I am pacing in my room as I write this. Yes, that’s right, pacing – like walking up and down and again walking up and down! I stop at the window and look out through the netted frame and see the winding stone steps that are lit by lantern lamps on either side. It leads to the little lawn with tiny flowering plants which is laced by swaying palm trees. And beyond it, even in the darkness I could still see the white fringed waves of the Arabian Sea lashing up on the rocks below the cliff. I see specks of lights from the sea, probably from a few fishing boats near the coast and listen to the non stop thrashing sound of the waves echoing around. It had stopped raining and the moon had come out, but it stood within a halo like it too was in a daze!
I took my phone and it still read no signal found! I was irritated to think that I was using the resort wi-fi like an hour back. There was still no sight of my husband and daughter. Or of anyone either in my view for that matter. We were on a short holiday in a beach resort in the far end of Kerala and the first 2 days had gone perfectly fine. The beautiful view, early morning walks, beach games, family time in the pool and a lot of fun things had happened. But from today evening I had started feeling something strange in the cottage. I was not sure about it but I felt like there was someone else in the cottage besides the three of us. Like a presence. The creepiness you get when you know someone is looking at you and suddenly you turn around and there is no one there!
I dint think about it much then and so when my husband wanted to get a parcel from a friend who was traveling to Qatar the same day from Trivandrum, I told him that I would rather stay back at the resort than get dressed and accompany him. And to my surprise, my daughter also wanted to go with him. I was somewhat relieved and decided to have a nice relaxing foot massage in the mean time. They had promised to come back in an hours time and by the time I came back from my foot spa he had messaged me saying they were going to Kovalam beach and so could be late! ‘That’s perfect! So much for the family holiday’! I thought and strolled around a bit inside the resort premises and waited around for the sunset. But the sky was grey with rain clouds and there was no sun so when I was bored with it came back to our cottage.
And that’s when things started happening!
Our cottage called the ‘Cliff Cottage’ was the last one in the resort, high up on the cliff, the one with the most spectacular view of the sea. We were connected to the other cottages and the main section by a little pavement and it took like 2 or 3 minutes walk amidst thickly grown shrubs with beautiful flowers and trees to reach there. It was well secluded and well maintained and we almost felt like literally being in our own world the last couple of days. The view from it was magnificent during the day but now that the sun had set and it was dark outside except for a few little lamps on the pavement and being there alone I dint find it very beautiful anymore. There was no one in sight and then I remembered reading on the notice board that there was some kind of classical dance recital at the restaurant which was at the other end of the property tonight which started by 7pm. I wanted to go too but it was dark and being the brave person I am, the deserted road loomed before me endlessly and I immediately decided against it.
I waited for sometime, clearing around a bit, sorting the mess in the room and when i was done, I decided to call the room service and order some food so that at least someone comes and I don’t entirely look like a psycho to call for assistance to go to the restaurant alone. I took the phone and dialed the extension number provided in the card on the side table and realized there was no beep. The phone was dead too! ‘You gotta be kidding me,’ I thought.
There was nothing to do now except to wait. I switched on all the lights in the bedroom and also in the hall. It was an Ayurvedic resort and there was no television in the cottage. I was sitting in the living room diwan reading Khushwant Singh’s ‘ company of woman’ when I heard a crash from the bedroom.
I jumped up alarmed, successfully spraining my already aching back and went inside almost stooping and saw my Fab India night cream and my Davidoff deodorant lying on the floor from the dressing table. The deo was still rolling. I took it and kept it back thinking how it would have fallen down. Was there mice in here? I looked around warily half expecting mice to come out of its hiding places. But nothing happened. I looked around and then went back to the hall and picked up my book which had fallen down still rubbing my back. I checked the time and it was already half past seven.
The pain dint go even after a while so I fished out my moov spray and generously sprayed it on my back. Ah, immediate relief. I heaved a sigh of relief and silently thanked whoever invented the moov spray. I picked up my book and again settled in the diwan which was near the window and I noticed that it had started drizzling outside. There was a distant lightning and a roar of thunder. Monsoons were not yet over in Kerala, and watching thunder and lightning suddenly light up the sea in a spark was a magnificent sight. I was quite lost in it when suddenly I thought I heard a sound outside. Like footsteps! I was relieved to think they were finally back and i went and opened the door but to my surprise there was no one there.
There were two doors in the living room. One opening to the front, leading to the winding steps which goes to the main section of the resort and the other one opening to the side lawn which was made into a little garden with grass lawn and plants. There was a white colored iron swing in a corner and there was a high fence in the end. Down below the side lawn was the sea,its waves continuously crashing onto the rocks there.
It was cold outside, I shivered from the sudden gush of cold wind and spray of rain and got back inside and bolted the door. It was raining heavily now, fat drops of water splashed on the window pane and I was worried if my daughter was scared by it. She was not very fond of thunder and lightning though she loved the rain. I was wiping my face with a white terry towel and suddenly I was damn sure there was someone standing with me! I could almost make out a figure shape there on my right side. With the towel still on my face I squinted my eyes to the right, my heart was beating like on a treadmill and my hands were feeling clumsy. I thought I would faint. I breathed hard and turned but there was nothing there! ‘Oh God am I going mad’. I thought and sat down on the bed and drank some water. It was too exhausting. Fear was always exhausting. I was positive that there was something in the cottage now. I never believed in ghosts ; it was just something I had laughed at in movies and thought the ghost hunter series were so funny. To feel presence and images of dead people was rubbish. But I dint feel so confident about it anymore.
After a few minutes when I was calm enough I went and checked the whole cottage – the bathrooms, the cupboards, the bedroom, even under the cot and came back to the hall and sat in the chair with my legs up. ‘Stop being silly’ I was telling myself. I wanted them to come fast but I knew they would be at the lobby waiting for the rain to stop as the way up the cliff could be slippery for a 4 year old! I checked the time again and it was quarter past eight. The rain was still falling heavily. I checked both phones again and it was still dead and no signal! Perfect!
And then, there was that noise again. Like someone rubbing their feet on the doormat outside. It was coming from the side door this time; the one leading to the side lawn. The door was a half door with four parts. I got up gingerly and tried peeping outside through the windows but I couldn’t see anything properly. The sound still came so I opened the top portion of the door. My hands were trembling so much that it took more than the usual time to open the door. And as I half expected there was nothing there. This was getting very irritating. The rain had stopped now and it was just the water dripping from the thatched roof. I was about to close the door when I saw a movement in the dim light. I saw a man walking outside the fence! There were uneven rocks that lead to the sea there. And he was walking carefully among them. He was wearing a shirt and a pair of shorts and looked like a foreigner. But since it was dark I couldn’t make out clearly. He was looking in the other direction and walking carefully on the rocks. ‘Oh God hes gonna fall now’ I thought. I dint call out or say anything to warn him because I had seen earlier that morning how an Iranian lady fell down on the rocks when the stupid life guard shouted at her to get off the rocks as she was climbing down. The cliff there was steep and since it was raining it would be more slippery. There were scary looking rocks below and I hoped he would see that. If he fell he was sure to crash on the rocks and die ! I had to stop him somehow. I decided to go to the fence and tell him and went inside to put my sandals. And just then the door bell rang and I heard my daughters voice outside. I opened the door and they came inside. I told my husband that there was a man outside on the rocks and please tell him to come out or he would fall and took my daughter to wipe her head and change her wet clothes.
A few minutes later the husband comes back and tells me that there is no one out there! ‘No he would be there, he cant get inside that fast”. I tell him. I finish dressing my daughter and make her wear the fluffy orange coat she hates on top her dress despite her pleadings and we go out to see and just like he told me there was no one there. I looked around and there was no sign of him anywhere. ‘But he was standing right there’ I point to the spot where I saw him. The husband looks at me strangely and says ‘ How is that even possible? The fence is too high to climb over and the only way to come here is through the cottage. There is no other way to be here’. And that’s when I realized what he said was the truth. There was no other way to come to the side lawn than to come through the cottage. Did I imagine it all then? I was sure I saw him but now it seems so surreal.
My daughter who was bored with this and decidedly angry with her orange fluffy coat suddenly declared she was hungry so we decided to go to the restaurant and have dinner. Seeing other people and the dance recital and the warm ambiance cheered me up and I soon believed I had imagined it all. We all slept peacefully that night.
The next day after breakfast while I was having my treatment done at the ‘Kalari’, I casually told about the previous nights happenings to the girl who was doing the ayurvedic treatment. I was beginning to feel like Cleopatra with the aromatic healing oils massages and milk baths and had become quite friendly with her over the last couple of days . As soon as I told her she stopped the massage for a second and I saw her expression change but she was quiet. But afterwards when the treatment was over, she came out to where I was sitting under a chambaka tree and after looking around to make sure none was nearby she said ‘Madam, I am not sure if I am allowed to tell you this, but some people who stayed in that cliff cottage had complained of seeing things exactly like you saw last night’. I was open mouthed. I sat up ‘What is it Gauri? tell me more clearly’. She looked hesitant so I assured her I would never tell anyone about it.
She looked relieved and said ‘ I have only heard about it, but it seems some years back a Sahiv (foreigner) who was staying in the cliff cottage had slipped and fell on the rocks and died. And sometimes people see him walking in the rocks behind the cottage. It was after that incident they put the fence there.’
‘What?’I felt my throat going dry. ‘But none told us. Iv never heard of it also’.
‘Oh madam, all these happens in such resorts but they give money and hush it up. But don’t worry I don’t think he would harm anyone’ she added reassuringly. Really!
It was more than I could handle. I hurried to tell my hubby this and felt my legs were not fast enough. But he only laughed at it. ‘So you say you saw a ghost, what next? Maybe your favorite vampires from that movie what is that? Ah ya twilight?” He laughed again very happy to get a chance to pounce on my ‘twilight love’ as he calls it. But I dint find it funny. I had seen a ghost or what I thought was a ghost and it was spooky and it was creeping me out.
‘Its not funny, I want to go home’. I said sulking. He looked at me with wide eyes. ‘But you love it here and you have treatment for 3 more days’. But there was no way I was living with a ghost! I wanted to get out of the place a.s.a.p. So finally after much argument and negotiations he agreed to vacate. My daughter who had made friends with some Iranian kids threw a tantrum about leaving early too. But I was adamant.
Soon we packed and the room boy came to carry the luggage. And just before we left the cliff cottage I went to the side door and looked outside. It was bright and sunny and looked very pleasant with the turquoise sea beyond. Beautiful in fact. I checked if we had forgotten anything and satisfied, came out and closed the door and locked the cottage and walked down the winding steps. My husband and daughter was walking sulkily in front of me. I walked a couple of feet behind them but I din’t turn back for the last image of the cliff cottage.
I knew it was not empty!
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