Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Walk In the City of the Dead - Part 3

During the summer, there was a big group of about 50 people for a late night tour of the Vaults. The tour began as usual and all followed the guide. However, the notorious sections of the group loitered and lagged behind. Giggling and laughing they reached the entrance of one of the Vaults where the guide awaited them, or so they thought. No sooner did they line up inside the Vault, than they realised that their other half of the group was missing. They turned to their guide for an explanation, only to realise that their guide had a horribly burnt face. He turned, walked right into a wall and disappeared like light. He was the Watcher and is regular at the Vaults. He was burnt in one of the fires that had engulfed a section of the Vaults. Was the yellow light I saw disappearing into the wall him? I don’t know!

The Vaults, as I said are all underground. They had doors but no windows. The Vaults are about 20’x20’ and had about 30-40 people in it. Who would stay here? People with dark pasts and presents, like thieves, murderers, rapists and yes the unfortunate downtrodden. There were no toilets, there was a system called ‘gardez l’eau’ (in French for keep liquids), wherein you collect your wastes through the day and throw it at 10 pm. People would not walk the streets of Edinburgh at 10 pm, least they know, they have ‘gardez loo’ heading their way! That’s how Edinburgh functioned back in those days. Gardez l’eau, no ventilation and extreme weather conditions in winters and summers made the average life expectance no more and 1.5 to 2 years for the residents of the Vaults. The Vaults were slow but sure death.

In the dim light, we moved collectively to avoid being misled by the Watcher. The guide walked us into the next Vault, which had a strange arrangement of stones in a circular formation. The circle, usually accompanied with a star like formation inside it, acted as the ‘circle of faith’. This particular vault was visited by witches, who until very recently, often came to these Vaults to practice witchcraft with noble intentions. The ‘circle of faith’ was the circle of safety that protected them if something did go wrong on the way. Witches usually moved in groups to help protect one another from the unseen.

However, one-night things took a different road. A witch had to make it to the Vault all by her self. The bulb and torch she took with her that night gave way in little time. While it was normal to experience this level of paranormal activity, that night was different. She could sense evil, a poltergeist. As she moved towards leaving the circle, she felt something stop her and hold her foot.

These witches usually borrowed the keys of the Vaults and returned it the next morning. The subsequent morning, the witch did not return the key. Sensing something foul, the owner decided to go and check the Vaults. Scars and burns all over, possible broken bones, the witch lay motionless on the floor. That was the last seen of those witches. She survived, but traumatised not to reveal the happenings of the night.

The owner, curious to find out what could have happened that night, decided to spend the night at the Vault himself. A daredevil himself, he reached the Vault with his belongs to spend the night in the circle. Within minutes, he moved from being curious to circumspect. Seeing makes non-believers, believers!

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