The Whirlwind: Breaking the Curse

Breaking the Curse

Today is the sixth and final episode: Breaking the Curse. Have you noticed that ghosts in stories are quite persistent? They don’t leave until they’ve settled scores with the bad guys or solved whatever troubled them in life. Even if they were not that good at finishing up their work in real life, once they become a ghost, they seem to have a compulsion to complete their tasks. If they can’t do it independently, they leave clues and hints for others to help them. In our story, Rathnamma sacrificed herself to protect the children in the village. Now, it is up to our friends to break the curse and eliminate the whirlwind. The burden of finding the solution falls on Valli. Can she find the secret item the sorcerors were looking for? Will she know how to use it to break the curse on the village? Or will Rathnamma stay tied to the banyan tree, unable to rest?

Breaking the Curse

Valli sat on the ground next to the Hollow Man. She was giggling at something that he said.

The boys blinked. “Ummmm.” Valli looked up and waved them over. Somehow, the boys did not feel comfortable at being able to see through the creature. They stopped at a distance. “It’s time to go back, Valli,” Mani whispered. Then he cleared his throat and repeated loudly. “It’s time to go back, Valli.”

 “Did you boys find what you were looking for?” The creature asked.

Babu took a step forward. “Yes, we met Raju thatha.” He felt the piercing look, as if it was testing him.

The Hollow Man nodded to Valli. “The time has come for you to destroy the whirlwind. YOU will know the powerful object when you see it. You must break into pieces, one for each of you. Return to the Banyan tree before the sun sets and form a circle around it. The whirlwind will try to escape. Do not let it break the circle; do you hear me? Hold firm until the energy in the whirlwind dies, and you will break the curse.”

“What is the powerful object? Where is it?” They shouted their questions. But the Hollow Man said no more. The five kids ran to the village. They got to their grandmother’s house and rifled through their belongings. What did they have that powerful? And it had to be broken into pieces! Was it the drawing notebook? It could be torn into pages, I suppose. No! It can’t be!

Their clothes? Shoelaces? The laddoos paatti made?

No, none of this made any sense. It had to be at Babu’s house.

In the kitchen, Ravi brought down the bucket of pots and pans from the loft. Mani shook the masala box to see if anything rattled.

Senthil took over the garden, checking the rows of plants. Babu handed over a suitcase to Valli. “Here! Grandma’s things are in this bag. I’ll look in the other room.”

“Ya, that’s all there is,” he added as Valli’s eyebrows rose.

For the next thirty minutes, they opened and shut doors, pulled out drawers and looked through every object in the house.

“Any luck?” the four boys looked at Valli hopefully. She sighed and shook her head. I have nothing else. Well, just that picture of my grandmother.” Babu pointed to the wall. Four photo frames hung on the wall with pictures of Rathnamma, Sundar, Kumar, and Geetha. Fresh flowers laced the pictures. But there was something else around Rathnamma’s picture—an old necklace of metal flowers.

“That’s it!” Valli Jumped. “Why didn’t you tell me you had that necklace?” her voice rose.

“That old piece of junk?” Babu looked at her with disbelief.

“Babu, I’m the one who will know it when I see it, remember? And I say, yes, that’s it!”

Mani placed a stool under the picture and held it tight while Babu climbed up. He brought the picture down to remove the necklace.

“She looks happy that we’ve finally figured it out,” Valli said. The flower pieces dropped on her lap with a twist of the little metal links with a knife.

“You get one each, and I’ll keep the others. Come on, the sun hasn’t set yet. Let’s go!” she was off. The others followed her, their mouths hanging open. A nagging thought niggled at them. “What if the necklace had no power? They’d be risking their lives if they went near the banyan tree.” But Valli, untroubled by any doubts, walked into the longest night of their lives.

Once again, the five kids found themselves in the shadow of the banyan tree. Why did it feel like the dark shape was waiting for them? The boys hesitated.

“Ready?” Valli turned back. “ What? You heard the Hollow Man. We must surround the tree and hold hands. Let’s stand at a distance. When I shout NOW,  we can run in and hold hands.” She saw the doubt in their faces, and her voice dropped. “Even if one of you is not sure, we should stop now.”

Senthil looked at the tree. The leaves flapped, and the roots swayed as if preparing for battle. The orange streaks of the sun had disappeared in the sky over the tree. Instead, a dark grey patch spread out. A small funnel of wind teased them from above the canopy. He made up his mind.

“I’m in, Valli!”

“I’m ready.”

“Yea, me too!”

“Me too!”

They split up and found a place around the tree, away from the lashing roots.

NOW!” Valli’s signaled, and they ran to the tree.

They winced as the roots slapped them noisily. “The power of the necklace is working,” thought Valli. “The roots can’t grab us!”

But the whirlwind was not going to give up that easily. The children could hardly hear themselves think in the deafening roar. Senthil felt something shove him. If Mani and Babu hadn’t held his hands tightly, he would have fallen, breaking the circle. The whirlwind grew, blinding them. The five shut their eyes tight and held on. I feel hot, thought Valli. She opened one eye and almost pulled her hand away.

THE TREE WAS ON FIRE!

Or WAS it?

Dark orange flames seemed to fly at them but stopped at arm’s length. OH! The whirlwind was trying to trick them.

“Keep your eyes closed,” she yelled. Leaves, twigs, and dust brushed their bare skin, the scratches stinging.

“My hand is slippery!” Ramu shouted in her ear. “I don’t know how long I can hold on!” Valli felt his hand slide. Her heart thumping in her chest, she grabbed one finger and let go of the others. And just like that, the wind died down.

It was quiet! Oh, the birds nesting for the night were chattering away, but that noise had died down. The children looked at each other, afraid to let go of each other’s hands. Valli looked at the tree. It was just like any other banyan tree.

“SENTHIL!” She cried and pointed urgently at the tree trunk. Someone gasped loudly. “You broke the circle!” “Yes, but look at the tree trunk!” Her voice bubbled with excitement.

The bark of the trunk was smooth. There was no sign of the nails or the weird red and yellow marks.

They had defeated the whirlwind!

“What’s wrong with the well? Is that another mystery?” Mani ran on the trail.

The wall of the well had caved in. When they got there, there was no sign of the Hollow Man. The kids walked back home happy, excited, and puzzled.

Paatti was waiting at the door when they turned into her street. “Where have you been? I was beginning to get worried!”

“Paatti, we were learning about the history of the village.”

“History of the village? Oh, you mean the whirlwind? As long as you don’t go near the banyan tree, you have nothing to worry about,” paatti said reassuringly.

“Oh, we’re not afraid of a little bit of horror, Paatti. We are just a little sad that this vacation is ending.”

“Well, you can come back the next time you get a break. I’ll be waiting for you all!” Babu smiled.

The End.

Other episodes in this series:

The Whirlwind

Up in the Air

The Hollow Man

The Old Woman’s Ghost

The Sorcerers

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