October 23, 2007

I saw a ghost...I think!

This happened many years ago. I was still a young lad, not old enough to be allowed to go out alone after dark. So, it was always a great pleasure when some grown up in the family would agree to take me with them to the market, or anywhere at all.

One evening, it so happened that dinner could only be cooked if some necessary ingredients were got from the market. It fell upon two of my cousins to go to the village market and get the required items. Oh! did I forget to mention that at the time of the story, we had gone to the village to visit my grand parents. Our house in the village was a little away from any habitation. The nearest house was about a mile away, and the market was about the same distance. The path that led to the market passed through a dense forest and there were many ghost stories associated with it.

My cousins, both young lads of 16 or 17, did not believe in any of these stories and quickly agreed to go to the market. I on the other hand, being younger, believed in the stories and actually hoped that some day I would meet one of these ghosts.

As my cousins got ready to leave, I began to badger the elders about letting me go with them. The cousins had no objections in taking me along, and I was allowed to go with them. Now, it was getting quite dark and as we walked along, the darkness began to scare me. Yet, I could not let my cousins see it. I knew if I showed just the faintest signs of fear, I would be fodder for family jokes for a long time to come.

But, somehow, this evening was different. It was colder than usual. The silence was complete. There was no sound in the jungle, which was weird, because usually the forest is abuzz with sounds of insects and other creatures of the night. The stillness of the air completed the silence. The cousins were walking in complete silence too.

Thankfully, the forest road was soon over, and we reached the market. But, to our complete surprise, no living man was to be seen there. Every shop was empty and not even the shopkeepers were manning the shops. It seemed like a scene from a movie where the hero walks into a town, only to find it abandoned. If we were thieves, we would have had a great time there, but we were not. And we were getting late, so we quickly looked around for any signs of life.

"Ghhhhhhooooosssssttt!!" I heard one of cousins yell as he pointed somewhere on the facing hill.

The other cousin looked in the direction the first cousin was pointing at colour faded from his face too. Then they were both running as fast as they could. I looked at the hill and I saw a huge figure, shapeless, white in colour, sitting on a big rock. I kept looking trying to have a good look at them when I realised that my cousins were fast disappearing from view, and fear gripped me too.

I ran as fast as my little legs would take me and soon caught up with the cousins. Soon we were in the safety of our house, and were narrating our experience to everyone. As usually happens, no one believed us. They thought we had taken a detour and done something else, instead of going to the market.

Then the dog started barking...like never before, as if it had seen a ghost. There was something about the barking of the dog, that our story was believed, and no one dared to step out and see why the dog was barking like that. When the dog eventually stopped barking, it stopped forever.

Many things happened that night. None of us got any sleep. Everyone was hearing things and no one dared to go to his or her room. We spent the night huddled in one room, until it was morning and the sun drove the fear out of our minds.

This happened many many years ago. And when I try to talk about it now, no one remembers anything about that night. That makes me wonder, did it really happen or...was I dreaming?

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