The jumbled castle had many range of stairs, all sliding downwards, the never ending one they seemed! I was lost, tired and thirsty. The never ending circular stair case was getting on my nerves now. The feeling of dizziness was increasing, I was desperately praying to it end so that I can land safely on the place I was destined for.
What was more strange was that though the spiral staircase was going on from heights enough for fifteen to twenty floors, there’s wasn’t a single room around them. Each floor seemed to be folded just in the staircase. There’s wasn’t anything around it, no room, no corridor, absolutely nothing. That was what frightened me more as I was climbing down. But I had to, for something important dependent on what I got from the last steps of this staircase.
It was just yesterday, my late uncle came in my dream in a weary condition. All clad in torn, old attire with wounds on his hands, face and legs and walking as if he’s been limping for long. He was withering in pain and cried out to me, “help me dear, help me! I have been in unbearable pain since the day I died. You only can help me get rid of it. Save me from this pain, please, will you?” He folded his hands in request in front of me. I was scared seeing him like this. I felt my mouth go dry. I asked him, “how can I help you uncle? And what’s keeping you in so much pain? You were such a gentleman when you were alive, you never hurted a soul through your action or words.” Listening this he sighed, “oh yes! According to the world I was a kind, gentleman. But little did all know what bad deeds I did in my life. But one of them was so severe that it’s keeping me in continuous pain and it won’t be relieved until you help me.”
I wasn’t sure I could anything for him but out of curiosity I just asked, “let me know what I could do, I’ll certainly do it for you.” “Do you know the tall castle that stands beyond the city?” “The one that people say is haunted?” I felt scared. He half smiled as if mocking the idea of haunting. “Yes the same. You have to reach the top of it through the ladder kept outside the castle and climb down the stairs. You’ll find a huge trunk on the last step, you’ll find a small box in it, just give that box to the family residing at the other side of the lake and remember, don’t even look beyond the cloth below the box. Just close the trunk and burn it and leave.”
“How can I just burn the trunk? What if the castle caught a fire?” “No, it won’t. It would never do anything that could harm others. That fire would restrict itself to the trunk.” “But what’s in the trunk? And who are the family residing at the lake side. And what if there are many families, how will I recognise the deserving one? And why only me? Why not anyone else for this task?” The questions were endless but uncle was already stepping back, as if forcefully, with pain, limping away, “you’ll soon get all your answers, don’t ignore it. Only you can help her, help her and save me some pain please…”
The next day passed in a puzzled state. I couldn’t decide whether it was truth or just a bad dream? But whatever it was, my conscious couldn’t let me rest until I tried out what uncle told me to do. Hence, today, I just took the outer ladder and climbed the castle. I couldn’t make out why even though the outer side of the tower was pretty easy to climb, the inner side could be a jumbled, never ending staircase.
Though I was very scared to visit the haunted castle alone, but as it was day time, I had a little courage for it. Plus I had me pet dog, standing outside the castle, who with just a sniff can recognise I was in a danger.
I was still amazed why would uncle only choose me to do this task. Why not someone else? Well, as he said so, the answer would soon be in front of me. My legs were paining because of climbing down the stairs for long. I felt as if there was hardly any life left in my legs. Now they were beginning to shake too.
Finally, after around half an hour of climbing the Stairs down, I saw the last step. My feet got a new life. I stopped and stared around. Strange, the cottage had nothing beyond those stairs. It was just a round hall where the staircases were and the origin on it, up all the way towards the sky looked as if it were just two to three storeys. I searched the round about hall, to find an exit. Strange there wasn’t any! I felt the chill run down my spine. I actually climed down a haunted castle, following a stupid dream, alone without doing any research on the same. How could I be such a fool! What if I couldn’t get out? What if it got dark with me inside alone and the ghosts came out? Just the thought got me perspiring.
In a sudden action of panic I headed straight towards the stairs. To hell with the dream and to hell with the good deed of helping, I am leaving now! Suddenly behind the staircase I saw something shining, shining really very brightly. I headed towards it, but something stopped me from inside. What if it’s something dangerous. But my curiosity got better of my logic. I went around the source of the brightness left me open mouthed!
It was a large, six feet long trunk with diamonds studded on it. So this was the trunk that uncle told me about. Means the dream wasn’t stupid afterall. It was a real message towards something important. Well, it I just discovered the proof that it was something real, I was sure that box would be in it too and the family would be there too. I slowly stepped towards it ans opened the trunk. It was heavy, a little jammed but opened with a sharp shriek.
And yes! There was a box on it with the same diamonds on it. I lifted it, a sudden smoke filled the entire hall, I could hardly see anything around. I tried waving away the fog, but it wouldn’t go. The box was with me, it was heavy. The red cloth beyond it reminded me of something. What? I couldn’t remember. Slowly, frighteningly I put my hands on the cloth. A sudden loud noise from Somewhere jolted me. I stepped back with the box. Then I remembered my uncle’s warning, not to remove it any cost.
I gulped. With great efforts I came back towards the trunk, tried closing it but still I couldn’t remember where have I seen that cloth before. Suddenly, the trunk shut closed with a huge thud and the fog started clearing away, where? Even I wondered that.
I slowly brought out the match box outside my pocket and decided to burn the trunk. But what if I got burnt in this fure too and couldn’t get out ever? But again uncle said it would never harm me or anyone ever. If rest of the things uncle said so far was truth, this would be too.
Slowly I saw flames burning the trunk away. I retaliated towards the stairs glancing back occasionally. Half frightened, half alarmed if the fire is spreading. But it didn’t! It remained where it was and strange enough, there wasn’t even a burning smell in the castle. What was more strange? I reached on the top of the staircase within five minutes and without much efforts and climbed the stairs back with the box.
My pet was waiting for me and we both set back towards the lake. For once I felt someone was watching me from behind and I turned towards the castle only to see it standing calmly and silent as always.
I reached the lake and strangely so there wasn’t any house visible there. I remembered some months back I have passed from here and there were atleast fifty of them here. Think so government was planning for something to be constructed here and hence they were demolished. May be uncle didn’t know all of it then..I started returning back thinking what I’d do of the box now. The sound of a baby crying nearby stopped me in my steps. I turned and searched for the source. There was the a small hut just opposite the lake and a banyan tree. I went and knocked there, an old man in his late sixties opened up the thin door for me looking puzzled. I just handed it the box and asked him if he knew anything about it. Strangely, he started weeping hugging the box. I asked him the reason for it and what he said was really astonishing.
“This box is what was going to save me. But we destroyed later.. my daughter, she disappeared because of this box.” He started crying loudly. The old lady came out of the hut and when she saw the box and the old man crying, she cried too. “I used to work for a rich man from the town. I spent my whole life serving him. Once he went out of town and left me as a caretaker for his property. After he came back he found that a huge amount of money was missing from his locker and he blamed me for the theft. He told he’d put me behind bars for this. I was so shocked that he could even of me in this manner. I came home crying and then my wife and my daughter who was a widow with a small baby decided to save me by giving all her wedding jewellery to the boss. But he couldn’t agree. Then my daughter went to request him about the same and after that day we haven’t seen her anywhere. Not even the police could find her. Neither have anyone known about the box.”
The story was shocking and sad but I didn’t understand what it had to do with uncle or her. “Then did your boss put you in jail?” I asked. “No he died in a sudden car accident after a week of the incident.” This jolted me! “Was your boss Mr. Manchi?” I was shocked when he answered with a nod. That’s when I remembered where I have seen that red coloured satin cloth before. That girl…. Oh my God!
I felt as if the world was spinning around me. I stood up ready to go. But the old lady grasped my hand and asked, “you know where our daughter is right? Please tell us… Please for the baby’s sake.” She started weeping. I felt as if the earth would dog a hole and if I could just burry my self underneath. “Your daughter is dead. She died three months ago and today I burnt her for her last rites. I said between tears and left running and crying as I went out. I just couldn’t see them wailing for their only daughter and had no courage to see an orphan baby getting orphaned again.
I remember it too well. She was the girl who came in search for uncle that day at the farm house. And I have given her the address to go towards the castle. He was there for a work. She had a beautiful, red satin cloth wrapped up on something. I was here to visit uncle for holidays and wanted to make some new friends. I told her if I could walk with her towards the castle and she was more than happy. She told me about how she loved moving around the country side with her baby and never told that she was a widow. She was so young, so beautiful, so naive. I even offered her a job in the city with us when she said about her need for a job. We were already like friends within just a miles walk. “You are really good dear..I never had a friend in my life before. Neither a sister, just mummy and Papa. But I would wished having a sister, it would be someone like you. I’ll definitely meet you again. I am sure you’re going to help me in future.” And then we parted. After few steps I thought I had lost my path, I returned there too, shouted for uncle and the girl named astha too, but no one answered. Well then slowly I started towards the opposite side of the castle.
We sure met again, it was she whom I burnt today, she who I felt beyond the red cloth today and the one whom I felt watching me after I came from there. Now I knew why I was chosen to return back the parcel safely to her parents. She told me if she would have any sister, it would be like me. Means she trusted me. But how did she die was still a question in my mind.
That night after a long time finally I could sleep and she was there, looking all lovely and beautiful and smiling. “Thank you, sister.” She said. But I was thinking of something else, ” so, I was right. You are dead. But how and why’s uncle included in all this?” I asked her.
“That day when you guided me, you guided me towards my death, my destroyal. Your uncle, your uncle took me in that castle saying he found the robbed money. And yes, It was there, all in the trunk. He cheated my dad and blamed him for the theft money because he had seen me and wanted me as his mistress. He tried to claim me and when you came back calling for him that time, he shut me in the trunk where I died out of suffocation. So you know, you are the cause of saving me and making me die at the same time. But I am glad now that you did my task and have that box that my family needs so much now to them. So now, you know why only you can perform my last rights and relieve me”!
I was left speechless, I couldn’t even imagine my uncle doing such a thing to a girl that was of her daughter’s age. “And uncle?” I just uttered these words. She pointed towards the other side where I saw a man limping on his way sweating blood and wailing loudly. Where he was moving was a ditch that had flames coming out!