The Vacant House
(a ghost story in two parts)
All three of them started as small time crooks. They were school drop outs. Their fathers thought that education was a waste of time. Fathers forced them out of schools to the streets; to earn a living for the families.
All three of them started as rag pickers. Slowly they moved to petty crime. They would snatch anything of value they could from little kids. They would pilfer things here and there; steal from this shop or from that hawker.
But as they crossed age of adolescence they became uninterested in petty crime and began to aim for something challenging. Being small time crooks no longer satisfied them. Nor did it fulfil their needs which were growing faster than their age.
“What we need is a place of our own.” this was one who called himself Sambha.
“I agree. We need to be independent and we need some privacy,” this was one who had named himself Sachiin.
“Well, do you have anything particular in mind? Or, as usual, you are depending on me?” asked Govinda.
“What can you suggest?” asked Sambha.
“We must find some decent place and move there. We need to think big, plan big and live big.”
“Out with your idea,” Sachiin said impatiently.
“There is house on Marx Road. It is vacant for many years. Owner is an old man, he lives in some village. His son lives in America and never comes to India. I suggest that we move into that house. Back door of that house opens into a deserted lane. I know how to open it. We can use that door. And I have thought of a brilliant plan to deter prying eyes.”
“How do you know all this?” asked Sachiin.
“I have not been wasting my spare time,” Govinda retorted.
“Is there no caretaker or watchman to look after the house?” Sachiin asked.
“No,” said Govinda.
“And what is your brilliant plan?” asked Sambha
“We shall quietly spread a rumour that it is a haunted house. On some dark moonless night we will go into that house, create some commotion and leaveh before anyone can come to enquire. If anybody does come to check, he will find strange and scary things in the house like a human skull or headless chickens or a pot filled with blood. Once the rumour spreads, no one would dare to come into that house. We would then be able to move there without any fear or worry.”
“I like the plan. Let us get on with it straightaway,” said Sambha.
And they got on with it straightaway. Next moonless night they intruded into the house through the back door. They caused enough commotion to alert watchman who was guarding a house on other side of the road. They left before anyone could come to inquire. And they left behind a goat’s head smeared with vermillion.
A rumour quickly spread about the house. Rumour was that someone had performed magical rites in that house and left behind headless chickens smeared with vermillion. Some people insisted that the house was haunted for years.
“Well, well, Govinda you were right on the mark,” Sambha said and patted his back.
“But we did not leave behind headless chickens, did we?” Govinda was a bit perplexed.
“People just say anything that comes to their mind. I don’t think anyone would have actually gone inside that house. Everyone likes to believe the hearsay,” said Sambha.
A few days later they again entered the house and this time they left behind a few dead squirrels. The rumour got reinforced.
“It is strange that people found few dead crows while we had left there dead squirrels.” Govinda was scratching his head. Sachiin too was looking a bit worried.
“How does it matter what people found in that house. Now we will move into that haunted house and let us think of something big and good,” Sambha said.
A few days later they quietly moved into that house. To their delight they found a small secret door that opened towards a park which remained deserted during night.
“Now, can I have some big idea or suggestion?” Sambha asked.
“Let me make a suggestion. We should kidnap a child of some wealthy businessman. I have done some homework and I have a plan. Have you seen the beautiful house which is at the end of this road?” asked Govinda.
“That is the house of P. Kumar. Only last week he bought a very expensive car. He has a small, stupid son. He would be eight years of age. We can kidnap that child, we can ask for any amount as ransom money. P. Kumar loves his son; he will never do anything stupid that could put his child in harm’s way.”
His friends liked Govinda’s scheme. They made arrangements for keeping the child in the haunted house. They carried out a mock exercise of kidnapping the boy. Once they were satisfied with their arrangements, they kidnapped the child.
They had injected a sedative in fruit juice packets which they had stored in the kitchen cupboard. Sambha asked Sachiin to bring a packet of juice. But when Sachiin opened the cupboard, he got a shock of his life. There were couple of dead squirrels in cupboard.
He rushed to Sambha, “What is this? Who kept dead squirrels in the cupboard?”
Sambha was taken aback, “What nonsense are you talking? Let me see.”
But when Sambha checked the cupboard he could only see fruit juice packets, biscuits, chocolates and other things that they had brought for the child. There were no dead squirrels. Sachiin could not believe his eyes.
“Stop being funny and do what you are supposed to do,”Sambha said in an angry tone.
Sachiin did not know what to say. He was sure that he had seen the dead squirrels in the cupboard. When Sambha left with a packet of fruit juice, he shuffled everything kept in the cupboard but he could not find the dead squirrels. (to be continued)
© i b arora