The Backless Monster of Chabua

It has been more than a year since I lost my dearest paternal grandfather, a man who was loved in the family for his gentle nature and wise talks. I and my cousins specially adored the stories about his childhood and youth days, which he narrated to us whenever there was a family get-together during festivals or other celebrations. The tale of “The Backless monster of Chabua” is one of the very popular horror stories he told us during one such occasion. And as per grandpa’s claim, it was a true story from his life…

Before I dive into the scary elements of the story, let me brief you about the location where the tale happened. The place is called Chabua, an area in Dibrugarh district in the state of Assam, India.  The word Chabua consist of two words First one is ‘Chah’ means Tea and second one is ‘Bua’ means Plantatation. In the early 1820s, the British East India Company began large-scale production of tea in Assam, India. In 1837, the first English tea garden was established at Chabua in Upper Assam. And by the turn of the century, Assam became the leading tea producing region in the world. Later on Chahbua became Chabua and the place got its name. During World War II, the Chabua Airfield, constructed on the outskirts of the town, was one of the largest bases used by the United States Army Air Forces Air Transport Command to ferry supplies and personnel to China during the war.

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It was the year 1956 or near about it, which my grandpa didn’t seem to recall clearly while recounting his tale to us. However, he remembered those were days of summer during the months June-July, when days dragged long and nights cut short. People in the state used to spend their evening hours, chatting with neighbours or taking brisk strolls in the compounds of their houses. Sometimes, on a bright full moon or starry night, people would even roam around in open playfields near their houses or by the tea gardens, and finally leave for dinner and slumber. Life in those days was simple, easy-going and least complicated, unlike today.

One night, my grandpa came home after the day’s work and as per his customary traditions, freshened up quickly and drank a mug of tea. He soon arranged his harmonica and cycled to his favourite evening time leisure-spot – his friend’s small rations shop situated on one of the tea garden dusty lanes. The shop provided necessary items to nearby villagers and tea garden labourers at prices, which in today’s scenario, would be equivalent to a penny in a beggar’s bowl! The shop owner was my grandpa’s good friend; he was an accomplished guitarist and while in the shop together, both of them would compose tunes to kill the boredom that usually set in after 8pm or so.

That summer night, however, was unusually chilly. What intrigued my grandpa was the crystal-clear sky and there wasn’t a sign of rain clouds that generally bring a cool breeze in the summers. More so, there hadn’t been a single customer at the shop that evening. Those days, the air-traffic was high around Chabua air-base which meant local people generally feared a bomb dropping from the airplanes, hence they frequented less outside. Most mothers and elderly women shuddered when an USA airplane landed, for they thought that the American pilots would kidnap their daughters and take them to far-away lands. But that evening, it seemed the place had suddenly been deserted by all human beings. An eerie silence enveloped the ambience. Soon, both the gentleman started to play their instruments, when suddenly a hoarse voice startled them!

GhostThe hoarse-voiced man stood half a yard away from the shop yet, my grandpa could clearly make out in the feeble lantern light that he was rather too big for a grown-up human being. The huge man wore an ancient-looking crinkled shirt and loose pants, which seemed like pilot uniform. His face was covered by a tattered hat and from what remained visible, the shop owner noticed his thick beard underneath that highlighted an unshaven look for years. Before any of the two men could gaze at his feet, the men spoke in the same hoarse voice, now with added volume.

“WHAT WILL YOU GIVE ME?”

Naturally, both the men in the shop were appalled and to a certain degree, worried by the peculiarity of the person. However, the shop owner brushed aside his fears and answered, “I sell grocery items, you can take what you want, sir. But, why are you standing so far? Are you scared?” My grandpa at once  realized it was a mistake to ask that question because the next moment, the strange man swiftly moved ahead and stopped at less than a quarter of a yard from the shop. He then let out a terrifying laughter that sent a shiver down the two men’s spine.

My grandpa who never believed in ghosts or any supernatural beings slowly realized that something was very wrong. He nudged his friend to continue the conversation.

“Okay, mister, we don’t know who you are, and you come to my shop and intimidate us! What do you want?”

“ME WANT 50 kg RICE, 30 kg JAGGERY AND 40 GALLON OIL”, replied the strange man in an amplified gruff tone. His body was solid as a rock, without any trace of movement.

“Hey! Are you mad?” the shop owner said in anger. “Look at my shop; it hardly holds 20 kg of those items. I cannot give you so much.”

“ME WANT GUITAR”, the man replied after a brief pause. “ME WANT YOU GUITAR”, he said again with a loud voice.

The shop owner got enraged and barked at him, “GO TO HELL, YOU MONSTER! HOW DARE YOU ASK FOR MY GUITAR? LEAVE….LEAVE AT ONCE.”

My grandpa paused in his narration. He was surprised to see the colour-drained faces of my cousins. I had so far already visualised the entire story in my head and now, I was excited to go a step ahead for the remaining bits. Grandpa asked whether he should continue or leave it for some other day. I immediately urged him to finish what he started, and he obliged.

The wind grew fiercer and icy-cold. The mystery man turned away in the wink of an eye and started to levitate away from the shop. My grandpa instantly shot his eyes towards his feet and noticed a thin cloud of shadowy smoke bellowing out from the place where his footwear should be. His feet were invisible in the smoke! Suddenly, the shop owner let out a scream and grandpa looked towards the direction in which his friend was pointing with a shivering finger. The man had no clothing on his back; his back was a sickening sight of rotting flesh with exposed bones that stretched till the waist line. Strange, slimy fluid oozed from the crevasses between the flesh and bones. The man slowly vanished into the darkness beyond.

Next morning, my grandma along with some tea garden labourers found grandpa and his friend asleep in the shop. Even in sleep, their faces bore a hint of terror, fright and shock.

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My cousins couldn’t sleep properly that night. Even I was somewhat frightened while the story was narrated but as soon as it was over, I added it to my collection of horror stories, which I’d heard so far from various sources. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to admit that the tale of the Back-less monster indeed was a spine-chilling one.

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