BENGALURU: I heard a strange sound near the window. My ears strained. It was like water falling gently. After a while I realized that it was the gentle rocking sound of the swing in the veranda.
I sat up with a start.
I gathered whatever courage I could find and put on my slippers. I crept out of my room and the noise from the swing got clearer. Finally, I managed to push open the door to the veranda. The creaking sounded loud in the silence of the night. The swing was empty but continued to move slowly. It stopped after a while. Whoever was occupying it had left. I wiped the sweat off my forehead, feeling suddenly weak in my knees. I closed the door and returned to my room.
And there it was – a white apparition. It was gently caressing the wall near the table, as if it were a living being. It turned at the sound of my footsteps and the face took my breath away. It was a young woman, beautiful yet deeply sad.
Within seconds, she started fading and soon she was gone. Vanished. A strange feeling came over me and I heard myself shout: ‘Wait!’ The image appeared once again.
I said, ‘Wait! Don’t go away. I want to talk to you.’ Her image sharpened further as I asked, ‘Who are you?’ I wasn’t sure if she would answer my question, but was amazed at my courage and presence of mind. I was no longer afraid. Soon, she appeared in her full form. The glow had faded to reveal a pale face. I asked again, ‘Who are you?’
Her lips spread in a weak smile. ‘A woman. Or at least that’s what I was ... when I was alive.’ ‘You are a ... a ...’ The word ‘ghost’ was difficult to say. She smiled a g a i n . ‘Scared?’ ‘No. But ... what are you doing here?’ Her smile vanished as she replied, ‘That’s what I should be asking you.’ There was a note of anger in her voice. ‘I own this place.’ ‘Wrong. It is mine.’ She spoke with conviction. ‘You mean, you’ve been haunting it,’ I said, my voice laced with contempt. ‘Do you even know what you are saying? The dead may only return to a place that rightfully belongs to them,’ she said firmly. ‘And how is this your property?’
‘My father built this house – for me.’
She continued, ‘I had plans for it. A beautiful garden. A decorated doorway. I had thought of paintings for these very walls. But before I could even begin, I lost my life in an accident.’ She brushed her hair away from her neck as she turned her head for a moment. I could see a dark scar, a mark, possibly, from the injury that had killed her. The blueish- black scar against the contrast of her fair skin looked dreadful. A shiver ran down my spine as I tried to imagine her horrible death. ‘I could not fulfil my dream of making this place my home. And now I return to these walls, these hallways,’ she said, her voice filled with anguish.
Extracted from Darkness by Ratnakar Matkari, with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India.