When I finally came around, the first thing that I heard was….noise. Traffic’s noise. The familiar blowing of horns, the sound of tyres hitting against the concrete, the voices of vendors mixing with those of walking on the footpath. People shouting, people talking, people rushing.
Yes, I was back in the humans’ world. Funny how I considered myself separate from them and yet a wave of nostalgia washed over me, almost choking me with dark emotions. Sighing I opened my eyes, my ghostly eyes and looked around. The spot where I was lying was cleared off by any sort of traffic or crowd. Vehicles were going around it and people were simply ignoring it. I was confused. How the hell they knew about my arrival? Did Death come here?
But I dismissed this nonsensical thought of mine at once. Come on! They could not even see me. I was supposed to haunt thirteen people, the only ones who could see me. All others would remain oblivious of my existence. So…..? I stood up and then realization hit me. Idiot Shikha! You were killed here! This was the place you left this world. I scolded myself angrily. This was the place where I died. Ugh! Wasn’t it that obvious? I was supposed to start my new journey from the time I ended my old one. Yes, I was sent back to set right what was wrong.
I took a deep breath, not that I needed it. If I wanted, I could stop breathing and would do just fine. But then old habits die hard. Squaring my shoulders I took my first ghostly yet firm steps. First things first. It was time to avenge for my death. I smiled, my eye gleaming with the madness for the blood I was craving for-
And instantly the craze faded as the gravity of the situation slapped me hard. In a city, where population exceeded one million, which was the heart of India, where everyday thousands of immigrant came in, how was I supposed to find that craphead? It was not searching for a needle in the sand. It was like looking for a particular grain of sand. I was in Delhi. Should have been more practical when I thought of taking the stupid revenge. Groaning, I sat on the footpath. What the heck! I didn’t even know where the hell was even I? Father sent me here with the driver to complete some paperwork regarding my visa. This road, this place was completely unfamiliar to me.
“Damn it!” I growled, frustrated “ Damn it!”
‘Obviously’ no one heard me.
I looked around, fuming in anger. A vendor was selling snacks nearby. I strode towards him with all fury.
“You know what?” I snarled at him, “This is great, just pathetically awesome! Here I am, with no body, no information and no idea whatsoever is happening! I am the greatest idiot you will ever meet!”
In response, he put his finger in his nose and gave a quick tour around his nostril.
“Yeah alright!” I muttered,” Why do you even care! There is just a ghost trying to talk to you. Not a big deal, is it!”
And just like that an idea struck me. I was killed in a road accident. Killed. So that meant an investigation must have been going on. And that also meant police would probably be right now at my house questioning my parents. Time for me to head towards my house. Something, at least a bit of news would be given to me, though not consciously. Well that was better than nothing. If only I knew how to get to my house.
Take a bus? Hmm…not bad just the thing was I had no idea which bus would take the route to my place. And I certainly did not want to take any chance of wasting even an hour of mine. Time was the essence. So yes that option was out.
Metro? My eyes lit up. Yes, that was it! I knew that metro ran across almost whole of Delhi. I just needed to get into the one going to GTB Nagar.
So the first thing I needed to do was to follow college students. It was their favorite medium of transportation. They would definitely lead to metro station. I scanned the area for any teenager to be seen. After waiting for fifteen minutes, I finally saw two girls of around twenty, giggling and talking, coming towards my direction.
I sighed with relief and stood up to follow them.
Yeah easier said than done. I could not have moved more than a few metres before I was hauled back to my accident spot by some invisible force.
“Huh?” I was dumbstruck.
I again took few more steps towards the girls and sure enough I came back again. It was as if I was some kind of a giant elastic band who could be stretched only up to few metres before snapping back.
“Seriously man!” I growled to myself, irritated at my epic failure.
It was one of the fiercest battles of my entire life, alive as well as dead, to get out of that ‘invisible’ boundary of mine. No matter how hard I tried I always ended up at the place where I first opened my dead eyes. I must have wasted like four or five hours in that futile act of mine to escape out. Finally when I could not take any more, I sat on the road dejectedly. So much for the damn time management. If that was how things were going to turn out for me then I could clearly see myself spending my thirty three days on this miserable road haunting the damn concrete!
I almost wanted to cry.
“Well, wasn’t that some…impressive effort.” An almost bored voice said.
I jumped up in surprise and looked behind me. A man in his early thirties, wearing a faded cream coloured shirt over black trousers, was leaning against a pole casually staring at me. For God knows how long. I looked around me, knowing he was surely talking to someone else. I could not be seen, right?
“Oh quit acting so dumb.” The man said rolling his eyes.
My eyebrows knitted in confusion. How….?
He sighed dramatically” Same old, same old. Newbie, aren’t you?”
I stared back at him stupidly in response.
Finally seeing that I was not going to answer at all, he folded his hands over his chest and said,”Alrighty then, time for some get-to-know-each-other thingy, since all you have done so far is to showcase some spectacular silence. Just you know, I love acquaintances.”
He smiled emotionlessly.
“So my good name is Harish and it has fallen on me to welcome you.”
“Welcome me?” At last, I gathered some of my wits to answer him or rather question him.
“Are you trying to frustrate me or you really that stupid?” he said, a flicker of anger colouring his tone.
And that obviously sparked ‘my’ anger.
“Now wait a second. I died a few hours back, went to Deaths halls, was told that I wasn’t really dead. Then I was thrown back here again to do something, of which I have no idea how, with a darn deadline and yes I wasted my precious hours ‘trying’ to get out of- I don’t know what! Then you appear like some mighty screwking and behave as if I should know everything when apparently I don’t know what should I really know! So cut me loose some slack and tell me what the hell is really going on!”
I had no idea that I was going to burst out like this but man I have had enough!
Harish stared at me as I had just forced him to drink fresh lime juice.
“Wow that actually felt great!” I smiled.
He took a step in my direction, with obviously no hint of friendliness on his face” Now listen you whining twig, I-“
A woman, well an old woman really, appeared behind Harish. A light blue coloured saree was elegantly draped over her body. She had to be around sixty.
“Hush Hari!” She chided him, almost like a mother,”You are frightening this young lady here. Is this a way you treat our guests?”
He lowered his eyes, not because of accusations but out of respect. I could tell that much.
“My apologies.” He said half-heartedly.
The old woman waved her hand in dismissal,” Oh don’t be such a grump. Now, you go back while I will handle this situation with a little more hospitality. Ram Ram.”
“Ram Ram.” Harish said and vanished into the thin air.
The old woman turned towards me with a huge smile on her face” Sorry about him. He is not all happy when it comes to welcoming. He is still in…learning phase. So Shikha, isn’t it?”
I nodded nervously.
“The girl with dreams. I am Yashodha.” She said taking my hands in her hers.
“I am sorry for my rudeness but what do you mean by girl with dreams?” her sentence was a bit too confusing for me.
She laughed, her face lighting up with happiness,”Well you are a spirit just like me. And I know all about you.”
My eyes widened at this piece of information ,”How?”
She smiled again, gently brushing my cheeks,”Honey, when humans become a spirit, they have to live in their world, the Astral world. Every ghost, which has ever roamed on this earth is a part of it. You can call it the next neighbourhood of the mortals.”
I nodded absent-mindedly.
“And when the new residents come in, their arrival’s talk is all over the town. That is how I came to know about you.” She said.
“So where am I exactly, in humans world or the Astral world?”
She released my hands and went to sit on the footpath” You are in the limbo right now.”
“Limbo?” And the confusion was becoming my all time favourite sentiment.
She nodded,”Yes. You came here for some purpose, and in your case I presume revenge is on number one on your list. So, that means you would have to be among humans, not with us. But since you are not one of them, you will be like a silent, invisible breeze for them.”
Suddenly, my knees felt weak,”So you mean that my one foot is in ghosts’ world and another is in humans world.”
Yashodha smacked her lips,”More like on two speeding motorboats in an angry storm. And it is going to get rough sweety.”
I looked at her with a sinking heart,”Rough?”
She took a deep breath,”You are a lone soul, who can’t even cross her death’s spot. Other….thnigs will eventually find you. And then it will too late for you.”
“You mean demons?”
She gave me a concerned look,”Yes and much worse then that.”
I closed my eyes and sat on the road,”And what did you meant by ‘can’t cross death’s spot’?”
“It means you are bound to this place. Most of the time souls have the power to move around on their will. But sometimes when Death makes a last minute decision of turning a human into a spirit, they pretty much are stuck to their, as I told you before, death’s spot.”
I put my head in my hands and tried not to break down.
I was a last minute decision.
It was not a question. It was a painful reminder. I felt the air around me change its temperature. And then a hand was gently caressing my head.
“Sweetheart it wasn’t your fault. Death saw that you had almost everything, a family, a future. But then, she felt that longing for more deep down in your heart.”
Almost, but not everything. Maybe I should not have wished at all. And now I was in this huge mess. God, as if dying was not enough.
“There, there.” Yashodha soothingly murmured.
Finally I opened my eyes and looked at her,”Why are you here?”
She seemed surpised,”Why, to welcome you dear and of course to help you.”
I shook my head,”But why? Who am I to you?”
She stared deep into my eyes and replied,”You are one of the warriors in our war against the Gods and Death.”