“It is not advisable to stay here after dark. Please wrap up fast.” The guide said in the courtyard of the old palace as he collected his fees, and started walking towards the gate.

Being a photographer, she did not have any business staying there after dark. Photography is a tale by light, after all. But this time, it was different. This one was her first major complete wedding shoot, and the couple she was shooting could help her get more clients. She had just this one day for the pre-wedding, before the bride and groom got busy with the rituals from their respective sides. Without enough resources to hire a help at such a nascent stage of her career, she was doing everything on her own. And whatever help she had in the form of the guide, she didn’t have anymore, as the guide’s shift had ended.

As the sun reached for the horizon, she got some amazing frames of the couple during the golden hour. Within no time, the sun had set and the light was fading fast. Happy with the results, she called it a day and asked the would-be husband and wife to wait in the car outside, while she packed all the equipment and props. She thought the couple would enjoy some quiet time together, which was very hard to find just before the marriage. And meanwhile, she could put her thoughts together on how she would cover the wedding, while packing up in silence.

The conversation between the couple gradually turned into a murmur and then into a whisper, as they walked out of the gate in the front. That’s when the eerie silence of the old palace started to grow on her. The silence was intermittently being broken by the flutter of the pigeons’ wings as they settled for the night, and also by the shrill sound of the bats as they prepared for the night’s feast ahead.

She was almost done packing as she had her back to the closed door on the other side of the courtyard. Suddenly, she heard running footsteps from behind the door and the pigeons and the bats fell silent. And it turned so quiet that she could hear her blood rush through her veins. Unable to understand what was happening, she quickly packed rest of her stuff and was getting up when she heard heavy footsteps approaching her from the door behind, the same door she saw was closed few moments ago. She froze, stood there and the footsteps got heavier with each step, as they approached her from the back.

She had almost all her blood drained out, when the would-be groom walked in to the courtyard from the gate in front of her. Apparently, she had forgotten to give the couple the car keys!

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

In frame: A door on the left side of the open space behind Bibi ka Maqbara, in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. Bibi ka Maqbara is the mausoleum of Dilras Banu Begum, first wife of Aurangzeb. She was buried under the posthumous title of Rabia-ud-Daurani”. A low angle, the monsoon clouds and the fading light all added to the drama of this frame.

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© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.