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Gone to the Woods

 Surbhi Sharma from Shimla, India

Anuj stepped onto a narrow, uneven path after traversing a river on a ferry and an ancient wooden bridge. There was no one to assist him with his big luggage despite his diligent search and hauling two enormous trunks. He paused at a stream to take a drink of water after trekking for several miles. He had received a call from his mother, which made him anxious. Something was awry with his younger sister. A swing that had been on their lawn for a while was frequently observed by her mother, she has seen her daughter conversing with it. Anuj's mother often informed him, "She is possessed." He was headed home at this point. The distance between it and his new residence was too great. He was employed at a Vrindavan senior living facility as a caregiver. His sister's condition has deteriorated, and his mother fears that she may lose her at any moment. He took a bus to his village early the next day. A wild old woman halted him in his tracks before he could reach home and boldly told him to "protect your family" or else the evil witch would eat the entire household. Going uphill, he disregarded her warning. He travelled home through thick apple orchards.

It was nighttime. He gave the door a knock. Knock, knock! He pressed one ear to the door for a minute, but no one answered, he heard footfall approaching the door slowly. An elderly woman unlocked the door. Anuj touched her feet as she attempted to identify him. He said, "Namaste, Dadi Maa," to her. Then she acknowledged him, put a kind hand on his face, and said "hi." With a start, she went to the kitchen to get him a glass of water. She quickly fled as his mother arrived. Why is she not fond of me? Why does she always seem to be angry with me? Why is that, Anuj? She enquired. Why does she not visit Chacha's home? She despises me yet never leaves. Leave it Maa. Anuj said. "How are you, Maa, and how is Isha?" he inquired further. Is she alright? He questioned nervously. His mother responded by saying that although she is currently sleeping in her room, her condition is becoming worse every day. I've asked every physician and every cleric in the village, but nobody has been able to help my daughter get better. Maybe it's because of what I did in the past. former actions! What prior actions, mother? O, o, o... P... doesn't do anything. With hesitation, her mother continued, "I meant past life, dear." Maa, you don't have to worry. I'm here right now. I'll be here until Isha gets well. To my worry, how will she heal? There is no treatment available for her illness. His mother replied.

She reiterated that Maya is to blame for everything and that she has ruined my daughter's life. She needs to feel regret for casting an evil spell on my kid. Why are you pursuing Maya, Maa? Why do you blame her for what transpired with Isha? You won't believe what I have witnessed over the last three days, sweetie. Twice in a jungle have I found Isha, she without clothes, was rehearsing something near the flames. Really! Astonished, Anuj inquired. Maya was also observing and grinning at Dear Isha from a distance, so she wasn't alone. Why are you putting the blame on a girl who just lost her sibling, Maa? No, she is the one at fault, I assure you. She ruined our lives. Just like his mother destroyed my life, she did the same to my daughter. Anuj, you already know how she killed your father! Isha has stopped talking to people and is now solitary in her room. She has also lost her appetite. I have too much trauma. Don't worry, though; I'll take care of everything that goes wrong in this place. You go and have a sound sleep: . You must be tired.

He was awakened the following morning by sounds emanating from the lawn. To his amazement, Isha ended up devouring a rooster after chasing after one wildly. His mother lost consciousness. He raced to help his mother to her feet. then ran towards Isha. After cleaning her face for a while, he gave her face a quick inspection. As if it had lost all color, it was white. She was unconscious, with deep, black circles encircling her eyes. As he was heading inside the house with her in his arms, he noticed Maya on the window. She was staring at them, fiercely. Anuj observed a muttering on Maya's lips. His tone turned wary.

Regarding the animosity between the two families, he questioned his grandmother. Anuj never spent time at home. After completing his education in his village school, he began job hunting due to a financial hardship. He went home once or twice in between. First, when his father passed away in an accident; then, second time when his cousin passed away. He was unaware of any activity surrounding either residence. However, he can detect ongoing issues in his house. His grandma remained silent when he questioned her while she was preoccupied with puja. Though discouraged, he was now committed to unravelling the riddle. Thus, he arrived at his ancestral home by the following daybreak, where Someshwar, the brother of his grandmother, was the only resident. He resided in his home and never left. Anuj made his way inside. There was a hearth where Someshwar Dada sat and baked freshly killed pig. In addition to some dry cheese bits, he offered Anuj a cup of tea. Anuj questioned him about the goings-on in his house as they got to talking. With a lengthy exhale, Someshwar Dada began narrating him a tale.

The short story´╗┐ continues here....´╗┐