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– a short story

I am a ghost. Well don’t run away. I wouldn’t dream of scaring anyone. In all probability I’d be the one scared stiff if you shouted ‘Boo’ in my vicinity!!

I live in yonder house you see…yes the small neat little one, with the tiny garden in front that lies just opposite the park. Yes, the lovely cheerful looking one is right. You thought ghosts only frequented old, dark broken down and scary looking buildings which freak you out?? You couldn’t be farther from the truth.

I stay in this beautiful, cheerful home with a happy family of Mom, Dad and three children and a dog. Oh, there’s an old Grandpa as well, who sits out in the verandah most times reading the newspaper and dozing off at frequent intervals, with mouth hanging open. I am very happy being with these lovely people. There is lot of happy chatter, good natured bickering and lots and lots of love.

That’s what was lacking in my life; yeah I mean the one I had before I became a ghost. Love, that all important thing, was the missing ingredient. Dad and Mom always used to fight a lot.

I know I could not have been the reason. How could I have been?? Their fights were never about me. They fought about everything under the sun. I just gave up figuring out what made them go off hammer and tongs. Sometimes it was talk of a relative or neighbor, sometimes it was the food prepared, sometimes it was about something in the newspaper. That does not sound like the fights were coz of me, does it?? But I had this strange conviction that it was all my fault. I just cannot place my finger on why I thought so. But I had been pretty sure back then that I was the reason.

The most difficult part of it was one never knew when they’d start off or what would trigger it. That made me always so anxious and nervous. The happiest of moments could turn into a disaster in seconds. So I was always on tenterhooks, waiting for things to explode at anytime.

I hate fights. It makes my heart pound. It makes my eyes fill with darkness. It makes me hyperventilate. I cannot sleep. I stay awake listening to the harsh words and the thud of beatings and shiver. I think about the morrow and wonder if I’d be orphaned. Suppose Dad killed Mom in his anger or what if she walked out like she threatened?? The thought kept me awake most nights till I’d fall asleep from sheer exhaustion.

I tried to make up by being extra nice to everyone. I smiled a lot. I did everyone’s bidding. I withdrew to my corner and cried silently when I was scolded or beaten. I had my moments of course, when I answered back, when I could no longer bear the hurt, the ridicule or the total rejection. There was nothing I could do. Crying silently was my only option. I shed tears for myself, my hurt. Dark thoughts filled my mind and I brooded about how things were for me. I planned umpteen times to run away from home. In my dreams, I was going to die and I was going to make them feel sorry for the way they made me feel, utterly miserable. I would even go hungry and not speak a word to anyone.

Eventually my optimism would rear its head. It had all been my fault, I’d conclude. If I had got things right, nothing would have gone wrong. I would slowly slip back to my cheerful self, heart filled with love and goodwill towards all. I would never let anything bad happen again, I would promise myself. I was going to be perfect. If I was perfect everything around me would be too. And I would try even harder…

However hard I tried, nothing around me improved. I tried to be a good girl, I prayed hard. Nothing helped. The fights between Mom and Dad only worsened. I started dreading and hating it with a passion. It got on my nerves. I wanted to scream for them to stop. I wanted to kill myself. I was by now fourteen.

It happened on a long drive we went to. As usual, it came in the guise of an innocent argument about something very simple. But my hypersensitive antennae picked up the signals even before it became a raging storm. The arguments took their bitter turn and the fire of hatred burned all around me in the confined interior of the car. I found myself hyperventilating again. The hateful things that they said made my head pound. I wanted to scream and make their voices go away. Instead, I opened the door of the car just like I had wanted to countless times before and hurled myself out…

That is when I saw myself lying in a pool of blood. There was a truck standing near by. It was so scary. I screamed till my lungs were fit to burst. No one was looking my way. I was too shocked and numb to realize that at first. I almost jumped out of my skin when I saw an unknown person standing next to me. He took my hand gently. He was old and to me looked creepy. I screamed again. I realized then that though I screamed there was no sound. Only silence greeted me. The old man looked at me with compassion and held my hand even tighter.

I dared to look back on the road. I saw the crowd of people, the police and an ambulance that had just arrived. I looked for my parents. Mercifully they had stopped fighting. Mom, crying now, was being led to the ambulance, and a shocked looking Dad, got in too. I pulled my hands away from the compassionate stranger and ran into the ambulance just before they closed the door. I saw myself lying on the stretcher and pools of blood everywhere. No one could see me, No one could hear me. I was so scared. I was dead.. dead.. dead…. I had always wanted to. And now I really was.

At the hospital, I saw myself being taken off by the hospital staff. I sat with Mom and Dad. Then I saw the old man again. He beckoned to me. I did not move. He walked up to me and gently said

“Time to go baby. Our world now lies beyond.”

I don’t know why, but I let him lead me out. There were a few more of his friends outside. We went far very far… It was dark, oh so dark now. I saw each of the crowd disappear one by one. I looked back.

“Don’t look back,” he said taking my hand. Just as I had done some time back, I slipped my hand away from his just as he disappeared. I was alone now all alone. I wandered here and there, lost bewildered. Eventually I found my way home.

There I saw my photograph hanging on the wall of our home, with a flower garland adorning it and incense burning in front of it, signifying that the person was gone forever. Just as I went further in, I heard it again. Mom and Dad were fighting. I retraced my steps and wandered out to the only place I loved. The park. I watched the children on the swing, the ones on the slide. I watched the Moms and Dads. Did they fight and scream too, I wondered?? Did they hurt their children too??

When it was dusk, one by one they left presumably to their homes. I had nowhere to go. I heard the loving voice of a woman talking to her children. Her voice sounded so musical, so full of love. I turned to look at a lovely cheerful face. The eyes crinkled with joy as she laughed with abandon and raced after her children. I heard the gruff guffaw of a man and turned to find a tall man laughing at the antics of his wife and children, pushing a wheelchair in which sat an old man, his father perhaps. I followed them. They lived right across the park in this small neat little house, with the tiny garden in front. As they crossed the garden chattering excitedly, I felt their happiness engulf me in it. I decided to stay with them.

I have been with them since and have not regretted my decision even once. I live in the attic and have never scared any of the family. The dog does act funny sometimes when I am in the room. But he has got used to my presence by now. The other day he even looked in my direction and wagged his tail, the poor dear.

I had always wanted to be where there was love and laughter. Here in this house I have found it in plenty. So what if I am a ghost?? I am happy. Yeah, you can say that I am a happy ghost.

Featured post at sulekha.com. Reposted from shail-mohan blogs@sulekha.com