This story is selected as Editor’s Choice and won INR 500
We were returning after attending a- three days- seminar at a renowned Management Institute; the educational hub was located about 179 Kms from our town. I was driving my Honda Sedan and Subhrita, my Assistant Professor, was sitting in the front passenger seat. It was about 6.15 pm and the sun was already setting; its orange glow lighting up the far end of the sky; the birds were flying away in a flock.
On the way back, there was a long stretch of dense forest, quite a few kilometers I would presume. At that time the road was passing through the unbroken wood.
As the drive was long and arduous, I felt like taking a break. Pulling to the side and switching off the engine I looked at Subhrita, “Can I have a cup of coffee from the flask?“ She nodded and picked up the flask from the rear seat.
While sipping the coffee, I switched on the radio in the car tuning into the local FM band. A popular song started playing. I was feeling momentarily relaxed. Subhrita was gazing out of the window from her side – thick green forest was around us appearing to engulf us.
Time passed. The home bound birds were chirping but umpteen forest noises were increasingly becoming more audible; many parts of the flora were getting covered in the shadows due to gradual oncoming of darkness.
Coffee over, I was about to start the car when suddenly the song on the radio died away; must be some signal problem; silence descended … followed by noise of radio static… and then a blood curdling scream… so horrific that my senses dulled for a moment – the hair on my neck started bristling; a man’s voice floated in indistinctly, “Help… somebody help….I am dying…” It ended with a gurgling noise as if the man had been strangulated. Abruptly thereafter there was complete silence.
Soon the music restarted as if there was no interruption.
I stared at the radio and then turned towards Subhrita, “What was that?” My face showed a mixture of surprise and apprehension.
She frowned, “I don’t know…something very eerie, somebody seems to be in trouble, but how can that voice come through the radio? Let’s go home fast.” She looked away appearing nervous; it was natural.
I leaned forward and fiddled with the radio; everything appeared normal. Could it be some type of advertisement or radio play or it might be a cross radio channel? I scratched my head. What should I do?
That incident passed without any further occurrence and we returned home about an hour later; by which time darkness had fallen.
I would not have thought about the strange experience any further but for another incident which happened about a week later. I was alone in my car that day traveling on the same highway, nearing the identical place, the only difference was the time ; it was early afternoon.
Somehow my sixth sense was hinting that something will not be right. And that happened. This time exactly similar ghostly phenomenon occurred with the voice trailing, “…….I am dying… ,” followed by a gurgling noise.
I stopped the car. The daylight of a sunny afternoon made me more bold and besides a repetition had ensured that it was not a sudden shock.
Other vehicles were plying on the road. I alighted from the car and looked around. I was not sure what I intended to do except that I felt that the mystery would be solved here.
I had parked the car on the left side of the road, so it was instinctive that I looked at the forest at that side. Gradually I started walking inside. Due to the heavy vegetation a few steps inside drastically curtailed the brightness of the sun and a peculiar smell hit my nose. With whatever dim light which was percolating through the leaves and branches I saw the ground and found that it was covered with fallen leaves at various places; strewn around.
A portion of the open ground a little away on my right, caught my eyes. It looked as if it was dug up and then covered in haste. The area was relatively clear as compared to the adjoining areas. I went forward looking; all of a sudden noticed that something was sticking out of the loose earth…my God …it was a human finger!
At that instant a horrid scene flashed through my mind. This was a dead body just below the ground, could be decaying, and the conclusion was obvious … it was an unnatural death … most probably a murder.
I didn’t need any more thoughts; just turned and swiftly walked out of the forest. My only thought was to go to the police station.
As I was about to enter the City Police station, I saw her coming towards me. I was surprised, “How come you are here Subhrita?”
“I had just come to this side of the town when I saw you. Why are you entering the Police station?” She inquired.
“Well come with me, I will explain, it is an outrageous situation. I found a murdered man…. near the same place where we heard that strange radio voice.”
On hearing me in detail she reacted in sympathy as we entered the Police station. “It is terrible…who is that poor man…I feel very bad for him…”
Soon enough I was guiding a police team to that area in the forest .
Thenceforth about month and a half had passed. In the meantime, the dead man had been identified; an ex student of my Institute- 1992 batch. His name was Joseph. I had never met him.
During this time investigation was in progress. The autopsy report had pointed to death by poisoning. By then I had become very preoccupied with my project so I couldn’t check further with the police. There was also no communication from Subhrita; last we had met in the police station.
That day was Saturday. I was passing through the same area, it was early evening; I was alone in my car, its radio tuned in to my favorite station when abruptly an assonant silence descended and I heard the scream. Straightaway my senses became alert; I pulled up the car at the side, listening intently. But it was not a male voice; it was the voice of a female and it sounded familiar… who was it ?
The radio station came back. I was unsure, sat there thinking, wondering whose voice that was? Minutes passed but I remained seated. Again the music faded away and there was the accompanying silence. And, moments later, came that scream, the pleading voice of a female and then the gurgling noise … my mind went in a convolution… I could recognize the voice now…it was of Subhrita !
Heaven help me, how was that possible?
I jerked open the car door stepping out in a rush, virtually ran towards the forest, reaching the same spot where I had found the dead body of Joseph. The surroundings were similar; falling darkness midst the forest … saw a hand protruding out of the ground… but now it was a female hand with gold bangles! With trembling countenance I cleared the loose ground; a body was lying face upturned… she was Subhrita!!
Panicking I turned and ran out of the forest, entered my car and drove unsteadily towards the City Police Station.
Inspector Rathod was listening to me attentively.
“Are you sure about the identity of the dead woman – Subhrita?” He had a curious look in his face.
“Absolutely sure Inspector, no second thoughts, I knew her well…and as you would recall, we had come to you together during initial part of your investigation.”
He reached for a file, shaking his head, “In that case the only thing I can say is that this is a very odd position.“
Then opening the file he looked up, ”This is the investigation case file of Joseph.”
Without any further words, he stared at me for long moments.
Thereafter slamming the file close he said, “There are many aspects still to be probed in this case but you should understand that the prime suspect here is his ex girl friend… Subhrita.”
“And now you tell me this.” he grimaced.
I sat back astounded; it was unbelievable!
The police was suspecting that Subhrita had killed Joseph! Had Joseph retaliated by murdering her and burying in the same spot where he was buried? But how could he do that? He was dead. So was it his avenging ghost? And what about the enigma of voices in my radio? Were they the dying words of Joseph and Subhrita caught in freak radio waves which got transmitted time and again?
Days had since passed. The investigation was progressing. I had been informed by Inspector Rathod that adjacent to the body of Subhrita he had found Joseph’s wrist watch. Telltale proof that Joseph was responsible for her death?
Perhaps my thoughts were true!
Nevertheless, this could become the unsolved case file of the Inspector .