January 24, 2015
Sudhi was walking towards one of the city’s biggest cemetery. It was a few minutes away from his office, it was almost 1.30 am in the night, and the place was totally deserted and looked eerie. He worked in a call centre as Tech Support in the night shift, today being Monday they were supposed to be busy as hell. But today (fortunately) the phone lines in their floor were down because of a technical glitch. The whole floor was enjoying the rare moment of solitude.
So, he and a few of his friends decided to play truth or dare. And Sudhi’s dare was to go to the cemetery near the office, alone, and bring the flower on one of the many graves.
Throughout his 2 years career he had only worked in night shift, so walking in the night was not a new thing to him. And he had never believed in the existence of Ghosts. Whenever people used to share ghost stories around office campus (like people hearing a ghost in the floor toilet or in the parking lot) he used to argue very determinedly against all these claims. So his team mate Caroline who always believed that there were ghosts, and who had lost many arguments with him before, wanted to test his bravery by giving him a dare to go to the cemetery alone in the night.
As expected when he reached the cemetery, the gate was locked, he had always wondered, ‘Why would someone lock a cemetery? It’s not like there is anything valuable enough to steal from the cemetery’. Then he thought, ‘Well, may be to protect the graves from people like me’. Anyway, he decided to jump off the cemetery compound wall.
Once he was inside the graveyard despite himself he felt a slight chill in his spine, it had nothing to do with ghosts. It was the ambiance in the graveyard. Yes, the road and locality were totally silent but the silence in the graveyard was something different. For some reason he felt this environment very peaceful and comforting. It was way better than his corporate call centre office anyway.
He started looking for a grave with flower. He knew that he would easily find it on a new grave or a grave which might be celebrating an anniversary or something. But no, the search was not so easy, he walked and walked till he reached the edge of the graveyard.
Out there in the distance he thought he could see some flowers on a grave in the moonlight. The grave did not yet have a tomb on it yet, ‘Oh, a new grave’, he thought, as he started to walk towards that grave he noticed something else. It was like a silhouette of a person sitting on the completed grave bed which was located beside the new grave he had just spotted. His heart skipped a beat when he saw this, his first impulse was to run as fast as he could without looking back, but he had to remind himself that there is no such thing as a ghost. He thought it might be someone like him who was bored and spending time in solitude. So he thought of confronting the person sitting out there in the distance under the moonlight. As he neared the grave, he was amazed to see the person sitting was a girl. She was wearing a jeans (blue he thought) and a fancy top. Since she was facing back first, he couldn’t see her face.
So, he walked up to her and said “Hello”, she slowly turned to face him. ‘Whoa, she's beautiful’ he thought. He had heard stories about Ghosts who would transform into beautiful women to trap and kill men, he had to again remind himself that there was nothing called as Ghosts. She replied in a sweet slow voice "Hello there, Phew! I’m glad to see someone in this wretched place finally, it was getting too boring. I’m Jenny by the way."
Sudhi thought that the voice sounded unnatural. ‘Too boring? What else do you expect will happen in the edge of the grave yard? Carnival? Of course it will be boring’, he wanted to say, but instead replied, "Hello Jenny, my name is Sudhindra Bhat, you can call me Sudhi”, she said, "Hello Sudhi, what are you doing at the edge of a cemetery in the middle of the night?" ‘Brave girl’, Sudhi thought, she was not only engaging a stranger in a conversation in the middle of the night at the edge of a graveyard, but also seemed totally fearless. Anyway he thought of answering her, he wanted to see how far this would go.
"Well, we were playing truth or dare, my team mate dared me to get flowers from the graveyard. I work in the call center over there, we got some free time because our phone lines were down." Jenny seemed grateful to hear that, she said, "Oh, cool. Nothing like a few hours of free time, that too on a Monday. Me and my friends always hoped for something like this to happen in our office, when the work got too depressing. I used to work in a call center in Bangalore, had to attend 50-60 calls daily, crazy client, greedy management, and crappy customers, I hated the job."
"Yeah, it can get pretty depressing" he said, and continued, "Hey, I forgot to ask you, are you working in our office too? In a different floor perhaps? And what are you doing here by the way?"
He saw her expression change, from a cheerful face it transformed into a face which is mourning something (it was creepy, but he held his ground). She replied, "Oh, no, I… don't work anymore, I died 3 days ago, I am a ghost now. That’s my grave over there, the new one with flowers. Since I did night shift all my life, I was not able to sleep in the night, so just came out to enjoy the weather, it's hot in there." she finished it with a mischievoussmile.
Jenny told it so convincingly and naturally that, even though Sudhi put up a brave face, his mind started to anticipate all the worst things ghosts could do and he started cursing his foolishness to come to a graveyard in the middle of the night. He was trying to remember Hanuman Chalisa, but nothing came to his mind. He gathered some courage and said, "Err, hehehe... you are very funny, you are joking right?There is no such thing as a ghost."
"Nope, I'm not joking, I am really a ghost, just an imprint of real me, left behind."
Now Sudhi’s heart was really racing fast, trying to be brave, he said, "Well, you can’t be a ghost." She asked sounding irritated, "And, why is that??"
"Well, for starters you are beautiful, like too beautiful for a ghost, I've heard that ghosts will be ugly, very ugly with rotten face and everything...and secondly, you are wearing a Levi's jeans and a designer top, it’s too fancy for a ghost. I've heard ghosts wear only white, like white sari, or at least white salwar kameez, also your hairstyle - ghosts don’t tie their hair like that into a pony tail, they leave their hair flying, and I have heard my granny say that their feet will be twisted backwards, but yours look fine and moreover you are wearing Puma shoes. So, you can’t really be a ghost, can you?” he finished proudly, thinking that he had just proved his point.
Listening to his reasoning, Jenny started laughing, she then said, "Wow, for a person who doesn't believe in ghosts you seem pretty stereotyped about ghosts. Well, let me make it clear, all ghosts don't wear white. What do you think? Ghosts don't have a fashion sense? Don't you think we want to look good too? And as far as my beauty is concerned, thank you for the compliment, but I'm an imprint of my life when I was alive, when I was a good, loving, caring, normal girl, and not an imprint of my dead self. Why would one even become an imprint of one’s dead body? Don't you think it’s rude to expect ghosts to be ugly, when we are just a harmless reflection of our past selves? And tying my hair is a fashion statement, you have any problem with that??? And why in the world would a ghost have its feet twisted backwards? That sounds ridiculous. And these are my favorite shoes I was wearing when I died." She did not sound angry, if anything, she looked like she was having too much fun having this conversation.
After listening to this reasoning, Sudhi was sure that she was just messing with him, and she was not a real ghost. He muttered sarcastically under his breath, ‘Wow, a ghost who can argue, are you related to my friend Sree Kumar in any way?",
"What was that you just said?" Jenny asked him immediately. He replied “Oh, nothing, nothing. What I was saying is, if you are really a ghost, just prove it to me. Like show some ghostly trick of yours.”
She became quiet for a while, looking thoughtful, then she said, "Okay, just try to touch me." "Whaat??" he asked, thinking Jenny was joking. She replied, "I told you to try and touch me", and she sounded serious. So Sudhi hesitantly reached across to touch her, he was sure that now he would call her bluff, until something totally unexpected happened. “Holy s**t!!! My hand just went through you, but I feel some kind of warmth when I try to touch you, but apart from that nothing." he said in awe. He was still trying to reach out and touch her, failing miserably, when she gleefully told him, "See, I told you, I'm a ghost, I'm just a reflection of my past self," happy that she just proved her point. He looked around to see if there was anything like a projector, projecting this image. But he knew that no projector in the world would be able to recreate such a realistic 3D human projection.
Looking at his still suspicious face, Jenny told him, "I think you still don’t seem to believe me. Well, let’s try one more thing. Take out your phone and try to capture me in your camera, if I am a normal hologram or an electronic projection your camera will be able to catch it, if not you will have to believe what I say is true." Sudhi wanted to prove her wrong, so he took out his phone with 41 Megapixel camera, and turned on the camera app, his phone camera was good enough to capture images even in low visibility, also since it was full moon the camera was able to show him everything ahead of him very clearly, except the girl who was sitting on the grave. Sudhi gasped in excitement, he tried zooming in, tried camera flash but nothing worked. He could see her clearly sitting in front of him, but through the camera lens the grave was empty.
"Wow, I never believed that anything called ghost existed." He said in amazement, to which she smilingly replied, "Well… I don’t blame you, even I did not believe it until I became one myself," and both looked at each other’s face and started laughing loudly. "Well, I think we should stop laughing, we would give a heart attack to anyone passing by the road," she said, and they started laughing again. When the laughter died out, Sudhi said, "If you don’t mind, can I ask you how did you died?" The smile in her face faded, and he immediately regretted asking that foolish question. She told him, "I was riding back home in my scooter, when a drunk driver rammed his car from behind, I hit my head hard on the road, despite wearing helmet there were serious damages to the brain, and doctors couldn’t save me."
"Oh, I'm really sorry, I feel awful to have asked that question, but don’t you want to take a revenge on him or something? Isn’t that ghost’s prerogative? I myself feel so much hatred towards him, I can’t even imagine what you should be going through." "Nah, I don’t want to waste my time on revenge, that worthless piece of junk doesn’t deserve my attention, and moreover law will take its own course, even if it doesn’t, Karma will catch up with him eventually, so, why should I waste my time chasing around some drunkard? He's just not worth it. I have a few months before I vanish from the earth forever, so I just want to do everything I have not done so far in my life. Tomorrow we are going to a different place with afew of my graveyard friends, kind of like your world tour, we just want to cover as much of earth as possible before our imprint vanishes forever." Sudhi was confused now, so he asked "One more question Jenny, how did your imprint remain? And why would it vanish?"
Jenny explained, "One of my ghost friends explained it to me that my imprint is a resultant of the memory of me in the minds of my friends and family, it is strong now because I have been gone only for 3 days and they all really miss me, it’s like a whole part of their life is missing, and those missing pieces collectively form what I am now, and I will start to disappear day by day as these people eventually forget me, and try to fill the missing pieces with something else. So, this version of me is simply a combination of many memories of me by my loved ones. So the trick to remain in this earth longer after death is just to have friends and families who could remember you longer. Anyway, I have to leave now, sorry to rush Sudhi, I wish I could just sit here and talk to you the whole night. But you have to understand that I am just a force of the nature, I have a set of rules I have to follow, I don’t have much control on what I do, apart from going wherever I want to."
Sudhi couldn’t help but feel disappointed when she cut off like that, but he said, "Goodbye Jenny, take care, and do you mind if I take those flowers on your grave?" She smiled beautifully and replied, "Help yourself, they are of no use to me anyway."
And she continued, "Goodbye Sudhi, if we'd have ever met when I was alive, we could have been good friends, and if I had more time I would have sat here speaking to you all night. But sorry, I have a life cycle like everything else in the nature, which I just can’t avoid, sorry."
Sudhi could really feel the sincerity in her voice. "I understand Jenny, but I don't think it is too late to become friends, I would consider you as a friend and you will be in my mind forever. During your trip, if you happen to live a little longer than expected, then just think that I am remembering you somewhere. Bye, thanks for the flowers."
Sudhi extended his hand to shake hers, and she reached out too, he could feel the warmth of her hand’s reflection until she disappeared. He suddenly became aware of how cold the weather was, he still couldn’t believe all that happened with him tonight, but he felt at peace, the amount of peace he had never felt before.
He headed back to the office with flowers. He had won the dare, but he didn't mention anything about the experience in the cemetery, he knew that nobody would believe him. Since the office internet was working, he searched for all the accident cases that had happened in Bangalore 3 days ago, and sure enough he was able to locate the news about a hit and run, the victim’s name was Jennifer Lobo, a Mangalorean native, who worked in an IT company in Bangalore. News had mentioned that she was returning home after her shift when the speeding car hit her from behind, and that she succumbed to the injury in the hospital. And… there was a single passport sized photo, which looked exactly like Jenny from the graveyard.
He quickly closed all the webpages, and decided not to tell about this to anyone especially to Caroline. But he never forgot that encounter with Jenny, whenever he remembered her, he used to open the news article and think about that night.