I never believed in ghosts until now. I had reached this place, this derelict house my ancestors had left me. Why was I here? I could not afford a place in the city. The rents were too high and the place difficult to maintain. So, I decided to come live at this place, now so covered with green creepers that it shadowed the grey stony walls. The porch also looked ancient and creepy, which put unease into my already confused mind. I started having second thoughts about entering this house. I wanted to run, put the luggage back into the car and speed away from this godforsaken place.
This ancient house of my ancestors was situated in the middle of nowhere, amidst a deep dense forest, some five miles from the highway. No house, no neighbors, no help in sight. I was to stay here alone. It was evening and twilight was passing fast. Night was coming thick and wondered what to do. Maybe, I should stay here the night and drive away as soon as the sun rides the sky. So, I settled on this decision, to give the place a try. Maybe, it was not so creepy after all. It just looked creepy and this is how abandoned houses looked like. So saying, I consoled myself.
I took out a rusty key from one of my pockets and turned it in the keyhole. The door unlocked and I turned a steel knob to the right. The door gave way to reveal a small corridor now filled with spiderwebs.
After my grandmother died ten years back, noone had cared about this place. The servants had disappeared without any word. Neither I nor any of my relatives ever visited this place. I had considered selling it but I was saving that thought for years, considering it when the times should go rough. Now was that time. True, I decided to go away in the morning but more I looked at that house, my heart began to scream, it is my house, why run?
I took out a small silver knife and began clearing the spider webs one by one. There was the lever of the main switch and I pulled it down and suddenly, the house was lit with bright lamps and the fans began circling on the ceilings. Well, it did not look so bad after all.
The corridor opened into a huge hall room filled with a huge dining table to the right and sofa sets and armchairs to the left. One could see the open kitchens to the left. The room was well ventilated with windows on either side. Curtains of myriad colors covered the windows. Everything looked grand, like a royal palace.
A staircase led to the floor above where there were three big rooms, I knew, where I could sleep. To sleep here alone gave me the bumps but then, it was my house. What was to fear?
I carried my luggage inside and placed it on the sofa set. I told myself I would unpack later. Then something happened. I turned to close the door. But, it was already closed. I did not remember closing it nor had I heard of it closing. It was strange. Then I thought, I must have closed it. I thought I was forgetting all these things. Maybe the effects of losing a job. My mind was in a disarray, not knowing what to do. The economy was down and I know I could not get one in a short while. I would have to wait. Till then, I had to do something, some small odd jobs to sustain myself.
I waved my hands in the air and set about exploring the house. It was a long time since I was here. The last time was at my grandmother’s funeral. I remembered. I went into the kitchens and I found it empty. Only a refrigerator was there, standing lone. I opened it to find a month’s stock of food. There was bacon and eggs and milk and a variety of vegetables and fruits. I first thought they would be ten years old and would have rotten but they looked and smelled fresh, as if recently bought. Strange! Wait, impossible! As far as I knew, nobody lived here illegally. Why would anyone want to? The place outside looked so creepy and haunted though the inside looked grand. Again this thought startled my mind.
I closed the refrigerator and went into the hall room. Nothing had changed. The walls were without any visible cracks and still had that same grayish hue as it had been ten years ago. What was happening to me? The house looked bad on the out yet magnificent on the in. The thoughts went on and on in my mind and it was driving me mad. Then again, my heart leapt out screaming, My house, it is very special.
My weakness is I always listen to the heart and I always close out the mind. I never listen to logical sense. Till now, I had believed it was my greatest asset, my greatest strength. Never did I even think that this might also be my greatest weakness. So, whatever my heart told, I listened. Even now, when my mind was uneasy and asking me to move and not stay. Something was amiss, my mind kept telling me and every time it did, my heart countered it saying it was my house and it was very special, that I was meant to be here, that I was not supposed to stay in a small flat somewhere in the city.
My feet started carrying me towards the stairs and I climbed it all, although tired from the long journey. The stairs ended on a wide platform and in front of me were three rooms. I saw a black lever and I pulled it down. The upper floor was lit with bright golden lamps and the house shone the brighter. I looked through the windows around and saw the night and darkness gathering.
I walked and soon found myself into a huge room with a great bed. To my shock, the linen sheets were clean and the room smelled fresh with the same lilac scent my grandmother used. Strange! My mind slips into unease again. Go out, it says. My heart leaps again. This is to be your room, never shall you sleep on a creaky cot again. I listen to my heart, again.
The lamps start to flicker. My heart says, low voltage. My mind says, get out before its too late. Then I hear it, a distinct slam of a door. My heart is at my throat, my skin revealing their bumps, hairs all stood up. A cold wind gusts by and the walls seem to go back to their morose derelict selves again. The curtains go from colored to black and the linens turn from clean white to unclean gray, the cotton feathers of the bed ripped open. I run. The lamps continue to flicker. I come to the place where I turned the lever down. The lever creaks loud and keeps going up and down as if someone is handling it. I manage to get hold of it and keep it down.
I looked down at the hall. It looked still the same as when I entered. I run down the stairs. I was halfway down when the lights went out. It became entirely dark. My mind was right. There was something in this place. I should never have come in. I should have driven back to the city. I listened to my heart and thus I landed myself in this terrible mess. I cursed myself.
Moonlight barged in through the windows through the narrow slits between the branches of the trees outside and the rectangular windows. The moonlight fell to the floors right at the centre where the small corridor met the hall. In that light, I saw something I never believed in. Until now. I did not exactly know what I saw but I thought I saw a shimmer. Again, my heart leaps up and whispers to me that the mind is playing tricks on me and the darkness always brings such shadows. I nodded my head. It was something I did not believe in. Why would I believe in it now?
Yet, the shimmers never went away. It did continuously for ten whole minutes. Or so I thought. I knew now, it was no trick for my eyes. Something was really there. But I dared not take a step down. I wanted to run back up but something told me not to. Then, all of a sudden, the lights came back and there was someone, in flesh, in front of me who I never hoped to see again in my life. It was impossible. She was someone I knew to be dead. I had attended her funeral. No, it could not be. I kept slapping myself and she continued smiling at me. I remembered her smile. Sweet, tender and caring. Nothing had changed. She slowly walked towards me, beckoning to me at her every move, to come down. My heart said to move ahead while my mind yelled, stay. I stayed. For once, I heeded my mind.
My grandmother started climbing the stairs. Slowly and wearily, I could see. No, she is not my grandmother. She is her ghost and not all ghosts mean well. I backed a little. It was getting colder.
I ran up and I had reached the platform when someone hugged me from the front. I yelled loud and removed myself. It was my grandmother. I went like, What the hell? I backed out again. She continued smiling, never speaking a word. She looked the same when she died. Unkempt bushy blonde hair, thin and nimble, very little flesh showing the lines of her bones, sagging and wrinkled skin but still as fair.
Then, she spoke, her voice stuttering a little. “Welcome, son. Do not be afraid. I am not here to hurt you. It was not your fault.”
I was confused. What did she mean by that?
“You are dead. You are supposed to be -” I yelled.
“Yes, I am dead. But why are you afraid? As I said, I will not hurt you. Do you not trust me?”
“I did when you were alive. Now, I know not.”
She smiled again and said, “I understand you, boy. You lost your job, you say. No, I made it so. You will get it back but you must promise me, you will stay here. I meant it for your father but since he is not alive, it must go to you. Too long have you abandoned your house and stayed amidst those city folk. This is your rightful place. You know not who you are. You are the descendant of high folks and yet you stay at a lowly place, hardly able to get by. It hurts me, boy.”
“This is not real. You are supposed to be gone. We had your funeral.”
“Yes, ten years ago. But my dying wishes were not fulfilled.”
I considered for a moment and then asked what they might be.
My grandmother smiled and caressed me on my hair. “Nothing you cannot fulfill. Just promise me you will stay here.”
“If this is what you wanted grandmother, why not do it sooner?”
“Because I saw you were happy with your father. Your father did not get along with me well and wanted this property badly. I am about to tell you something which might startle you but I want you to know it is the truth.”
I stayed silent.
“Your father had me murdered a night exactly ten years ago. He wanted to get this house badly and perhaps sell it. I wanted this place to stay in the family. We had a disagreement and one day my son poisoned me. My soul stayed here and this place rendered itself inhabitable. I thought of contacting you, my boy, but you loved your father and while he stood alive, I could not dissociate you from him. The power of love still stays strong.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Nothing , my boy. Just this. Promise me, this house will stay within the family. You will not try to sell it, even though you are out of job right now. Promise me this, son.”
She sighed and began shimmering. “Remember, I love you, kid. I have always. Again, its not your fault. Do not be scared. This is your house now and everything will be as it was ten years ago. Take good care of this place, son and yourself too. You look very thin.” And then she smiled.
“Grandma.” I said.
She looked askance.
“I am sorry for what happened.”
She looked at me and said, “Do not be. Not your fault. You cannot be blamed. I remember, son. It was you who cast the first soil into my grave. My son did not have the courtesy to but you did.”
I was in tears almost. “Do not leave me.”
She smiled. “I have to go, son. It is time. I must leave this world. But when you need me, listen to your heart. I will always be there.” And she disappeared.
The lights flickered again and it went dark for a while. But then the lights came back again, more brighter than ever. I smiled. It was my house now and I became proud of it.
(Disclaimer: Written For Facebook Group Scribbler’s Ink Writers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/351022088275863/)