By Hephzeeba Mathew
Many years ago there lived a family in a small house in a deep, misty, downhill forest bordering a hamlet in Gudpur. The family led a simple yet happy life. A father, a mother, and two children—a girl of fifteen years and a boy of eight years—made up the family. One morning, the hamlet woke up to a terrible news of the mysterious death of the family. All four were found dead and, despite two to three years of intense investigation, the police could not find a reason for their death. So the police closed the case.
Months passed by. The villagers almost forgot the dead until some of them began seeing the family at night near the forest, on the streets, and in other public places. Eight years later.
Gudpur saw the arrival of a new forest officer called Manohar. Manohar, along with his wife Sapna and daughter Pavitra, came to occupy the same cottage in which the family of four was killed. The cottage had three bedrooms, a hall, a kitchen, and a terrace from which they can see the forest.
Sapna was an archeologist. So she was naturally drawn towards ancient temples and dilapidated structures.
The village also had an imposing, centuries-old Shiva temple. People believed that in Shiva Ratri, Lord Shiva and Devi Parvathi would perform tandavam. On Shiva Ratri, therefore, no one would venture out after the sunset.
It was a new moon night, the time of the month when ghosts and evil forces would roam about freely. Manohar was attending to some of his pending work, Sapna was in the kitchen while Pavitra slept in the bedroom.
The bell rang. Manohar went to check who it was and he saw a family standing outside and asking for help to stay the night since they were new to the village.
Manohar, for a kind man that he is, allowed them in and gave them food and then showed them a bedroom to stay put for the night. The next morning, Sapna took tea for the visitors but to her alarm, she found the bedroom empty. She screamed and rushed to her husband and told him that their visitors had gone. Manohar hurried to the bedroom and saw that there was no trace of anyone having slept the previous night.
Both of them went out and asked their neighbours if they had seen a family arrive at the village recently. Finding no satisfactory answer, Manohar thought he would seek help from the police to solve the mystery. He went to the police station and related the incident. Piqued by Manohar’s description of the family, the police took a newspaper article from a dusty file and showed it to him. The article contained a picture of the family of four. Manohar instantly recognised the picture. He told the police that the people in the picture were the ones who visited them last night. The police informed him that more than eight years have passed since the family had died.
Stupefied, he went back home and shared this revelation with his wife. Sapna then remembered all the strange things that had happened ever since they came to the village such as howling in the nights, sudden appearance and disappearance of a lady near the well, her daughter’s mysterious playmate, etc. She told all this to Manohar. Once the villagers came to know about the incident, they decided to approach an old sage who lived in the Shiva temple. Swami, as he was popularly known, told the villagers that the guru pandit of the temple along with men of the village must go to the house near the forest and do rituals while women can stay back and do prayers at home.
Once they reached the house, the atmosphere abruptly changed. Wind started blowing fiercely, the sky became completely dark although it was daylight, and dogs and wolves belted out mournful howls. The guru asked the company to chant Shiva slokas. He bravely entered the house and set out to perform a ritual to cleanse the place of evil spirits. Through the powerful ritual, he managed to establish communication with the family of four.
Then a voice spoke. It was that of the father. “We four of us were living happily in this house. Our life changed for bad when a forest officer laid his eyes on our daughter. He had ill designs towards her and, in the name of inspections, started frequenting our place since it was adjacent to the forest.
“During one such inspection, when we were not around, the rascal took advantage of our daughter and sexually abused her. Just then, we returned home and saw what had happened. He did not expect us to return that soon. Having been caught thus, he tried to flee; when we resisted, he killed all four of us in cold blood.”
Manohar then asked, “Can you tell us the name of your killer?”
The voice replied, “His name is Pratik.”
Manohar said, “Do you mean Pratik, my senior officer?”
“Yes, him, the one who lives two kilometers away from here.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“We want a revenge! We want his blood!”
“Will you leave this place and go to the world of spirits if we fulfill your wish?”
Getting an affirmative, Manohar invited Pratik to visit his house on a new moon day. After serving him a sumptuous dinner, he took the latter for a walk towards the forest and left him in a secluded spot. Once he left, the ambience changed. What was until then a pleasant, cool night suddenly became stormy. Wild animals started howling uncontrollably. The spirits of the dead appeared and killed him. Having avenged their murder thus, they went to the pandit and Manohar and told them that as promised, they would now return to the world where they truly belonged.
But the spirit of the girl told them, “If any man commits a wrong to any girl or woman, I will come and kill him!”
The pandit, Manohar’s family, and the villagers went back to the temple and did a ritual of gratitude to Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati.