“I think my house is haunted.” Her voice came out in a hoarse whisper. She looked visibly shaken, her face ashen, fingers gripping each other in a fist, nerves standing out.
“What makes you think so?” he asked.
“Last night…” she could not go on. It was the same as last night. The same terror gripped at her throat, steadfast and sure.
She shook her head. She could not. The cold was still there under her skin, her fear, disturbing and raw. Sonali had moved into the two-bedroom apartment, much against her better instincts, without a choice really. It was that particular room. She had kept her prayer books and made it her prayer room. She knew she would never be able to sleep there. Her hair had stood on ends the moment she had stepped into the room the first time. Desperation had made her take up the place. Only for a month, she told herself.
Last night had been something else. The fan had somehow given way and she moved to the prayer room to escape the sweltering heat. It must have been around two perhaps, she had abruptly been woken up, quite unable to breathe, or budge, or scream. The air was still, not a sound came from any spot. Usually, she could close her eyes once more, count to ten and then be able to see and make out shapes in the darkness.
It was not the same. This was worse. It was the kind of darkness that went on, in an endless chasm of obscurity. She was unable to move. Worse, she could not feel herself breathe either. She felt something, someone, press her down. It was the weight from a different world. When someone tries to put you down, it is only in specific parts of your body that you feel the pressure. Sonali wanted to scream, a cry of sheer desperation that stuck at the throat. She knew she was making an effort, she could feel nothing except the weight of whatever it was that was weighing her down, every inch of her body in the grip of something unknown, too powerful and strong for her to throw off.
Think. She told herself. Calm down. You are on the periphery of panic. She concentrated on diverting her mind from the presence she could not see, but knew was there because she could not see anything, not even a stream of light came from the windows whose curtains remained parted. It’s funny how one surely remembers God when all else fails. So was the case with her; she began praying, a simple Gayatri Mantra that was all-powerful; more powerful than whatever it was that tried to possess her then. It could have been five minutes or an eternity…all of a sudden it was over. The light from the streets soaked the room, beads of sweat trickling down her head. She heaved and sat up.
Was it a dream? Was it reality? She was baffled. All she knew was that she would not sleep there. She walked out into the tiny sorry excuse for a parlour and took out a bottle of water from the refrigerator, its light sharp and piercing. She drank in the coolness of it till she was quenched.
She sat at the narrow staircase leading up to her terrace, tracing out shapes on the walls, the waft of marijuana filling her being and numbing her senses. She floated, the feeling of lightness beginning and coursing up her body from the tip of toes. She could feel the elation course through every part of her. Soon the numbness would come, a numbness that would deviate her from the memories that haunted her, like this very apartment she lived in. the pain of the memories came and went. The oblivion was within reach, the shadows of leaves dancing on the wall. She was unafraid, free, and ready to take on, whatever had assailed her tonight. The morning would come. The day would put all of it on hold until the night returned, merging her nightmares with her ghost-companion whose room she had invaded tonight.
The morning would bring on the fears of living with a ghost…
“Tell me…” he shook her out of her reverie. She stared at him.
“I think it’s nothing,” she replied quietly, “I must have been hallucinating.”