Author: Saher Hanif Shaikh, 2nd year student in Maniben Nanavati Women’s College.
Have you ever got manipulated by someone? Maybe yes, maybe no. But how about getting manipulated by a Map. Wouldn’t it be strange? With one mistake in the map, you may end up in a terrible situation. A place where no one has been since years, long grass and dead leaves nothing else , everything so scummy and filthy. Forget about wandering around, no one has ever walked that path for years. Some situations may force you to do things which you might not have done otherwise. These situations unwillingly make you go through roads, destinations and places you never thought in your wildest dreams. Something similar happened to Sarah. Sarah, a 21 year old girl who was playing treasure hunt with her cousins never knew this game would discover her something which she will try to find answers for the rest of her life. This treasure hunt was not an ordinary one, the rules of the game differed completely from the original one. This game was not meant to be this spooky but it ended up this way.
Sarah, along with her family, went to her village in Lucknow during winters. Native villages are undoubtedly the best place to spend vacations together with family and cousins. All the cousins can get together, play games, cook and eat and even sleep together in the same room and can have pillow fights. Whole of her family decided to meet in December as everyone had their winters off and winter is the best time to spend some time together in the village. December a month of sweet cold nights, hot tea and blankets. Sarah was waiting for winters to come by. Days passed and December arrived, when all her cousins gathered together. As Indian kids usually do, All the cousins including Sarah went out to play in the evening. Discussing among the children about what game to be played and what not, they came with a conclusion of playing treasure hunt. They were in all 6 cousins, which included four sisters and two brothers.
Oldest of them was Sarah. She was quite confident and bold, until she didn’t know her life would change after this feeble game. She was the most Valiant child of the house. For her, playing treasure hunt was not a big deal. So the cousins decided to ask the elders of the family to make maps for each of them. Afterwards it was decided that to make the game more real this house will be emptied by her relatives so that they can use it as their playhouse and the elders will stay at Sarah’s uncle’s house which was 5 kilometres away from this house. So this was better for them to play freely and enjoy the game. So the elders decided to make maps for each cousin. Six maps were made by six different people and every Map had four clues to reach the final treasure. The clues were tricky but the hints which would take to the clues were even more tricky. The rules of the games included that everyone had to follow their assigned map and in the map there were clues (chits basically) kept at various places. To reach the destination each was supposed to cross big and small mind hurdles. Six Maps were made and each cousin was supposed to take one map of their choice. Like others, Sarah took a map of her choice. All the arrangements were quickly made by the elders of the family as they were to leave for Sarah’s uncle’s house.
Everybody unfolded their map silently and read their respective clues and Sarah did the same. Her first clue read ‘I have bodies in me but without soul’. This clearly conveyed to her that it was something related to a grave or graveyard. This clue was not that difficult to understand and for Sarah it was not in the least difficult. She was quite valiant, she decided to go to the place where she heard, in her childhood, that dead bodies were buried. So she thought that to get the second clue she had to dig the land a wee bit. She suddenly remembered that her uncle had once said that there was a small river near their house beside which three dead bodies were buried around 30 years ago. Soon, she went to the river bank and saw a green flag. This green flag was only made for the second clue because it would be difficult to find the clue along the river side. Sarah was happy to find her second clue within minutes. She dug the ground a little bit with her hand, as it was dark it was difficult for her to find the second clue but she found it. The second clue was there under the mud. Her cousins who were playing treasure hunt had with their maps too, but they needed clues too to get to the treasure. The second clue had a geometric pattern drawn and numbers written in an haphazard manner. The clue also had something written below the pattern which said, ‘solving me is difficult, so why not find someone who is expert in it’. Sarah was quite perplexed with this clue, she got the answer and yet didn’t get the answer. Constantly thinking made her even more confused, so she decided to have a look at the map again. The marked route in the map distinctly showed that the third clue is hidden in some house. A house which had something related to Maths? Who could possibly solve math with an expertise? Suddenly an idea popped up in her mind. “Oh yes, it could be the math teacher” She thought. The villagers were very fond of Master Gupta, who was an expert in teaching Maths. He could solve Math problems within fraction of seconds even without a pen or paper. So it was possible that maybe he had some idea about the third clue. The best thing is Master Gupta’s house was just next to that of Sarah’s house. She went to his house and knocked slowly, the door was opened by Master Gupta’s youngest daughter. She opened the door and gave a very big smile. Sarah smiled back at her and entered the hall.
Sarah was quite sure that she is close to her second clue. She went to Master Gupta and apologized to disturb him at this time, she further asked him for the third clue but he replied ‘I have no idea what you are saying’. Sarah instantly said with a low voice, ‘Sir please. surely you have the clue with you.i really want to win this game so please give me the third clue which was left with you.” Master Gupta asked Sarah, ‘What brought you here? Why do you think that I have the third clue?’. Sarah replied, ‘Sir, the second clue and the routes of the map clearly indicates that the clue is with you. Also , it is only you in the village who is an expert in Maths.’ She pleaded for the third clue. Master Gupta didn’t want to make her wait so he picked the third clue from his pocket and gave it to Sarah. The third clue was finally with her, a step closer towards the treasure. Until now Sarah was lucky enough to find the clues under limited time but the game was getting more and more interesting and complex.
The third clue took longer than the other two clues to decipher the hint. This clue read ‘You could only get to me if you unlock me, and to unlock me you need a key’. This was a difficult indeed! Sarah understood that to get to the fourth clue she had to search for a key. A key? What type of a key? What to unlock? Where to find? How to get to the key? So many questions arising in her mind until a delightful thought clicked her mind. She unfolded the map, Looking at it gave her an affirmation that the map might take her to the aforementioned place where she may find the key. She observed the map was pointing towards her own house. She thought if it was something which she might find in her own house which had to be opened with a key what would it be!
Walking from the place where she got the third clue to her house, she constantly thought that what if others might be on the last clue and very close to winning? She herself didn’t know how long it would take her to find the fourth clue, as she was the oldest cousin she had that sort of obligation that she has to do her best to win anyhow. She solely wanted to win the game. She went home and searched for a treasure box or piggy bank to see if it was locked. Because the clue said, ‘to get to me you need to unlock me, and to unlock me you need a key’. So she thought maybe I should just make sure if something is locked and if it is I’ll be on my toes to find its key. After a lot of effort she noticed a caddy at her Grandmother’s room. This caddy was locked from everywhere. She now knew that she is close to the answer right now. She thought about where to find the key to the caddy. She picked up the caddy and started walking out of the room. The moment she took her second step, something jingled and fell on the ground. Guess what? It was the key of the caddy. This bunch of keys held 17 keys altogether and she had to unlock the caddy with one of the keys. After 9 unsuccessful attempts she was finally able to open up the caddy. The caddy had a lot of custard apple seeds in it. Her young cousin in their house had had a habit of collecting custard apple seeds for fun.
The third clue was not easy at all. After reading the clue Sarah thought she would definitely won’t win the game. But she wasn’t among the ones who gave up and She didn’t!
She got up and left the house. Now it was around 8:30 and everyone was supposed to sleep around this time at Lucknow. This game was also becoming interesting as time passed. The others (the other cousin of her) just like Sarah were on their way to reach the treasure. By this time everyone was on their toes to find the treasure. It was almost the time to sleep as well as to have some food. But here, Sarah and her cousins were so desperate and eager to find the treasure that regardless of time they continued to search for it. Can you just guess what was the fourth clue about?
After searching for the fourth clue in the caddy full of custard apple seeds. It took a few seconds but she finally found the fourth clue. The fourth clue had a circle drawn on it. That’s it. This was quite strange. She first thought that the elders of the family might have forgotten to write something or add something with it. But it was also not possible to reach out to the elders and ask for help. So she decided to completely rely on the map this time for the final treasure. The way to the treasure was clearly drawn on the map. She was pretty sure that now she was about to find their treasure soon. She followed the routes of the map properly. She finally reached near a well. She thought that maybe this is where the treasure is because the clue also stated something circular and the map guided her towards the well. Now the question was where to find the treasure? The buried box or something else. This place was very spooky. No houses can be seen nearby, everything was so quiet and unmoved there, not even a wild cat or a bird can be seen around this well. Sarah paid no heed to the situation nor to that horrific place where she was standing. Her only aim was to win the game. She was sure that the treasure was not far from her but didn’t know how to get it. She thought maybe the clue will be circular in shape, or the elders might have marked something wrong in her map.
She walked around well in order to locate if there’s any hint to get to the treasure. She couldn’t find anything. Here’s from where the scariest moment begins from. Someone called Sarah! She was startled but didn’t respond back as she couldn’t see anyone around and thought that she might have heard it wrong. Again someone called her name aloud. “Sarahhhh!” This time she was a little scared but tried not to show it on her expression thinking someone might be playing a prank on her. A voice called her and asked ‘sarah my dear. What brought you here? No one has ever been here since the last 19 years’. It was more like a Creepy voice which she never heard before. She bravely looked back and saw no one around. At this point she was pretty sure there was something wrong. She knew that escaping from here won’t let her win. She was quite stubborn. She wanted to win the game but was also freaked out by the voice she could hear in her mind. She was sure that no one might have got here and she is so near the treasure. She thought she was the first to arrive at this place, after deciphering all the clues. Yes , she was the first who indeed arrived first, but the first one in this area in 19 years. She tried to forget these voices she could hear in her head and though scared, Sarah continues to search for her treasure. As she was searching and searching she came across a green flag laying on the floor. She realised that the second clue was marked with this flag, so it is nearly possible that it might end too with the Green flag too. But this flag seemed very old and was in a tattered condition. But she decided to dig the ground again to see if her intuition was right or not. She sat down and started to dig the mud and all of a sudden realised that there is something hard inside the ground. Something’s made out of metal and she could feel the corner of a box. She was so happy that finally she got the treasure and now she can boast about it to everyone. As she was about to open the box, someone shouted out loud, ‘hurray, finally I won! Yippee! I’ve got the treasure!’ This voice was of Sarah’s cousin who won the game. Sarah was completely shocked wondering how was it possible when she already found a box? She opened the map and scanned it thoroughly and found out that she is currently in an opposite direction to that of her cousins. The route which she relied upon was well made, also the clue somewhat showed that it was a planned one after another. Then how is it possible that the box she found was not the correct treasure box?
Who misled Sarah? Was it a mistake or someone did it intentionally? Was it the mistake in the map which led her here? What could be inside this box then?
Should she open it or not? The biggest question was whether her map was drawn wrong? Or someone did it intentionally.
Before she could find an answer to these questions, she decided to open the box so she could get some answer to her question. She opened the box, and something very horrific, very scary inside the box, something which no one ever found or opened for years and was now opened by sarah. she was terrified! she immediately closed the box and threw it away. all kinds of thoughts started to visit her mind until she saw a movement inside that box. She didn’t waste a single moment there and ran for her life. She thought that maybe after opening the treasure box, she’ll get an answer to her questions and she will win the treasure hunt but exactly the opposite happened. she was flooded with more questions instead.
how is it possible that it did not get decomposed yet? Who kept it here? She desperately wanted answers to all of these questions. Can we just wait and think what might be inside that box?
It had a pair of broken hands which included only the palm and fingers. this hand was detached from wrists and also both the hands didn’t have a third finger in it. The third finger of both hands was missing. The most terrible thing was that it had the same ring as Sarah had in her fingers and a little burn mark that she had since her childhood. It was all the same, it was like a replica of her own hand which was in the box.
How did the replica of her hand was in the box, the box which was buried in a place where no one ever visited for years. Did Sarah discover it by accident or someone manipulated the map with the intention to make her open the box. Nobody knows the answer. This place was not visited by anyone since the last nineteen years. It was Sarah who was forced to go there to find the treasure which was supposedly buried there.
This question remains with us all. What might be the reason behind that wrongly drawn map and behind this box ? Why did it look like her hand? Why was everyone scared to visit that place? All these questions had no answers unless she discussed it with an elder of the village. But Sarah didn’t have the courage to explain to anyone what she saw and experienced as no one else saw anything and people might not consider that incident true. She kept quiet and continued her life but this incident and questions stayed with her forever! One mistake in the map brought a new fear and changed Sarah’s life. Sarah didn’t live the way she used to live, she became a coward and more concerned about her hands. She always lived in fear of having her hands chopped off. This incident stayed with her forever.