Table of Contents
In this short story, through the characters, Usha, Suresh and Binya, the author has chosen to explore the area of supernatural and thriller.
The story starts with the author describing the wind that blows on the hill. On Haunted Hill there was little to stop the wind-only a few stunted trees and bushes, and the ruins of what had once been a small settlement. The hill was infamously known as the haunted hill because of the dark story that led to its naming.
The wind was so strong that people living on the slopes of the next hill kept stones on their clothes while putting it out to dry. Three children, Usha, her brother Suresh and her neighbor, Binya, stood beside a low stone wall, spreading the clothes. Once they were sure everything was on the wall, firmly held down by rocks, Usha mentioned that she will be leaving for the market.
Binya wished she was accompanying her but couldn’t and Suresh had to stay behind to help their grandfather. Suresh asked Usha whether she was scared to be coming back alone as there are ghosts on the hill. Usha says that she will be back before dark and ghosts didn’t appear in the daytime.
Binya curiously asks whether there are indeed any ghosts. Usha replied with the story she heard from her grandfather. She said during a terrible storm one of the houses was hit by lightning and everyone in it was killed. Everyone, including the children. She also added how her grandfather had seen the ghosts of two children- a brother and sister- playing in the moonlight whenever he passed by the ruin in the hill.
Usha then went to the market and got busy in buying different things. After buying lots of objects, she went to a mochi’s shop and said she would come back half an hour later for her shoes. She then met her Aunt Lakshmi who took her to her house for a cup of tea. By the time she arrived at the mochi’s shop again, it was already beginning to get dark. With the shopping bag, she slung it over her shoulder and set out for the village.
When Usha was returning home, the wind had dropped. All the trees and the surroundings were quiet. Usha muttered to herself that she must get home before dark and hurried her footsteps. Suddenly, the clouds rumbled and the first drops of rain fell. Usha had not brought an umbrella with her as the weather was fine in the morning.
She tied an old scarf over her head pulled her shawl tightly over her shoulders and tried to walk amidst the rain. A sudden flash of lightning lit up the hill. The ruins stood out in clear outline. Then all was dark again. Night had fallen. Usha realized no matter how fast she walked, she won’t be able to get home in this rain. She decided to seek shelter in the ruins. The wind grew in force and the rain hit her face.
She quickly rushed inside the ruins and turned around a corner she knew well. Usha found her way into the ruined building, helped by her memory of the place and the constant flicker of lightning. Usha placed both her hands on the wall and tried to force a way when suddenly, she touched something soft and furry. Startled, Usha gave out a loud cry which was answered by another cry- half snarl, half screech.
Usha realized that it was just a cat. She then found a spot and crouched in the corner. His grandfather’s stories about the ghosts now entered her mind and she hoped and prayed that the lightening won’t struck her down there. There was another burst of lightening and the whole ruin lot for a second or two.
And the sight that met Usha’s eyes scared her. Usha was staring straight ahead. As the opposite wall was lit up, she saw, crouching in the disused fireplace, two small figures – they could only have been children! The ghostly figures looked up, staring back at Usha. And then everything was dark again.
Usha strongly believed that the sight she just witnessed was indeed that of the two ghosts. She knew she couldn’t stay in the same building anymore and ran out of her corner. She was halfway across the open space when something – someone fell against her. Usha screamed loudly which was followed by yet another scream and another one, which suddenly caught her attention.
She recognized the voice and realized that it was her brother Suresh and her friend Binya. They had come looking for Usha as it was getting dark. Then they got caught in the rain and took shelter in the ruins just like Usha did. The three of them huddled close to each other, glad to have each other in such times. They decided it would be unwise to run in this rain and so they will wait till it had subsided.
After an hour the rain stopped, and although the wind continued to blow, it was now taking the clouds away, so that the thunder grew more distant. Then the wind too moved on, and all was silent. It was almost dawn and they quickly exited the building. While on their way, Usha turned around and saw as if there was something behind the wall, almost like a hand waving.
The other two replied that they see nothing and it was probably Usha’s imagination. They were on their path leading across the saddle of the hill when Usha heard, “Goodbye, goodbye…” She inquired of the others who said goodbye but Suresh and Binya said that it was probably the wind speaking. Though Usha didn’t stay back to investigate, she couldn’t be sure whether it was the wind or did someone actually said goodbye there.
This short story serves as a good read for thrill. The ending of the story is left open to the readers to draw their own conclusions as whether Usha did actually see a hand waving or was it just her imagination. The sound of someone saying “goodbye” too is left a mystery for the readers.