“How many times have you been here?” asked Akash with his eyes gleaming in the light of bonfire.
“I have travelled to other place alone but never this far. This one is the best so far.” Danny said.
The intense look in his eyes told how true it was. Just months back he was afraid of his own dreams and today he was living one. He was feeling relieved in finally doing something which he had been planning for a long time.. It was a Monday evening today and he would have been rushing blindly on the roads of Delhi exhausted after a backbreaking corporate job but he chose to come here instead.
“Popcorn?” Akash offered. Danny took a handful. “It has been good so far. More like I imagined.” Danny said smiling at Akash.
“It’s all in the air. Nature, fire, music and mountains. You have got to feel refreshed.”, Akash replied raising his hands in the air as he began dancing to the sound of drums.
It was a clear sky and stars were glowing like diamonds in space. A perfect day for camping.
Danny had come to travel alone. He would have enjoyed company but where could he find a lone traveler like him in a city like Delhi. Hence he began his journey alone.
It was at a tea stall at the corner of a hill top where he met Akash. He was from a nearby village but talking to him felt like home. In spite of hailing from very different places they had a lot to talk about.
Akash told him about a celebration in a nearby village and thus here they were dancing with the village folks.
“What is this celebration for?” Danny asked a villager.
“It’s a prayer dance to please our lords. They come into a human body and express themselves. It is a ritual to call our gods on earth.” the old man replied.
Danny quickly turned at the old man completely confused.
“Come into a human body! What happens then?” Danny was curious to know.
“Then the person becomes energetic. He starts dancing like never before, and starts talking in a different voice. Then that person becomes our devta or devi for the time being. We play drums; throw raw rice with force on the people standing by. This act removes all evil.”
Danny could have asked much more but he stopped for he thought that the old man would be offended on him for asking too much about the existence of his gods.
He smiled at the old man before looking back where the people were dancing.
In the lust of the night everybody was enchanted. Soon the night fell darker. The dancing souls retreated to sleep. Danny and Akash were in the same tent.
“What if you could live like this every day?” Akash asked.
“Not sure about everyday but most of the days from now on. Ahhh! The perks of travelling alone.” Danny answered staring the moonless night.
Just then a thunderous moan shook the tent inside out. It was Akash. He was screaming loud enough to break the mountains.
Danny was taken aback. It didn’t seem he was doing it deliberately. Danny was blank and he just stared at his friend jumping crazily up and down. Akash’s eyes were lifted up and he was shouting now and then.
Just then Akash ran out of the tent jumping and screaming.
Danny didn’t know what just happened. He was extremely scared and concerned at the same time.
“Did he just had a seizure?” Danny thought, his heart pounding like never before.
He got out of the tent to look for Akash.
“Where did he go?” he thought, looking around the meadows where they were camping.
Danny went towards the village complex. All the houses were asleep as if nobody heard anything.
The night was in its darkest of the dark hour. He had to use the light from his phone to walk further. For once he thought returning to his tent but going back to the uninhabited meadows would be a stupid thing to do.
“Or maybe it was a prank!” he thought walking carefully on the narrow path of the mountain.
He reached by the village temple. On a moonless night it was the only thing shining with light in the whole village. Somebody was there at the temple, Danny realized.
There was a priest sitting in the temple verandah, with a single light bulb illuminating the place.
Danny removed his shoes and went inside. He saw the priest reciting some mantra.
As he walked further he was shocked to see Akash lying on the floor beside the priest. Akash was shivering now and then with his mouth open. He didn’t even look like him anymore with his eyes too wide open, glancing the ceiling and saliva dripping from his mouth.
Danny stood there horrified. The priest was too busy reading the mantras; he didn’t notice Danny’s presence.
“Akash!” Danny called as he went closer to him. He sat beside Akash and was about to touch his hand but the priest stopped him. He signaled him not to touch Akash while continuing his chanting.
The priest threw some drops of water on Akash’s face. Akash was unconscious now.
The chanting stopped, it was complete silence. The priest got up.
“He is fine now.” the priest said.
“What happened?” Danny said quickly as the priest was about to go.
“Some child’s spirit entered his body. He came jumping around the temple when I saw him.” he said going back to his room at the corner of the temple verandah.
“You can sleep here if you want. These spirits have started to bother people too much these days, especially non villagers.” he said before closing the door of his room.
The words sounded like some explosion to Danny. SPIRITS! He thought. The word was repeating again and again in his mind.
He looked around. The darkness ceased to end as if the night was permanent.
He was fearful and surprised at the same time.
There was a no way he was going back to the tent to sleep. He looked at Akash who seemed asleep and normal now.
Danny pulled out a mattress and placed it beside the burning oil lamp before the temple god. This seems like a safe place for now, he thought.
He sat there looking around. To sleep was not an option.
“Danny Roy, you are done travelling alone.” he said to himself.