This story is selected as Editor’s Choice and won INR 500
“Faster daddy, faster….”
“Slow down Shankar…. It’s too dangerous”
“Come on honey… Let’s boys have some fun”
I bent forward to look at the speedometer – It showed 120 kmph. I used to love going for long drives on a fast bike, hugging my dear love. But, ever since Arjun was born, I became a responsible mom.
“No Shankar…. There is not even a divider on this highway…. And, people these days drive crazy… Slow down please…”
“Nooo Daddy… Don’t slow down… Don’t let the red car win the race… Go…. Go… Go… Vrooom”
Shankar increased the speed of the bike and moved to the right lane to overtake the red car. As he was about to come back to our lane, a bike came out of nowhere on the opposite side…
“Faster Shankar, faster….”
“Hold on baby…. I am not driving a Ferrari… Plus, these roads are so bumpy…”
“Nooo…. Don’t slow down… Don’t let them catch us…. Go… Go… Go…”
“I told you that it was a bad idea to run away… The whole village is chasing us now”
“You should have thought about that before you proposed to me… I told you that our parents won’t agree, but you never listened”
“Ok.. Ok…. enough of that… If we can just make it past that railway crossing, they will be stuck for 20 minutes until the train crosses…. We will be free birds then….”
“Are you crazy? I can already see the train coming…. It is too dangerous…. Even if we are late by a second, our honeymoon will take place only in heaven…”
“Don’t worry…. You wanted me to drive faster na… Here we gooooo…”
I woke up from my dream, my hands wet with perspiration… I can still remember the day when Shankar and I fled from my village… If Shankar had been a second slower, the train would have crashed us… It was too risky, but that was our only option to escape from the village.
I turned to my left and brushed Arjun’s hair with my hand. I slowly bent down and kissed him on his forehead. He was sleeping, but his lips smiled. It’s amazing how children can feel real love even in their sleep. I turned to my right, and brushed my right hand on the empty bed. Tears dropped from my eyes. The space that was once occupied by my love, Shankar was now empty.
Unable to sleep, I started recollecting the accident….
If Shankar had not tried to overtake the red car, he might probably be alive now… I can faintly remember seeing Shankar’s body being carried away on a stretcher…. My vision was blurred as I had suffered severe injuries myself. I remember trying to utter Arjun’s name, but my lips didn’t co-operate. I turned around looking for him, before I fell unconscious.
The next thing I remember was that I was in a hospital. My hands were numb… I felt like a thousand hammers were trying to pierce nails into my head…. I couldn’t move my legs either…. My vision was still blurred… but, I contracted my eyes and looked around… I was able to see Arjun on the adjacent bed – His head was covered with a bandage, and I could see that his left hand was missing. I felt devastated and wanted to cry out loud…. But, just like a muted speaker, no sound came out of my mouth. I tried searching for Shankar, but could not locate him. I soon turned unconscious, yet again.
I don’t remember how long I stayed at the hospital or when I returned home. When I realized that Shankar was no more, I was shattered. I completely lost track of time. Days and nights were no longer different for me. Everything seemed dark. I shut myself completely at home. There was no one I could go to. It’s been 5 years since I ran away from my village. The thought of going back did not cross my mind even now, as I knew that the villagers will never leave Arjun and myself alive. I was not afraid to die. In fact, my death bed would have been a bed of roses compared to the life of thorns. But, there was just one reason I had to live for – It was Arjun.
I knew that being a single mother was not going to be easy. All through my life, I had either been living under the shadow of my father, or with the love and protection of Shankar. I had heard stories of how young widows struggle in this male dominated world. I was afraid to face the world without protection – I felt like an egg without a shell.
One night, Arjun was watching Tom and Jerry on TV. I was sitting next to him, lost in thoughts. Suddenly, the TV display turned to a different channel. I took the remote and changed it back to the Tom and Jerry show. But, within couple of seconds, the TV channel changed. I noticed that it was now playing the movie Titanic – the first movie that Shankar and I saw together after marriage. I changed the channel one more time, but after couple of seconds it went back to Titanic. I was shocked and switched off the TV. But, the TV switched on by itself and Titanic started playing. I tried to take the remote in my hand… But, it started flying in air and pointed towards the TV. I tried again to take the remote, but felt a force pulling it away from me.
I was horrified and ran into the bedroom, carrying Arjun with me. He asked me why we are in the bedroom, and if he can go back to watch the cartoon. I somehow convinced him to go to sleep. But, I was not able to sleep. My mind kept replaying the scene of the TV channel switching and the remote flying. After struggling a lot, I finally fell asleep.
“Please…. Please…. Let’s take one photo”
“No way… It is raining…. I don’t want to spoil my lovely camera”
“Hmmm… “ (with a grumpy face) “Then, am I not your love?”
“You are my love too….. But, the camera is my first love”
“Youuuuuu…” I started chasing him…..
“Ha ha… You can’t catch me”
After running a few meters, he turned and started running backwards…. He then took out the camera and focussed it on me… As I got closer, I tightened my fist and was ready to punch the camera lens
“You wanted a photo, right? Here you go….” (click sound)
I looked at the photo, that showed me with a frowning face – my eyebrows close to each other… eyelids half closed… my mouth expressing a mischievous smile, and my right fist ready to punch the viewer…. There was a rain droplet in the photo, just below my left eye… probably due to the rain that visited earth at the time the photo was taken…… I touched the droplet in the photo, and my finger became wet – indicating to me that it was not a rain drop, but a drop of tear from my eyes…. I wiped the tear off the motionless eye (on the photo) and the operational, yet lifeless eye that was part of my physical body….
I closed the photo album and kept it on the sofa… I closed my face with my palms and bent down, resting my elbows on my knees…. Tears started flowing out of my eyes as if water from a dam was just released…… I heard a faint sound of Arjun calling me from the bedroom… I wiped my tears with my saree and went to check on him…. He was fast asleep…. I thought that maybe I imagined his voice, and started walking towards the living room…
As I reached the living room, my body started shaking by what I saw – The photo album was flying few feet above the sofa… Slowly the pages started to turn one by one….. I stayed frozen, with my mouth open… My heart started beating fast and I started breathing heavily…After a few seconds, I closed my mouth and gulped down the air….
I looked around and found a flower vase near me. I took it in my hands and held it close to my chest. I slowly started walking towards the sofa, with my hands tightly gripping the flower vase. If there was any evil spirit present, I knew that a flower vase was not going to save me. But holding it gave me the strength to move closer to the sofa. As I moved a few steps, the photo album fell down on the floor with a thud sound. It wasn’t too loud…. but in the silence of the house, it was loud enough to wake up Arjun….
“Mommy, where are you?” – I turned around and saw Arjun standing outside the bedroom. His eyes were half open, and he was rubbing them using the fingers from his only hand.
The lights in the house started flickering. I heard the sound of rain crashing against the ground outside. It seemed like a heavy downpour.
KA-BOOM – Suddenly, there was a loud sound of thunder, and the lights went off completely.
“Mummyyy”, Arjun came running towards me.
Holding the flower vase in one hand, I bent down grabbed him with my other hand. The house was pitch dark now.
“Hold my hand Arjun… Walk slowly with me – one step at a time. We need to find a candle”
I started walking slowly, holding Arjun’s hand tightly. My eyes slowly got used to the darkness, and I was able to find my way. As I walked past the sofa, I heard someone softly calling my name. A chill ran down my spine. It was not Arjun’s voice… but the voice sounded familiar. I continued walking, and heard my name being called again. I was able to recognize the voice now – It was Shankar’s voice. I slowly turned my face to look at the sofa…
“AAAHHHH….” – The lightning crackled outside, flashing light on the sofa… It was only for a second, but enough to let me catch a glimpse of Shankar sitting on the sofa.
I dropped the flower vase on the floor, and started to run, carrying Arjun with me…. I reached a corner of the room and kneeled down… I held Arjun’s body tightly… I was afraid to turn towards the sofa… But, anxiety made me look at the sofa… It was empty… Maybe it was my hallucination…
“NNOOOO” – The lightning illuminated the sofa again, and I saw Shankar sitting there… It was not a hallucination.. I turned towards Arjun – He looked horrified… Did he see his dad on the sofa? I was too terrified to ask him anything…
I started hyperventilating…I wrapped my arms around Arjun and hugged him tightly…
“Everything will be fine Arjun… Just relax… Mommy is here for you…”
I closed my eyes tightly… I think it might have been an hour or so before we fell asleep…
Days passed… Occasionally, I used to see some paranormal activity… At first, the thought of living in a house with a spirit scared me… But, most of the abnormal activities seemed to convey something to me – It was the presence of my husband, Shankar…. Right from the TV channel switching to Titanic (the first movie that Shankar and I watched after marriage) to the pages of the photo album turning, it was all related to Shankar and myself. There were times when the music system suddenly started playing Shankar’s favorite song… And, at times I could find my favorite dish (that only Shankar could cook) served on the dining table.
As I started realizing that the spirit was of Shankar’s, I felt protected. But, I was a bit concerned if I was just imagining things… I was afraid that I might be suffering from some medical condition… But, even if I was suffering from any such condition, I didn’t want to get cured… I couldn’t talk or listen to Shankar… And, I couldn’t even see him… But, I was able to feel him… And, that feeling was enough to keep me going… I dismissed all thoughts of visiting a doctor or even calling a priest to examine the house… I did not want to lose Shankar a second time..
One night, after Arjun went to bed, I went to the living room. I noticed a dim light on the dining table. As I went closer, I realized that the light was coming from Shankar’s laptop. From the position where I was standing, I could only see the back of the laptop. I quickly moved to the other side of the table to see what was displayed on the screen. Tears started flowing from my eyes and I started breathing heavily from what I saw on the laptop screen –
There was a Google Chrome browser showing search results for “How to contact spirit of dead person”… Why did I not think of this? All these days, I was hoping that Shankar’s soul will contact me. But, it never occurred to me that I should contact him. I realized that Shankar had been waiting for me to contact him. But, since I had not taken any step, he has now tried to show me what I need to do to get in touch with him.
The thought of being able to interact with Shankar made a strange excitement grow inside me. I opened some of the websites and read the instructions. I was too anxious… I looked around to see if there was a paper to take notes. I saw Shankar’s personal diary on the table. I opened it and turned to the last written page…
My attempts to reach out to Kavya and Arjun are finally paying off. Though the developments are not as fast as I wanted, at least there is some progress. After hearing only her voice for the past few weeks, I was finally able to catch a glimpse of Kavya today. It was only for a second, but that is enough to keep me going for now. It has been quite tough to contact Kavya. But, Arjun, on the other hand has been very responsive.
The progress has been slow with Arjun as well. But, at least he is able to recognize my presence and is responding to me. If I can get into a full conversation with him, I am sure he will lead me to Kavya.
I quickly turned few pages to the right…
I was sitting on the sofa in the living room and was going through an old photo album of Kavya and myself. I suddenly heard someone calling “Mommy”. I looked up and was shocked to see a flower vase flying in the middle of the room. I was horrified and sprang out of the sofa. The photo album fell down from my hands.
The lights in the room suddenly went off. It started raining heavily. I heard a soft whisper “Hold my hand”. I felt nervous and my legs started trembling. My knees felt too weak to let me stand. I slowly sat on the sofa. I don’t know why, but it just occurred to me that maybe it was Kavya… I called out her name “Ka… Kavya”… There was no sound. I called out her name again.. Still no response.
But, suddenly the flower vase fell down and broke into pieces. I was startled… I wanted to run, but was frozen out of fear. I closed my eyes and started praying.
I started sweating profusely by now…. I tried to turn the pages of the diary, but my hands were shivering… I took a deep breath and turned few more pages to the right…
I returned from the hospital today. My body is full of severe injuries. But, I cannot feel even a little pain in my body. All the pain is in my heart. I continue to get nightmares of Kavya and Arjun. Their blood drenched bodies are fresh in my mind. I feel guilty for causing the accident. If I had not raced with the red car, my heart and soul would still be alive. I feel like committing suicide… If it was not for Arjun’s voice that has been calling me “Dad” for the past few days, I would no longer be alive. It might end up as a stupid hallucination. But, my heart says that he is out there.. and so is she… She might not have called out to me yet, but I know that she is still there… And, if she is there, I am going to find her…
Inspired by “The sixth Sense”