THE HOUSE AT THE FOOTHILLS
Hello my dear readers and listeners! It is such a pleasure to be back with you. This is a very short story, but I believe you will enjoy it. Since I have not been keeping well for sometime, there might be some inconsistencies in the performance. I request you to be gracious enough to forgive the possible deficiencies in my presentation. Take care, and enjoy the story!
Welcome to OBSCURUS, your weekly dose of paranormal fiction. Every Wednesday OBSCURUS features new short stories and serialized novels written by novelist, screenwriter, and voice-over artist Biswajit Banerjee. The realm of the paranormal stretches far beyond the usual horror story. So, while you will get to listen to lots of ghost stories on this podcast, there will also be many tales of lesser-known paranormal themes. To get us started, here's your host Biswajit Banerjee.
HOST TALK 00:00:47
Hello and welcome to OBSCURUS. I am Biswajit Banerjee, your host for this show. Today’s story will be a short one. I haven’t been keeping well lately and would seek apologies if you find any deficiencies in my presentation.
Before starting today’s story, I would request you, wonderful readers and listeners, to visit my website biswajitbanerjee.com and join my mailing list. You could also visit my other website obscurus.buzzsprout.com, which is dedicated to this podcast. All OBSCURUS episodes and their transcripts are available on both my websites. If you want to use the chapter markers, please visit the website dedicated to the podcast. Well, yes, obscurus.buzzsprout.com, I mean.
And now, it’s time for the story. A screenwriter buys a beautiful house in the backdrop of picturesque foothills. Little does he know he is buying a curse. Can he save his family and himself from the hauntings? Let’s find out …
THE HOUSE AT THE FOOTHILLS 00:02:20
Written and Performed by Biswajit Banerjee
00:02:35 Oh, it was beautiful! The two-storied white building amidst the green lawns against the backdrop of the Vijayanta foothills - you could see a creek with serene waters snaking its way through the rocks over the hilly terrains from the top floor of the house. We got the house at an unbelievable price - it was a steal! With my screenwriting work picking up in a big way, I didn't have to think twice when Mr. Azeem Shaw and his brother Mr. Ankur Shaw offered it to us at just over rupees 4.5 million. Of course, there was one catch, but neither my wife Geetanjali nor I made much of the idea. 00:03:21
"The earlier occupants had reported some disturbance, Mr. Pathak," Azeem said as he and his brother took us around the building.
"What kind of disturbance, Mr. Shaw?" Geetanjali asked.
"Somebody moved around the house, they said, Mrs. Pathak." Azeem smiled as if it was not an issue at all for the rational minds.
"Who moved around the house? Some intruder?" I asked.
"No, not a human." Azeem tittered again. "Stories, you know."
"Are you suggesting the house is haunted?" Geetanjali said, arresting her motion.
"I am not suggesting that Mrs. Pathak, I don't believe in spooks," Azeem replied.
Ankur wore a casual look as if the matter wasn't even worth a thought. And we didn't give it much thought - after all, we were rational people, or so we believed. 00:04:44
We moved in within a month - I, Geetanjali, our one-and-a-half-year-old son Suraj and his nanny Archana. Getting domestic help was easy in this part of the world - Shamita joined as the housekeeper and Kasturi as the cook. The first few days were blissful, truly blissful. I had made a little room on the top floor my working space. The craft of screenwriting in this lovely cozy room that afforded the most captivating views of the hills and the creek felt nothing short of unbounded joy. My creative juices flowed without a break.
The journey time from the house to the research lab in the nearby hilly township called Little Devonshire, where Geetanjali worked as a biotechnologist, was hardly a twenty-minute-drive. The winding road to her place of work could raise and nourish poetic faculties even in a brute. The distant mountains partly enveloped by the mists, lush green vegetation, the occasional milky waterfalls, and the herds of sheep commanded by simple hill people with their undemanding lifestyles - we were on a dream ride! 00:06:17
Then it started - the streak of disturbances! And it shook our very foundations of reason. Archana reported it first. "Somebody knocks at my room, Mrs. Pathak," she complained to Geetanjali. She explained how the gentle and almost inaudible taps at her door had now grown into distinct and aggressive knocking. Archana again reported having seen a dark shadow hovering in the balcony to her room at midnight. Within days thereafter, Shamita reported somebody peeping through the ventilator of her bathroom while she was taking a shower. The presence of the phantom grew stronger by the day as one report followed the other. Then Geetanjali spotted it one night. While working on a research paper due for publication in her firm's next quarterly magazine, she sensed someone watching her from behind. She turned around, and there was none! When she resumed her work, she could feel the phantom's breaths brushing past her shoulders. She looked for the source - none again. But this time, she spotted someone's moist footprints on the floor! Apparently, somebody had walked into and out of her room in wet slippers. Geetanjali let out a moan in shock. I heard it and joined her. Fear writ large upon her face as she buried it into my chest. I didn't ask her any questions – the footprints said it all. 00:08:10
I had called the Shaw brothers several times. But their office landline connection and mobile phones rang endlessly. Azeem returned the call once but only to tell me that he would be calling up later since he was busy in a meeting. That's all!
Following the appearance of the footprints, I tried their numbers again and found no success. I left a voice message for Azeem - a rather harsh one expecting him to call back after finishing his day's chores. But he didn't. The same evening as I was writing the climax of a screenplay that one of my producers wished to pitch as his next teleplay for a major television channel, a soul-shattering shriek disarrayed all my concentration. Kasturi was the one who had shrieked. I rushed to the kitchen to find her lying face down on the floor over a pool of soup and scattered utensils and vegetables. Within seconds Geetanjali too had arrived. As we helped the fat lady get to her feet, she cried uncontrollably. "I will not work here anymore, Mrs. Pathak. This ghost has been watching me all the time. Now, it has also started attacking me."
Left clueless, I tried the mobile numbers of the Shaws again. After several attempts, Azeem took the call.
"Mr. Pathak, I am busy with a client. I will call back later."
"No, Mr. Shaw, you have to listen to me," I shouted.
"But, I am busy."
"I damn care if you are busy or not. Do you people have a modicum of civility? No one picks up your office phone, and you don't care to reply to my missed calls on your mobile."
"Mr. Pathak ..."
"I want you here now, Mr. Shaw ... you have sold me a damn haunted house."
"Mr. Pathak ..."
"Come here right away, I say."
"I promise I will come tomorrow ... I will be at your doorstep by 10 am tomorrow ... I promise."
"Don't break that promise, Mr. Shaw, or you will see another side of me," I said and banged the phone. 00:10:45
We had little idea we wouldn't spend the 'tomorrow' I talked about in that house. Around midnight, minutes after we had gone to bed, a tremble brought us out of our comforts. First, we thought it to be an earthquake, but the truth dawned on us soon. Sounds of firm footsteps filled the building. The lights flickered, and the doors and windows opened by themselves. The window panes burst into sharp shards coming at us from all sides. Women shrieked in panic, and the child whimpered from his room. "Get the baby," Geetanjali cried. I walked out of our bedroom, but the tremble got more intense, throwing me off-balance. Somehow I managed to get into the child's room. As I walked out of it with him in my arms, I found Geetanjali, Archana, Shamita, and Kasturi in the corridor heading towards the staircase in absolute horror! Blood oozed out in two distinct lines from Shamita's nose. "He hit me, Mr. Pathak, he hit me," she spoke amidst the noise of cracking walls and creaking doors.
Within minutes we were out on the lawn. While heading toward the car, I realized the car keys were still inside. Kasturi took the child from me, and I rushed back into the house as it shook incessantly. I walked up the staircase and moved into our bedroom as the bangs and crashes continued. I fiddled through the things in one of the drawers in the semi-dark conditions. When I finally landed my hands on the car keys, cold stony fingers moved around my throat. I struggled for breath as the phantom, with a clear material manifestation, choked me to near-unconsciousness. With the last drop of my energy, I fought my way out of his grip. And then I rushed out of the room. Parts of the wooden staircase broke off, making the walk down the stairs close to impossible. I was lucky to find myself out in the open again.
I pressed hard on the accelerator and maneuvered the vehicle away from the house. There was unmistakably someone standing at the window of our bedroom. I noticed his smile ... a vicious grin, a sure statement that he had driven away people from the place that belonged solely to him. Strangely, he looked familiar!
"These damn brothers cheated us," I said as I pressed harder on the accelerator.
"Brothers," You mean Mr. Azeem Shaw," Geetanjali said, appearing confused with the child nestled safely in her lap.
"Azeem Shaw and Ankur Shaw," I responded.
"There was no Ankur Shaw ... I saw just one man.” She gazed at me with puzzled eyes.
I knew instantly that the familiar face at the bedroom window was that of the one I believed to be Ankur Shaw.
Thanks for listening to OBSCURUS. If you like what you heard, please subscribe and visit biswajitbanerjee.com for more information about Biswajit's books, movies, documentaries, and other creative pursuits. We shall see you next Wednesday with another episode of OBSCURUS. Till then, take care!