Beeja House
words castleCreation & ImaginationThe Haunted Forest – Vikas Puri

The Haunted Forest – Vikas Puri

Some spaces have their weird stories of spirits or shadows frozen in time, drawn back to this world from extreme love for someone or their bitter ends. Surena never did experience one such occurrence but was always hopeful, fearing such an uncanny event would happen to her. Since childhood, she had continued to live on such stories, her consciousness affected, a true believer in spirits. 
This was one of these odd days when she had to stay back late at work, and Surena was anxious and tired. She could hear intermittent rumbling sounds of thunder, and she knew that it would rain soon. A thought came to her mind, “A young woman should never alone venture into spooky and desolate neighborhoods and never on a moonless stormy night and through a dark forest.” 
She took her gaze away from her laptop and looked out the window, but her strained eyes could not make out anything on this pitch-dark night. The old-age colonial building with its intricate woodwork, antique furniture, and wooden floorboards gave an eerie feeling straight out from one of her books. She recalled the countless stories of haunts in such old colonial buildings.
Restless and mustering up some courage, she got up and walked into the adjacent room to take permission from Rima, her boss. “It is almost midnight; I have to cross the forest, and there is a storm approaching; time that you let me take a leave.” 
Rima, an arrogant workaholic as she was, with a blank look on her craggy face that almost looked hollow, replied, “Oh! You and your stories think of the paranormal in the forest, but what about this old colonial mansion? This also may have its stock of stories. Pondering for a while and her eyes swirling with a reddish glitter,” she continued, “but it is late…You never know, so you may leave but make sure to complete this at any cost before the meeting tomorrow.” 
Surena heaving a sigh of relief, replied, “Sure, I will complete the presentation at home before I sleep and email the same to you.” As Rima nodded in acknowledgment without looking up, Surena shot out of the room, glad to be away from her boss’s living ghost. 
Stories of antiquity that she had lived with came back to her mind, sending chills down her spine as she entered the car park. The dark backyard of the solitary office mansion looked spookier at this time. She looked around, and not a soul was in sight. As she approached her car, another thought came to her mind, a young woman in white who stops late-night sole passers, gorgeous as if out of this world but with no feet, floating above the ground. She remembered stories of this woman murdered and thrown on the road and seen by many in the forest.
The sky lit up with multiple streaks of lightning, illuminating the menacing old mansion lying dark and unearthly in the middle of nowhere. She quickly entered the car, her throat dry and heart racing. As she started the car, as a habit, she looked back into the rear-view mirror, thinking, “Imagine if something is sitting in the back seat at this time.” The spooky thought sent shivers down her spine. She looked again to reassure and heaved a sigh of relief, “Nothing here; I read too many stories.”
Unsettled, promising herself not to thinkshe turned on the deck to hear her favorite midnight program. The car cabin filled with her favorite number Hotel California… 
On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
The warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw shimmering light…
Amazed, she thought, “I love this song, but not at this time, and what a coincidence”. Trying to stay calm, she quickly changed the station…The car cabin reverberated with another number…
Who is this irresistible creature who has an insatiable love for the dead?
Living Dead Girl… “The same thing you are”…
“Is this real…is this my spooky night…so like my stories,” uneasy, she turned off the music. She realized they had left the town and were now accelerating downhill through the forest. It was dark, the thick forest foliage briefly illuminated by the headlamps and occasionally by the streaks of lightning bolts across the sky. As her sporty car negotiated the curvy hill road, she remembered an old depleted graveyard somewhere nearby where the woman was buried, the abode of the woman who haunts the forest. 
Glancing at her fitness watch, she sighed, “Another 20 minutes, and I finally will be at home, safe.” She could not resist looking back into the rear-view mirror with her habitual feeling of being watched. “Nothing”, She said to herself, smiling and feeling relieved. 
As the car negotiated a curve and came around a bend, its light beams suddenly fell on something illuminating it like a white silhouette lying horizontally in the middle of the road. “What is that!” she pondered. Her heart was racing; she thumped the brakes, the car screeching to a halt.
Aghast, startled, tear almost coming to her eyes, her limbs as if paralyzed, she looked anxiously and realized. “Oh my God! it is a body lying face down in the middle of the road; it is the woman!” For the first time, she could hear strange noises reverberating around the dark forest. The sky lit up as the lightning intensified. She thought she saw another shadow in the foliage nearby waving at her and calling her, another companion of the woman. “This indeed is my spooky night,” she thought and passed out.
She could feel a voice calling from far away. Coming to senses, she could see a police car with sirens blazing and a policeman gleaming a torchlight on her. “Madam, are you okay?” he asked. Stammering and shaking, Surena muttered, “A Ghost…the woman…there on the road, and something is also standing across the street.” The Policeman laughed and replied, “No, you are mistaken; it is just a white cloth strewn on the road. We found you unconscious a while back during our routine night patrol. There is nothing to worry about.
Surena heaved a sigh of relief with a promise to herself, “I will never read scary stories?”
Across the road, the woman, invisible, wailed an eerie laugh, her companions joining along.

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