Children

Brick by Brick Looking for Reasons

Illustration: Sonal Goyal  

The story so far: Susan denies Neel and Mohit’s accusations of undoing their work of filling the fireplace. They boys get to work again and make sure that JJ sees the completed work but, they find the fireplace emptied the next day. After their third attempt, they sleep beside the fireplace to catch the culprit.

Neel and Mohit jumped up and clutched each other and screamed.

The fireplace was emptying itself without anyone’s help! The bricks rolled down and fell with a thud as if they had life in them.

The boys carried on screaming, not realising that they were doing so until suddenly they were surrounded by people and lights and everyone could see the empty fireplace with bricks strewn all around.

“What’s going on?” asked Grandma Ann. “Why are you boys here?”

Mohit and Neel stopped screaming and both of them began to talk at one time, the words running out so fast that it was difficult to understand what they were saying.

Susan held onto her grandmother’s hand as if to get strength. Then she said quietly, “Maybe the fireplace is trying to tell us something. Like, maybe it doesn’t want to be filled up and walled up…and wants to stay open.”

Mohit and Neel looked at her in wonder. How had she come up with that explanation? The fireplace is not a person. Yes, the fireplace was not a person, but then what was making it empty itself of the bricks? He shuddered and fell silent.

JJ said, “Come on, boys. Pick up your sleeping bags and go back to your groups. We’ll address this in the morning.”

The next morning, no one had the heart to awaken the boys and they overslept. There were no volunteers around. They had obviously moved on to some other house since most of the reconstruction here was over — except for the fireplace.

‘There must be something inside,’ said Neel. “Some spirit or something… Shouldn’t we check it out?”

“If it can throw out bricks, it can seal us inside,” Mohit whispered.

“Then don’t go inside,” said someone and they turned around to see Susan watching them. She had a stick in her hand. “Use this.”

“Here, give that to me,” said Susan. She took the stick from him and stuck her head into the fireplace and pushed the stick hard against the walls, one brick at a time. “Pull me out if you see the bricks trying to grab me,” she said.

But the bricks did not grab her. Instead as she pushed and prodded inside, a couple of them fell down from the inner wall. Susan jumped back. “Maybe there’s something there,” said Mohit.

The boys waited for her to move out and then they leaned in too. “Yes! I can see a hidden space!” cried Neel.

“And there’s something in it!” said Mohit.

To be continued

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 10:50:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/brick-by-brick-looking-for-reasons/article34331343.ece

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