As I ran through the corridors of our hostel, the whole chain of events that had took place since yesterday evening flashed in front of my eyes. I visualized myself stealing the book called - 'The Forbidden Book' which dealt with occult topics, from my college library.
And then the scene shifted to our hostel room where I was conducting a seance with my roommate Tanya by chanting the hymns from the book. Then I once again felt my frustration on not being able to seek the attention of any spirits even after beckoning them for several times. And finally, when I was about to give up, the sudden change in Tanya's behavior that I took for a joke. But as I opened my eyes today morning, I had the shock of my life when I saw Tanya dressed as a boy. Although initially I had consoled myself that she is only acting as being possessed by the spirit of a boy to mock me but eventually she proved me wrong by slitting her wrists.
Now she was lying unconscious on the floor of our room and if she doesn't gets any medical attention immediately I will lose her forever. Huge drops of tears trailed down my face at the very thought of losing my best friend.
I ran to the hostel warden's office screaming like someone who was at the end of his wits. She was in midst of a meeting with the hostel secretary Priya. I pushed myself in and said something incoherently. The warden's eyes popped out of their sockets and Priya's jaw fell and they both stood still for a moment. As they showed no response, I burst into tears. On that, they sprung into action at once and tried to soothe me. I pointed a finger towards my room and the warden signaled Priya to check out. She nearly ran towards the room while warden poured me a glass of water.
"Ma'am," Priya said as she came back panting, "Tanya has committed suicide!"
"Call the ambulance!", Warden shirked at the top of her voice.
Tanya was immediately shifted to a nearby hospital. As the case was of suicide, the cops came to interrogate everyone in our campus. I too was summoned to the Principal's office where a Police officer was waiting to record my statement. I didn't reveal anything about the book and the seance as I felt that they won't believe me and I will be punished for stealing a book from the library. I told them that I had dinner with Tanya the previous night and everything was well till we went to bed soon after. The next morning, when I woke up I found her lying in a pool of her own blood.
Tanya's behavior had been aggressive since she woke up in the hospital. She had tried several times to take her life. She was diagnosed as having suicidal tendency and was shifted to a psychiatric clinic. A week later, I was asked to report at the psychiatrist's office who was attending to Tanya.
"I believe that you are Tanya's best friend and know a lot of things about her." Dr Nirmala, the psychiatrist asked.
"Tell me everything that has happened to her on that fateful day. Please do bear in mind that every minute bit of information may prove to be of great help."
I repeated whatever I had told the police while she listened patiently with an occasional nod.
"Are you sure you have told me everything?" She asked looking straight into my eyes, "I can save her only if you tell me the truth - the entire truth."
I lowered my eyes to avoid hers. I was in a dilemma now.
'How could I tell her everything without putting my studies and future at stake? How could I tell her about the book and the seance? Will she believe me even if I do? Won't she tell the college authorities about it and they will throw me out?'
I remained silent for a while as I was fighting a battle with my insecurities. Dr Nirmala's well trained eyes kept continuously scrutinizing me all the time.
"Don't worry," she said as she placed her hand upon mine, "whatever you say will always remain confidential."
Her warmth melted the fog of haziness that had enveloped me. I convinced myself that my best friend's life was the sole thing that I should be concerned about right now. I drew a deep breath and told her everything that I had kept from her till now.
"Well, I'm about to try the hypnosis therapy on her. And I believe that your presence will be of help."
"I'm ready to do anything you say to bring my Tanya back."
I followed her to the therapy room. She hypnotized Tanya till she was in a deep trance.
"Tanya, can you hear my voice?" She asked.
"No!" Tanya replied in the baritone of a young man.
"May I know who I'm talking with?"
"Who is Ashish?" Dr Nirmala asked me in a light whisper.
"Ashish was our classmate when we were in class tenth. He had proposed to Tanya and she refused him. He was so obsessed with her that he suffered from depression and took his life. He left a note for Tanya which read -
"I will come back for you one day and you will be mine forever."
"Oh! I see." Dr Nirmala said as she nodded thoughtfully.
"Ashish," she said as she turned to Tanya again, "what business do you have here?"
"She is mine," Tanya said, "and I'm going to take her along with me."
"But she doesn't love you and you know that very well. So for God's sake Ashish, leave the girl alone."
"I'm madly in love with her and can't be at peace till I have her." Tanya nearly screamed.
"Look Ashish!" Dr Nirmala said sternly, "every girl has a right to chose her life partner at her own free will. Learn to respect her decision if you are a man enough. And if you do love her sincerely, let her go and live her life the way she wants because true love is selfless. It's only about giving without expecting anything in return. What you are doing is an utterly a selfish act. You are spoiling her life only out of vengeance as you could not have her. If you really do love her as you claim to, then step out of her life forever!"
Tanya fell silent.
"Ashish, are you listening to me?" She asked after a while but got no response. She repeated the question and Tanya responded with a feeble moan. I heaved a sigh of relief when I realised that her baritone was gone.
"Relax Tanya, you will be fine." She ran her hand over Tanya's forehead and left the room.
"Do you think Ashish's spirit has left Tanya's body?" I asked anxiously, once we were out of the therapy room.
"Ashish's spirit had never possessed Tanya." Dr Nirmala said with a knowing smile.
"Then what was all that?" I asked in utter disbelief.
"It was only the guilt that Tanya had been carrying on her mind all these years. She has been blaming herself for Ashish's death. And the note that Ashish had left for her added on to her burden. Ashish's last words buried themselves deep down her mind and she started firmly believing that Ashish will definitely come for her some day. While conducting the seance, you unknowingly unearthed the fear which lay burried deep within her mind by saying -
"Spirit who loves Tanya, please do come!"
Your words provoked the hidden turbulence within Tanya to burst out into a volcano of emotions. And that's what has made her suffer from all this."
I stared at her in absolute bewilderment as I was unable to assimilate what I had heard. She let out a sigh and patted on my shoulder as she said, "learn to overcome your fears and wash off the burden of guilt from your soul as no amount of repentance will ever be able to rewrite your past. That which is lost in the past is lost forever. Prepare yourself to move on with the flow of time."