He missed her. It was a month after her passing away and he longed for her so badly. He would have traded his life if he could see her, talk to her, just be with her one more time. Without her he was a mess, his whole life in disarray, even the smallest of things evoked her memories. She wasn’t there any longer to welcome him when he came home, scolding him gently reminding him to wipe his feet on the doormat and close the door softly behind him, bring him his hot black coffee in his favourite mug… And then like a man possessed he researched tons of books till he was finally satisfied that he had found what he wanted. And now he was about to enter the woods just behind his house, his black satchel hung cross-shoulder containing all the stuff he would need to do the deed. The night was still, the weather balmy; there was a hint of a warm breeze in the air but not enough to move the leaves on the tall trees that hung around like silent dark giants in the moonless night. The dry leaves covering the forest floor crunched loudly under his naked feet as he made his way into the woods.
By the light of the torch he made his way to a small clearing with a short rocky outgrowth that he had already identified during the day. He stood still, surveying the surroundings for a moment, as if hesitating a bit. Somewhere in the distance a nighthawk called out morosely. By the torch light he glanced at his watch – 02:56 am – nearly the time. Resolutely, he proceeded to sit down cross legged before a flattish rock and opening the satchel he started laying the odd articles out neatly. Spreading out a green silken cloth in front of him, he proceeded to light five tall white candles and stood them up individually in tiny ceramic saucers thus forming a circle on the cloth. From his pocket he took out a small pink handkerchief – hers – and spread it out inside the circle. Taking a fistful of red rose petals he proceeded to burn one on each of the candles, collecting the remnants carefully in a small earthen bowl. Taking out his pocket knife he made a small cut on his right thumb, dripping the trickling blood on each of the five flames taking care not to extinguish the flames. Finally, from a small vial he poured vinegar on each flame, snuffing it out, the vinegar running into the saucers beneath. Carefully collecting the vinegar from each of the five saucers in the vial, he added the rose ashes to it and shook the contents gently. Beads of cold sweat had now started to form on his forehead as he proceeded to complete the ritual. Emptying out the vial on the pink kerchief, he began to chant loud and clear, “Power of the spirits now arise, the dark path unseen across the skies, blood to blood I summon thee, blood to blood return to me!”
Silence. Nothing. He waited with bated breath, the sweat on his forehead now thick and trickling down his face. Time ticked by but all was still in the woods. What had he done wrong? Why wasn’t it happening? Why wasn’t she here? Confident that he had memorised the rituals thoroughly, he had not bothered to carry the book that night. And now he had to go back and read from the book to seek the answer. Cursing himself, he got up abruptly scattering the remnants of his rituals about, and tore through the woods, homewards. Barring the rustling of the fallen dry leaves under his quick steps, all was still. Emerging from the woods, he ran harder still. Unlocking the door, he flung it open and ran to the writing desk in his drawing room. Picking up the book, he quickly thumbed through the pages to the relevant passage. “The article of the deceased, now soaked in the fluid of afterlife should be quickly gathered up and sealed in an earthen jar. If left exposed it is known to open up a gateway for other spirits; such spirits are not known to be benign. Under these circumstances, it is advisable to burn the article of the deceased forthwith.”
A cold shiver ran down his spine. In his hurry to reach home he had left the pink kerchief at the site of the rituals. Just as he turned around quickly intending to run out back into the woods, he heard the door close softly and a distinct scuffing sound on the doormat in the hallway. She was home!
If only he would have glanced over his shoulder, he could have ducked just in the nick of time to avoid the heavy paperweight from his desk headed straight for the back of his head…
– Narendra Nayak © 2018
“The Awakening” is my fifth short story as part of the series “Add Salt to Taste”.