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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2260427-When-the-wind-wailed
by jaya
Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2260427
The souls drifted.
When the wind wailed


Not far from our house lay an open site of about two thousand yards. No one knew whose land it was and why no construction went up there.

Mr. Varma, a builder and a close friend, called on us to gather details on it. We couldn’t tell him much because we had no information whatsoever. On his request we went with him to the site for making enquiries.

Remotely located at the dead-end of the street, it presented a deserted look. A dark hill range loomed large behind the empty site casting what looked like a sinister shadow on it. A tall apartment complex to its other side stood like a brooding colossus.
The site was filled with garbage and a few street dogs strolled around. They barked at us as if resenting the sight of strangers. There was no sign-board of any kind with contact number or the name of the owner.

Now what?

Then we spotted a thin man approaching us, haggard and wobbly-gaited.

He looked at us indifferently with blood-shot eyes, and asked belligerently,

“What do you want?”

Mr. Varma was as direct.

“Are you the watchman here?”

“Yes, I am. My name is Siva,” he said and continued, “I don’t live here. I have a shack on the main street within walkable distance,” in a calm tone.

Varma’s eyes lit up now that he got a lever to handle the situation.

“Well, who is the owner of this site?” he pressed on.

“Sir, frankly, I have no idea. They talk to me on phone. I was appointed by their driver, Hari. He fetches my monthly wages. That’s about all.”

“Are you okay here?” enquired the builder.

“Sir, what can I tell you of my torment at night? My night shift is like a graveyard shift. The moment I lie down on my bed for a short break at night, I am surrounded by masses of devils. They pull me by my hair, carry me off into the valley on the other side of the hill, swing me from hill to hill, and then with the breaking dawn, dump me back in my bed.” Tears welled in his eyes as he spoke of his night-time travails. That explained his angry red eyes and lean and haggard figure.

Mr. Varma being modern in outlook surely must have dismissed Siva’s story as mere gibberish. He got Hari’s phone number from him and called him there and then.
As expected, the driver responded.

“Hello Hari, I am Varma, a builder by profession. I and my friends have just met Siva, the watchman at this empty site at North Extension. Is the owner interested in selling it?”

After some more conversation, we made an appointment to meet the owner at 3 in the afternoon.


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We found the address without much trouble. Hari was waiting at the ornate gate of a bungalow by the seashore. He opened the gate and we drove past a beautiful garden of flowers and fruits, before parking in the portico.

A man in mid forties, dressed in white trousers and shirt was standing on the steps leading to the house. He welcomed us and took us to a tastefully decorated living room. We sat in plush sofas facing him.

After introductions, Mr. Vital Rao, came to the point.

“My grandfather, Mr. Rangachari, a rich land lord bequeathed me this site. My father died young. I couldn’t build a house on it, try as I might. With every attempt, some calamity or the other fell on me or my family. With no alternative I had put it up for sale. But the buyers hesitated as its negative reputation traveled far. If you still want to buy it, I am okay with it. It is going to be dirt cheap, I can assure you,” concluded, Mr. Vital.

Varma jumped at the opportunity and on the very next day, an agreement was drawn. My husband and I were the witnesses at the registration. Things moved fast from then on. Varma got the plan approved by the Urban Development Corporation, arranged funds and was poised to build a huge apartment complex with five floors.


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Plot No. 50, North Extension was buzzing with activity. A number of laborers were seen readying huge machinery for digging the rocky ground in preparation for the foundation.

The moment the electric hydraulic digger started, a huge spark of electricity went off the machine. The operator was thrown off his seat like a rag doll. He lay immobile with his face down on the hard ground. That was a shocking blow to all, especially to Varma.

The man was carried off to the hospital, where he was declared dead. Half the labor force ran away scared out of wits.

It was past five in the evening on the same day. Shadows lengthened and soon it would be dark. Now the place looked like its old version, desolate and deserted. Varma sat in his car, brooding and bewildered at the turn of the events. Why? What happened? He asked himself with no sensible answer coming to his mind.

Dark clouds started gathering on the hill top. The weather turned cloudy. The cyclone that was predicted earlier in the week seemed brewing off the coast. A wind stirred in the palm trees on the road side, quickly changing into a violent gale. Objects were scattered helter-skelter. A mantle of dense darkness fell on the area within minutes. A chill descended with big droplets of rain.

Varma shivered and started the car. While reversing the car, he saw something, mind-blowing. A mass of misshapen figures, veiled in murky white and enveloped in whorls of mist were coming his way. The wind howled, sobbed and wailed dirge-like.

With his hands shaking, Varma tried to drive off. The car wouldn’t move. With their mouths open and faces sagging and skeletal with empty eye- sockets, they surrounded his car. Gripped by fear, with cold sweat pouring down his face, he tried to start the car again. It started. The pale ghosts followed him relentlessly. He couldn’t understand why they were stretching forth their arms as though beseeching him to stay.


--------------------------


After he told us of his shocking experience at the site, my husband came up with the idea to go to the town hall, where the Municipal authorities kept the records of old properties.

Then, we met the municipal commissioner by appointment. The details were shocking. It is true that the site originally belonged to Rangachari, Vital Rao’s grandfather. Being a kind man, he had let some poor farmers build small shelters in it for free. The farmers cultivated millet on the hill slope. They started prospering and lived in peace.

But the eyes that watched their progress burnt with silent rage and jealousy. The upper caste landlords were bitterly resentful and vengeful of the poor farmers.

Eventually, Rangachari died of old age.

Soon after his sad demise-

On a fateful night, a fire broke out in the colony on the site and the whole population consisting of a hundred or more families, was razed to death. Though, those who lived around knew who the culprits were, couldn’t open their mouths for fear of being murdered. With no evidence against those rich upper caste despicable, jealous landlords, the then government couldn’t punish them.


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Hari, who was aware of the haunted site, suggested a temple priest to find solution. Varma considered that as a last resort to solve the mystery.

He met the aforesaid priest at his home.

“Mr. Varma! It’s a known fact that those who died had no proper cremation or burial. No prayers were offered, and no service was conducted. No wonder their souls were restless being chained to this material world. So let us perform their last rites. We need to put them to rest, before you build anything there,” said the priest in a conciliatory tone, knowing the modern trend of brushing traditions aside.

A date was fixed and the priest with his assistants conducted the last rites of those nameless and unfortunate farmers, who died on a fateful night a long time ago. As a holy fire was lit and the mantras were chanted, a change in the atmosphere was palpable. By the end of the procedure, when the fire in the kiln gradually extinguished, a sudden light went up, and an audible sigh in the wind.The silence that followed was of peaceful kind. Birds chirped and the stray dogs walked away. The place brightened.


----------------


After two years-

A community hall for the economically backward groups of the surrounding areas came up in No. 50, North Extension. Mr. Varma changed his mind from building money- making commercial complex to a free community hall,which is now managed by the rich elite of the city.


The End.


Word Count: 1478

Written for Bard’s Hall Contest hosted by {user: sgcardin}











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