Tuesday, 18 June, 2024, Reg No- 06
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Published : Saturday, 20 April, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 1696



All around was wrapped in a shroud of gloom as menacingly gray monsoon clouds hung heavy in the sky. The tiny droplets of rain were still pelting with a faint rumble of thunder rocking the world at times. Relentless torrential rain of the last two days swept over the locality, softening soil, uprooting trees, and flooding rivers. Mira, a motherless teen living with a maid and security man, had been waiting for her father to return from his business trip as they lived in a red-bricked bungalow surrounded by towering trees.  

The storm being over, she came out mango-picking, strolling on the debris of tree leaves which strewed the muddy yard abutting a pond with white water-lilies in bloom.  For incessant rain, the earth of edges of the pond was so loose that the landslide happened in some parts making the pond area very dangerous, and Mira ventured there to wash the mangoes she had picked gleefully.   

After washing mangoes, as she turned around, suddenly she jumped in fright, screaming her head off with her eyes bulging in disbelief. Her entire frame got paralyzed with fear upon her eyes being set on something inauspicious! Very inauspicious! Just beside the land-slid edge of the pond was lying a weathered, worn-out human skull, all dusty-white with thin meandering cracks at places, mired in mud with a small hole on the frontal bone. Mira, already her breath quick and shallow, scampered, overcoming her dread, all the way to her dimly lit reading room.

Her heart was still thumping with dread. She could not believe her eyes. She was trying to distract her mind from her horrible discovery by taking her favourite story book, one instant, and switching on TV, the other. But the more she tried to be oblivious of the skull, the more vividly it flashed through her mind.  Sitting on the cold floor of tiles, Mira, her back leant against the wall, legs folded against her chest, buried her head in hands while a volcano of thoughts erupted through her mind.

She immersed herself in such a deep contemplation over the skull that she was unaware of when time ticked by, morning turning to afternoon. As the day progressed, her fear subsided, her scary feeling giving way to a sense of sympathy for the soul once the skull belonged to.  "It needs a reburial after all", she mumbled as this time she realized that the ill-fated skull should be treated with honour.

With a mixed feeling of panic and pity, Mira walked to the pond, her palms sweating and picked up the skull with her trembling fingers. After wiping the sludge off the skull, as she was cleaning it with pond water, all of a sudden, Mira noticed something inside the skull with surprise. She saw something metallic, cylindrical in shape with a pointed tip, stuck inside the skull. When she put it on her palm, it did not take her too long to understand that it was a bullet and the cursed soul had to die of a gunshot wound. Holding the bullet in one hand, and the skull in the other, she sauntered dejectedly to the garden and buried the skull. She placed a bunch of bush flowers on it in her solemn tribute to the soul before going back to the bungalow.  With the sun setting in the horizon, darkness was enveloping the surroundings, cloaking the area in sombre hues. Miras phone suddenly beeped with a mighty ring, and seeing the name "DAD" illuminated on the mobile display, she breathed a sigh of relief.

"Im caught up in urgent work, princess; I won be able to make it today. Please ensure you have dinner on time and instruct the security guard to lock the main gate." her father said from the other end, love and affection reflecting through his voice.

"Oh, dad, I can wait to tell you whats happened today! Hopefully, well catch up tomorrow.", Mira replied in an excited tone of voice before snapping the call gently.

As the night grew deeper, the security guard and her maid fell asleep, but Mira was tossing and turning on bed as sleep was elusive for her this night. "Was it a male or female? Was the hapless a warrior murdered mercilessly in world war?  Was it a freedom fighter doomed to die at the hands of the Pakistani military? Or……." She halted as her timidly grown questions in her mind failed to flourish any further. She felt as if a bitter question was about to be brewed in the secret chamber of her heart but she was so scared to face it that she didn let it be.

Unable to cope with the restlessness that had been bothering Mira ever since the disturbing discovery of the skull in the morning, she decided to confront her fear. She took the rusty bullet on her palm with her eyes settled on it in an unblinking gaze.  The creepy sounds of crickets chirping from their hideouts and the occasional whining of stray dogs outside broke the midnight silence, creating an eerie atmosphere in her room. Out of the blue, Mira blurted out a question in a barely audible voice- "was it the skull of my mother?" "Police couldn make any headway after mother went missing in the most mysterious manner", she recollected what she had to know since her childhood about her mother. "What am I thinking like an insane?" she muttered immediately, her voice echoing a tinge of confusion.   

Mira began examining the bullet closely and suddenly discovered an inscription on it that read "ACP 9mm" As she was observing the bullet through her watchful eyes, a seed of an evil speculation began to form in her mind and it grew like a shoot of grass pushing its way through the wet earth. Instantly, the unholy speculation Mira harboured in her mind made her rational thinking self-sabotage her long-standing belief about her family. Suddenly, she found herself trotting towards the bedroom of her father, slowly but steadily, with little steps, her face expressionless, and her eyes desperately looking for an answer. 

She hesitantly entered the room and inched towards her fathers almirah apprehensively as if to find the missing part of the toughest jigsaw puzzle of life that fate had put her into. When she opened the stuck drawer of almirah, she found a bundle of papers and next to them was an old black revolver that she once saw her father cleaning.  With quivering hands and pounding heart, Mira grabbed hold of it wishing to check if the code of the bullet found in the skull matched with that of her fathers revolver.  She put the revolver down, scared of questioning the innocence of her father, but immediately she dared to take it again to dispel her doubts forever. Whispering a silent prayer-they don match; she closed her eyes and unlatched the revolver, allowing its chamber to swing open. Much to her utter astonishment and terror, she noticed that there were eight rounds of ammunition, but only one bullet had been fired. And then what her eyes met, after taking a bullet off, was the same code in the same font-"ACP 9mm". At once, Mira tumbled down on the floor with a thud, her eyes glistening with tears, her voice too raw with emotion to speak a word.

Mira did not know  if the resemblance of  bullets was just a coincidence,  or the ominous story woven in her mind nothing but an imagination, but the discovery was gnawing at her tender heart, making her eye her own father with suspicion. In one mind, she smiled, shrugging off the terrible thoughts, but in the other, she felt as if the discovery destined her before a dark and sinister truth lurking beneath the surface of her familys pride. Waiting for the dawn to break and face her father for an explanation, an exhausted Mira slowly drifted off to a slumber sprawling her legs on the floor, her head resting against the almirah with strands of untied hair dangling over her dry face.

The writer teaches English Language & English Literature in ABC International School, Narayanganj

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