“Tell us son, what happened at Mandeville?” aunt Preeta inquired.
Tobu and Debu had abruptly come back from Darjeeling just after 2 days. A myriad of emotions went through their minds, somewhere there was a fear of ridicule and embarrassment.
They were silent.
‘oh come on talk will you’ his father urged. Tobu still did not speak. He left the room in silence and Debu went back to his residence .Tobu locked his room and lay on his bed quietly.
As fatigue set in, eyes blurred, his mind took him back to 6 Mandeville Mansion.
A second longer and Tobu’s veins would have burst under pressure and shock...
The face moved away as if to say.. .....‘come to the mezzanine floor’. And disappeared.
‘This is insane – I should not go into that room’ Tobu chided himself.
He had tried to shut his eyes, but that was scarier. Tobu’s head was spining,heart racing, and palms sweating.
Tobu sat up on the divan, took a deep breath, and tried to calm down…interspersing logic with belief.
‘this is just a bad dream, I am going to wake up soon, and Debu and I are going to have a good time in Darjeeling’ .
Just then the dark room, saw rays of light stray on to the ceiling. Someone had lit up the mezzanine floor.
- The first step towards the mezzanine room, had Tobu tip toe and wait.
- The second step saw Tobu wanting to retreat.
- The third step pulled Tobu up without his consent.
The long overcoat and a classical English hat confirmed it was a man standing at the end of the room. He was trying to light his pipe. Tobu could see his sideburns and the outline of a sharp nose.
‘Come, please sit.’ The voice spoke without looking at Tobu.
‘What brings you here? Holiday’s right?’ said the dark voice, still not looking at Tobu.
‘uh hmm err’ Tobu struggled to find words. Inside him there was a myriad of emotions flooding his mind. Questions were screaming for answers, doubts were shooting down common sense, and the last shred of belief was being beaten by insanity.
Mayhem in the mind.
‘I am Alan White.- ‘This is my house and you are the guest’.
Tobu obeyed. Simply because the dilemma of not knowing the truth over rode his fear factor. Tobu was speechless. His eyes wandered to the windows on the left side. The moon had disappeared. It was dark except that man seemed to be glowing.
‘You see it is my duty to take care of it, and look after it, even when no one is around.’
Tobu finally found some words in his throat – ‘why me…’ ?
‘What- do -you –mean- why you ? You always knew I was real, you have seen me before or at least my types before, so I am quite surprised that it surprises you.’ Mr. White said in a low and slow pace.
Tobu’s mind went into a tizzy as his beloved grammy’s image floated in. He had seen and even talked to her, 3 months after she was dead.!
Alan White walked towards Tobu with his pipe in hand. A familiar woody, eucalyptus like smell preceded him.
Tobu suddenly felt his body become very heavy. His mind was moving, but not his body. Tobu was tied to his seat…literally now.
The chair he sat on looked like one of those execution chairs. His wrists were cuffed, legs tied and mouth gagged…he couldn’t believe this was happening to him. A sense of claustrophobia and panic pinned him down, like someone hammering a nail into each pore of his skin.
‘Would you like something to drink’ Alan White asked politely.
Tobu snapped out of his stupor. He opened his eyes and it was just the same place before he had gone into a state of hallucination.
Alan White’s face changed color, became darker, and his eyes, blood shot, his forehead started to trickle with drops of blood. There was a devil wanting to burst out.
‘go away’ he hissed close to Tobu’s left ear.
Tobu’s resilience and shock absorption capacity broke down. He screamed. Eyes shut tightly, holding his breath ,gave his voice a full throttle blast.
Debu got up with a start. He was shivering with cold and fear. His eyes still unfocussed, mind fuzzy and his t-shirt drenched.
‘T-T-Tobu where are you brother ‘ he looked around nervously.
Tobu came rushing down from the mezzanine room and crashed into Debu. They both, screamed this time.
After a few minutes, Tobu gathered his composure, and said…
‘Debu we have to go back’.
Their journey back home was mostly in silence. Reaching home, they did not speak to anybody and just went into their respective rooms. Their families were worried if something was wrong but decided to give them some time.
Tobu’s eyes opened to see the fan making a strange noise above. There were papers strewn around the room, and the window announced the advent of a storm.
Meanwhile in another room….
‘Maybe they had a fight with each other’ Aunt Preeta suggested.
‘naah – they are pals since they were 6 years old, I think something else is the problem’
A few days later, Tobu narrated the incident partly. Even he was not sure, how much of it he really saw and how much of it was his imagination.
‘Aunt Preeta, please tell me you have seen him’? After all you have lived there almost 23 years now isnt it?’ asked Tobu eagerly.
Aunt Preeta was quiet. Then she spoke after some time… ‘No Tobu, I have not seen, or heard anything close to what you just mentioned’.
Tobu’s face hung low. He was beginning to believe perhaps it was a bad dream.
On the other hand Tobu’s parents were beginning to think he was playing a prank. He was an intelligent boy after all. Tobu’s father said ‘maybe he will spill the beans in a few days’
‘Don’t forget his Tuition incident’ reminded his wife sternly.
‘Our child is different, gifted, and we have to be especially careful dealing him.’ Tobu’s mother opined.
Tobu lay on his bed restless.
So many questions remain unanswered .He began replaying the incidents , chronologically, in his mind. Every word that he and Debu spoke, every feeling they experienced. But jus as he was about to drift into his experience with Alan White, his mind went back to Debu’s words…
“Let’s go to the police station” …
It almost occurred to Tobu in jest - that if Alan White was a ghost , then he ought to have died, and if he was dead, then there must be some record in some police station or morgue or cemetery or a hospital at the very least. He had to find out.
His increasing restlessness took a new high and saw him going back to Darjeeling the following week against his parents wishes. Their reluctance yielded ,as they saw Tobu in some distress. He was not the guy who would lie simply.
‘Do you want me to come with you – do let me know if you need any help’ Aunt Preeta said.
‘no I have to solve this alone. Don’t worry I will be fine.’
Oh- yes maybe you could give me the keys to Mandeville and permission to see the property documents.’ Tobu said as an after thought.
‘Tobu, enough, I think you ‘re overdoing it now” his father chided.
‘It’s ok, I think this does need to get sorted out once and for all’ Aunt Preeta interjected.
‘The locker key is number RV13.
Tobu looked at aunt Preeta with a sense of relief, and thanked her nodding his head.
Albeit Darjeeling was a small town, searching for one name would be akin to finding a needle in the haystack. Where would he start, based on what? Who would let him dig up old archives? So many doubts lay in front of him. But something also told him, that truth was near too.
Gyanban Thoughts -
- Read Episode IV
- The climax is divided into two parts, this is part one, and expect part 2 tonight.
- A tea shop owner outside Mandeville mansion,said he'd seen some lights in the night.
- Mandeville had no eucalyptus trees around.
- Who is Alan White? Why was he here? Was Tobu hallucinating ? Find.Out.
image courtesy desktopnexus.com