Still in a deep slumber, Nisha pulled the blanket closer to her body. The unexplained sudden drop in room temperature was now creeping into her body. “Weird” her slowly awakening mind signaled to her. True that it was a cold October night in the mountains of Shimla; but her bed was comfortable enough to provide the missing warmth. Plus wooden interiors of this guesthouse, a manor style chalet of the British era where she and her twelve college-mates stayed with two teachers were considerably warm. “Then, why this sudden cold?” deeper Nisha snuggled into the blanket, colder she felt.
Then she heard it, “thud, thud, thud” sound of heavy footsteps somewhere close to her. As the sound reached her ears again, Nisha’s brain became alert realizing the source of sound was inside her room. Her eyes popped open and Nisha slowly lowered her blanket, just enough to see that source. She saw a guy with brown hair wearing a worn-out black overcoat standing in the middle of room and Nisha’s eyes widened. The collars of his overcoat were turned up, hiding the man’s face effectively.
But what was visible scared the hell out of Nisha; the man’s shining blue eyes were focused on her. In the dark of the room, the man’s piercing blue eyes were sending shivers to Nisha’s whole body. Feeling her breaths had become uneven out of fear, Nisha tried to breathe in through her mouth. Her eyes fell down on the man’s gloved hands; “No!” her mind screamed again and her lips attempted to do the same but no voice came out. A revolver in the right hand of mysterious man aimed at her heart gleamed in faint light of the room. Her mouth opened and closed many times, trying to scream; trying to shout for help; trying to stop the man from pressing the trigger of revolver.
But what came out were only silent gasps and tears trickling down her cheeks.
The lips of man slowly spread into a creepy smile, in stark contrast to his stony blue eyes. His thumb moved just a little on the trigger of revolver and Nisha’s heart almost stopped. No, no, it cannot happen; she wanted to see her parents at least before dying. She had so much to do yet in life, so much to see. This was not what she’d expected from this trip. “No!” the loud scream finally left her lips just as the gunshot filled the silence of room.
Now sitting straight on bed, her chest rose and fell as her fearful eyes checked the now empty room. There was nothing, no sign of any person’s existence, nothing. The man had simply vanished, then it struck Nisha; she’d seen a nightmare, a very scary nightmare. Probably it was the result of spooky story about the history of this guesthouse. The staff of hotel had informed their group that once it was the residence to a high-ranked British Officer- “Charlie Ripon”.
But the chapel was left ownerless when one night Charlie Ripon and his whole family were cold-bloodedly murdered under mysterious circumstances. After investigation the accused, one of their servants was nabbed and punished. Still, for a long time the bungalow had remained unoccupied. People feared the dark silhouettes seen in lawn of the bungalow at nights; and the occasional vision of light in the window of master bedroom in a vacant chalet.
It was only after the government had taken over the chalet and turned it into a guesthouse that the fear was slowly forgotten. “What?” her friends had almost exclaimed and wondered aloud, “So it is a haunted guesthouse? How is it people can still come to stay here then?”
“No-no, nothing of that sort is seen or experienced now” the staff had assured. But this nightmare had almost forced Nisha to think otherwise. “Was it the result of psychological side of her brain or anything else?” She had wondered.
In her nightmare the feeling of cold had entrapped Nisha, but now the sweat beads trickled down her temples. Nisha sighed, extending her hand towards the glass of water kept on side-table. As her dry throat soaked in satiated feel of cool water, Nisha’s attention went to the other side of double bed. This room was allotted to Nisha and her friend-cum-classmate “Ruchi”. So Nisha expected to find Ruchi’s sleeping form on the other side of this shared double-bed.
Her need to share the plight of this nightmare with someone strong, Nisha decided to wake her friend up. But to her surprise, Ruchi’s side of bed was vacant and the blanket was ruffled up. “Ruchi?” Nisha called out getting up to look for her friend. Draping a shawl around her shoulders Nisha moved in search of Ruchi. She peeped in the bathroom also which turned up empty too.
Just then there was a loud knock on the door of her room made Nisha almost jump. “Yes?’ she called out; “Who is it?” Nisha asked but no one answered. There was a knock again, this time louder forcing Nisha to open the door.
“Who……?” She started to utter her question, but stopped short on being greeted by an empty corridor. Nisha looked on both sides, but as far as eyes allowed no one appeared in the line of her sight. Now Nisha’s footsteps slowly progressed towards the other rooms. All of them were occupied by her college-mates. She raised her hand to knock on one but was surprised to see it ajar.
The creak of door filled the silence as Nisha opened it. Inside she checked every nook and corner but no one was in. “What is happening?” she thought and went on to check other rooms also. One by one, room after room, Nisha checked all and found all of them empty. “No, how is it possible?” the voice in her head said amidst the voices of her own loud heartbeats.
Nisha darted down the stairs of this old Bungalow, her eyes darting everywhere too. In a dark night, in a supposedly haunted guesthouse, Nisha was all alone. “What if that story is true? What if this bungalow is truly haunted? Has something happened to my friends? What will I do now?” Nisha was so afraid that she did not dare to look in other parts of the guesthouse. She started chanting Hanuman Chalisa in low murmurs trying to assure herself that everything is fine; and it is only her panicked mind making her feel this way. She would soon see or find one of her friends. They must be outside probably, chilling in the lawns and making the most of a cold mountain night. But all her efforts went in vain when the voice of a shattering glass startled Nisha’s already frightened senses. Nisha clutched her heart, her mouth agape as her head snapped towards direction of the noise from somewhere behind her. The completely dark interior made it impossible for Nisha to make out anything. The now familiar fear once again attempted to take Nisha’s heart in its clutches.
Unable to bear more Nisha immediately turned and ran out of the guesthouse and to the lawns, her breaths heavy. Coming to a stop only when she felt safer, Nisha tried to catch her breath when her attention went to the long deodar trees on the other end of vast lawns. “Was it a moving shadow in-between the dark shades of those tall trees?” Nisha wondered. Suddenly the dread of that far end corner had become more important than the lit-up lamp posts lining the sides of lawn. It was then when Nisha heard the sound of someone running behind her.
Gasping she turned once again to face the bungalow. Careful not to make any noise, Nisha walked to the sides of bungalow, where the footsteps had seemingly ran to. Just before she could turn the corner of walls, some arms grabbed her shoulders. “Aaaah” she screamed again closing her eyes.
Someone put hand on her mouth just then when the familiar voice of her friend “Ruchi” gave Nisha some relief. “Shhh, stop shouting! Here we were trying to scare you, but your scream is scaring us!” Ruchi exclaimed and Nisha immediately opened her eyes to see the whole group of her friends around. She gave out a sigh of relief as her shoulders dropped in a happy defeat. Then she understood, it was all a prank planned by her friends. “What the hell!” Nisha shouted, “I will not leave you guys!”
As the night was filled with the laughter of her friends and Nisha’s complaints, Ruchi explained to her. “Remember you were the one to take that story about history of this bungalow turned guesthouse too seriously? So we decided to have a little fun with you. Before you could see us, we always vanished into our hiding-spots” she said. Crossing her arms across her chest and narrowing her eyes, Nisha looked at her friend “This is not funny! What if I had a heart attack?” she asked.
“Aww, we won’t let anything happen to our dearest friend” Ruchi said hugging Nisha. Soon enough her other friends joined them in a group hug. Happily talking they walked back inside the guesthouse to complete their sleep, unaware of the focused gaze of two people behind them.
A tall man with brown hair & blue eyes stood in the dark shadows of deodar trees at the far end of lawn. He was holding hands of an equally tall, slender figured girl with golden hair and grey eyes. The couple looked unblinking at the happy young group of students in front of them. “They are not afraid of us” the man said now looking at the woman with him; a straight smile spreading on both their lips.
© 2015 Charu Bhatnagar