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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The house on the hill

    The lone house sits on a slight rise as the vast forest seems to stretch for miles upon miles and the sheer beauty and utter quietness takes a person to a different world. There are no trappings of modern life here and life moves in its own pace. Sometimes I venture into the wooded path for long treks as it offers me an opportunity to get back in touch with nature, see what secrets it holds and discover something new every day.

    My body is still stiff and muscles sore from the long haul hiking and camping trip I had with a few friends which ended just last night. Even though I really enjoyed it, it felt good to be home. As I sat by the window looking out, I ran my hand across my face, thought of getting a shave and a bath before heading down to a hearty breakfast. I needed some food to fill my empty stomach but that will have to wait a bit.

    As I sit by the window and look out, I see that the forest is dead quiet. Yet the small trading town some distance away is in full swing and I can hear the dim voices of men in the street. As my gaze drifted to the wide body of water in the bay, I see a ship had pulled in sometime back. Huge wooden barrels, grains and other stuff were being unloaded and some crates being unloaded. It is a huge ship that brings all types of items to this God forsaken island in the middle of nowhere. It seemed like it had dropped anchor at dawn and will probably leave soon on another journey back to the mainland. I guess I will be heading down there sometime late in the afternoon to see what new activity was happening.

    The valley below is always bustling with activity as it is the only trading hub of the island. When people want to escape the drudgery of their life they always tend to gravitate towards the tavern. No need to ask directions to where it is located as you only had to follow the boisterous sound emitting from one corner of the town. Whenever I wandered into the town to replenish my depleted food stocks or any other household item, the smell of the food always made my mouth water and the stomach grumble demanding its share. A smoked filled dimly lit room had always greeted me which made it difficult to see the crowd inside, yet I loved the place.

    It is one of the more crowded places where people are able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. One can order your preferred drink, plate full of the daily special and start the hunt for a seat to plant your weary body on in the crowded smoky room. Looking around, you might find giant beer barrels in one corner and at the other end will be an empty stage. Turning towards the bar, you might notice someone sprawled across the table in one of the booths while one of the customers is being chased by the barmaids with a rolling pin around as the guy had not only pinched all of them rather hard but also ate the sandwiches before running off.


    The whistling sound of the tea kettle broke me out of the daze I was in. The steaming hot cup of coffee in front of me is now just lukewarm. It tasted so lifeless and awful that I decided to get a new cup. Going up to the kitchen, I thought of making something to eat besides having a fresh cup of coffee before I start my day. It is bare room except for the old wooden table and chair near the window, a sink on one side and an old stove at the other end with a countertop in between. The shelves on the top of the shelves are usually fully stocked up with all the essentials as I live in a secluded place. The window shades were drawn, yet I could feel a storm brewing in my bones. Looking out the kitchen window, I could see smoke black dark clouds on the distant horizon and I could feel a mother of all storms brewing deep down in my bones. What was once calm and clear sky was starting to cloud up and the wind was picking up just a bit.

    A gentle breeze was rustling through the land and the early morning sun was starting to peek over the forest and through the tree tops. Getting ready, I stated to head out the door and to work before the storm overtook me and made moving around next to impossible on the rocky dirt roads. The torrential storms always turns the firm dirt tracks into muddy pathways where the person sinks in never to be found again.

    Opening the door, I looked upwards and noticed the dark overcast sky which threatened to unleash another storm. I resisted it urge to step out as I felt the wind pick up and saw a huge dust storm heading my way. I could see lightning flashing all around in the sky and one could hear the booming thunder. The sky had turned jet black quickly and I feared the worst as I started to run around the house shutting the windows and locking all doors. As I was running across the field in the back of the house trying to see if all the tools were put away, the tin shed locked up, the farm animals herded into barn, I noticed that the wind died down and there was a growing darkness that did not seem good. There was a sudden silence all around and I heard a herd of wild horses neighing as they galloped further into the valley and into the mountains to seek whatever safety they could.

    The total silence seemed to be broken every so often by the booming thunder which seemed as sudden as the lightening seemed to flash all around. The sun completely disappeared behind the thick clouds and it started to rain heavily. The sudden downpour soaked me to the bone and I started to panic wondering how I will get myself out of this situation. I had to leave and quickly as I rubbed my head wishing the awful splitting headache away and my legs were starting to feel a bit weak.

    Looking around all I saw were smoke black dark clouds, lightening, hear ear shattering thunder every so often and a roaring, tearing sound like a thousand train engines were headed my way. One could feel the electricity in the air. The horrible roar was getting louder and I knew what was approaching. Looking straight up, my eyes widened and I felt a scream starting. The dark clouds were starting to move round and round in a circle and started to move down towards me. The ground seemed to groan as it started to break apart and dirt started to fly upwards into the dark twirling clouds that seemed to straddle the land near me. The last sounds I heard as I started to run was the sound of the wood splintering, breaking and the scream of the creatures that got caught in it and got torn apart by the winds.

    As I ran across the shaking field and neared the imagined safety of the tin shed, I felt the reality shimmer and flicker. I kept looking away as the flickering visions would surely drive me mad. Slowly, I started to become unsure which was mine. A barren planet with a deep green forest some distance away bathed in the yellow light of huge twin yellow moons which seemed to glare down at the planet while a meteorite belt was seen circling the sky kept flickering in and out as the wind started to pick up once more. The wind soon turned into a howling demon of a sandstorm and the strong winds tossed me around like a leaf caught in the cross winds. Giant winged creatures flew low in the sky as if on a hunt and they swooped down every so often with a shriek and soon started to encircle the sky once more. Every so often a meteorite would get pulled downwards and disappear in a blaze of light. The endless shifting visions made me wonder what lies beyond the reality as we know it and yet I was always afraid to ask. The shadows sometimes hide more than what the light reveals and I hurriedly ran to the tin shed as it loomed within hands reach.


    The handle was jammed and I kept hammering it till it creaked open. The rain died down as quickly as it had started, yet it seemed like there was another storm was brewing which seemed worse than this one. Upon entering the room, I felt like I had stepped into a room that seemed familiar yet different. As the door forcefully shuts itself behind me, I saw that it was a dimly lit bare room except for the old wooden table with a chair near the window and a fireplace near the center. Looking around, I saw that there was a thick layer of dust everywhere, the room was full of cob webs and each wall was identical to the other. Each wall had a door with an old wooden table and chair near the window in which the shades are drawn. There was a broken door lying at the very far end as if some intruder had broken into the room long time back. Walking up to the broken door, I looked out and saw a never ending dimly lit hallway with identical doors on both sides.

    I lit a lantern hanging on one of the walls, shed my wet clothes as quickly as possible and hung them by the fireplace to dry. The fire seemed to have died down long ago yet the ambers still smoldered brightly under the ashes. Throwing a hand full of twigs and some straw, I stirred the ambers and kept fanning till the twigs and straw caught fire. Bit by bit, I kept adding the logs till it was a roaring fire and started to wander around to find a clean dry set of clothes. Not finding any, I pull up a chair and sit my tired body down. As I ruffle my hair, I wonder where I am and what should I do?

    Not knowing what to do, I started to wander around once more. Off in one corner, I noticed a small hallway which led to what seems like a kitchen. Searching the almost bare cupboards, I managed to find a packet of coffee, sugar and an old tin pot. Using a bit of water from my water bottle, I set it on the burning logs to boil. Settling near the fireplace with some coffee and a few biscuits, I sat down to gather my thoughts about the events that happened and the situation I was in.

    A soft knock broke me out of the thoughts I was in. I wondered who it was as I walked towards the door and started to turn the handle. The door opened just a bit and looked out to see a small child like figure staring back at me. Looking past the figure, I saw that the storm was still out there. It was a mighty one as the lightning flashed and thunder still rolled across the sky. The Gods above must be really angry at our follies to send such a storm.

    The child seemed to light up every time lightening fell and I started to notice a slight glow. The smell of ozone grew stronger and it seemed to grow larger. The elongated jet black eyes drew me and I could not take eyes off them. A strange kind of fatigue slowly overtook me as I felt my body shaking and my vision began to blur. I tried to break free and escape a certain death, yet I stumbled on the wooden floor board and fell to the ground. I turned to face the door and I saw a creature staring down at me. Floating a few feet above the ground, it effortlessly hung in the sky. I felt hypnotized, lost in those bottomless pits which seemed to draw me deeper inside and I swore I could see endless blur of alternate realities and possibilities.

    The alien figure slowly faded out of my vision and I saw a large room with a blazing fireplace. Wooden book shelves lined one end of the wall while there was a large window at the opposite end. It was a dark moonless night. One the floor, there was a lush carpet on which a huge dark skinned man sat. The face could not be seen as a hood was covering the face. There was a low table in front of him with a deck of Tarot cards with one dark thick lit candle one each corner of the table which seemed to flicker and waver back and forth even though there was no wind in the room. This place seemed timeless and older than time itself at the same time. Hiding in the flickering shadows, I hoped he would not see me while I searched for a door to leave this place. As I edged along the walls, I got the sensation that the walls were smooth, rough, and alive as it seemed to move and pulsate under my hands.

    He seemed to sense me in the room and turned his head towards me. He beckoned me with his outstretched hands and motioned me to sit down facing him on the other low stool. I felt hypnotized and drawn by the deep dark well of darkness that lay within the hood. Even at this close range, I could not see his face as it was shrouded in total darkness. No words were spoken, yet thoughts appeared in my mind. I was teleported to a pocket/bubble within my own time. No time existed here and the faceless one will deal and decide my future. The wind seemed to pick up and something was scratching at the window. I hoped it was just the tree shadow I seemed to see outside and the sound was from a branch rubbing against the glass.


    Raising his three fingered blue hand just slightly, a card rose from the deck and settled on the table face upward. The first card he drew showed a vast forest. A vision appeared in front of me showed a cloudy sky where a sickly yellow moon leered down at the inhabitants of the cursed forest. I felt myself being drawn further down into this vision. I saw a car heading down the long dusty back roads which was surrounded by a huge patch of trees. As I further got drawn into the car, I looked up and noticed that the sky clear up a bit and I saw a sickly yellow full moon still leering back at me. It always gave me a chill whenever I saw it hanging there as if following me around as I believed it was a bad tiding moment.

    These long drives on long dusty back roads always wore me out and the unexpected car problem in some back road surrounded by a corn field added to my woes. Opening up the hood, I looked inside and could not figure out what was wrong. Slamming the hood down, I went back inside and turned the blinkers on and waited for some passerby to lend a hand. It was a lonely stretch of land where nothing could be seen for miles upon miles. The minutes seemed like hours and I finally decided to seek out help.

    The moon seemed to glare at me through the clouds and at other times through the tops of houses as I walked through the field looking for a house where the folks might be awake. Looking up, I cursed at it telling it to go away, leave me alone and not add anything to my misery. It seems like I’ve been through this area many a times yet something was different. I could feel it in my bones, yet I could not put my finger on it. I felt like a leaf caught in the gently flowing river called time which gets swept along vainly struggling to find it own path as it gets swept along at ever increasing rate until all control is lost.


    A huge patch of dense trees in the distance caught my attention. I could see some flickering light there and I changed my course hoping some help could be found. It was an old forest and if it could talk, it might have a tale or two to tell the passerby. I looked around. It seemed like it was alive, could sense me looking at it and walking around. I sensed many pairs of large yellowed eyes some distance away staring at me which disappeared when my attention turned towards them. A soft breeze started to rustle the leaves and ruffled my hair ever so gently, yet died down as quickly as it had risen. In this enchanted forest, it seemed like a thousand voices talking to each other and I could not name the source as the voices seemed everywhere. As I walked deeper into the woods, my uneasiness grew in the near total darkness broken at times by the moon peeking through the tree canopy every so often. I heard the sound of water gently flowing down some creek and the sound of a startled deer hoping away.

    Off to a side, I saw what seemed like some lanterns going by while people were whispering to each other. I called out and the voices died as quickly as they had appeared. The lanterns were turned off and I could not make out what was happening as total darkness engulfed me once more. After what seemed like eons, the lights came on once more and the bodiless voices with lanterns seemed to chase each other through the shrubs, weave through the trees and finally disappear some distance away. As the voices fade away, I wonder how so much time in this timeless forest has flown by and how do I find my way home.

    In near total darkness which is intermittently lit by moonlight, I stumble across the forest until I come across a creek. The strange gurgling sound draws me closer and I kneel down to wash my face and fill my water bottle. Yet before I could do so, the sound of hoofs drew my attention. Soon a black buck appears from the dense forest clearing as if being chased by something or someone and races across the open field. As it nears the stream, it slows down and seems to hesitate and finally heads back towards the darkness from where it came from. A shrill cry emerged and the forest was till once more. Startled by the site, I drop my water bottle into the stream. The flowing water seems black even in this dim moonlight. The splashing and rippling caused by the water bottle subside soon yet I hesitate to pull it out as I see strange lights in the water of what seems like reflections of star constellations even though the sky is covered by forest cover. Losing interest, I back off and grateful that I have an extra water container.


    A beaten dirt track alongside the stream soon appears. I wander down it hoping to find the end of this forest. After what seemed like an eternity, I discover a village located in the clearing. It seemed very odd one from the distance and looked completely deserted like one of those towns where all have gone to work leaving behind locked houses.

    A toad on a bicycle wound his way through the dirt tracks selling caramel coated fairies on a stick to anyone who was interested. Off to one side, elf kids could be seen scrambling up and down trees effortlessly while the Minotaur lurked in a patch of water lilies looking for another battle. The endless dark forest stretched from one horizon to the next and I wondered how long it would take to cover this distance and what lies beyond. Someone opened a door as I heard the wind chimes twinkle and the sounds of little kids as they ran down the dirt track to buy either a vanilla, chocolate flavored fairies or the caramel coated one on a stick from an ice cream seller who was riding past and madly jingling the bells on his cart.


    As I wandered down the dirt path which followed the water way, I eventually find myself at the end of the village. A small patch of land with a boundary wall around it drew me as if I was in a trance. There were dried leaves all over the place and a crunching sound was heard as I walked across the path. As I near the faded bronze gate which has a lion head emblem, a gentle wind rustles through the dried leaves and opens the gate.

    Upon entering the compound, I notice a cot on one side under a shaded area. The bearded man seems to be seemed to be in a deep trance with mind numbing weird symbols floating around him and levitating a few inches above the bed. As my head gets soar from watching the glowing symbols appear out of nowhere and disappear once more, I look around and see that there is another wooden cot off to one side. An old bearded tree which seemed like the grandfather of all the trees blinked once and beckoned me towards the cot with one of its thick branches as if it knew all along that I was coming.

    Sitting on the wooden cot, I wondered how long it would take for my sore legs and feet to recuperate so that I could continue my journey once more. Something about the old tree set me into a relaxed mood as the tension, stress and tiredness flowed out of me effortlessly unmindful of the giant red eyed crows which were going caw caw on a tree branch on top of me. My eyelids started to grow heavy as sleep slowly overtook me and I slowly got pulled into a vortex.

    The shrill cry of many hawks on the hunt woke me up from a horrible dream. I woke up with a gasp as I realized that it was late in the afternoon and the sun was burning away the last remnants of the dream I was caught in. Sweat was pouring down my face and into my shirt which was soaking wet. The dream was persistent and still seemed to pursue me into this world and I toppled backwards and fell out of the chair breaking the roots from the tree limb which was attached to my head until a few moments ago. The evil glint in the yellow eye which was there a moment ago receded. Upon rubbing my eyes I saw an old leafless tree surrounded by crumbling walls, broken gate and a rotting broken cot by the corner.

    Not wanting to linger in this haunted forest anymore, I started to back up and run to my car in the corn field patch as I felt a certain fear for my life. My lungs started to burn and the heart was pounding do hard that it felt like it was going to pop out. Fatigue slowly overtook me as I felt my body shaking and my vision began to blur. Growing tired, I stumbled on something and slid across the ground. My knees and hands bloodied, I turned to face the sky and I saw winged hawk like creatures staring down at me. Flapping their giant wings, they effortlessly hung in the sky. I felt hypnotized, lost in those bottomless pits which seemed to draw me deeper inside and I swore I could see endless blur of stars. One of them started to arch their arm back and it started to throw the spear at me.

    The savage image seemed to pursue me into this world as I toppled backwards and fell out of the low stool. A shrill cry of desperation echoed in my mind and it sent chills through my body. The man at the other end was staring at me intently and I dreaded to know what the next card held.


    The second card slowly turned to face me and it showed a barren land where the harsh winds refused to die down. A lonesome dirt road led to a deserted town where the creaking and swinging board at the entrance said Welcome to Mile High town. The town seemed deserted except for the stray dog that was asleep under the front porch grocery store. It seemed to be lost in some dream as it let out a growl and then a bark before quieting down once more.

    Shielding my eyes, I looked up at the sky. It was high noon and I realized that the dusty road of this town was being watched. The glint of metal was seen, the rustle of feet was heard and a rifle which poked out from a window seemed to give a hint of what was expected to the unwary visitor. Wiping the sweat from my forehead due to the blistering heat radiating from the door, I guided my weary eyes down the dusty street seeking some place where I could find an answer to the empty town.

    Looking around I finally found my way into what seemed to be the sheriff’s office. The pages of the log book were flapping in the wind. It listed the crimes and the punishment meted out to the criminals in this town that seemed so lifeless. The last few entries were of loot, murder, coaches being waylaid by robbers. I looked out the window and the town seemed as dead as before.

    The sound of horses and a dust cloud drew me closer to the window and I wondered what it all meant for me. For a moment I could see faces hiding behind the shutters and the fear of these strangers was shown in their eyes. I drew up a chair on the patio fully aware that all eyes were on me. Propped my feet on the wooden rail in front of me and put my rifle on my lap. No use running out of town and end up with a bullet in the back when I can go down fighting and die like a man. The roar of hoofs drew louder and I could hardly see anything in the dust cloud.

    Soon a group of men appeared and called out to me. They were not the towns’ men I could tell right away. I walked down to the one in the middle, spat on the ground in front of his horse and said “ You gonna get down yourself or do I have to drag you down.” A gasp went up and they drew their guns.

    As the sun went down, the last of the gunshot were heard. Many town folks had died yet the town has been cleansed and the fear was gone. No more raiders from the dusty badlands to haunt the folks. Rising out of the ground from where they had buried him, he looked up to see the sun was way high in the sky. Lifting his hat just a bit and wiping his forehead out of habit, he went looking for his horse to say the last good bye. The horse sensed where he was followed to a shade of a tree and started to clean and oil his guns knowing that his job was done in this world. Saying his last goodbye, the gunslinger left this world for the next.


    The third card revealed a vast field which might have been a corn field. A dirt road ran through it with a dead car lying somewhere in the middle. Lightning flashed in the sky and one could hear thunder all around. The sky had turned jet black and it seemed like a tornado or an electrical storm might happen anytime. A man was hollering in the distance looking for his dog while it was barking in return and it started to rain heavily. All the power lines were knocked out and none of the houses showed any sign of activity. The once dry dirt road had turned muddy and anyone using it would sink deep into the mess than the one they were in already.

    I got back in the car and tried to get it out. The wheels spun yet it remained stuck in the ditch. A dash across the muddy fields was my only hope and it had to be done before it was too late. I looked up to the sky seeking some salvation, yet none was coming. I was on my own once more as I made a mad dash across the corn fields.

    Banging hard on the door, I wondered if anyone was home. I could not see my car anymore in the growing darkness. The rain had died down, yet it seemed like there was another storm brewing. I turned around to pound the door once more when I saw a pair of eyes looking at me. I realized that I was being watched. The glint of metal was seen and the rustle of feet was heard and a rifle which poked out from a window.

    The next morning, a head popped out of the engine after he was sure that the engine was all dry and started smoothly. The smell of breakfast broke the spell he was in and he was grateful when the plate of food appeared on the table. Not a soul was in sight and he seemed to have forgotten all about the last night events as he finished off the food in a jiffy. He went off o the farmers market leaving behind an unmarked grave at the edge of the cornfield.


    I snapped out of the whirlpool I was being drawn into by a lightning strike. One could feel the electricity in the air and the hooded creature in front of me was flickering in and out of this plane of existence. I had to leave and quickly. I rubbed my head wishing the awful splitting headache away. Feebly, I crawled to the edge of the table and flipped over the last card before it disappeared from this plane of existence. My body was shaking not only with tiredness, fatigue but also with fear at what might be shown on the last card.

    Gathering my last bit of strength, I got up feebly and looked around one final time. The fire place was still burning bright and I really wanted to finish that coffee that was lying spilt in the corner. The house started to shake and fall apart as I quickly tightened the straps of shoes and clothes. I looked around once more and found nothing in the room that held interest to me.

    Pulling the window open, I rocked on my heels and started to run towards the shimmering far wall as it seemed to be the only escape. There was a slight hum and I could smell ozone in the air. The house started to break apart and fly upwards into the dark twirling matter that seemed to straddle the house. The last sounds I heard as I started to flicker out of this time was the sound of the glass, wood splintering breaking and the scream of the creature as it got torn apart by the winds.


    I woke up on a cobblestone road next to a water way. A paper made boat gently floated down the water canal vainly trying to find it own path as it gets swept along with the currents.

    A breeze rustles the trees and gently ruffles through my hair. I hear children voices in the park. I shortly see them chase each other through the shrubs and weave through the trees. The voices eventually fade away as I wander down the cobblestone path and I eventually find myself at the end of the colony. Sitting down on a green bench I remembered that it was once a real quiet neighborhood and a close knit one. Not much ever happened ever happened here.

    The clear morning sky began to darken and the wind suddenly picked up. Lightning flashed in the sky, one could hear thunder all around and it started to rain heavily. The sudden downpour soaked me to the bone and I started to panic wondering how I will get myself out of this situation. Running down the street, I knock on the door of an old house and a small child sticks it head out. I hear a hustle/bustle of voices inside and various smell and sounds assault my senses.

    The kid kept staring at me for a long time and a glint of recognition passes through his eyes and before I could utter a word the door was shut once more. The door opened once more and a tall, stocky bearded man appeared at the door. “What brings you to these parts once more?” was asked as a steaming hot mug of soup was handed to me.

    After some prodding, I told him my wild tale. A change of clothes made me feel better. The burly man had lent me a set of spare clothes till my dripping wet set dries out near the heater. I looked like a scarecrow in the ill fitting clothes. I pulled my chair near the window and looked at the torrential downpour. The cobblestone street had turned into a small river and I couldn’t see the houses across the street. The storm passed as quickly as it had arrived. The sun was up and it was time for me to take a leave. Looking back, I thought it was best to leave for home as it was getting late.


    My weariness slipped out of my body as soon as the sun started to climb higher and higher. It felt good to be alive and was overjoyed when tickets to home were given. The smell of breakfast broke the spell I was in and I wondered where the plate of food had appeared from. Not a soul was in sight and I forgot all about it as I finished off the food in a jiffy. When the bearded man appeared, I tried to offer some payment for the help given, yet he refused. A short time later, a Greyhound bus wound its way to the intersection and I got on it to reach my destination. I was a long way from home and it will take many days by bus and a ship to reach the comfort of my own home. As the bus wound its way through the lanes and by lanes, I wondered about my home and started to dream once more of lands far away.

    Many years have passed and I have not forgotten this haunting ‘visions’ which I had. I still have nightmares almost so often where I wake up drenched in sweat and clutching the wrinkled bed sheets. They say that time heals all scars and I had hoped it would have helped in fading the memories which refuse to fade away. I had moved out of the old house to live out the remaining years by the seashore thinking that it would bring me peace and help me to forget. Yet, sometimes in the dark I still hear the giant wings flapping as a shriek rents the air before the demons starts to chase me across the barren landscape or the gun shots in some nameless town. As I lie in my bed, I wonder how long these memories will keep on coming back to torment me. This old feeble body cannot run much longer and I can feel the dark ones waiting its turn before it goes on the final hunt.