On a night like this, he would not have been out. But tonight, was different. This night had arrived with dark clouds and smell of jasmine. Not fresh jasmine. But the stale, wild fragrance of a potpourri. And he knew. Another episode of the saga of hunger would unfold tonight. He, the old caretaker of the dilapidated mansion located far south of the town, would remain the lone witness to it.
He proceeded to the gate of the mansion. Trudging on the once-gravelled, weed-ridden path. His legs were heavy. Rheumatism. Old age. How old? He could not guess. He could never remember when he was young.
The night was violent. Lightning flashed often. Ripping the black breast of the sky with dazzling, purplish, zigzag lines. Clouds thundered, howling with all their might. Rain poured down. Hitting the shards of the window-panes. The smell of jasmine grew stronger. A blaze of lightning illumined the statue in his eyes. Inspite of his age, his eyes glistened. He observed the statue. Amidst the garden in front. A woman with a pitcher. Sculpted of white marble, pale as death. Yes, water was flowing from the pitcher. Like witches’ oils. Burning green, and blue, and white. It was time.
His weary feet reached the rust-eaten-iron gate. He opened it with a screech. Like the cry of a bird of prey. A young man, wet with rain, holding a lighted electric-torch, was waiting.
“Who are you?” asked the man, curiously.
“The caretaker, babu.”
“I want to enter the house.”
“Babu, go back. It’s dangerous.”
“I know. I want to explore.”
“As you wish”. The man entered. His torch went out. He walked briskly to the door. It creaked as he opened it. He went in.
The old man watched. Through the holes of the moth-eaten, dusty, damask tapestry. With a wry smile on his wrinkled lips. A candle was lit inside. Another brilliant dazzle. His eyes turned to the statue.
A vague, graceful form, draped in white, descended. She kept the pitcher on the moist earth. Went inside the mansion. Slowly, silently but surely. Scent of jasmine lingered in the damp wind. A thunder rumbled. Its roar seemed to be strangled. The candle’s flame flickered out. Not with a bang but a whimper. She came out. Walked to the garden. Took the empty pitcher on her hand. Petrified into marble again. Jasmine faded away. Lightning dazzled. He saw the fiendish smile gleaming on her bloody, crimson lips. It was over.
He retreated. He would not be out again until another night comes. When monsoon mingles with jasmine and witches’ oils. When the statue’s insatiable hunger takes another life. As it had taken his. Long ago.