Tuesday 1 September 2015

Short Story 2015, Shortlist Lipika Dutta


The moon flooded the flower beds of the garden with her adopted light. The bed of tuberoses was thankfully smiling back because it knew well the rays made it elegant. The stems of the flowers were thickly well-fed by the deep nutrition of the soil. So the tuberoses sticks were firm and dependable.
The night was wet as well as the moonlight. The two siblings, one was in fifth standard and another one, a girl who had touched the threshold of her teenage two years back, were enjoying the surrounding but differently. The boy possessed a notebook, full of his original poems. So the moonlit night tickled his senses with new ideas of rhymes. But the girl was oblivious and unaware of everything. Perhaps the moon hypnotized her and instilled an unheard tune into her dizzy head. It was for her unseen lover who momentarily got shape but scattered at once.
Their mother was inside, busy with her household chores. The night was approaching towards her metaphorically. The more the night grew the more the possibility coming near. She was awfully alert. Their newly purchased house gifted her a dilemma. She had to leave her husband in his business place and decamp her old household for their children’s good schooling. The new house was not new at all but old and disputed. It was her first night when she was alone without her husband shouldering her children’s responsibility in an almost haunted house.
Outside the house, the garden with a fat body; halved into two by the house, was lying like a corpse covered with a golden shroud. A shadow cast by the mango tree was sleeping flat, being unconscious that a shade of coconut tree drew a line piercing it’s potbelly. Some shadows in the garden were innocent but some eerie. Some were gigantic, other dispersed as blossoms on a flower bed. Entirely they were kind of premonition for the next moment.
Suddenly a heavy stone dropped on the tin roof, “Gora, Bini” A yell came instantly from the room as if the owner of the voice was ready to call. As soon as the siblings had entered into the room, a series of dropping stones broke the silence of the night into craters. Gora was shivering holding Bini’s hand which was apparent support of him but she was not confident enough to provide it. She held it tightly with a rush of blood in her heart.
On the third day their father reached, being informed. Surprisingly that night and following two days being accompanied by their father’s togetherness there was lull before the storm. Gora eavesdropped on their parent’s whispers. Papa was complaining, “ Thousand times I forbade you not to buy this dilapidated house. You didn’t care.”
We could not afford more of that. Everyone told the house is well built. Made of Sal trees, seasoned Sal logs were used. You are getting it cheaper as the owner is in haste to sell.”
“Right, but they also told the ghostly incident. A woman committed suicide hanging herself on the beam of the ground floor. Her spirit has haunted the house.” He continued “ no one can live here more than one week.”
 “Rubbish! You believe all of this shit?”
  “I didn’t but now same incident repeats.”
  “A conspiracy is working behind it. Perhaps a gang.”
  “Now what will you do? I have to return. How would you manage this malicious gang? He stressed on the word “gang” and continued “Two children. Bini is a teenaged girl. Gora is so young. You are alone!” He added more “How can I get sanity to run my job there keeping you all in this hell?”
“I don’t know.” She said with a firm voice “we had to buy a house. Good schooling was must for Gora. We could afford this money. All of these” she was grudging on “I don’t bother. What will happen, will happen. I’ll face it. Don’t worry. On earth no ghost no ill spirits exist. I don’t believe.”
His father had a lot to kick about but Gora was stuck with the suicidal case. A woman in a red border white saree with a red bindi between her eyebrows! An evil laugh wwwahahaha! He forcefully closed his eyes but a lucid visual image made him helpless.
Next morning Gora stood before the flight of stairs. Wooden steep steps led straight to the drawing room with the beam under the ceiling. The shivering moved back. He called his mom, “please come.”

“Forgotten to step down?” His mother was busy with carpenters replacing the broken planks.
“Stand beside me, I’ll tell you.”
 He embraced his mother’s waist and came down making the beam completely invisible.
“I heard everything papa was telling you.”
 “My goodness! Gora, after death nothing remains. Think with reason.”

“I heard a sound last night.”
“What kind of sound?”
“Some tinkle of nupur.”
“It’s just your imagination, stop reading too much ghost stories.”
“I swear mom, I heard, in our garden someone was roaming with that sound.”
“It’s not the spirit; someone else who wants to drive us away from this house.”
“Perhaps they were intruders, wanted to seize the house. The owner did not live here for a long time.”
“The reasoning did not work properly but his mother’s soothing voice gave him an assurance. His sister also gave him a vague and confusing speech on life and death. Always she did so. Gora knew well. So she was awarded with some punches as in the bouts.
With the descending of the evening the garden restored the shadows again. The absence of their father intensified the possibility of the spooky programme. The moon partially covered with clouds was throwing a light of mystery and helped to create a silhouette. A beckoning wave of coconut leaves left a magical charm in the atmosphere. As if all were forewarning for the three persons in the room. They were sitting on the bed after the dinner and waiting for the omen.
The shadow with likeness of human figure sprinted out leaving a chime that made Gora run to the window. He felt the trail and heard the sound clearly. Mother’s reasoning was going to be faded away and paws of fear tried to leave its marks deeply in his mind. The climax darted up. The shower of stones could have pierced their tin roof but it stopped abruptly. For some moment the silence became a murderer ready to gag them. Their mother was still with a stony jaw that determined the situation hopeful.
That day at dusk the weather was stuffy, Bini herself was tired after a busy school-day. The light of the twilight was orange-ish like a firelight coming from a dragon’s mouth. She looked outside standing on the verandah. The atmosphere made her giddy. She started to climb down the stairs wanting some fresh air. Middle of the steps she shrieked a deadly cry and desperately tried to save herself from a tumbling but finally failed. She rolled down step by step giving an interval like a sound of drum. Her mother rushed out of the room and saw Bini lying on the floor of the drawing room with closed eyes and frothy lips. Her mother wished to cry to burst out her frustration but forgot everything. She strived up Bini’s plump body and laid her on the couch. Getting sprinkled she opened her eyes but for a second. Upright her the beam ushered her unconsciousness more vigorously. Her mother repeatedly called her name “Bini, Bini, open your eyes I’m here with you darling. Please open your eyes.” A little more water could have swept her away from the sofa. Being completely soaked Bini finally retrieved her sense and after more than half an hour she succeeded to speak out. Eventually her mother deciphered her babbling. In the end, the story toppled over the same ghostly story. Bini was overconfident, “No way. I witnessed the figure hanging from the beam.” No hesitation about it. “The dim light of the evening was not so faint that it could swindle me,” gradually her swoon grew into excitement and returned to speechlessness.
Her mother selected the day as the doomsday. She was determined that the last judgment must be given by her. No other way. Do or die. She completed her all tasks in haste. She fed Gora and asked him to go to bed early. She helped Bini to have a glass of milk, she did not force her to eat anything solid. Preparation for the rain of stones was completed beforehand. Night was suitable for that. Blackish, pitchy night created a spooky stillness more easily in the absence of the moon.  However nothing would happen with human’s expectation. Though her mother was ready that night destiny did not allow her. She never experienced so much calm and soundless night. Her disappointment could not break down her alertness.
The very next night helped her to execute the scheme she sketched out desperately. No sooner did the stones start to fall than she blew out of the room as the gale on the sea beach. She screamed with her highest pitched voice, “I can see all of you. What have you thought? No one can be spared.” She continued with the same voice, “I’ll call the police. Just wait and watch, what will happen to you all.”
Very sharply she pronounced the word “all.” Number of stones at the same time confirmed to her the existence of plural souls.
After that night the disputed house wiped away all its malign influence. Every night became silent as they usually are. Gora sighed relief but somehow he was thwarted. Perhaps he expected something more mysterious from the life. Bini became as indifferent as she was before. Their mother was afraid if anything evil would influence her children’s future. Who would prioritize: The shadows of the garden, the light of the moon or the blend of the both?
In the next moonlit night the garden jeweled herself in the same way. It furthermore spread her spell on the poet and the teenaged girl. Both stood on the verandah enjoying the touch of the magical wand. It was Bini who first heard the tinkle sound eluding with the rhythm of paces. She snapped at Gora “heard it?” Gora did not miss it. “I think so.” But they were doubtful; was it or was it not?


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