Anup's Ancestral Mansion
Anup's Ancestral Mansion
The Santro sped up throughout the highway and entered the lane where Anup and his family wanted to go. They travelled this far from the city to stay at Anup’s ancestral mansion for a few days of summer. They wanted to escape from the city life which made them crazy and stressful.
Anup, the clean-shaven, fair-skinned, young man was at the driver’s seat. He was focusing on the road. Sitting next to him was his beautiful wife Malti. She looked at the surrounding fields and grasslands outside the car’s window. She was smiling like a sophisticated person who smiles like this when they see heaven. Sitting behind the couple, was their son Divyansh. He was fidgeting, rolling on the seat, and jumping for he felt nervous regarding the thought he was going to stay at an enormously big house. What if he got lost and would never see his parents again? He shuddered.
They were so engrossed in these activities that they were unaware of the sun, which was on top of them, when they turned from the highway, has settled down on the western horizon.
Finally, they arrived at the mansion. Anup parked his car near the gate and came out from the driver’s door. Malti opened her door too, went behind, and pulled open the backseat door to let her son come out.
Divyansh came out and stood there with immense awe watching the old but majestic looking mansion. The huge two-story mansion appeared dreamy as the setting sun’s light was hitting on its grey coloured walls. Divyansh, suddenly excited and forgetting all his anxiety, ran towards the backyard to see how it looked like from behind. Malti stood beside his husband, for she wanted to ask something.
“What do want to ask?”
“Which room you had for yourself?”
“I had my room here,” said Anup, pointing towards the window which was exactly upon the front door. “Why did you ask?”
“I just wanted us three to sleep where you slept when you were a kid,” said Malti smiling. Anup paused for a while and then said no because that room is small so they cannot fit in. “We have a master bedroom where we three can sleep without any discomfort.”
She paused for a while and then agreed.
Anup called the caretaker of the house to open the mansion and clean the dust that was, as he was assuming, settled inside. After all the cleaning and mopping was done, they went inside. Instead of Anup, who was expected to show them everything inside the home but was seemed lost in his thoughts, it was the caretaker Raghu, a frail old man with broken teeth and unshaved beard, who showed them everything. He explained like a tour guide who shows an ancient monument with all the artefacts and memories attached to it. He showed the first-floor living room, bathroom, and kitchen. Then he took them upstairs which landed on a passage. There they saw five rooms, the third one belonged to Anup and his brother.
The master bedroom, the fifth one, was at the end of the passage. That room belonged to their grandparents. The room was wide and had a huge bed on which four people can, as Anup told Malti before, sleep easily without any discomfort. Near the bed was a huge dressing table. Raghu came inside again with a jug filled with water and three glasses from the kitchen and placed it there. They drank some as they felt thirsty.
Anup asked Raghu to prepare the dinner and bathroom as it was dark outside and they ought to eat something. Raghu agreed and went downstairs into the kitchen. Anup and his family were tired. So they sat on the bed till the dinner was ready.
“I am glad we are here”, said Anup with the smile of an innocent child.
“I have never seen such a big house before,” said Divyansh elatedly. “This is my first time.”
“This is just a beginning. You will see many things in your life and will learn from it,” said Anup.
“You know I don’t want to be an adult,” said Divyansh, and both Anup and Malti laughed.
“Every child will become an adult one day. It is in our fate,” said Malti while holding a laugh.
“Well, I will change my fate and remain a child forever.”
“Well it depends,” said Anup with a poker face while controlling his smile.
“Dinner is ready!” shouted Raghu from the kitchen.
“Thank you Raghu kaka we are coming,” said Anup in a loud voice. “Let’s have dinner.”
They came downstairs in the living room and sat around the dinner table. Raghu kaka served them aloo gobi, aloo mutter, cooked rice, and small rounded chapattis. After they finished eating, he served them moong dal halwa for dessert.
After the dinner was eaten they took a bath and went to sleep in the master bedroom. The couple laid down towards both ends of the bed and had their son in between.
Anup opened his eyes and the sunlight directly shone on his eyes from the window. He sat on the bed, still sleepy. His eyes were weak, everything was blurry for him. He started to scan for the jug of water. He somehow found it and poured water in the glass, which was placed at the dressing table, and drank. He glanced on the bed to find his wife and their son but couldn’t find them. He thought they went for breakfast. But why didn’t they woke him up? They might have thought he needed more sleep as he was tired yesterday. How nice of them.
He took a bath and went downstairs. In the living room, he saw Malti sitting on the dining table and sipping a cup of tea, and Divyansh eating his breakfast. He sat beside Malti and started speaking.
“Ma’am,” he said to Malti jokingly. “May I know why I wasn’t woken up this morning?”
She said nothing. He felt concerned. He shook her with his hands but no answer. He did and said the same thing again but nothing came out of her. Divyansh started talking.
“Mummy is sad because she had a bad dream.”
“Oh! She had a dream!” he exclaimed mockingly looking at her face. “I didn’t know that she can have a dream…” He said expecting his son to laugh or giggle but unfortunately, he was met with nothing except silence.
“Don’t make fun of me!” she said and he saw her shivering. She couldn’t even handle her cup of tea. He was supposed to be serious or so he thought.
He gently took the cup of tea from her hand and placed it on the table. Now he too was serious. Holding her hands he said, “Tell me what happened?” Her whole body relaxed. Now she can confide in both of them. At first, she sobbed but both of them convinced her to speak.
‘The dream was so vivid that it seemed to be real. Suddenly I woke up on my bed and heard strange noises downstairs. It was some kind of thumping. I looked at both of you, both of you were snoring on my face. So I rose quietly as not to disturb you both. It was dark so I took my phone from the drawer and switched on its flashlight. I went towards the door and opened it quietly. I could now hear the same thumping noise but it was louder. But now it didn’t seem like thumping. Now it seemed like stomping on the floor. I guessed it was Raghu kaka. But why the hell he would be awake in the night as we all are supposed to be asleep?
I asked a little louder, “Who is here?” and asked what it is doing here in the middle of the night.
The stomping stopped. I got no answer. The whole house became quiet…
Then I guessed it might be a burglar. They are supposed to come at night in such kind of mansion, aren’t they? So, instead of coming inside and hiding under the blankets, I went downstairs to check what kind of burglar was roaming with a loud stomp. First I checked the living room and the bedroom. No one was there. No signs of forced entry. Nothing. Then I finally went into the kitchen and saw someone was standing quietly.
And no. She was not a burglar…
The old woman looked like some villager who kind of lived nearby. I asked who is she and what she was doing here. She turned towards me and I saw her pale and wrinkled face. She looked sad. I came near her slowly and suddenly she stared at me with eyes wide and mouth gaped. A loud shrill came out of her mouth and her eyes started glowing red. Blood started flowing out from her mouth, her eyes and her nose.
Before I could run, she pounced on me and held me down forcefully with a kind of otherworldly strength which cannot be fathomed, at least by me. And before I could escape from her tight grip, she started whispering into my ears. I don’t know what she was whispering but before I could understand anything, I woke up on my bed. I quickly opened the drawer to check what the time was on my phone.
It was 5 o’clock in the morning…'
Tears trickled from Malti’s eyes as she tried to hold her teacup. Anup embraced her and placed a kiss on her forehead. Divyansh also hugged his mummy. They sat and had their breakfast with tea, forgetting what happened five minutes ago.
Anup and his family went away from the mansion for a while. They had decided to go towards the river far away by walking. They felt content, probably for the first time after coming to the village, watching the village life. They passed through huge farms and grasslands. They heard lots of chirping and they also heard sounds of wind rattling through trees. It felt like there was no place you can find here without any life. They were among nature, far away from the stress and worries of the city. It was total bliss. They felt more blissful when they reached the banks of the small river. They had never seen such a blend of nature and mankind before, children playing among trees nearby, women were filling their pots with water on the banks and men discussing among themselves under the shade of a banyan tree. Such was the charm of this village that even people coming from outside were mesmerized watching its rhythm.
After walking among nature they reached the mansion tired and hungry. The sun was above them and that made them thirsty. They came inside and demanded water. Raghu filled a jug of water in the kitchen, came outside and poured it in the glass that was placed on the dining table. He also managed to cook the lunch real quick and served it swiftly. Aloo Mutter, dal with rice, and Chapatti made of Bajra were arranged and distributed among the family. After finishing their meal they went inside the master bedroom for a nap.
Anup woke up with a throbbing headache. He heard someone. Someone was sobbing downstairs. He rose quickly from the bed and saw sunlight slowly fading away outside from the window. He opened the drawer and took out his mobile phone. He saw the time, it was half-past six. He quickly got up, held the doorknob, opened the door, and went downstairs.
After reaching the landing, he turned his face towards the living room from where the sound was coming. He saw his son standing with his mother, weeping. Malti tried to calm him down but he cried relentlessly.
“Something is wrong here,” the boy’s mother said showing his arms which seems to be black. “Someone has harmed him.”
Anup came near him and started caressing his hand. Divyansh flinched. “He has been hurt badly. I think it might be an accident,” he said while glancing at her face which was stiff. “I think the first aid will help.”
“Anup! Do you understand what I said! I said something is wrong with this house!” she roared.
“Honey calm down,” he mumbled. “Nothing is wrong here, I spent my whole childhood here…”
“I don’t think so,” she said and sniffed. “I don’t think so this is your house… First I got nightmares… Then my son’s arms burned… I don’t know where I am…” she mumbled, her knees got weak. She was about to fall. Anup quickly grabbed her and embraced her.
“Calm down, sit on that chair”, he said softly, pointing at the empty chair beside the dining table. He helped her in sitting. Anup then went towards his only kid, knelt towards him to match his height, held his shoulders gently, and asked him quietly, “Son, how did you got hurt?”
“When I came here…” he sniffed. “I saw… a… a… Aunty… was standing…”
“And then?” asked Anup gently wiping his son’s tears.
“She started burning… There was a fire on her…” he said. “S-S-he grabbed my hands and she hurt me,” he sniffed again this time it was a sob.
Anup was confused. How come such a thing happened here in this peaceful house? He never experienced such things when he lived here before moving to the city. This cannot be the case. No. This cannot happen here. Not at all. There are no signs of burning on the floor. No sign of an old Aunty. Nothing. He is lying. Why would he lie and scare the life out of us? He cannot. But burns, they cannot happen unless there is some fire. Anup turned towards the kitchen door. Yes, he thought, it can be. It can be the stove. He somehow went into the kitchen, started the stove, and placed his hands on it. Yes, this can be the case. He is lying. Yes.
But he said nothing to his son. Not a word came out of him. But he has to say something.
“It’s okay, son. It will not happen again. We are with you. Don’t be scared. Okay?”
He went towards his wife, placed his hands on her shoulder, and tried to comfort her.
“Don’t worry dear. We won’t stay here any longer. We will leave this place tomorrow morning. I promise. Now get ready for dinner,” he said and gently held her jaw. “Okay?”
They had their dinner as usual and went to sleep.
“Ow!” again Anup felt his head splitting. He opened his eyes and found himself on the bed. It was dark outside as well as inside. He somehow found his mobile and switched his flashlight. He saw Malti and his son sleeping. He was not interested in creating drama downstairs, so he didn’t scold his son. He will deal with him later on when they are away from this place. He will be dealt with…
… What on the earth was that? He heard a noise. He prepared his ears to listen to it again.
He realized it was coming from the nearby room. He jumped from the bed, went towards it carrying his flashlight switched on, and opened the door.
Thwack! AAH! HAA!
He heard it more clearly. It was like-
-someone was hitting a woman. It paused and it started again… and again…
Anup cannot move anymore. His heartbeat rose. Somehow he was reluctant to go inside. Reluctant to see someone hitting an old lady. Reluctant to listen to her calls for help. But someone lured him. Someone pushed him to go there, pushed him to stop whatever was going on in that room.
And he went.
He opened the door. It opened slowly with a creak. And he saw something terrible. Something which he has never seen there in his entire life.
He saw Raghu beating an old woman.
It was unusual for him to see his caretaker being violent. It was also unusual for Raghu to be violent, for he always seemed kind and caring. And now when Anup saw him, it seemed strange.
Anup tried to utter something but he couldn’t. He tried to move his body but he couldn’t. He heard someone chanting something, which he cannot comprehend. Everything was lost in a mist. Everything is gone. Except for the woman. She was staring at him. Her eyes glowing red her mouth open.
Blood spurted from her eyes and flown through her cheeks. He could feel a burning sensation throughout his body and could see fire around her. He tried to escape the wrath of this lady but he couldn’t.
His eyes went wide open. His lungs howled. He gasped. He was on the bed and it was dark. He grabbed his mobile phone beneath his pillow and saw the time.
It's 2 am.
He relaxed by breathing slowly. “Haah… oh my God… I thought it was real,” he murmured slowly to himself. This mess, which his wife and his son had created, had affected his mind, he thought. Thank god it was a dream. But he felt uncomfortable. Now he wanted to pee. So he got up with mobile in his hand, switched on the flashlight, and went downstairs for the bathroom.
Malti opened her eyes. She saw the lights in the room were switched on. Someone was shaking her. “What?” she groaned.
“Wake up! Hurry!” said Anup. She saw terror in his eyes. “We have to leave. Quick!”
She was in no mood to listen to him. Her eyes were heavy with sleep.
“Wake up! Come on!” he said and sprinkled some water on her eyelids which were from a jug that was placed on the dressing table. She woke up angrily. Yet she was confused. Before she could utter something he started speaking.
“We have to leave this house. Pack your bags and take Divyansh with you,” Anup said frantically.
She was hesitant. Was she always supposed to obey him? “But why?”
“We cannot stay here anymore. This is not our house anymore,” he was visibly shaken. She saw his eyes. It had nearly filled with tears. He gave an expression like he was scared to death. She felt there is no life left in him. Just his body laden with shockwaves and nothing else.
She hurried up and they pack their bags. She carried her son who was asleep and was ready to go when her husband says so. “Let’s go,” he said and ran downstairs. She quickly followed him.
They came near the gates where the car was parked. Malti opened the backseat door. She placed her son inside. He was soundly asleep. Anup hurried towards the driver’s seat. Malti towards next to the driver’s seat. Both closed the doors together.
Anup saw the mansion for the last time, it was dark and quiet. No sound or light escaped from that house. At the same time, it glowed eerily red. The sky was red. The blood. No!
Malti saw her husband. She saw his hands were shaking on the steering wheel while he faced towards the mansion. She embraced him and placed a kiss on his cheek. His nerves calmed down, his hands steadied.
Now he was ready to escape…
“I will never see this place again. Never.”
He was driving his car throughout the dark road and decided not to stop until he reached the city. His wife saw the surroundings while the car drove, thinking, and contemplating what just had happened. Why he was so scared? What did he experience while she was asleep? She would never know.
She would never discuss with anyone in her whole life about what happened there neither her son and definitely nor her husband who, years later, will take his last breath in his sleep without revealing what happened there.