Evening walk

End of summer. The warm evening air slowly gave way to the cool winds of autumn and autumn reared its melancholy beauty all over the forest.

Our little weekend affair of taking long walks gradually blossomed into a full grown addiction and we couldn’t let a day end without taking a leisurely stroll through the small dirt track that carved the forest in two.

It was a strong yearning for solitude that brought me to her- a most cheerful being, she broke through the shell that I hid myself in and soon we were running and jumping all over the old house, making a fine mess as we played our silly little games with silly rules that only we understood.

It was the summer holidays again.

My sister was my little bundle of joy and I craved her attention with utmost jealousy. After suffering from constantly interrupted conversations, we agreed it was best that our cellphones be switched off for the duration of the walk; frankly I was quite tired of competing with the never ending stream of callers who believed it was always a good time to call.

As evening set in, we started our customary walk. She held my hand but occasionally let it go so she could break in to a splendid performance of song and dance, believing she was the solitary artist in a Broadway musical. The forest was her audience and this awfully quiet admirer echoed with her voice.

On certain evenings, I could’ve sworn it sang back to her.

The little dirt track was generally left alone after dark and on our way back, we saw only a few familiar faces hurrying to their homes.

As she so often did near the end of the forest, my sister ran off into the woods. “Catch me!” she cried and disappeared. I ran after her, trying not to think of the impending darkness. This close to the road, the forest was sparsely populated- the trees stood like pale stick figures and the undergrowth took on grotesque forms too scary for her to consider as hiding spots. But a heap of autumn leaves stirring most unusually was a dead giveaway. I pulled her out and with classic brotherly authority, put an end to the game.

But the little rebel dropped on the ground and refused to move unless I carried her on my back. The night loomed in through the trees and I gave in. She hopped on my back with malicious laughter and we continued on our way home.

My sister was exceptionally chirpy and we had a long delightful conversation reminiscing the blunders of our youth. But she was soon tired of talking and a few incoherent words later, drifted off to sleep.

Flocks of birds flew towards the trees, vanishing into a grey speck in the gradually greying sky. The fireflies fluttered about and I thought of all the lamps Johnny and I made years back. Sadly the urgency of reaching home left no room for such frivolous pursuits today. I continued on my journey and reached home by nightfall.

I dropped my sister with her back against the old, broken mailbox. For as long as I can remember, this was our point of exchange for all the coded messages within our Detective’s Club. Grandpa had built a nifty little secret compartment for us and how it escaped our parents’ notice is still a mystery to me.

The lights on the porch were off and the house was shrouded in darkness. I unlocked the gate and turned around. There was no one in sight.

“Meenal” I shouted “Oh you silly little girl! Will you never grow up?”

An uneasy silence pervaded the night. I stood there, shaking with fear and rage, hurling curses with a passion. “I am going to kill you, Meenal!” There was no answer and I threatened her again, “Fine. I’m done playing your silly games. You’re staying out tonight”. The air was still and silent. I tried to shout but my voice was shaky and all I could muster was a squeak.

I turned towards the house. Something blinked on the doorsteps. I gathered my nerves and walked up the stairs. There was her cellphone, on top of a pile of clothes; clothes that she wore for the evening.

I believe I suffered of no insanity on that evening and what I saw was not a result of hallucination. On the phone, our evening’s conversation ran as a threaded message. Everything that we spoke since we started our walk had somehow made its way to the phone.

Well, not everything. You see, there was one anomaly. At the end of the thread was a message that my sister had not spoken that evening.

I stared at the screen for a moment. As I collapsed on the floor, I could feel the night closing in on me.

The message on the phone read, “Good night, dear brother. Don’t let the fireflies find you.” 

-------- X --------


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