Short story

Close Encounters of a Ghostly Kind

As an aspiring writer, I discovered that most people love stories of the supernatural. I had a fear of the inexplicable as imagination slurs up ghastly images … Some even making their way into my consciousness from dreams. And they can be terrifying, whether smoky or solid. The smoky ones are a bit like the ghosts in Harry Potter’s movies, except they wear indistinct flowing robes, nothing as well defined as the clothes of the ghosts in Hogwarts. The solid ones look like dark voodoo images with long hair which is longer than their height. They hover in the air and have sharp teeth and bloody mouths. Their red tongues could be hanging out. Then, there are Dracula like women in luminescent green light who open creaking doors. They have faces like anopheles mosquitoes. Therefore, I do not like to write spooky stuff! When people ask me if I write ghost stories, I tell them, I wrote one…and that too when the lights were on and my full family was around!

Not long ago, some friends told me that they felt their house was haunted! I was stunned…not only was it night time but my husband was away touring and my elder son was in his hostel. It was an unreasonable time to make such boneshaking disclosures. I told them as I didnot like haunted houses, feared ghosts, I would never visit their home again.

Then Sushmita, the wife, started to relate the tale. “Every now and then, at around midnight, the front door bell rings desperately. And we know, the ghostly visitor is announcing his or her presence. We can hear strange eerie creaks and then it stops on its own. All these activities happen only at night.” When I asked them if they were scared, her husband, Vimal, replied that it was a friendly ghost who ‘lived’ and let live. He said that they had grown so used to the ghostly intervention that they just went back to sleep everytime the bell rang at midnight. They knew their supernatural friend was just popping by to say ‘hello’.

Then, he suggested we all meet in the East Coast Park for dinner and ghost stories one night. I absolutely disagreed. I hate ghost stories. My cousins still recall, how as a child I would turn violent at the mention of a ghost story. Then the conversation turned to other mundane things, like Vimal’s and my husband’s travel schedules etc. I heaved a sigh of relief.

That night, I had a nightmare!

We were dining with Sushmita’s family in their home. After dinner, everyone except me wanted to go for a midnight stroll. I had a bad knee and it was playing up again. Vimal suggested, I watch a movie while they all went out for a stroll. I was not too keen as I recalled the ghostly visitor. ” Oh! You don’t need to worry about that,” he said.” The ghost only rings the bell if we sleep early, not if we watch TV. The ghost doesnot like bright lights and noises.”

Then my elder son,who was back home for the weekend, chipped in,”Mamma, you surely do not believe in such things!”

That hurt my ego. I said ,” Of course not!”and then, I just let them go.

Vimal had put on the Discovery channel for me. There was an interesting program on about historical digs. Nothing could be more distant from the ghostly bell ringer in a modern Singaporean condominium.

My family and Sushmita’s left for their stroll. I locked the door and settled down to watch the program.

Fifteen minutes into the program, the lights started to flicker. I wondered what had happened. Then, when the bell rang, I was relieved, thinking they had all returned from their walk. The flickering light made me uncomfortable. I opened the door. There was no one outside. Now, I was terrified. I had felt a draft of wind blow past me. Yet, it seemed to be a still night!

I quickly closed the door and went back to the sofa. I turned the volume louder as Vimal had said the bell ringer hated loud noises and bright lights. Suddenly, I felt a shadow fall on me. I looked harder at the screen. Then, I heard footsteps and creaking floorboards. Perhaps someone was walking upstairs. I heard a door bang and voices. Then, I sensed someone was sitting on the sofa opposite. I tried not to look or notice. I was really scared. Perhaps, it was all spooky feelings and too much imagination! They were showing Egyptian mummy digs on discovery channel.

Was it an Egyptian mummy I sensed in the room…so different from the apparitions I had dreamt of as a kid…Or,was it a grey lady… Or, was it a real looking girl who had a ghastly smile and slashed wrists. She looked moth-eaten as if she had straight walked out of a grave. The mouth on her pallid worm-eaten face was the same colour as the gash on her wrist. Both were brownish maroon,the color of dried blood! I could smell a dead,rotting animal… I could not see anything distinctly…I thought I was passing out… And then, I woke up in cold sweat.

I was breathing hard. My husband was away. I tried turning on the lights and praying. I drank water. Then, I heard some thuds from upstairs! That decided me… I went into my eleven year old son’s room, lay down next to him, put my arms around the sleeping child and fell asleep, praying really hard.

Few days later, Sushmita called me up and said,they were planning to sell their flat and move to a bigger house. Now, there was the matter of the ghostly intruder. In Singapore, the value of an apartment could drop dramatically if it is haunted. So, I asked Sushmita what they would do about the ‘ghostly visitor’.

Sushmita started laughing and then said,”Oh that! That was some loose electrical connections. We were just joking about the ghost! We have already fixed it.”

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