The Hidden Soul

Roshith Michael, Arun Samuel, and Mithun Kuriakose had been friends since their college days and were popular by the name “Christian Brothers” among their colleagues. It was February 22 and, on his way to write the KAS (Kerala Administrative Service) examination, Roshith was in a dilemma whether to attend the hopeless competitive examination or to join the boozing party with his friends at Calicut. “Cheers”! Three hours later he was seen clinking his glass of Old Monk Rum with his other two friends. Arun and Mithun were members of a Bicycle Club at Calicut and both of them were the coordinators of a bicycle race which was about to be conducted the next morning from “Adivaram” to top of the “Thamarassery Mountain Pass”. So, all of them decided to spend that night at Enigma Hut, a dormitory on the top of the mountain pass where they could enjoy a campfire that night.

On the way to the dormitory, they met with a small accident when a Honda City was trying to overtake their vehicle. The left mirror of the Honda City got damaged and a lady got down from the car. Even though it was her fault, they were a bit reluctant to argue with her as all of them were drunk. The lady gave a ferocious look and warned them “Don’t trust him”, then she left. Arun and Roshith started mocking Mithun who was driving the car saying that the warning was about him and maybe it was his unknown ex-girlfriend. Within a few hours of drive, they reached the Enigma Hut and saw Uncle John (the caretaker of the dormitory) arguing with 2 bikers. After a heated war of words, they started leaving and gave an enraged look at three of them and warned, “Don’t trust him”. Hearing this, all three of them were in a baffled state and was having an awful feeling.

It was late evening and they started the arrangements for a campfire and took some of their photographs. They invited uncle John to join them to have a drink and after sipping his first peg, he started revealing some historical facts about that place. The mountain pass was made by the Britishers in the 18th century with the help of the tribal chief Karinthandan. Later he was betrayed and shot by the Britishers and his soul was chained in a banyan tree which was opposite to the Enigma Hut. All three of them looked at the tree opposite to the road across them. After a few hours, they returned to the dormitory, and Arun started reading the newspaper laying there. In a sudden shock, he called the other two and showed them a report regarding the accidental death of a woman and two boys on the mountain pass which happened the other day, it was the same people whom they met a few hours ago. Roshith thought for a while and checked his cell-phone. He was taken aback to see a photo taken by him, that was supposed to be uncle John standing beside a tree. Now, John was missing in that image with only the tree left.

Roshith said, “I strongly doubt that uncle John is possessed. The people whom we met earlier were cautioning us about him. Maybe he is possessed with the spirit of Karinthandan”.

Mithun: “I know a priest living nearby at Vythiri. I’ll call him now”.

The priest advised Mithun to put a holy cross chain around John’s neck and to tie him up to avoid further complications. He consoled and assured him that he would reach there within 10 minutes. All of them followed the priest’s instructions and tied uncle John from behind. He gave them a murderous look. By that time, the priest arrived but was blocked by a fire barrier at the entrance by the spirit.

Priest: “This spirit is very powerful. All of you please leave this place and wait for me at the old abandoned church a few miles away from here. I’ve shared the location of the Church in your cell phone”.

By the time Mithun and Arun reached the car, Roshith was waiting there for them. He was trembling with fear. All of them were in a perplexed mood thinking about spirit and the reason behind it targeting them. The car stopped due to break-down when they were just 100 meters away from the church and at the same time Mithun got a call from the priest.

Priest: “Situation has got a bit more complex, it is not John who is possessed. He is perfectly alright. I have a strong intuition that the spirit is possessed inside some materialistic stuff carried by you. Please check your car and bags and let me know if you find anything fishy, I can feel the presence of the spirit around you. Before that, try to reach the Church at the earliest as the spirit won’t be able to enter that divine place.

Three of them got panicked and started running towards the dilapidated Church chanting hymns from the Bible. Arun and Mithun entered the courtyard of the Church and stopped there by hearing a yell from Roshith. Poor guy was being dragged by a wild creeper with his legs tied and got elevated in front of them upside-down crying for help. Watching Roshith’s present condition made their blood run cold.

“Roshith, please try and check your pockets, you might be carrying some possessed stuff”, Mithun pleaded helplessly.

But the guy was crying in pain as the creepers were tightening their grip and blood started drizzling down from his body. Arun’s cell-phone rang and he got a bit shaken to see the caller.

“Hey dudes, what’s up…!? Have you opened the second bottle?”, the caller asked.

Arun hung up the call by saying, “I’ll call you later”.

“I can’t stand this, I’m going to get him down”, Mithun tried to move ahead.

“Let’s clear this doubt and we’ll go together to get him down”, by saying this Arun pulled him back.

Arun checked his phone’s image gallery and opened the last image he took; a smoky figure beneath the tree.

“Uncle John, right?” Mithun asked

Arun shook his head and whispered, “Roshith”.

They felt like butterflies in their stomach and started shivering with fear. At the same time the hanging figure in front of them reverted to normal position and changed into a smoky shape.

“KARINTHANDAN…. That’s my name”, he growled. “You self-obsessed morons have been disturbing the eco-system and habitats of this forest since this path was made. A few days back, three ruthless beasts in human skin killed a monkey and it’s infant in the name of a race. Yesterday, they repeated the same brutal action and I was forced to liberate the souls from their body. Their spirits have been wandering since then in search of salvation. I still remember the last time a Bicycle race was conducted here with a number of loudspeakers and senseless crowd disturbing elephants, monkeys, and other wild habitats. I had no intention to harm you guys; take it as a warning or a request from a deceived old soul who still feels guilty of paving a way for creating this path, PLEASE….”. By that time, the priest came there along with uncle John. The smoky figure disappeared in the sky.

Looking up in the sky uncle John said, “He made me a scapegoat”. Both of them apologized to Uncle john for tying him. “Hey, never mind”, uncle said.

Priest and John guided them to their car. This time, there was no problem with starting the car. Arun and Mithun called their colleagues in the club and informed that the District authorities have warned them officially against conducting the race and they have called off the race.

On their way back home Arun called Roshith, “So, you were asking about the second bottle. Leave it, now tell us about your exam”.

Roshith: “What exams… as usual. So how was your day? How many pegs? Which was the brand? You guys would have missed me, right?”

Arun and Mithun looked at each other and smiled “For the first time, never missed You, buddy”.


A Lockdown Marriage

March-15, Tarun’s heart sank as he crossed the arrival terminal of the Calicut International Airport. Things got a bit messy after the pandemic outbreak. He is working as a Graphic Designer in an advertising firm in Kuwait which had most of its clients from Europe. The company was going through a tough phase due to economic slow-down and his salary was cut by one third. His marriage was fixed on 12th April and authorities have strictly demanded 14 days of home quarantine from him.

Tarun had to rethink his plan to renovate his home, which includes decorating the courtyard with new interlock bricks and painting the home. He had a plan to buy a new sedan car worth 12 Lakh Rupees in exchange for his old Wagon R. Additionally, marriage expenses like buying a wedding dress, booking an Auditorium for the wedding reception, food catering, wedding video including pre-wedding photoshoot – Save The Date, are yet to come. He was almost thunderstruck by calculating the estimated cost which crossed Rupees 20 lakhs. Unfortunately, a few months back, he had already assigned a contractor to do the home renovations (but the work was not started yet) and a sales representative (his neighbour) for purchasing the car. Money wasn’t a problem for him at that time, but now the situation had changed, and to make the matters worse, he is not even sure whether he could sustain his present job; totally a catch-22 situation.

Next day, the speculating wizards of that village started circulating a rumor that our protagonist is infected with Corona. The contractor called Tarun’s father and informed him that they will start the work once his son’s quarantine period got over. He tried to back-off from the contract. Tarun’s father tried to convince him, but all his attempts went in vain. In a heated argument between both of them, his father cancelled the contract. The same happened with the Sales Representative who was reluctant enough to go there and give a demonstration of the new car models. As the whole family was on tenterhooks Tarun took his cell-phone and called his cousin brother Deepu, a silent boozer to join him for a drink. In a drowsy voice, Deepu replied that he has been in Goa since last week as a part of Holi celebrations and will return home within 2 days.

Nimisha, a small-town engineering graduate, is the bride who is the only daughter of a local restaurant owner. Her father’s present financial condition is almost akin to that of Tarun’s. The Restaurant business has been dull since the Covid-19 outbreak. He had been saving a small amount monthly from his modest income in the past 20 years foreseeing his daughter’s marriage. He planned to purchase 50 sovereigns of gold as a wedding gift for his daughter in the first week of April and to meet the remaining expenses, he thought of taking a loan from a bank. All of a sudden Corona cases started surging in our state and the state government imposed a complete lockdown for one week on March 23rd, followed by an extension of nation-wide lockdown for 21 more days by the central government from the next day onwards.

A big relief came when the Covid-19 result of Tarun was tested negative. By that time the state government had already imposed certain strict rules by restricting the number of people attending marriage ceremonies to 10. Both the families had no other options and decided to bring 5 members each from their side. But, due to the ongoing pandemic outbreak their family members were hesitant towards attending the wedding. Finally, on the wedding day, they were 7 in total from both sides which included the bride, groom, both their parents and a priest who is the neighbour of the bride. After completing some simple rituals, they were declared as husband and wife by the priest and after having the traditional vegetarian lunch in a banana leaf, they returned back to the groom’s house in the old Wagon R.

As the Thali Chain was sponsored by his mom, Tarun almost didn’t have any additional expense, altogether the expense amount was under 2000 Rupees. As the textile shops were closed during the lockdown, the bride and groom came in traditional Kerala outfits which they wore during some Onam celebrations in the previous years. Just when Tarun was thinking about the materialistic obsession and extravagance in Indian weddings, he got a call from his Kuwait office informing him that they have got a new client from Canada and the management has given him provision to work from home in the coming months until the pandemic gets controlled. Enjoying the peace and tranquility around him, he changed his WhatsApp status to “Home sweet/safe home” but was a bit puzzled to see the name of a WhatsApp group operated by his cousin Deepu being changed from “C2H5OH – The Spiritual Venom” to “H2O – The Liquid Gold“.