Mishaps, accidents, sorrowful incidents – they can't be predicted. But the effects sometimes are so drastic that they leave everything recklessly destroyed. Forever.
The child was so cute. Dark, bushy hair, blue eyes and chubby cheeks blended in beautifully with his amiable temperament; but not his luck or the surroundings. It was a sight of pity, and the unfairness of God plainly visible, when you did see such a fair, joyous creature wonderfully confined to wheelchair which forced him to spend his days in solitude. He was born crippled and due to this no neighbourhood children (the very few who lived in that small town) ever played with him, as he used to prove useless in any of the games they engaged in.
Gradually they left him. But that did not mean he was left friendless. He soon found other friends, who perhaps would never leave him, like the stray cats and dogs, the ants and honeybees, the flowers and ivy and even the huge chestnut that grew almost in the center of his unkempt yard. Day in and day out he would talk to them, share all his innocent pleasures with them. He didn’t care if the weather was good or not; he just used to be outside in the most of the time.
And when it rained, he used to sit by the window, holding a book but his eyes on the yard.
He lived in this shabby house with his mother, who suffered from some ailment of the gout which could any day take her life. Thus, mother and son lived alone and isolated, with a very little money that with difficulty allowed them three meals a day and the services of a housemaid who cooked and cleaned for them. The boy’s father had been dead five years ago in an accident and all his scanty savings along with that house were all they were left with. Miserably they were continuing, the mother perpetually worried about something or the other, irritable because of her ill health and always kicking up a fuss; and the son too young to understand the hardships of life. He was happy, a happy-go-lucky child, excited in the little joys of life.
Lately he had been very much fascinated with the yellow mushrooms that were growing beneath the chestnut tree.
Now, once it so happened that the day had given premonitions of a stormy climate, which turned out to be true and the weather became very bad towards the afternoon. But as usual, the sweet child was staring at the mushrooms, counting all the spots on each on each one of them (which he already knew by heart, but was still at the task, doubtful if any new spots had come up overnight). The sky was growing darker with each passing moment and low thunder and lightning had started accompanying. But all of this didn’t perturb the child at all. Though his mother was shouting for him to get inside again and again, as he had never heeded her before, he didn’t intend to heed her today either. She was feeling all the more bitter today, her ailment was worsening.
The storm was on the rise. Though it hadn’t started to rain, winds and thunder were howling loud. The child was still intent on his task. Yes, there was a strange kind of flower growing between the mushrooms, which he hadn’t noticed before. Interesting…
Everything had turned to ruins – the shabby house, the unkempt yard and even the small iron gate. The grass, ivy and all the greenery that used to make a living there, had been destroyed completely, except for the thick nettles that had choked up a corner of the yard. And at the center was situated the disaster – the huge chestnut tree struck with lightning on that fatal night, burning nearly everything within quarter a mile around it.
The place was heavily blackened and barren, with a little of the tree remaining. The house too had blackened down. Cobwebs hung all over the scenery like silken tapestries here and there.
The neighbours called it “the haunted house” now. Nobody likes to venture near it, even during the daytime. Children are strictly forbidden to play in its proximity. Nobody could take the gruesome memories of the day following that stormy night, which took the lives of the sole inhabitants of the house. The boy got burnt along with the tree and the mother’s illness reached its last juncture which had killed her. Heavy rains had followed and continued the rest of the night; hence, it was only in the morning that the housemaid discovered the horrid scene and screamed the place down. The small funeral was a formal, desultory affair on the part of the neighbours.
Sometimes, God seems to be merciless. But if a different angle is given to thoughts, whatever happened perhaps happened for the best. Death could only end all their sufferings. But no, the child wasn’t suffering – at least not yet. But alas, who could shun his fate?
The family had a distant uncle, the mother’s cousin, who occasionally visited them and was very fond of the little boy. This very day he was roaming in the neighbourhood and trying to take in the horrible sights. He had come to know of the tragic story only that morning, when he had come on a visit, after two years. The evening was lengthening into night. The man still couldn’t take in the sight, nor afford to leave the place. It would take almost the rest of life to forget the grief.
Ultimately, he decided to leave. He had to catch a train a short while later. But before going, he decided to go into the ruined house and take a last look. The iron gate had rusted and easily gave way with a lot of noise. His hands got covered with dust added to strands of cobwebs; and his eyes filled with tears. People might think the place to have ghosts, to be haunted; but he didn’t see any ghosts there. All he could see with a blurred vision (because of the tears), was everything resurrected back to normal – the grass was green, the house was shabby but okay and his sister was out, hanging up clothes, the chestnut tree was in full bloom, under which his sweet nephew was playing. They were the only ghosts there. But he wasn’t scared. His eyes were just filling with new tears and he was welling up with emotions.
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