"THAT NIGHT" Part 15
Paret 15 of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's acclaimed ghost story set in rural India.
THAT NIGHT (Part 15)
I was left alone and without the courage to go back into my own house. Suddenly the place felt uninhabitable. I don’t know where my strength had disappeared. My legs began to feel as if they were made of rubber and would not bear my weight. The same Sonali that I had always craved to meet had made me virtually wet my pants.
I didn’t want the day to pass. But it had to and evening was drawing near. Soon it was dark again. Darkness was becoming like a living presence, the only presence to keep me company. It was not as dark as that fateful night when everything in my life changed. But it was dark enough. Who likes the company of a bachelor who was in his seventies? Most of my friends had kicked their buckets more timely than I was to. I could not find even one person to persuade to sleep in my room that night. I decided not to sleep. For not to sleep was not to dream and if I did not dream she wouldn’t come. I bolted the doors and windows tightly as if Sonali could be blocked out by doing that. I wanted complete silence because I feared that she could hide behind some noise and enter into my consciousness. I kept my weak, old, eyes open. I went to the kitchen to make some coffee for myself. That could have kept me awake. When I lighted the stove and put the water to boil on it, I thought I heard someone say in a whisper, ‘I too like coffee. Make some for me too.’ I looked around in panic. I heard her giggle, just a second and then there was silence. I left the kitchen, with the pan on the stove, and came into my study. I forgot that I had put the water to boil. In the study I felt that the black and white picture of Sonali was moving slowly on the table. Again there was a giggle and before long the photograph had stood up erect, and she was giggling more and more loudly. Each giggle made my stomach seem hollow. I found my mouth drying up and my heart thumping against my ribs.
‘Sanjeeeeevjeeeeee!’ she said and her voice seemed to come from somewhere outside the room in which I sat. The chair on which I sat began to shake and wobble and I shot out from it and ran towards my bed. She probably pushed me with force on the bed, though I did not see her. I fell on the bed and hurt my back. My bed also shook and wobbled as if an elephant had got under it and was now trying to lift me on its back. I fell this side and then rolled to the other side but I could not get up from the bed. I thought I was heading for a heart attack. But then I heard her say, ‘Sanjeeeeevjeeeeee!’ again. Then the sound of a woman laughing was heard. The feminine laughter soon melted into a male’s sardonic laughter. I was almost dead with fear when I felt the presence of the spirit very distinctly in my room. Before long I could see that this was not Sonali’s spirit, it was Pran’s.
‘And you thought I was Sonali? Hee hee hee! I know she’s more worthy of your attention. But you should sometimes think of me as well.’
I now remembered that Sonali was to come in my dream. But this Pran had come even in my wakefulness and pretended to be Sonali. He had grown into a wicked ghost. I had to surrender to my fate and wait to see what was to happen next.