The trains passed by and the station was in quite a rush. Nithya knew she was going to be late to her evening shift at work, there was barely any space to move around and she had missed her first train. The next one would arrive in fifteen minutes and she decided to look at her surroundings while at it. The background blurred and seemed to slow down as she started focusing on particular happenings. The porter in khaki was chewing on paan as he called out his wage prices. Her nose scrunched in distaste when he spit out the vile substance onto the railings. The chai wali, in her dulled out green sari, was pouring out cups upon cups of tea for the buzzling people. In the midst of all, she didn’t notice her train pulling away from the station, her head snapped toward the sound of the engine and she made her way through the relatively clearer station. She prayed to the gods to allow her to catch the train and as if on cue, a hand slipped out of the closest door, seemingly reaching out for her. She felt like Simran, taking the hand of the unknown Raj, and she was hauled into the train.
“Hello there,” the man said with a beaming grin, “Lovely day innit?” It was clear he wasn’t Indian, maybe British. Nithya managed to thank the man while panting. They had a very pleasant conversation where she was informed that he was indeed from Britain. They talked about everything and nothing and soon it was time for her to get off. She waved bye to the man she knew she’d never meet again as she walked out of the station. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Her report time was to be twelve-thirty since that did not work out she decided to stroll down the road to her office, pulling her jacket tighter as the wind brought about another wave of cold.
Nithya was sitting on her table, writing down her next article when Riya scrambled through the door. She questioned her and she slammed down a picture with something akin to ‘spicy, new story’ being mumbled under her breath. But Nithya couldn’t hear anything that she said. All she could focus on was the picture in the middle of the page, the caption read Born: June 16, 1954; Died: August 20, 1978; Murdered. Chills ran down her back and fear rippled through her veins. He looked the same, wore the same clothes and his age was the same.
The man on the train had looked completely solid to her, not like a ghost. His hand was warm and he pretty well looked alive. She tried to let those thoughts calm her down as she told Riya to come back with the story tomorrow.
Nithya got out of her office very late. Her watch read one-thirty am. She started walking back home; a mediocre distance from the station. Nithya was not the kind of woman prone to unavailing imagination, so, when she felt like someone was following her -she looked back.
What she saw, brought back the fear she had felt in the morning. The man she met on the train; dressed in a black trench coat and a black beret covering his hair, was walking behind her.
She walked faster. After some time, she glanced behind her to see that the strange man was still walking behind her. Nithya could feel the panic rising in her throat, she didn’t want to be killed by an unknown, supernatural creature without calling her amma first! She prayed for herself, apologizing for all the sins she had knowingly or unknowingly committed. Prayed for forgiveness from the friend she had in pre-nursery, for taking her doll and ripping it, then proceeding to blame another student. She made it to her apartment safely, sighing in relief as she got to her very much needed sleep. For some unknown reason, the thoughts of ghosts and death made a constant reappearance in her dreams that night.
It was still dark when Nithya groaned as her very disturbed sleep was interrupted by her doorbell ringing. She made herself look presentable and started making her way to the door. But the previously locked door opened on its own accord. Her eyes widened as she saw the man from last night, her mind swirling with all kinds of thoughts.
She did not expect the man to give her a box of chocolates, introducing himself as her new neighbor. She also definitely did not like the sinister smile on his white-eyed face.
Nithya’s face blanched.