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Time and Again

A Short Story by Uddipta Dutta


Part I 

 With the rhythmic dripping of rainfall in my car roof, I am moving towards home through William road. My car windows are fully closed while the AC is running at medium speed. I am driving my car at a moderate speed of thirty Kilometres per hour so that I can enjoy the thrill of the rain. As usual, my favourite Mohmmad Rafi song " Khoya Khoya Chand" is being played in the music system. Along with the song, I start humming to the tune of it. I peer through my windscreen glass to the sky. There is no sign of the moon at all. What I see is only occasional lightning with thunder. The road is nearly empty, only with a few presences of one-two passing by goods trucks. 

I know all the spooky stories people tell about this road, near the famous "William forest" in the Mumbai suburban. From the time of independence of India itself, this road has been enjoying a reputation of being a haunted place. Some people say a woman in a white saree roams in the road after midnight. Sometimes she even appears sitting in the backseat of your vehicle and holds you from behind. Another story says a headless man rides a horse on moonlit nights. If it is not urgent, people mostly avoid this road at night. Since my college time, I have had a hobby of roaming in the streets with my best buddy at night time, just like a nocturnal creature. But I have not encountered any one of them yet. My best buddy is my first car that has been the longest companion of mine. Although I own several, but still cannot get over this beauty like the first love of life. Night always gives some superpower to creative people. In my case also, it has always been catering to my inspiration for new ideas for paintings. Anyway, what amuses me most is the recent story of a phantom driving a car on rainy nights. Many night owls demand they have encountered an apparition of a man driving a blue colour contessa car near the William Crossroad. The demon of the crossroad! That one must be an ultra-modern ghost. Perhaps the headless man riding a horse becomes the tale of bygone days.

Whenever I hear stories about supernatural entities, I feel those stories have always been serving as a favourite time pass for teenagers living in hostels, gossip-loving women, or jobless lazy vagabonds. I never find any interest in such stories. But honestly speaking, I don't know what I am possibly going to do if something turns up in front of my car. As I told you before itself, I have an old hobby of driving my car on nights, and especially on rainy nights. On such rainy nights, I loved to go on a long drive with my beloved sweetheart wife. However, since we are not together anymore now, I dreadfully miss all those sweet memories of us. All those sweet reminiscences of the rain, song, romance, and late-night ice-cream sometimes dampen my eyes. Anyway, life has taught me anything can happen in your life. One moment you are complete with all the joy and happiness in your life, the next moment you are so empty and lonely. One can make a lot of promises and still might not be able to fulfil them.

The most important thing, even your oldest and trusted companion can deceive you at any time without showing any previous indications. Therefore you cannot trust someone blindly. However, that is a different topic and I should not go in that direction now. I glance at my watch. It's ten past twelve. Soon I will reach my destination, my home. Like other nights tonight's journey has almost come to an end. Now I want to reach home as soon as possible, warm myself up, straighten my legs, relax a little bit, plan for tomorrow’s activities and jump on my bed. Oh before that Chandan is going to give me a glass of hot milk. Need to drink that too. While thinking all these, I have almost reached the big peepal tree of the crossroad. My home is just one and a half kilometres away from it. My humming is still going on. Peep, peep!

Suddenly I see the headlight of a car. Oh, what is this? I see one car coming at high speed from the opposite side. Out of nowhere, all of a sudden. Why haven't I seen it before? How can a car suddenly appear out of nowhere? Now it is coming towards me as if it is going to crash my car. I start to honk my car horn. But it is not at all listening, it seems .” Oh no! hey hey stop, get out of my way! please get out of my way, please stop!”, I start yelling.

"Peep peep”. I keep on honking my car horn like crazy!. One big bang!! All of a sudden the place is filled with, whimpering of a crashed car engine and the wailing of wounded people inside it.

Part II 

Mumbai Daily, 2nd February 2020: Recurrence of the mysterious road accident at William Road: One person got severely injured in a mysterious accident reported on William road in the wee hours today. One swift car collided with another car coming from the opposite side in William road amid the heavy downpour. The heavily injured person was identified as Prakash Gupta. According to the information sought, the wounded person was immediately taken to the nearest hospital for further treatment. The doctor had confirmed that his condition is critical. Two passers-by who were present at the time of the incident stated in their testimony that they saw the swift car collide with an old contessa car near the peepal tree in the crossroad. But the contessa car suddenly disappeared mysteriously soon after the incident. For the twenty-fifth consecutive time, the same type of accident had happened for the same mysterious reason in the same place. However, at the accident site, police were unable to find any trace of the alleged car.
         

The Executive Editor of “Mumbai Now” is reading the headline of the news story. While reading the news she feels one spine-chilling sensation running through her body. A pile of memories rushing to her mind quickly. Two years back, her husband met with one major motor accident as a result of brake failure in the same place. Everything is still so fresh in her mind. Two years before on one cursed night, he was requesting her to come along with her for one rainy romantic drive, but she could not come along due to the pressure of work. So, he went driving all alone and met with an accident. That accident has become the reason for their separation after all! She is not able to think of anything right now. Her head becomes heavy and her throat becomes dry. She wipes her sweat with a tissue and grabs the glass of water and drinks it at once.

Part III

What a beautiful sunny day! I start whistling and walking in the compound of my new home. My new place is very near to the crossroad. It is just one and a half kilometres away from it. Two old men wave at me while passing nearby. I wave at them too. A little away one group of middle-aged women are sitting and talking together, in between their conversation they are looking at me also. I know they are talking about me. I see Chandan coming towards me.

“ Oh, are you alright? I kept the milk glass near your bed as you were not there last night”, Chandan asks me.
  “Yes, I am alright. You know yesterday was a rainy night and you know about my old habit too”, I say to him.
“Oh Yes yes, I know it well. We heard what happened yesterday.”

The short Story continues here ....