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Sunday, 26 August 2012

THAT NIGHT (Part 22)

Part 22 of THAT NIGHT, the acclaimed ghost story set in India by Lakshmi Raj Sharma.

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                                                                     THAT NIGHT (part 22)

The birds sitting on the trees were very suspicious of me and would screech out a disturbed shriek and then settle down silently as I moved ahead. Then there would be the howl of a hyena followed by the howls of dogs. The howling dogs would suddenly yelp and squeal as though someone was hitting them for howling so loudly and pathetically. The sounds of the dogs were so terrib
le that I felt like returning rather than proceeding. Every minute it seemed as though someone would catch hold of me. I could not bear the tension much longer and decided that I’d go back that evening, and start my journey much earlier the next evening so that I could cover much of the distance in daylight. Just when I was turning back . . . .

Just when I was turning back I felt as though something had held on to my right leg, just under the knee. When I looked down I discovered that a human skeleton that must have been lying on the ground had turned and caught hold of my lower limb. I tried to free myself but it was too determined not to leave. My heart began to thump loudly and I tried to run as fast as my old limbs could carry me. The skeleton dragged on with me and seemed to laugh at my horrification.

‘Stop, I command you!’ it said in a nasal accent.

I stopped and discovered that, seen from another angle, the skeleton looked exceedingly like Pran. Finally, it became Pran. And he was having a great laugh at me. He first laughed and then became very serious.

‘Why did you come here? And who told you about where we could be found?’

The best option for me was to pretend to faint. I leaned against a tree and gradually slipped down to the ground. I did that within a minute or less. Pran was upset to see me faint. He was at a loss to know what to do he came back to me in a minute with a glass of water. This act of his reassured me that Pran was not all bad. He sprinkled some water on my face and gave me the rest to drink. I partook of his help.

‘Quick, now tell me how you got to know about us.’

I had by now started getting used to the spirit and I had the presence of mind to even become inventive and tell a lie.

‘A class fellow of mine lives here and I am his guest. I like to walk in solitude. So here I was walking, ignorant of the fact that my one time friend would try to kill me.’
‘Friend? Okay . . . But I never tried to kill you. And never call me your friend. You were a rival and I can even call you an enemy. You liked Manoj and you always favoured him.’
‘Can’t one ever like two people together?’
‘No. I believe that you can be true only to one if their interests clash. If you like two rivals, and befriend both, it is like getting married to two women. Can you be true to two wives at the same time?’
‘Why not? Raja Dhasrath was true to three.’
‘Did you ever live with him to see how true he was to each? And listen, Sanjeev, I don’t like too much argumentation. It can make a ghost lose its ghastliness.’

Just then there was some sound. Something came there and Pran disappeared and I too almost ran back towards where the people of the village lived. It was quite a narrow escape, I thought.

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