Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 172 The Value Of Time

When Dr. Fabian D’Souza woke up early on a Friday morning he thought it was going to be another day for him in Paradise, it was not.

He watched the beggar tap on his window pleading for alms and wondered why these poor sods would not get themselves a job. He was after all a rag to riches story himself, a small town boy who had put himself through medical school and become one of the best-known orthopedics of the city. People who could not get themselves off the mat deserved no mercy.

Dr. Fabian D’Souza looked at his watch as his car drove into a posh gymnasium compound, he was going to be an hour late to get to the clinic but he knew the importance of an exercise routine and wouldn’t let go his one hour even on a day of rain and squall.

He alighted from his car and jogged to the elevator, he was feeling particularly energetic that morning. The elevator door slid open to reveal a masked man staring at him. Before he had the chance to say, “What the hell!” he felt something hit his head. He drifted into the darkness quite easily.

The first thing he felt was the pain in the head and then as his eyes grew used to the dull light splattered with generous amount of darkness he realized that he was in a basement of some kind, his mouth was gagged and his hands cuffed in front of him, his legs were cuffed to an iron machine that would take an industrial crane to move.

Then it came, fear! He tried to struggle and scream in vain. Who the hell was doing this to him and more importantly why? He was just a Doctor! Then he felt drops of water on his forehead and he looked up to see a large block of ice suspended above his head. It was held there with the aid of ropes. Embedded inside the block of ice was a set of keys.

“They are the keys to the handcuffs,” a voice boomed on a megaphone kind of sound amplifier. Fabian looked around but could find no one in the dark. Someone was playing a strange game with him, he was going to find out who it was and have him jailed for a long time.

“The ice will melt eventually and the keys will fall close to your hands,” the voice continued to address Fabian. “It will then be simple to gets your hands free, there is another block of ice that you cannot see behind the huge machine. That has the key to the cuffs that hold your legs. Once your hands are free you will be able to get to those keys easily as well, of course that block of ice will also have to melt to make that happen.”

Fabian quit struggling and began to study each part of the room carefully. Someone had to be around.

“I am sure you are wondering why you are here? If you are shake your head.”

Fabian shook his head like a man possessed.

“Good,” boomed the voice. “Now that you want to know I will tell you. I am a patient of yours. You have many, obviously, so you wouldn’t know who I am but that is exactly the point here. I am a nobody to you. I come to your clinic fifteen minutes before the appointment time but I always learn from your receptionist that you are going to be late by an hour if not more. So with a back that hurts more than ever, I wait. You stride in an hour late like it is your right to make people wait. Cause you are the God who can take their pain away. Then while I wait some more I see other, richer patients or pretty lady patients break the queue and walk in with remarkable ease. I wait even more. Finally you see me and you hurry it up to catch up on other appointments.”

Fabian tried to figure who this patient could be but he couldn’t for the life of him.

“Waiting! It is a curse Doctor. I have no clue why God did not include it as a commandment; thou shalt not make people wait. When you make me wait it attacks my self-esteem, it attacks my very soul. It makes me feel that I am just not important enough. That is a very cruel thing to feel Doctor, very cruel. I don’t know what is worse, the pain in my bones or the blow to my self esteem. People need you because they don’t have the knowledge that you have, use it wisely. Making people wait is part of a power game. It is a power game played by people who constantly need to feel power. The powerful don’t need to feel power, cause they know their power.”

Fabian by now had stopped struggling. He was listening, carefully. The drops of ice water had covered his face and looked like hundreds of sparkling diamonds. He glanced upwards to find there was still a while to go before the key fell out.

“I wish you goodbye doctor. The rats in this place will make you feel the pain I go through while I wait. Enjoy powerlessness! Enjoy waiting!”

Fabian began to struggle like a bull in a pen but the cuffs held tight. Then he heard a sound and stopped. Rats! He could hear their squeaking. He began to look around in fear and then something broke inside the great doctor, he began to cry.

Two weeks later when Dr. Fabian D’Souza walked into his office he could see that a patient was early for his appointment by fifteen minutes. But he looked too old and frail to carry out his kidnapping.

The old man watched the Doctor go into the office. The Doctor was early. The old man smiled.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 171 Advice

Shamsher Singh decided that his daughter Tannu should be married. He decided that Tannu should marry Vikas Agrawal. He decided it should be in winter. The family always went by his decision.

There was only one small problem, Tannu did not want to be married.

Shamsher Singh was more a father figure than a father. He lost his parents when he was still in college which meant the baton of responsibility was handed to him forcefully by destiny. He brought his two brothers up, had them married to ladies from good families and also set up a good business of automobile parts in which his brothers had an equal part.

Swarg, thats what he called the big house he had built in the plush district of Greater Kailash in New Delhi. One big joint Indian family made it their home. Everyone in the family respected Shamsher and truth be told, they were a little intimidated by him as well. Who was Tannu going to turn to? There was only one person Chachu!

Devdutt Singh was Shamsher’s youngest brother. He was the only one of the buffer generation from the family. The children of the house thought he was “cool enough” to confide in, about most things.

“You know how Papa is Chachu, he won’t even listen to me. It’s my entire life we are talking about here!” Tannu had managed to borrow Chachu from the office for an hour and cornered him at the local coffee shop.
“Is there someone you are in love with? Be honest Tannu.” Devdutt stared at her, looking for the lie in her eyes, if there was one.
“There is no one Chachu, I swear!” Devdutt couldn’t see the lie. He promised Tannu he would talk to her father. Tannu rewarded him with a hug and a score of kisses.

Shamsher was generally the last one to leave the office. Devdutt knew it would be the best time to talk to him. He sat himself down in front of his older brother and watched him as he went through some papers, his reading glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. Devdutt played with the paperweight in front of him, spinning it like a top but holding it before it went off the desk.

“You want to talk to me about something?” Shamsher was astute enough to understand that no one came to his office at the end of a long working day to spin a paperweight.
“I have just been thinking about something that happened last week, it’s making me very sad,” Devdutt finally put the paperweight aside as he said that.
“What happened?” Shamsher put the papers aside and took his reading glasses off.
“You know I took Lovely with me to Shimla last week?” Shamsher nodded signaling he knew of that.
“Now the poor girl is only ten and still gets scared to sleep alone so I asked the hotel to give us one queen bed room. She was happy to cuddle with her Papa and spend some quality time. She hugged me tight and was fast asleep halfway through a movie on television.”
“It was cold and I did not realize that while I was sleeping I was fighting her for the single quilt that we shared. When I woke up early in the morning I found her rolled into a ball shivering in the cold. She had lost the quilt war with me. The sight of her shivering in the cold does not leave my mind. I don’t know why it saddens me so much. It’s been a week and Lovely does not even have a memory of it but for me it has become an image that drives a stake through my heart. I have no idea why it does that. I am troubled.”

Shamsher looked away and stared at the paperweight in silence for a moment. “I suppose it’s just that your survival instinct took over when you were asleep. Then when you woke up the Father instinct kicked in. What you are feeling is the guilt of thinking about yourself but not about your daughter. It really wasn’t your fault. You are a good father, you should forget about the incident,” Shamsher advised Devdutt with a smile.
Devdutt smiled back and nodded, “You are right, that’s what it was. I suppose I am feeling guilty about not thinking of how my daughter would have spent her whole night in the cold. Thank you for helping me with this!”

Devdutt walked away from Shamsher’s office. Feeling lighter but leaving Shamsher with a problem of his own.

Tannu barged into Chachu’s room late at night and hugged him tight. “Dad just changed it around. He wants me to make my own choice on who I want to marry. How did you do it Chachu?”
Devdutt ruffled his favourite Niece’s hair hair, “he just recognised my pain and through it saw his own failings. People don’t understand advice, they only get it when they give advice.”

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 170 Betrayal

I would like to thank the Police Academy for calling me from the future to speak to you young law enforcement cadets. You are going to be policing this city and keeping it safe for its citizens and I hope that you can learn from my experience as a senior officer.

From where I am, in 2070, we have made lots more progress than you guys in this time. But in law enforcement you have to understand that the first ones to get around new technology are the criminals.

Let me tell you about something that happened only last month in my time.

I am sure you people have heard about teleportation. For those who don’t let me explain. We once had fax machines, we all know how they work. The machine would take the information on a page and then through a telephone line send it to another number. Then came the Internet where pictures, messages, videos, everything could be sent to someone else.

In the year 2053 they invented a process by which you could send human beings like the information through fax machines. It was called teleportation. Human beings could all sit in a huge machine and then they would be broken down to small atoms, the atoms would then fly across the net and land up in another machine in another city, instantly. Exactly like a fax machine for human beings! Airplanes were done away with, ships, all kinds of long distance transportation methods suffered.

But look at the brighter side. If you were rich enough and could afford it you could teleport from Mumbai to London just for dinner with your friends or you could ski in the day and spend the nights in the warm comfort of Dubai. Anything was possible. Then, as I said, last month something terrible happened.

We were hit by terrorists. The President of the Union with a huge delegation of world leaders were teleporting to Geneva for a meeting from New York. Terrorists took over the receiving hub in Geneva. The delegation managed to teleport from New York but the terrorists burnt the power down at the receiver station in Geneva. As a result the delegation was broken down into atoms but never got reassembled, stuck in cyber space.

The thing about teleportation is the time between breaking atoms down and bringing them together cannot be too long or else the bodies could come out without limbs, internal organs or even terribly jumbled up with each other. And here we are talking about the delegation of the President.

But there was one thing, the timing of this operation was fabulous. It took only seconds to go from one place to another in teleportation. So someone allowed the teleportation to begin but not end. Such great timing, had to be an inside job. Who could it be? We were trying to find out but the time was ticking by, too fast. There was only one way out, storm the receiving hub.

We did just that, lasered the terrorists. Put the hub back in Geneva back to functional. But it was too late. None of the atoms came together properly. Some faces on hands, legs fused together, just a tangled mess. It was a terrible tragedy. The assassination of a President! But guess what?

We found the finger of a woman fused on someone else’s hand. She had a wedding ring on her finger. She was identified by the ring. It was the wife of the man in change of the departure hub in New York. She was having an affair with one of the terrorist.

So you see nothing changes, adultery, hostage taking, blackmail, terrorism everything remains the same, so to be a……

Nova couldn’t write anymore. This was a speech he was never going to be able to give. He decided he couldn’t go to the past to deliver this speech. He would have to send his regrets and apologize.

He looked at the one finger with a ring on it kept in a jar on his study table and felt a sob rise again. He wondered if he should ask for a transfer to a distant future. Perhaps they could have discovered a cure to the pain of betrayal?

-Arsee.

 

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 169 The Art of Meditation

“There is just no peace!” Priya confided in her childhood friend over coffee. Priya and Madhavi sat by the window of their favorite Deli in the city watching the ceaseless afternoon traffic go by.

“Have you tried meditation?” Madhavi suggested.
“Meditation! Hell I have gone to every class and all they do is take my money and I am still miserable.” Priya exclaimed, her frustration was quite apparent.

She was married to a loving husband but her mother in law teamed up with her sisters in law could give her a migraine in less than five minutes. Her two children were always whiny and irritated the life out of her. Her father was not doing well at all, cancer the doctor had confirmed and when she tried talking to her mother, all she would get was a, “Deal with it!”

Sid was the chef at the Deli, the star of the establishment really. The Tiramisu that he could bring together was worth waging a war. He knew Priya and Madhavi well. They were regulars at the joint and he also knew their troubles well, not because he liked to eavesdrop but because they could be pretty upwards in decibels when upset.

“I can teach you meditation for a price,” Sid walked up to the table and made a rather enigmatic offer to the ladies.
“Really Sid! Don’t make fun of the tragic lot!” Madhavi scolded.
But he was not poking fun, he was dead serious he told the ladies. The two friends looked at each other to acknowledge that Sid had probably fried his brains with the critters. “What’s the price?” Priya asked.
“You do the dishes for a whole day!” Sid said with sincerity.
“I should be able to put us into a meditative state. Not just some instructions on meditation,” Madhavi warned him. 

Sid agreed. And the ladies agreed as well. It was decided that they would meet at midnight when the dinner service of the Deli was done.

They were early so they sat at a table and gobbled a Tiramisu, all the time wondering if Sid was just pulling their leg and if this was some crazy idea. But since they were there, they should give it a go.

Sid let them into the empty kitchen of the Deli and asked them to be comfortable wherever they chose. The ladies sat themselves on the service tables. “Why have you never been successful at meditating?” Sid asked Priya. 
“Cause I can never concentrate on what I am supposed to, some say imagine a candle, others say imagine the ocean waves, it’s like counting sheep!”
Sid smiled, “So do what I say! Close your eyes and take three real deep breaths.” The ladies followed the instructions.
“Now I want you to hear everything around you. Every little sound. The table fan whirring, the traffic outside, the exhaust fan making that awful noise, the dog barking, the drunk man talking loudly outside… Listen to every sound. Concentrate on the sounds.”
He stood still as he watched the ladies do this for a full fifteen minutes. Then he asked them to open their eyes. They did.
“How do you feel, he asked?”
The ladies were stunned. They had been in a meditative state for fifteen minutes and felt refreshed.
“You are going to wash the dishes tomorrow!” Sid roared with laughter.

“How did you do this? Just like that? I have not been able to do this in years!” Priya was simply blown away and Madhavi was in agreement.
Sid cleared his throat to explain what had just happened, “We are just a part of the universe and the universe does not survive in the past or the future. It survives in the ‘now’. That’s why the present is called the present because it’s a gift. We spend all our time either in the past or in the future. But when you close your eyes and let every sound enter your body you stop running back and forth and align with the Universe, the present. That is all that really exists between the past is gone and the future has not happened. What is harmony but to be in sync with everything around you? The meditation classes ask you to shun everything, which is impossible. You have to let everything in, the entire damn Universe.”

“You should be a Guru!” Madhavi exclaimed.
“Naah!” Sid laughed, “I can’t make money out of other people’s misery.”

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 168 Do The Right Thing

It was difficult being a Muslim in the city, especially after the Paris attacks. For too long the acts of a few had led to the condemnation of too many. Dr. Hasan Abdul was just very valuable to be condemned but he still saw the dislike in their eyes, their ever distrusting eyes. 

Dr. Hasan headed the Cardio-thoracic department of the leading hospital of the city. In the world of medicine he was called, “Magic hands”. There was rarely a patient who did not make it to a full recovery once Dr. Hasan Abdul had operated on him. He was the go to doctor for any kind of cardiovascular ailment, the pride of the hospital and the city.

Dr. Hasan and his wife Rukhsar had met when they were both refugees, running away from a country whose leader, a dictator, was killing his own countrymen to hold on to power and spread fear. Presdent Kayyum was the plague that had hit his country, a plague that did not seem to have a cure. Hasan had seen teenage boys being taken away from their homes in the middle of the night and never return. He had heard about eminent journalists who wrote against the regime and then disappear. And he had suffered laws that would decreed that sent his country back to the stone ages. In a land where freedom, justice and knowledge became scarce, that land had to be forsaken, whatever be the cost.

With a heavy heart he escaped like a rat, where once he lived with his head held high like a lion. Friends and money helped him get to the border. His reputation as a surgeon aided him in securing the citizenship of a country that welcomed him and his wife with open arms, and he was forever grateful.

 
It had been raining for weeks and Dr. Hasan looked up at the sky wondering if it was an omen of some kind. The hospital corridors seemed to be strangely quiet as he strode in towards his office. Strangely, he felt nervous eyes look at him; follow him on his way to the office. Something was wrong. When he found the dean of the hospital sitting in office, waiting for him, he was certain that something was terribly awry.

The Dean smiled a nervous smile, “Hello Hasan, let me not go round the bush on this one,” he went straight for the jugular. “President Kayyum, the leader of your erstwhile country has been admitted into the hospital, he suffers from an enlarged heart, there is a donor in place and a transplant needs to be done. The request is for you to do it since you are the best. I have no idea how you feel about this, it does put all of us in a very hot soup, as you can imagine,” the Dean smiled anxiously as he laid out the situation for him.
Hasan had no idea how he felt about it. He sat himself down and stared at the Dean, unblinking.

 
Rukhsar couldn’t believe her ears. After all those bloody days and sleepless nights they had to spend on account of the despot, President Kuyyam, here he was in front of them. Evil had followed them.
“So will you operate on him?” Rukhsar asked Hasan. They sat together in their lounge, sipping on Hasan’s favorite liqueur. Hasan had been quiet all evening, deliberating. “You have to let me into your thoughts, Hasan, what are you going to do?” She prodded him further.
Hasan looked at Rukhsar and spoke in an even voice, “I am going to kill him.” Rukhsar looked at him shocked.
“I know I will never practice medicine again and there will be a case of malpractice against me but I don’t care. If I have to rid my birth country and its multitude of this terrible curse then there can be no better time to do it.”
Rukhsar understood exactly what Hasan meant.

They had enough money to spend the rest of their life in comfort, Hasan would be miserable not being able to practice medicine but that would be a small price to pay. “Do it Hasan. Kill the bastard,” Rukhsar hugged her husband tight.

 
Dr. Hasan walked into the operation theatre all scrubbed in and ready for the heart transplant. In front of him lay, unconscious, the man he hated more than anyone in the world, the killer of millions and the scourge of an entire nation. He nodded at his fellow members of the heart transplant team.

Hasan had a simple plan; he was going to make a small cut in the new heart as it was transplanted. The President would bleed himself to death in post-op. There would be an investigation and the autopsy would point the finger at him but at the most they could haul him for carelessness, which was all they could do to him.

Hasan watched as his assistant surgeon cracked the chest cavity open. He could see the enlarged bleeding heart of the Despot. Somewhere he was surprised to find a heart, in the first place. He kept looking at the beating heart. Then he took a deep breath and began the operation.

 
“Did you do it?” Rukhsar asked Hasan as he got home late at night.
Hasan walked to his wife, held her close and began to cry, “I couldn’t do it Rukhsar, I just couldn’t do it!” Rukhsar said nothing but held him closer.

 
Two days later Dr. Hasan Abdul walked in to see how his patient, President Kayyum was doing. The President lay in bed, weak from the surgery but his eyes were alert, careful, like an animal in the jungle. He let Hasan check his vitals and ask his juniors questions on his progress. Then as he was about to leave Kayyum stopped him, “I believe we are from the same country?”
Hasan turned and smiled at him, “I am from the country that it was before you took over. It is not the same country now.”
The Dictator looked at him sternly, he wanted to argue but let that pass. “I know I am hated,” he said, “I was afraid that you might decide to take my life in the operation theatre. But then I know you are a doctor and would never do that.”
Hasan stared at him for a moment and then sighed deeply, “To tell you the truth I was going to take your life.”
The Dictator’s gaze turned one of horror.
“When I saw your beating heart and you lying on my operation table, so helpless, I understood that if I killed you it would be only your victory. In that one moment you would have made me like you. I am not someone who can kill a helpless man, even if he is a Dictator who deserves death more than any other in the world. Courageous men do not take helpless lives, only scared men do.” Then with the same grace that he had said those words Dr. Hasan Abdul asked the Dictator to get well soon and walked out of the room.

President Kayyun stared at the receding figure of the doctor walking away from him. (He knew he had a change of heart but still not the heart of a man like Dr. Hasan Abdul) He knew that the scars of the surgery would heal but Dr. Hasan’s words had scorched him forever.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 167 Secrets of The Pyramid

He was there, finally, after years of research and red tape, the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Pyramid of Khufu, the one-day for which he had been waiting. There was no Egyptologist in the world that had not been obsessed with this pyramid at one time or the other and Paul Schaffer was no exception.

He was only eleven when Paul knew this Pyramid was special. It was exactly at the center of the Earth Mass, it was directly aligned with the constellation of Orion, the temperature inside was always the average Earth temperature of 20 degrees and other dozens of facts that made the experts wonder if it was really Aliens that had made this Pyramid. Like all other Egyptologists, Paul could not help but battle the idea, what if it was more than just a tomb for the Pharaoh Khufu?

He had studied the Pyramid for years, so many theories and so many differing ideas of other experts. There was one thing that Paul had always hidden from the others, he was certain that the Pyramid came alive every vernal equinox, which was the 20th of March every year. His research told him that the Pyramid was at least 12,000 years old and in that time the equinox was in Taurus, strangely the lay of the Sphinx and the Pyramids were aligned with Taurus.

Lisa Foster was a research scholar who met the young Paul when he was a Professor of Eastern studies at Cambridge and they fell in love. It wasn’t difficult for Paul to transmit his enthusiasm and obsession to Lisa, she fell in love with the Great Pyramid like Paul was and together they embarked on a journey of adventure and discovery.

It was forty years later; Paul sat at the teashop that stood just a few meters from the Pyramid and thought back to his years with Lisa. She would have been happy to be there with him on that day. They had waited for this day all their lives and now Lisa was not there to be with him. She would not spend the night of the 20th of March inside the Great Pyramid. Paul’s eyes welled up with tears when he thought back to the day only a year ago. He was in New York on an errand; Lisa was at home with the dogs. The investigators called it a freak electrical short circuit but that did not take away the sting of the sight that would not leave him. When he got back from New York, his entire house had burned down. Lisa, the dogs and the years of research, it was like someone did not want to let him into the Pyramid or more precisely into the secrets of the Pyramid.

The permission was to send the night in the Pyramid was of the previous year and the government would not renew the permission. Paul knew that he was not getting younger so he decided to take the chance. He was going to steal into the Pyramid in the dead of the night. He would make his way through the narrow corridors and station himself in the King’s chamber. He wanted to see if he was right, if there was indeed any relation between the equinox and the Pyramid.

The night brought the crisp desert air with it. Paul had studied the Pyramid well enough to know where the security personnel would be, where the cameras were stationed and so he stealthily made his way through the stones that had been there for twelve thousand years to find himself in front of the tunnel. This was it! He was going to be rewarded or dejected, he was ready for either.

He made his way to the Kings chamber through a tunnel that had him almost on his fours by the end of it. It was a tough upward gradient and Paul had to stop for air a couple of times but what urged him on was the history of human kind. He was in a structure that had seen everything known to history, right from Moses to Mao and from Jesus to John F Kennedy. He was in the belly of time. He was in the heart of the human civilization. He had to go on.

The Kings Chamber stood quiet in the dark. He used the torchlight he had brought along to see inside. The sarcophagus lay in its deep recess. The silence of the moment was eerie. In his mind’s eye he could imagine what it must be like to witness the Pharaoh’s burial. The High Priest and the slaves. The weeping queen and officials…. A sound! Paul’s mind catapulted back through time to the present.

How could it be? He was here, Alone! Like in response to his question the top of the chamber became illuminated in bright white. Paul shuddered. He turned his torchlight off. He was right! He had been right along. Something was happening here.

The light slowly turned into a shaft of white light and then from that light came forth other smaller lights. Like they had a life of their own, but they did! The smaller lights began to have a form and Paul was stunned to find them turn into the famous little grey men that always represented Aliens. They had just teleported, was this a kind of a hub?

But that was just the beginning, through both the air shafts that rose out of the chamber came more white light. And then to his horror they turned into human beings but what took his breath away was to find his wife Lisa as one of the human beings.

On both sides were the same human beings, two Lisas, two of each human being but the difference was, on one side they were old and on the other side they were young.

The Alien spoke to them but it was through telepathy, like a thought chat. He could listen to it without hearing it. He thanked the old humans for the great work they had done in giving Earth all its great inventions and in particular for preserving the secret of the Pyramid. He turned to the new humans and asked them to work hard on new technologies for Earth and keep the secret like it had been kept for eons.

Then he thanked the old Lisa for burning the house and all of Paul’s research down.

The humans changed places with each other. The old ones went off the other way and the new ones the way that led to an Earthly plain, in all probability, thought Paul.

Then as mysteriously it came the light went away leaving Paul alone with the biggest secret of mankind

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 166 Fear

It was autumn. The burnt red leaves lay all over the carpet of a rolling green lawn. The sight always made Fredrick sad, it was like something old was dying but the new wasn’t born yet.

He tossed the melancholia aside and drew his look away from the window to rest it on his assistant Moira.. Moira Kilby. They had been working on a paper, “Fear and the world of Optical Hallucinations.”

Professor Fredrick Alexander had a theory on fear, his research led him to believe that fear was the most important faculty that the human brain possessed. Fear was the driving force of evolution but fear sometimes was also self-generated. Moira thought back to the time he had first explained it to her.

“How does anything fill you with fear? Take for instance the sight of a man-eating tiger in front of you. Now, how would the circuits in your mind work? Your eyes, the retina would through the optic nerves take the image of the tiger to your brain and then the brain would see the tiger and tell you that you must run. Is that right?”
“Yes, I understand.” Moira nodded. “Now imagine you are in a haunted kind of house, in the middle of the night, and you have heard stories about the house from a lot of people. You are very scared. So what happens? Your body is pumping adrenaline and in that state of acute fear, sometimes the seeing process gets reversed. The brain sees what you have been told about, a ghoul, a ghost, a demon, whatever be the case, then the optic nerves carries the image to your retina and the eye sees what the brain is seeing. There is nothing really there but your mind controlled by fear creates this vision.” Moira was fascinated by the theory. It could explain why so many people saw ghost and such; it could be just a function of their fear.

“Do we have volunteers then?” the Professor asked, bringing Moira back to the room.
“We have permission from the owners of Bradbury Hall to conduct our experiments there but in terms of volunteers to spend the night there, only one,” Moira informed the Professor.
The Professor nodded, thoughtfully. His experiment was simple. He wanted two volunteers to spend a night each at a haunted house. Volunteer A would be told about the hauntings and Volunteer B would be told that the house was haunted but nothing else. Now if both Volunteer A and B saw the same thing then his theory did not work and there was really something called a haunting. On the other hand if they saw different things then it would be obvious that the mind saw what it had already seen before when it was told about the house. But now they had only one volunteer.

Bradbury Hall was easily the most haunted mansion in the history of the country. No family had been able to live there for more than six months. The present owners stayed in the city and were rich enough to own a haunted house because they wanted to own one.

“Would you want to be Volunteer A Moira? Please don’t feel any kind of pressure. Just asking,” the Professor posed.
Moira looked up wide-eyed, not sure how to react. She could be Volunteer A, she knew all about the house, but a night in that house would be an ordeal in horror. Though she did want to prove the theory as much as the Professor wanted to prove it.

Curiosity and Fear, a strange kind of weighing scale. Her curiosity won.

“I will do it,” Moira tried a smile and failed.
“Very well then, lets find out if we really see ghosts or not!” The Professor stood up with a newfound purpose and the autumn mattered less now.

Volunteer B was a young lady by the name of Betty. She looked small and bird like, it was hard to imagine her spending a night in Bradbury Hall and coming out unscathed. The Professor made sure that she had signed all the legal papers, this was of her volition and she was not coerced into doing anything.

Bradbury hall stood in middle of a large Pine forest, the very sight of it could send shivers down an unsuspecting spine. The ghostly legend spoke of a family that lived there more than two hundred years ago. It was said that the owner was a lord of some kind; he had a wife and two daughters. Tragedy struck one of the daughters when a stray bit her and the doctor pronounced hydrophobia or rabies as it was commonly known. As much as it hurt the family the girl had to be isolated and kept in the attic. They could hear her screams and howls coupled with her feeble attempts at breaking down a door made of heavy oak. One night, she couldn’t take it anymore and managing to unbolt the attic window she jumped out of it.

Till this day her screams and howls can be heard piercing the air in the silence of the night. Families that stayed there saw the apparition of a beautiful young girl gesturing them to come to the attic with her. Many were lured into following her and the town historian knew for certain that a young boy of one family that lived there was indeed pushed out of the attic window.

The Professor would remain in the ground floor study all night while both Moira and Betty would roam the halls of the house by night, that was the plan. In the wee hours of the morning they would all meet in the study and talk about what they saw, if they did see something.

The clock struck eleven. Both the girls said goodbye to the Professor and set about their nightly vigil. The Professor held his breath in excitement. He would soon find out how right his theory was. He was certain he was going to break the myth of these haunted houses.

 
The screams did come, loud and unmistakable! Moira heard it in the dining room where she sat in a corner; Betty heard it in the master bedroom and the Professor in the study. Then for the next two hours, not a sound save the eerie voice of the howling wind and the ticking of the ground clock.

It was exactly three in the morning when Moira burst into the study. “Professor Betty was led up into the attic and is locked up there, she did not know better, she will be flung outside, please, come with me!” The Professor ran out of the room behind Moira.

In the meanwhile, another Moira had just finished a half an hour vigil in the kitchen, she walked out silently. From where she stood she could clearly see the Professor climbing the staircase following someone who looked exactly like her!

Then, to her horror, she realized, she could neither move nor scream. The last she saw was the Professor stepping into the attic behind the girl. The last she heard was the big oak door closing shut.

-Arsee.