By guest blogger Tripali.
It was nearly midnight and I was returning home from my office, my brain weary and on tenterhooks from long working hours. A sudden faint rustling in the bushes made me jump, and a black cat stalked across the street, glaring at me as if I had done it grievous wrong. I shuddered and walked on.
I was new to this mysterious town, and as I walked down the cold pavement through the darkness that seemed to favour this place, I could not help but think about the town’s history. Once a haunt of British ‘babus’ because of its cold climate, these streets had seen both white men make merry and Indians dragged and whipped along it. Dark stone houses of the era still stood defiantly on the deserted streets, seeming to echo both laughter and screams; two sides of the Raj, two sides of the same coin.
I walked on towards the light- wait, light? How was it that I that I had not noticed a faint glow ahead of me, or the fact that I had been following it? In the eternal shroud of this widowed town, the light seemed to be a leftover glimmer, a piece of jewellery that was not removed. Something in the air seemed to whisk away my skeptism of the paranormal, and with each passing second my heart beat faster, as if trying to jump out of my chest and live while I died at the hands of a spectre. I stared with horror and fascination as the darkness began to take shape, the shape of a once-sturdy man, now bent with age, hobbling towards me with a lantern. I shook my head at my own foolishness.
“Hello, young lady! What are you doing, up so late?” said he. I frowned at the accent.” Are you British? Do British people still live here?” I enquired. “Not many, perhaps none at all.” he replied amiably, his voice trembling with age. Something in his voice made me clasp my bag closer. “I do not get many people to talk to. Would you mind entertaining an old man?” he asked. I could not refuse, so we walked. Gradually, the talk turned to the history of the town and the supernatural, as talk with old people usually does. He asked me if I believed in ghosts. Having a scientific temperament, I naturally said, “No.” “Not many people do now-a-days. A pity, eh?” he laughed.”Would you believe if you saw one?” he asked. I shrugged, “Maybe.” I was really tired now and just wanted to get home. But he continued, “Have you heard of stories of spirits of the dead haunting the town?” “Yes, I have.” “Aren’t you afraid, then?” he enquired. “No. Even if ghosts existed, what proof is there that they would mean harm?” I said.
He chuckled, ruffling my hair, and said, “What a sensible girl. I’ll be off now. Thank you for keeping me company.” Saying so, he hobbled off into the dark.
I stood rooted to the spot for a while.
Somehow, my senses had failed to notice all this time that it was not his lantern that was glowing.
It was the man himself.