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Two Nights on a Hilltop

Two Nights on a Hilltop

Sentinel Digital Desk

Shaheen Akhtar

The wind blew cold. Mr. Advent landed his bag and luggage with a thud at the reception hall of the guest house located on the top of the foothill. Advent, a traveller in his early thirties, had come for a vacation visit to Shimla. A wintry dusk beckoned him. Ordering a single-bedded room, he made his way upstairs to the second floor and unlocked the door to Room No 33. The corridor was long and his room being at the far end of it, a clear view of the night sky outside was visible through his window.

He unpacked his clothes and fixed them on the wardrobe. Feeling tedious after a day-long journey, Advent lay down on the couch. While musing over his travels, a beautiful tune captured his ears. The night felt deep and the full moon shone bright in the starlit sky. Breaking the silence of the night, he rushed to open his door. But the corridor seemed empty on either side of the door. Finding no one around, Advent felt disappointed and was about to unlock his door when he felt the tune being sung again.

Turning around he found the melodious tune coming from the room opposite to his. After a few seconds wait, he peeked through the key hole of the closed door where he noticed a beautiful lady in her violet gown playing a musical instrument. A dim light lit her room while the wind blew her golden locks of hair across her face from which he could partially perceive her beauty. He wanted to talk to her but couldn't as it was already late. So he decided to get into a conversation with her the next day. He went back to his bed and recalled his college days when he used to play the guitar with his friends. Remembering the musical days of his college, he soon fell fast asleep.

Early next morning, the traveller set out for a trip to a mountainside valley, a twenty minutes walk from his hotel. Its scenic beauty mesmerized him so much so that he spent the entire day amidst nature and returned to the hotel totally exhausted. After taking a hot shower bath, he relaxed himself on the armchair alongside the fireplace. Advent was startled all of a sudden when he heard the tune from last night being played once again. Not able to resist himself anymore, he sped up his steps to talk to her.

The corridor clock struck 9, too early a time for Advent to sleep but little did he knew that no Shimlaites stay awake after 7 pm. He now stood at the threshold of her door and pressed the calling bell twice but no response came. A sudden instinct made him look through the hole one more time. What he saw was nothing but red. Though it didn't stir him much then, something troubled his mind and he couldn't sleep the whole night.

The following day Advent walked down the stairs to the reception hall and greeted the receptionist with a warm morning smile. The tall old man in the black formal suit who was behind the reception was eager to offer Advent their hotel services. Advent shared about his experiences of the last two nights: the fine musical note, the keyhole, the beautiful lady in her gown, the calling bell, the colour red and specifically talked about her unsociable behaviour. The old man was taken aback listening to his words and gave him a weird expression. Advent was at a loss for he couldn't understand what troubled the receptionist so much.

After a minute or two, the receptionist built up all his guts to tell Advent that no one lived in the room opposite Door 33 and that it always remains locked. It had been four years since a lady had killed herself there and since then, she frequently haunts the room. A visitor once described that she had deep red eyes.

Advent couldn't move a muscle and he kept staring at the receptionist with bulging eyes. He was gobsmacked. What was that which he saw the second time when he had peeked through the key hole of her room? Something struck his senses at the thought of 'red'. And the very next moment, Advent trembled with fear in a state of nervousness. A shiver ran down his veins.

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