It was a dark night. The clock was nudging its way to midnight. As they sat in the balcony of the sixth floor apartment, the children did not notice the passage of time. Periamma* had been way too entertaining for that. First, it had been stories from her childhood. About the fairs which happened every weekend. About how young girls and boys there discreetly cast sheep-eyes at each other while the younger kids played "match the lover-pairs". About how she and her sister shopped around for the best possible thing to buy with the meagre money they had. It was all just so interesting.
But after a while, the children begged, "Please tell us a ghost story Periamma. Please, please." Periamma refused saying, "You will get scared." But she could not resist the appealing looks on the eager young faces around her for long. She launched into another story from her childhood.
In periamma's village, long ago, there had lived a beautiful young girl, the pride of her family, the light of her home. She was murdered one day as a result of a dispute with another family. Since then, every new moon day, at midnight, the villagers could hear the sound of anklets. It was said that it was the young girl's restless ghost roaming in the village, seeking revenge and hoping to regain its former happiness.
Periamma concluded, "That's why we never stayed out past midnight on new moon days."
Looking around, periamma glanced at the sky and exclaimed, "Oh, what a coincidence! Look, today is a new moon day ." The pleasant breeze which had been blowing all along instantly seemed to get colder. The children huddled closer together. Just then, the clock struck midnight. The chimes had barely died away when another sound became audible. "Chan, chan, chan" - the sound of anklets.
The children gave one whoop of terror and jumped up. They ran pell-mell inside the house, jumped into a bed and lay in a shivering heap under the blankets.
Periamma came after them and turned on the lights, "Come on kids! It is not a ghost. It is just the maid-servants from the nearby apartment complexes returning home after a long day at work. You can look outside to check if you want."
The children cautiously peered out of the window. Sure enough, there were two women (with perfect human forms and, more importantly, visible feet) walking down the dark road. Chan, chan - the women's anklets tinkled with every step. The children relaxed. Still, there was very little talking as they quietly got ready to go to bed.
They never pestered periamma for ghost stories again. At least not at night.
*periamma can either refer to mother's older sister or wife of father's elder brother.