Fugitive Fate

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“Come on…. it’s getting late,” yelled Swarna at the top of her voice.  The children scampered all around with excitement. It was natural.  Soham was six and Sona ten, yet they had been on only two vacations in their entire life. The reason was Swarna’s demanding job and never ending fund crisis. 
 Swarna worked in a small firm. The income was meagre and the job demanding.  All private firms were the same – profit oriented.  In spite of her frustrations, Swarna continued her tedious tasks day in and day out in hope of a better future.  This vacation was planned by her, and executed by her husband Joy. Actually his name was Vijay, but Swarna called him Joy which meant victory in Bangla. Joy too called her Soro; a shortened form of Swarna.  She did like the endearment till Sona pointed out that it sounded like sorrow. 
 But by the time Sona had pointed it out; the name itself was ten years old and had achieved a distinct identity.
“Soro!” Joy called out, “it’s time to leave…” “Coming…”  Swarna replied as she hurriedly opened the trunk in which she kept all her expensive saris. She wrapped the small steel box, containing her jewellery, in an old sari belonging to her late mother-in-law, and kept it among the saris inside. It was a small precaution that she always took while leaving the house, she never left it in the safe inside the cupboard. She knew that would be the first place the thieves would steal from in case of a break in.  “ We must buy a locker at a bank, it isn’t safe to keep so much jewellery in the house,” she thought.
Her years of hard work had been transformed into beautiful gold jewellery which she often flaunted at various family functions.  The envious looks of the relatives and friends, gave her the reason to buy more jewellery each year.  From just a pair of earnings and a gold chain that she had during the time of her marriage, she now possessed about twenty items of gold jewellery as well as a couple of expensive saris that she had bought after several severe altercations with Joy.
Satisfied with her work she locked the trunk, and covered it with cushions which turned it into a chair.
She snatched the lunch from the kitchen and headed for the door.
“We’ll miss the train because of you,” her husband grumbled.
Everything went well, and Swarna  posted as many pics and videos as possible. The children enjoyed the beach immensely. Her relatives, friends and colleagues showered them with likes and comments in all the social media accounts that she had.
Swarna was sure they were seething with jealousy inside.
As they arrived at their house, Swarna requested her husband to buy some lunch. She was too tired to move. Joy got down from the taxi at the crossing; and told them to move ahead.  It was only a minutes walk to their home.
Swarna found the key and opened the door.  “I shall sleep for a day before I do any work,” she said to Soham and Sona. “We too,” they replied in unison. 
A wave of shock passed through Swarna as she looked at her living room.  Everything was scattered on the floor. The sari with which she had wrapped the box of jewels, lay on the floor. The window to the living room had been cut open and the thieves had taken their time to remove everything that was worth stealing.
Swarna sank on the floor.  The children hurried to find their possessions. Somewhere through the daze, she heard a voice. “Soro!” .She felt water being sprinkled on her face, and light pats on her cheek from somewhere far beyond.

A Guest from the Unknown

Photo by Lennart Wittstock

  There was a chill in the air. The drizzle continued for a week, and temperatures dropped down rapidly. It was the All Hallow’s Eve.

Children had run around, and the doorbell rung ceaselessly through the evening. I sat alone at my desk, trying to complete the story that I had been struggling with, for about a month. As the clock in the parlour struck twelve, I stretched, and got up to make myself some coffee as the night became colder.

Coffee in hand, I moved towards the window, enjoying the solitude of the night. The trees in the park across the road always fascinated me during the night. The familiar surroundings appeared strange and eerie in the dark. I liked looking at the strange shapes that trees made in the various shades of the dark. As I watched the drizzle beneath the lamp across the street, I saw something move on the bench beneath. My eyes had not deceived me. It was indeed a person wrapped up in a shawl lying on the bench. “Oh God!’ I said to myself. It was chilling outside and the man would surely be soaked in that constant drizzle. He would certainly die that chilling night, if he stayed outside.

A wave of pity surged through me and I went over to the person across the street. ‘Hello!’ I said. A deep cough underneath the cover was all the answer that I got. The man’s boots peeped out of the shawl at his slight movement. ‘Hello, Sir! It is indeed freezing tonight. Why don’t you come over to my house for the night?’ I paused… ‘I’m sure you would find comfort inside.’

The man opened his cover which was as soaked as the rest of him.  He was rake thin and his sunken eyes could hardly be seen. ‘Please do follow me sir,” I requested as kindly as possible. “Thank ye fer yer kindness sire,” he replied, standing up inanimatedly and following me.

I heated up the soup, and buttered hot toasts to make him comfortable. I offered him dry clothes which he refused. “ I like bein’ in me own boots,” he mumbled. He sat in the darkness away from the light and kept his silence. “You must be very cold and totally drenched,” I tried to make him comfortable. He grunted something, refusing to take the conversation any further. I thought it better to show him his room and did so.

 It felt good helping someone in a chilly night. I carried the dry clothes with me and was about to switch on the light of the guest room, when he put up his hand covering his eyes, putting up his other hand as a sign to stop. He must be sleepy, I thought putting the clothes meant for him on the table. As he went in I bade him goodnight. “G’night,’ he grunted. I smiled and closed the door, shrugging my shoulders at his strange behaviour.

That entire night I had troubled sleep. I tossed and turned on my bed and dreamt of strange people moving around the house. At one point I got up and got myself a glass of water. The deafening silence added to the strangeness of the night. I checked the door of the guest room and went back to bed.

Next morning, the weather seemed to have cleared up nicely. As the bright beams escaped into the room through the folds of the curtains, I rubbed my eyes as I remembered my guest. I was late in getting up and wondered if my guest was already up. I felt grouchy sleeping late and having those strange dreams.

The living room was empty and so was the cooking area adjacent to it. “Good,” I thought, I would get time to prepare a nice breakfast. I made coffee, toast and omelettes and took them to the guest room for the guest. The blinds were still drawn and the bed empty.  I guessed he was in the washroom and putting the tray on the table, I withdrew the blinds. “Goodness! He has already made the bed.” I observed.

 “Er..Mr…” I realised that I did not know the name of my guest. “Ahem!” I cleared my throat near the washroom door. There wasn’t any sound coming out of the washroom. It surprised me to see that it was latched from outside.

“Goodness Gracious!” I rushed towards the main door repenting my decision to invite the stranger to my house. To my surprise the door was locked from inside. Thank God! The man had not escaped with anything valuable. I sighed in relief. A feeling of guilt lingered at the back of my mind; we are quick to suspect others at the smallest pretext, I thought.

I looked for my guest in the other bedroom, but found it empty. Has he by chance gone to my room, while I made breakfast? I checked my room but it was empty. The apartment had three bed rooms and the huge living room. I was utterly confused. Did my guest simply vanish into thin air?

“Hullo there!” I called out. There was no response. My heart beat faster. I went to the guest room and checked the clothes I had given him. They were as I had kept them. He must have slept in his drenched clothes. I checked the bed….. it was dry. My confusion increased. I checked under the bed and then in every nook and corner of the house.

He……wasn’t there.

I checked the main door again … it was locked.

I opened the door – a cold draught swept past me.

 It is believed that on Samhain, the walls between our world, and that of the spirits become thin enough… to allow the ghosts to pass through.

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