Tuesday, January 21, 2014
HIGHWAY 29- VILLAGE
“ For the love of god, how much farther do we have to walk”, Martha asked, looking at Philip .
“ Well it is 2 more miles according to this map”, Philip replied looking into the map.
It had been 6 months ago when Martha and Philip decided to embark on a road trip across the country. Everything was going good till now. They had seen so many places, met so many different people. But today morning exactly at 10 their car broke down. It broke down at a desolate place on Highway. There were no restaurants, no fuel stations, no town, no houses, absolutely no life on this stretch of the highway. At least according to the map which Philip held.
“ Are you sure that the map is right”, Martha asked again,
She was feeling very tired now, it was 10 am when the car broke down and it was 3 pm now.
“ it’s the only one I have, Martha if you look into the map, you will observe that the highway goes straight and then bends eastwards to reach the nearest fuel station, so maybe we could get off it and cut through the forest, maybe it’ll cut a few miles”
“ The Forest, I really don’t know if that is a good idea”, Martha replied looking skeptically at the great stretch of forestland to their left.
She thought about the idea, at first glance it did not look like a good idea, but then again she thought of the time and effort that would be saved if they took the forest route. She relented. Both, of them got off the highway and started walking on the narrow trail that they found going through the forest.
“ Is that compass of yours working”, Martha asked Philip looking around at the dense forest surrounding them. She cast a glance at the highway they had left behind them. It looked far away, and it was going to get farther away till they found it at the other end.
“ Ya it is, we will be at the fuel station as long as we keep going in the south east direction”
They kept following the trail; it was a narrow trail, the kind of trail, which was caused as a result of people walking through the same patch again and again. The trail moved in the south east direction, Martha was thankful of that. She wondered what would they have to go through if the trail ended abruptly, or it started moving in some other direction. Then it did end, going straight into the Banyan tree which stood in the way. No Martha thought.
“ Now , what”, Martha said staring at the banyan tree standing in their way, it was now 5 pm in the evening and day light was slowly fading away. She was starting to have second thoughts about the whole idea.
“ Nothing we keep walking in the south east direction”, Philip said looking ahead.
They continued walking south east. Martha observed that the forest was starting to get dense and the light was fading. The sounds of insects were getting louder. Darkness slowly crept over the forest.
“ I am feeling scared, and it’s too cold here”, Martha mouthed, she was shivering.
“ What are you folks doing here”, somebody said from their right.
Philip looked at the source of the voice. He saw an old man about 50 looking at them. He was standing with a stick in his hand.
“ We are trying to reach the highway”, Martha said looking at the man.
“ You shouldn’t be here, not at this hour, it’s not safe”, he said glaring at them.
“ I know , that is exactly what we are trying to do, can you help us with that, and why is the place not safe”, asked Philip.
“ Spirits……. Spirits move around this forest after sundown”, the old man answered
“ So why are you here, you some kind of ghost hunter”, asked Philip amused with the whole thing.
“ I am the guardian , it is my duty to be here”
“ Guardian , you guarding what Spirits”, Philip mocked
“ Graves”, the old man said still glaring at them.
“ What Graves”, Martha asked curious by now.
“ Let me lead you out of here, I will tell you on the way”
Thirty years ago I came here searching for a place to live. This was the time when the highway was not yet built. There was a village at the place where the highway stands. A village bustling with people who used to collect wood from the forests and sell them in the city for their livelihood. I thought of trying my luck with that, so I approached the village headman. He asked me where I had come from, I told him I had come from the city up north and I knew something about different types of wood. He thought I could help him get a better price for the wood his people sold, because he was of the opinion that merchants in the city used to fool his people. He told me I could stay in the village and help his people sell wood in the cities. In exchange for my services he promised me a place to live and food. Since, I had nothing else to do I agreed. I started going out into the forest with the villagers, I helped them with the selection of the best wood available, and help them get the best price for their wood in the city. This went on smoothly for years. Everybody was happy with my services. One day, I had just returned from the city after cracking a deal with the merchants, when the headman called me to his hut immediately. I thought something was terribly wrong . I could see it in the face of the person who had come to inform me. I entered the headman’s hut, I saw fear in his eyes. I asked him what was wrong. He told me, two of his men had cut a tree and a woman had come out of nowhere. She told them that she was imprisoned under the tree since the last 100 years. She told them she was a soul seeker, and that she could be free if she could get somebody’s soul to roam the forests in her place. The men died the next day. The headman was scared that they would come and take others from among them to take their places in order to be free. I told him there was nothing to worry about. I told him the men might have died of natural causes, and that we were panicking over nothing. But I was wrong. One by one everybody started dying. People came to know about the story, many left the village. Some stayed behind, because they could not think of anywhere else to go, or anything else to do. The chief stayed with his people in their hour of need. He asked me to leave. I could not , I had no where else to go and I owed this man a lot to leave him alone. In the end there was nobody left, except for the headman and me. He called me to his hut. He told me to stay away from the village at least for this night. He told me that he wants to die , he had no reason to live as his family was gone. He told me that if he dies tonight and his soul has to wander the forest , so be it, it was his forest. He told me to return the next day to bury his body at the same place where all his fellowmen were buried. He assured me that he will not come for my soul, but I had to promise him one favor. He asked me to guard the graves. He did not want grave robbers to get any of their belongings. I promised him and left. I returned the next day, as predicted he lad dead on his bed. I took his body to the village graveyard in the forest and returned to my hut. That night was the scariest moment of my life. I thought he would come for me to set himself free. He came, but he did not take my soul. He was happy that I stayed, that I stuck to my promise. Then he left. I never saw him again. Though I feel his presence in the forest, I have never seen him.
“ There you are, we have reached the highway, have a safe trip, and never return to this forest”. The old man said and walked back into the forest.
Philip and Martha looked at each other, they simply could not believe what they had just hear, but it certainly seemed to sent a chill down their spines.
“ What are you doing here”, the lady asked Jennifer
“ Well I was out trekking and I lost my way, I am trying to find the highway”, Jennifer said looking at the couple standing in front of her. She thought it was a bit odd for them to be in the forest at this late in the evening. So she asked
“ What are you folks doing here at this hour”
“ Well, it is a long story”, Martha said
“ Let us tell you that on the way to the highway”, Philip quipped.
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