
"Sure thing, mate," she replied.
'The Ryan and Laura Show' continued for another half an hour. Just before they were about to sign off for the night, Laura's cellphone rang. She stepped out of the studio. It was Jason, the man Ryan's boss had sent to Draycott Mansion to collect his phone.
"Ma'am, there's terrible news. I don't know how to put it. . ."
"What's wrong, Jason?" Laura asked.
"When I entered Draycott Mansion, I...I saw RJ Ryan's body lying on the floor. His mouth was twisted and there was an expression of horror in his open eyes." Jason was almost in tears.
"What? Have you lost it?? He's here, hosting the show."
Laura felt a chill run down her spine. Disbelief gave way to terror as she rushed back to the studio. There was no one inside. A closer look revealed a symbol that seemed to have been carved on the console : a dagger with a 'P' on it .
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