It was a warm sunny afternoon. I was waiting for my parents to return from their travels. I was done with all my exams. In a week my parents were going to host a get-together party for our family, scattered around the country. I was eager to meet my cousins. We had decided to host the party in our old family home. This place held a certain place in my heart. Unlike other stately homes, ours was built amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. But that never posed any hindrance to our family time. Our patio was built in such a way that it gave us enough privacy to chill around, at the same time kept us in a loop of the everyday routine of the outside world. We were the ones who loved to decompress amidst the chaos. But today, even the lively vibe outside was not enough to cheer me up. To change the pace, I decided to spruce up the house. Nothing too extravagant, just a little redecorating. This will be proof that even I have inherited the artistic genes of my family.
I started sprucing up the hall, followed by the kitchen and finally my room. My room was on the ground floor. Unlike my parent’s room, it was built very differently. The room always seemed a bit asymmetrical. Something was off about it. I couldn’t place my finger on it. Many days were spent debating around it in the living room. When we couldn’t possibly find a logical reason for this peculiarity, wild theories were flung around. This particular subject matter had become a source of entertainment for our family. Over the years we started a tradition, whoever came up with the most outrageous story would be treated.
I am getting a bit ahead of myself. I never explained why exactly we were adamant to dragthis for so long. After years of speculating about the off nature of my room, my mother cracked the problem. One of the walls of my room was oddly built. It was somewhat protruding. As we couldn’t find no good reason for this oddity, we decided to come up with our own theories, no matter if it crosses the line of absurdity.
My room and pretty much all the room were kept as it was from the day we inherited it from dad’s great-grandfather. For the sake of preserving their memories, we never really bought any new furniture or redid the place. I respected their decision. Besides, I loved the way my room looked. It used to be my dad’s grandma’s room, making her my great-grandma. But that doesn’t mean I can’t move around the furniture here and there to give it a different look. Today I decided I will leave my mark on this room. After all individuality was a very important part of our Roy family legacy.
I don’t know much about my great-grandma. I have always been told that I resemble her a lot when she was my age. Unfortunately, we didn’t have her early photographs. I had to take word of my grandpa. It was not the lack of her photos. Actually her father was very fascinated by photography. When she was 17 or 18, her father bought their first camera. Since it was a rare object at that time, each and every photo was taken with utmost care. Sometime over the years, her photographs were lost.
I was pretty much happy with the way I rearranged my room. Now the only corner left was the infamous wall corner. Adjacent to that wall, was an old fashioned lantern hanging. It was quite heavy. Usually when anybody cleaned this room, they just dusted it off. Nobody really bothered to remove it and clean it. Anyway it did not work anymore. So there wasn’t really a point to oil it regularly. To reduce the weirdness of the odd shaped wall I decided to take the herculean task of removing that heavy lantern and putting it on this wall. God it was heavy.
As soon as I completely removed the lantern, a sudden groaning sound came as if someone was forcing a junked door to open. I almost dropped the lantern when I saw what happened. The oddly shaped wall was painfully twisting around making an awful moaning sound. I couldn’t breathe for a second. After all our crazy theories, this turned out to be a makeshift door. It was cleverly hidden for so long. Now that the pandora box had opened up, I decided to finally crack the mystery of this oddity.
The makeshift door had suffered from the vagaries of time. As a result of being unused for god knows how long, this door had lost its ability to open up. The door was sadly not attuned to weather changes. It was half opened.
I mustered all my strength to open it up. After what seemed like hours of struggle, the door opened up. I glanced at the emptiness in front of me. It was pitch black. I dropped my notebook through the opening to assess the distance from the ground. It didn’t seem like too deep of a space from my room. There wasn’t any staircase or even rope to go down. I used my phone’s flashlight to be sure before I foolishly decided to jump down. It seemed like a small crawl space. Not too big to be called a proper room, yet not too confined. I took some matches and that lantern inside with me carefully. I sincerely hoped that this place was not inhabited by any wildlife. Thankfully I couldn't spot one.
I lit up the lantern and placed it at the top of the entrance to this space. This would save me the trouble of carrying it around, also I placed it in such a way that enlightened the whole space.
I wasn’t ready for the sight that awaited me. The space seemed like something out of a fiction book. The walls of the space were painted crazily. As if the decorator couldn’t decide or bother to paint it with patience. It felt the colors were randomly splashed about and painted on without an order. An odd assortment of items filled the room. On one side there was this huge trunk with a small lock on it. Adjacent to which there was a small desk and chair. And next to it there were two small wooden logs to which a bedsheet was tied in such a manner that it became a collapsible swing where One can easily rest by spreading their legs. Looking at the material of the cloth, I was pretty certain that it couldn’t outlive over the ages.
This crawl space spoke to a lot of the person residing here, and I was fairly certain about its occupant. To confirm my suspicion, there was only one step remaining. I was quite confident that the contents of the box would prove my guess to be correct.
The lock was rusting off so it was easier to break off the hinges and open it. My heart gave a big jolt when the contents were revealed.
There was a small yet preserved in perfect condition, a portrait of my great-grandma. It felt as if I was looking at an alternate version of myself. We looked so similar yet somehow different. There was a kind of mischievous glint in her smile. Like there was some secret that only she knew. Her photograph gave a huge clue about her personality. From the rebellious way she dressed at that time to her smile, it revealed a lot.
It still wasn’t enough for me. I was curious to know more about her. I took out the photo and placed it by my side. Below the photograph was a set of clothes, the very same that she wore. It gave out a musky odor. It felt as if she preserved her memory inside the trunk. On further rummaging I came across a small blue colored notebook. By this time, my hands were shivering. I was about to witness something which I am pretty sure nobody knew about my grandma.
She had documented her life in those pages. Her handwriting was so pure and beautiful. I immediately became a fan of her. It felt like ages once I completed reading her notebook. The contents of her notebook revealed something even more bizarre. But it is a tale for another time. It deserves its own story. Once I gather my nerves, I will document that too.
Finally when I reached the last page, there was a note written by her.
“ Congratulations on finding my possession. I am pretty sure you are my family. And I might be forward or bold if you may assume that you have inherited my nosy and wild nature. It takes a lunatic like me to create this perfect hideout, and a lunatic like you to discover it. This is my time capsule. I have documented all the bizarre happenings that I witnessed. I have a strong feeling you are my kindred spirit. I am sorry I couldn’t be there to share my adventures with you. But I think I have fairly done enough that I could to document everything scene by scene so you can feel as if you are witnessing it first hand. And by this time you know how sensitive the content is. I request you to keep it to yourself and not make it a family anecdote. When the time comes, just like today you will find more instructions laid around the house about what to do next. I couldn’t place it all in one place in case it got exposed. But you were clever enough to find my space and I am sure you will find the rest of the hidden memorabilia as well. Once you become successful in discovering and digesting everything that I left, you will know what to do. Not a moment before the right time under any circumstance reveal what you discovered today. Good luck”
I still couldn’t believe what I discovered today. Digesting this and keeping it a secret from my family will definitely be tricky.
But I know what my next adventure will be. I promised myself I will get to the bottom of this.
I suddenly came out of my reverie when I heard the car horn of my parents. I quickly jumped out of the space and closed the door as fast as I could. Once the door was closed it looked again like the oddity it was.
I went outside to greet my parents. They had no idea of what happened. And I plan to keep it that way.
- Deepti Venugopal