Monday, October 5, 2009


From Dawn to Dusk it’s kept at bay…

Cometh the night and it’s in your way.

Dangerous dreams will have their say…

But fear them not, for Martha’s here to stay

I grew up listening to this rhyme. Dreams…people say they are the spice of life. It is important to dream. But what if these very dreams threaten your life?

A face…devoid of gender, emotion, colour or compassion. The same mystical smile pasted on it. It used to come near…dangerously near…till I stopped breathing. That was the exact moment I used to get up, gasping for breath. Not a single night went by without the face making its chilling presence in my subconscious. It gave me the only disease I have till now…Asthma.

I had a troubled childhood till Martha came along. What my mother couldn’t do for me, Martha could. She filled me with a sort of calmness. The rhyme she sang for me every night gave me a sense of security. Her voice, barely above a whisper, got deeply etched in my mind. Martha was there…she would protect me. Slowly, the dreams began to diminish. The face began to fade.

The bond between me and Martha grew stronger. We used to talk, talk and talk. I poured out all my fears to her. She had the knack of allaying them and putting me at ease. It was not long before she became indispensable. She was my doppelganger.

When Martha insisted that a governess’s job is as good as finished when the ward turns eighteen, I wouldn’t hear of it. I felt that a part of me would die if she goes away. So she stayed.

All was well, until I met Joanne. After Martha she was the woman who created a surge in me. If Martha filled my life with calmness, Joanne added colour to it. Her beauty was angelic and her smile was like a rainbow splattered across the dull blue sky. I felt that she was the sole purpose for my existence in this world.

A marriage, which I thought was inevitable, became inauspicious. I still remember the look on Martha’s face when I informed her of my intentions. Those gentle, grey eyes became cloudy and mist-filled. The beautiful smile which used to invariably light up her face on hearing such good news was absent. In its place was a frown…almost as nasty as a scowl. At that instant I felt a sudden grip of fear standing near Martha. She was no longer my Martha…she was someone else. I had lost my doppelganger.

The dreams returned that night…all the more spine-chilling than before. I woke up with a severe bout of Asthma. After a drink of water, I went in search of Martha. She was nowhere to be seen. Her room was bare…and so was a part of me.

My hopes of a contented marital life with Joanne received a blow because of the recurrence of my childhood fear. There wasn’t a single night when I didn’t wake her up because of my screams and fits of cough. No amount of therapy could cure me and my health condition worsened. I decided to confide in Joanne about Martha. She was nonplussed and at the same time relieved to hear my secret. At least now there was a chance for my recovery. Joanne decided to go in search of my old governess. Gathering pieces of information from some old letters which Martha had received while working here, she set off.

Two days went by and there was no contact from Joanne. On the third day since her departure, I received a phone call. It was from a downtown motel. Mrs. Joanne Parker had been found dead in her room. She had died in her sleep, due to lack of breath…

Time passed by in a daze. I didn’t know what was happening around me. People came and went by. There were hugs, pats on the back and lots of sympathy. But none of it reached me.

I fell asleep for the first time in three days. The face came back to torment me. It made its way towards me…those pallid lips parted in a sinister way…sucking the air out of my lungs until I felt dizzy. Its hideous presence sent me into choking spasms. I was forcefully pushed into arousal for the want of air. I groped at the bedside table for my inhaler. It was not there. With extreme difficulty I sputtered my way downstairs.

I reached the front of the drawing room. In the dimness of the candlelight I could see a figure sitting on the sofa, its back facing me. I made my way around the sofa to have a look at the person. It was Martha…Martha with that face. That colourless face and that terrifying smile…I couldn’t scream…I couldn’t even breathe.

Then I heard that whispered voice…

From Dawn to Dusk it’s kept at bay…

Cometh the night and it’s in your way.

Dangerous dreams will have their say…

But fear them not, for Martha’s here to stay.

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