Rajeev always had an inclination to travel alone. Just a backpack and his bike – he knows no world. This time wasn’t anything new to him. He had decided to take a stroll through one of the most isolated highways, NH-64 and in the night! Narrow lanes around the Gandhaari Hills like that of a reptile, the highway is usually steep, and used by truck drivers looking for shortcuts or may be rare travelers who look for an adventurous ride.
NH-64 rarely has lamp posts and eating joints are negligible. So travelers especially bikers eat enough before the ride or keep nibbling while they are driving. Bikers are usually recommended not to stop in the middle to eat or meet nature’s calls until it’s urgent. Such warnings are not given because the place is haunted but because the environment is not fit for people to survive if anything goes wrong. Moreover, the local inhabitants live at a distance so help would anyway arrive late which would make situations worse.
Middle of the night, balmy winds, rustling leaves, mild coolness in the air and that zing of uncertainty in pitch darkness, Rajeev was having the time of his life. Like nature would have it, Rajeev had to meet his call this time. He had been looking for a lamp post for some time and finally found one after 2 hours. He parked his bike near shady light and walked near the bushes.
Just when Rajeev was relieving himself, he saw an image. Near his bike, a half clad woman stooping low, was checking the lights. Usually nerved Rajeev, this time felt shaken. He always researches about places before he goes anywhere. How come this time, he wasn’t much informed? NH-64 was never in news for ghost sightings or did he miss some news of late? The image continued to stroll around the bike, occasionally limping, thumping the ground and dancing. It was a woman that was visible but half nude. The lamp post light was now dim making it difficult to analyze the image. In the checkered lights, Rajeev saw the image limping back into the eternity. In moments, the image was vanished. It was no time to pause and think but to run. Rajeev boarded his bike without looking back once.
Headlines on major newspapers were big and wide.
“Decomposed body found of a middle aged woman. Rape suspected.”
“Half naked body found of a woman near Gandhaari Hills.”
“No actions taken yet for the raped woman who was found dead at the Gandhaari Hills.”
“Dude, I am telling you again. What you saw was a ghost sighting of the same woman. Trust me. Man! What major adventure you had ah!” Said Vivek to Rajeev.
“I have hundred times told him not to travel to such places. Who listens to mom after all. There is nothing to encourage here, Vivek.” Exclaimed a concerned Rajeeta, Rajeev’s mother.
“Aunty….”, Vivek murmured but decided to keep quiet.
“She didn’t seem to be a ghost to me but a human.” Said Rajeev looking at oblivion.
“So, tell me you are planning to go there again. Aren’t you?”, inquired a fumed up Rajita.
“No mother, I won’t. Don’t worry. Promise.” Rajeev said with a faded smile to his mother.
“Are you in love with that dancing woman or what?” Asked Vivek.
Within no time of the body being found in the Gandhaari Hills, news started floating in the market about the ghost sightings. People especially the truck drivers started coming up with haunting stories of a limping woman.
“We mostly avoid the lane. The place is firstly cold and also not easy to travel through. I did see a woman eating leaves. I didn’t look back and ran for my life.” A truck driver Ramadip was overheard telling fellow mates at a Dhaba.
Rajeev wanted complete detail of the story as it was simply getting inquisitive to him. He spoke to the Dhaba owner that was the only eating joint nearest to the Gandhaari Hills.
“Sir, what do you expect to hear if such disastrous news come to you? Like a woman being raped, killed and thrown in the hills? These are negative energies sir, negative energies. I have suggested the local authorities to make a temple.” Said the Dhaba owner.
While making a small puff in the air, Rajeev asked, “Did you experience anything yourself?”
“Sir, after that incident, we have started closing the Dhaba early and these day vehicles don’t come as earlier. I didn’t see anything but yes, I heard cries of a woman. The volume is clear as water to my ears and they do give a chill down the spine. Do you think, I would want to stay back here?” Answered the Dhaba owner.
“Hmm.” Responded a cold Rajeev.
Rajeev went around the place to a distance to figure out the story in detail. There was numbness in the environment and an uncomfortable silence. Leaves were rustling as usual, there was sunlight which gave light to unknown meadows in the hills and the mountains that gave a disturbing gaze. Things looked incomplete to him like a puzzled riddle.
Rajeev burnt his half puffed cigarette on road and drove back to the town. The nearest town was mahino, a small town with mostly farmers in the population. The place was peaceful, clean and lush green.
Rajeev decided to speak to the local police.
“Sir, we found the body in a decomposed state. We have submitted the file to the city headquarters and we do not have any hands in the case.” Answered local police constable.
“See, I want to look into the detail. Have you inquired about the people involved?” Asked Rajeev.
“Sir, the case is shut from our town. The girl wasn’t from here. We have other cases to handle too. Please understand. May I know what did she mean to you? Asked the constable.
“A human.” Rajeev answered and came back.
Mahino, the town was suddenly in news again after missing report of a woman was filed.
“This case looks older to me. Why is it that it coming to light now?” The head constable asked his team.
“Approximately, 8 days older sir. Actually, the girl’s parents were not willing to come forward. They initially thought she ran away with her lover. But, now they are doubting a case of kidnap.” Answered the junior constable.
“Hahahaha! Looks like, she is already married by now. Check out the nearby places. I doubt, it’s simply a matter of love marriage or something. Youth these days just want to run.” Said the head constable.
Headlines flash on TV
“Mysterious death of a woman registered at Gandhaari Hills. No investigation done till now.”
“Another woman found dead in half naked position. Rape suspected.”
“Half clad woman found dead, rape and murder suspected. Serious injury found in one of the legs.”
“Half naked woman found dead. She jumped from one of the cliffs to save her dignity.”
Rajeev sat calm at the news and switched the channels.
Without a blink of an eye, he continued to watch his favorite movie “Cast Away.”