UNSETTLING STORIES (The Rest House I)
Gautamjit Thokchom *
The grass was covered with blood forming isolated aggregations of coagulum as it froze overnight. The small trees nearby bore prominent marks, the barks buckled and fibres underneath jutting out like spines. A stone, stained on its arrowed tip, lay on the edge of a puddle in which a mutilated head was floating, the skull cracked and chopped off from behind the left ear diagonally upwards. There was an injury mark on the forehead - a very small tear of the skin with abraded collar while on the opposite side - a bigger opening that revealed yellowish fatty tissues leaching out from inside. From the gunpowder smudge on the site of injury on the forehead, it was certain that the head was shot at point blank.
HIM, THE RANGER
The rest house was an orchard under the Department Of Forest. It was stationed deep in the forest as required by its purpose. A road, constructed from scratch solely for the establishment connected it to the highway. Dried pine leaves strewn over the road in autumn, whereas gravels and red sandstones deposited over the years during rainy seasons hid any signs of pavement. Trees arched over the roadway interlocking their canopies which grew thicker and lower as one went deeper into the forest. The distribution created unpredictable stretches of darkness and light even during daytime. The outpost had been neglected and stripped off funding for many years like all such seemingly unimportant institutes in the workings of the government machinery. The last occupant was a ranger, a brave unmarried man. He endured the loneliness for seventeen years, nurturing every imaginable plant from the forest in the orchard. Fortunately, the forest apparently didn't shelter any wild carnivore to interrupt such a long ordeal which suspiciously came to an abrupt end a few weeks ago.
Naturally, as the ranger unexpectedly decided to leave his beloved shelter, people were curious and they did flood him with questions to various ends, which he shrugged off with a joke or just a smile until he decided to open up the other day on which the following account is based.
"Do you really like the place, in your heart?” he was said to ask an elder. He then uncharacteristically descended onto a lengthy lecture on the good memories of the place, how he spent his youthful years there, the stoppage of the funding, then - rainy days, bizarre nights, strange shadows and the disorderliness the place had become that finally prompted him to part ways with the place. They said he looked truly apprehensive and appeared deeply affected by what he was letting the listeners know for the first time – the closely kept nuance of the rest house.
To be continued ...
* Gautamjit Thokchom wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a "simple hearted introvert on medical intervention" and can be contacted at thokchomgautamjit(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on February 03 2014
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