The Gift6 mins 253 6 mins 253
In the early 1940s when the rest of the world was in the wake of WW2, back in Uttar Pradesh a young girl was facing a different phase altogether. Her mother had arranged for her to be married to a young man that lived with his widowed mother, two villages away. The young girl was quite nervous about her life ahead as she had heard many stories of monstrous mothers in law.
The boy's mother, on the contrary, turned out to be a very decent lady and did not demand anything, except that the marriage should take place on a no moon night. It was a queer demand but the girl's parents agreed to it nevertheless. The marriage took place as planned and the young girl set out towards her husband's home.
The house was not so large but was sufficient enough for all three of them. It was built in the shade of a large banyan tree that seemed to be at least a century old. There were white spider Lillies around and a large well in the front yard. Beyond the back of the house, the shrubs and trees led on to thick jungle. It was not yet dark and the crickets had already started to the creek. The fireflies moved in curious patterns. There was an old lantern-lit at the outer wooden beam attracting many tiny insects. While the newlywed girl was noticing all this she happened to notice a neighbor staring at her from his window and slammed the shutters as soon as she turned towards him. All of this seemed very strange to the girl.
Days passed by and the girl was very happy with the way her mother in law treated her and fed her. But, there was one peculiar habit that the old lady possessed, which the girl couldn't understand. The old woman had allowed her to do all the chores of the house except, cooking the evening meal. She would cook the supper with an exceptionally long spoon and would never allow her daughter in law to enter the kitchen after dusk. Then one day the old hag fell strangely sick. They could not detect the cause but she was totally bedridden. She then called her daughter in law close to her and asked her to pull out a box from beneath the bed. When the young girl opened the box she was shocked to see that it was full of gold coins. There were many little leather pouches also in it that contained gold coins. The old lady gave her a pouch and told her that she would reveal a secret to her that day.
She told her that it was her turn to carry out the family tradition and start cooking the evening meal. But, once it was dusk she would encounter a dreadful beast that would come by every evening and stretch out his hand from beneath the door and demand for food. She was then to use the spoon with the long handle to give it some food. And in return, the beast would reward her with a gold coin. The only thing she should remember was, never to go too close to the hand. The young girl was dumbstruck and too scared after listening to her mother in law. But, the desire for the gold gave her a bit of courage.
So, that evening she had got the meal ready in time and sat and waited as her mother in law had instructed. Now, the kitchen in the evening had a different look altogether. The wall near the wooden fire was soot-stained, an oil lamp stood on an alcove that dimly lit the room. Sacks of grain were stored neatly to one corner and on the wall just beside the back door, hung the old long-handled spoon.
The back door was restrained more than needed with chains and locks, and the hinges had been reinforced with extra wood and iron. She sat timidly near the wood fire and was noticing all of this when suddenly there was a loud thud outside the door, as though someone had dropped a heavy bag of bricks. Then came a hair raising growl with heavy breathing. The girl squeezed the stool she was sitting on and cold sweat filled her face and body. Her heart pumped faster and faster and she felt her hands and feet run cold with fright. Suddenly something banged the back door and rigorously started rattling it. The poor girl almost lost senses. She couldn't bear the noise and the ghastly sounds. Then it stopped all of a sudden. In a slow way emerged a large black hairy hand from beneath the door. The whole room had started to smell like rotten meat. The girl was petrified at the sight of that hand. The palm was almost cracked at every fold, blood and slime oozed from the hand. It stinks so bad that she almost puked.
Any how with trembling hands she served it food as was told to her. The hand left and everything returned to normal except for the stench that lingered for some time. To her surprise, she found a gold coin on the floor just where the hand had emerged. She ran to her mother in law and showed her the coin. Her mother in law too was happy that her daughter in law had survived the incident.
The encounters continued day after day and the young girl now got used to the beast. The creature would come every day except on a no moon night. The old lady too was at rest knowing that her daughter in law was now capable enough to handle the situation. She lay in bed and waited to improve in health.
One fine day the daughter in law was exceptionally late from the village market and dusk had already started to fall. The thumping had started by the time she ran into the kitchen. Having got a delayed response the beast was getting terribly impatient. It had already placed its had in from beneath the door and was shouting loudly. Strangely, the girl could not find where she had kept the spoon and soon a creepy feeling came upon her.
Amongst the noise, she grabbed another spoon and tried to serve the beast. In the attempt, the hand caught hold of her. She screamed and shouted for help, but all in vain. The hand was too strong, it pulled her out from beneath the door, leaving chunks of flesh and bones smothered on the floor. But, just before she could be wrenched of life, all she saw...... was her mother in law standing at the entrance of the kitchen with the long-handled spoon in one hand and a leather pouch in the other.....