I woke up early to the call of a cuckoo, followed by the call of other birds. It was Saturday and there was no particular agenda so I decided to take it easy although there was always a list of chores o be done. After feeding the birds and the fishes and taking a short walk to refresh myself from the oxygen filled air, I went about making some breakfast. It was a bright day but last night’s rain had left its imprint on the foliage and the there was a general feeling of goodness in the air. I carried my cup of tea to the hall and sat down contemplating on what I had seen last night. I wondered whether I would find any more changes. I opened the book again with some trepidation to look again at the shadow less world.
The picture looked the same generally…but on looking more closely I perceived a lake beyond the trees. It was dark no more and the sun shone in the sky and the water twinkled in the lake as it moved and made ripples in the wind. The picture seemed to be alive and moving with the present. Night had turned to day too and again there were no shadows and no birds or animals in this wood. It was very quiet. I looked out of my window and my garden was rich with many sounds, but the wood in the picture seemed to be living a life of its own. The house continued to be as it was and beyond the river the girl was no longer pointing out, her outstretched arm now lay in her lap and she was looking down at something.
Far from feeling afraid, and curious at these turn of events I was wondering how a picture could have a life of its own. It seemed to be living in another dimension and yet managed to crossover to the present. Also it was a strange way to communicate …The water in the river seemed to have become still and the house no longer had lights. In fact the front door was open in an inviting way as if beckoning someone to go inside and live there. I could see that things were in flux and required a more detailed investigation.
I took a sip of tea laid the cup on the table and relaxing back decided to study the house. I looked at the door which was wide open and the sun’s rays had penetrated right up to the winding staircase that went to the first floor and then perhaps up again another flight of stairs to the tower. The sunlight had made a square patch of light on the floor. But the house itself threw no shadows. The door was acting like a magnet and my eyes were riveted on it. This was no ordinary house. It seemed to be pulling me in. I was fast loosing awareness of my surroundings and soon the only thing I was aware of was walking down the path way towards the house. The bushes had white flowers that gave off a lovely sweet smell and the creeper on the house was lush with red flowers that seemed to be glistening with the morning dew. I sat still on the couch and against my will was drawn into the silent but brightly lit house full of windows and the early morning sunshine.
I walked right through the door way, the red brick walls making a contrast with the beige floor…a pleasant enough house …no sadness here …but it was empty…no furniture or carpet or pictures. Just a stunning emptiness and very quiet indeed. Though, strangely it did not spell out doom. Just a building with no sign of ever being lived in. There were just four rooms on the ground floor including the kitchen. The sitting room and the two other small rooms were empty too. I wondered what they were for. The house was strangely clean and well-polished floors gave it a pristine appearance. More like a hospital that is continually disinfected. I climbed up the stairs and came across 4 more doors. The passageway did have a small table with a flower pot and a mix of brightly colored flowers placed loosely in it. They looked very fresh. Who had kept the flowers I wondered for the rest of the rooms were empty two and again very clean. I came across another small iron staircase. Obviously it led to the tower. I hesitated then decided to finish the job. The steps were steep and a little difficult for me. But I went up nonetheless and opened the wooden door. It creaked loudly from non-use, but I pushed it back. It was dark and damp in here, the windows were curtained and there was a picture here. A portrait painting of the same girl that was on the bank of the river, only here she was kneeling against the bed and praying. For a moment I thought that she had moved, but I dismissed the thought forthwith, blaming my imagination and turned to look out of the only window that the tower had. The ivy was hanging down in wisps and through it the river and its banks were clearly visible. The sun had moved up. There was something floating in the river.
I was rudely jolted back to the present, my dog had jumped on the couch in his usual demanding way and wanted to go out for a walk. I got up in a daze realizing that perhaps I had let my imagination run away with me and made haste to open my door to let him out. I gulped the remainder of the tea which had now become lukewarm.
I turned again to lift the book. The next instant I was just riveted to the floor and the blood froze in my veins. The girl from the bank was no longer there. She was now standing with a lamp in her hand and just about to enter the shadow less wood.
I gave a little shudder and hastily gathered the books, put them on the shelf of a cupboard nearby and firmly shut the door. Despite the cheery warm and fresh sunlight and the brightness of the day I felt a sudden chill. I threw myself in the days chores which was a welcome distraction and left the thought of the books for another time when I would be in a better frame of mind and more calm.
After an hour the bell rang loudly and for a change I truly welcomed the distraction of another human being. I ran out …it was an odd job man in search of work. I was loath to give him employment because then I would have to watch the lazy fellow to get work done. So I shook my head and told him to come the next day as I was in no mood to supervise. I promised I would find some work for him. He shook his head and mumbled something incoherently, taking a few steps to go away, when he suddenly made an about turn. I looked at him thinking he would insist on working that day itself… So I lifted my hand and readied to firmly tell him that the next day was best when he said, ‘the books, ‘Are they guiding you well…’ I was stunned into silence. By the time I had gathered my courage he had turned around and hastened out of the gate. I ran out to accost him but there was no one. That was indeed a very fast departure! Almost magical!
What had just happened? Had it really happened? In broad daylight! Somebody or something was keeping tabs on the events as they unfolded. I sat down on the steps nearby…gathered myself together and after a few moments went back to the house and immersed myself in cooking the menu of the day…but the unease never left me and I left the books alone for that day. That night I just played games on my tablet and went to sleep from sheer exhaustion.