Singing Meadows8 mins 20.2K 8 mins 20.2K
In the middle of the night, I received a call from a military officer, informing me that my brother was in critical condition. He went on a biking expedition in the Himalayas. I, along with my parents booked the first flight to Leh while he was being shifted to a hospital in Leh from the military hospital in Tsomoriri in a military helicopter.
Two days after the incident, he gained consciousness, his oxygen level and pulse rate steady. I teased my brother, ‘Victor, you wanted to chase the wind, instead you got chased.’ He did not smile, neither did he look at me. He just kept staring at the ceiling. At that moment, I sensed that something was terribly wrong with him. I did not know then that I had lost him forever.
In the afternoon, the captain of the biking trip visited Victor. I sat by Victor. My parents had just left for the hotel. Past two days were very consuming; we weren’t sure whether Victor would make it alive.
The captain gave all the details of the remaining trip that Victor missed. Victor was not listening and kept staring at the tubes dangling to his body.
‘Vivian?’ That was the only word he spoke from the morning.
The captain said, ‘We could not save him. His body has been handed over to his parents.’
I asked, ‘What was the cause of his death?’
‘Heart attack’, he answered.
Victor murmured, ‘It was all my mistake. I am the one who should be blamed for his death.’ He beat his head hard and sobbed into the pillow. The captain tried to comfort him, in vain. He muffled, ‘Sir, you cautioned us. But we didn’t listen to you. It was me who wanted to see the hot springs, who wanted to explore. I am responsible for my friend’s death. Vivian kept telling me to go back. But I was arrogant and curious.’
The captain held his hand and asked, ‘What happened? Please tell us.’
Victor sighed and flinched. It was clear that he did not want to remember anything from that incident. Nevertheless, he started telling his story:
I stopped to take a leak on the side of the road. Vivian saw me and joined me. It was a vast stretch of land with shrubs and huge boulders and rocks in between. I saw steam rising few yards away and wanted to explore. I was sure it was a hot spring. But Vivian hesitated. He repeated your words, “not to venture into the meadows as they could be haunted”, but I was adamant. We decided to take Vivian’s bike and left mine on the roadside. ‘It would hardly take 5 to 10 minutes, I thought, for the hot springs appeared nearby. We could easily catch up with the gang’.
But there were no hot springs. ‘Where did it go?’ I said removing my helmet and scratching my head.
Vivian shrugged, ‘maybe it was just a mirage’.
We turned back but a cave caught my attention. It was hidden behind a big rock, and I heard the sound of gushing waters from the cave.
‘Let’s go back. We need to catch up with the gang.’ Vivian kept grumbling, but I did not budge. I was determined to see the hot springs.
Vivian pointed towards a sign and said, ‘Look, someone has smeared the danger sign with red paint. Let’s just go back.’ But I had already decided. ‘Vivian, come on now. Let us check it out. We’ve come so far. Don’t you hear the sound of the water?’
We stepped inside the narrow mouth of the cave that was wide enough for an average man to enter. I carried a camcorder and Vivian put the torch on his mobile. There was enough light but just-in-case. We must have walked ten steps inside the cave when Vivian whispered, ‘Can you hear a voice singing?’
‘Try something else. I won’t be scared so easily.’ I said.
‘Shhh,’ he said, ‘Focus. It is a beautiful voice. And the song, I think, it is in the native language. The sound of the song is in unison with the sound of water.’
Then the torch went out. The mobile switched off. The Camcorder turned off. We felt a cloud pass over us. Everything went dark and Vivian panicked, ‘what just happened?’
I put my hand on Vivian’s shoulder and he shrieked. ‘Don’t be afraid. It’s just me.’ I assured. ‘I will check my mobile. Probably we are deep inside the cave.’
The song was clear. I too, was able to hear. Like someone was humming it nearby. For a second, I thought, it was Vivian singing trying to scare me off. But Vivian was in panic, I could feel him trembling all over closer to me. Moreover, it was the voice of a girl.
The sound of water had stopped. The beautiful, melodious song in a female voice filled the cave, and it echoed. It was now predominant, and the sound was too strong for our ears. Then suddenly the song stopped.
Vivian whispered in my ears, ‘Let’s go back. Something is not right here.’
So we turned back and the cave was filled with a giggle – a girl’s giggle. Vivian trembled, and my face was covered in sweat.
Again, the song started in a different tune now. The song was coming from the direction of water, yet I could feel her breath on my neck. Suddenly, the song was inside my head.
Scared to death, we ran. We stumbled and fell. In the dark I looked blindly for Vivian’s hand. I felt the camcorder and found Vivian’s mobile but I could not feel him. ‘Did he run away leaving me alone?’ I thought. I was still lying on the ground, face down, trying to get up.
I took the mobile in my hand, and it turned on turning the torch on. I saw a shadow. I dropped the mobile. The light went off. It came on again. I saw the shadow again.
Camcorder switched on its own. Mobile light flickered. I saw something that looked like a face?
Camcorder went off again. On again. A face slowly peered into the camcorder. It was in night mode. I saw, two red eyes. Void eyes. Dead eyes. Slowly, a girl’s face showed up and stared into my eyes directly from the cam. I screamed. She screamed back. Both the screams were muffled and mixed, echoes hitting back and forth. My ears almost went numb.
I hauled myself from the cold ground, not minding the cramp in my leg, ran out madly forgetting about Vivian, about the camcorder and the mobile. I just ran as far as I can. All the way, I could hear screams and shrieks and the song in the back of my head
I stopped when I was far away from the cave, panting and relieved to see the day light. My legs ached, unable to walk, but the song continued in my ears. This time it was fast paced. I heard footsteps behind me. Thinking it was Vivian, without looking back, I held out my hand, still gasping for breath, and I felt a hand and grabbed it. It was cold, dead cold. I immediately knew it was not him. I saw through the corner of my eye and there was a tribal skirt fluttering in the daylight.
I pulled my hand away and ran into the meadows, the song still ringing in my ears, it never stopped. She never stopped. Until at one point, I couldn’t run anymore. I collapsed and closed my ears. I shouted, ‘leave me. Stop. Please. Help’. I was gasping for breath. I drifted into oblivion while I felt being pulled. I heard muffled voices, different from that dreadful voice. I fainted.
The next thing I knew and felt was the army hospital bunk. I blacked out again. In my dreams, I heard the song, I heard Vivian calling me, and I saw her face peeping through the camcorder into my eyes. I woke up startled only to see my mother and sister.”
Victor was white and pale by the time he finished telling us what happened in the meadows.
The captain then informed us that one of the riders, seeing the deserted bike, had raised an alarm and they rescued Victor. He was found breathless; they carried him to the road and put him on oxygen supply. His pulse was dropping, so, they carried him immediately to the military first aid center nearby.
Later, Vivian’s dead body was found in the cave. The doctor at the military center had informed that cause of death was heart attack. The captain said that even others heard the beautiful mellifluous song in their ears but he asked them to ignore it, and be vigilant.
The captain told us about a local folk lore that talks about a shepherd girl, famous for her beautiful voice. She got buried alive during an earthquake when she had taken sheep for grazing. She used to sing to the animals to pass her time in those lovely meadows. Her ghost continues to haunt those meadows and people hear her sing whenever they pass by.
A small lump had formed in my throat after hearing all this. I was glad that it was all over and my brother was safe.
But that night, I realized I was wrong. Victor started screaming in his sleep. When I woke him up, he complained that he heard the same song. We tried very hard to convince him that he is in the hospital and not in the meadows. He said he saw the girl a couple of minutes ago in the hospital room. He reacted very weird and mindlessly, closing his ears, beating his head to the wall. He kept on saying one thing, ‘Make it stop.’ But I was helpless.