The car came to a sudden stop.
Som hit the steering wheel with disgust. Being a mechanical engineer, Som had always serviced his BMW X1 by himself since first day. Only this one time he had to go to the servicemen for urgency due to a business call. He checked his phone for the time, and found it had got discharged. “Fuck you! “ He cursed the servicemen, or his own luck perhaps.
The sky outside was pouring down heavily, thunder and lightning were displaying their full valor. Som could have rested in his car for the rest of the tormented night, but he had to reach his destination by morning.
Som looked around and stared as far as he could. The rain had successfully blanketed a significant portion of his vision, adding to the fact that he was stranded in a place with no street light. But occasional lightning bursts showed the huge trees on both sides of the road, standing with branches covered in a thick density of leaves, as if resting under a shower after a long day of work. The road was empty up to the horizon at both ends, and the sky cried endlessly with a dark saddened face.
Som’s heart leaped when he spotted a faint light flickering between the thick trunks to his left. If he could get a torch, he could fix his car and get going in minutes. “Worth a try “, he thought to himself. He jumped out of his car and started running towards the light. The downpour got heavier and it hurt his face and arms.
After a few moments he found himself before a two storey mansion. It looked like an old ancestral home of some kind, with huge iron entrance doors, long windows of the old feudal type, and wild bushes sprouting all around the building. Lightning and thunder struck continuously and created an eerie atmosphere. The light was flickering from a window on the first floor. Som walked up to the door and knocked at it. Only the noise of hard hitting rain and thunders prevailed. He knocked at the door again but this time harder, and breathed a sigh of relief as he heard faint steps walking to the door. The huge metal doors creaked open.
“Yes? “ A dark old man spoke out. He stood completely in the shadows, only visible in glimpses of lightning. He was wearing a turban on his head and a dhoti-kurta combination giving an ancient soldier look. He had a thick grey moustache and an unclean stubble, and eyes seemed weary of age old troubles.
Som generously explained his situation and asked for a torch. “I don’t have what you want, “replied a husky old voice. “ But I can get a lamp if u want, glass covered, wont extinguish in rain.” Som nodded in relief. “Come in”, the man turned around. “Wait till I look for it.”
He walked Som through a hallway into a dark room, lighted a candle and left. Som reached for his cell phone in his pocket, but realized he had left it in the car. So he started looking around. The room was larger than present day standard bed rooms, and furniture were pretty old. A huge wooden bed lay beside the small artistic table with the candle. There were two or three iron trunks beside it, hanging with huge locks. There was no sign of any tube-light, or cup-board which would suggest modernization. The room had the smell of a century old dust trapped within the walls waiting to escape.
Som began to feel strangely accustomed to the room. He felt he had been here before, but he could not remember when. He remembered there should be a window opposite to the small table. He turned around, walked to it, and pushed it open. Thunderous splashes of rain hit his face. He jumped back immediately. He remembered about the paintings on the wall behind the bed. He turned and found they were exactly where they were supposed to be. Som was confused to his toe. “What is this place? Where am I? ” He thought in disbelief.
Just when he was about to turn to the door behind him, lightning struck and his glance freezed on a portrait on the wall. A man in royal clothes smiled out at him from the portrait. Som was taken aback but he could not move. His throat dried up and his lips cracked. A shiver chilled down his spine as he kept staring at that face he had known all his life.
It was his.
“That was her last painting “, the husky voice broke the shackles of surprise in the room. Som turned around and found the man had returned, but with no lamp.
“After you left that autumn, she was so anxious of your return and fulfilment of your promise. She was so happy my little girl.” The old man walked towards the portrait was he spoke, his eyes watering up with tears. “My only daughter, my princess, my life, she was so happy when you promised her marriage. She was the light of this house. But you never returned.”
Som could not understand anything. He had never promised marriage to anyone. This must be a mistake. “What are you talking about? Where is the lamp? “ he shouted.
“My lord, the lamp was extinguished the day she found out you had married the girl of some other rich zamindar to expand your territory. She stopped eating from that very day. My little flower crumbled up and perished in a few days.” He was standing before Som facing the painting, rubbed off his tears and turned around.
“And I have waited my lord, “ his eyes gleamed now, “ Waited for a hundred and seventy three years for you to come back. Now you have come, and I shall have my revenge.” He pulled out a dagger.
Som wasted no time and started running towards the entrance doors. He ran at the top of his speed, he knew his life was at stake. His mind was blocked and could not understand anything of what was going on. He ran as fast as he could, but the door did not seem to move closer. Darkness crawled upon the hallway and Som felt suffocated. A loud husky voice came calling from behind and footsteps kept approaching him.
“A hundred and seventy three years my lord. Now that you have come, I will not let you go. You have taken away my little lamp. I will take away your life.”
Som tripped at that very moment and had a hard fall on his face. By the time he turned on his back, the old man was already standing over him.
“Why did you do it lord? She loved you. She wanted you. Was she not beautiful enough for you? Then why did you promise her? Why?” The man raised his arms above his head holding the dagger. “For Sukanya ! ”
That very moment Som’s head jumbled up. The name and dagger’s sharp point conjoined, and words started flowing out of his mouth.
“Forgive me Sandhak, I have made a mistake. I loved your daughter too, but I lacked the courage to oppose my father. Please forgive me Sandhak. Sukanya, forgive me. ” As the dagger came down and Som’s voice cracked as he shouted, he fainted.
When he opened his eyes again, he found himself lying on a bed. His friend Ajay was sitting beside him, looking anxious.
“Finally you are back. What happened ?” Ajay started talking, “ You were supposed to reach here by today morning. Around noon I became very worried and went out with my driver. Found your car in the forest road a few miles from here, and there you were, lying down in the forest. What was wrong with you?”
Som was trying to speak in broken words. “My car — it broke down — the house — “, he could not speak anymore.
“Your car is absolutely fine. I drove it back here. And what house are you talking about in the middle of a jungle? You are a crazy man. And where did you get your portrait made from? And these royal clothes?” Ajay started laughing.
Som saw the huge portrait kept beside his bed. “Get well soon bro”, Ajay smiled, “ Remember my wife’s friend who bowled you over during my wedding? She is here for a few days. You are in luck.”
He turned around and called out, “ Sukanya. ”