Trishna was eighteen when she left Dhakara and swore never to come back. But twenty years later, as a widow with two children, she returns to the home in which her family was torn apart by a terrible secret in the basement. The basement beckons, but she resists. Nevertheless, It waits – here’s an excerpt from this wonderfully gripping story by Andaleeb Wajid
Trishna doesn’t remember a life before this house, although they’d moved here when she was around five years old. Home has always been this house, although not in the way it is for everyone else. Home was where she grew up, a lonely childhood with parents who weren’t entirely sure why they’d given birth to her. Her mother did not like to express affection physically or in any other way, a deficit Trishna often tried to compensate for by constantly hugging her children. And now that they’d grown up, they push her away too, but out of embarrassment and not discomfort. For as long as Trishna can recall, she’d been banned from the basement. She’d never been allowed to go down there, even to just see. In the way of children who have been told not to do something, Trishna found herself heading there one rainy afternoon when her mother was asleep. She’d glanced inside her parents’ room once just to make sure. Her father was not at home, and her mother was a huddled form under the blanket, sleeping fitfully. Trishna, feeling all the excitement and terror of an eight-year-old doing something she was not supposed to do, had tiptoed towards the basement door and opened it slowly. The steps leading down were dark. Switching on her feeble torch and holding on to the wall for support, she descended, one step at a time, taking care she didn’t make any noise. She didn’t know what exactly she was coming down to see. She just wanted to know if there was something that her mother was keeping away from her. At the end of the steps, she looked around, unsure of what to do. It was all so dark and musty and her torch was rather weak. It couldn’t penetrate the darkness completely. Feeling her way before her, she cautiously moved towards the large hall-like space beyond the stairs. Even as she made her way there, she felt something in the air. A cold draft raised gooseflesh on her arms and neck. As she put one foot before the other, she almost turned around and went back because her excitement had been replaced with fear. She could taste the bitterness at the back of her throat as she stood frozen, unsure of whether to move forward or just go back. But she did want to know more about the basement. So she continued further ahead. As she finally entered the large space, she flashed the torchlight in an arc, hoping she’d be able to see something. She gasped and jumped back in horror. There was someone else with her in the basement. And whoever it was had red eyes. Trishna saw a flash of dull green and the red eyes moving forward. Finding her voice, she let out a scream and turned to run. She tripped over something on the dusty floor and fell face down. Terror blanketed her as she pushed herself up, abandoning the flashlight as she ran in the general direction of the staircase. Screaming for her mother, she ran up the stairs, tripping and falling once more, hurting her knee and bumping her forehead. Out of breath, crazed with fear, she threw open the door of the basement and ran back outside, gasping for breath. She ran right to her mother, flinging open the door and shouting, ‘Mama! Mama! There’s something horrible in the basement! Come on! Get up!’ But her mother didn’t move. Anxious and nervous, she tried calling out again, aware that her mother didn’t like to be woken up during her afternoon siestas. ‘Please Mama! Wake up!’ she pleaded, stepping inside the room. She looked at herself in the mirror and was shocked to see the scratches on her hands, her dusty frock, and the cobwebs stuck to her hair. Her shock was compounded when her mother walked in from outside. She looked taken aback at Trishna’s appearance. Trishna tried explaining to her about the monster in the basement but her mother merely scoffed at her. ‘Come, we’ll go and look,’ she told her, dragging her by the arm. Trishna was terrified and she refused to go but her mother was insistent. ‘There is nothing in that basement,’ her mother reiterated and took her down, holding a larger torch than the one Trishna had taken down. Each step that they took made Trishna feel like she would vomit out of fear. But her mother swept the high beam of the torch everywhere. Even the corner where she’d been sure she’d seen the red eyes was empty. ‘See? Nothing,’ her mother said crisply and took her back upstairs. There she gave her the dressing down of her life. Under no circumstances was Trisha supposed to go down to the basement. Confused and afraid, Trishna asked her mother, ‘But…if there’s nothing down there, why…’ ‘There are huge rats over there,’ her mother said emphatically. ‘Do you want them to bite you?’ Shaking her head in fear, Trishna had promised she would never go into the basement again. ‘Where were you?’ she asked her mother. ‘And why did you make it look like you were sleeping?’ Her mother’s face flushed with the slightest tinge of guilt before she rearranged her expression immediately. Trishna vaguely remembers it as being the day she started seeing her mother as someone else. As someone with secrets.
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