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  • Writer's pictureanjali mohapatra


(Based on a true story)

Dusk painted the sky soft shades of purple and orange as people made their way home. Amaresh packed his official documents and locked the desk, office hours had ended and he wanted to get home immediately. Hurriedly he went to the parking lot. He hopped into his brick-red Toyota and drove off. Before he could merge with the highway, his mobile buzzed. Against his better judgment, he answered the call, “Yeah Tasha, I’m driving. Is it urgent?” “Not really”, she replied, “I, uh, I’m just...feeling lonely. How much time you will take?” Tasha’s voice was low, worry crept along the edges of her tone. It was unlike her to call him for such an inane reason. Amaresh frowned, was something wrong? “It’s the rush hour right now, Tasha. I’m coming home right away. Don’t worry! I’ll be there soon!”, he lined his voice with as much reassurance as he could, speeding up the car. His wife mumbled something over the call and hung up. Amaresh’s hands tightened on the steering wheel, anxiety forming a pit in his stomach as his mind raced through the possibilities. Tasha cut off the line and went to her bedroom. As night advanced, so did the hollowness in her chest. It's a daily affair nowadays. As soon as the sun would set, Tasha felt a weight pressing down on her lungs- making it hard to breathe. Doctors had dismissed her, saying that there was nothing wrong but Tasha had been having bouts of breathlessness for too many nights now. She sat on the bed, staring out of the window opposite it. The ceiling-to-floor glass windows gave a complete view of their backyard garden. It was Amaresh and Tasha’s pride. Full of trees- guava, mango, banana, and beautiful flowering plants. Her garden was unrivaled in beauty. Tasha’s favorite pastime was to stare at her variety of plants through the giant window, proud of each green leaf and hued flower. Now, however, she could hardly look at the window without feeling dread grab ahold of her heart in its icy grip. She wouldn’t step into the room at night. She couldn’t. Despite the thick, heavy curtains that were draped across the windows, blocking the view of her precious garden- Tasha couldn’t bear to step anywhere close to the large windows. She was startled at the sudden blaring of the Toyota and ran to open the gate. Amaresh parked the car, locked the gate and both of them came inside. “What’s the matter, why are you so upset?”, Amaresh asked gently, sitting next to his wife on their couch. The pair of them huddled close, Amaresh’s arm settled across Tasha’s shoulders as she wrung her hands nervously, gaze pinned to the floor. Tasha kept silent for a moment, eyes flicking this way and that. “This might sound crazy…”, her voice was quiet and uncertain. Amaresh rubbed a soothing hand on her back, silently encouraging her to continue. Clearing her throat, Tasha spoke up, “I’ve been seeing things. A woman. Dressed in white and beckoning me to come out…at first, I thought I was dreaming but she’s come back many times- always at the same spot, always at the same time.” “Where?”, Amaresh’s tone held no judgment. Tasha pointed a shaky finger at their window, the curtains were drawn tightly shut over it and they were slightly rumpled as if someone had pulled them close in a hurry. “She’s always standing right outside, beckoning me with a finger. Her voice is weird and thin. Every time, she’s asking me to do the same thing. To come out. To go with her. I can’t…I c-can’t!”, her voice began to shake. “Come on Tasha! Did you read any thrillers or ghost stories? I spent my childhood here. I have never seen such strange things. Why will it come to you?! This sounds like something out of a horror movie.” “I wish that was true. I know this sounds insane, but believe me, please! I know what you’re thinking, I didn’t believe it at first either, I thought I was dreaming…but it’s happened our times over the last week. I couldn’t have had the same dream four times, Amar- it’s something else.” Tasha stood up in a rush, pacing this way and that as she recounted the past week. Amresh gravely sat, shoulders hunched in. His brows were knitted. “Next time whenever this happens just pinch my hand. Wake me up and let me see her for myself, okay honey?” Tasha nodded. That night Tasha expected she would face the same weird figure but nothing happened. However, as she went to the bathroom at midnight, she could feel someone pushing her. The first time, she whirled around, thinking that Amaresh was playing a poor joke on her but there was nobody there in the darkness. The next trip to the bathroom was accompanied by the same phantom pushes but this time Tasha just ignored it- believing that her fear was making her antsier than usual. Two or three days passed without incident. Amresh thought that maybe Tasha would settle down. She seemed calmer than the first night and the couple didn’t mention the woman at the window again. That night, they had fallen asleep with the curtains left open. The moon was a bare sliver in the sky, and a handful of stars were scattered across the ink-black canvas of the night sky- blanketing their little garden in near-complete darkness. Tasha had glanced fearfully at the open curtains once but Amaresh’s presence soothed her to sleep. Suddenly Tasha jerked forward. Someone was knocking on the window. Tap, tap, tap, the sound was quiet but unmistakable. Horror churned in her gut as she reluctantly dragged her eyes to the window. Her heart fell to her stomach at the sight. Outside the window, dressed in white, was Tasha’s nightmare. The figure was hardly lit by the moonlight and her white sari glowed its own. The specter’s hair was loose and long, giving her gaunt face a sharper look and her eyes were fixed right onto Tasha. Tasha’s blood froze and her limbs locked into place. A soundless scream was trapped in her throat. She needed to wake up Amaresh but her body wasn’t listening to her. Amresh turned in his sleep and the movement somehow broke the spell Tasha was under. Instantly, she grabbed ahold of his nose and gave it a sharp pinch. Amaresh sat up with a yelp, clutching his nose in pain. He turned to her but before he could speak, he saw her. He sat, transfixed as the specter knocked one more time. Come with me…Tasha…”, a thin, reedy voice whispered and Tasha let out a sob. Amaresh clutched his wife in fear, gaze still stuck on the oddly familiar face outside his window. “H-hey!”, Amaresh’s voice shook with terror and in an instant, the woman disappeared. There was no flash of blinding light or sound- the woman merely faded into the black background, gone in the blink of an eye. “I’m not crazy! I’m not crazy!”, despite her fear, Tash was relieved that someone other than her had seen the woman. Amaresh merely held onto his wife tighter- the face of the woman had been familiar…his mind was racing, trying to figure out where he had seen her before. The couple spent the rest of the night stuck in their position, clutching each other and staring out of the window- hoping that the woman wouldn’t show up again. The next morning, Amaresh’s mother came down to their house for a visit. She noticed the gaunt lines of his face and the bruises of a sleepless night under his eyes. The old woman was quick to point this out to her son and in turn, Amaresh spilled the whole story, unable to keep it in. “Ah. I see.”, Amaresh’s mom nodded to herself, undisturbed by what her son had told her. Amaresh gaped at her nonchalance. Did she think he was making up stories? “I’m not lying, mom! I swear, I know how this sounds but I’m not-” “Hm, do you still have the old family albums your dad and I gifted you?”, his mom’s tone remained calm. Amaresh was thrown off by how lightly his mother was taking this. She was a deeply religious and spiritual woman, always claiming to see spirits and such- if anyone had to believe him, Amaresh was certain it would’ve been her. “Answer me, Amu” “Uh, yes.” His mother smiled and ordered him to get it for her. Amaresh, still dazed by his mother’s reaction- or lack thereof- silently followed her command, pulling the heavy tome from his bookshelf. Dust lined the thick album, inside it contained pictures of Amaresh’s childhood up until he became eighteen. His mother eagerly grabbed the book and flung it open, flipping through the pages before stopping. “Is this who you saw?”, she pointed at a particularly old picture and Amaresh felt his heart drop into the pit of his stomach. Smiling up at him, was the woman from last night! The picture was old and weathered at the edges, time had tinted it pink but the face was unmistakable. In the photograph, the woman was wearing a simple cotton saree and her hair was tied back into a neat bun. In her lap, she was holding a five-year-old Amaresh and the pair of them were grinning at the camera. “Your mami was always fond of you. She lived with us from the day she became a widow. You remember her, don’t you? Maybe not, she died when you were a mere child but you two were inseparable back then. She wanted to marry you off to a decent girl. Someone who would live up to her standards. Your old mami would always prattle on and on about the wife you deserved to have. I never listened.”, his mother’s voice had a bitter edge, “ I chose Tasha because I knew your mami wouldn’t have been able to tolerate it. Who knew she’d show up like this…it’s no matter now. I’ll take care of it, Amu. You and Tasha can relax- I know a person who will get rid of this little problem.” With a final smile, Amaresh’s mother shut the book harshly and left. True to his mother’s promise, the pair of them never saw the woman again but Amaresh couldn’t help but wonder if she truly had bad intentions or if she had been trying to warn him…

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