waited till all the fifty participants had checked in. This would be a good
workshop as we had a full quorum. Situated on the backwaters of the dam, the resort
was built on the slope that led down to the lake water. It gleamed dully in the
moonlight that filtered down despite the thick forest. The crickets, frogs and
insects had gone beyond opening notes of their orchestra. A storm was brewing
in the distance and hopefully there would be some showers soon.
The clerk took an inordinately long time before the
allocating rooms to us. “I am sorry sir, but the resort is fully occupied now,”
“Do something man, we have to be here with our participants
else how can we conduct their training?” I asked. “Check again. Surely you have
a couple of rooms vacant.”
We were a four-member training team, most of us army
veterans. Roughing it out had been a way of life. We were quite ready to spend
the night on a veranda if required.
“We do have rooms at the lowest level near the water, sir,”
the clerk said hesitatingly.
“We’ll take those,” I said brooking no more questions.
“I must warn you that no one has stayed there for a long time…”
the clerk added.
“Why?” said Kedar, the baby of our team.
The clerk seemed to be gauging our reactions. Seeing our
puzzled looks he explained, “Last year a couple committed suicide in one of those
rooms. Thereafter guests have complained of seeing visions at night. We have
not allotted these rooms to anyone since then.”
We laughed away his fears, “We are soldiers. There is
nothing like ghosts. Stop spreading rumours and don’t mention this to your
guests.” The matter was put to rest there.
Prem, the bell boy helped us carry our bags down to the
rooms. He seemed nervous and wanted to hurry back as he opened the rooms. Kedar would share a room with Suresh. Mohan and I would be sharing the adjacent one.
“Call 201 for help,” Prem said. “Remember 201,” he repeated
and sped away to apparent safety.
Nevertheless we looked around the building before turning
in for the night. Light from the street lamps pierced the dense swaying foliage
to choreograph a macabre shadow dance. The nearest accommodation was about 200
meters uphill. We could hear faint music and intermittent bursts of laughter. A
few stars still twinkled in the black velvet sky and the wind whistled between
the trees. The sound of water splashing onto the shore added to nature’s nocturnal
It had been a tiring journey and a long busy day awaited
us. I decided to retire and could hear Kedar and Suresh chatting in the other
room. Mohan was speaking to his wife on his cell phone. I bade him good night
and turned in for the day.
Something shining in my eyes woke me from a deep
dreamless slumber. I tried to switch on the bedside lamp but there was no
electricity. I saw a whitish blur in the window. It looked like a human face. My
heart started thudding; my breathing quickened and sweat broke out on the brow.
What if there was really a ghost?
My army training came to my rescue. I grabbed a torch and
rushed to the window. The ‘face’ moved away and vanished towards the veranda. I
opened the door and chased it. I could see a white figure and I followed it as
it flitted between the trees. It remained elusive till it seemed to float up
the stairs. I sprinted and finally caught something wriggling in billowing robes.
It was Kedar who had wrapped himself in a bed sheet and
was writhing in laughter grinning from ear to ear.
“I just wanted to scare you sir. You did say there is
nothing like ghosts!”
He reminded me of the clerk’s story. I reproached him for
his childish prank and for disturbing me. We both had a hearty laugh and
retreated to our respective rooms.
The night seemed darker now. The wind had died, the
shadow-dancers were still and the orchestra was silent. I returned to my bed. I
could barely see Mohan sitting on the bed. The commotion apparently had woken him
up. I tried to light a candle but flame died repeatedly as if blown by an
unseen breeze. Sleep was elusive and we chatted away in the dark reminiscing our
days in uniform. After a while, my eyelids turned heavy and I fell asleep. Precisely
when, I do not recollect.
I was awakened by the sound of pounding on our door. Fighting
the clutches of sleep I saw the next bed was empty. Mohan was not around. He
must have already left for the briefing. A quick glance showed it was already 7
Cursing myself for tardiness I rushed to open the door. It
was Kedar. “Please wake up sir, you are already late. The participants have
left for the trek. Hurry up; we have to catch up with them.”
I tried to explain, “After your prank, I was awake till
5. Mohan and I had a good time reliving our old days. I guess I slept off after
He looked at me strangely. “Are you saying that you
chatted with Mohan in the night?”
“Yes, we did. Why?’
Kedar was bewildered. “Sir he left at mid night before I
woke you up. There was an emergency at home.”
I was aghast. “Is that so?”
I felt a shiver down my spine. If Mohan had left at
midnight, then, what was on that bed next to me that chatted with me in the wee
This was my entry to the 2014 Flash Fiction contest at http://www.lvwonline.org/ Needless to say it went no where with the judges but hopefully you will enjoy it, dear readers!!