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Short story: The call of the unknown  



By Samaira Shariq

Marching out of the house early morning, gazing at the rising sun in its glory, Zara felt blessed. As blessed as she could feel on a Sunday morning after a long night of rote learning her chapters at her friend’s house. She had a heavy headache.

She had prepared for her upcoming exam earlier, yet her friend insisted she stay at her house. She wasn’t too happy with the arrangement. She hated not being able to turn down her friend’s puppy-eyed plea to stay and revise every topic. She was not a night person.

Sighing, she trudged on the pavement, eager to reach home quickly. She vaguely wondered why she hadn’t accepted the offer by her friend’s mother for a ride home. Possibly because she said, “Oh no aunty, I can walk there on my own. It’s only two blocks away anyway.” Turns out, two blocks were a long distance.

Determined to take a proper nap, Zara quickened her pace but paused just as fast. She gasped at the apparition for what had appeared in front of her. She shook her head and then stared at the spectre lingering mid-air.

‘Oh, a ghost’. She mused. ‘Am I so sleep deprived that I am daydreaming?’

She had no company and took off running. The logical part of her brain wanted her to slow down or at least glance back at the glowing ‘thing’ to confirm its existence. But she didn’t stop running until she was at the door of her house. Pounding the door, she swung it open and met her mother.

“Hey, sweetie. How was your study session?”, mother asked. Zara was visibly relaxed to see her warm presence and she smiled slightly.

“It was fine mum. But I’m really tired right now. I’ll go to sleep?” She murmured.

“Sure honey.”

Walking into her room, Zara flopped down on her bed, worn out, and drifted into unconsciousness. But soon, she woke up to a rumbling sound near her face. Screaming, she recoiled rapidly at the sight of the ghost.

“Zara, what happened?” Her mother kicked the door open and looked around frantically for any invaders, armed with a broom.

With shaking hands, Zara pointed at the dimly lit apparition that hovered anxiously in mid-air.

Her mother followed her gaze, concerned, but her expression soon turned skeptical. “Was there an insect?” Her mother asked, looking at a point on the wall in the ghost’s direction.

Zara took a deep breath. Rubbing her face she realised that of course, her mother wouldn’t be able to see it. Her mind was just playing tricks on her.

“Just a spider.” She said, offering her a reassuring smile.

“I’ll leave this broom here, okay?” Her mother said, as she walked out of the room, shutting the door behind her.

“Okay, Mister Hallucination.” Zara started, “I seriously didn’t think that you would last this long.” Discreetly lifting up the broom, she ran it straight through the spectral mirage. The ghost dissipated.

She twirled around only to find it sitting on her bed and nearly lost her balance. “I…”. Lost for words, Zara reached for her phone across the room and took a quick picture of it. Looking at it, she sighed.

It wasn’t visible in the image. Obviously.

As Zara was contemplating whether to return back to sleep or not, the spectre began glowing hotter, and hotter and she could feel the heat creeping up her neck.

An epiphany hit her: this wasn’t her imagination.

The aura around the ghost turned green, and a roaring voice ensued from its throat- “I have come here from the depths of the netherworld to escort you to the palace of Hades, the Lord of the Dead. Hail Zara Knowles! Daughter of the God of the Underworld.”

Poetic गुफ्तगू – With हुमेरा खान @poetsofDelhi