Down The Nature's Alley
Down The Nature's Alley
Sheetal loved to go for an evening stroll.
Every evening after having her dinner, and cleaning the kitchen, she would pull over her cotton pants under her sari, put on her sports shoes, and head out for her evening walk around the place.
One foot in front of another, and she is already out of her colony, and on the main square. It was 8:10 pm. The main square was buzzing with the honking sounds of all the vehicles passing through from every direction. People were roaming around from shops to shops, while most of the shops were already getting closed. Most of the market would be closed by around 9 PM. There was no nightlife. The only shops that would remain open were either on the bus stand, or they are Pan Shops (Beatle shops), the tea shops, or the liquor shops.
Sheetal wouldn't wander for that long, though. She would just cross the main square and take the sharp left turn which goes straight into the 'Nature's Alley' down the hilly road. There are trees on either side of the alley, and after every meter or so, a dim street light peeks from between the branches of the trees onto which they are fitted.
If you want to escape for a short time, without ever leaving the town, you would find yourself in 'Nature's Alley'. People usually go there for an early morning stroll. But there are some of them, just like Sheetal, who would rather take the day's frustration out before going to bed.
The trees from either side of the road have covered the path under their shade, providing Sheetal a protective shield. The most refreshing breeze would fill her lungs with a soothing calmness, and her mind would just go numb, rejecting all the unnecessary thoughts automatically. As Sheetal moved deeper into the alley, lost in her own reverie, listening to the sounds of the birds chirping over trees, the sounds of the wind cutting through the narrow gaping between the leaves and trunks of trees, the sound of people who were walking in groups, she found herself already in front of the stairs which are just a little before the end and on the left-hand side of alley.
It was just a narrow stairway covered with trees on either side of the stairs, and which is a shortcut to the open garden of the town. But the open garden closes every day at 6 pm. And people generally avoid taking those stairs to it; especially at night, as there are no dim street lights on the way, and it is completely dark at night hours.
Sheetal looked over the stairs. It was completely dark and silent except the humming and whistling noises of insects or flies. Sheetal looked intently with her squinting eyes. She then turned around and looked everywhere else only to find nothing. She took out her hanky clutched between her sari and waist and wiped her forehead of the sweat. Then wiping her lips, she turned around and climbed up onto the stairs. And the next second, she got lost in the darkness.
After climbing halfway onto the stairway, she stopped. There was fencing on either side of the stairway.
People are scared of darkness. And darkness is nothing but the absence of light.
While most people would not even pass through that path, Sheetal felt quite relaxed and comfortable. It was her escape place, like an old abode which was never built, but always there. Sheetal then sat down right there, dangling her feet over the bottom stairs, and hunched backward with her left hand resting on the above stair. She would then put her right hand under her blouse and take out a tiny matchbox. Then she would gently pull her sari over her legs just to get her hands inside her cotton pants pocket, to finally take out the sticks she yearned for.
Her lips would curl in a satisfying smile, as she lights her stick and put its other end finally into her mouth. She would then draw a long cush of the cigarette into her mouth, hold her breath for a long moment, and then slowly let go the puff of smoke into thin air.
There was darkness all around. And in the middle of that darkness, there was a tiny shining dot of orange light, and a mysterious white cloud of smoke surrounding it. And should you ever dare to look through the cloud of smoke, you might see the outlines of a dark shadowy figure of Sheetal staring at you through the darkness. And a mere sight of which would then haunt you for years and years, giving chills into the darkness of nights.
There was a reason people wouldn't go over those stairs, especially at night- because of the fear of darkness, the fear of that tiny dot of shining orange light, the fear of that mysterious cloud around that light… and in the middle of that cloud, the dark evil shadowy figure of Sheetal.
But Sheetal didn't care, for the place was her home, like an old abode which was never built, but always there…