WITHIN FOUR WALLS (Part 3)

She is alone upstairs– the girl. The old lady is sitting downstairs doing what she usually does –staring out like she is blind.

Two women , alone. One whose husband is dead and who in her mind thinks her life is also over. The other one whose husband is away but who is full of hope for the future.

The girl has turned one of the dark unused rooms upstairs into a nursery- painting it with bright colors.

I groan inwardly .. bright colors like these have never touched my walls. She is busy knitting something. She has installed too many lights upstairs. The old lady has started complaining about the electricity bill. I enjoyed the arguments.

The girl is big and ungainly now, walking slowly and patting her big stomach. I hear her singing and talking to the unborn child. I know from the conversations that her husband is expected in another week when the child is due to be born. They seem to have many plans for me. Knocking the back wall and building in more windows is one of them. She also wanted the front porch opened out to “let in more light”.

Of what use is light to those who love the velvet touch of darkness? I know she is terrified of the attic upstairs and the bats who inhabit it. She tried cleaning it this afternoon but came down screaming.

Ah..! the wind has picked up now. The trees around me are swaying and nodding their heads at me. I know they want me protected and preserved the way I am. We have defied time and change was not going to touch us..!! A window swings open letting in the cold wind and the lashes of rain drops. She tries to shut it. I refuse to cooperate. She struggles with her knee on the window sill.

And then the lights go out!!

She is feeling her way around for the torch. I could tell her that it is not here but in the attic where she had left it this afternoon while fleeing from the bats. She walks around the room her hands holding the walls, knocking into the furniture every now and then and shouting with pain. I am enjoying the moment. A flash of lightening lights up the room. She looks around and quickly realizes that the torch is not here.

She is inching her way out towards the stairs that lead downstairs. She stands at the head of the stairs looking down at the steps swallowed by the darkness. I want to laugh out aloud. She does not realize how much more powerful I am in the darkness. She is walks down carefully holding on to the wall next to the stairs. The steps are slippery with the rainwater that has splashed in from the ventilator above.

I know that it is now or never…

She misses a step and screams as she rolls down the remaining stairs.

The old lady gets out of her melancholic trance and rushes towards the stairs just as the door to the landing of the staircase bangs shut in the breeze. She hits her head and slips down the wet floor knocking her head on the hard stone tiles on the ground.

“Aunty Aunty.. are you okay ? “ groans the girl.

I glare angrily at her. She is sitting up now and dragging herself towards the next room where there is a telephone. She has forgotten to bring her mobile phone with her when she started walking down.
I can feel her fingers fumble on the dial trying to call someone.
“Please… send an ambulance.. There has been an accident in house no 11 on the 6th main road “ she says as she collapses near the phone.

I look at the trail of blood around the floor . Two unconscious women- one bleeding from her head and another from her womb

I feel powerful and victorious….!! I roar along with the thunder that crashes down from the heavens. Whoever said that I was an stack of bricks and mortar did not know my power…!!

I have fatally injured not one but two human females….!!! Who could have got away with assault so easily?

( to be continued)

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WITHIN FOUR WALLS ( Part 2)

I took an instant dislike to them the moment they were within my four walls. I hated that halo of exuberance and hope around them! I do not think they liked me much either. The girl Anita, in particular was very vocal about it. “Oh, how dark and dingy! “ was her comment when she closed the door to the room they were occupying. The husband Shyam seemed to be more discreet about his views.

“Shyam, please, I cannot stay here alone when you are away” she said. “ It seems to be haunted”

“Don’t be silly. It is just a badly constructed house. You will get used to it in a few weeks. We can then slowly convince aunty to make a few changes. You know knock down that wall over there and have an open balcony to let in more light. “ he said trying to reassure her.

What? They were planning to knock down a part of me? I was furious…! Who did they think they were? Yesterday’s children…!!! Younger than me by at least two decades! I was growling with rage.
But wait what did she mean by saying “When you are away”. Where was he going?

I learnt that soon enough. He was a marine engineer by profession and spent most of his time on the sea. The idea of moving in with his aunt was to have someone look after his wife while he was away. She had no family of her own and she was in the family way!!

Aha! So she was pregnant…! That would mean an additional member within my four walls. I was sure I did not want a young child living here. I did not want my silence to be disturbed with the sound of a wailing baby and later on a shrieking child. And who knows what companions a child would bring into the house … My decades old peace was bound to be disturbed.

I looked at her with interest…..!!! From their conversations I could gather that the baby was not due for another six months or so.

I watched them together as they tried to make themselves at home. She struggled to cook in the kitchen. He tried to clear out a patch of grass outside the kitchen door for a vegetable garden. I laughed quietly.. !! Fools …!! Did they not know that reclaimed soil is full of salt and does not support any vegetable life?

They struggled with the ancient light switches which refused to come on easily. They ruined the kitchen switch in the struggle and I gloated in the darkness that followed. He went around the town trying to get a replacement but the idiot did not know that they would have to go back five decades in time to get it in the electrical shops in the town.

And then there were the ancient bathrooms adjoining the rooms that they occupied upstairs. The flush was long broken. The sewerage system just about functioned. He helped her lift buckets of water to pour down the toilet as she collapsed on the bathroom floor with exhaustion after bouts of vomiting in the mornings.

All the while the mistress of the house watched the proceedings passively. I was reassured when I saw that she was not going to make any of the changes that they wanted. It was not a question of money. The old lady was not exactly poor and anyway these youngsters had offered to bear the cost. I understood and appreciated her stance. After all wasn’t I part of her late husband’s memory? If people wanted to make their home with her and with me, they would have to accept us with our darkness and dents.
But did these two understand? I don’t think so.. Actually he gave up after a point. I suppose that was because he knew he would be leaving by the end of the month and did not have to deal with me and my quirks after that.

She however was something else!!! I watched her struggle to open window shutters that had been shut for decades. She managed to push some of them open. She was putting up sheer lace curtains on some of them. She bought tins of paint and painted doors and windows. She managed to get the bathroom flush repaired and the wash basin replaced. She brought in potted plants with fertile soil and lined them on the window sills. She hammered nails into my stubborn walls and hung pictures and artifacts.

It was almost as though she had understood my resistance and was fighting back. I smirked …!! This twenty something girl obviously thought she had won over my stubbornness. She did not know the struggles that lay ahead…

Wasn’t that husband of hers due to leave for the port tomorrow? After that it would be just her and the old lady. She would be all mine.. she and that unborn child inside her…!!

I looked forward to dealing with both of them. Brick and mortar against flesh and blood… I was mentally drawing the battle lines. Victory was only a matter of time.

( to be continued)

WITHIN FOUR WALLS ( Part 1)

I stand dark and looming , looking more ominous in the evening light than I actually am. The trees surrounding me seem to almost grow out of me. I know I have a reputation in the neighborhood of being dangerous. Very few people actually dare to visit me. I revel in the darkness and the solitude that have defined me over the years.

I don’t know if my creator meant me to be the way I am. He invested in my strength giving me little by way of beauty.

The land around the canal was a marsh many years ago when I was born. He bought the land at a throwaway price and began creating me. A man who had made his money abroad he had moved into this town to settle down. He did not want anything to do with the local population in the town who he considered to be inferior to himself. He wanted to keep the “world out” and I did a great job ensuring that. His wife was as frightened of the world as he was suspicious of it. So I drew her into my protective arms promising to keep her safe There are very few windows on my thick walls. The few that do exist are  like slits, more for people inside to view the world without being observed. He then planted trees around me to keep me hidden from the rest of the world. He used to refer to me lovingly as his fortress.. I was proud that I was able to keep the world out of his life.

I thrived, absorbing the melancholia of my creator and his wife. It seeped into my walls like the dampness of the marshy land over which I stood.

There were servants who came in to work. I loved the hard time I gave them. My floors were rough and difficult to scrub. My slit like windows were challenges to dust and the area around me filled with piles of dried leaves from the trees that dropped endlessly. But I guess poverty forces people to take on challenges..! They came in , met their daily challenge of keeping me clean and ran away as soon as that was done.

Over the years, this world around me changed but I did not . The small town grew , bursting with more and more people. The small lane outside became a big road with heavy traffic but my dark world continued to be a cocoon for my residents. The thick canopy of trees kept me hidden from the eyes of the people who lived in the high rises that had cropped up around me. Like before, no one dared approach me , fearing the aura I exuded. I stood as before, enveloped in the darkness and the dank musty odor emanating from within my four walls.

There were fewer people who came in to clean. I suppose poverty was not as desperate as it was in  those  days.

But it all changed when the one who created me died. It was a strange experience for me to suddenly have people come into the house for the funeral. I wanted it all to be over soon. I hated the intrusion into my privacy…!! There were bits of conversation that I overheard. They were telling his wife to sell me. “ You cannot live here alone.” “Give it to a builder to turn it into a block of flats. You will get an apartment free and a lot of money”. But her fear of the world and anything that suggested change saved me from this unsolicited advice.

However, I was not prepared for the decision that she took after a few months. She decided to invite her nephew and his wife to come and make their home here.

I was furious!! After sixty odd years she was letting strangers into my life! How dare she !!! Were my thick walls not enough protection for her? Did she think that I was just a brick and cement entity? I knew I was more than that. I had power that most humans ignored. I had my own set of energy with which I could battle. And I knew I had nearly five decades of negative energy stored up within my walls to oust anyone from within it.

It was only a matter of time…….

( to be continued)