THE OLD MAN

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CHAPTER 4: TIME FOR SOME MADE UP STORIES

Pritam is stunned to hear this story; he keeps his empty glass down.

Pritam (stunned and paranoid): What the heck… is this true?

Parag (chuckles): Yeah, but don’t panic, we won’t be going there.

Amol (making a drink): I think the lion in you has dozed off, take this (handing over the drink to Pritam) and invoke him again.

Prem: Tell me one thing; did anything go missing from the people who were knocked out like this?

Pradeep: Yeah, sometimes money or jewelry and sometimes both, but, why are you asking?

Prem (chuckles): That’s it! It’s a new way to loot people, easily and with a novelty. Hence, there is no paranormality here. Someone has used his brain to loot.

Pritam: Then why was her leg twisted?

Prem (sneers): Psychics or magicians who indulge in these kinds of activities can create such illusions; the twisted legs might be one of them.

Amol: The people who have experienced these horrors, do you think they are lying? I don’t think so.

Prem: I don’t want to get into an argument of whether it’s a ghost episode or a prank played by a thief. Had I been involved, I would have made a complaint in the nearest police station.

Amol: Aah! The police are equally petrified!

Prem, being the only rationalist in the group, shakes his head in empathy.

Prem (sneering): How ignorant, foolish and superstitious are the police officers over here?

Pritam (taunting): Oh! You rationalist! You will understand only when you too become a part of such stories.

Prem (retaliating): Really! By the way, you are the most experienced fellow here. Being a part of many such stories, wetting your undergarments and pants is child play for you.

A round of silent giggles circulates the gathering as a shamefaced Pritam looks on helplessly without another peep.

Jagadeep (standing up): Give me a break. Prem! Let’s go and enjoy a cigarette.

Pritam: I will join too.

Prem (standing up): No bro, you sit here and try to invoke the lion inside you. More spooky stories are on their way for your entertainment.

They walk towards a big banyan tree in the courtyard.

Prem (lighting the cigarette): Let’s trick Pritam with our own made-up horror stories. It will be fun!!

Jagadeep (smiles): Yeah, man. I, too, was thinking on the same lines. Let’s think of a griping horror story

Prem: We should scare the shit out of him.

Back at the verandah

Amol: Should we wait for them for the next round?

Pritam: I am already down with the next round, to invoke the lion in me as suggested by Prem.

Parag: You are drinking, so that you don’t feel frightened and wet your pants… Hahaha

Pradeep: Guys, stop pulling his leg very often.

Pritam: Pradeep, its ok… these useless people and their shitty words. Who the hell cares?

Jagadeep and Prem are approaching the portico. They over hear what Pritam said.

Prem (gently tapping Pritam’s head): Are we shitty?

Pritam (smiles and pushing Prem’s hand away): Of course, any doubt about that?

Jagadeep: Oh yeah! Listen to my story, and then let’s see who is shitty and shirker too.

A tinge of eagerness gets infused into their unified awareness, as Jagadeep starts narrating his story

This happened with my cousin, Mohan, who stays in Ahmedabad. He is a flirt, and a person who would easily woo any girl and take her for a ride. Once, it was dark, and he was returning from his friend Alpesh’s drinking party.

Mohan: Alpesh? Can I borrow your helmet?

Alpesh: What a surprise, when did you become a law abiding citizen?

Mohan: Bro, it’s chilly and cold out there. Helmet will provide me with some warmth.

It’s a chilly winter night, and bearing the chills Mohan is somehow managing to ride his motorbike. Stray dogs are barking and howling from all directions. There is no other soul to be seen. With such surroundings, Mohan’s thoughts helplessly flow towards the domain of eeriness. He feels a strange presence following him, which makes him race his motorbike as fast as he can. In the anticipation of reaching home quickly, he forgets that the way he has taken to reach home is undergoing some repair work and is blocked. He stops his motorbike at the blockade and ponders over the next best option to reach home.

Mohan (stopping the bike, to himself): Shit man… This road is closed… Now I’ll have to use the deserted road along the college… (He panics a bit, as he remembers some creepy stories that he has heard about the supernatural occurrences on the deserted college road, especially at night.) Would have been better if I had stayed at Alpesh’s home… Should I return? (Weighing his chances of safety from supernatural forces) Isn’t there a saying, “Ghosts won’t chase drunkards…”? I guess, I will sing my way through…

And humming a song he continues his drive home: “tu cheez badi hai mast mast” (a popular Hindi Song).

As Mohan enters the deserted college road, he notices a vehicle parked faraway, by the roadside, along with the silhouette of a lady, presumably looking for help.

Mohan (to himself, after experiencing after a short wave of fear): I shouldn’t apply the breaks, even for a second (and singing a bit loudly) tu cheez badi hai mast mast tu cheez badi hai mast, he tries to drive off quickly.

But as Mohan nears the lady, his womanizing instinct persuades him to take a peek at her. She is wearing a white salwar kameez (Indian apparel) and owing to the winter, has draped a black shawl around her upper body and ears. Mohan is mesmerized seeing her exceptionally fair and beautiful face against the backdrop of the black shawl.

Mohan: tu cheez badi (gulps), (mesmerized, he whispers) Man… she is really pretty!

Caught in the sudden flow of hormones, Mohan forgets about the supernatural occurrences and expectedly his motorbike comes to a halt. He parks the bike and removing his helmet demounts as a stud. The lady looks at Mohan with suspicion.

Mohan: Can I be of some help to you?

Lady (in an indifferent tone): My car is busted, can you repair it?

Mohan: No, I can’t repair a car; but…

Lady (cuts in): Then you can’t be of any help to me… (And she looks back at the empty road).

Mohan (again, trying to strike a conversation): I can drop you at your home. (No response from the lady) Wouldn’t that be a great help, as well?

The lady, still, keeps on staring at the empty road.

Mohan (persuading): You can bring a mechanic tomorrow and repair the car!

Mohan waits for a response. After a few moments, the lady looks at Mohan and gives a smile.

Lady: Ok! Let me get my bag... This time she sounds friendlier.

Mohan (to himself): In this chilling cold, if I swing my motorbike with full throttle, she would be forced to cling to me.

Thinking on those grounds, he gets carried away and unknowingly gives a big smile.

Noticing this the lady asks: Why are you so happy?

Mohan (composing himself): Nothing special… Just remembered about a funny encounter I had earlier today.

She mounts the bike, and Mohan drives off.

Mohan: Where should I drop you?

Lady: Drop me at the next cross road. I will take a cab from there…

Mohan: Why? I am ready to drop you home!

Lady: No, it’s ok... I don’t want to bother you …

Mohan: I enjoy driving in the cold… So, driving is not going to bother me. I will drop you at your house.

Lady (bit angry): I told you ‘NO’! Just drop me at the next junction.

Mohan (frustrated): OKAY, I was just being a Good Samaritan

Lady: I, too, am trying to be a Good Samaritan.

Mohan: No problem. [And he thinks: “She spoiled my mood… Hope there is no cab available at the next junction”.]

The lady looks at her own reflection in the rear view mirror; and happy with what she sees, she gives a broad smile. The mirror image is that of someone with pale white eyes and blood stained teeth. Careless Mohan is unaware of the misfortune hungrily waiting for him.

They arrive at the cross roads.

Mohan (trying to flirt): At last, the knight has brought you to your destination.

Lady (getting of the bike): Thank you.

She smiles and walks over to the other side of the road and starts staring at the empty road. Following her Mohan takes the motor bike to the road side, switches off the engine and mounts it on the double stand.

Seeing this the lady asks: You don’t wanna go home?

Mohan: Soon as you get a cab, I live nearby.

Lady (with a small smile): Aah… So you wanna flirt?

Mohan (embarrassed at the sudden and straight question): No, but what’s wrong in chatting a little, till the cab comes; we can enjoy a little chatter.

Lady: Mmhh.., that’s an impressive start.

Mohan (running fingers through his hair): By the way, what do you do?

She unusually turns cold and looks intensely at Mohan. Mohan’s eyebrows twirl in apprehension.

Lady: Me? I roam around at night, and take people like you to death.

Mohan (getting petrified and crouching back): WHATTT…..?

Lady (confused): What…? WHATT…?

Mohan (perspiring): What the hell did you just say…?

Lady (confused): I am a software analyst in an IT firm nearby, what did you hear?

Mohan (thinking “I must be very drunk” and he jerks his head off his hangover): Nothing…

Expecting an auto rickshaw, the lady again visually measures the length and breadth of the empty road.

Mohan: Do you stay alone… in this city?

For a moment, she looks at Mohan with a sad face, blows air, and shakes her head; and then turns back to stare at the empty road.

Mohan lights a cigarette and walks up to her. She is still staring at the road and Mohan is right behind her.

Mohan: Why didn’t anyone turn up to pick you at this hour?

A devilish smile appears on her face.

She turns back with her beautiful and cute face (sarcastically): No one came to pick me up, then with a suggesting face: But then you are here, my personal pick up.

Mohan (gasps): Yeah, indeed.

Lady: I think your prayers are answered, I don’t think I would get a cab.

Mohan (with a shy smile): what do you mean?

Lady: You like riding on your motorbike during cold wintery nights, right?

(Affirming, Mohan sheepishly smiles)

Then drop me home…

Mohan (asserting): I would rather enjoy it if someone beautiful like you rode with me.

The lady smiles and stretching her hands outwards sheds her shawl away, revealing her perfectly sculpted physique to an over excited Mohan.

Lady: Do you just enjoy, riding with beautiful girls? Or.., (Pauses for a moment)(Looking towards his scrotum) riding beautiful girls too?

Mohan (all excited): Really! Is it my lucky day today?

She comes closer and with a naughty smile: Can you ride me all the way?

Mohan (filled with lust): Yes, yes; just get on the bike… (And he starts the bike.)

The lady starts laughing,

Lady: Hahahahahahahaha

Mohan (with a made up smile looks here and there): Why are you laughing eccentrically...?

Defying gravity, her hair flares up and her eyes turn pale white, and laughing like a maniac she asks: then let’s ride all the way (And she starts revolving her head) Hahahahahahahaha

Terror gushes through Mohan’s blood vessels, forcing him to spontaneously race the bike. But regrettably, he loses control of his motorbike; and due to the melee, he is rendered incapable of seeing an oncoming truck and collides with it. The lady disappears into thin air, but her dreadful laughter, reverberates the entire atmosphere.

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