Short Stories

What Came Along by Twastree Chakravarty

Rating: 10 out of 10.

Part I

There was nothing really special about that night. It wasn’t full moon, new moon, stormy or anything that could cook up an eerie feeling. Just a simple night, getting a little warm as summer had almost arrived. But for a bunch of engineering college going boys in their late teens, and put up in hostels, it was an evening to savour. Exams were just over. And there was enough time to loiter before they headed home for their week-long holiday. An ideal setting for some adrenaline kick and chilled beer!

It was a group of six, mostly from similar backgrounds and means. Getting together over drinks was a part of their regular routine. ‘Party’ — a setting of cheap liquor, cheaper snacks and self entertainment in the mode of music, dance and stories — would be called at the drop of a hat. It didn’t take special occasions to have some fun in their rather mundane, rigorous and mechanical lives of engineering studies. Evenings such as these were a lively relief from the humdrum of monotonous lectures, back-breaking preparations for extremely competitive exams and worries of an uncertain future. And when the day was indeed special, like a birthday or someone getting a girlfriend, the liquor budget would get a little hike, snacks would comprise chicken and as entertainment the venue would move from one of their rooms to the hostel terrace or somewhere even more discreet.

End of exams was an exceptionally special occasion. It was the daddy of all special occasions. It was the sweet, golden period before results were out. Furthermore, it was like the moments of relief a porter gets between carrying luggages on his back. One load down, another waits to be picked up — in between, a few well-earned moments of peace. Once the results come out, there is always the pressure of doing better next time, no matter if the score turns for the good or the bad. Had this been their final exams, the ‘party’ would have assumed massive proportions. But that was yet to come. The boys still had another one and a half years till they were qualified engineers. And then each would go their own way.

This evening, ‘party’ was definitely in order. A sum was collected with the savings they had from their pocket monies. While the usual liquor is a dark, red rum, today they decided they deserved beer. Fair enough. Beer was procured. Some grilled chicken was also arranged for. But where to party? The warden had tightened the noose around on-goings to the terrace, after a boy under heavy intoxication fell over and broke a few bones. So the terrace was out of the question.

There was another spot near a lake that wasn’t very far from the hostel premises. But they had been there too many times. Besides, it would most likely be overcrowded tonight, with many claiming their first mover advantages. There was also the abandoned, dried up well, right behind the chemistry labs. Very few go there too, simply because it’s a really uncomfortable setting. And this was no night to stress the backbones.

As they kept trying options, one of them came up with an idea that seemed brilliantly perfect at the time. Not very far from their hostel, maybe around a mile or so, there was a beautiful church. None of these guys came from a Christian background, but the tranquillity of the place didn’t skip any of their notice. Obviously, drinking there was not being suggested here. But, right opposite to the Church, there was a narrow, muddy road that led to a Christian burial ground that very few knew about. The graveyard wasn’t really preferred by respectable families in the locality. In the sad case of a demise, the well-to-do, educated Christian families would usually go to a larger ground located much farther from the place. Nobody was quite sure why no one ever chose this one with better proximity.

So in any case, the graveyard was pretty isolated and abandoned. One of the local assumptions was that only the unclaimed bodies and people dying of extreme, unnatural causes were buried here. The location of the graveyard also added to its anonymity. The Church was placed right on a broad street covering a large area. On the opposite side of the Church, people had built huge houses and apartments. On the side of one such house, ran a shabby, muddy road, more of a patch with more houses on both sides. Around 500 yards into the patch, there was another mud-road on a sudden right turn. This road led to first a small open ground. After the ground was a concrete gate that looked like a hut. This was the entrance to the graveyard, which would have been no more than two-acres. Though the graveyard was right behind the row of houses and apartments in the area, once inside, none of it was really visible. There were tall trees grown haphazardly in the area and overgrown bushes around all the graves. There was one particular grave that had a canopy over it. But all the tombstones had gathered enough dust, moss and damage that none of the inscriptions could be read. Particularly in the dark. And by around 8 o’clock in the evening, the surrounding area became quiet enough to give the place a deathly silence and an ominous aura.

Our boy had suggested they go to this graveyard and give a ghostly twist to their entertainment tonight! What say!
Now although these boys were basically good-natured and of sensible upbringing, this was an age when everything could be tried. At least once. Besides, ghosts, spirits, the supernatural have fascinated mankind since the beginning of time. And in this group, some of them came with a varying level of interests of their own. After very little dilly-dallying, the deal on the venue was struck.

But they had come to an agreement that they would do nothing to disrespect or disturb the serenity of the place and ghost-hunting per se was not going to be on their agenda. It all made perfect sense. They were only going to have beer, so chances of super-intoxication was less. And the setting was just ideal. A little fun, a little scare, and little risks to worry about — what else could they wish for!

The bunch arrived at about 8.30 pm having finished their regular stuff and picked up all they needed. Beer was to be had straight from the bottle, so no need for glasses. A couple of paper plates to place the grilled chicken on. Some other savouries to accompany. Cigarettes, of course. Once they had all arrived, they went inside the graveyard together. There was some light coming in from the nearby street lamps and a little spared by a half moon that shone right above in a clear, starry sky. All they needed now was a clear spot to station themselves for the next few hours. As providence would have it, there was one particular grave that looked quite clean for its surroundings and had enough space for them all to fit in. There was no tombstone either which made it look not so much like a grave. That worked a bit towards shredding a guilt quotient that might surmount in any of them.

The stage was set and the party began. Within thirty minutes and one bottle of beer down each, everyone had become comfortable and acquainted with their surroundings, and the party was going full swing. There was so much to discuss. It’s surprising how people find so much to talk about with a little bit of alcohol in their veins! Soon they even forgot that there was supposed to be a supernatural angle to this evening. Even the environment played its act in making everything seem well-fitting. A steady, pleasant breeze, usual sounds of an urban night, occasional bursts of horns from trucks plying on the broad street, and a joyful dance of shadow and light.

At this point, it is important to talk a bit in detail about these boys. One of them in particular, Chirantan, was the timid of the lot. In a country where being multi-linguist is nothing uncommon, Chirantan had been able to master only one language – his mother tongue, Bengali. English was something he could only manage in the textbooks and exam papers. Engineering studies were the first reason for him to step out of his native town; he being the first in his entire clan. A lot of his timidness can be credited to his limitations in terms of language and exposure to a modern, urban culture of the city where he came over to study and make a future out of. But he got lucky with a bunch of friends who backed him up whenever needed.

The other boys in the group can be broadly placed under the upper middle-class, educated, intelligent stratum of the Indian society. They were all from the Bengal ethnicity, but equally fluent with at least English and Hindi. Some of them had the opportunity to know more languages, but that’s not important here. What’s important is that none of them had any kind of proficiency in the language of the land they were in – Kannada.

Coming back to the ‘party’ – the evening went smoothly into the night. At around 10.30 pm, almost two hours since they arrived, they heard a soft brushing on the left side of the grave they were sitting on. Amit, who can be easily assumed as the leader of the gang, heard it first. He poked Chiri (the nickname for Chirantan) about the sound. Everybody was alert. But the sound swiftly moved from one end of the left side of the grave to the other and stopped. As they were just beginning to feel scared, Amit turned on the flashlight on his newly acquired mobile phone and faced it in the direction of where the noise went off. The tail of a cat swooshed and disappeared in the nearby bush.

‘Uff’, Chirantan heaved a sigh of relief.

And the party went on. In peace for the rest of the time.

The group left the place at around 1.00 am and returned to their respective hostel rooms. Most of them were leaving for home the next day, for about a week. Life continued as usual.

Part II

The week-long vacation was over and the boys returned to their campus one after the other. Classes resumed as scheduled. Results were due in another week. A palpable anticipation was growing on everyone.

Our boys would have their typical meetups from time to time. Nothing special transpired meanwhile. The graveyard party was weaning off from memory. Come results, they would have to plan another one, regardless of how they fare. Not in a graveyard this time. Some experiences should better be left at one time.

In the normal course of things, only Chiri seemed to be quieter than he usually was. It wasn’t very noticeable given his usual demeanor, but when he did not respond in a particular class even when the professor addressed him directly, his friends felt a bit odd. They brushed it aside thinking Chiri might be day-dreaming. But they also decided that he has been looking quite pale lately. He probably needed a bit of shaking-up.

The same evening, they were all gathered in Amit’s room – the most preferred place for their regular convenings. The conversation was aimlessly hop-scotching around anything under the sky. Chiri was also present, but was absent-minded.

Suddenly, something happened to Chiri. Without making any sound, his body took a sudden twist and bent backwards, with both arms also bended in a weird manner. It was like an epileptic fit, only that there was no trembling. His eyes were turned towards the ceiling and he froze in that state like a statue. Was he breathing? What was happening to him? The other boys were terrified. A couple of them began to panic not knowing what needs to be done now. One of them tried to shake Chiri and sprinkle water on his face to make him come back – but to no avail. It was Amit who rushed to the warden’s quarters. They needed grown up intervention. Chiri must have been in that state for a few minutes. Breathing, but very slowly. It’s hard to tell exactly how long it might have been.

The warden arrived. Seeing Chiri in that state must have jolted him as well. But he had to keep his cool and handle the situation like a man. Not for long. Within seconds of the warden’s arrival, Chiri simply got back to his normal state. As if nothing ever happened. He was rather surprised to find that all his friends were staring at him with bewilderment. And the warden was also here!

When Chiri found out what happened to him, his feelings were beyond comprehension. He was confused, surprised, in utter disbelief – and above all, scared.

The warden and the boys began to enquire about any history of epilepsy in his family or if he ever had epilepsy as a child. But there was none. Dumbfounded as Chiri was, the warden advised the boys to leave the matter as it is and not assert any further pressure on the poor lad, unless it happens again. If it does, they would inform the parents and get medical intervention.

This happened on a Friday.

Two weeks passed peacefully hence. Chiri’s incident was also fading away. Although, a certain hunch remained with all the boys which none of them openly discussed. Most of these two weeks had been about results. There was anticipation, then rejoice or repentance. All of our boys had scored fairly well. So a party was again on the cards. But since classes were on full swing, they decided to go low-key and keep Amit’s room as the spot. The party was scheduled on a Friday, exactly a fortnight after Chiri’s incident.

Everyone was in a light mood and enjoying every bit of the time, even Chiri. And then again! The same thing happens to Chiri. Out of the blue. The same posture, assumed in the same flash of a second. This time, everyone was scared. They wanted to run and call the warden, but there was alcohol in the room and it was against the hostel rules. Besides, the warden was not of much help last time. So they decided to wait it out. And right they were. Moments later, Chiri came back. But this time, there was one thing unusual. Subtle, but unusual. He was wearing a light blue T-shirt. And it seemed as if there was a faint mark of a hand, right in the middle of the T-shirt. It looked as if someone was trying to push him on his chest, but couldn’t reach very well.

This was too weird to be ignored. But what could they do, except wait.

Another two weeks passed. The boys would often discuss what happened to Chiri in his absence. Strangely, Chiri seemed to be oblivious to it all. Either he was trying to forget this so that it would automatically go away, or he was too scared to face it.

Two weeks later, again on a Friday evening, Chiri was in his room studying. For no reason, he got up and came to Amit’s room which was a couple of doors away from his. Amit was with his roommate – another member of the group. As if in need of an audience, Chiri went into the same fit. Amit quickly called the other boys. They knew Chiri was coming back. But now they had to do something seriously. This was no medical condition. If it was, it wouldn’t keep coming at regular schedules. It was always on a Friday, at around 8 pm. Almost like a ritual. And they also observed that this happened before them as witnesses. Chiri’s roommate – who wasn’t a part of this group – but was made aware of the situation, confirmed that he has never seen anything like this happening to him. The inference was too obvious. There was something unnatural.

Chiri’s roommate, Kannan, was a local language speaking fellow and came from a distant village in the same state. He was quite savvy with the local hereabouts and had his own opinion on the occult, which is atypical to the not-so-urban demography of the land. He was the first to say the word. Chiri might be possessed. He needs a different kind of help.

There was much debate on this possibility. Three of them agreed with Kannan and decided something needed to be done. Another one was too scared to be involved. Amit was the only hesitant one to the whole idea. But leader or not, the majority always stands. By the time they could come to a consensus, another week had passed. This time, Chiri had another fit at the same time on Friday. The frequency was getting shorter. From a fortnight to a week! And then, not even a week. He had a repeat on Sunday! Then, again on Monday!

On Tuesday, they didn’t think it wise to wait anymore and do something about it. Strangely, except for those few moments, there was absolutely nothing wrong with Chiri. He had normal temperature, appetite, fitness, sleep, everything. Except that, he was obnoxiously silent. Not a word in three days. He wasn’t even calling his parents. Amit had to call them and misinform them that he was down with fever, but was now under treatment. He had assured them they had nothing to worry. This, after all, wasn’t something you could easily share with your parents and make them worry their guts out!

Kannan had another friend, Ashfaq, who had previously mentioned a Pir Baba – a man of the Islamic faith – who resided next to a nearby mosque. The locals of that area believed he had extraordinary powers. Kannan suggested they go meet this person and if not anything, get some guidance on what to do.

Same afternoon, six of them, Chiri, Amit, three other members of their group and Kannan went with Ashfaq’s reference to meet the Pir Baba. They might have had their own presumptions about this person, but what met their eye was definitely not what they expected. Thanks to Bollywood, such people are often associated with occult embellishments, long, scary beard, bloodshot eyes and curious clothing. But our Pir Baba turned out to look like a man-next-door. Dressed in normal trousers and a shirt, neatly combed hair, medium statured, Pir Baba rather came across as a very pleasing personality. He must have been in his fifties. He agreed to meet these boys and invited them inside the mosque.

They all sat around him in an open space in the mosque. Some pleasantries were exchanged and then the problem was stated.

Chiri was surprisingly stunned upon entering the mosque. A ghastly fervour had descended upon him and he sat there like a stone. The Pir Baba looked into his eyes intently. His face took a grim expression, but he did not speak a single word. Instead, he offered them some tea. It was almost 7.30 pm. The boys were getting anxious, because the hour of ordeal was soon approaching. Would Chiri go into the shock today as well? Here? In the house of Allah – a spiritual place?

The Pir Baba continued with small talks with the boys. Suddenly, at about five minutes to eight, he shouted out to a young local boy, saying something briefly in Kannada. And then! A voice interrupted him. It was Chiri. He was looking straight at the Pir Baba. He had tears in his eyes. It was his own voice, but he was speaking in fluent Kannada!

Chiri could only speak in Bengali. Even his English and Hindi was pitiable. And here he was. Speaking to the Pir Baba in Kannada as if it was the only one he knew. Not only was he speaking, he was crying. He was pleading something to the Pir Baba. He went one for about a couple of minutes. All the other guys were awestruck. They had never experienced something like this in their life. After he was done talking, Chiri collapsed on the floor of the mosque. The Pir Baba sprinkled some holy water on his face. In a few seconds, Chiri revived in what seemed to be his real self. He had no recall of what had transpired meanwhile. He only thought he had another of the regular shocks that his friends were reporting of. He did feel a little weak, but a cup of tea and a few biscuits later, he regained strength.

And then, every eye was on the Pir Baba. Only he could tell what happened. Of course, Kannan knew. But he was too shocked to speak. He tried to fumble something, but the Pir Baba stopped him.

He then turned towards Amit and spoke to him.

“Something….someone came along with you the night you partied in the graveyard. Did you get a chance to see the tombstone of the grave you were sitting on?”

Amit and his mates had their faces wide.

“N…nno”, Amit managed to fumble.

“You have to do something for me. All of you. Go to the local police station and enquire about the accidental deaths that have happened in the last 6 to 8 months, where the body hasn’t been claimed and may have been buried in the graveyard you went to. Find this out and come back tomorrow. I will tell you what you need to do.”

The boys gang was at a loss. They didn’t have much choice after what they had just heard. It was too late then to visit a police station – not the ideal place for boys from good families to visit. So they decided to bunk classes the next day and do the needed investigation.
Only Amit and Kannan decided to go. The police might smell something fishy if all of them land up. At first the inspector was suspicious of the inquiry, but Kannan managed to coax him into looking up the registers. True to their surprise, there was a case of a young woman who met with a car accident at the highway closest to the area. They couldn’t find anyone they could reach to. The police had published the case in the newspaper, but no one came. She was driving down with her husband, but she had died on spot. Her husband was severely injured, but wasn’t dead. He was taken to the government hospital in a closeby neighbourhood, where such cases are usually sent. The inspector had no clue what happened to the husband ever since.

Having collected this info, Amit and Kannan headed straight to the Pir Baba. En route, they called upon the other boys to join them at the mosque. They all gathered near the mosque at around 3 in the afternoon. They hadn’t had a morsel since morning in all this chaos. This had to come to an end now.

When they relayed what they gathered to the Pir Baba, he had a soft smile on his lips. He then told them what he really heard from Chiri – for that moment, the woman who died in the accident.

“The woman was on her way home with her husband when they hit a tree and had a terrible accident. She died, but her husband was still alive when they took him to a hospital. They didn’t have any family, as she had lost her parents at a very young age and her husband’s parents had also passed away in the recent years. So the police buried her in this graveyard. But her husband passed away the very night he was taken to that hospital. He was kept in the mortuary for a couple of days. But there were too many bodies and very few boxes in government hospitals. So in a hurry, they buried him in another graveyard that is closer to that hospital. They did not bother to inform the police station here and bury them together. It has been a few months now and she has been desperately wishing to be united with her husband and be buried next to him. Only then she can be at peace. That night when you guys were partying, it was on her grave. Somehow she found a way to communicate through Chiri with us who are alive. But she had no language that she could communicate with you. When alive she only knew Kannada. So she was waiting and trying to get Chiri to someone who could understand her. She tried to speak to Kannan, but Chiri would always come over to the rest of you and her purpose wouldn’t be served. Besides, you would be scared and wouldn’t do anything meaningful, unless someone who understands her was involved. So when you decided to take expert help, she got impatient. That’s why the increasing frequency of the shocks. She wasn’t hurting Chiri in any way. She was only trying to get you to someone like me.”

“But why Chiri? Why not any of us?”, asked one of them.

“No one knows why a spirit chooses a particular person as a conduit and not others. Maybe, it’s because of their tender heart. Or hidden insecurities. Or maybe an innate strength to handle the transference. It could also be that Chiri was in a susceptible state that night, more than any of you.”, Pir Baba said.

“Whatever be the case”, he continued, “you have to now do something about this woman’s problem. Otherwise she will continue to suffer and who knows, her husband might be suffering too. I know someone in the police who can perhaps help us find out where her husband is buried and move her grave close to him.”

The operation was carried out over the next week. Chiri had got back to being as he was. Man of few words still, but a lot more confident and balanced. After all this was over, they had to party again. But this time, it would be sans any supernatural interference.

Copyright Twastree Chakravarty

About The Author

Truth-seeker. In love with nature and adventure a bit too much. Believes life can be enjoyed in every thing big and small, always and sometimes, tears and laughter.

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