It was a foggy night. I was on my way to home from my friend. The road was hardly visible but for the moonlight; the street lamps were not lit. A dead silence prevailed there. As I moved on, I expected the ghosts to appear any moment, from across the fences, above the branches of trees or grabbed me from behind. I felt as if my head was becoming bigger and bigger in size and my hair straightened up.
I tried my magic formula. I usually use my magic formula whenever I found myself alone in dark and fearful thought haunts me: SING AS LOUD AS I COULD. I sang very loudly and my voice was echoing into my ears. Singing broke the stillness but the dread of ghosts was still there. The stories of ghosts and evil spirits that I had heard from my grand mother were haunting me.
The stories I had heard were coming alive in my head, my song was echoing and I was walking in the middle of the road with my eyes looking straight. Now I could see my house not far away, still the dread was there.
Suddenly, I heard someone yelling after me, “Aye boy, listen!” Then after a pause, “Come here. Look what I have? I’ll give it to you just sing a song for me.”
When I heard the voice, I stopped trembled of fear. But I gathered up my courage and turned towards the direction of the voice. What did I see? I saw a monstrous creature, holding a long wooden log, coming towards me. There was no doubt that he was a ghost. “This seems too big for an ordinary ghost”, I told myself. “He must be the king of ghosts.”
I showered at the king of ghosts with stones and rock pieces- whatever I could gather from the ground, and then sped off –running and tumbling- till finally I sensed that I was home. I was frightened and breathing rapidly. I couldn’t say anything for quite sometime. “What’s the matter? Why are you looking so frightened? Obing, what’s wrong?” Mama was asking me. She looked very worried. I told her what I had seen.
“This is because you don’t return home in time and put your Mama and me in trouble.” Said Papa without even turning his face towards me; he was watching news channel on TV. I encountered the king of ghosts. I was dead frightened. But Papa thought it was some kind of joke and very funny. I hated him for that.
An argument started between Mama and Papa after dinner.
“From last couple of days” said Mama knowing very well that Papa would not take seriously what she was going to say, “I’m seeing bad dreams. I already told you this morning. Now Obing has also seen a ghost. This is not a good omen. We must consult our family priest. You know…”
“I don’t know” said Papa interrupting her. He looked little upset. This was not the first time Mama made up her mind to argue with him about bad omen, bad dreams and things like that. “I don’t know anything about your bad dreams, bad omen –modern women talking about such stupid things. As for what Obing has seen, it could be just an illusion. The other day you open the window under moonlight and a cloth hanging on the rope appears to you a lady in white rag in first sight. These things happen and …” He picked up the telephone without completing his sentence and asked the priest to come the next morning. He knew he can not convince Mama come what may.
The next day, early in the morning, I was woken up by the chanting of sacred hymns by the priest. He was holding an egg each in the both hands. The egg in the left hand was marked with black carbon soot. The chanting continued for few minutes. In this way the priest made enquiries of two groups of spirits, in the world of spirits, which he suspect was causing the trouble. After the chanting was over, the eggs were boiled in water. The priest took out the eggs after sometime, cut eggs in middle and started looking for signs in the yolk which give him the idea who was causing the trouble.
The priest lit up and smiled after seeing the sign in the egg marked with carbon soot. “Just as I had suspected” he said. “Now everything is going to be alright” he continued. “Two full grown hens and a cock are required for the rite.” Then he asked Papa to arrange some bamboo for the preparation of altar. Announcing that the rite will be started by 10 this morning, he left the house.
Papa too left for bamboo garden. Just as Mama and I were sitting by the fireplace an old man entered the room. He was Aku Tani, a nice old man –he was very fond of children. I could see he had fallen somewhere or had a fight with his wife the last night for a bandage was tied round his head and there were some wounds on his face as well. Mama made him sit by the other side of the fireplace. She offered him a mug of rice beer. “What happened to your head and face? Fallen somewhere or what?” she asked him.
“No. It was that rascal boy” he said. “Last night there was no power supply, so I went out in the moonlight wearing black woolen shawl of mine. I walked around for a while and sat down in the roadside, leaning against a lamp post. Just then I saw a young boy passing by me, singing loudly. I yelled out to him and asked him to sing a song for me. Do you know what he did? He showered at me with stones and rock pieces and ran away.” Now he took a long sip of the rice beer and looked at me suspiciously. “He was of his age -8, 9 years may be.”
“You don’t mean it was Obing?” Mama said interrupting him in middle.
“No,” he said, still looking at me –looking up and down. “It was dark and foggy out there. I could not see the face clearly. If I find him, that rascal boy, I’ll break his hands and cut his ears and put them into his mouth.”
As the old man went away, Mama looked at my blushed face and smiled. It was so embarrassing; I had mistaken that good old man to be the king of ghosts and wounded him so badly. “What about the rite, the hens and the cock?” I asked Mama.
“It’s alright.” She patted on my back and said. “We can’t do anything now.”