The five of us were friends since college and had decided to visit this old town on the outskirts of Europe for our annual reunion. It was a beautiful town with a rich history. We had spent the morning in a cottage with a couple who claimed to have been living in this town for the past 70 years. They told us about the town, its various attractions and also about what people do for their livelihood in this quiet place, faraway from the noise of the busy cities. They also told us about this mansion, which once belonged to a rich man and his wife. They loved plants and had planted various trees in the garden of this mansion. They had no children and looked after these plants like their own children. They lived very happily and many people went to them to borrow medicinal plants as well as to pluck fruits and vegetables. Since it was available in abundance, the wife gladly distributed it among all the people. However, this was not appreciated by her husband. He did not want his wife to give away all the fruits and vegetables, which they had tended to and watered so carefully, to people who did not even pay for them. The wife disagreed, saying that when they had something which they did not need, why not give to those who are in need of it. The couple had many heated arguments about this issue and soon this came to the notice of the local residents too. They were unhappy that they were in some way the cause for all this distress. They decided to go and talk to the couple.
The next morning, when they went inside, all they could see were burnt branches and piles of ashes. All the trees and plants had been burned down and there was no sign of anyone in the garden. Everyone was shocked. Just as they were about to enter the house, one of the locals screamed loudly. Everyone rushed outside and saw the wife sitting on a garden chair with a phone in her hand. Her head was slightly bent downwards , eyes closed, a little smile playing on her lips. If not for the deep blue colour of her lips, no one would have ever suspected anything….she looked so peaceful one would have easily thought she was taking a nap. When they went close by, they realised she was not breathing. They tried their best to talk to her and revive her but finally was pronounced dead by the local doctor. The residents went into the house to look for the husband but he was nowhere to be found. The doctor said that she had been poisoned to death using a rare variety of a berry that grew in the garden. The berries had been found lying in the kitchen. The blue colour of her lips was due to these berries.
The people were sure the lady was not ignorant enough to not know about the poisonous effect of the berries and just eat them. They suspected it to be a murder and their prime suspect was the lady’s husband, especially because of the arguments and fights they had been having for the past few days.
The old couple in the cottage told us all this. They also added that from that day, the husband is nowhere to be found. The locals, the police as well as a detective who was hired have scanned every nook and corner of the garden as well as the mansion, but have had no luck. The lady was buried in the local graveyard and the police dropped the case, as it seemed as though the man had vanished into thin air. The old couple told us that it was rumoured that woman’s spirit still visited the garden and hence no one went near the mansion anymore. They also told us that there was something very unusual that happened in that area. They didn’t know what it was but left us with a warning to never venture near that area.
Despite all this, our curious minds wanted to see what was so unusual. So we asked the locals for the address and not heeding to any of their warnings, went to the mansion. We were stunned by what we saw there. There was not a speck of greenery to be seen anywhere along that road, neither was there a single blooming flower outside the gate of that mansion. But as we neared the mansion, all we could see was greenery. The transition from the dried browns outside to the fresh green inside was unbelievable. We were so mesmerised by the beautiful flowers blooming and the trees laden with fruits that we stood rooted to that spot. Finally Sagarika, who was the first to break out of that spell said,
“Ok, more than it’s beauty, we must look at this practically. It’s impossible for a a little forest to spring up in the midst of a barren desert all by itself. There is something fishy going on here. Even if we don’t believe in the spirit logic of the locals, we shouldn’t completely dismiss their warnings. It’s best for all of us to leave right away.”
I completely agreed with her. There was something about this place that made me want to leave immediately. But the other three were least bothered. They were ready to do anything but leave that place. Namita, being a photo freak, decided to go inside the garden. She was in love with the beauty of that place and wanted to capture it in her camera. Even the other two wanted to have a little adventure and decided to accompany her inside. Sagarika and I tried our level best to convince them and drive some sense into their heads but at this point, they were all blindfolded by the beauty and that had also seemed to have drawn a curtain over their ability to think rationally.
Finally we gave up. We let them go inside but were too scared to go ourselves, so stayed back, promising to warn them if something happened outside. Even they said they would quickly click some pictures and be back in less than an hour.
Now it’s been more than hour but we can’t see any sign of them. They left the gate slightly ajar so we could peep inside. It surely did look beautiful but that served like petrol to the fire of fear that was burning in my mind. The plants looked like they had been cut and all the weeds seemed to have been removed too. The only way this was possible was if a person visited the garden and tended to the plants regularly. We tried calling the three of them but all their phones were not within reach….pretty obvious…we can’t expect mobile signals in this dense little forest 🌳!!!
Finally after more than one and half hours, the two of us got really worried and decided to go inside to make sure they were alright. We went in, carefully making sure not to tread on any of the flower beds. Just as we were about to step into the mansion, I sensed something towards the left and turned. What I saw sucked the breath out of me. I tugged at Sagarika’s sleeve and pointed. Both of us stood rooted to the ground, unable to believe what we were seeing.
We were standing at the exact same spot where the garden chair on which the lady was found dead was situated. And now, on the same garden chair, the three of our friends sat, in exactly the same position in which the lady was found, with their lips the exact same shade of blue as that of the dead woman who was described to us by the old couple!!..
– Sneha Ganesh 😊