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Magix 'n' Curses
..the argument continues

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The build up


The howling winds were beginning to get on his nerves. Walking under a dense foliage, he didn't feel the need for his pullover to shield him from the incessant rain. But the high pitched hum produced by the winds, going on a rollercoaster ride through the branches, reverberated in his eardrums, giving him visions of shrieking banshees. That was the last thing Ashutosh needed, walking alone that night through the misty rainkissed slopes of Ooty.

His hands automatically reached for the pullover, hoping to block out the wind's whistle. Much to his consternation, the pullover cap gave away at the seam with a faint rip that was hardly audible over the ruckus kicked up by the wind. And as if destiny was cocking a snook at him, the line of dense trees stopped abruptly, giving way to needle-leaved pines. A clap of thunder flagged off a heavier downpour. He mouthed a string of expletives in frustration that tried hard to compete with Nature's loud party.

Dumping the torn cap in a ditch, he walked on in the rain. His expensive windward jacket had chosen to betray him when he needed it the most. In a fit of rage, he removed his jacket and stomped on it. After a few more curses aimed at the manufacturer, he decided to sit down for a while. He was exhausted, both physically and mentally. He regretted all his hasty decisions. To settle down in Ooty with his wife. To have bought a mansion that everyone seemed to avoid. To have let his wife's constant complaints that the mansion was haunted get to him. To have decided to take a walk in the middle of the night to avoid her scared mumblings and nagging. To have ruined his only jacket.

A flash of lightning illuminated a seemingly neglected shack further down the pathway. An ominous low rumble of thunder followed, making his hair stand up at the nape of his neck. With the second flash of lightning, he was clearly able to read the signboard on top of the shack. "Shanthanu's Shack. Rainwear For All Seasons." His lips curled as he gave a suppressed smile at the owner's lousy sense of humour. His sense of humour might have sucked, but his sense of timing had been impeccable. It was just what he needed at the moment.

He was surprised to see faint light through the misted up windows. The shop was open in the middle of the night. He opened the door gingerly, half-expecting it to creak. To his surprise, the door swung in smoothly without so much as a squeak. "Strange. Don't all spooky situations have doors that squeak?", he wondered, walking upto the front desk and almost jumped in shock when he heard someone clear his throat behind him.

He held on to the desk, as he regained composure. A small mousy-haired man blinked back at him. Still feeling his heart do a li'l jig within his ribcage and clearly out of breath, he whispered, "Don't do that! I almost peed in my pants." The little man grinned showing a few chipped teeth and a prominent gold tooth. He spoke in a wheezy voice as he extended his hand in welcome, "Good evening Sir. Shanthanu at your service. How may I help you?", and as an afterthought, added, "I'm sorry I gave you a fright."

"Typical!!A spooky li'l man, wheezy voice, gold tooth. Damn! Why am I upset about cliched situations when I'm supposed to be feeling nervous?", he wondered as he extended his hand in reply and said, "I'm Ashutosh. I'd like a durable jacket to shield me from the rain. I have to walk back home before my wife gets worried, and the rain doesn't seem to show signs of letting up." Shanthanu nodded and went inside a room behind the counter. He came back in a minute, holding up a leather jacket. "This will be perfect, Sir", he said, eyes atwinkle, "And I assure you that its cap won't rip." Ashutosh eyed him suspiciously, but bought the jacket anyways. He needed to get home before his wife started to panic.

Walking back home, he felt extremely cold and put his hands firmly inside the jacket's pocket. He was shivering uncontrollably, but his jacket seemed to have a life of its own as it magnified his shivering tenfolds and shook like a bamboo-house caught in an earthquake. He dumped all his pretentious bravado and ran home. Something was not right. His sense of foreboding reached a crescendo as he arrived home.

A high pitched yell rent the eerie silence, making him jump for the second time that night. "Where the hell were you?", his wife glowered, "Do you have any idea how worried I was?". "Just went for a walk", he muttered and hung up his new jacket on the coat-stand. His wife had no ideas of giving him a break. "At this time of the night? Are you crazy? You're turning into a loony old creep! And how dare you leave me alone at this hour? I'm already scared. Everyone says this mansion is haunted! Why did you have to buy this?"

"Oh shut up, will you? There are no such things as ghosts! Where do you get these silly ideas from? Don't be such a kid! I... I... " , his pupils dilated in horror as he saw a strange sight behind his wife as she switched on the light.

"What's wrong with you? It's only a facepack!"
"No, not your face! Look behind you!"

His wife froze in horror at what she saw. The coat stand was twitching as if it had a bout of fit. "I knew this place was haunted! I knew it!", she whimpered as tears cut a channel through her mudpack-covered cheeks. She clung on to her husband's shirt and both stared at the strange sight, unable to tear their eyes away. One violent twitch caused the jacket to fall down. And almost immediately the coat stand stopped shaking.

"Ghosts?", she asked innocently, her voice squeaky with fear.
"Can't be. There has to be a better explanation for it.", said Ashutosh, sounding a lot braver than he felt. "Maybe it was an earthquake. Maybe a mouse... DAMN!!!"

His jacket was moving slowly, still twitching.

His face relaxed. "Don't be scared. See, I guess it really was a mouse." Taking long strides, he reached for his jacket and lifted it expecting a mouse to scurry away in fear. There was nothing underneath. "But it can't be! How did it twitch?" He searched the pockets too. But found nothing.

"Let's go somewhere else! This place is scaring the hell out of me.. Please Ashu!"
"Hmmmm, alright. But we can't go anywhere in this downpour. I'll return the jacket tomorrow morning and look for a new house. But be brave till then, okay?"

He gingerly put the still twitching jacket into a box and placed his heavy dictionary on top of the lid.

They woke up to the twittering of birds early next morning. Ashutosh carried the box as if it was a bomb.

"I'm going to have a word with the guy who sold me this jacket. I'll be back in an hour."
"Will he be open so early in the morning?"
"If that creep could have it open so late in the night, it's worth a shot!"

The shop looked equally spooky in daylight. He entered, and thundered, "MR. SHANTHANU.. Where the hell are you?" There was nobody at the desk. He turned around to look when he heard a loud "Ahem". He whipped around to see Shanthanu grinning at him from behind the desk.

"Where, in devil's name, did you come from?!?"
"Never mind that, Sir. Is there a problem?"
"You bloody well know there is!"

He picked up the jacket and held it up for him to see. The jacket started twitching as if on cue. "EXPLAIN THIS!", he yelled, his voice quavering in fear and rage.

The li'l man's grin grew broader. He beamed like a child, and pronounced the word slowly and carefully.

"Jerkin" :)


Footnote:

Now you understand the title, don't you? :P