The Roof Beam

“That was the ultimate story for the night,” said my father, keeping his glass of tea on the wooden table in front of us. And then he burst out into laughter. Mr. Farmer looked annoyed, since in his past sixty years, this was the first time someone had told him that the things he spoke were all a joke. “Ghosts do not exist Mr. Farmer, and people do not die looking at a beam under the roof,” said he, bursting out into laughter again.

Indeed, the story the farmer told us was clearly made up, just like the ones we used to see on the television. Who would indeed believe that there was a ghost in the haunted house who killed people, and the people were found dead, each one’s eyes staring at the roof beam above. Mr. Farmer, annoyed now, said, “Fine, then why do you not go there yourself and check out whether it is true? I give you a chance, prove me wrong.” Silence followed, after which my father again burst out into laughter, which annoyed the farmer even more, and said, “Okay, tomorrow night I go and meet your ghost. Let me see what is so charming about the roof beam that everyone dies looking at it,” and winked at me. I smiled wryly, already too sleepy to indulge in this conversation. I was tired by the day’s journey, and here my father was over enthusiastic and wanted to wait for another day only to prove a fable wrong.

I stood up, went into the hut where we had taken shelter for the night, and started looking for a place to sleep. There was no bed, nothing to rest my head upon, so I just went near the fireplace and lay on the floor, it was warmer there, and the mosquitoes would not come troubling me, put my head upon my hands, curled myself, took an empty dirty sack for a sheet, and went off to sleep. The noise of the heavy rain on the tinned shed behind kept me half awake. There was no light in the room, no fan, only a hand-fan which the farmer was using for himself. I stopped thinking about the ghost, or whatever it was the farmer was saying, and concentrated on sleeping.

The next night, I was not so over enthusiastic. In fact I was a bit afraid of the farmer’s story turning out to be true, but when I told my father what I felt, he gazed at me with his mouth open and gave a wtf expression that made me quiet again. We had dinner quietly, although father tried to crack a few jokes at the farmer’s expense. Post-dinner, we walked up to the haunted house that we were told about the previous day.

The house indeed looked like a haunted one. The dark sky, no light around except the full moon on the sky which made a shadow of the house overlap with the trees surrounding it, and silence all around. It had two big windows, and the door was made of wood but was broken from the bottom. A bird had made its nest in the house too. It started making me nervous too, and I wanted to stop my father, but then I realized how foolishly I was behaving. I bid bye to my father, and we had a hearty laugh about father being the ghost’s dinner for the night. Then we came back to the farmer’s hut.

I could not sleep that night, partly because of the monotonous sound of the rain on the tinned shed, and partly thinking of what was happening at the haunted house. I was somehow desperately waiting for morning to arrive, and I do not know why, but it seemed as if the night would not end. The farmer snored in the other room whilst I played with myself, and kept looking at my mobile now and then, checking whether it was time enough for me to get out and rush to the house and check the circumstances there.

The first chirp of the bird made me stand up on my feet. It was a twenty-minute walk from this hut to the haunted house, and even as I said the word “haunted house” in my mind, it made me smile wryly as to how villagers term every small thing so huge. I was almost near the house when I saw my father come out of a side-lane that led to the house. I was overjoyed to see him. I went up to him.

“So, how was your experience last night?” I asked.

My father again burst out into laughter. He threw the twig with which he was cleaning his teeth and said, “See, I told you. The farmers say anything that comes into their mind. Everything is a lie.”

I laughed and said, “And what about the roof-beam? What was so attractive about it that all people looked at it and died?” winking at him.

He suddenly became serious. “No, there is something about that beam.”

“What?”

“I do not know. I cannot explain. But there is something about that beam. You need to see it and then may be you would feel alike.”

“Okay, then into the house I go and get infatuated about the beam,” I said, and we both burst out into laughter.

I rushed into the room, and it was then that my heart pumped faster than ever before. There was my father, lying on the bed, his eyes gazing the beam, his eyes not blinking anymore, his heart, no more beating. He was dead. I rushed out to find the man to whom I talked, but there was no one outside. But I just talked to him outside. Then who was he…?

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