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Night at the Fishermans' Creek

by Annapurna Sharma
(Nellore, India)

Rohit answered the relentless mobile sluggishly. It was his brother Ranjan, who added excitedly, “I am planning to go to Satpada, want to come along?”


“Satpada! Why?”

“For fishing. I’ll pick you up from your office in an hour.”

“But ---,”

“I’ll explain, once I am there. Bye!”

The line went dead. Rohit twitched in his seat. Satpada was a quaint little village on the northern side of Chilka lake. The fishing trip sounded exciting, but Ranjans’ plans were often quirky.

Ranjan drove in a borrowed rugged open jeep, “Rahim (Ranjans’ friend) dropped out, some urgent work and I thought of you. You need a break bro from the exhaustive project. Satpada is 50km from Puri. I booked a wooden cottage, ‘The Fisherman’s Creek’. We will be back by Sunday afternoon. I am eager for the escapade, ---”

Rohit sat unperturbed as his younger brother babbled on. They picked up clothes from Rohits’ apartment and eatables, tea bags, soda cans and water bottles from the supermarket.

As they neared Satpada, the expanse of brackish water stretched meeting the silver lining of the sky. The pallid clouds shimmered in the radiance of the setting sun. Rohit perked up. Clusters of tiny huts lined the narrow road. The air smelt of fish as fish were dried on bamboo trellis everywhere.

The one-room cottage with a little kitchenette was inviting. They dumped their belongings. At the water edge, a couple of fishermen gravely repaired the blue fishing nets spread on the sand while others dumped the days’ catch into tin bins. A middle aged man named Muhammad was eager to assist them in their fishing expedition. They agreed to be ready by 4am the next morning.

An old bearded man sat under a banyan tree and mumbled, “Rani! Rani!”

The villagers told them, “He is mad, Rani, his daughter is dead. He feels her spirit to be wandering here.”

A light drizzle pinched their faces, Muhammad said the sky would be clear by morning. Black clouds loomed, lightning struck and thunder bellowed. They hurried back to the cottage.

At midnight, the showers turned into a heavy downpour, thick streams gushed down the roof. A storm that lay stranded over the bay lashed the tiny village. The rumble of thunder echoed, wind speeds doubled and the deafening crash of a tree against the cottage wall awakened the brothers. They sat upright in bed with the shrieking of a stranded bird and fluttering of a window pane. Rohit parted the window curtain near the bed and saw - a silhouette of a woman. “Ghost! Ghost!” he screamed. Dead scared he dropped the curtain. Ranjan looked at his brother’s ash stricken face and reached over to part the curtain. There was no one outside. The flap of the window pane grew louder. Ranjan got up to check the other window. The fierce wind blasted his face as he tried to close the open window-pane. The wind changed direction and the window slammed against his outstretched arm. His little finger got crushed. Ranjan writhed in pain, Rohit rushed to his side, together they closed the window. The finger turned blue-black, lights went off with another thunder bolt.

A loud pounding on the door, they stood petrified. Rohit shouted at Ranjan for his silly fishing trip. The pounding increased, their names could be heard. Mustering courage, Rohit advanced to the door with Ranjan close behind. They opened the door.

“Rahim!”

Drenched fully, Rahim entered the cottage with a torch in hand. He had been trying to call them since evening. Fueled with excitement, Ranjan forgot his mobile in the office and Rohit’s mobile battery was down.

“Rani! Rani!”

They slammed the door terrified and sat the rest of the night, waiting for the thunderstorm to subside. They decided to cancel their trip and return to Puri.

They were relieved to see Muhammad at their door at dawn. They told him about the woman and the shrill voice calling ‘Rani! Rani!’

He laughed and called his young daughter. She came and opened the window; a parrot screeched and flew out to meet its drenched mate on the window sill. His daughter nicknamed the parrots, Raja and Rani. The storm crashed their nest and she was searching for the lost parrot, Rani.

“A nightmare!” groaned Rohit.

“Phew!” they sighed in relief. They chuckled and went ahead with their fishing plans.

***

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