Games Ghosts Play

This story is a translation (not word by word) of an original in Tamil authored by Venkatesh Radhakrishnan, a prolific writer of, among many things, interesting short stories like this piece. His stories have a certain indescribable quality that pushes one to read more. It is difficult to capture in full the ingenuous charm of his words and the local color of the original. This is as close as I could get.

Here we go:

**

Well, there’s no place like Tambaram, if you ask folks here – I’m one of and with them. The fog in the morning, the cool breeze, entirely unknown to the citizens of Chennai living not too far from here.

Returning last night after a month of as much sweat as of toil out in Madurai and Trichy, abs oppressive if anything, it felt nice to be back and, out on a walk this morning with, on my wife’s insistence, a muffler wrapped chic around my neck.

In the caress of the gentle breeze, I craved for the warmth of a cigarette. Walked up to the tea-stall near the Kamarajapuram bus stand.

Awash with a hedonistic first lungs-full, I dreamily gazed around looking but not looking until…

it was such a shock to see him, Victor! The cigarette slipped from my hand. My face turned pale, mouth agape – a ripe uncut Alphonso would have had an easy passage, and goose bumps in full bloom (horripilation is the word for it? Sounds bloo#y pedantic, wouldn’t want to be caught live saying it).

Victor was my class-mate in college. We joined the air-force together and, at the expiry of our Short Service Commission, we opted for discharge at about the same time. Back into civvies, I took up marketing in the corporate sector and Victor set up a computer sales and service shop and later extended himself to mobile phones and devices. A fairly big outlet doing brisk business near Tambaram Camp Road.  Over the last seven to eight years, we had not kept in touch except for an occasional unplanned contact.

‘All fine, but what made you go pale?’ I hear you asking.

Well, last evening, over dinner, the lady of the house brought me to speed on happenings in and around during my month’s absence, trying as best as she could not dropping the thread, and me distracted by a succession of phone calls urging me to buy stuff we didn’t need – like a gadget that would read off from a news paper held in one’s hands, in 5 different languages and, what more, 12 different voices/accents! Had to sadly stop the poor kid mid-way in his script to say I had stopped reading news papers long ago, the world, since, looking a much better place to live.  Am digressing – getting back to where I was, the update from my wife included the sad news she had just heard: Victor was no more, he had passed away some months ago in an accident. Or was it some ailment, she said? Couldn’t be sure what it was, those dam#ed phone calls. Felt sad for him – a pity we had not seen much of each other over the years.  The lady further decreed I visit his house without delay and convey my condolences along with the reason for my tardiness – she had already done it for her part. Human mind being what it was, he was soon crowded out by other mundane matters demanding my attention until…

Now you know why my legs turned into jelly.

Knew a bit about ghosts and their ways of life from the stories I had read in my younger days; also, real life accounts from people who have exchanged ‘Hi’ and more with the denizens of the ‘spiritual’ world and lived to tell. Informed as I was, I did not put it past a ghost wanting to catch up with an old friend. They are often known to make amends for lapses in their living lives.  

‘Hey dude, when did you return?’ Victor (italics for the reason you know and quite a bother actually to keep it up) inquired, moving closer; strange, this again was completely at variance with my knowledge of them – they always kind of ‘floated’, walking firm-footedly was for us, the lesser mortals. Reasonable guy I was, I let it pass, putting it down to their evolution with time – they can’t be denied in the days of equal rights.

Pausing in his stride, he turned back to the shop-keeper to ask for a cigarette.

Again, an inconsistency. These folks are known – authority has it nailed down – to shun flame and fire. And here this guy was lighting up and smoking a cigarette with utter disregard and supreme nonchalance! What to say, this was Kaliyug when norms and rules did not hold – all foretold in our infallible sacred books; did this apply to Victor too, a non-Hindu? WTH (What The Heck), I wasn’t going to let the thought bother me, as I already had enough on my hands, you’ll agree. The situation demanded a clear head and that’s what it was going to be.

‘So, when did you come back?’ he repeated ‘himself’. ‘Didn’t know you had. And, sister (my wife) didn’t tell me either.’

Struggling to maintain equanimity – the circumstances were very trying, as you can see, I said: ‘Came yesterday evening, Victor. Was planning to visit your place today.’ Stopped short, with an effort, of adding ‘to convey my condolences over your unfortunate death.’

Victor: ‘It’s all fate. Who would’ve knownit was all because of that dam# car coming the wrong way

It was quite creepy – here I was listening to him describing the incident leading to ‘his’ transitionweird.

He continued: ‘Why do you look so ashen? Did you see a ghost or something? So how is sister (my wife) doing? Please do convey my regards to her. Why don’t you come home, say, sometime after eleven? One more thing, pal: Don’t have change on me. Pay for my cigarette too, won’t you? See you then.’

Before I could untie my tongue, he was gone – disappearing into the morning fog.

With a demeanor of a chicken under a spell trotting in a daze, I went up to the counter and paid the shop-keeper for the two cigarettes.

OMG, it seemed ghosts were common place in these parts. And to be transacting with them, selling cigarettesno one appears to sense anything untowardit didn’t matter time-tested laws of physics were being seriously challenged. How could they be facilely hobnobbing with roving ghosts? Though, to be fair to all, in some of those stories and anecdotes, ghosts do come across as well-behaved social creatures.

Suddenly my hands, palms and fingers went cold. I shoved them into my trouser pockets for warmth andfound my cell-phone.

I called up Victor’s residence.

After a few rings, ‘Hello!’ It was his Dad.

‘Uncle, it’s Venkat here, Victor’s friend, you remember?’

‘Yes, Venkat, I remember you. You sound flustered. Are you alright?’

‘I’m fine, Uncle, a little short of breath – it’s just the walk and the chill out here. Called for Victor. No particular reason. Is he around?’

Victor’s Dad: ‘Don’t know how you air force guys are so alike. He said he’s going out for a walk and would be back within the next half-hour. I’ll tell him to call you when he returns.’

I felt sorry for the old man. Must have been in his seventies. Still living under the delusion his son was very much alive and going about his routine as always. Sad.

I signed off politely and turned homewards curtailing my walk, not feeling up to it.

The aroma wafted in pulling me to the kitchen. Thanks to my wife. Hot coffee was just the thing for this weather. Took a couple of gulps (we don’t sip in the south of this land – coffee tastes so much better, we believe, when poured off the lips of a metal tumbler, hot and bitter, straight onto the back of the mouth),  

To my wife, ‘I met Victor on my walk. Had a few words with him.’ (not in italics!)

She was far from startled: ‘I suppose it was all perfectly inane remarks that he could perfectly do without. You never pay attention to what I say. And I suppose you didn’t express your condolences over his father’s demise in that unfortunate accident. What would he think of you

The still-half-full tumbler fell from my hands wasting good coffee on the floor.

**

End

 

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Until Death Parted Us?? A Horror Story (600+ Words)

She was reported missing by her husband a week ago.

The police machinery set in motion had no concrete information yet.

The husband was also questioned on rumors of marital discord.

That’s where it stalled.

He was sure there was some foul play in his sister’s disappearance. Asking around, he got nothing to go by. Yes, there were the usual domestic squabbles from time to time heard by the neighbors. But that was about all.

His friend took him to consult a baba known to have powers of vision.

The baba heard them out and said: ‘Unfortunately, I’ve expended all my tantric/yogis power. Not until the next full-moon day that is about three weeks away from now…’

Pressed by the friend to do something here and now, the baba went into a trance, promising to do his best.

Coming out of trance some ten minutes later, the baba was panting for breath and profusely sweating. The two visitors felt guilty of putting the baba to trouble and stood aside nervously heads down. The baba called them near and said: ‘I’m sorry, I couldn’t muster enough power to have a clear vision…I had warned you…All I could hazily see was a patch in front of a rose bush in what appeared to be a backyard of a house.’

He understood – the spot in front of the rose bush in the backyard of her house was his sister’s favorite place. Often she would sit there, read books, play with her dog or simply lie down looking at the sky.

He went to the police and raised a ruckus over their inaction so far. With great apprehension and reluctance, more to appease him and buy more time, they agreed to act on the baba’s input, quite at the risk of exposing themselves to ridicule for taking a mere baba’s word seriously.

It wasn’t easy either to get their way with the husband. Despite his protestations, finally they managed to dig up the patch on the yard where the soil did look disturbed.  

At two feet of depth they struck pay-dirt.

All hands went up to their noses as the overpowering stench of decaying flesh bubbled up.

In there was a dog’s body, its upper torso revealed clear off the soil. It was his sister’s, marked by the distinctive strap around the neck.

She had loved the dog like her own child – they had none of their own.

The husband was ready for it – he explained: after his wife went missing, the dog was inconsolable try hard as he might. Went without food or water. He even took it to a vet – they could check it out, his medication to no avail. It would go and lie down on the patch and not move in even in the cold nights. Two days ago it was found dead in the morning. The poor thing was buried at its favorite spot. That’s how it came to be where it was found.

He looked dazed, sat down on the ground disheartened hands on his head. It was back to square one. No doubt the baba had ‘seen’ – but it was not good enough. Now what next…

The police officer in-charge shook his head in dismay and, cursing himself under his breath, ordered the men to refill the hole on the ground, his mind racing to find a way to mollify the irate husband.

Thump…thump…It stopped as soon as it began. Commotion ensued at the hole, men inured to seeing the ghastly and gore clambering out of the hole like they were fleeing death.  Brought the officer rushing back to the scene.

Trying vainly to block the stench, the officer peered down the hole to see the dog’s body head to toe now fully cleared off the soil, his attention drawn to the lower torso where it was held in a close hug by a badly decomposed hand coming up from under.

End  

Source: Inspired by an Indian movie episode narrated to me long ago. Can’t recall which, who… Image from Masterfile

Update: M tells me the movie is Kamal Haasan’s Papanasam. Apparently the story takes a different route with no paranormal elements – only the dog remains the common piece.

A Forgettable One-Night Stand (Drabble)

 

A cool breeze blowing in from the sea was such a relief after the sweltering heat of the day.

He was on the terrace all by himself until he heard footsteps behind him.

What? Who is it?

“Not to worry, mate. I heard noises up here and wanted to make certain everything was in order.”

It was a girl. Must have been in mid-forties.

She stood by his side. An amiable face, looking amused. The perfume…was it jasmine?

“I found they rent apartments here for such ridiculous money. It is crazy. Hope they didn’t rip you off.”

“Have I seen you before, lady? I moved into 21A yesterday and I hardly know anyone around here.”

“Just down the hall from you. 29B. You know, had I children, they would all be older than you now.”

Her hand was resting on his thigh. They sat in silence. The moon had risen. “Sometimes I wish I could step off the edge over there and just float like a leaf to the bottom.”

“A poetic image, lady.”

She looked down into his eyes and smiled sadly. “It is much too late for poetry.”

She stood up and walked away. At the parapet, where a low ceramic tile-topped wall bounded the edge of the roof, she stopped. “It has been a long time since I knew a man,” she said.

“Let’s go down to my room. They don’t bother you here”

It was past midnight when he returned to his apartment, sneaking in like a cat that overstayed on the outside. No one saw him coming out of 29B. He was mindful not doing anything to sully the reputation of the lady. Even the clicking of the doors closing and opening was carefully soft and muted.

No one was answering. Gray morning light was filtering through the dirty hall windows.

“What’re you pounding on that door for?” It was the building manager.

Showing a mild irritation, “Why, my friend in there.”

“Can’t keep it rented, even with the housing shortage in this damn town. Tenants always move out after the first week or two. Nobody’s lived in that apartment for months, lady. ”

End

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Inspired by and adapted from Mendel Cooper’s (quora.com/What-are-some-good-ghost-stories-to-tell-friends) ‘New York Has Some Characters’.

 

A Horror Story – In Two Sentences!

Terrifying two sentence horror stories

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Source:uberhumor.com

And The Wheel Turned and Turned…

Part 1

The car swung to the left and stopped in front of the kiosk.

It was quite annoying to run out of supply in the middle of the night. He had to get one here and now. Luckily for him, his favorite brand was in stock. With shaking hands he peeled off the cellophane and fixed for himself the first cigarette of the day.

He stood aside, drawing deeply and blowing out rings against the sky, gazing at nothing in particular. A few puffs and his hands became steadier. Now the world around him came into sharper focus. That’s when he sighted the cottage set back from the road. It was love at first sight.

Cottage

He called up the first on his list to check on the cottage. There was no response. The second broker did not know anything about the cottage. He had almost given up on the third too when Ramaiya answered.

Ramaiya heard him out and spoke slowly and clearly.

‘Dear Sir, I know about the cottage you are standing in front. It’s a nice one. But

Here a few words of background are in order: Our protagonist was in charge of the construction of an upcoming plant in the town, a project that required him to live here for ten months. The hotel bills were mounting – he had to move out in quick time. The last couple of days were spent in looking at a number of houses from newspaper ads, almost none to his satisfaction. And a few houses that he liked, he found the owners reluctant to deal with him as he was a stranger in these parts. That’s when he decided to go through the brokers. From the hotel staff he got the telephone numbers of a few brokers who could possibly help. Now to resume from where we left off:

‘Listen, I’ll be a little more flexible on the rent if required. I like this place. Get it for me.’

‘Sir, it has been lying vacant for a year now. The owners settled in US are trying hard to rent it out…’

‘Good for me.’

‘No. Sir, it is said to be haunted. That’s why

‘Did you say ‘haunted’?’

‘Yes, Sir. The last occupant was a family from Trivandrum. The man was posted here to promote

‘Get to the point, please.’

‘They said strange things were happening inside the house especially over the week-ends – like vessels falling off from the shelves in the night, disembodied voices, etc. They moved out within a month.’

‘Then you have found the right man to straighten out, my friend. Don’t forget I’m ex-army. I’m sure there is an explanation to all this ‘strange’ stuff. So when do I move in?’

‘Sir, don’t say I didn’t warn you.’

’I’ll tell you what. I see the lights are on. Who is in there?’

‘There’s a care-taker couple in there though I’ve not interacted with them.’

’Very well, if it’s only a care-taker, I’ll go in now and take a good ‘dheko’. You can then meet whoever and close it for me. OK, let me go, I’ll call you later.’

The gate swung back a little noisily on disused hinges.

The cottage was a compact structure that sat in the middle of a small plot abutted by vacant lands on all sides. About fifteen feet away a barbed-wire fence ran around the cottage. The ground was covered with well-tended flowerbeds, clearly the work of a gardener. A few casuarina’s stood along the fence towering over the cottage.

He climbed the steps up to the door and knocked. He was not ready for what he saw when the door opened.

Part 2

A young girl in early twenties stood before him.

Girl

He recovered in a moment: ‘I’m sorry. I came to meet the care-taker. Are you his daughter?’

‘What did you want with the care-taker?’

‘Well, I heard this place was available for rent. In this regard

‘Come on in. You can talk to me. My dad owns this place.’

‘Your dad owns this place? I heard he is in US and you…’

‘Yes, Sir. I have another year to go. Am doing medicine in Pondicherry. Won’t you come in?’

The hall was neat and functional. He settled down in the sofa and looked at her more closely for the first time. A petite girl modestly dressed in muted colors – her gown went down all the way to the floor and her blouse a couple of sizes too big, sporting large collars that were like coat lapels. Her eyes were limpid with a hint of sadness and voice quite feminine and soft – could soothe any baby in tantrums. Her movements were minimal and graceful with an ethereal quality. Perhaps long separation from the family was getting to her.

‘You know, I love this place. In fact I am not sure if I would ever leave this place for anything. I spend my week-ends here – there’s a room on the terrace I keep for myself. It is also to keep an eye on the care-taker. Gardening is my hobby. Those flowerbeds, they’re my passion.’ This time her eyes lit up.

Flower 1 Flower 2
She caught him gazing at it.

‘This scar – it was an unfortunate biking accident in the college campus.’

He quickly drew his eyes away in embarrassment.

‘And where is the care-taker?’

The question was not asked. But she could read his mind.

‘On Sundays the care-taker is off duty. I’ve the house to myself.’

She offered him tea, inquired about his background and took him around on a tour of the cottage. Two bedrooms, a hall and a kitchen were more than adequate for him. Plenty of fresh air and sunlight. He liked what he saw and wasted no time in pushing the matter further.

‘Look, I like this place. I wish for a twelve-month lease. You may continue to use the room on the terrace. I’ve no problems with that. The terms are acceptable to me though a bit stiffer than I had expected. Yes, the payments would be made by checks, you’ll appreciate. Now if it is agreeable to you, kindly get the lease agreement done. My broker will come down around seven in the evening and settle the matters?’

‘That would be just fine. The agreement will be done and ready. Once you move in, the care-taker will go – there are other properties to look after.’

‘I’m glad we got that wrapped up quite quick. Well, there’s one last thing I wish to clear up.’

‘What is it?’

‘I hear strange things happen here during week-ends?’

‘Strange things?’

‘Yes, utensils falling off the shelves, taps turning on their own, lights going off and on

‘Is the care-taker telling you these stories?’

‘Oh no, I never met him.’

‘There’s some truth in the stories.’

‘Eh?’

Part 3

‘Don’t worry, it was me playing some harmless pranks. There’s nothing more to it.’

Seeing his quizzical look, more explanation was offered.

‘You know the lady, the wife of the last tenant, wanted to replace the flower-beds with vegetable patches. Can you imagine she wanted to grow cauliflowers and pumpkins? I couldn’t let her have her way. So, the pranks, to keep her mind away from the flowers.’

Flower 3Bees

He wasn’t buying it.

‘Ok, here is the low-down. The man was an undesirable character engaged in activities not entirely lawful, I suspect. He had to go. I couldn’t bring myself up to confront him on his face as he appeared quite menacing. So, the week-end pranks. Luckily for me, it worked. The lady’s nerves went to pieces and they packed off within a month.’

This was more plausible.

‘I assure you I’m a law-abiding citizen. So, no pranks with me, my friend.’

For the first time she laughed.

He took leave of her feeling easy in the mind. Stepping out of the house he called up Ramaiya.

‘I met the daughter of the owner and have settled the matters with her.’

‘Settled the matters with the daughter?’

‘Yes. And don’t you worry, I’ll pay you for closing the deal and the paper-work.’

‘It’s not that. I know I’ll collect. But

‘Now, what?’

‘I had warned you, Sir. In fact that’s the reason the owners wanted to forget and get away from it all.’
His voice turned cold.

‘Will you please talk some sense?’

‘Sir, their only girl died in an unfortunate bike accident in her college a year back.’

‘Wait a minute. I just now met her in flesh and blood.’

‘I meant what I said,’ he sounded miffed at his advice being ignored.

And the line disconnected. Attempt to reach Ramaiyya exasperatingly failed.

He stood there flatfooted unsure of the next steps.

But the world continued to spin.

The door opened startling him. His instincts told him to run for the hills. Somehow he stood frozen. Perhaps his army-bred bravado was asserting itself.

It was the girl.

‘By the way, you didn’t tell me who is your broker. I need to know.’

‘Ramaiya.’

‘You kidding?’

‘Eh?’

‘He was the guy who brought in my last tenant and I had strongly ticked him off for that. He was upset with me. So much he weaned away several prospects subsequently. I know this for a fact. ’

‘Oh, that’s easily explained. After all, business comes first. He must have buried the hatchet, as they say. And, mind you, this was my choice.’

‘What is buried is more than a hatchet. The police suspect it was a murder over some business deal that had gone sour. He died over a month ago.’

The world was not the only one spinning.

‘So kindly come over in the evening. Once we’re done, I’ll be happy to host a dinner for you. A simple meal, nothing fancy.’

The door closed softly on him.

End
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Credits: openclipart.com (rejon, Machovka, Gerald_G, Johnny_automatic, sheikh_tuhin) and wackywits.com.