The night of Eleventh October, 2010 had lapsed into an eerily silent one as Eric Zaffron made his way back home from his workplace. No other sound could be heard in the lone valleys of the Indian hill-station, apart from that of the youngster’s tired footsteps and the crunching of dry autumn leaves beneath his shoes while he walked alone. It had been almost a year since he’d shifted to Shimla and had the route memorized by heart.
Eric was a tall youngster, he always had been. With a lean build and tanned complexion, he’d been amongst the popular crowd of his high-school. The jet black hair and green eyes standing out from the rest. He was always looked up to, by his mates, but that had been the case only till he'd graduated from college.
The youngster had cursed his fate when he’d been asked by his parents to go to India for a while. When the economic status of his family had been on a steady downfall and for almost all the job interviews Eric had gone to, he’d been rejected. So, he’d flown to the alien country, courtesy the borrowed money from friends, to live with his father’s cousin. And on his first day there, had got hired as a call centre agent by his uncle’s approach.
About two months later, his uncle had met with a fatal accident and passed away, leaving Eric the house on the scarcely populated hill-station and an old bulldog named Duke. The only thing Eric needed now was a car, which was the very next thing he planned to invest his savings and next month’s salary in.
Thinking about the sort of car he’d like to buy, Eric absentmindedly kicked a stone in front of him as he walked in silence. If he got a raise in his salary next month, he’d be able to afford a nice, black sedan.
Perhaps, coming to India wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
As soon as the thought crossed Eric’s wandering mind, he heard a hushed whisper. It sounded awfully like a person was calling his name.
That made him stop at midstride as he strained his ears to search for a source of the sound. But there was nothing, nothing except the slight rustle of dry leaves as they were stirred by the weak yet chilling wind. Shaking his head at himself, Eric resumed walking the lone valley again. The night air got through his thin cotton shirt, raising goose bumps on his skin.
He tried to recall a song, out of the many he’d memorized as a music crazed teenager, as he swept his eyes across the forest on his left, and toward the mountain on his right around which the road was carved. Right along that very road, ahead, was his late uncle’s grand mansion.
All of a sudden, the same voice came to his ears. Calling his name, and sending shivers down his spine. And that wasn't because of the dropping temperature. Stopping in his tracks again, Eric turned toward the sound of the voice, which was probably coming from the back according to him. But there was nothing there. Not a single person who could be calling him at that time of the night. Eric wasn’t the superstitious kind, but he knew the folklore that revolved around the very place he was passing from.
Knowing better than to go back and look for a source, he turned again and began walking, increasing his pace. And there it was, the same voice, whispering his name like it was trying to reach out to him. Eric wasn’t sure if it was a man or a woman, and his conscious didn’t allow him to want to find that out.
He’d heard enough of those stupid myths from the local people, to know that if he was encountering evil, he shouldn’t look back. Or it would follow him, till either he went mad and killed himself, or surrendered to the spirit. If it was a spirit, that is. If it was a Churail, which was what they called an Indian witch, then he was done for. Thinking so, Eric started to run. His feet wobbly, and his breath coming in short gasps.
Eric couldn't help but notice that he was all alone amonst the dense forest and lonely road. At that time of the night, no sane person would have liked to walk this path. And there he was, strolling along carelessly at a time of the night that was known to be the most vulnerable in attracting ghosts. He should've instead stayed at the office, he thought. But that was no longer an option now.
It didn’t matter to him if anyone saw him running like that, or if all of it was a lame prank by one of the local kids, all he could think of was the voice still persistently calling out to him. And as if to add up to his terror, the pitch of the voice began to increase, till Eric thought it was coming from only a few steps behind. Consumed with fear, sweat dripping from his forehead despite the cold, he starting chanting the names of Indian gods and goddesses. As weird as it was, he’d thought that if it was an Indian ghost, then clearly it would repel Indian gods.