In The Woods
In The Woods5 mins 20K 5 mins 20K
It was still dark when I got up. I squinted and tried hard to see the time by the watch, kept on the table at the side of my bed. Despite many strenuous efforts I couldn't see clearly so I decided to get up without making any noise as I didn't want to disturb my wife, who was sleeping peacefully by my side. I slowly grabbed my slippers and crept through the room, towards the washroom.
After answering the nature's call, I sprinkled some water onto my face and quickly got into my tracksuit. The weather outside was gloomy and cold. I grabbed my windsheeter and zipped it to the top. I used a monkey cap to cover my head and ears. On other days I wouldn't wear gloves, but today was different. It was freezing outside, so I decided to grab a pair of gloves from the cupboard. When I was fully covered from head to toe, I stepped out. Jogging 5 kms from my home which was in Jakhu to "Five benches" (a famous spot in Shimla) had become a daily ritual.
It was still dark, and there were no street lights on the entire stretch. The road was surrounded on both sides by huge Deodar trees, making the stretch darker and spooky, so I decided to walk steadily until there was some light to see the road properly.
Soon I reached the point where the road diverged in two different directions, one going towards five benches and the other sliding down towards mall road. I was about to take a turn when I saw a silhouette moving towards me from the road connecting to the mall.
Though it was usual to see someone on this stretch at this time of morning, but still I got goosebumps. There was something creepy about the person.
I squinted to see more clearly and saw a lady walking towards me. Her appearance was grisly. Her hair reached down to her knees. She had a lean structure and I could not see her face as she was walking with her head down. It seemed as if she was naked.
I felt as if she was whispering something while moving slowly towards me. At first I thought of her as some mad woman, but as the distance between us started reducing, her whispers turned into eerie rasping voice.
A chill ran down my spine when she came a little closer and I saw her distorted face as if it was burnt.
I got numb. For few seconds I was unable to move, then I realized that with every step she was getting closer to me. I did not believe in ghosts or spirits but this was something extraordinary and unearthly. My heart started thumping louder and louder so much so that I could hear my own heartbeat. It didn't take much time for me to realize that it was sweat running down my temples in this freezing weather. All I wanted was to run. I congregated all my energy and took a step backwards, and with that her speed increased as if she was going to pounce on me. I realized that I was trapped and had nowhere to go.
It was hardly a distance of few steps now between both of us. I had to do something but I was unable to move. All my energy was drained out. The terror I was facing gave me a jolt and I don't know from where I got the strength (the little I was left with) but I started to recite Hanuman Chalisa.
I was flabbergasted to see her slow down but still moving in my direction. I raised my voice while reciting the Chalisa. It was hardly a distance of ten steps left between both of us when she snorted loudly and turned to the other direction agitatedly. The sound she made was wild and squeaky. I was horrified but kept reciting the Chalisa loudly.
As she was moving out of my sight, I mustered some courage and ran like a sprinter. I halted only when I reached five benches, where a police van was parked. I saw two policemen sitting inside the van. They got vigilant when they saw me running towards them. As I was about to fall in front of their van, they grabbed me and made me sit on one of the benches. I was still panting when they started questioning my weird behavior. Once my breath normalized, I told them the entire incident.
"You are very lucky," consoled one of the policemen. "We have heard about many mishaps on this road...people getting unconscious, falling in the trench or many getting insane. This road has with it a spooky history. A girl burnt herself on this road few years back".
The other policeman added, "you should have not come here at this hour". I was surprised and asked, "what time is it"?
"Its 2:30 a.m., my dear friend...what were you thinking?" Said one of the policemen. It was then that I realized I had got up too early for my morning walk, which explained everything.
I took refuge in their van for a few hours and came back home when the sun was out. It was 7:00 a.m. when I returned home in one piece. It was a Sunday so my wife was still snoring. I didn't bother her and made myself a cup of coffee to come out of the shock.
Even today after two decades when I think of that night, it sends chills down my spine.