The wind was howling that night. The wooden window panels were clashing against each other with a loud bang. The flower vase crashed on the ground at the stroke of windy squall. Its smashed pieces spread across the white marbled floor. Chhaya stopped snoring and woke up from her sleep with a loud yelp.
“What’s that in my dream?” she screamed as a chill passed down her spine.
Chhaya hastily sat and huddled up at the far corner of the bed. She stretched her hand to switch on the light but a frosty fabric seemed to brush off against her sweating palm. She gave out a muffled cry of fear.
She was the sole occupant of the house. She had outlived others with her graying hairs. She was a woman in her forties. It had been ages since her parents were gone and simply trapped in the photo frames that hang right above her head on the damp yellow wall. The photo cases often swayed and produced screeching sound in the dead of the night.
Although that stormy night the snapshots remained awfully quiet. Only a weird light shone on her mother’s wide eyes as the flashes of lightning appeared in the dark black sky.
Chhaya shuddered as she gazed at the dreary contour lines on the wall opposite her bed. The curvy outlines moved to and fro like a shadow of a woman in silk saree. Chhaya gathered her hands and feet near her body. She wanted to shout but only a low sniffle came out of her clattering teeth.
Drops of icy sweat appeared on her forehead as she saw the shadow, the hazy figure, move again on the wall.
“Mom? Is it you?” Chhaya finally spoke in a low tone.
Hissing sound of the breeze answered in consent.
Chhaya dashed out of the bed and rushed to the wall on the opposite side. She was no more afraid of the turbulent night or the unnatural reflection. She moved her fingers lightly on the wall. “Mom, you’ve finally come to take me. I’ve been waiting for you so long,” she spoke with a deep sigh of relief.
A flash of lightning with an earsplitting thunder appeared across the sky. It lighted up the pitch-dark room. In that sudden brightness Chhaya saw the shadow tip-toeing out of the wall. It was gone in a split second. “Please don’t go,” Chhaya pleaded.
The noisy wind didn’t respond back with a whisper.
Suddenly Chhaya turned quiet. Her eyes fell on the pink curtain that was set on motion by the wind. The draped piece of cloth was moving back and forth on the front door by the wall. Its dancing reflection fell on the wall before her.
Chhaya stood fixated at the spot by the wall. She hoped her mother would come back again and call her in hushed tone, “Chhaya”.
(In this story Chhaya is the name of the female protagonist.)
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