TODAY -

Unsettling Stories
- Part 1 -

Gautamjit Thokchom *



When it started, no one believed it. Perhaps it did not have a beginning, but was discovered - the appearance of a bald man, with a feminine voice and eyes that never blinked. Add to that a meaningless smile, and a hopping gait. Later, hypnotism was also widely considered as one of his famous schemes. Let me describe his territory. The place was a small field, sweeping unto a hill slope. A dead-end road ran at the foot of the hill, which took a sharp turn and suddenly opened into this place. At a lower terrain were rice fields demarcated by the road. The small field had a rather unusual bearing. The grass and other vegetation had luxuriant growth throughout the year, even when paddy fields below stood dead during droughts. It had the appearance of a well-manicured lawn. Thick forest was immediate to it, prop roots from a dark, rugged serpentine banyan tree dangled at one corner. A spring of crystal clear water, which changed colour to an unfortunate being, had been there, but it dried up some time before. This was where our rare subject showed his strange accomplishments.

THE RUMOUR

It occurred to a group of boys. That day, they were roaming aimlessly, like all village boys do, after lunch. They were making a great deal of noise, and in the loosened post-prandial mood went as far as the small hillock. As no previous spookiness had been associated with the place, they took the said road. One of them recalled an unusual feeling of fullness as they strolled in, suddenly wiped out by a burst of laughter from his friends. Next moment, everyone stood still like figurines accepting whatever impressions marked onto them. Their laughter reverberated not from the hillside but from the paddy fields below. It had a disturbing note, like someone was laughing to see them. They looked at one another, trying to hold their nerves and digging their conscience what on earth was that. A breeze came, and they knew something was wrong. It had the empty and dry fragrance of flowers used in crematorial rituals. It chilled them under the scorching sun. They didn't move. Some of them closed their eyes, but terror had already made an entry, and blanketing the senses only concentrated it.

One of them suddenly cried out in great pain like being struck by a heavy weapon. A rat, disturbingly muscular with blood-stained coarse fur was tearing off flesh from his foot. Everyone was just standing there unable to believe the violent veracity and unwholesome figure of the small creature. It was disgusting. Then, one of the boys picked up a stone and hurled towards it. As, it darted away it seemed to make the same sound that had come from the paddy fields below. Next moment, one of them pointed his finger to the sky, and cried, "O mother, what's wrong with today?" A kite was flying above them, circling them as if the terrified bunch was its prey. Was it the rat - the bloody, damned thing? No it was not, it was looking at them inspecting every move of the party. It seemed to have an un-avian stubbornness.

As the order of the animal kingdom overturned and fear paralysed them to a state of helpless toddlers waiting for a saver, there came the soothing voice of a female singing. It was akin to a folksong -a bewitching melody of inhuman perfection. But, the lyrics were incoherent. The words didn't tie together. It stopped suddenly, with a girlish exclamation of surprise. In a flash, they saw something rolling down the hill slope and halting abruptly at the middle of the road. It was a man. He bent his neck and looked around, sinisterly ignoring the group. When his eyes fell on them, he made a fiendish smile of satisfaction. He kept that smile intact, and stared at each one of them one by one with unblinking eyes. One of the boys reported closing his eyes only to find him still staring at him when he eventually opened. He fainted at the spot. Feeling more satisfied, and as if sensing a need to instil more fear, he took a supernatural twist. He rose up in a swinging motion straight from the ground like a plank. The front of his shirt was black, and in the chest- pocket was a flower, which looked freshly plucked despite the considerable stress it went through. He did not say anything. He started the same song, turned around and hopped towards the small field. The boys saw him climbing the banyan tree, without much of an effort, using a prop root, and he was lost from view.

When they came to senses and were nursing the friend who had fainted, they heard a laughter. This time, it came from the hillside. They identified it instantly; it was the one they had made at the beginning of the fateful evening. They had been freed at last. They heard a distant noise of a crowd. There were also the clangs of cymbals, and the beats of pungs. The hymns of the local maiba were pleasant and they felt like being released from bondage.

(But the villagers found them huddled under a bush of samballei. The boy bitten by the rat did not want to go back. Later, he began having bursts of hysterical laughter. The consensus was that he was possessed for which there would be limited remedy. The other boys seemed normal, but a little displaced from reality like being in another world. They became defiant and suspicious even of their family members. Interestingly, among themselves, they showed the same level of attachment as before. On the seventh day after the incident, they were found missing. At last they were found in the small field by the hillside. They had clothes and utensils with them. Though they had never told anyone, it is still widely believed that they were sharing a home with the bald old man. He did never free them.)

To be continued ...


* Gautamjit Thokchom wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a "simple hearted introvert on medical intervention" and can be contacted at thgautamjit(at)outlook(dot)com
This article was posted on June 12, 2013



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