UNSETTLING STORIES (The Rest House II)
Gautamjit Thokchom *
"I don't think you will believe me. Anyway, these mysterious incidents have been inside me for years and as I grow older, they constantly take a toll on my peace of mind, and my miserable life which has always been as lonely and deserted as a man can ever be."
This was how, in the ranger's own words, it all began.
AS THE WIND BLOWS
17th, Feb, 2003
The afternoon was quite normal. The sun set with an encompassing, sweeping beauty delicately weaving its rays in between the pine branches and their fluffy needles. All of a sudden, a thought came to me that for the deprivation I subjected myself to by distancing from companionship, I was getting, in return, to be a witness to nature's precious moments like that very sunset. The evening was beautiful. I felt an urge not to ignore a single moment, as it is only in momentary perfections that nature shows her essence, and as such we, the greedy beings, selfishly hope for them to last longer. I can still hear how the birds sang merrily that evening, chirping their ways to their nests. The evening was bursting with life, every leaf greener and every life livelier. I was, indeed, having the time of my life.
Around 8pm, I took my supper. From 9 pm, I reclined on a rocking chair in the balcony of the first floor for some fresh air before bed. The night was calm. I smelled the sweetness of the air freshly scented by the flowers in the garden. The ambience felt like the night's answer to the sublime evening. As I was trying to continue the trail of thought from the evening sunset, I casually set my eyes on the trees facing the balcony to the north. The tree tops looked like moving, unfurling their leaves in the air. I looked up the sky and saw a murky pile of clouds slowly masking the moon. The sky became overcast, and in no time the serene moonlight was gone. The wind picked up speed making itself audible as it forced its way through the thick forest. I thought, may be a storm was coming. So, I left the balcony for my bedroom. When I opened the door, a lightning lit up my entire room. I felt a little uneasy at the pace of deterioration of the weather. After lighting up the lantern as windy as the night was, and to save myself from overt loneliness, I retired to my bed.
I was awoken by the shattering of the glass window. The fragments were strewn all over the floor. I couldn't see anything other than that. The projectile had to be inside the room as the entire left pane had been gone and its broken pieces were inside. The moon was shining brightly as if observing me through the empty side of the window. I must have not been asleep for long as the table clock read ten minutes to one only. As I prepared to get up for a closer look at the scene, I saw a small package lying near my slippers. I picked it up and from the weight of it, I was sure it was what broke the window. It was carefully covered with black cloth, which was now torn apart at the point where it must have hit the window. I felt reluctant to open it at first. It was a mysterious object, the black-coloured covering, the unpredictable weather and the unusual circumstances. But my curiosity and intuition told me something must be enclosed inside. I went to the drawer and took my knife. I lit up a candle and began cutting up the package on my reading table. I was not prepared for what were inside. There were a pocket knife, a transparent glass sphere and a note. The sinister assortment of objects baffled me. I steadied myself and mustered the courage to have a look at the note.
It called itself "THE FOUR STEPS". I opened the first page. There was a picture of a hand with the index finger pointing to the left. On its tip was written,
I opened the next page, and saw a picture of the same pocket knife that came with the package, now lying on the table. I quivered at the idea of ever following what the mysterious book was about to tell me. I looked closely and found the following line,
"and before it's too late, perform the ritual."
I was confused and terrified. Heinous and gory scenes ran through my mind. I couldn't open the next page for some minutes. But, as I admit here, I was curious about what was following these unsettling words. Still shaking from the shock of the second page, I turned the page and my life has never been the same from the moment my eyes fell on the third. Depicted on it was a picture of a man killing himself by slitting his own throat without any expression of pain or remorse. It was the same knife he was using as was the one lying just a few centimetres away from me, for real. The picture was drawn in black and white except where the knife slashed through the neck. The cut vessels were shown in graphic, realistic details as was the blood spurting from them soaking up the man's clothes. Below the picture, the following line ran,
"While the pain lasts, fill it."
I didn't turn the page. I pretended that I knew the last step. You know, presumption is a safe bet and ignorance is bliss. I leant back on the chair. I couldn't reason myself against the feeling of insecurity of being alone in the rest house. I wished for the morning to speed up to my rescue. But my fate was written the other way. I thought what if I had jumped myself into an unknown chasm without a clue of the way out - what had I done to find myself in this situation without a clear indication or reason - what if not seeing the last step led to bigger troubles? Many things, correct and reasonable, in their own peculiar ways battled inside my mind, while in that indecisiveness, my hand slowly reached for the note and opened the last page. There was painted a picture of a spherical object with a red fluid being offered to a mythical creature which perched on a tree. It must be the same glass sphere as in the package. The fluid must be the blood from killing oneself. The line below it was funny and threatening, humorous and but equally dreadful.
My heart seemed to have hardened after looking at the last page. I picked up my sword and went out to check the periphery of the compound. Now, the sky was clear and the moon was imposingly radiant. As I passed the gate, I noticed a piece of paper attached to the barbed wire fence. It was handwritten and read, "Don't go further, to no. 67. You will go, and regret." My blood chilled. The words shook my whole body, and I ran upstairs and closed the door tightly.
To be continued ...
First part of this story here.
* 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 08 2014
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