This post is part of IndiSpire 32nd Edition.
It was New year’s eve in the year 2006.
I was a 14 years-old and in the ninth standard, and to be frank, I despised New Year’s eve celebrations!
I had grown up as a quiet boy, often being reclusive and talking to people only when required. I used to intently listen to people’s conversations, some were interesting but most were lame and nonsense. For the past 4 years, on New Year’s eve, six or seven households of the neighbourhood would get together at a nearby small playground, a few metres away from my house.. A bonfire would be made and the ladies and kids would sit around it. While most women would engage in frivolous and boisterous chit-chat and laughter, the kids would just sit lazily on their chairs, gazing at the fire and yawning and rubbing their eyes at regular intervals. I was one of those kids! The gents would erect a makeshift tent and play cards, sitting under it and have a few rounds of drinks. It was something I didn’t approve, even at that little age. Even the music couldn’t get me up from my chair and join the other kids who could dance as if they had been charged with 400 volts! Food would be served soon, eaten and then, everybody waited for the midnight bell to strike…
Since 2004, i.e. two years back, I chose not to wait till the clock struck 12. Almost all the kids were asleep on their mothers’ laps, and the few that remained kept dozing off. In 2003, either my father or mother would accompany me to the house at quarter to midnight, and they would put me to sleep and lock the door from outside and rejoin their celebrations. I often wondered in the morning how long had they continued their merry-making!
That year, my parents were pre-occupied with serving food to the people, and couldn’t take me home at the fixed time. They rather told me to wait. Fortunately, I celebrated the “Happy New Year” moment with everyone for the first time, and it was a pretty good moment! Soon, the singing and dancing began. Meanwhile, I was feeling sleepy, so I went up to my mother and wished to go home. She, as well as father, who was seated nearby, urged me to stay. I refuted.
I told my parents its just a 5 minutes walk to my house and I’m a big boy now. Surprisingly, they handed me the house keys, and told me to bolt the doors properly. They added that they would come home within half an hour, so they asked me to watch TV till they came.
I was somewhat happy and thrilled. There lay a pond, a rather big one, about half the size of a football ground, on the way and the still water would glitter on a moonlit sky. That night, the sky was cloudy and an unwanted chill prevailed in the air. I was walking alongside the pond, gently fondling the wooden fence along the pond’s boundary, when I heard a soft wail. It sounded something between the squeaking of mice and a cat’s meow! I ignored it, until the wail turned more distinct and continuous. Suddenly, I recalled my mother’s words.
If you hear sounds while walking along the pond, take the Almighty’s name and walk fast. Don’t run. And don’t look back. Be brave!
I was brave. I assured myself. I believed in God and that nobody could harm me when He was with me. I uttered a silent prayer and hastened my footsteps. I had crossed only half the total length of the pond!
Three years ago, a small boy had drowned in that pond. Nearby people had seen him fishing in the pond for many days. However, the water level was high on that fateful day and in spite of repeated warnings by the nearby people, the boy had dared to go near the water body. One of the elderly women saw a floating fishing rod at the centre of the pond and cried for help. It was raining and nobody dared to jump into the pond to search for that boy. It was soon believed that he had died by drowning and unfortunately, the body wasn’t discovered. Prayers were recited near the pond in the name of the boy, so that his soul would rest in peace.
My mind was not at peace; the wailing seemed to follow me and grew louder with every passing minute. Terror struck me. I felt someone stalking me from behind as I could hear little footsteps. My mind was too clogged at that time to hear little splashing sounds that the feet made. I felt so tempted to look back; I wonder if it was curiousity or plain courage.
I had to run now. Fear was gripping me and I was far away from my parents. As soon as I reached the street that leads to my house, the sounds stopped. I concentrated with my ears trying to hear the faintest wailing, but it was only a group of stray dogs howling at some distance.
The street was so empty. Funny and strange! Usually, two or three people could be seen, some were coming from another New year’s eve celebration while some stood outside their homes to watch the brilliant display of fireworks as the clock struck 12! I used to make these subtle observations while accompanying my parents on the previous occasions.
Somehow battling a growing sense of fear, I reached my house. I turned back. There was nobody. Phew!
A few minutes later, after changing into my night clothes, I switched on the TV and tuned to Cartoon Network. They were showing Tom & Jerry! What a relief; I needed a good dose of humour to calm down! Hardly, 5 minutes had passed when my bicycle, parked in the garage adjacent to that room, made a rattling sound. It was definitely not a natural sound, which often occurs if you keep metal items in an improper way and they tend to get disorderly. It was a sound deliberately made! I muted the TV set. The sounds got louder.
What on Earth was going on??? Another sound!
Even if someone had injected me with adrenalin at that time, I probably wouldn’t have an ounce of courage to flee from that room. For I had seen a weird white-shaped figure through the thin opening between the two curtains. It was in the garage, at the exact spot where I had kept my bicycle.I stood frozen. Was that a ghost? Or just a figment of my imagination which sends crazy images at such times?
BANG!! BANG!! The front door made a loud sound. I let out a loud scream. It was one of the most terrifying reaction I had made in a long time.
Thankfully, I could snap out from the fear once I heard my name being called by mother. As soon as I opened the door, I tightly hugged my mother and broke into tears.
Since then, I never dared to walk beside the pond after 11 pm. Something was not right there. The little boy who had died….may not be dead as we had thought so.