It was an unusually windy night. The wooden floor of the old log house I was put up in was strewn with dried leaves from the nearby juniper tree. The wind made the tall tree sway from side to side. The night was dark and silent with dense cloud cover other than an intermittent strike of lightening that broke the monotonous murmur of the rain.

Clouds visible from the sit out area

I sat there loosening the shoe laces of my trekking shoes which by now were soaking wet. The otherwise gentle water stream on the way to the log house had turned into a turbulent and rather rapid rivulet that had broken the bounds of its banks and had crossed over. Incessant rains had been beating down on the mountains for over 20 hours now. I glanced at my backpack that was placed towards one end of the sit out area to drain the excess water. The beautiful grey color of the backpack had turned into a rather ugly blackish brown thanks to the multiple detours that the stream had caused us to take. Praying that rain water had not found its way in I reached out my hand in search of the towel to dry my hair. Shoes neatly placed upside down to drain any water that might have got in, I began drying my hair. The silence of the night was broken by an unsettling clang of utensils coming from inside the log house followed by a selective swear in a shrill female voice that made me stop in my steps.

Thoughts scampered through my mind that was already preoccupied with solving problems about the trek in such a weather. I looked at my watch it read 7:48 pm but it had been dark all day and it looked like it was closing in on midnight with no lights around and the absence of the local dog pair of Chilli and Pepper that kept happily jumping around the log house.  I had stayed in the log house a few times before. It was a neatly built log house somewhere around 1922 by an old British couple. They had settled down in India after falling in love with the mountains that had lured them all the way from the Eastern side of the country to the North. Then in their mid forties they had finalized the location as it was one of their favorite spots to camp whenever they were around. They passed away on one of their trips abroad leaving the log house in the hands of ‘Shekhram’ the caretaker.

The Log House

It was a neatly constructed with horizontal logs interlocked at the corners by notching. Logs were nice and round, handcrafted at specific places to bring out the beauty of the coniferous trees in the area. Small but comfortable rooms, in all three of them, with a self sufficient cooking area that allowed at least two people to stand and cook when needed. The highlight of the house was a beautifully carved fireplace right in the center of the house at a point that separated the living area from the kitchen. The warmth of the fire when lit kept both the areas sufficiently warm and well lit. Small kerosene lamps hung from the corners of the roof lighting up the small walkway. The warmth of the log house made it a personal favorite for me and more so as I knew the caretaker of the log house from my days in the boarding school of Mussoorie in Dehradun.

the woods

Shekharam usually wandered into the woods to collect some local brew which he swore by. “This is much better than anything you get down where you live saab” he used to tell me and take a swig at his bamboo mug and in the same swift action wipe his mouth on his left sleeve which had turned brown by the repetitive action. “He stayed all by himself and to the best of my knowledge was a widower” I said to myself as I reached out to my trekking pole in case I had to use it in self defense. The air was filled with a familiar aroma but my mind was refusing to relate it to anything i knew. There was a threat, and I had to neutralize it. I wrapped my wet bandana around my fist to block any incoming blow and slowly moved forward towards the door.

The huge door was partly open with a dim flickering light partially lighting up the seating area. “I should have noticed this the moment I came here” I said to myself as I slowly pushed the door open carefully holding out my trekking pole in complete readiness. Suddenly there was movement and there she stood, long hair left open, clothed in a white and black long gown with clumsily folded sleeves. There was something in her hand but I was focusing on making the first move. Clutching the trek pole tightly I squinted my eyes and raised the trek pole over my head in one move with a deep breath filled in my chest. Just as I was about to swing the pole in an effort to hit the intruder on her head I saw her already large eyes double in size, her facial expression change from suspicion to horror and a weak tremble loosen the grip on the things she was holding in her hand which made it fall to the floor recreating the exact din that I had heard before.

In one loud shriek she yelled ” maaaaaaaaaaaa ….”. I stopped in my step.

                                                               Fear of the unknown

 


“this story is an piece of fiction and recreation described by the author. There is no resemblance to any event of the past”. picture ownership belongs to the owners as they are not taken by the author and he takes no credit for it.

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