The silent whirl of the centralized air conditioner filled the room. Smitha’s elegant fingers went tap, tap on the key board and disturbed the silence of the room. Smitha wanted to leave early on that day as it started to rain heavily. Smitha had to stay back to finish the work as it needed to go on that day itself. Indian corporate offices insisted on daily targets and every employee in a corporate office knows about the pressure the work demands. In a period of recession, the office expected every one to do their best and also not hesitate to spend extra time in the office to get things done.
Smitha worked in an office that handled both American and UK projects. Overlapping of time from the countries over there and in India always sucked out the energy from the employees. The youngsters never felt the pinch of spending extra time in the office, until they move to the next level, getting engaged or getting married. Smitha has already decided to get married after two years. So, that is not the problem for her. Smitha is part of the team that will go around the city singing Christmas carols. Though it is fun to go around the city singing beautiful Christmas carols, prolonged hours in the office made her feel tired and sleepy. That prevented her to actively participate in the team.
When Smitha started from the office, the clock showed 7 p.m. Darkness has set in and the entire road flooded with rain water. The slashing rain made it difficult to walk on the road. Holding her umbrella, she waded through the water and crossed the road. The bus stop looked deserted. Smitha looked around for autos. No auto stopped for her request. Every one seemed to be on their way home and escape from the chilling rain drops. Smitha decided to walk to the next stop. It nearly took 20 minutes to walk to the next bus stop and she can get more buses from there. Smitha started to walk as she can see some people walking before her.
For more than ten minutes, Smitha has to walk on a lonely stretch of road. Her office is located opposite to the local sports facility centre. The sports facility centre sprawled over a vast space and provided space for all types of sports activities. The entire facility stood protected by tall walls all around. The northern portion of the wall faced the main road. Beautiful paintings adorned the northern portion of the wall. The pavements near the wall remained always empty. Usually, even a small space is occupied with a street vendor in other parts of the city. Yet, that stretch remained unoccupied by any vendors. A mosque and a local cemetery for burying Muslim people stood opposite to the long stretch of wall, on the other side of the road. Though bikes and cars plied on the water flooded road, Smith could feel the coldness of loneliness on the long stretched road.
When Smitha crossed this stretch with her brisk walk, she can hear some steps following her stealthily. The long stretch of wall on one side, and the dark cemetery on the other side made her heart beat faster with fear.
“Oh, my God, how am I going to cross this stretch without any fear?” In her fear, Smitha started to think about elves, fairies, ghosts and vampires. All kinds of stories she had read about ghosts and vampires came back in her mind. Unknowingly, she started to think about the scary experiences that her friends usually narrate to her to scare her. The tree tops that peeped from the top of the wall looked scary. They swayed in the chill rainy breeze and made her shudder with an unknown fear. The cemetery on the other side of the road made her feel chill with fear. She imagined some souls waking up from the graves and crossed the road to capture her. Smitha remembered the famous ghost song by Michael Jackson and the entire empty road suddenly propped up with ghost dancers who wanted to scare her to death.
Smitha’s right hand stretched and clutched the golden cross in her golden chain. Her lips started to say prayers. One of the paintings on the wall showed a lonely stretch of road with some bullock carts and a man riding a bicycle. The branches of the huge tree on the picture sprawled over. For Smitha, it looked like hands of some unknown ghost that slowly stretched out of the picture and tried to grab her by her throat.
“Oh, Help me, Help me,” with a scream, Smitha started to run on the road. The slight drizzle of the rain also picked up pace with her fast steps, and the entire road sizzled with the sudden down pour of rain. Smitha could not manage with her stylish umbrella and the wind made it difficult to control the umbrella. The umbrella folded inside and the entire rain slashed on her making her completely drenched in rain. Smitha now found it difficult to walk with her slippers. Holding her handbag and the umbrella in the right hand, Smitha carried her slippers on her left hand. When Smitha started to run like this to save her life, a car stopped near her with a halt.
“Smitha” Someone called her from the car. Smitha stopped for a while. One of her friends who accompanied her during Christmas carol rounds peeped out of the window of the car.
“Get, in. Why don’t you call us if you are late at office?”
Smitha felt relieved after hearing her friend’s voice. After wearing her slippers, she climbed inside the car. At that time another car that passed by splashed the rain water on her. With her right foot inside the car, Smitha slipped and fell on the road.
“Help me.” Smitha screamed. Smitha’s friend not worried about getting drenched in the rain, climbed out of the car, and helped Smitha to get up. After five minutes, the car started to move. But, Smitha could not stop her thumping heart. She can feel her heart beating faster.
“Relax, relax, relax.” Smitha kept on telling again and again. Someone poured a cup of coffee for her. Smitha regained her strength after drinking a strong cup of instant coffee. After changing into a new dress at her room, she joined her team who patiently waited for her at her door. When they started to sing the first few lines of the famous Christmas carol, “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,” Smitha blinked away her tears with a relief. End