I lived in a haunted village. The late 20th century scientific brain may revolt at any suggestion of the existence of ghosts, but I encountered one at the age of 14

A landlord of our village once discovered his spouse in a compromising position with one of his friends. He strangled her the same night and threw the body in a nearby well. Her spirit started haunting the house to take revenge on the killer. People heard muffled sobs proceeding from the house to the well where the corpse lay rotting. In the dead of night, sound of descending steps was heard in the house. In the hushed silence, when people stretched their ears to discern more of the mysterious noise, they would hear a pathetic wailing sound as though bemoaning the loss of some beloved. The landlord fled in terror and the haunt became notorious in the vicinity.

A few years after this gruesome incident, two beggars decided to live in the haunted house. Of course they were cautioned about the ominous signs, but they ignored the warnings. On the second night, the neighbours heard loud agonized, piercing shrieks coming from the house, but none dared to approach the scene. Death had snapped the life-thread of one, while the other fled, leaving his meager belongings never to come back.

Persons coming late at night to the village sometimes chanced upon a lady immaculately dressed in white moving sadly along the farther bank of the canal. Some even were hailed by their names but thought that to respond was too dangerous.

It was gradually established that moving out of doors at night was a risk that only the desperate would undertake. I was a young, dashing lad, cock of the village boys’ flock. The house which was the terror of others was our rendeavous in the afternoons. We would ape our elders in narrating the mysterious occurrences.

One particularly gloomy dusk, when it had been raining torrents and lightning was flashing with incredible frequency, the condition of my aged grandmother, who had been ailing for quite some time, worsened rapidly. We waited for the village apothecary’s routine visit, but the weather probably deterred him from venturing out.

We wanted to call in medical assistance, but no one voiced his willingness dreading the ghost. It was 11:30pm. Finally, seeing how much my grandmother was suffering I volunteered to fetch the apothecary and despite the dissuasion of all, rushed out of the house. The young spirit cannot easily be dominated. It was time to act, ghost or no ghost.

The rain had stopped and the clouds had dispersed. In the chilly December night, I was striding along, surrounded by utter silence and frightening darkness. Stories about the ghost converged upon my mind.

The hushed silence was suddenly disturbed by something falling with a thud. My heart palpitated. It was some bird. I mustered up the courage and kept moving. God knows what elemental fore was hidden in the dense, dark mysterious jungle. My spirit seemed frozen. Fear, for the first time, gripped my mind. The hooting of an owl froze me to the marrow. Some unknown bird abruptly flapped past me swiftly, leaving me dazed. I found myself trembling with fear, when, with my own eyes, I saw somebody clad in white slowly moving towards me.

There was no doubt now about the ghost. “Make the most of your time”, the thought rose up from within. I turned back and started running home. The ghost recognised me and called me by name. “Oh God, I am done for”, I said to myself. I was sure to be trapped. Terrified, I dashed home at top speed, knocked at the door and fell in, unconscious. The ghost pursued me right up to the doorstep and actually knocked.

Later, I was told the ghost I had dreaded was my cousin on his way home for the Christmas vacation.

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Sundaram Venkatesh

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