Archive

Short Stories

It was his first time in Karachi. The coastal city seemed to sprawl on forever, and for a little while he was concerned about getting lost there. But, fortunately he had a lot of friends accompanying him. One look at his them as they stood gathered there outside the bus station and he felt neither alone, nor afraid.

“Take one of these whistles with you!” said one of them, handing him a smooth silver whistle and moving on to the next person, handing him a whistle as well.

“What are these for?” he called to him.

“Well, since we’re dividing into small groups to explore, I thought it was a good idea for us to have a quick way to calling out to each other”

He looked back down at the whistle and then to everyone else slowly forming groups of different sizes. He was the only one travelling alone; Since he had a few relatives he wanted to meet, and a few traders he had to discuss terms with. ‘I had best get going’ he thought.

It was all a very boring affair. He wanted to finish his visits as quickly as possible so he could meet up with his friends and maybe go around the city seeing the sights. The British had left only a few years ago and the city had since become a model city for development and growth. It was called ‘the city of light’ and he wanted to see exactly why it was so.

It was already evening by the time he finished all his ‘work’. He was considering where to start looking for his friends when he was approached by a weak, aging woman.

“Could you help me carry these son, son?” she said, gesturing to a sack of rice. It looked heavy even by his standards and he was surprised the woman had actually managed to carry it at all.

“Sure gran. Where is your home, exactly?” he said, lifting the sack onto his back.

“Not far from here” she said, smiling sweetly.

There was something off about her smile but he kept following her anyway, dismissing it as his imagination.

It took him five minutes to toil to get to her house and he was grateful for it not being any farther. She offered him food as he sat on the threshold of her tiny house, trying to catch his breath. He tried to refuse, thinking he should probably be joining his friends soon, but she insisted.

“I really can’t let you go, son. You have helped this old woman. Besides, I have a real treat for you if you can do me just one more favour.” she said earnestly.

“What’s that?” he asked her, wondering if the favour was more donkey work.

“Well, you see… my son died last night”, she said, her face serious and strangely impassive. “…I am but an old woman and I do not have the strength to bathe him for the burial”

He felt shaken by the woman’s request, and a little embarrassed at wanting to get away from there. The helpless old woman was simply preparing for her son’s funeral.

“I’ll be honoured to help”, he said after a moment, resigning himself to do another good deed.

She thanked him profusely led him through a narrow corridor and into what appeared to be a rather austere lounge, seating him on a rug.

“I’ll get you some food first. You will need your strength” she said, bringing him a tray full of pilaf rice. “Let me know when you’re done” she said, and left him to go elsewhere.

He was grateful for the food. His stomach had been aching for a while now and some Pilaf was just the thing he needed. So, he dug in eagerly, searching the rice for some meat. He found a finger.

His body gave a shudder and he immediately spat out the rice he had been chewing. He held up the finger he had found to the light and realized beyond doubt that it really was a human finger. That woman was a cannibal. The horrifying realization hit him like a hammer and he dropped the finger out of shock.

And then, he realized that he had probably been lured there to be eaten.

He looked around him, searching for a way to escape. The woman was waiting outside, he knew, and he did not want to risk running through her. She could be carrying any number of weapons and he needed to be very, very careful about how he dealt with the situation from then on. One wrong move, and he could be the next guy to be made into pilaf rice.

So, the first thing he decided to do was to take all the rice he had scattered over the rug in shock, and sweep it all under the rug along with the finger. He threw some more rice under the rug to make it appear as if he’d eaten his fill and then called out to the woman, and told her that he was ready to bathe her son’s dead body.

She led him out back to a courtyard, where a dead body was indeed placed, covered by a large white sheet on a wooden bed. He wondered if that was really her son. Did she intend to eat her own son as well? Perhaps, the body was simply another one of her victims, and he was actually helping her clean him up for her next meal. The thought was chilling.

He was treading in dangerous territory he knew, so his senses became extremely alert to every single move the woman made. She was carrying an oil lantern and went over to stand by the body’s head holding up the lantern for light. He brought some water in a large steel bucket, and began to bathe the body, keeping an eye on the woman as best as he could.

The first thing he noticed was that the body was not very cold to the touch. Fresh kill, perhaps, he thought. Though a cold shiver ran through his spine, he concentrated on not letting any emotion show on his face. He required every single bit of concentration he could muster to stay in control of the situation, pouring water over the body slowly, and trying to adjust his eyes to the dark.

He quickly became aware of an advantage he had. With the woman standing at the head of the body, she cast a very sharp shadow across the walls and he could see if she moved slightly even with his back turned to her. He thought about it a bit and decided that if the woman really wanted to kill him then he might as well try to lure her into an attack.

So, he deliberately started working on the body with his back turned to her, keeping both eyes on her shadow as he worked. At any moment, he would see hand move, and would immediately counter-attack.

He saw what happened next quite clearly as shadows started to shift. The woman’s left arm slowly drew out something from within the folds of her clothes and raised it high to attack. At the same time something else happened just as slowly though. Something he had not been expecting. It felt like terror creeping up his limbs as he saw the body’s right arm move as well, drawing out something long and blunt from under the shroud.

He jumped away from them reflexively. Fortunately for him the old woman chose to strike at the same moment; her iron rod missed him by mere inches as she brought it down. Her son, who had sat up to reach him, was not so lucky. Her full-blooded swing hit him to the side of his skull and he was knocked out immediately from the hit.

He could not let her recover, either. He jumped right at her and delivered a kick straight into her chest. She was lifted clean off her feet and flew back into the wall. That was it. He did not check to see if either of them was still conscious. He ran out of the house as quickly as he could, covered in cold sweat and short of breath as he was. And as soon he reached the street, he found the whistle his friend had given him and started blowing as hard as he could.

It did not take very long for him to gather a crowd. Some of his friends arrived as well, and he quickly told them what had happened. The police arrived soon after, and began searching the house for the the woman and her son.

The search resulted in a few shocking discoveries as bones of over 50 people were found from the basement of the house. The woman, and her son were arrested. Apparently they had been luring people to the house and eating them for quite a while. Also, according to them, they were not the only ones. Not by a long shot.

 

This true story comes from my maternal grandfather, and has been told from his point-of-view. I have tried to keep all the details intact.

Salman Shahid Khan

 

OW_banner_72487

Advertisements

If anyone has any stories they would like in my collection, or are feeling grateful for reading a story and want to tell me one in return please feel free to contact me and get in touch! Thank you for reading/submitting, and take care!

Salman.

This story comes from my dad and he was around 18 at the time of this particular incident. It was summer time so he went visiting relatives in a city called Sialkot. His maternal family was based there, living in a few houses in a small cluster. A few of his cousins and one of his uncles, Uncle Arshad, who was also quite young (being around 25 at the time), also joined him there. During their stay they heard a few stories of a house their family owned.

It was located two houses down the street and was unoccupied house at the time. Its only utility was that the courtyard (which was open to the sky) was used as a gym of sorts by the local bodybuilders during daytime. One of the stories they were told was that of a local bodybuilder named Manna. Manna was alone lifting weights there one day, and one time after getting up to stretch after lifting something particularly heavy he was patted on the back and told ‘Well done’. Only, he knew there was no one else in the room. He had stopped being there alone after that.

My dad and his uncle were quite excited after hearing all that and being ‘Young and foolish’ they decided to spend a night there. They were warned against it, a few of the elders including their maternal grandfather calling them fools for meddling in ‘things you do not understand’ but their minds were set. In the end, they decided that they would enter the house after dark, a little before midnight, and sleep there leaving just after daybreak. Since the house was not in use they decided to sleep on the roof on charpai’s (which is a traditional woven bed in the Indian subcontinent). They also instructed their watchman to lock the main door after they had entered to ensure no one else could enter after them and to come open the door immediately after daybreak. Apparently the watchman laughed after hearing this and told them he would keep the key ready because they would be calling him long before that.

The next night before they were supposed to go to the house one of their elders told them to try something. He told them to set up a carom board in the courtyard and just leave it there, untouched, and check it sometime after. They set it up in the house as instructed, and carried their charpai’s to the roof after that. It was difficult doing all of it in the dark, since they house did not have an electric supply. Their only source of light was an oil lantern, and the light it cast was dim and yellow, but they were still happy for the lack of ghost sightings.

They spent the first hour playing cards and nothing seemed to happen. Much more relaxed about the house, they began to wonder what everyone was on about. And then, during one of the rounds, they heard the unmistakeable sound of the hand-pump in the courtyard being worked, and the sound of water flowing. They were four floors up, on the roof, but that sound still sent a shiver through them. They tried to ignore it the best they could, but the hand-pump continued pumping water on its own. Much quieter now, they tried to keep playing cards but around 1 am they just gave up and decided to sleep instead.

My dad slept on one of the charpai’s on the edge, and slept like a rock till he was woken up by someone shaking him. He got up to the frightened face of one of his cousins. He pointed to Uncle Arshad who had been sleeping in his boxers on the far edge. It was then that he noticed that he seemed to be writhing in pain, clutching his throat. They tried to shake him awake, but it took a whole minute filled with the fear of what was happening to wake him up. Uncle Arshad woke up breathing heavily and still clutching his throat. He looked at them and said, “We need to leave this place, now!”

“It is 3 am already” one of the other cousins said, “We only need to wait an hour or so more and then—“

“I want to leave this place NOW, and I will jump from the roof to do that if I have to!”

They were even more frightened after that. They decided to leave but remembered that the house entrance was still locked. So, they started shouting to get the watchman’s attention. Soon enough though, they got the attention of my dad’s grandfather instead who had been sleeping on the roof of his house anticipating something of the sort. After a few choice curses he sent for the watchman and told them that he would be waiting for them downstairs.

They still had to climb down the stairs though. Four flights of stairs, in pitch black darkness, with nothing but the dim light of the lantern to guide them. They climbed down slowly and with much arguing about who would climb down first, and who would be at the rear.  They kept their eyes nearly shut and tried not to look around them, since they kept imagining things in the dark, looking back at them, or perhaps one of them being dragged off. And Uncle Arshad was still clutching his throat; the image of him writhing still fresh in all of their heads. When they finally got to the courtyard they went past the carom board, and all of them noticed that all the pieces were now in the pockets.

When they finally got to the door the watchman was waiting for them, with a large smile on his face. “So are all you young ones done here? Has your warm blood run cold yet?” he said, laughing at them.

After they were out of the house, they asked Uncle Arshad what had happened, but he refused to tell them anything till he was out of the darkness. So they took him to a street lamp and they sat under it till he calmed down and stopped shivering with fear. And then he told them his story:

“As I fell asleep I dreamt that I was in the house. I walked down to the courtyard and in my dream I started urinating there. Just then, an old man with a long beard and terrifying eyes came and grabbed me by the throat. He shouted ‘How dare you defile this sacred place?!’ and lifted my up in the air with one hand. I was helpless, kicking and gasping for air when all of you woke me”

After he told them the story he finally took his hands off his throat. Even in the lamplight they could clearly see the bloody blue mark of a hand right across his neck.

True story.

Narrated to,

Salman Shahid Khan

Writer’s note: This particular story comes from my father and has always been one that took my imagination to places I did not want to visit. I could have taken my father for his word but for the sake of keeping this account ‘factual’ I tried to confirm its details from two different people. During my attempt to validate it I found that not only is this incident and the haunting of the building in question real, but there are people living in that house today who deal with this sort of phenomenon on a regular basis.

OW_banner_72487

Dear Readers,

Hello again. Firstly, I wish to apologize for the delay. Managing to visit the house hit a snag as the owner of the house was not completely willing to let us visit the empty house. This did not surprise me much as I thought a house under construction was hardly a safe place to be. But as we tried to talk our way into convincing him to let us see for ourselves we realized that his reason for not allowing us in kept changing. At first it was “There might be open connections about, and I cannot allow young lives to be endangered like this”. After a little while it changed to “The construction workers might have left some dangerous materials about”. It took a little bit of talking to get him to finally admit that he was genuinely worried for our safety, but in a supernatural and spiritual sense, rather than a physical one. At that point we were more interested than ever to be allowed to enter and he was refusing us entry outright. It was after a lot more convincing that we managed to get his permission to view the house from within the boundary, on the condition that we do not physically enter any of the rooms, and that the watchman supervises our tour.

I went with a lot of other excited volunteers. But for all the excitement, I was rather disappointed… for the most part. I did not see any shadows. I did not see even one ghost, let alone an entire family of them. No shadows flitting across our view, no moving chairs.

I said ‘for the most part’, though, because I did see, or rather heard a few things which the rest of my fellow ghost-hunters failed to see and hear. They were too busy being excited and calling out the ghosts, while I was silently and meticulously capturing all angles in the house. I was left alone in each part of the house, as they moved forward to the next part, leaving me to see, feel and hear the house in clarity.

The first I felt was a gentle push to the side. I looked right and left expecting to find my brother -in-law, Ruffi, there but saw no one. I was alarmed, but looked down to notice that I had managed to avoid stepping on an upturned nail. I moved on, slowly now, still taking pictures. I will attribute this push to tense muscles and nothing else though.

The next, and more solid piece of evidence came from what I heard. Taps would open as I went past each of the toilets in the house, and close as I moved further away. I am frankly surprised no one else noticed, but perhaps there was enough wind to cover the sound. Perhaps, I was just hearing things.

And finally, it was the terrified face of the watchman as my tour-fellows called out the ghosts. He was convinced, completely convinced, that the Ghosts would hear us and come out. He kept telling me not to lag behind. Once he came to me and asked to ‘Please tell these children not to call them out to see you. What if they follow you home?…’

His face convinced me more than anything else.

And then, perhaps most importantly, I have this picture to show you.

I see you

You can come to your own conclusions.

Please comment and let me know what you think!

9th of March, 2014

Salman Shahid Khan

Dear Readers,

I am writing this post to let you guys know something interesting I heard recently. My family home is in the suburbs of Lahore, and since it a part of Lahore that was only plotted maybe 10-11 years ago, there is a lot of land that has still not been developed. When we started building our house around 7 years ago there was a half-finished house on the other side of the road. 7 years on, we have been living in our house for 6 years now but the house has never been built completely and to my knowledge has never been occupied by a family. A while ago we started seeing a watchman taking care of it, but apart from that the house has stayed there in exactly the same condition.

Two days ago I was out looking at my lawn when our maid came and related this story to me. We have been noticing some odd phenomenon in our home as well, including our maid being called by someone in my mother’s voice in the middle of the night, and our maid happened to discuss it with the watchman from the house I mentioned. He heard her tale and laughed it off. He said, “You are afraid of a single ghost when I have an entire family of them haunting me for the last year!”. He then proceeded to tell her how he had been seeing shadows drifting in the house, hearing children laugh, and also hearing weird sounds in the house.

My brother-in-law was also beside me when our maid told us the story and he’s pretty excited about going to the house at night and investigating. I have advised against it but he’s an excitable fellow and can’t be reasoned with so I’ve decided to go along in case he tries something silly like Ouija boarding or inviting them along.

I’ll post anything I notice or experience tomorrow, along with any pictures I take. Wish me luck!

Salman Shahid Khan

“But the Consul’s brow was sad, and the Consul’s speech was low,
And darkly looked he at the wall, and darkly at the foe.
“Their van will be upon us before the bridge goes down;
And if they once might win the bridge, what hope to save the town?”

Then out spake brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late;
And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods.

Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul, with all the speed ye may!
I, with two more to help me, will hold the foe in play.
In yon strait path, a thousand may well be stopped by three:
Now, who will stand on either hand and keep the bridge with me?’

____

Back darted Spurius Lartius; Herminius darted back:
And as they passed, beneath their feet they felt the timbers crack.
But when they turned their faces, and on the further shore
Saw brave Horatius stand alone, they would have crossed once more.

But with a crash like thunder fell every loosened beam,
And, like a dam, the mighty wreck lay right athwart the stream:
And a loud shout of triumph rose from the walls of Rome,
As to the highest turret-tops was splashed the yellow foam.

____

Alone stood brave Horatius, but constant still in mind;
Thrice thirty thousand foes before, and the broad flood behind.
“Down with him!” cried false Sextus, with a smile on his pale face.
“Now yield thee”, cried Lars Porsena, “now yield thee to our grace!”

Round turned he, as not deigning those craven ranks to see;
Nought spake he to Lars Porsena, to Sextus nought spake he;
But he saw on Palatinus the white porch of his home;
And he spake to the noble river that rolls by the towers of Rome.

“Oh Tiber, father Tiber, to whom the Romans pray,
A Roman’s life, a Roman’s arms, take thou in charge this day!”
So he spake and, speaking, sheathed the good sword by his side,
And, with his harness on his back, plunged headlong in the tide.

No sound of joy or sorrow was heard from either bank;
But friends and foes in dumb surprise, with parted lips and straining eyes,
Stood gazing where he sank;
And when above the surges they saw his crest appear,
All Rome sent forth a rapturous cry, and even the ranks of Tuscany
Could scarce forbear to cheer.

____

Never, I ween, did swimmer, in such an evil case,
Struggle through such a raging flood safe to the landing place:
But his limbs were borne up bravely by the brave heart within,
And our good father Tiber bare bravely up his chin.

____

And still his name sounds stirring unto the men of Rome,
As the trumpet-blast that calls to them to charge the Volscian home;
And wives still pray to Juno for boys with hearts as bold
As his who kept the bridge so well in the brave days of old.

Choice parts of Horatius at the bridge

From Ancient Lays of Rome

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay

This story was one of the scare stories my grandmother used to tell me as a child. I cannot verify its authenticity or provide any proof of it having originated from a real experience, except from the fact that nearly everyone in my mother’s family knew of the story and can relate it to me accurately to the slightest detail.

The story goes that there was a man of around 25 years named Paato, who was my maternal grandfather’s great uncle of some sort, or a relative in any case, and he used to live in a village somewhere. I should remind the readers that this story is from a time in when the subcontinent was still ruled by the British, and villages were few and far between, separated often by thick sub-continental jungles, and the roads network was nothing of the sort we are used to.

Paato was once invited to attend a wedding in another village once. He travelled to that village on foot during the day, and unfortunately due to some delays it was already getting dark by the time he was only midway back to his own village. The path was a narrow one, winding through thick jungle and travelling on it after dark was quite dangerous. So Paato was getting quite nervous, and becoming aware of his surroundings more and more by the moment. Robbers and highwaymen were about the best he could hope to meet on the road, since tigers and other beasts often come out to hunt in the dark. He could not even run properly if that were to happen, since the dress he was wearing had pants that would surely trip him over (a ‘Dhoti’).

It was then when Paato came across a house in a sort of clearing in the middle of the jungle. There was a woman sitting outside the house, cooking something on a large pot and she called to him as he passed.

“Traveller! Would you like some food and a place to stay for the night?”

Paato was somewhat taken aback, since it was strange for a woman to be living alone in the middle of the jungle, and stranger yet, that she would invite a complete stranger passing by into her house for the night. However, these were times when people were often very hospitable, and grateful of having someplace safe to stay at for the night, Paato took up the offer.

Paato was fed a fair meal and the woman seemed to be friendly enough. The food and the warmth of the night put him at ease, so he started to become quite drowsy. The woman made a bed for him on the floor, choosing to sleep on the farther end of the fairly large room herself. Paato’s bed was made right up against a table on which rested the only source of light in the dark: A brightly burning candle. As he lay down he felt much too exhausted from the day to even get up and blow out the candle himself. He tried covering his face under the sheets, but that still did not help since there were tiny holes in his sheets through which he could still see the candle. He could also see the woman sitting down on her bed through a similar hole, still sitting up, so he asked her to kindly blow out the candle for him.

What he saw next quickly pushed out any semblance of drowsiness from his eyes and replaced it with gut wrenching, sickening and petrifying terror.

His eye grew larger under the sheets as he saw the woman, sitting down stretch her arm slowly, steadily to cover the distance from her bed to his bed to the candle above it, and smother the flame. If the sight of the snake-like stretched out arm had not been frightening enough, the last view of the woman’s face as the light went out definitely was. Her face was twisted, terrible, with wide hungry eyes under which her wild hair that gave her the impression of a wild animal. She was looking right at him lying with as he lay there when the lights went out, with a wry smile curled on her face. It was the face of his death.

Paato lay there in utter shock for a little while, at loss of what to do. He could not simply run. He would never make it out of the house. The creature would be onto him in an instant with its stretching limbs. He could also not lay there for much longer. Who knew how long it would be before the creature did whatever it had lured him there for? So Paato thought up a plan; the best plan he could come up with given his situation.

“I … need to pee” he announced, hesitantly.

“Ok, the toilet is at the back of the house” said the thing.

“That’s ok,” he said “I can just do it in the bushes outside.”

Saying this, he got up and went outside, squatting behind the bushes. The creature meanwhile, was at the door, looking at him each moment.

“Can you give me some privacy? I can’t go about my business like this!” he half-yelled, half pleaded from behind the bush.

The woman went back in the house after hearing that, which was lucky, since Paato needed every moment’s advantage he could get.

He quickly took off his pants—his dhoti to allow himself to sprint, quietly slipped out of the bush and started running as fast as he could. The thing realized what had happened though and came after him quickly enough. But Paato kept running, never looking back once even though the thing kept shouting at him to stop and come back. Finally, just as he seemed he would give up himself, the thing stopped chasing him. But it shouted something at him which re-froze Paato’s insides just before he was out of its earshot:

“You can run Paato! But my sister will be waiting up ahead to greet you! And she can run much faster than I can!”

This however was not true. Paato ran for what seemed like hours to him, but, there was no ‘sister’ lying in ambush on the path ahead. He made it back home just as the roosters were screeching. He was breathless, feverish and quite delirious.

I would like to say that it ended well for Paato, but it did not. He is said to have died of the fever he got that night, never recovering from the terror. But not before letting his family, and the village, know of the terrifying danger lying in wait for them in the dark jungles.

Recounted by

Salman Shahid Khan

 

OW_banner_72487