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[This, as narrated, to me by a close friend……………..]

“I was doing my graduation in a college run by missionary sisters.” She named the college, a famous one.

“The college building was an old one; spread into different wings.”

“I was in the eastern wing; an older part of the building. New structures had come up on the Western Wing. This eastern wing was a British time construction with high roofs and tall and wide staircases and doors.” She continued.

“Girls, who for some reason or the other, could not leave during the summer vacation were allowed to stay back. That summer I had to stay back. There was another girl staying back and both of us were shifted to this eastern wing. We shared a room together. Her name was Jyoti. Our room was right at the end of the corridor. On the other end of the corridor, and this was at second-floor….. there was nothing above the second -floor but the roof……..were bathrooms and toilets.”

“Every night, at 10.30, the supervisory sister would come to check that everything was all right, say goodnight and then leave. Where the corridor ended, after the bathrooms, there was a staircase going down. On the ground floor, access to the staircase from outside was closed off by an iron grill. After getting down to the ground floor, there was a short passage leading to the Central building. This passage was also closed off by an iron grill. Where the passage ended, there was another flight of stairs and on the first-floor landing, there was a door leading to the corridor in which the sisters lived.”

“Actually the sister came in every night to check that the iron grill on the ground floors were properly locked and secured. There had been an incident sometime back of an intruder trying to get in.”

“The sister came in, checked that everything was okay, and left after we had said good nights. After she had left, I told Jyoti I was going for a bath. She was sitting propped up in her bed reading a book. She nodded. After about half an hour I came back and found that the room lights were off. Only the bedside lamp near her was burning.”

“My bed was to one side of the room; and her bed to the other side. The room was kind of divided into two halves. My study desk and chair as also my cupboard were also towards my half whereas her’s were on the other half.”

“Before getting into my own bed, I decided to switch off the lamp at her side. When I bent down to do so, my eyes fell on her face. Surprised, I noticed that there were sweat drops on her temple. Her face, overall, wasn’t looking particularly healthy also. I touched her forehead. To my horror, I found it burning with fever.”

“I tried to talk to her but her mumblings were hardly coherent. I could not understand it. Just 30 minutes back, she was perfectly all right.”

“While my mind was racing, she opened her eyes and asked for water. I quickly went to the bottle we kept in the room filled with drinking water. To my dismay, I found the bottle to be empty. Now the nearest place from where we could get drinking water was from a tap on the ground floor at the bottom of the staircase.”

“I would again have to cross the entire corridor and go down the staircase. I was tired and not particularly in a mood to do so. Up till now, I or neither for that matter Jyoti as I could recall, had gone down to get water. We always used to fill it when we went to take dinner. Even as I hesitated, she again asked for water.”

“I made up my mind to go and get the water. Unfortunately, there was no torch in the room. Telling her that I would be back in 10 minutes with water, I went out into the corridor, pulling the door close.”

“As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I could see just enough to slowly make my way. The rows of rooms were all closed. I reached the end of the corridor. There was a door in between leading to the staircase from this corridor. Opening it, I slowly went to the head of the staircase. There were high windows on the walls both to the back as well as to the front of the staircase. These windows were glass fronted. It was from the door that opened to the staircase from our corridor as also these windows, that a faint moonlight illuminated the stairs. Much of it however still lay in dark.”

“I slowly and very carefully made my way down the staircase, holding on to the banisters. I was in my nightgown and the only sound that could be heard in the silence was the material of my gown rustling as I walked.”

“The first-floor landing loomed up before me. Its corners were in dark. Hugging myself to the banisters, I crept to the landing holding the bottle tight in my hands. As soon as I reached the first-floor landing, I quickly turned, holding my eyes away from the shadows, and started going down the flight of stairs leading to the ground floor below.”

“It is then that I felt it. Something, it seemed, detached itself from the shadows at the landing and came up to my back, about two steps behind.”

“I froze. The fear choking me. In that numbing fear, I did what my body dictated mechanically.”

“I kept on going, looking fixedly down and ahead at the next steps to be crossed. Never for once, did I look back.”

“With eyes lowered, I went to the tap, slowly filled it and without raising my eyes, started walking back.”

“It was there, all the time, just about two to four steps behind my back.”

“I cannot recall much after that. My mind was numbed with fear; the body, as I said, only acting mechanically.”

“Looking fixedly down, I climbed up the staircase. That thing remained there, all the time behind my back.”

“I remember that once I reached the first-floor landing, and turned, I kind of quickened my steps going up to the second-floor landing where the door to our corridor stood open.”

“As I headed up the second flight of stairs, mercifully, that dreadful feeling of the presence behind my back ceased. I nearly ran up to the second landing and rushed to the open door.”

“Why I did so, I do not know; but as I entered the door to our corridor, my eyes went to the first floor landing which was partly visible from where I stood.”

“I saw a tall wispy figure, as if in white drape in the shadows against the wall. Only one thing I could clearly make out which was that the figure was dressed in a nun’s habit.”

“I fled down the corridor clutching the water bottle. As soon as I reached the room, I turned and bolted the doors.”

“I was panting, drenched with sweat, my breath coming in great painful gulps. I don’t know when I was able to gather myself. But when I did so, I immediately went to Jyoti and checked upon her. She seemed to be even worse and would not open her eyes.”

“I soaked my handkerchief in the water I had brought and started sponging her. While I was in my third sponge that I froze again; my hair rising. Just outside the locked door, I could feel the presence again. I tried to pray and found the words difficult to come.”

“Jyoti was in a delirium now. Maybe it was her condition which gave me strength. The words of the prayer started coming. Slowly I started saying them out aloud.”

“There were footfalls in the corridor outside now. Light but unmistakeable footfalls. It would go up the corridor and then come back towards our door again; pausing and then the words would start choking in my throat again. Jyoti was now ranting and her body burning with fever. I tried to focus on her, on her morbidly pale face now in the lamplight. Doing so helped and I went on sponging her and praying. Sometime later on, the footfalls faded. But I still felt the stifling presence in the corridor outside.”

“By and by, it started receding. First the presence. I could feel it no longer. Then the fever. It started coming down. Somewhere in between, Jyoti opened her eyes and asked for water again. Then she fell heavily asleep; the fever gone. I kept sitting by her bedside and praying.”

“I don’t know when I fell asleep. I awoke to the sound of banging of our door and the voice of sister outside calling our name.”

“I got up and opened the door. The bright daylight outside made the whole episode of last night unbelievable but yet all the more scary!”

“What’s all this! Why didn’t you two come down for breakfast? Why are you sleeping till so late!” The sister was visibly displeased and irritated.

“Hurriedly I told her about last night. By this time jyoti too had woken up; sitting up in her bed but looking weak.”

“The sister went and checked her pulse. They took her to a doctor. She was alright; but as I said, quite weak.”

“We were shifted to the Western Wing. After a couple of days, Jyoti’s father came to collect her and she went home for the remaining vacation.”


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