Mr. Charles Edward lived in Darjeeling in the Dow Hill forest area of Kurseong. This town is famous for being haunted. However, Mr. Edward was a man of science. He was a writer by profession, who used to stay outdoors till late hours, finding stories for himself. Mr. Edward had been resident of the place for almost a year now.
On a bright Sunday, he was out with his leather satchel, strolling through the nearby pine forest towards the main road, looking for ideas and themes to write about as he was short of them. He wanted to write about something he had not earlier. He would usually write about the architecture of the town, the natural beauty, people and their associations and almost every other detail. Thus he was a versatile writer not confined to a particular genre.
Walking through the forest that day he was thinking about the numerous stories associated with it; of a boy with a headless body, a woman draped in a white saree, a floating light in the dark hours, shrieks and calls, people disappearing. As these thoughts struck him, he heard the crackling of the dead leaves on the forest floor (as if they were small footsteps). He turned back to find nothing to his sight. The sunlight started to dull. Mr. Edward did not stop and kept walking, this time with a faster pace.
On reaching the main road towards the Town Hall, he breathed a sigh of relief. Mr. Edward was confused if he had just undergone one paranormal experience. On reaching the Town Hall, where he was expected to meet a friend, Ramanarayana Basu. Mr. Basu was a school teacher and a fellow writer. He taught at the Dow Hill School, right between the pine forest, Mr. Edward had walked through.
Mr. Basu was a religious man. He believed in God, so did he in the anti-God. Mr. Edward narrated his fresh incident to him and what Mr. Basu had to say after that had Mr. Edward by surprise. Mr. Basu looked at the time on his pocket watch. It read 10:37. While it takes 20 minutes for Mr. Edward to walk from his place to the Town Hall, Mr. Basu told him that 10:24 AM was the recorded time of death of boy who was brutally murdered in the pine forest some 30 years ago.
At 10:24 AM and PM, most deaths have been reported in the area and people have disappeared. If he was in the forest around the same time he must be really lucky to have made it out in good senses. The two friends chit chatted and discussed the event and the recent works and ideas. By 5, Mr. Basu was good to leave. Mr. Edward bid him adieu and stayed for some extra minutes.
On his way back home he avoided a shortcut through the forest and stuck to the main road. In Darjeeling the sun would set by 5:30. It was getting colder and darker, Mr. Edward was looking for a ferry but nothing was available. So he continued walking. The main road was lit with street lamps all the way. However the road was isolated with no one to be seen. While Mr. Edward was reminiscing his morning hour experience, he heard his name called from the forest trees. He stopped to look around, took out his flash light from his satchel. No one was to be seen. He thought it must be in his head.
Walked a few yards till again he heard his name called, this time a few yards behind him, he did not turn back and started walking faster. Now was a whisper in his right ear that said “Charles” with utmost intensity. This time Mr. Edward started running as fast as he could. The whisper continued for a few meters, fading as he was near to some government buildings where a few people were to be seen. There was a telephone booth, from where he called his house. His butler, Mr. John Pascal, an Indian Christian, took the call. Mr. Edward asked him to come to the Telephone Office and accompany him to the house.
He asked him to bring his mini-truck since his place was almost 6 kilometers from the Telephone Office, and he was a bit shaken too. John arrived in 15 minutes. Till then Mr. Edward calmed his breath and grabbed a cup of tea from a nearby lounge.
On their way back home, Mr. Edward kept quiet and John kept driving quietly too. Their truck stopped midway with the bonnet steaming, making the way invisible. This was unusual since John remembered the truck was new and was serviced the last week. Mr. Edward and John both got outside the truck to investigate. There was a tree a foot ahead where the truck stopped. There was a signboard next to it that read well below with an arrow pointing downwards to the side of the road. The signboard read the number “666” on it.
As John read the number he felt some weakness. He told Mr. Edward it was the number of the Beast as said in the Holy Bible. Mr. Edward ignored his remark and told him to get water from the well to cool the engine. John followed what his master asked him to do. He grabbed a couple of empty bottles from the truck and they both headed towards the well. It was dark down there so John lit a matchstick, he only had few of them. As they were filling the bottles, a voice from the dark called Mr. Edward’s name very clearly from a feet away, extinguishing the match; the same voice from the forest. It was a female voice. Even John could hear the call. John asked his master not to respond to the voice, lighting another match.
There was nothing. The two hurriedly went up to the truck, cooled the engine radiator with the water and tried to run the engine. It worked just fine. John drove away from there as fast as he could. Upon reaching their place, the two sat by the hearth for hours. That is when John told Mr. Edward about the lady who had been raped and thrown away in the forest to die by two British Officers a few decades ago. To save herself from embarrassment she drowned herself in a well. It was probably the same well. Mr. Edward was shivering, all his rationality and faith in science put to a test. John brought him a blanket and bid adieu for the night.
For a while Mr. Edward just sat there staring at the dying fire. He got up to put in some more logs, sat in the armchair with his notepad and a pen. He started scribbling something. Mr. Edward thought his Sunday through all over again. He recollected his actual purpose for the rendezvous today was to find a theme for a story. Maybe he might have found one. He decided to write about his paranormal experiences of the day.
And named his story, “Tales of the Dark”. He begins-
In a dim-lit expanse of a room by a fireplace sat a man in his huge couch. This moment of warmth is disturbed by a series of three cold sounds that were taps on the different walls of the room, one followed by the other, around the fireplace. Three sounds are generally considered to be the mocking of the Trinity- the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is a way of communication of a poltergeist. The three taps mean, “I am here”. As the taps go off, the fire in the fireplace extinguishes, leaving the room all dark.
Having written this much, Mr. Edward yawned and closed his notepad, put it on the table and calls it a night. His already unpleasant sleep was disturbed by three sounds around the room. He looked for the time, it was 10:24 PM. He heard the same sounds again, extinguishing the fire as they went off. Mr. Edward was left in complete dark.
By Tanmay Dhiman