By C.E. Pereira
Chapter 10 – The Raintree
THERE was this tall, big raintree which enchanted Liza during the day and spooked her during the night. The raintree was majestic and mysterious at the same time. Liza loved this tree and feared it too.
She had heard lots and lots of stories about the raintree from her father. And during her growing up years she herself was witness to some unexplained happenings around the raintree.
Liza’s raintree grew behind her house. There was another raintree at the end of her block, just as tall and big but not so majestic.
The raintree was the children’s playground for hide-and-seek. There was lots of nooks and crannies to hide in. The branches gave a good shade. Wherever the sunlight seeped through the leaves it looked like dancing jewels.
From Liza’s bedroom window she could see the branches of the raintree. In the morning the raintree always looked friendly. But at night its branches cast eerie shadows and the rustle of leaves sounded spooky.
Liza didn’t like her raintree at night. It frightened her. The shapes of branches kept changing with the slightest touch of the wind.
But come morning, the raintree was lovable. The swaying of its branches and the rustle of its leaves was friendly. The shade gave relief on a hot sunny day. And everything look peaceful under the raintree.
Almost everyday Liza and her two brothers would play under the raintree except when a storm was approaching. If there was lightning they never played under the raintree.
Daddy and Mummy always drummed into their minds, “Don’t play under the raintree when it starts to rain and when there is lightning. We don’t want you to be struck by lightning.”
One day after a thunderstorm, Liza and her brothers went outside to play at the raintree. They found seven dead hens, all struck by lightning. Gruesome to see; yet it brought to mind what their Daddy and Mummy warned them about.
Sometimes too, after a thunderstorm the children would find fallen branches hit by lightning.
But there was one incident that sticks in Liza’s mind till today.
It was the school holidays and a bright sunny day. Liza was having such a fun time with her brothers and their three cousins under the shade of that majestic raintree.
A game of badminton was in progress between Andy and cousin Hyacinth. There was much laughter as the shuttlecock danced to the whims of the wind. And no one managed to take the return shot.
Liza, Gerry and their other cousins Evelyn and Cindy were seated on the roots of the raintree about six feet above the ground. They were laughing each time the wind carried the shuttlecock in the opposite direction of either Andy or Hyacinth.
Suddenly, Liza felt something pushed her from behind and found herself falling. She hit the ground flat on her stomach and had the wind knocked out of her.
The spunky little girl was on her feet quite fast, her hands clenched in little fist. She was angry but not frightened.
“Who pushed me?” she demanded.
But all she saw was concerned looks on the faces of her brothers and cousins.
Andy asked, “Are you alright Liza?” “How did you fall off your perch?”
“I felt someone push me.” stammered little Liza.
Each and all said the same thing, “I didn’t push you Liza.” “You must have lost your balance and fell.”
“No. I felt someone push me.” Liza said again.
Her heart was beating very fast. Her anger was turning into fear as all the faces showed concern. No one looked guilty.
Andy then decided that they should all go home. He knew his sister wasn’t lying. Something pushed her off the tree root, but what?
The children never told their parents about this unexplained incident. Till today Liza will still tell you she felt something push her from behind.
There was another unexplained phenomena that involved the raintree. This one was told by Liza’s Daddy.
It was Christmas Eve. Mummy had taken the children for Mass. Daddy was home preparing the family Christmas supper.
At midnight while Daddy was setting the dining room table, he heard a loud scream.
The scream came for the direction of the raintree and continued until it faded at the other raintree down the block.
Daddy later told his family how the hairs on his arms stood up giving him goosebumps when he first heard that scream.
Meanwhile the rest of the neighbourhood heard the long, long, scream. They thought the scream came from Liza’s house.
Next thing Daddy knew was the pounding on the front door.
When he opened the door he saw all his neighbours standing outside.
Most of them were shouting, “What did you do?” “Where are your wife and children?”
Some of the neighbours were trying to pull Liza’s Daddy out of the house.
Just about that time Liza, her brothers and Mummy arrived home after Mass and found the commotion happening outside their home.
The chaos continued until one neighbour noticed Liza, her two brothers and Mummy.
At last Daddy managed to calmly tell everyone that the scream they heard was not of this world but of the spirit world.
Liza crept closer to her Mummy as did her two brothers.
Daddy continued, “It was the scream of a ‘Pontianak’ (the spirit of women who died pregnant).”
“She screamed from this tree to the next tree.” Daddy was pointing to our raintree and the one down the block.
“No such thing,” one neighbour voiced out.
“Then what was it we heard?” another asked.
And everyone started talking at once. But no one was listening.
In a loud voice Daddy called for silence. When all quieten down, Daddy said, “Go home. Don’t worry. Don’t be frightened. That spirit won’t harm you as long as you don’t harm it. So go home.”
One by one people started to disperse.
That night Christmas supper was filled with lots of questions from Liza and her brothers.
Liza’s Daddy told his children that spirits do roam the earth.
“There were restless ones, wicked ones, lost ones, lonely ones and many more. As long as you don’t disturb spirits, they will not disturb you. And…” Daddy paused for effect, “if you believe in God, what is there to fear.”
Christmas morning brought the sun and cleared the frightening shadows away. Liza and her brother were tearing open their Christmas presents happily. The night’s cobwebs blown away by the wind.
Another thing the raintree was famous for – catching and keeping kites prisoners. During kite season, the neighbourhood children either bought or made their own kites.
The skies were filled with kite fights and kite flying. Not only the children, but the adults also enjoyed kites.
The wind was unpredictable at times. And at these times the kites ended up stuck in the branches of the raintree.
There was no way of getting the kites back once they got stuck. The raintree was too tall and the trunk too wide for anyone to climb up.
So the raintree kept the kites. As days turned into months the kites became torn and tattered until only the frames were left.
Then the birds used these to build their nest high between the branches of the raintree.
Within the year all the kites stuck in the raintree disappeared until the next kite season came along.
These three continued playing under their raintree for many more years to come. Their childhood was linked to hours spent exploring the nooks and crannies of the raintree.
A playground where Liza’s imagination had free reign of casting her raintree to be any kind of stage she chooses.
The raintree was their Treasure Island of pirates and buried treasures; their forts and castles; Red Indians and Cowboys, and such fun time these three had. Their raintree – majestic and tall in the light, yet spooky and frightening at night.
Cont. Chapter 11