“They are coming,” I said to myself. The tantrik baba had pacified the village crowd by saying that their agenda was over, but that smell of fresh blood in the air was a sure sign that they were coming. In the past fifty years, the small state of Maihyar had seen the darkest period of it’s being, The Royal family had perished. They had all met their deaths. As per the royal astrologer, King Samrajit Singh, his thirty queens and nineteen heirs had met their death way ahead of their time. After the death of, Prince Vijaysingh, the last heir to the Maihyar palace; there was no reason left for the long dead Mistress and her daughter to come back.
“This was the same fateful day, and that inauspicious hour was nearing”, I warned our new manager. I could see, smell and hear the signs of what was to come. At the age of seventy where my senses were weaker than the other factory workers, I could bet my life on what was approaching. “You better ask everyone to get out of here, we have to close down the shutters,” I told him.
He dismissed my request. He ordered me to stop making up stories and get back to work. “Kaka, only an old man like you can believe this nonsense,” he said accusingly, “See now I got a headache, go get me a hot cup of tea,” he ordered. As he turned around and slammed his file on the desk, it slipped and fell down. He lifted it, and slammed it harder again. THUD! It fell down on the cracked green kota floor again.
“Please believe me sir,” I begged. “Kaka, why are you still standing here, go and get my tea!” he shouted. I stared at the pair of red kumkum handprints on the oldest stonewall of the factory. T-H-U-P T-H-U-P a fresh pair of red handprints appeared. My mouth went dry. I told the other two factory workers Gopal and Manish to run out of the factory as fast as they could. The manager was seated inside the glass cabin. I looked at the worn out antique wall clock that hung right over the managers cabin door. A layer of dust had accumulated on the clock. I rubbed my eyes and took a closer look at it. Only two minutes were left for Six o’clock! Only two minutes left for an old man like me to save the new managers life. I ran inside the cabin and pulled out the manager with all the might I was left with. He was shocked at the way I lifted him out of his wooden chair. I pushed him out of the factory. The fifty-year old manager was lighter than my eight-year old grandson. The moment we were out, the guard helped me pull down the heavy steel shutters. We both hung on each side of it, but they were really heavy. “Manager Saheb (sir), please help us,” I cried. The manager wore a frustrated look. He stood under the big Banyan tree in the compound of the factory with his arms folded.
As we struggled to roll down the shutters, we saw green fumes emerge from beneath them. They looked like small chunks of colored clouds floating out. “Kakaaa… Lookkk!” the guard screamed as loud as he could and then collapsed like an empty sac in front of me. I shook his lifeless body but he didn’t respond. When I bent to check his pulse I saw two pairs of feet stuck out. What I saw made me dizzy, I wanted to throw up. There were two large left feet and two smaller right feet. They were painted red and seemed to be growing bigger. I could hear a heavy breathing sound. Someone was sucking in air right next to me, but I couldn’t see anyone.
I turned to run towards the manager, but I felt heavy in my limbs. I tried hard to get myself to move forward, hard enough to cramp my muscles, yet I couldn’t move an inch from near the red painted feet. A pool of a dark coloured liquid oozed out from under the feet. It smelt of blood. The sun was yet to set and it had become eerie dark already. I managed to lift up my head with great strength, and the sight in front of me made me throw up. All the dead bodies of the Royal family, the ones who had been burnt in front of my eyes by the Brahmin priest, hung from the Banyan tree. Fifty dead bodies were hanging right above the new manager. He looked up as drops of blood fell on his shoulders from above. “Aargh!” he shouted. He began screaming for help. “Kakaaa,..” he shouted running towards me. “I should have listened to you,” he managed to speak. His lips shivered. I knew the dead mistress and her daughter wouldn’t harm me. I had been the one of the very few who had tried to stop the King from committing the terrible sin. I knew I would lose my job as the Royal manager, but that was the time I couldn’t keep quite.
“What had happened here?” the new manager asked, “Are we going to die?”
I couldn’t answer his second question, but I told him all that I knew about the Royal past. King Smarajit Singh had his heart set on a tribal dance girl. She was an artist as well. He was so attracted to her that he kept her in his palace and had promised to marry her and make her his thirty-first queen. Soon the King got involved in his responsibilities and the other queens disliked his fondness for this tribal girl. They filled his ears against marrying her. The mistress soon gave birth to his girl child. One day when the King was bathing in his large tub with his queens, he saw that one of his messengers eyed at his mistress while she dried her hair on the terrace. The enraged king had the messenger beheaded and ordered the mistress and her child to be buried alive in the wall.
“How dare you break the purdah?” he had accused her. The queens were very happy with his decision. The Tribal girl pleaded for her and her child’s life, but the King showed no mercy.
I had tried to raise my voice against the injustice done to the Tribal girl, but the King had me fired from the Royal managers post to a factory worker. “The wall that they were buried is the stone wall in our factory Saheb,” I cried to the manager. The dead mistress and her daughter came every year since the past fifty years and have carried one Royal members soul to hell. “They all hang there,” I said pointing at the hanging dead bodies.
“There must be some unfinished business for which they are back,” I said. I felt better and much stronger now. The heavy breathing seemed to be going further away from me. All of a sudden an old photo frame fell crashing on the ground. I looked closer through the broken glass pieces. It was the Kings portrait. It was a portrait that the Tribal girl had made of the king, during their days of romance. The picture caught fire by itself and burnt to ashes within minutes. The hanging dead bodies disappeared, the shutters shut down with a loud THUD by themselves and the green fumes disappeared. The guard woke up as if from a trance. He couldn’t recollect what had happened. The manager still had hot flashes. He seemed to have a fever. “I want to resign and go back to my village,” he cried.
“I will get you some water, Saheb,” I offered. But he was too scared to let me go. He caught hold of one end of my shirt like a child, and refused to let me go. I had seen the dead mistress and her daughter come and leave before too, but the way they had gone this time made me believe that both of them had found peace at last. I said a little prayer for the departed.