My father had a government job and we were used to his not being around because of his transfers every year or two. I was fourteen when he got a posting in a small village not too far from the town we lived and he decided we all should go and live there together for a year.
Obviously I wasn’t ready to go for I had lived in this town since I was five and I had a lot of friends there; but my parents persuaded me saying ‘it’s only a year and we’ll be back in town. Also I’ll get a lot of new experiences to tell my friends.’ So finally there I was; packing everything happily.
It was June when we moved and the village was increased in beauty for rain had just started. Small green hills, farms of rice all around, sound of overflowing river, fragrance of green grass and smoke……. I loved it all.
We had rented a house just beside the main street near main bus stop. The house wasn’t like our house in town but it wasn’t either like other village houses, it was built to rent out for teachers in local school or government doctors. It was comfortable. There were five doors along with a common veranda. Only one door at the far right was always locked where the owner lived whenever he was in village with his family. Each one of the five doors opened to a fair sized sitting room and a small kitchen next to it. Outside, where kitchen doors opened in backyard were bathrooms. It was an ex police officers house who lived in city and visited this village only once in a year. Currently the whole house was out of tenants and rent was very little so father rented the whole house, all the four quarters.
First night in the house; around three in the morning I woke up with a start as I heard a clatter and noise like someone running; from the attic. I slept in a room just next to where my mom and dad were but I was so terrified I couldn’t move a muscle or make any sound. Holding my breath I waited listening for a long time. Nothing happened. ‘It couldn’t be rats, the noise was too loud for rats,’ I thought.
‘But then what else could it be?’ so after a while reassuring myself that ‘it couldn’t be anything but rats, noise must have been echoed in the silent night,’ I went back to sleep. When I woke up that morning I asked my mother if she had heard any noise and she said she did and we must get rid of those rats. That reassured me and I dropped the subject and forgot all about it in a few days as I didn’t hear any more noises.
My school hadn’t started yet and I didn’t know anyone in village; also there was no cable network there; I spent my time wandering around. The houses around were fairly distant from each other. Opposite of the house we lived, on the other side of the main street and a little further, was a big old house; too old in fact but not as old as it’s inhabitants. A husband and wife, they must be at least a hundred years old. Hedges around the house had become a thicket you could hardly imagine there could be a house behind it at first glance. That was the last house on Main Street and right outside where that property ended was an enormous banyan three with its hundreds of aerial roots, a few of them not aerial anymore but had found their way back in earth. Further on both sides of street were only fields, woods and bushes. Sometimes in the middle of the night I’d heard sounds like slashes of axe like someone cutting a tree from the direction of the banyan tree but the tree was whole whenever I saw it. I even counted the aerials around it, but never missed the count.
Soon my school started and I made some friends and as soon as my parents acquainted with some villagers, we heard quite a few stories about different people of village; whom we didn’t know yet, and some other stories of various parts of the village, ‘the usual village ghost tales.’ Our regular story teller was a tall; broad shouldered; solid woman who dropped by nearly every evening, some times accompanied by her husband, who contrasting to her was a short and stout man with a squeaky voice, since our house was on the way to their farm. No one in my family believed those tales, but then one evening a story told by the husband while the wife tried without success to hush him turned out to be the most exciting one. It was concerning the house we were living. The tale was, ‘The house owner’s wife died in that house; and she didn’t die a natural death; and her spirit still dwells in the attic’, The attic which was always locked; for the owner said he kept his old furniture and kitchen utensils, ‘people says they have seen her after her death’… even if my parents didn’t believe it, I wasn’t sure about not believing the tale. So I asked one of my friends in school and he said he had heard the stories but didn’t believe them either.
Our story-teller called regularly but she wasn’t into ghost-tales anymore. Her husband didn’t come for many days after telling ‘the story of the house we lived.’ He must have been told off by his wife for telling it. When he finally showed up; I asked him about that banyan tree and he started something about the house across the street but stopped suddenly after looking at his wife’s glare. I really wanted to know about it so I tried to ask him again; but the wife altered that subject quite skillfully every time I tried.
I was having trouble sleeping at nights for some time. Any distinct sound gave me a start and I could still hear the sound of an axe sometimes. But I couldn’t talk to my parents because they would have told me ‘there are no such things as ghosts or spirits.’ So instead I told myself the same thing. Days passed by and my fears faded eventually.
One day it had been raining cats and dogs all day. Morning started windy and it transformed into a thunderstorm before evening. We had to eat dinner in candlelight as there had been a transformer failure. I went to my room early that night and was lying in my bed listening to the patter and crashes outside for a long time. When I had just started to feel drowsy I heard someone sneeze. The sound didn’t come from the next bedroom. I was sure it came from the attic. My heart was pounding hard against my ribs. I stayed in my bed for a long time; petrified, eyes and ears wide open. I could only hear the patter of the rain. Around early hours of morning I fell asleep.
Next morning the rain stopped but my school declared holiday as there were reports of property damage all around. A branch of a mango tree had dropped on the right corner of our roof and had damaged some tiles. My father hired two men to repair it. When they were working I managed to sneak up on roof and peek inside at the attic from a patch of tiles that was removed to be replaced. It was full of scrap but otherwise there was nothing unusual.
Eventually I had become used to the noises at night they didn’t bother me anymore.
Then one Saturday my friend was at my home for a sleepover. Around one in the morning again we heard the sound of slashing like an axe on a tree. I had already told my friend all about those sounds but he hadn’t believed until he heard it himself. After a whispered guesswork about what it could be we decided to go out and check for ourselves. We sneaked out of my room, Listened at the door of my parent’s room if they are asleep and tiptoed along the veranda. As quietly as possible we opened the front door and crept out of the front yard to the gate.
I was quite nervous and my friend was rather jumpy. Fear building as we walked very slowly towards the sound of dull thuds. Half the distance we covered shivering and then stopped. I asked my friend if he was sure and we should go near that tree. He considered it for a while then said ‘we have come this far, lets just go and see.’ We started again, but as we neared the tree we realized; the sound of axe had stopped. Everything was quiet except gentle rush of leaves. We didn’t make any noise just stand there staring at the tree. No one was around and no sound came. We turned and very quietly slipped back inside the front gate, across the yard and into the house. We locked the front door and crept back into my room and just when we turned into bed we heard again the thuds of an axe. We tried to deduce again what it could be and finally dozed off.
We kept talking about it for a few days then finally I told myself there IS no such thing as ghosts and even if there are they don’t trouble you for no reason.