THAT NIGHT (Part 11)
My post tonight is the 11th part of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's acclaimed ghost story set in rural India.
THAT NIGHT (Part 11)
There seemed to be a lull before the storm for about three weeks after that. And then the storm came with all its ferocity. It was an actual storm, not merely a metaphorical one. I can never forget THAT NIGHT.
THAT NIGHT it was absolutely dark. Not an iota of the moon was visible. Gradually clouds were gathering in the sky; making layer after layer like the ranks of an army filing in one behind the other in rows to attack the enemy. It was hot and humid, with crickets trying their best to remind the clouds that they were supposed to burst forth, not only stand in a place making their fortress stronger. Some owls flew hooting and screeching from one shady branch to another to find a safer place. They seemed to provide a variation to the pitch at which the crickets sang. Now and again the odd, solitary, toad croaked and then paused lest he seemed out of place in the setting. An old woman was heard telling people on the streets to go indoors. Everything was building up to a cloudburst. Good things of daytime had hidden themselves and the night was having her day. Then gradually it became windy. The wind built up its tempo slowly but surely; it whistled, it howled and it roared. A tree was uprooted and catapulted, electricity poles unable to bear the pull of the swinging wires began to bend double in defeat, tin roofs broke up into small parts and flew all over and hit whatever they encountered. It seemed as if the world was coming to an end THAT NIGHT.
The more I tried to bolt the doors and windows the more they rattled and seemed to break open. From one of the window panes I noticed a strange phenomenon. I saw fire-balls of lightening rolling across the skies. I had never seen this kind of lightening. The heavens were disturbed if ever they were. People on the roads could easily have been killed if hit by flying objects. So many shrieks and screams were heard. Then it seemed as if someone knocked at my door and I heard a sound which could well have been Sonali’s voice. She seemed to be saying ‘Sanjeevji help! Help Sanjeevji!’ I couldn’t believe that Sonali of all people could have ventured out in the storm. But I ran towards the door and tried to open the door by keep my body close to it. On opening the door, I only found several people shouting and running about to save their kin.
I managed to step out of the door and somehow bolt it from outside. It took all my strength to do that. I went out to look for Sonali somehow. My eyes were full of dust yet I tried to continue the search at the peril of my life. Then something came crashing down and before I could move out of the way it hit my head and I fell down. I was unconscious for several hours in spite of the rain that must have poured down to quench the storm. I was still drenched when I got up on my feet. I saw everything wrecked, trees fallen, poles warped, houses without their tiled roofs.
The first thing I did was to go to where Sonali and her friend, Neela, lived. The doors of Sonali’s room were flung wide open when I reached there. Neela had gathered some neighbours and was in tears as she told them about her missing friend. It was quite a shock for me to learn that she was not to be found. Neela said that she had seen Pran knocking at Sonali’s door, from her own window pane, just when the storm was getting violent. But she had noticed that Sonali had not opened the door for him. Then the lights had gone out and it was then that she must have opened her doors. I was stung by what I heard. I ran towards Pran’s room and found that locked. Then I went to Manoj’s and so was this room locked. The three were missing. I searched, the university authorities searched, and then the police searched but none of the three could be found. I felt like crying my heart out. Sonali had come to me for help and I could not give her the help in time. I would never be able to forgive myself. But the three were missing at this point, and we needed to hear some good or bad news to learn more about them.