Driving through the dark and gloomy forest alone, in my small but comfortable car, had never been something I could do without getting completely freaked out. Yet I was out on the lonely road, driving through the wilds. I am a timid person and I accept it. God made me this way. Whenever I am going through some situation which isn’t scary enough to scare a kid, I make it horrifying by thinking about all sorts of ghosts and demons from hell. For example, at that point of time, I was uncontrollably thinking “At any instant, there will be an evil witch or a ghost (a female one as they are scarier), standing at the roadside, asking for a lift, and it won’t really matter if I pulled over or not. She would get me anyway, being a witch, of course.”
My name is Timothy Bates. But I prefer being called Tim. I am a skinny, white male of 28 and have brown hair. And, of course, I am the biggest scaredy-cat of my small town, Frankville. This isn’t something I’m proud of and I am not ashamed of it either. I had been looking for an opportunity to ward this fear of paranormal entities by experiencing something of this sort. But this isn’t possible; ghosts aren’t real. At least that’s what I try to keep in mind. GHOSTS ARE A MYTH. PERIOD. Lost in a myriad of thoughts about everything out of the ordinary, I continued my drive. I had to drive to the next town to surprise my parents who weren’t expecting me. I would’ve started my journey at a time when there are people around but I wanted to spend the entire weekend with my family. Moreover, an unpleasant weather was expected the next day.
Oblivious to anything except my family and ghosts, I drove. The shape of the tall trees in the dark was looking menacing. “What if my car stopped here?” I couldn’t help it. The thought was already haunting my mind when suddenly, the worst case scenario did happen. The last thing I wanted was to be stuck in the middle of nowhere. But talk about misfortune. My car made some weird noises and stopped with a screech.
There I was, waiting for a passerby in my broken down car. It was really chilling outside. Travelling through such a road at this time was, indeed, an erroneous decision, especially for a timid person like me. It was around 2 A.M. when I saw the headlights of a car. With a sigh of relief, I leaped out of the car and waved for help. To my fortune, the car pulled over.”Where do you wanna go?” An old man of about 60 asked, watching me through his spectacled eyes. He had a few hair on his head, mostly white. He was wearing an old sweater. “Terrystone “, I replied with a polite and grateful smile. “Well, I’m afraid its quite far ahead my own destination. Anyway, you should come along. I have a large house and a caretaker. You shall find shelter there,” said the kind old man.
“Thank you, sir.” I said getting into the car. “The name’s Johnathan. Call me Mr. John.” said the man. The entire trip (of about 45 minutes) was spent with an awkward silence in the car. I was trying to force a conversation every now and then, but he seemed like a ‘man of few words’. The car pulled over in front of a gigantic house, a mansion to be more appropriate. The mansion would’ve been the reason for jealousy of many, in the past, but now it was no better than an uninhabited house. Inside now. The interior was as freezing as the outside. There was an abnormal amount of fragrance, most probably of a room freshner, in the entire house. “Sorry for the strong smell,” said John, “the sewage system isn’t quite good here. There are all sorts of nasty smells coming from the gutters at times.”
I went to bed. The room I was given wasn’t that cold. I pondered over the strange behavior of the caretaker. He was a middle aged man with dark skin and thick black hair. He seemed too quiet, too worried about something. I didn’t bother myself much.
A crying voice woke me up at 4 A.M. A chill of fear ran down my entire spine. Something of this sort was enough to scare a normal man, let alone a man like me. If it had been a movie, the protagonist would’ve gone out to check what caused the commotion. But I, being a smart man, remained inside. Tuck, tuck. A knock at the door. “Wh…who is it?” I managed to force a few words out of my mouth. “Sir, its me, Luke, the caretaker.” I trusted no one. Though I knew it was him from the voice, I chose to stay put. “OPEN UP..”, he began shouting and pounding at the door.
I was so overcome with fear, I couldn’t move.”YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND…OPEN”,then I suddenly heard John “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GO AWAY AT ONCE.” He used his master key to unlock my door and said,”Sorry for that. Maybe I should’ve warned you earlier.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, rather nervously. My heart began to race wildly and I could feel my blood throbbing against the walls of my veins. Lubb dupp… lubb dupp… I could almost hear my heart. “Well, if I tell you, you won’t believe me. But you should listen if you wish to live,” John said, making me totally freak out on the inside, while I had put on a pious appearance on the outside.”Luke, the caretaker is a nice person and really cares for me. But sadly enough, he has passed away a year ago. And the only trouble for you is, if you try to escape before sunrise, I’m afraid you might not make it… You see, he can be really aggressive at times.” I think I might have lost consciousness at that, for the next thing I remembered was waking up on the bed of the same room.
I knew that in order to survive, I would have to plan my actions. It could easily have been a prank, but I was to worked up then to think about that. I decided to sneak out of the house. I felt quite fresh and was ready to face any ordeal. As I approached the front door, a force pulled me into the kitchen. It was too dark to see what it was, but a candle threw light upon the face of the one who had pulled me. I stood there, my mouth open wide, as I stared in horror.
Luke. It was Luke.”What are you doing here,” he asked in a whisper. Fear was choking me. I couldn’t speak. “You have invited your own death, my friend. You won’t escape.” I managed to let out a few words, “Please… please don’t… I am the only support of my old parents.” Luke seemed confused. “Listen to me… I’m not the one you should look out for, its John who had died an year ago not me.” But how could I’ve believed. “I can prove it,” he asserted.
He took me by the hand and led me to a small room on the other end of the hall. It seemed like a control room. “I have here the CCTV footage of three hours ago, outside your room,” he said. I watched. Luke was banging on the door. Then I heard, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GO AWAY AT ONCE.” But what was so horrifying which made the hair on my neck stand was that there was no John in the footage. Not even when he opened the door. Now it made sense. According to horror movies, ghosts don’t have a reflection, not even in a mirror.
Hours ago, I was excited to meet my parents. Now my life had become all topsy-turvy. Luke continued, “John died of heart attack after being filled with grief due to the news of his daughter Emily’s death. She used to live in Canada. He got the news a day after she died. He had a heartache. He refused to see the doctor. When his condition worsened, I decided to take him to a hospital, without his consent. But he died on his bed the very next minute. The only person in that poor man’s life was his daughter. He was really lonely. For some reason, his soul hasn’t departed yet. He says he doesn’t want to leave his house, he is attached to this house with a bond of good memories. Maybe its because I haven’t buried his body. He didn’t allow me.”
My heart felt heavy and scared at the same time. Luke continued, “John told me that your face reminded him of a dear childhood friend, he has no intention of letting you leave, even if it means killing you. You think you’ll leave at sunrise, eh? Have a look at your watch. It says ‘4 A.M.’ , the same time at which I woke you up. This mansion won’t see a sunrise before your death. The crying voice was of John, who usually cries when he misses the days of his life. Run away while you still can. As of me, I will stay, after all, I’m his caretaker and he needs my support.”
The story was enough to fill my heart with pity for the old man. Yet I decided to flee. I’m timid, ain’t I? I ran out of the door of the control room. But this time, the door led to a completely different area. A bedroom? I gaped in horror as I saw the rotting and smelly dead body of the old man John. That’s what the fragrance was for. A paper was stuck to the mirror with a few rhyming lines on it:
Whenever my mind thinks of you,
My two old eyes get filled with water,
Why, oh God, why,
Did you have to take from me my beloved daughter…
I saw a few drops of my tears on the paper. “HELLO, OLD FRIEND.” I heard John’s voice. I was scared no more. Only full of grief. John approached me with a knife. “Please, no. I’m sorry about your daughter’s loss. And your death too. But you should know the value of the child for a parent. I am the only support of my parents. They are about as old as you.” The man started to cry.
“I’m sorry but I’ve no one else in my life. I need support too. YOU WILL DIE.”
“Why don’t you rather let me free you from your ghostly state by burying your corpse. You’ll meet Emily in the heaven won’t you.”
“I don’t want to leave this house.”
“So why don’t you let me bury you in your own backyard. Your body will remain in the house and you shall meet Emily.”
This melted the old man. He agreed. He accompanied us to his own burial. We made our way to the outside. It was still dark. As I buried the corpse, John began to fade away and said a final thank you before disappearing. “May your soul rest in peace, John.” I said as the first rays of sun fell upon the ground.
At my parents’ house, I narrated the whole story. My dad seemed quite inquisitive. “Hey, Tim,” he said, “Was this John’s original name Johnathan by any chance?” When I gave positive reply, he said, “That poor old fool, he was MY childhood best friend. We were in school together…” Dad’s heart became heavy with nostalgia. He remembered his childhood and he cried a lot. At least someone cried for that poor old man who believed he had no one left to care for him.