The Medieval Dwelling

The alternative of a high rise apartment in the main city, with all its everyday convenience, did indeed entice us. That allure soon ebbed away and yet, a spectre of a haunting regret threatened to walk over our minds in its place.

Our house was the lone structure on the last street of the sector. Ahead lay the future. Albeit for now, it was a portal into the archaic world. Of wicked blackness within which stood patches of hamlets and thickets. Their earth had been known to be infused with the blood of men snatched in wars from the times of the Sultanate up to the Raj. Perhaps, that’s how the residents fostered an image of hardiness. This hardiness now met the nouveau-riche thrills. A tryst that could disturb those martyred souls. So, at night when the forest speaks, is that the rain pattering against the leaves and the streams gushing through rocky crevices? Or is that a battalion donned in scale mail marching forward?

Nonetheless, we were unmindful. As migrants from a bustling metropolis, the quaint environs of our new home had left us enchanted. Past the street, lay a vast wilderness abounded with trees that resembled fantastical creatures, each one bursting forth from the earth: its wriggling appendages capped with glossy leaves, their composite countenance being continuously stirred by the jabs of the crisp, cold air. It was the perfect place to have the monster truck explore its miniature world as per my whims. The disturbed gravel rumbled under its tyres with a hush. The crooning wind chime became an extension of my abode as the quiet sought my alliance, tugging at me to snuggle with it. Bushes of thorny shrubs, stiffly poised around me like henchmen of tall, spidery foliage that formed the abyss ahead.

Now and then, I felt my ears perk up to catch the next ring of the chimes as a reassurance of my position. A gust of cold wind flirtatiously approached, sweeping my hair back and offsetting my balance, the reflexive regain of which sent twitches up my knee.

The homely chimes had a sudden death as the headlights from a car at a distance leapt out toward me. For a moment, the fascia of my legs had shapeshifted into concrete. I hauled my numbed senses to wakefulness; the truck’s little rumblings and the croon of the chimes returned. I picked the truck up with concealed trepidation and started toward my house.

Taking short, quick strides I hesitated to let my suspicion be known so I didn’t muster a second look. My heightened senses hankered for the familiar chime; even tried to will the metal shells into that calming disarray with my terrified sight. I muttered curses at my playful state of mind that had led me to this eerie moment, swearing that this shan’t be repeated. Noticing that the headlights had gone off and the tarmac became one with the darkness, I let out a sigh of relief and felt my wound up muscles ease out as did the gait. Ting! Ting! Ah, those chimes, I almost teared up with relief. A smile began to crawl across my face—“Hello beta!”.

Every hair on my body stood taut at those honeyed words . I hesitantly turned to face the caller. That leering smile, god! It ran up to his eye bags revealing teeth of grotesque appearance. A sharp, crooked nose that could slice the cold air. He scratched his long, bony fingers on the steering wheel, impaling the deathly silence. All the while, that grin remained affixed as if someone had inspired life into a malevolent mannequin.

“Oh, sorry did I alarm you? I reckon that you may have to complain to Daddy. You see this stupid road? This cursed bits and pieces of grit. A couple of them are bound to bump in on this metal box. Isn’t it?”

“Such a grand kothi. Must be in cahoots with those netas at the top, haan?” From those black, now pursed lips came a freakish, effeminate giggle.

My eyes welled, I wanted to shout at him for scaring me but for the lump in my throat. I was jolted back to my senses when a fiendish reptilian stirred on the gearbox.

He said something about driving a remote controlled race car but before the words could even register, I dropped the truck and ran toward home. My strides leapt, my torso heaved with every breath as tears ran down my pale skin.

As I ran I saw an object levitating in the air. In the distant shimmer of my living room, this silhouette bobbed up and down as if trying to evade the jaws of the dark emptiness. Those cold, piercing eyes that sat over pale, sunken cheeks deadened with a corpse-like hue. That thing bore a look of troubled menace. The unwavering perilous stare sent another jolt of shudder through my already overcharged body. Dishevelled locks of hair could only be noted apart from the spotty, tattered fabric when a fresh breeze arrived. Clutched in one hand, she had a plush toy. In an undertone, she spoke, “mere bhai kahan hain?”. I dumbly shook my head, trying to speak but the ‘no’ stayed hummed in my mouth. Her words quivered again, “mere bhai kahan hain?”. She reached out her hand and again placed that haunting query; I instantly swatted it away in horror-stricken revulsion and darted back home.

In my mother’s embrace, I mumbled about some haunting girl and directed her gaze toward the rural darkness, at the dwelling of the silhouette but only heard the chimes sing as the conspiratorial winds blew. I looked up with pitiable eyes and the same, cadaverous look eyeballed me. I shrieked and yanked myself out of her embrace. My parents spent that night calming me down from a delirium.

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Bhaiya would be proud; I had had his little love fixed. Oh, it wasn’t much. Those old cv joints had gotten wonky. Damn those netas! Roads matter only if they lead to polished malls, not the countryside. The new generation lubricant or whatever is costly but electric bhi toh aap hi ko chahiye thi bhaiya, kyun? Chalo at the very least, I got to visit my old pal, scruffy ole Rajesh. Tell you what, the idiot doesn’t even bother to wash the grease off before he gives me that bone crushing handshake. Nice man, though. Sweet kids too. Rajesh makes an honest living and god darn it if it isn’t hard labour! You could have done the same, isn’t it bhaiya? You knew that. I know you knew that.

Oooh, a charming plaything! Mahavir ji, this is my Providence calling. Under the hallowed protection of your dhal let us get rid of these flashy infestations.

Ack! Must I torment him with these little games and attacks?

Oh, there is no excitement in a catch without a prolonged seesaw of soothing and swatting — ugh Dammit.

I must dispatch that ladylike giggle.

Must admit, decked in capri pants and sleek tee, he looked quite the toy just as I had imagined. Oh, bhaiya! Even you couldn’t have chided at my wretched senses for getting roused by the way that tantalizing runt scampered away. Am I that handsome? Say tata bye bye to those shorts now soaked in a piddle, hee hee-haha! Anyway, you can’t fault me now, even supposing you wanted to…seeing how you are soaked in one too hee-hee hee haha.

The verandah bathed in light as a car came to a stop and out stepped a man with a little figure in tow; he snatched a squashy article from their grip and flung it up onto the roof where it landed with a couple of soft bounces. Across the roof, onto the other side of this clay structure, near the edge of the premises stood a cemented chamber. From within its blackness emerged a quivering arm that dragged back in a metal cup, its contents sloshing around. In the chill quietude, the cup shrilled as it disappeared into nothingness and a bird of prey cast about in the skies above.

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