Woman Of Dream. Short Story

This happened a long time ago, when I was 12 years old. I don’t remember all the details, but will post everything that I still remember. Some of it may sound scary to some, others may just scoff and dismiss as a stupid tale. It’s your choice what to believe or not

As it happened, my school was closed for 2 weeks and I was getting bored as most of kids in my neighbourhood studied in schools which had a different vacation schedule. One day, a family friend (lets call him Mr. K) of ours visited for lunch and noticed me lazing around with nothing to do. He had a son named Nil about my age and a daughter, Fany 3 years older. Although I had met Nil only twice before, I liked him. I had been to his house once before on his birthday a few months back. His was a jam packed party with many friendly kids. After lunch, he asked me if I wanted to go with him to meet Nil and Fany and spend a few days with them. As I had nothing better to do, I agreed to go for 3-4 days long stay. I must tell you first that their house was in a village just outside city. It wasn’t urbanised and still had lots of open spaces, dense tree cover and mysterious places that kids like me loved to explore.I had seen some of it during my previous visit and was curious about it.

My mother packed a small bag for me and I was ready to leave.
We reached their house a few minutes before sunset. Both kids were somewhere else playing. Their mother was preparing dinner in kitchen and immediately sent someone to call them back. Within a few minutes, Nil, Fany and 3 other kids, barged in to the house shouting noisily and demanding something to eat.

I recognised one of the kids as Chan, 10 years old neighbour but didn’t know the rest. As an unexpected visitor, they seemed surprised to see me. Nil and Fany recognised me and greeted me as awkwardly as kids do or did during that time before starting clamouring for a snack. In between their voices, Mrs K introduced me to the rest of kids. One little girl, about 7-8 was Roo and a tall boy Vik, who looked 3-4 years older than me. Roo, who seemed to be very shy announced that her mother too must be waiting and ran away. Vik was son of Mr. K’s younger brother who lived in a house nearby. Both his parents were not in home for 4-5 days and had left Vik in Mr.K’s care.

Mr. K chided them for interrupting his news program and asked them to wash up first. The kids disappeared in bathroom and came back after cleaning up a little. As dinner was still some minutes away, we tried to watch TV. But Mr. K was busy watching some elections related news and it was very boring for us. I took my gameboy out of my bag and asked the kids if they wanted to play on this instead. As our noise levels increased, Mr. K pushed us out of the room and we ran to Nil’s room. We played in turns, but as I had already played all of the games, my scores were always higher than the rest. After a while, Mrs. K had to drag us to the kitchen for dinner.

Everyone in the family slept soon after dinner before 9:30, which was a bit early for me. I was awakened next morning by Nil just after 6. Everyone else in the house was already awake and going about their business. As I fumbled in my bag searching for my toothbrush, Nil told me to drop it and handed me a twig (of keekar / Prosopis juliflora) to clean teeth with. It’s kind of fun, less messy and more exercise for gums. We were going out to get some more twigs from bunch of trees nearby.

I put on slippers and left the house with Vik, Nil and Roo. There was a dry stream behind the house which usually got flooded during heavy rains. It’s bed was covered with small rocks and dirt. A wooded area lay beyond that with some clearings being used as shelter for animals. The woods increased in density as one progressed further. Vik was carrying a small ae to chop down the branches. It was hardly needed but the tree is usually thorny and we didn’t want getting pricked.

We crossed the dry stream and walked towards north towards a row of trees lined along a field. Harvest season had just gotten over and large bales of hay lay scattered here and there. Vik took down a few small branches and peeled off thorns with his axe, while we broke the twigs in to suitable sizes and made 3-4 small bundles. Enough to last one family for 2-3 weeks. We picked up the twig bundles and started walking back.

On our way back, we saw 2 big monitor lizards ambling lazily just in middle of our path. Being the adventurer of discrete type, we changed directions and took a different route. After a walk of 3-4 minutes, I noticed a bunch of keekar trees which looked strangely intact compared to the ones we had just pruned. They were overshadowed by a big Banyan tree nearby which had a number of aerial roots hanging in air as well as positioned on ground. I asked why didn’t we harvested twigs from those trees.

Roo replied in a very matter of fact way, “Because there is a ghost there. Two actually. Second one is just a little baby.”

I chuckled at the little girl, “Yeah and they don’t want the people to have clean teeth ?” and looked towards Vik who was walking behind me. He looked at me and just shook his head. Roo protested loudly, “Oh..why are you doing that ? You were the first person to cry ghost.” Turning towards me, she said, ” One woman and her baby died there 4 years back. Now they haunt the place and nobody goes there anymore.” At that time, I liked to think that the ghosts were not real. So I just laughed.

By that time, we were back at Nil’s house and the discussion ended at that. We had a hearty breakfast and soon scampered out of the house to play outside. We played with marbles and wheels with in the courtyard till it got too hot. We walked back inside the house to cool off and rest. We passed time watching TV and taking turns playing on my gameboy.

As soon as it got cooler, we ran out of the house to play cricket in the fields we were collecting twigs in morning. Nil was still playing on gameboy and carried it out to the fields. He finally tore himself away from it when his turn to bat came up. He placed the gameboy inside a small thatched hut meant for storing tools at corner of the field. Some kids from neighbourhood joined in and we played till sunset. After some matches, rest of the kids left and only me, Chan, Nil, Fany and Roo were left. Fany had learnt a few card games and was bugging us to check them out. I didn’t knew any card game but joined in when they insisted that they could teach me in a few minutes.

Mr. K had some friends over and he asked us to go play in Vik’s house. We walked to Vik’s house, switched on the lights and started playing cards. Just then, I remembered that I had forgotten my gameboy back in that hut in the fields. Although, that gameboy was not very new, I still valued that gadget very much. It was the only source of entertainment for me for quite some time. I asked someone to come with me but they were enjoying the game too much. Roo warned me, ‘Don’t go that way this time after sunset. Didn’t I tell you that there are ghosts ?”

I made a face at her, ” Yes, and they will not let me clean my teeth.”

This time, Nil chipped in, ” We’ll bring it in the morning. Nobody’s is going to take it way from there. Lets just play the cards for now.”

But I was not convinced and wanted my gameboy immediately. It was not completely dark yet and the hut was barely 10 minutes walk away. I grabbed a torch and stepped out of Vik’s house. The village municipality didn’t have enough funds for street lights and the street was illuminated by lights from near by houses only. There was no source of light on path to fields anyway. It was not completely dark yet but I had switched on the torch to avoid stepping on a loose rock or something dangerous like a snake.

I walked to the hut and picked up my gameboy. As I turned around and started to walk back, I heard a rustle in bushes. It was not far from where we had noticed two monitor lizards in morning. I changed directions and took the other route we had taken in morning. it was completely dark by that time, stars were visible but the moon was still not up. Crickets and numerous other insects had started up a racket and some fireflies were also visible. How I miss seeing those beautiful insects now.

Soon I came across the bunch of Keekar trees, I had inquired about in the morning. No sign of any activity there. I shone my torch to get a better view but couldn’t find anything remarkable. A few insects buzzed near me and 3-4 fireflies glowed and flew in gentle circles around me. The big Banyan tree cast a dark shadow even in the darkness of night. If anything, I was a little spooked by the ambiance. As I started to walk away, I heard a faint sound like a kitten’s mewl coming from just a few meters away. Although I like dogs better, cats are pretty interesting too. I stopped and shone my torch in direction from where I had heard the sound. I had no intention of adopting a kitten even if I found one, but still felt compelled to take a look.

I gingerly stepped forward pointing the torch here and there. After walking 6-7 steps. a strange feeling of nervousness crept over me. I was never really afraid of dark, but this was something different. I felt chills running down my spine and my hand shook. The shadows danced wildly and spooked me out. That’s when I decided to abandon my search for the kitten and run back. I turned and had taken only 2-3 steps when I saw something glint on my peripheral vision. I turned and shone torch on it. I saw a woman sitting on ground with her eyes closed and back propped against the main trunk of Banyan tree. Her cloths and hair were all wet and messed up, even though it had not rained for days. She had something in her arms clutched close to her chest. I saw a small leg dangling limply. It was a baby and by the way she was holding it and the limb looked like, it all felt very wrong. Till then, she had given no acknowledgement to my presence there even with the torch shining on her face.

At first, sight of that woman drove away some of my jitters .But as I took in the details, I got worried. Everything seemed so wrong. A grown woman with a baby, both wet and strangely still lying under a spooky looking tree after dark in the middle of nowhere. I tried to speak to her, but my voice wouldn’t come out. I tried to step forward to get closer hoping that she’ll wake up to the noise, but my feet wouldn’t move. After taking some deep breaths, I managed to speak a few words loudly. I don’t remember what I said but I surely do remember what happened after that.

She opened her eyes slowly and looked at the baby in her arms for a long time. She kept staring at it for a long time. I couldn’t see her face as she was looking below. But I could see he shoulders moving a little as if she was sobbing. As I stood there uncomfortably wondering what to do, she slowly lifted her head to face towards me. I had changed the direction of my torch’s beam a little to the side to avoid dazzling her eyes. But a little light still fell on her face. Although she was looking in my direction, it didn’t seem like she registered my presence. She just sat there looking right through me with a very pained expression on her face. If I was not scared earlier, I was then. I could see my hand shaking by the way of torch’s beam moving erratically. I lifted one foot to take a step backwards and the looked backwards to check ot to step on anything. As I looked forward again, the woman was gone. I stood there stunned, moving the beam here and there to find a glimpse. She couldn’t have just vanished in less than half a second.

That was the proverbial straw which broke camel’s back. I turned back and started running towards Vik’s house as it was the nearest. At that time, I didn’t care about which house I ended up. I just wanted to be away from that creepy place. Although it was only a short distance, the sprint left me exhausted and out of breath. May be it was due to fear. As I reached the courtyard, I could hear voices of kids arguing loudly over something. The light and voices of people halped calm me down, but still I ran straight in to the door. It was bolted from inside and didn’t open. I stood there for a while, collecting myself and controlling my breaths. I was perspiring like a pig in 20 degrees temperature. After 2-3 minutes, I knocked on he door and Vik opened it still arguing with other kids in other room. I hurriedly walked to the kitchen to get a drink of water, but most of it spilled over my lips.

Fany came in to kitchen to get something and told me to get ready for dinner at their house. We had the permission to spend the night at Vik’s house after dinner. Mrs. K had prepared some great food but I could eat very little. When they asked me if I was alright, I just nodded and said that I was very tired.

We went back to Vik’s house as Mr and Mrs K got busy attending to their visitors. I played card games for a while with the rest but my heart was not in it. I excused myself a few minutes later and started watching TV in adjoining room. From there, I had clear view of the kids playing, so I didn’t feel very afraid. There was nothing good on TV and I fell asleep on the bed I was lying in soon after. Someone came in after a while to switch off the lights and TV, but I didn’t know.

I usually slept very soundly and my dreams if any were very rare and unremarkable. It was just losing consciousness after closing eyes and waking up in morning with no interruptions in between. But that night, I woke at around 1 am. At first, I felt disoriented finding myself in strange new room, but then I remembered. The room was illuminated by a silver of light coming in from a bulb in th porch. I assumed that rest of the kids must be sleeping in other rooms. I kept thinking about what I had seen earlier in the evening and a chill ran down my spine. I tried to go back to shake off the thoughts and go back to sleep again, but it took a long time. My sleep was marked by a terrible nightmare.

In dream, I found myself standing in a field in night with a storm brewing. Dark clouds had completely covered the sky above and flashes of lightning were the only sources of light. There was a big flash and in it’s light, I noticed someone walking unsteadily towards me from a distance. A house with a weak flickering light coming in from a window was visible behind her. After that bolt of lightning, it was pitch black again except for that small light coming from the window. I saw myself groping in dark but nothing else was visible except for dark outlines of trees at some distance. I stood paralysed with indecision and fear, wondering what to do. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning illuminated the area again and I saw the woman with her back towards me just a few meters away from me. She was walking as if she was in lots of pain. Before I could do or say anything, the light disappeared and it was pitch black again. I braced myself for the inevitable thunder and it came a few moments later crushing my eardrums.

I stood there for a while, trying to make up my mind, then decided to follow that woman. Inspite of every fiber in my body screaming against it, I turned towards the direction I had seen her last and started walking. My eyes still had not not adjusted to the darkness and I was stumbling here and there rather than walking properly. A lightning bolt flashed again and I saw her at some distance. But this time, she was almost bent over herself. I picked up speed but she vanished again in darkness and it started raining. At first, it was only a few drops but then it was raining cats and dogs. I kept on chasing blindly after her regardless. Next time it flashed, I saw her almost crawling very near to a grove of trees. I gave a little cry and ran after her but my foot caught on something and I went sprawling face first in the mud. I gathered myself and resumed my chase. I could see outlines of the trees as they stood in front of me. Dark water poured over them and the wind rustled their branches. The wind flowing through the grove sounded like someone screaming. I stood on the edge and shivered, due to cold as well as fear.

I looked behind me, but everything was covered in pitch darkness. Even the small light in that distant house was not visible anymore. Then I heard someone moaning as if in deep agony. I was startled and took a step backwards. Gathering up my courage, I slowly scanned the darkness in the sound’s general direction, but could only see dark shapes of trees and bushes. I crawled further a little hoping to get some light from another bolt of lightning, but none came.

In the meanwhile, rain was pouring really hard and I was drenched to the bones. Wiping off rainwater from my forehead and eyes, I slowly walked further, one slow step at a time trying to locate the woman or source of that moan. But I could hear little except for sound of the rain and wind. I was standing and trying to make sense of everything when a sudden flash of lightning illuminated everything around me. In that one second, I saw that woman lying on her back below that tree with a baby in her arms and blood all around them, just 2-3 meters away from me.

Startled, I took a sudden step backwards, lost my balance and started to fall. It was then when I finally woke up and found myself in bed in Vik’s house. But I was confused for a few minutes before I remembered everything. I was breathing fast and was drenched in sweat. A strong breeze was blowing outside and one open window was rattling. The light bulb outside hung by a short wire and swung with the breeze, making everything even more eerier. I got up from bed and walked towards kitchen hoping to find some water without waking anyone. Water in fridge was ice cold and put some sense back in to my head.

As I walked back to my bed, I saw a figure standing in shadow near the windows. Thankfully, it was just Vik. He turned as I walked forward and asked, ‘Can’t sleep ?’

I just shook my head and gave some non-committal answer. But somehow Vik guessed that there was something wrong and the next thing he asked was, ‘Did you by any chance, go to that grove in evening ?’

I stood silent for a while before answering yes. He sighed and leaned on the window sill, ‘ Then you must have guessed by now that Roo was not exactly wrong.’

I smiled wryly, ‘Who knows for real ! ‘

He replied, ‘For one thing, the woman you saw was real, or should I say, ‘was real’.

‘ Real ? ‘

‘Yes, at least she used to be a few years back. When she was our neighbour’. He started pacing slowly in the room and told me the following story. He never told me her name and I’m telling it all in his words.

‘She used to live in the house, across the fields where we played in the morning. You may have not seen it till now as it is a out of way. Nobody lives in it anymore and nobody goes that way these days either. Anyhow, she lived there with her husband and her widowed mother-in-law. The husband used to be a farmer, but as you may have noticed, this land is not very fertile and it’s hard work just to live by farming on such small parcels. So he used to work in a shop for some much needed extra income. Their life was a bit hard, but not too much. They usually kept to themselves and didn’t mingle much with everyone else. The husband was a nice guy overall but had a really short temper and was somewhat eccentric. He didn’t have many friends and only the wife made any attempts to interact with neighbours which he frowned upon. Things changed a bit, when she got pregnant after 4 years of marriage. It was a great news for the couple as people with loose tongues and nothing better to do were always wondering why couldn’t she get pregnant.

Things were good for a while and they waited happily for their first child. But in 3rd month of the pregnancy, they received their first jolt when the husband lost his job at the shop. Although they were in no danger of starving, but they really needed the money This is a small village and there are not many jobs except for farming, He tired his best to find another but there weren’t any. He still had his crops to look for anyway and with a pregnant wife and a sick mother at home, he was a worried man. Then, just a few days before harvest, it hailed and most of our crops in the village were destroyed. Not only he lost his crops but also went in to a debt. The bank showed no compassion and started harassing him for repayment within a week of the incident. Devoid of all options, he came to us and a few other people in village for help. We helped him in whatever way he could, but it was enough as a lot of people were not in a good financial condition themselves.

With bank threatening foreclosure and seizing of the land, he went in to depression and took to alcohol. within 2-3 months, he went from a productive worker/farmer to a raging alcoholic. Things got so bad that he started pawning his household possessions for his drink. He got into quite some fights with other villagers too. We are a conservative community here and drinking isn’t very common. This combined with his usually gruff nature led to a virtual social boycott of the family.

Then one day, he just disappeared. Nobody cared or even knew until the heavily pregnant wife came to our house scared out of her wits. He had not come home in 3 days with no news or trace. We went with her to the police station and to lodge a report. Policemen on duty just dismissed us away at first saying that he must be lying around drunk somewhere and will come back when sober. It took quite a bit of persuasion from our side to even register a report.

We comforted her in whatever way we could and escorted her back to her home. My family took the responsibility of seeing her that she was well fed. Sometimes I was sent to her house with food, fruits and medicines. We had no phones back then and it was the only contact with the outside world that the two women had for a while. But as the due date got closer, the wife got weaker and depressed. It had been a month since he had disappeared and there was still no news. Her mother-in-law too was devastated due to her son’s disappearance and had become completely bed-ridden.”

At this point, Vik stopped and sighed, staring at the storm raging outside the window. Impatiently I asked him, ‘Then what happened ?’

He looked at me in the darkness, ‘ You remember your dream,don’t you ? That’s what happened. One night she started having labour pains, 1 month before her due date. It was a dark rainy night, not unlike this one and there was nobody to help the poor woman. Her mother-in-law was almost completely senile and useless and only help was us, about a km away.’

I stammered weakly, ‘She died that rainy night ?’

Vik rambled on as if he had not heard me, ‘ Next morning, my mother sent me to their house with a tiffin box. The old lady was lying in the bed as she had been for last 3-4 months and the woman was nowhere in sight. I put the tiffin box in their kitchen and ran off to my school. In evening, my mother visited their house and found the tiffin box untouched and the woman nowhere in sight. She hurried back home and asked me but I had no idea. It was getting dark and my father along with some neighbours started searching for her. It was quite late when they found her lying in that grove with her per-mature baby. Although, nobody told me what had happened, I had the same dream as you and every detail matched with what they had found. She and her baby had died of blood-loss and exposure in the freezing rain. ‘

I shivered a little and sat quietly not knowing what to say. He ambled slowly near my bed and said, ‘ I heard you murmuring and thrashing in your sleep, same way I did when I first had the dream. I still see the same dream every once in a while without any variation. At first, I was afraid of these dreams and my parents performed some occult rituals kind of things to placate the spirit.But in time, I realised that she was just very sad, not angry. ”

‘How do you know whether she is sad or angry ?’

He turned to face me and said in a low voice, ‘Because I see her in real life too.’

I raised my eyebrows, ‘Uh uh, when was the last time you saw her ?’

His reply chilled me, ‘Tonight, just a few minutes back, I saw her standing by your bed side when you were asleep.

As I stood there with my mouth gaping like a retard, he patted me on my shoulder and said, ‘Don’t worry about it. She will not harm you. May be she is just looking for her husband and child.’

I wrapped myself in blanket after he was gone and tried to sleep and forget everything. Needless to say, I spent rest of the night wide awake and shivering with fear. Nothing else happened that night and rest of the days I was there, but I made a point of not going near that grove. It’s been years now and I have not had that dream or seen that woman in same way that Vik did. I think that’s good.

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