After scrounging through the attic in the lower bungalow, Bachan will climb back up the hill with the sharpest tools he finds. Later that night, armed in his left hand with a half-moon sickle, and in his right with a broken piece of refrigerator condenser coil, he will be prepared for her. He will sit in the record room opposite that broken gramophone, the darkness colored by nothing but yellow candlelight, and he will be alone. He will call upon none of the old-timers from the bungalow below, and he will finish the job before the first rays of the next morning’s sun.
She only came at night, and she always wore a long blue dress with elaborate white ruffles on her sleeves, in the style that only the eldest of the old-timers remembered the wives of the British sahibs used to wear. The first weekend he was hired to watch Mr. Mankhand’s mountain bungalow, Bachan had learned the hard way why none of the other staff spent a night in the upper Bailey Cottage.
“…Bachan had learned the hard way why none of the other staff spent a night in the upper Bailey Cottage.”
He had had one too many gulps of desi daru while sweeping off the cobwebs in the record room when he awoke to see shadows of a woman’s silhouette forming in the candlelight on the wall behind the gramophone. The second night, the shadows turned into the colors of her pale, white face. He was drunk the next night, too, when the colors took the shape of a blue dress with white ruffles, and, when he couldn’t convince anyone from the lower bungalow to witness the sightings with him, he alone ventured up on the fourth night to see the full form of that woman — pale skin, blue eyes, a settled smile — sifting through those old records of foreign music.
She floated into the room wearing that long blue dress with white sleeve ruffles, and Bachan — empowered by a few more shots of desi daru — shouted at the top of his lungs AAAAAAAAH, and chased after her. The woman turned to peer at Bachan, and for an instant he knew that Miss Rosie Bailey used to spend every night in her record room until something in the shadows of the silent mountains took her young life away. Bachan screamed again, AAAAAAAAH, and this time, she turned her back to him and ran, but not before her naked right palm scratched against the needle on the gramophone and a shade of red sprayed over her white sleeves and Bachan knew she could bleed.
A sickle in his right, condenser coil in his left, blood in his eyes, and none of the desi daru down his throat, Bachan waits for Miss Rosie in her record room in the candlelight. He imagines seeing the shadows on the wall, which will turn into a full silhouette, the blue dress with the white ruffles, and then, he will see the young woman next to her favorite records by the gramophone. But on that fifth night, he falls asleep in silence until the candle blows out, and the sun’s rays seep in the morning’s light into the record room. And the next morning, and the one after.
* * *
Karan Madhok is a first-year MFA student at American University currently working on short fiction pieces and the manuscript of his first novel. He is an Indian citizen, and has lived and worked in India, England, China, and the USA. He’s a journalist with special focus in sports and basketball, and his work has appeared extensively in The Times of India, SLAM Magazine, NBA India, Hoopistani, Ekalavyas, and more.