PROLOGUE

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DISCLAIMER: The name, characters and events in this book are entirely the author's imagination. Resemblance to any person, alive or dead, is purely coincidental and unintended on the author's part.

Furthermore, this story does not intend to hurt any religious, social or political belief.

Text Copyright © RaghavBhatia7

All rights reserved. The moral rights of the author have been asserted. This story is published subject to the condition that it must not be reproduced or transmitted in whole or in part, in any manner, without written consent of the copyright holder, and any infringement of this is the violation of the copyright law.

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Everyone has seen ghosts. Or everyone does, at some point in their lifetime. Once, at least. Whether they admit it or not.

Maybe it was a passer-by on a desolate subway. Maybe a random pale apparition you saw - or thought you saw - out of the corner of your eye in a mirror while flossing your teeth languidly. Maybe it was a tall, crooked guy you felt by your bedside, but as soon as you turned to face him, he just wasn't there; still, you know he was real because you had met his hollow, undead eyes right before he had vanished into thin air. Or maybe you once saw a dog, a Saint Bernard, say - and you saw something glistening in the pits of its eyes, something red and fierce and not of this world. Or maybe you saw a woman immaculate all in white drapes out the window of your house one fine winter midnight, moaning and singing simultaneously, sending ripples of chill down your shivering spine.

No one believes when you tell them, of course. No one ever does.

For Avish's mother, Shweta, the ghost belonged to her grandmother. Shweta had been pregnant then, six months in, quietly knitting a sweater for her child to come when she had heard a low, hissing voice calling out her name. She had, of course, ignored it, as all sensible humans are wont to. But the voice had haunted her whenever she found herself without company. She had tried explaining this strange phenomenon to some others, but they dismissed it as mere "fallacious side-effects" of her condition.

'It happened with me, too,' said Mrs. Gupta, an old friend and keen advisor. 'During my first child, I used to hear crows cawing everywhere. I even hallucinated seeing a three-eyed one.' She even imitated a crow then, which made Shweta crack up. Mrs. Gupta had three kids now.

So Shweta started plugging her ears every time she now heard the subdued voice calling out her name. But the voice of ghosts can be slithery, and it filled her brain with such ferocious intensity that Shweta started yelling unknowingly. Then the voice told her to calm down, that it was alright to be afraid. It apprised her to close her eyes and take five deep breaths. Shweta did as instructed. As her eyes opened back up again, she saw the ghost, clear as sunlight, real as a bar of soap. It was wearing the clothes her grandmother had died in (of a heart attack, in her ancient, cranky bed). It was pearly white and qualified in all areas of conventional novelish-description of ghosts. It meekly glowed and grinned kindly at her. But the eyes - O what eyes they were! - they made her cry tears of awe. They were deep as a chasm, wide as a mountain-river and stuffed with more wisdom than any library of any world.

'Dadi,' Shweta had whispered. For a moment she forgot this was a ghost and not actually her grandmother, her lovely, lovely grandmother who had fed her with her hand, who had sent her to sleep with her tales of yore. The ghost simply kept smiling at her. At last it told her what its purpose was. It informed Shweta, the crying Shweta, the living, pregnant Shweta, of how she was going to have a beautiful baby boy and how she should take him to a holy archaic temple in the hills. That was all the ghost had to say, and so smiling and caressing the swell of her stomach as if to bless the unborn child, it had vaporized into thin air. Shweta had been left sobbing behind.

Three months later, she had had a son whom she had lovingly named Avish. She, along with her husband, had taken him to the desired temple, fulfilling her dead grandmother's wish. Of course, she never let anyone in on the reason as to why she wanted to take her son there. Nobody could know. Well, even if they did, who'd believe her? She'd rather live with being called a religious mother than a superstitious gossiper. Yet only she knew how real that encounter had been, how knowledgeable those ghost-eyes had been, how substantial her tears had been that day. Shweta never forgot to her dying breath.

For Avish's father - Shweta's husband, Dhruv - the ghost had been that of an unknown personnel. But it had frequented and spooked him in the form of a cat. A black, petite fur-ball the size of a brick. With eyes red as burning embers. God, those days. Dhruv had been seven at the time, and the damned creature had followed him almost everywhere. Invisible to others, haunting to him. He could swear sometimes it walked with such panache, it could've been the ghost of a goddamn model. In public he had always pretended it didn't exist. It was hard, to be sure, but even a seven-year-old doesn't want to be tagged as insane. It had been months before the phantom had ceased to pursue him. And, be honest, he had actually kind of missed the cat. Actually missed it. By his eighth birthday, the whole thing had become the memory of a bad dream. Soon he had forgotten all about it. So in his mind, he had never really seen a ghost. He was hence a non-believer.

Of course, one cannot simply erase even the impressions these incidents leave on our brain. From time to time - generally when he was high - Dhruv would hear a peculiar, high-pitched meow in the back of his head, coming as though from another realm, and he would imagine the sound belonging to a weird-looking pitch-black cat. Somewhat familiar, he'd think, but overall just a figment of his messed-up, drunk brain's funky imagination.

For Avish himself, though, the whole scenario was a lot more complex. His ghost never really left him.

His ghost was special.

NOTE: The first few chapters are introductory. Invest your time and I promise, as the story moves on, your investment will be paid.

There's going to be extremely crude language and violence 10th chapter onwards, as and when the story demands it.

So let's begin properly this time . . .

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