A deck of cards was neatly placed on the table. The room was dark with vision only possible through the burning candles at the corners. A girl, who seemed to be 16 in age, picked up the cards and began shuffling the deck. She wore a pointed hat. Her name was Meera.
Meera careful spread out the cards like a fan over the table, and picked each card and arranged them in particular order. Her face looked miserable, as if something was not right. Somebody at a distance was shouting her name. The voice got louder and nearer, but Meera continued frowning over the sight of the cards.
‘I’m going to burn these down,’ somebody’s sore voice said as the room turned bright with the fluorescent bulbs.
Meera continued ignoring the threat. After placing the final card, a Queen of Spades, over a bunch of others, she looked up at the invader of her room. It was her sister.
‘Mayna, I don’t want to be rude. But I’m working on something,’ Meera said.
Mayna looked at her younger sister with suspicion. Meera’s fascination with card tricks often shocked Mayna. They are not real, she ofter told her younger sister. But Meera continued to return to her dingy room, lit with only candles as she wore her fancy hat and shuffled the deck of cards, imagining a crowd of people watching her perform.
‘It’s past 12,’ Mayna argued. Meera continued looking carefully at the pattern of cards that had emerged in front of her.
‘And you haven’t had breakfast yet?’ she question looking up, finally gazing away from the table.
‘No. If I didn’t you wouldn’t.’
Meera removed her hat and sighed. The sisters left the room to have what they called breakfast, during middle of the day.
After reaching the kitchen upstairs, Mayna arranged a piece of roti and milk tea. Meera looked out of the window. A wooden monument stood across their house. The Red Durbar in red bricks. People were climbing the terrace of the monument which was a temple. It must be cleaning time of the year, she assumed at the sight.
‘A roti and biscuit for you, with black tea,’ Mayna said.
They munched on the slim food. The small house beside the Red Durbar seemed empty except for the two sisters. It was mid day and the hot wind of summer was still blowing at its best. The sound of the sisters chewing on their food continued for a few more minutes. Meera got up first and placed her plate and cup on the sink.
It was Saturday afternoon which meant that the sisters were due to clean the house as always. Meera insisted on cleaning up the kitchen and then the living room. Mayna had almost forgotten about their schedules. She moved out to clean the bedroom and the store.
Meera picked up a broom by the door and started sweeping the kitchen. After a full hour of scrubbing, washing and wiping, she could see the kitchen gleaming, now free of dust. Satisfaction swept over her.
She picked up the broom and placed it inside one of the cabinets. She firmly closed the doors and moved to the sink to wash her dirty hands. As she dried her hands and moved towards the door, a sudden noise stopped her.
The cabinet laid open, the broom had fallen off. Meera had closed the door. Was there anyone else in the room? Had a thief broken into their house? There wasn’t much to steal but what if the thief stabbed them to death in rage?
Meera looked for signs of intrusion, there were none. She placed the broom inside the cabinet and tried to exit, as quickly as possible. But before she could reach the door, the same noise stopped her again. A creepy feeling ran down her. Something was not right. Before she could turn back, Meera asked:
There was no answer. She turned back and saw the broom on the floor. The cabinet doors were wide open. How could it have been? She had locked it. Meera picked up the broom. She couldn’t tell if she was looking at it or if it was looking at her. Once more she placed the broom inside the cabinet. Before she could close the door, it fell off. Nervous, Meera lifted it and threw it at the corner. It hit the wall by the window with a loud bang. A fume rose and Meera creeped backwards to save herself.
When she opened her eyes, her face seemed lifeless, like she had seen a ghost. A figure had emerged where the fume had been as the smoke settled. Meera was sure she was dreaming. All she had to do was to wake up and it would all be gone. By then the figure had begun waving, what seemed like a man’s hand. He bought his hands together and pressed his palms against one another.
‘Namaste, Namaste!’ he said.
Meera thought her ears had fused off. His voice seemed strange. He certainly had to be a stranger for the accent he carried.
‘K…ta…pa….yi……,’ he continued. Meera wasn’t sure what he wanted to say. But he ate his words as he spoke.
‘ang…gree..zi,’ he added.
Suddenly Meera understood what he was trying to say. She shook her head to reply yes to whatever he wanted to ask.
‘Phew, I was hoping you’d speak English,’ he said. He spoke faster than earlier, completely contradicting his previous speaking skills.
‘You know I have been learning Nepali for a few weeks to make sure at least I got the greetings correct.’
He was quick to add, ‘How was it?’
‘It was ok,’ Meera replied.
She did not know why she had begun this conversation with someone who had appeared out of thin air. She was still sure, that this was a dream.
‘Now, I’m Professor Zuck, from Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry,’ he said with confidence.