That Night In Hostel
That Night In Hostel
Sanchay was alone in his hostel room. It was a short break for Vasant Panchami and luckily coincided on a Friday. That gave a chance to most of the boys to extract a forced holiday on the following Monday, thus making it a long weekend. Many went to their homes, while some chose to secretly elope with their girlfriends to some nearby hotels for those few days, and then only a handful decided to stay back at the hostel.
Let me give a little background about the location of their college and hostel. The nearest town was about six kilometers away. The Engineering college proudly stood on a complete vacant vastness of the land, on the national highway. No life or dwellings within a perimeter of six kilometers existed other than a few make-shift shops, which catered the needs to the students. But the owners of those shops would also desert their places of income at most by 8 PM when they would take the last bus towards the town.
Well, along with the deserted location of the college few more things added to the eerie experience of the students who stayed there. A river flowed nearby, not more than a kilometer from the hostel buildings. As this place was far off from the town and by a riverside, it sanctuarized a Hindu crematorium. With all that – there was popular tell a tale. The piece of land where this college and hostel was built, was actually a mass graveyard at one point in time that held innumerable dead bodies of the Naxalites, who were killed in encounters and then secretly buried there. But all those were stories that added flavors to the discussions of the villagers and sometimes the students used it when they fell short of discussing love or sex.
There were four wings of the boys' hostel and just one for the girls, with obvious reasons that still in our country's parents think their girls are less worthy for technical education. But that is some other topic and could discuss on some other occasion and platform.
So, coming back to Sanchay – it was Friday night and with five or six boys who stayed back, they went for early dinner to the canteen and then gathered in one room for playing cards, with continuous rounds of cigarettes and in between few riffers. After about an hour or so, Sanchay bade byes and retired to his room. Luckily or unluckily, in his wing, he was the only living soul who breathed that night. He boisterously walked past the alleys and climbed the intermittently dark stairs to reach the fourth floor. Unlocked his room and switched on the light as he stepped in. Turned to close the door and put on the latch. Then he walked the length of the room where his bed was just beside the large grilled window. He shared the room with three more boys, but he chose the bed at the end because he always felt thrilled to just poke out his nose off the grills to feel the breeze and stare out at lengths for no particular reason.
He took out a cigarette from the folds of his pillow cover, as in hostel some stock had to be kept hidden and beyond any guesses for such times when there is not one to be found. He relished these secretly treasured ones more than the normally available ones. After finishing his cigarette, he felt little dizziness in his head. He wasn't sure if it was from the riffers that he smoked a little while ago or the simple yet moisture-laden cigarette that he savored now. Whatever it was – he let that go in the thin air like the smoke of his cigarette.
With the dizziness slowly engulfing his active senses and pushing him gradually off the cliff of awakening, he decided to doze off. He switched off the lights from another copy panel of switchboard that was near his bed and let the darkness slowly wrap him and soothe around his closed eyes. His mind hovered around, jumping from one topic to another behind his closed eyelids. The sleep, first crept slowly all around him, prepared its hypnotizing claws and paralyzing fangs and then in a flash yet without alerting his senses took him in its grasp. He was snoring in no time…..
He didn't know how long he slept, but something startled him in his sleep. A rotten smell filled the room, suddenly the temperature around him got extremely cold, but he felt uneasy and perspired heavily. His eyes opened in a flash and flicked around in all directions, but he couldn't move his body. He felt as his limbs were tied down with some invisible strings to the bed. But he didn't try hard enough to move also.
Then his ears heard something that he couldn't synchronize properly at the beginning. It sounded initially like a light moaning. Not out of any pain, but more of a grunting like sound. His eyes rolled and darted at the direction of the sound that came from the windows on his right. First, he couldn't see anything but then gradually the sound developed from an incoherent and indecipherable groaning to some voice that became clearer.
The voice said, "Get up Sanchay….. why do you lay down, docile and invalid? Get up and call your friends. Oww… but it seems that all your friends are gone. Where have they gone? Call them back. I am missing all of you."
Sanchay, wanted to reply but the chords in his throat vibrated slightly but it wasn't enough to let him speak anything.
That voice continued, "last month one of your batchmates died by drowning in the river. Do you remember him? He is with me but is quite unhappy as he feels so lonely. I assured him that I will get him some company. He longs for the smokes that he used to enjoy with you all. He has so much smoke all around him, but he can't enjoy it. He says, it has a stinking and burning flesh like smell. He misses the smell of the weed and friends with whom he used to enjoy that."
Sanchay, heard that with his gaping eyes looking towards the window. His throat parched, as he gulped his own saliva to wet it. But his mouth also dried up and he felt exasperated and helpless.
That voice said, "I have got something for you." Then he saw a pair of black hands appear out of darkness outside the window and stretched inside his room. Both palms joined side by side, open and formed a cup shape as if there was something they carried. "Sanchay! Take this…….I have got this for you"
Sanchay was confused and sweated profusely. He just kept staring at those pairs of hands which reached almost over his chest.
That voice now echoed urgency in its tone, "I am not able to hold it anymore. Hold it!..... Hold it. Quickly! Raise your hands. Hold it…"
Suddenly, Sanchay rose his hands with open palms joined side by side and placed them right below the black pair of hands. Those black hands almost unable to control, that it was holding dropped it on his hands.
Sanchay felt a chilling sensation run down his spine.
His eyes opened…… Then he realized that he was dreaming. He immediately looked to his right towards the window. There was nothing there. He felt his racing heart that still thumped heavily inside the cage of bones which seemed insufficiently strong to hold his vigorously pounding heart. But that was slowly returning to normalcy.
With a big and long heave of relief, he turned his eyes away from the window slowly straight towards the ceiling. He saw…………..
His hands were stretched out straight above him towards the ceiling and in the same position that he had a dream of, only a minute ago.
His heart almost jumped out the thoracic cavity of his ribs and nearly popped out of his mouth. With a jolt, he recoiled his stretched-out hands.
His fear knew no bounds when he saw that there was some smoke that floated at the same spot where his hands were holding something. His sensory organ for smell told him that his room slowly was getting filled with the same rotten flesh odor.
He wanted to jump out of his bed but couldn't do so. He felt as if his whole body was paralyzed. Then suddenly the windows crashed and closed. He was praying, that all this should turn out to be just another nightmare. He hoped this would be also something happening just inside his head.
Then he saw those same pair of black hands emerge out of the ceiling and the same voice rung inside his head, "Sanchay…..I am already inside. You have to come with me."
Sanchay tried really hard to break away from those invisible shackles that gripped him with incapacity and fear.
With a jerk, he sat upon his bed. He was all drenched with sweat and his breathing was faster and heavier than normal.
He quickly looked towards the window. It was open and nothing looked unusual.
He moved his hands and fingers. He could move them.
Then he quickly looked up at the ceiling. There was nothing.
He realized; it was still a nightmare.
He got up from his bed and walked around to the window. Stretched his hands and flexed his muscles which he felt strained. Breathed slowly and long a couple of times to calm down his nerves. He stood at the window and looked out.
Suddenly he felt a gust of breeze blew on his face and with that, he felt the same stink of rotten flesh. He felt that chill on the back of his neck and the hair on his shoulder and hands stood hard. He heard a deliriously flickering voice calling out his name. His chest thumped hard with a jolt.
The next day, his friends called him and knocked on his door, but no answer was given. Ultimately, the warden was called, and the door was broken. All those who entered the room were greeted with the shock of their life.
Sanchay's dead body lied on the floor near the window. Eyes, wide open and tongue, stuck out of his mouth.
They had to call the police. They came and checked the room and everything else. The dead body was taken away and his parents were informed.
The warden walked out in the dump field opposite to the window of Sanchay's room. Few students had complained of some dead animal. There he spotted a dead dog that already had started decomposing and caused the bad smell of rotting flesh.
"This has to be cleaned. I will call the municipality workers.", said the warden to himself.