A flash fiction, after a long time…
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Since our arrival in this remote village a week ago, I’ve been noticing this old abandoned mansion, almost every day on our way to the village market, where most of our project research is concentrated. Yesterday, being our final day in the village, our project lead granted us permission to explore the village on our own. I decided to go alone. In the late afternoon, after wrapping up the loose ends of my report, I set off from the guest house, armed with my DSLR, eager to capture a few Instagram-worthy shots to share with my photography club mates back home. That was how I came upon the old mansion.
The road comes to a fork, from where the downhill path goes deep into the forest, from where one can see the mansion clearly. I took the path and decided to survey the place first. The mansion was impressive even in its decrepit state. One could tell it must have enjoyed a certain grandeur and stature in the heydays. I walked along, cautiously marking my steps, until the point where the path ended and one could go no further. Apart from the occasional chirping of the crickets, and the rustling of leaves in the breeze, there were no other sounds. There was no visible sign of human existence anywhere. The old gates to the mansion looked tired and worn-out by time. They had thick foliage with all kinds of creepers winding their way up from the ground. On one side of the gates, there was a clearing, where the boundary wall was partially broken. I walked up to the clearing to get a better view.
A once impressive home, the mansion lay abandoned, while Mother Nature had taken over the place in every possible way.
My eyes now fell on the path that led to the mansion. It must have been grand once. The mansion must have had so many stories to tell. About the people who built it. Or the people who lived in it. The staff who worked here. The children who grew up, playing in the gardens. Who were these people? And what were their lives like? I had once read somewhere, that when buildings are abandoned and forgotten, it’s the end of the story. What was their story? And how did the mansion come to this state? What had happened to the inhabitants? Notwithstanding the questions that were playing on my mind, I decided to go for a few quick shots first.
Wasting no time, I pulled out my camera. After having taken a few shots, there seemed to be one particular window that had caught my eye.
As I was framing my shot around it, I thought I had noticed someone moving. I stared hard, fixing my gaze towards it. Was it my imagination playing up? Or was someone really there?
As I zoomed in, I could clearly see a woman’s face, standing near the window. It looked like a shroud—a face, veiled in mystery, with a fixed stare, that was extremely unnerving for me. I stepped back, thinking, that perhaps, the residents weren’t pleased to see me taking pictures.
As I turned to trace my steps back and leave, my feet got entangled in the twining branches spread on the ground. I tripped over and fell, face down, on the ground, while my camera slipped from my hand. Before I could pull myself up, I heard a sharp whistling sound that began to grow increasingly louder as if it was coming closer to where I lay. Before I knew what it was, I felt a sharp gust of wind blowing into my face, hurling dust and debris towards me, almost blinding me for the next few minutes. I cried out in pain as I picked myself and scurried down the road, from whence I had come. I ran as fast as my legs could carry until I could no longer breathe and I started feeling dizzy. I have no memory as to what happened next.
When I opened my eyes, I was lying on my bed, with my friends by the side. After the ordeal I had just been through, it was such a welcome relief. I managed to smile as my friend reached out to comfort me.
Things had come back to normal by now, except for one thing. It was that one unfamiliar face in the room staring at me, hovering above everyone else…I had seen it before…but couldn’t recall where.
And then, to my utter shock…I knew it was the face that had been peering at me from the window in the old mansion.
The next morning, I saw my friends jumping onto the bus to head back home, carrying my camera and my rucksack along. I had now become the de facto face by the window—the apparition, to the world outside.
From now on, my job was to lay the bait for the next target.