To Laila it seemed to be the chilliest day ever. It was snowing beautifully outside and everything lay under a thick blanket of white. She reminisced how every winter holiday was spent romping in the snow with Khalil and the kids from the neighbourhood but not this year. This year Khalil and all the kids in their batch were preparing for the preliminary examinations that would begin as soon as school re-opened in Jan’.
|Image by Ginsui-Rin|
Laila had finished the last few pending chapters from her Science syllabus. She put the books back on the shelves and rose. “A steaming hot mug of ghaveh would be just wonderful!” she thought. Her mother and Dorri Jun were out visiting her uncle and his family. With the whole house to herself she suddenly felt a whole lot more independent. She was relishing the freedom, sipping on the dark brew standing in the kitchen window when she noticed a tall and lanky figure in the distance. Though the snow was almost knee-high outside the figure seemed to be walking with ease. In fact it almost looked like a black speck floating towards her in the mist. There didn’t seem to be a soul outside and Laila’s eyes were fixed on this unfamiliar approaching figure. Shrouded in black it came to a halt near the thicket of Fir trees across the road.
The appearance of such a suspicious looking stranger sent a cold chill down Laila’s spine. She immediately checked whether her phone line was working. The stranger was still standing there in the lee of the tree when she got back to the window. It did nothing but continue to stand there like a pole. And then all of a sudden Laila realized that the figure was facing her own home. “Is it possible that the stranger is staring back at me right now?” thought Laila. Beneath all the layers of woolens, she had begun to shiver inside. And just then the stranger waved out to her. It began digging with bare hands beneath the fir tree that stood closest to the main road. And Laila saw the stranger drop something into the shallow pit that it must have dug up. Pushing the earth back on top to form a small mound, the figure straightened back up once again. Laila tried hard to see if she could get a clear view of the stranger’s face but that was impossible in the mist.
Laila gasped as the figure just disappeared into thin air.
She had not been able to muster enough guts to go dig under the Fir tree and check for what the stranger may have hidden, on her own. Laila completely forgot to mention this incident to Dorri Jun and her mother the next morning. They had arrived very late the previous night, after Laila had dropped off to sleep, tired from all the studies and stress. The new day’s worries added on, sending the memory of the stranger’s appearance to the bottom of the pile. Holidays got over, school resumed and they’d passed that Fir tree a thousand times but Laila had mysteriously forgotten about the pit dug up by the stranger, completely.
Seasons changed and the sun began shining down warm and bright. Exams were over and while they awaited their results, Laila went over to meet Erum and Khalil with a spring in her step. They were having a wonderfully chatty time. That stranger shrouded in black had been completely forgotten until a Halloween poster on Khalil’s PC desktop caught Laila’s eye. Laila gave a shriek and grabbed Khalil’s arm. “It must still be there!” She exclaimed. “What thing?” enquired Erum and Khalil, in unison, as they were very surprised at this odd and sudden deviation in the conversation.
Before they knew it Laila was flying out of the room with Khalil in tow.
To be continued...
For those who missed out on the previous stories of the novella, please visit 'The Grimoire'.
This has been written for the
Tale # 38