Luck had played a treacherous game with Bhimnath. The rain drops from the sudden downpour that hit the windshield of the Ambassador had made him reminisce what events had unfold in the past 2 months of his life. His wife had left him, taking his son with her, as his obsession with alcohol had become unbearable to her. He remembered the look of disgust on the face of his neighbours & relatives as they saw him as a abusive spouse and a bad parent. But, that was not the case. He loved both his wife and son unconditionally. He only started drinking because the grief of losing his Cab firm to debt had engulfed him. Now he earned his living by driving for others. Even today he had to borrow the Ambassador of one of his friends to drop a family to a wedding and back.
That bought his mind to what happened today. The service today was supposed to be a quick. He was to drop the customer and his family from the wedding at around 10 PM, at least, that was what the customer said. But then he decided to get drunk and dance up to 12:30. To make matters worse the clear night sky had worn a mask of thick black clouds throwing lightning from its eyes & it had started to rain as soon as Bhimnath dropped the festive family to their home. So, he had decided to take a shortcut through a narrow road through the jungle.
Bhimnath had diverted his focus from the pain in his heart, back to the road. Just then he saw a silhouette of a person waving at him to stop. “Hmph… another lost soul like me trying to get somewhere, maybe.” He wondered. Out of pity, Bhimnath stopped his car right next to this person, who held a small bag over his head to protect himself ingloriously from getting soaked. He quickly rushed into the backseat of the car, desperate to get out of the rain.
“Oh, you are a Godsend, Sir,” said the person “I thought I’ll never find anyone along this road.”
Bhimnath tried to catch a glimpse of his passenger, but the darkness allowed him to only catch a glimpse of only some features of his face. “I was just taking a shortcut into the town. Lucky I drove past you. You know, this is a bad place to travel on foot, that too at this time. Lot of dacoits & wild animals along this way.” Bhimnath said.
“Hah…I assure you I’m not a dacoit or a wild animal” Said the person sarcastically. This crackled up Bhimnath, for he hadn’t laughed for quite some time. “The name’s Amith by the way, I’m a mechanic at the nearby Power Plant” said the man.
“And I’m Bhimnath, the creepy driver that picks up lost people at 2 in the morning” countered Bhimnath with some sarcasm of his own. Both man had a good laugh.
As they drove through the lonely jungle, they started to have casual conversation. Bhimnath learned that Amith was a Man of his own tastes. They talked about their jobs, booze, the horrible weather, more booze…until…
“Hey, Bhimnath…look, somebody is waving at us to stop” pointed out Amith.
Bhimnath, on the heads up of his newly-made friend, tried to take a close look at the silhouette of yet another man trying to stop his car. He stopped the car again to help, thinking how bad can another passenger in this journey be? Amith opened the door to let the man into the car. The strange man clumsily rolled up the backseat & slammed the door, loudly. As the man was getting settled a strange, putrid smell…like that of cheap country rum mixed with something disgustingly unknown enveloped the cabin of the car. Bhimnath assumed the man was drunk. Again the dark prevented Bhimnath to make out how the strange man looked.
The Strange Man opened his mouth, his voice coarse, like he had gargled with gravel rocks, “Get moving, quickly. And when I tell you to stop…you stop. Got it?” Well that sounded more like a command than a request, Bhimnath thought. But then again the man was drunk up to his nose. And Bhimnath of all people knew what alcohol in excess can to do to a man’s behaviour. He could only imagine Amith’s reaction.
“Hello Sirji, I’m Amith, what is your name & where are you coming from?” Amith asked sitting next to the strange man with a hint of nervousness in his voice. “Unimportant! Just drop me to where I want to go” the man retorted. Bhimnath, after listening to this, did not try to agitate the man anymore. This must be Luck playing games with him again, that he ran across this beast of a man. So, he silently resumed to drive forward.
They must have driven for about 15 minutes or so, all with an awkward silence among them. Both the sober men did not dare to utter a word. The only noise on could hear were the raindrops on the windshield & the occasional grunts & curses of the Strange Man. Bhimnath had enough of this, the silence had been eating him alive. He decided to ask the Man where he wanted to get off & be done with this torment that plagued his car.
Suddenly, the orchestrator of this torment cried out…
“STOP! Stop right here! I have to get out, NOW!” Bhimnath was stunned by the sudden antic of his passenger due to which he hit the brakes hard. The old car screeched to a halt. The Strange Man stumbled clumsily out of the car and began making his way to the driver seat. Once he was there, he started thumping on the driver seat window with his hand. Bhimnath, filled with rage boiling up for about 15 minutes angrily lowered the window & was about to yell at his passenger. But the man slowly slid his palm inside the window holding a crumpled note of Rs.500.
But Bhimnath could not make out the denomination of the note his saw in front of him as his vision was transfixed on the Man’s palm as he was able to witness it up close.
That palm was not that of a man’s. It was big as the dinner plate that Bhimnath had his food from in the wedding he had been to. The Skin of the palm was leathery black like that of the seats in his car. The nails were overgrown and grotesque like that of an elephant’s tusk. The feature that scared Bhimnath in the monstrosity he saw before him was the jet black patches of hair growing out on the palm. The Man or Thing or whatever it was, dropped the note on Bhimnath’s lap and disappeared into the darkness of the jungle.
Bhimnath’s fingers were trembling. He gathered enough strength & wits to call out to his friend in the back.
“Amith…Amith are you al… alright? Did you see that? Did you see his…hand?”
“What?” scoffed Amith “What was wrong with it?”
“The hair on his palm, the nails like that of a Bear. Didn’t you see it?” asked Bhimnath.
“Yes, I did see it.”
“Weren’t you scared?”
“If you were scared by that I don’t know what you’ll after you see ME.”