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A HAUNTED VILLA - Ömer SEYFETTİN

A HAUNTED VILLA

- "Here it is, another uninhabited villa!" addressed Sermet Bey to the watchman behind.

In front of a small pinewood, a white and stylish building was shining brilliantly as if it was made of marble. The borders of the house were completely enfolded by wild plants. A big signboard "For Rent" was hanging on the iron gate of the garden. The watchman nodded:

- "Do never think of it sir! That house isn't suitable for you."

- "But why?"

- "You would better rent the previous house; maybe it is smaller but rather auspicious. Believe me, whoever rent it have a boy soon."

- "But it is impossible for a family of twelve to fit into five rooms! So, let's consider this one… it fully suits us…"

- "Sir, you really can't reside in this house," replied the watchman in a resolute tone.

Sermet Bey couldn't take his eyes off of the villa. It had wide balconies on all sides; it seemed so spreading like an Austrian brooding chicken that you could easily perceive it was leaning against its foundations. They had been dreaming of a house like this for almost twenty years, since they got their children.

- "Why can't we reside here?" asked him in anger and haste.

- "Sir, this is a haunted villa, there is a spirit in it."

- "What do you mean with a spirit?"

- "A spirit, you know. It appears at nights and doesn't give the residers any peace."

Sermet Bey was not a man of that kind to believe in everything he saw or heard; he needed to grasp tightly and feel concretely the thing to conclude it real, because both eyes and ears were lie hollows for him. These four hollows gave a way to lies. But a hand, contrary to the others, was never trapped; therefore all superstitions were expecting our eyes and ears. He laughed:

- "The spirit won't give any harm to us!" he said.

The watchman looked at him as if he had heard an oath.

- "All say so at the beginning, but they can't stay here even for a month."

- "What is it to you? Let's look around."

- "The owner has the key."

- "Who is the owner then?"

- "Hadji Niyazi Efendi is the owner, there he lives in the next villa."

- "Let's go and get the key."

- "O.K, but…"

They turned back and walked towards an old house where only the red-ochered roof of the attic was visible amongst the dense trees.

On the way, the watchman mentioned the story of the white villa: It had been a decade that whoever rented this house couldn't stay more than a month. All began with the appearance of the spirit; it threw very big stones, then came to break the windows, and annoyed the residers continuously at nights. Two of the renters had a mortal blow, the foster children of the three were paralyzed, and a wife of another had a miscarriage in the sixth month of her pregnancy. They passed through the bloomed almond trees with sheep pasturing under the shade of them. They opened the garden gate of the red villa.

Hadji Niyazi Efendi used to be a civil officer. With the beginning of the constitutional period, he resigned from the office taking his separation pay and invested it in estate business. Yet, he was such an honest man that despite selling more than hundred houses per year, he never attempted to sell his haunted house to a complete fool in a complete ignorance. He used to say, "I still have a fear of God!" He had never concealed that his villa was haunted. It was Hadji Niyazi opening the door. Sermet Bey expressed his will to look around the house:

- "All right, this way then!" he said.

He went shortly ahead of them. They passed through the garden; they were in the street when Hadji Niyazi Efendi took a brass key out of the pocket of his yellow cloak. Then he unlocked the garden gate and addressed to Sermet Bey:

- "This key also unlocks the door of villa…" he said.

They kept walking; the garden was really a bit wild; the neglect of the garden caused it to become almost a deserted stream. The little pinewood behind the villa had a savage silence. The watchman didn't enter the villa. Instead he stood outside. Sermet Bey looked around with the landlord accompanying him. There was nothing to say about the decoration. Not only the floor, but also the cistern, bathroom, well, coop, barn, etc. were all made of marble… All was perfect.

- "What about the rent?"

- "Not so high; hundred and eighty, But I prefer the rent of three years in advance."

- "Why?"

- "Well sir, the reason is that: My enemies always attempt to deter the renters by claiming that the villa is haunted. Whenever a renter occurs, they carry on the spirit propaganda. So, the renters suppose the lies they heard as they have really seen. And, for example, they leave the villa in the midst of winter. But the worst is that the ex-renters become propagandists as soon as they have left the villa. It will be impossible for me to sell the villa, or find a renter if it goes on like this.

To Sermet Bey's question he answered:

- "Up to now, nothing has been… but the renters always believe in rumors and leave soon."

- "I don't scare."

- "I hope so."

- "But an advance rent for three years, it is a bit difficult to afford…"

- "I have nothing to do about it cause I have suffered a bitter loss, so if it suits…"

Sermet Bey was really pleased with the villa. The rent was also reasonable since the rents of huts with three rooms were hundred and fifty per year.

He immediately signed the contract on that day. Five hundred forty for the following three years would be paid in advance. After leaving Hadji Niyazi Efendi's villa, Sermet Bey tipped twenty-five TL to the watchman.

- "You have wasted your money sir; you won't stay for three years but even for three months," said the watchman.

- "You'll see."

- "Yes, I will. This is not the first time that Hadji Niyazi takes the rent for three years in advance; but no one has ever stayed for one summer, and the advance is wasted."

The following week Sermet Bey with his crowded family moved to the villa. He was a real man of pleasure; they were having revel, joy and eating all night long. They always had four or five guests of their relatives, women or men. Although Sermet Bey was a Turk, he had the "suffering in daytime, for revel at night" norm of the Europeans. His children were going to school. His daughters were secretaries in professional firms. His wife was giving piano lessons at girls' high schools; and the only unemployed member of the family was his mother at the age of seventy-five, but she was caring the maids and the kitchen. They used to dine almost in the middle of the night and immediately go to sleep after dinner. It hadn't been more than fifteen days that one night they heard a scream coming from downstairs. Then Artemisya, the maid, ran upstairs crying at the top of her voice and told the household that something in white color was wandering among the pine trees in the back yard.

- "You had an illusion!" they said.

They didn't believe even in the other maids witnessed. The household went to the balcony of the rear room and saw the spirit Artemisya pointing out. It was standing still under the trees as if looking at the villa. Sermet Bey, rubbing his eyes, said:

- "My God! What an inspiration it is!"

They all got so scared that they turned pale in the face. His elder daughter:

- "It is not an inspiration father, here it is, can't you see?" said.

- "I see."

- "Why are you still talking about an inspiration then?"

- "Up to now did we hear anything other than a spirit tale? Everybody has said something. And now we all pretend to see something unreal."

- "It is not possible."

- "Why not?"

Sermet Bey told them about the conjurer Kazanov who had fooled the audience by showing their watches wrongly. "Our eyes see the lies we hear," he said, but we can't touch the thing we see. It would immediately disappear." Then he stood up. He didn't listen his wife's prohibition. Forwarded to the garden to touch the spirit. He went towards the pine trees. However, the spirit ran away. It disappeared. That night, except for Sermet Bey, nobody could sleep.

Since then, they saw the spirit every night. Whenever Sermet Bey went outside to touch it, the spirit was disappearing. The household was accustomed to the situation in time. But one night, while they were all asleep, the villa was shaken by a terrible tremor. They ran to the balconies. But could not see anything. In the morning they found a big stone in the midst of the dining room. Sermet Bey's mother began grumbling, "I will never forgive you if you don't take us away from this villa." To stay two months for five hundred and forty liras… This wouldn't suit Sermet Bey's accounts. But because of those big stones, the household was unable to sleep at nights, and all were agitated. Every time Sermet Bey was running after the spirit, but could never touch it. The neighbors, hearing about the stones, were saying "it will break the windows if you don't go away." Remembering the provision of the contract stipulating, "all repair shall be borne by the resider when leaving," Sermet Bey was annoyed, and planning to make something before the realization of the window breaking stage. His belief was weakened gradually. Finally they decided to leave the villa. But they couldn't find another house. They were hearing so many tales about the villa. It was said to be a graveyard once. A saint aged five hundred years was said to be buried under the kitchen… Despite the stones thrown or the windows broken, Sermet Bey did not believe in the spirit. The spirit was always running towards the pinewood and disappearing there. He thought of hiding in the pinewood and appearing suddenly in front of the spirit, or touching it at the back. But all the household rejected it: "It would immediately paralyze you there," they were saying. But Sermet Bey, though confused, did not believe in spirits or the genie. The following night he went to the wood. He climbed to one of the lower branches of a huge pine tree. Waited, and waited. It was the midnight now. The household was filled with anxiety and could not sleep. He could see them stepping forward and backward in the balconies. Suddenly his heart jumped with fear. The spirit was there.

Though he was quite sure that the spirit would vanish in the air like a shadow when he touched it, yet his knees were trembling. "It is not me, but my body is scared!" he said silently. He slowly jumped down. Walked behind the spirit. The contour of the spirit was clearly visible. The spirit didn't realize him approaching. He spread his hand slowly. Touched the white body. The spirit got terribly scared. But it didn't disappear. It turned back, when it faced with Sermet Bey it began to run away as fast as possible.

Sermet Bey had realized that this illusion was none of a spirit, as it didn't disappear upon his touch. He kept following it. Chased it. And caught it as it was trying to climb a log leaning against a low wall at the end of the pinewood. He was quite strong. The spirit aware of its weakness gave up struggling. Sermet Bey said:

- "I'll show you making fun of people," and shouldered the miserable spirit. Dragged it to the villa. Shouted:

- "Bring a light, and see the face."

- …

The household was standing at the garden gate.

- "That rascal, it is only a man! Didn't I tell you there is no evil spirits in the world?"

The spirit was striving the white sheet not be opened. Sermet Bey forcibly took it out. They all were surprised when faced with Hadji Niyazi Efendi, with his hair and beard disheveled. The poor man was trying to conceal his face with his hands. His night robe of Damascus fabric was torn.

Sermet Bey burst out laughing.

The girls, boys and the maids were staring stupidly.

The grand mother asked:

- "Efendi, why are you frightening those who believe in God?"

Sermet Bey said, "Of course I know the reason why!"

Then he asked his elder daughter to bring immediately both the inkhorn and the pen, and the contract in the office. Hadji Niyazi Efendi as if petrified, did not answer any questions, and turned his face towards the darkness. When the inkhorn with the pen and the contract was brought, Sermet Bey said:

- "Come on, take the pen!… If you don't want to be punished for the ones who had mortal blows and for the miscarriages, write down what I say, and then undersign!"

Hadji Niyazi Efendi took the pen mechanically, without hesitation wrote down everything Sermet Bey dictated him word by word.

"My renter Sermet Bey have paid me the one thousand and eighty liras for six years of renting in advance."

- "Well-done!"

- …

He undersigned. Dressed partially with his white sheet, he went towards the direction where he used to disappear every night.

Everybody was surprised with Sermet Bey staying in the villa for two years. As his neighbors said to Hadji Niyazi Efendi:

- It seems that the evil spirits of your villa have moved somewhere else. It looks like your renter will not leave!" he firstly turned yellow, then turned red, and then muttered angrily:

- Neither ablution, nor fast, neither namaz, nor pleading… Women, men, children, all are drunk all day long! Not only the spirits but even the devil stays away from them!"

Ömer SEYFETTİN






 
     

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