The Dancing Waters

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He could feel his sight go hazy every now and then. It had been happening like this for the past few months and there was that excruciating pain that made him succumb to heavy doses of liquor every now and then. The doctor had advised him to take rest, after all he was not 20 anymore but Shankaran Nair’s ego would not let him do so. There was no way he was going to spend his life lying around doing nothing. However, today the pain had been beyond his bearing capacity. So he decided to take a day off and send O.G to attend the committee meeting. He had disclosed his condition only to O.G.

He was onto his 6th peg now but it seemed to bring him no relief. The water was almost over and Shankaran Nair had called out to Janu several times now. Getting no response he decided to go himself to the kitchen for a refill. His walk had become unsteady from the alcohol consumed and as he began to climb down the steps he slipped and came crashing down to the floor. Janakiamma, who had heard the thud and the painful cry that followed, rushed to find her husband bleeding from the head and lying like a crumpled paper on the floor. She immediately called out for Janu and not finding her around panicked. She couldn’t manage to pick him up on her own. But as if an answer to her prayers, O.G arrived precisely in the time of need. Seeing Shankaran Nair’s condition he did not wait another second and rushed to the kadavu to gather people for help. Together the group of people picked up Shankaran Nair, laid him on a cot and carried him to the vaidyan’s house. As O.G was about to leave with the group, Janakiamma joined him at the door all set to accompany her husband to the vaidyan’s place. On the way they met Janu who had gone to the neighbour’s house for some chit chat with their servant. Janakiamma was in no mood to reprimand but she asked her to stay back until Saraswathi returned and if needed till they returned. Janu who was required to stay back only one day in a month was not happy about the situation. She had hoped to go to a betrothal that night. The vaidyan’s place was quite far off and there was no telling when they would return.

Saraswathi as usual had gone out and with the festival preparations having begun, she came home later than ever.

Ullas villa had suddenly become empty except for the frail figure of Janu in the kitchen. She had been instructed strictly to take care of the boys and the house. Janu taking advantage of the situation took out a bottle of liquor she had carefully hidden under a huge vessel in the store. She began by taking a few sips at first but soon began to gulp down the liquor that the bottle was empty in half an hour and Janu sank into drunken unconsciousness.

It was almost dusk when the boys returned and finding the house empty they wondered about the sudden disappearance of the inhabitants. The door to Saru’s room from the hall had been left open and Kannan peeped in hoping to find his mother. Seeing no one he assumed that Janu had obviously forgotten to close the door after cleaning it.

In the kitchen they found a drunken Janu sprawled on the floor, they shook her rigorously as they enquired the whereabouts of everyone but all they got in reply were illegible sounds and grunts. The cousins having given up came back to the veranda where they waited for someone to turn up.

“Maybe they have gone to the temple” said Chinnan.

“No, that can’t be or else we would have run into them on the way back. Besides Ammooma never goes anywhere beyond the river” reasoned Kannan.

Just then an idea occurred to Kannan. “You know what”, he said excitedly, “this is an excellent opportunity for us to take the revolver out of the gun room.”

Kannan ran to his room, searched the drawer for the key and having found it, rushed to the gun room, opened it and swiftly picked up the gun that Shankaran Nair had left on the table in a hurry. Chinnan watched silently as his cousin locked the door, put the key back in Saru’s drawer, and climbed to the attic to hide the gun below the bundles of hay.

Kannan returned panting from the attic, both fear and excitement having caused the weariness, to see a worried Chinnan staring at him as if to ask, “Are you sure about all this” In reply Kannan gave him a reassuring smile which had a calming effect on Chinnan as well as himself.

Darkness had really begun to set in with the probability of thundery showers in the background. The boys feeling hungry satiated themselves with banana chips and large glasses of butter milk that they found in the kitchen. Janu still had not regained her consciousness.

Now feeling bored the boys decided to play hide and seek. Chinnan had to seek first and the main door was to be the den. Kannan as usual crept into the attic and crouched below the window. From here he could stand up in order to catch a glimpse or two of his cousin as he moved about in the veranda in search for him. This way he could be prepared when Chinnan moved in the direction of the attic. Chinnan seemed to be taking a long time in seeking him out and Kannan’s legs had begun to tire from crouching. It had also begun to rain heavily now, violent thunders causing the wooden floor of the attic to vibrate. Kannan stood up once more in search of his cousin and finding him nowhere near the veranda decided to go down, when he saw his mother come running into the veranda. She had been drenched in the rain and was now at the door to her room from the veranda, fumbling with the lock as she tried to open it. There was something else that seemed to catch Kannan’s attention. A huge thing covered in black was closing in on his mother from behind and she seemed to panic. There was evidently a struggle going on and Saru was trying to fight the thing off. The door had opened and the struggle between the two had moved into Saru’s room. Kannan knew something was gravely wrong and his mother was being harmed. The thing in black was dangerous and he had to help his mother. He searched for the gun under the bundles of hay and having found it rushed downstairs to his mother’s rescue. As fate would have it, the lights went out following a strong gust of wind. Kannan fumbled his way through the darkness, flashes of lightning guiding him every now and then towards the entrance hall. In between flashes of lightning he could see from the door in the hall his mother on the floor with the black creature on top of her right across the entry from the hall. It’s a vampire, he thought, just like O.G had said. It was going to kill his mother. He had to kill it before it drank his mother’s blood. Shoot it just like in the story, that’s what he had to do. Pull the trigger and let go, that’s what grandfather had said. There was a sudden flash of lightning and Kannan caught one last view of the attacker, pointed his gun below at the vampire, closed his eyes, pulled the trigger and let go.

A single shot echoed throughout Ullas Villa that would continue to do so for years to come. There was a whimpering sound, and a soft thud. The end had come.

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