‘Help…Somebody help me please!’
Everything was covered under a dark sheet of night. There was an eerie silence around. In the middle of this haunted silence, I’d taken shelter on a branch of banyan tree that had its aerial prop roots grown into thick woody trunks and penetrated the soil surface further extending them somewhere deep..very deep…down.
While I was wondering what I was doing at such a haunted place, I heard a scream that broke into my eardrums and pierced the muscles of my heart…
‘Help me…somebody please help me.’
When I turned towards the source of scream I saw something or rather somebody on fire running aimlessly in the woods. I could see the surrounding, illuminated by the fire. It had rained in the evening as evident from the pit filled with water and the wet red soil, darkened to blood red. I could see the reflection of the fire in the pit.
The same scream brought my mind alive and active. It was a lady engulfed by the cloud of fire. I could see her bloody eyes, looking at me, pleading to save her. I could see her extended hand, wanting from me, an effort to free her from the pang of death.
I felt the desperation to save her but I couldn’t. I felt as if I was fastened to the fig. I could not move. I cried…cried hard…I requested the cloud to fall in the form of rain but it didn’t happen. I could see every organ of her’s burning and vanishing into ash and soon it was all ash. No bone…no corpse…no remain…just ash. The very next moment a flood came and washed away the ash as well. The nature was performing her last rites.
The everything became normal as if nothing had happened.
I palpated my hands around to felt the surroundings. I felt a soft mattress on which I was lying. I extended my hands towards the wall looking for the switches and switched on the light. I was all sweated from head to toe, heart pounding hard, and body shivering like a dry leaf.
I just had a nightmare that was haunting me from last ten years when I witnessed this heart-rending accident.
I leaned on the half-closed grill of my hostel, and almost avoided the fall as the grill slides towards the corner. While I managed to gather my off-balance legs, I gazed at the under construction teacher quarters, around 50 meters away from my hostel, under the shadow of sky, painted red by the setting sun. It had showered in the evening, which had made the un-cemented red brick walls of under-construction building look blood red. The gust of wind coming from the north sent a chill through the body. It was a calm evening, save the chirping of the birds bathing in the water-filled pits.
I extended my gaze to meadows spanning down the horizons, and wondered about the laziness of the evening. But it was short-lived and what followed the very next moment still sends chill down my spine. Suddenly I saw a figure-on-fire that erupted like a volcano out of the corner room. The lump of fire wandered aimlessly on wet ground before landing into a water-filled pit.
Before I could come out of the trauma of what I’d just witnessed, I’d already made my way into the crowd who happened to be the spectators of the same horrific scene. My dreaded curiosity turned into a scream. What appeared to be mass of fire, had transformed into a burnt naked body of a female resting motionless in the mud.
“Her husband burnt her alive. Poor woman. Her husband is a drunkard. Where is he? Beat the bas*ard. Somebody call the police. Let’s take her to hospital.” I overheard some voices from the crowd.
Two persons – perhaps her colleagues at work – came forward, lift her, wrapped her naked body in a dirty sheet, and slowly dragged her out of the campus, probably to the nearest health care facility. As I saw them disappear from my sight, I was curious to know if she survived or succumbed to her burns. I wanted to know what happened to her husband. But, my questions went unanswered as the bell for the evening roll call had rung and the urgency to reach there on time had engulfed all other queries for the moment.