I slid the door open and stepped out. Once I was out, I waved Anna goodbye. All her pals rode back home. I had to take the evening bus. Once again, the door opened and last of them all, Mike stepped out. The road was, by then, quite deserted and almost everything fell silent.
Seeing me walk, Mike asked if he could drop me home in his bicycle. I stopped, flashed my eyes at Mike and awaited my impulse to strike me like a jolt. Well, it did! I hopped on for the tandem-ride.
Mike rode furiously. Anna’s house was situated on the outskirts of the town. Some minutes would then be wasted. And then, there was an unexpected major power-failure! I held fast to Mike’s shoulder. By then, he had quite slowed down.
We rode along, Mike tried adjusting to the darkness and the few lamplights in the houses that lined the road. We kept going on until all the lights were left behind and thereafter only the dim-lit horizon guided us.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash. Mike and I were thrown into some kind of a ditch. We couldn’t see a thing. For a few moments I swooned. When I came to my senses, I tried to get up and reach for Mike. I could hear his groan. I crawled towards him and asked, “Where are we?” Next moment, he shut my mouth and whispered, “Look out!” We looked ahead of ourselves. Two white circular- torch-lights were moving in a straight-line at a little height above us as if someone was searching for us. Mike whispered,” Don’t breathe a word”. The two torch-lights were joined by more. It seemed like a great big army of torch-lights.
Suddenly, I heard a loud bay of some beast over the tracks. All of a sudden my tongue became motionless and my vocal-cords ceased to move. I almost leapt over Mike. I had stepped over Mike’s bruised arm and he had let out a loud shriek. And then, everything fell silent, even the “circular-torch-lights” stopped announcing their reign over the land. All the lights were directed towards us. Soon, they started closing in. My blood ran cold seeing this. I shook in the cold night for I did not know what to do. Somewhere an owl hooted as though blowing the trumpets at the matador!
Soon it was pitch-black dark. The dark, black sky was studded with a myriad of stars. The beasts drew closer, closer…. until a little blood rose into my head and something struck me. My hands vigorously groped for a pebble. They found it. And then, sensing the direction of approach of the flashes, I threw the stone and a sudden noise pierced the air such that Mike violently jumped up. The beasts stopped and seemed to listen. The noise of the falling stone caused them to change their direction. This was our chance. As silent as mice, Mike and I crept into the dense jungle where we could spend the night perhaps, in the army encampment, if we were to find them, that is! We were running out of time. The beasts might just return back to their ‘trailers’. While we were in this pensive-mood, Mike felt his hand touch a piece of wood stuck on a tree. He stopped and moved his arms up which met with more of these logs that resulted in a ladder-like arrangement. We hurriedly climbed up the rungs of the tree for the little platform over it. We could no longer see any torch-light around by then.
The strange tonk-tonk of the night-jar, the hooting of the owls, sudden flight of some nocturnal bird or bat, the glow of the fireflies disappearing into the darkness, the screeching sound of crickets and far away in the distance, the baying of a wolf or a fox…. I trembled…. How long could I stand these noises, these terrible shrieks, when will the night end, what was that thing behind my back?….. Were the trees coming alive? Where are we anyways? The eerie yet authentic darkness, the sinister atmosphere….. sudden hissing of some serpent….. some whispers….. A terrible phantasma that had become alive…..
The night seemed long!
Next morning, with the first rays of the Sun, we climbed off the tree-balcony and rushed back home through the woods as fast as we could and never went riding in the darkness ever again!
— by Miss Nilanjana Haldar