The pregnant clouds were preparing for a heavy downpour. The howling wind made the scattered leaves on the road susurrate. Crickets chirped in resonance, muffling Thangamani’s ears. He waited at the bus stop to board the last bus that would stop at Ariyakudi. It had been an exhausting first day at work. The new job, despite the long work hours and an hour-long commute, seemed promising because of the attractive salary.
It was already 10 pm but there was no sign of the bus. It had started drizzling by then.
“All the workers have left. This place seems deserted,” he mumbled to himself.
He recited ‘Kanda Sashti Kavacham’ to keep his mind occupied. Finally, at half past ten when he heard the bus approaching, he heaved a sigh of relief. The blinding headlights of the bus illuminated the pitch-dark street. As he stood up from his seat, the thayithu that he wore around his neck fell. He bent down to pick it up but it was nowhere in sight. Instead, a piece of paper caught his attention.
He strained his eyes to read the words in it.
It had two words written in bold; ‘DON’T LEAVE’.
Who left it here? Could it mean something?
He was perplexed.
Suddenly, someone let out a bloodcurdling scream and yelled, “Help!”
It seemed to have come from the palatial bungalow at the far end of the street.
“Oh no! The inmates of the bungalow must be in some kind of danger. First the paper, now the scream- these are signs that I must stay back and help.”
Meanwhile, the driver honked several times for Thangamani to board the bus. “Get in now! I can’t wait anymore,” he yelled.
Thangamani’s feet tried to drag him towards the bungalow but a voice inside his head told him repeatedly- “Get into the bus, don’t stay!”
What’s happening to me? Is my mind driving me crazy?
Finally, unable to silence the voice inside his head, he got into the bus and sat down. He had an unsettling feeling for not having offered help.
In the next few moments, the bus passed the dim-lit bungalow that seemed enveloped with a cloud of mist.
“Ayya! That bungalow across the street is haunted. Today being Amavasai, evil spirits there, are believed to have heightened powers. There have been reports of strange sounds and sightings of ghosts too. I’ve also heard that people entering the bungalow don’t leave. They are found dead under mysterious circumstances,” said the passenger sitting next to him.
“What?!” Thangamani became speechless. Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead and a cold chill ran down his spine.
What if I had stayed back? What if I had entered the bungalow?
Thangamani shuddered as he thought.
However, he thanked his stars and offered sincere prayers to God for protecting him. He believed that the guiding voice inside his head was divine intervention.
- Kandha Sashti Kavacham – Song in praise of Lord Muruga
- Thayithu – an amulet or locket worn for protection
- Amavasai – New Moon
- Ayya – Sir
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