The wind howled softly……hooooooo……raising small storms of dry sand. The force of the waves hitting the sand had increased, helped, no doubt, by the full moon which shone balefully from on high. The wooden boat creaked….the boatman had disappeared!
‘Where is he?’, I asked, alarmed now.
‘Abe leave it,’ Rahul said. ‘Let’s walk around a little.’
I looked at him incredulously, even Vineet was not so sure, but agreed anyway.
We walked along the edge of the water, trying not to stray too far, always keeping the boat in our sight.
‘Maybe we have overdone it tonight.’ This was Vineet, the anxiety clear in his voice, the mischief gone.
‘Oh, come on,’ Rahul retorted, a trifle too loudly, for his voice boomed across the plains, echoing in the darkness, and coming back to us again. Hearing the echo, even Rahul fell silent. Maybe he felt it too…..finally…..the strange unrest that had gripped me ever since I had boarded the boat. It had only increased since we alighted on this bank…..and now it was almost palpable, audible even, in the form of my heartbeat which, it seemed, was so loud that I thought the others must have heard it too!!
We walked silently for a couple of minutes, an uneasy silence between us. Rahul not willing to admit what me and Vineet had already articulated – this had been a bad move. While the edge of the water was luminous with the sand, and the reflected moonlight, the rest of the area, starting a few metres from where we stood, was absolutely dark. I stared into the darkness, apprehensive, straining my eyes for any warning signs. I believe Vineet was looking that way too when we saw it…….
The light!! ‘THAT LIGHT’. The same light which, sometimes, we used to see from the other bank and make up stories about. It was unmistakeable! It was far away, and it was faint, but there was no denying that it was there alright. And then it moved…..
I gripped Vineet’s hand tightly to draw his attention but he had already seen it, his eyes staring wide, his mouth open in wonder, beads of perspiration now appearing on his forehead. By this time Rahul had followed our gaze, and had seen the light too. We had, all three of us, stopped in our tracks, watching the light. It moved, to and fro, left and right, slowly, really slowly. Sometimes it would glow brightly, and then suddenly it would dim as if about to go out, get extinguished. The night mist and the breeze hampered our vision, and sometimes we could not see it for a fraction of a second, and then it came back again, surreal, and ghostly, but strong as ever.
And then it started to move towards us…..getting brighter, and stronger every moment, flickering but growing in intensity….on and on it came….
‘Run’, Rahul said. It was the first sane word that had escaped his lips that whole evening.
And we ran….for our dear lives…..not looking back….like we had never run before……
To be continued…….
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