The Woman in My House – Chapter 1

It’s Friday. Time for Chapter 1 of the very first Episodic Story of this blog. If you haven’t read the blurb yet, Click here.

As promised, a new chapter will arrive every Friday and all the previous chapters will be available in the category ‘TheWomanInMyHouse’.

Without further ado, here you go. Happy Reading!

The Woman in My House by Ashwini Shenoy

I trudged wearily down the treacherous mountain path, wincing every time my feet touched the ground. My legs and most of my body were aching from the challenging trek I had just completed– my first snow trek. A throbbing pain had settled on the left side of my head but I was unable to recall when it had begun. I was returning to my house in the secluded Pahari village called Bheemchatti in Uttarakhand, where I had lived for the past six months. This rustic haven had been my refuge for the past six months, a sanctuary I sought after resigning from my meager job and leaving behind the familiarity of my hometown.

During my time here, I completed several difficult treks on the perilous mountain ranges of the Himalayas. Having trekked to the peaks of all popular as well as less-known mountains in the western ghats, I had set out to explore the mighty Himalayan peaks. Starting with easy ones like Dinnala, Jindi, Chandradhila, and Brahmatal during the first few months. Then the Gaumukh Tapovan trek and Har Ki Doon among many others.

But the one I had just completed proved to be the most challenging of all – A high-altitude winter trek to the Bali Pass Summit for which I had been preparing several weeks before. Now, filled with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude, I traced the well-known path to my home dreaming of my cosy bed and a warm shower after a week in the snow.  

As I finally reached the top of my village, I breathed heavily, my breath visible in the cold air. From up here, Bheemchatti appeared to be draped in a pristine blanket of snow. The ground was covered in snow and so were the rooftops and tree tops. The bare apple tree that stood guard in front of my house brought a smile to my face and I felt relieved and excited to see my house waiting for me. It was a place of solace and anticipation.

Moments later, the sky transformed from gold to twilight finally settling into a familiar inky blue sprinkled with stars and satellites. Night fell upon Bheemchatti, casting an eerie shadow over the silent village. My tiredness grew, and I longed for the warmth and comfort of my bed.

To my joy, I spotted a flickering fire just outside my house. The flames crackled, dancing in the chilly night air and casting moving shadows on the weathered wall of the wooden structure that I called home. I suspected that the fire had been lit by my thoughtful neighbour, Rani Chachi anticipating my return.  Feeling weary and cold, I settled down on my haunches by the fire. I removed my gloves and placed my palms in front of the fire and suppressed a moan as the warmth spread through my fingers into my body.

As I sat there, I noticed Bobo, the large shaggy stray dog that always slept outside my house. Bobo sat on the wooden platform under the front porch of Rani Chachi’s house. I gestured for him to come closer, expecting the usual wagging tail and signs of recognition. But to my surprise, Bobo continued to stare at me, blank, motionless. Our eyes met, but there was no excitement or even acknowledgement. Confusion filled my exhausted mind, unsettling me.

Then, a sudden realization struck me. It wasn’t the dog’s behaviour that was strange—it was my own reflection that had changed. After a week in the forests of the mountains, my appearance had transformed. My hair was frizzed and messy and a light beard covered most of my face.

Summoning the last remnants of my fading strength, I struggled to rise from the ground and stumbled into my house. Seeking relief from the icy grasp of the night, I turned on the heater, embracing the comforting warmth that enveloped me within minutes. Once my body was warm enough, I stripped the four layers of clothes that had become a part of my body for the last six days. Then I locked the main door and stepped into the bathroom, turned on the warm water, and took a long soothing bath. Finally, exhaustion overcame me, and I surrendered to dreamless sleep, embraced by the enigma of the night.

Three hours later, I woke up startled at the sound of footsteps outside my room.

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