THAT NIGHT (Part 25)
Part 25 of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's acclaimed ghost story based in rural India.
That Night (part 25)
I could find no trace of the man from the hut after that. I looked towards the hut and found that missing too. There was no sign even of the hut. I wonder what you would have felt in such a situation, but I was rather scared.
Manoj’s invitation to visit the haveli in hand, I decided I would still enter the haveli to see what further fear was in store for me. Climbing up the dusty veranda I was confronted by three sets of double doors, which must have been green to begin with but had now become grayish green with age. I tried to peep through a little hole in one of them. It was too dark to be able to see anything. I tried to pull the door open and on applying a little strength one of the rusty hinges on which the door hung broke. Its iron had been totally corroded. The door could now be pulled to one side and my hand could reach the latch that was closed from inside. The doors now opened but as soon as I entered they strangely closed behind me. I was now trapped. It could mean that this was the last day of my life but it clearly was not, or I would not be here to give you this account. One of the doors through which I had entered had slipped a little and made place for some light to filter in. I could therefore get a glimpse of the room from inside. The haveli had several portraits of the royal family. The most brightly painted was the portrait that seemed to resemble Manoj. Then there was one that had resemblance with Sonali. The woman in the painting was wearing earrings that were long and like two little balls hung with chains. When I looked at Sonali’s portrait I had a strange eerie feeling. She seemed to be there somewhere, outside the portrait. Then one of the earrings in the painting fell out of her portrait as though it was a real one as opposed to a painted earring. It fell and made more noise than something of its weight ought to have as it rolled down slowly but surely. Then both of her payals which had resonant little tinklers, fell out of the portrait and made a sound as if she were walking close to me. My blood seemed to freeze with horror. Then the sound stopped and when I looked at the portrait the woman in the picture began to smile at me.
The smile made me feel encouraged me to speak to her. I was not at all comfortable inside and did not know what would happen in the next moment but I decided to speak to her. So I looked at the portrait and began talking to her.
‘Are you Sonali?’
‘Sonali? Yes I was Sonali in one of my births, the birth when you and I were together in the University,’ a voice seemed to say from somewhere behind me.
‘Why did you come in my dreams so often?’
‘I need your help.’
‘I will do anything for you, Sonali.’
‘I am not Sonali anymore. Spirits must forget what they were. The spirit that cannot forget has to undergo a lot of pain. My circumstances have been unfortunate because of which I still have to remember my past.’
‘How terrible! I am indeed sorry for you Sonali. What kind of feelings did you have for me?’
‘I do not remember too well. But I think I did not dislike you. But that is beside the point because you were not like the person you knew as Manoj. My soul has been wedded to the spirit that was once named Manoj. All other spirits are no more than names for me.’
‘Why did you always come in my dreams? You were never like Pran who could venture out of dreams and move about freely?’
‘I have been law abiding. He has done something for which he must suffer and burn in flames that seem to emanate from sulphur. He did everything wrong and continues to do so even till now. Do not remind me of him. He has tortured me so much.’
'Okay, please continue with your tale.'
'Please don't call it a tale, it is the reality.'