'Don't be a fool, we haven't come all this way to just go back...we are going in.'
Tobu got up, and dusted his bag pack and helped Debu get up as well. They took a deep breath and walked towards the door.
‘Tobu – don’t do this... lets just lock the door and go back.’ Debu whimpered holding onto key number RV18.
It took an eternity for the palm to touch the door knob. It was cold. As if someone had kept inside a freezer for years. The cold shock got Tobu’s heart pounding. He was panting but tried hard not to show it to the already spooked Debu.
They could hear their breath, as they stepped inside the apparently empty house, and Tobu’s hand searched for the switch to the left of the door. A peculiar smell of damp wood wafted through the air. His exploring fingers finally found their destination.
‘ah that’s better. See it s not that bad ..in fact it is a very well maintained house.’Tobu exclaimed.
The door opened into a rectangular living room. He scanned the room from left to right.
Beige colored walls, coffee colored borders, a window pane with some wooden curios of the Masai tribes.
But his eyes were searching something else. The fireplace.
Debu was lurking behind Tobu’s shoulder and whispered - ‘but we saw smoke from the chimney outside isn’t it?
‘Uh hmm shut up Debu’ .
There was no sign of any fire. Tobu and Debu were really puzzled now. It didn't even occur to them until much later, what if there was a fire lit ? Wouldn't that be more scary ?
His eyes continued the journey. There was a big vintage clock hanging just above the fireplace. It showed 8.29PM.
The silence was perfect. You could even hear the clock tick, a distant dog bark, the wind blowing through the trees, and the love they had for the crevices in a largely wooden house. The clock chimed at the half hour interval to disturb the peaceful music of silence. A shiver ran down their spines, just like the house lizard scurries away seeing light, but Tobu continued to scan the room undeterred.
The inviting divan, beside the wall ,opposite the door, reminded him of the journey so far – 12 hours in the train from Kolkata to NJP, then the bumpy rickshaw ride to Siliguri and then the treacherous heart stopping uphill drive in a jeep, whose driver was stoned or so it seemed when he looked into his eyes. Sleep deprivation was at it's highest state of manifestation.
The window at the other side of the room had long flowing beige curtains covering the view outside. The lonely television rested on an artistic log cut table. The final bend of the rectangular room had a staircase leading up to a mezzanine room. Just 3 wooden steps.
‘Debu it seems there is another room upstairs. You wait here, I ll go check it out.’ Tobu said without looking at Debu. Debu shut his eyes and muttered a prayer under his breath. He looked around to see a wall hanging showing mercury level at the 9C degree mark.It made him uncomfortable.He was sweating.
Tobu switched on the dim passage light and gingerly walked up the 3 steps. Each step anticipating the unexpected.
He stepped into the room on the mezzanine floor and switched on the lights. There was a long table which could seat 4 people on either side. The wooden floor expressed it's irritation on Tobu’s next step. He obliged by pausing for a few seconds and then moved on.This is was a smaller rectangular room almost perpendicular to the living room.As Tobu walked towards the far end of the room he got that familiar smell again…something was burning.
Tobu’s eyes widened as he gulped at the same time, to see the fireplace simmering! It almost seemed like someone had just doused the fire a few minutes ago.
‘Hello is anyone there’ Tobu cleared his throat - loudly. Defense mechanism. But silence replied with the same music.
‘what happened Tobu who are you talking to?’ a nervous Debu inquired from the living room.
‘What do you mean no one.?’
I said don’t worry about it.ok ? Tobu shot back a little irritated now.
He went close to the fireplace and investigated the fireplace in detail. It seemed someone had poured water over burning twigs and some charcoal. The room had 2 large windows,no curtains and tightly closed. Moon shadow was beautifully caressing the landscape outside.
So if the front door was locked, windows sealed,and no sign of a break in- how could someone get in ? Tobu pondered.
He decided to look out of the window to see any tell-tale signs.
There was nothing on the left of his eyes.
There was nothing on the right of his eyes.
Then he looked up...still nothing unusual ..a.and then down expecting to find nothing...but he did.
His eyes met another pair of eyes.
For a moment the blood in his veins revolted. Spiders were crawling inside his heart. Red ants were eating into his skin. A nail was being hammered into his skull. Such was the intense shock.
The eyes were cold, oval and without eyelids. The distant car headlights flashed and exposed the cat.
Tobu snapped out of his stupor and breathed again. He went back to the living room carrying scared droplets of sweat on his forehead.
‘Debu I think we should go and inform the police station’. ‘something doesn’t seem right. The fireplace has just been doused, looks like there might have been someone here before us.’ Tobu remarked.
‘9.45PM in Darjeeling is pretty cold you know… anytime of the year.’ Debu said nervously trying to sound funny.‘Besides we don’t know how far the police station is ...so why not we stay put in this room for the night?’ Debu suggested.
‘I guess you’re right.’ For a change Tobu agreed with Debu instantly.
‘Well then you sleep in the divan here and I will sleep in the room upstairs.’ Tobu said.
‘No way. You sleep on the divan and if the need be I will sleep on the wooden floor with the mattress. But we ve got to stay together.’ Debu was insistent.
‘ok ok don’t panic. Lets sleep now.i really need it - am so tired.’ sighed Tobu.
After a brief moment of silence....‘Tobu…am hungry’.Debu whimpered.
‘The kitchen is right over there’ Tobu said pointing at the mezzanine floor.
Debu got his answer and began to make arrangements for sleeping without the food or mattress from the mezzanine floor.
Tobu arranged the bed cover, and neatly folded it. The bed was cold but he slid in cozily. Aunt Preeta had told them where the quilts were rolled and kept. So both of them had one quilt each to snuggle into and fear as their companions kept them warm.
The last time Tobu saw his watch before his eyes closed was at 11.30PM.
The next time his eyes opened it was 2.30AM and a pair of eyes were horizontally over him…just 2 feet above his nose.
Gazing into his eyes intently, in the darkness of the night, and the fluorescent light of the watch.
Tobu’s toes stretched out achingly, his heart beat must've been 120, he felt blood rush and then drain out of his face. His throat was choked and body transfixed. His cheeks could faintly feel the breath from the face above.He was in a state of shock.He scratched the wooden divan with his nails so hard that the wood began to chip off.
A second longer and Tobu’s veins would have burst. The face moved away. Tobu turned his head to follow the face though his body felt paralyzed.
it seemed to say ....‘come to the mezzanine floor’. And disappeared.
- Read Episode III
- Read A Simple Ghost Story - I.
- Was Tobu hallucinating or was this for real?
- Who was the voice? What happens when he goes inside that room?
- Does he die? Does he live to tell ?
- Tobu had some amazing shock tolerance capability...he still does.
- Mandeville still stands as a witness.
image courtesy :desktopnexus.com