I am going to tell you a story. So pay attention. What I am about to tell you is unsettling. It is ugly, it is weird, it is also true. Humour me for a while and let me tell you what happened that night, and how it happened. If you don’t pay attention, you will miss the details. Should you ever go to that place, out of curiosity or out of sheer arrogance, the details might come in handy. Not that it will save your life, but at least you will not have a frozen question mark on your face when you die. You will at least die with answers. So are you ready? Are you paying attention? Good.
About forty kilometres away from Bangalore City is a place called Devanahalli. When you take a right from the bus station and go a little further up the tattered road, you will reach a tiny, ugly place called Karya Halli – or as people say, Karyahalli stop. This is where a team fifteen (ten boys and five girls) got off on the night of 4th April, 2015 – the night of Lunar Eclipse.
With big bags slung over their shoulders, they gathered around and discussed the trail. Between a shitty little restaurant and an old, abandoned Joy ice cream shop is a road that stretches for a kilometre and then ends. Their trekking would start from there. They hip-hip-hurrayed, switched on their torches, and started hiking towards their deaths. It was nine o’clock.
A few stray dogs barked at them. The boys and girls ignored them and moved on. The full moon was shining in the sky with iridescent brilliance. A few stars tried to make their presence felt, and succeeded. It wasn't a dark night, but darkness in the surrounding was evident. Know what I mean?
Their strategy was commendable: one experienced trekker led the trail and two more experienced ones hung behind to keep everyone secure. They took their first pit stop after forty minutes of hiking. ‘See that mountain up there?’ said the boy who was leading the trail. The others looked up. ‘That’s Nandi Hills. And see that mountain on the left? That’s Horagina Betta. That’s where we are going.’
Some said, ‘Cool,’ some said, ‘Whoa,’ some said, ‘Awesome,’ some drank water in silence, some huffed and puffed.
‘Let’s go,’ the trek lead said, and they started again.
They went through the bushes, they climbed on the rocks, they got lost for a few seconds, they analysed and started again, they sometimes walked on the edges, they kept going. They sang songs and cracked jokes as they hiked. But sometimes – and this happened rarely – when they kept quiet, silence screamed like a new whore being fucked by a hulk of a man. The wind, too, howled and whined. And the yellowish moon, when seen through the top branches of the trees, looked baleful. One of the guys noticed this and said to his friend, ‘Doesn't it look like a perfect night for a Vampire attack?’ The other guy laughed through his nostrils, for his mouth was filled with glucose powder.
They reached the smooth inclined road that led to Nandi Hills, and sat by the side of the road. They gathered their breaths, popped some mints and chocolates into their mouths, drank water, threw their bags on their backs, and resumed.
They got off the road and took a route parallel to it that led into the mountain. Thick bushes appeared again, the moon disappeared behind the clouds, silken darkness crawled around them silently.
They stopped half a kilometre short of the peak and sat on the rocks. ‘We are almost there,’ said the trek lead. ‘Yayyy!’ the rest of them cheered.
There were a few seconds of unapproved silence among them. It was then that they heard a faint female voice singing a devotional song. It seemed to be coming from the foot of the mountain.
‘Must be the radio in that temple down there,’ a girl offered her opinion.
‘Yes, right,’ another girl said. ‘But it’s kind of creepy, no?’
‘You haven’t seen anything yet,’ a guy in black shirt said.
He was right.
‘What do you mean?’ the girls asked in chorus.
‘Lot of creepy things up there,’ black shirt said and grinned.
Again, he was right.
‘It’s not funny, man,’ one of the girls said. ‘Really not funny.’
The last part of the mountain was steep and they had to walk carefully one behind the other. Dried leaves scraped against their arms and necks. They swatted them away and kept climbing. It was eleven-thirty when they reached the top.
The silence at the top of a mountain could either be ominous or romantic. It all depends upon the kind of person you are. So let me ask you. What are you? A romantic or someone who revels in the uncanny? Think about it.
Up in the sky the moon had come out of its hiding again. ‘Whoa,’ a boy said, looking up. ‘It’s so beautiful.’ A romantic.
A bat flew against the grey of the sky, crossing the moon a second later. ‘God, that was quite a sight,’ said another boy. Someone born with the love of the night.
They all dragged their heavy feet across the soft patch of dried grass, reached a flat surface between two big rocks, and tossed their bags on the ground and sat down. A few lazy ones lay on their backs and convinced themselves that they had scaled something just short of Mount Everest and decided to give themselves a long rest. Others went in search of dried wood to make campfire.
They built the campfire and had their supper. It was close to one o’clock when they gathered around the campfire to drown the night in laughter and fun and songs and stories.
Although the day was searing hot, the night was chilly, and it was getting chillier by the minute. The campfire and their jackets kept them warm, though. ‘It was a beautiful night,’ most of them would have told their friends when they got back to the city. But they wouldn't say that. Because they wouldn't get back. This was it. This was their destination.
At around three o’clock, when they were tired of singing songs and enacting film titles, they decided to do something else. ‘Let’s tell ghost stories,’ a boy proposed his idea. Everyone agreed and thus began a storytelling session.
It breaks my heart to tell you that all the stories were dull and boring. None of them were interesting, none of them were in accord with the kind of night it was. But a few minutes later, a boy in white t-shirt addressed everyone, the expression on his face inscrutable, the tone of his voice flat: ‘How many of us are in the team? What’s the headcount?’
‘Fifteen,’ said a guy with a big belly and almost no ass.
‘Yes, right. Ten boys and five girls,’ the trek lead said.
White t-shirt stared at the campfire without saying anything.
‘Is someone missing?’ big belly said. ‘Must have gone to pee, relax.’
‘That’s not it,’ white t-shirt said. ‘Take a headcount again. Now there are sixteen.’
A heavy drop of silence hung in the air as everyone stared at him. And then they all started laughing. Moments later, white t-shirt also joined them.
‘Good one, buddy. Good one,’ big belly said. ‘Sure, let’s take a headcount. I’ll start. One.’
‘Two,’ ‘three,’ ‘four …’
‘Thirteen,’ ‘fourteen,’ ‘fifteen,’ ‘sixteen.’
‘What? Who is that?’ big belly asked.
‘Me,’ a boy in brown shorts said and came forward. ‘I simply counted after fifteen.’
‘How did we get sixteen?’
‘Don’t play such sick games, please,’ a girl cried.
They took a headcount again and it came to sixteen this time, too. Everyone stood up and looked at each other. They were all familiar faces, nothing or no one looked out of place.
‘Let’s do it again, guys,’ brown shorts said. ‘Slowly.’
They started calling out the numbers again. They took their time this time. They paused to look at the person who called out the number.
‘One,’ ‘two,’ ‘three…’
‘Thirteen,’ ‘fourteen,’ ‘fifteen,’ and they stopped. They had identified everyone. They looked relieved.
And then they heard a whisper from the centre: ‘Sixteen.’
And then they froze.
And then they saw.
And then they screamed.
He was always there. Right from the beginning. Not that he tried to hide, but he knew how not to draw attention to himself. His appearance played a role in it as well: short and lanky, insanely dark, no hair on his head and no eyebrows, and in the place of the curve of the bone on the face that you call nose, he had two holes in the centre. He didn't have lips, but a thin, straight slit below his ‘nose’. Oh, and his eyes! They were electric blue - and when I say blue, I mean the whole of it, no white of the eye or nothing, just blue all over. Those eyes saw everything, every little thing, every little insect, every speckle of dust. They saw everything clearly during the day, they saw everything clearly in the darkest nights. He had to close his eyes if he wanted to stay invisible, for his blue eyes garnered attention. Once a kid spotted those blue marbles from the town below and told his father. The father spotted them, too. They were constantly shifting, disappearing. Curious, the man climbed up the mountain one night to check it out. Stupid, stupid man he was. He never went back home.
The blue-eyed denizen of the mountain didn't kill anyone without reason. Most of the time he doesn't hurt anyone. Last year, six men and two women had come for a night trek. He didn't even touch them. He let them be. He sat on a tree with his eyes closed as the men and the women had fun at the campfire. He’s not a monster. He kills when he has to, when he is hungry, when he has to feed on some human souls to keep him going. Besides, the mountain is his. It’s his home. He’s been living there for hell knows how many centuries. Sometimes people intrude his home and get him all riled up. He has no choice then.
And tonight, when the moon was full and in near-perfect alignment with the earth and the sun, he had to feed on thirteen souls. It was his ritual. Although the eclipse was over and it was not visible in this part of the world, it was still an important night to him. If the young trekkers hadn't come, he would've gone into the town and picked his thirteen souls. But he had seen them getting off the bus and decided to wait for them to come to him.
You may ask me, why didn't he attack them the moment they arrived? It’s simple. It was all about time. Human souls taste delicious between two and four in the morning.
When it was time, he made his presence felt. His eyes were closed, and he could feel his prey looking at him. He took his time and lifted his head. Then he opened his eyes. That’s when they screamed. That’s when he grabbed the nearest boy and slid his hands into the boy’s chest. His hands went in like a hot knife through butter. And when life was just about to fly away from the boy, he leaned closer and put his mouth near the boy’s mouth and sucked in the last few breaths.
All this happened in two seconds. The dead boy’s fourteen friends didn't know how to react, so they didn't. They stood there, incapacitated, and wished they hadn't come. At that moment their whole life must have flashed before their eyes. The boy who died first didn't even have that luxury. He was the unluckiest of them all.
Blue Eyes clicked his tongue and got up. Big belly had his torch in his hands. He lifted his hand slowly and shone the light on the mountain dweller. The screams came again. A few ran hither and thither. Two boys remained rooted to the ground, not because they were brave, but because they were still in shock. They wet their pants and stood, shaking. Blue Eyes went to work. He grabbed big belly by the neck, brought him closer to his face, and ran a finger against the curve of his neck. The cut was clean. There was nothing but a thin red line at first. But a second later, blood started spurting out as big belly coughed. Blue Eyes sucked the boy’s soul and went for the boys who had peed in their pants. They didn't put up a fight.
Blue Eyes leapt up and sat at the top of a nearby tree and looked around, his blue eyes spotting his victims. He jumped down and ran after his prey, each of his stride fifteen feet long. He caught them one by one, sliced their hearts, sliced their necks, ripped their stomachs. But he was careful not to break their skulls or snap their necks. He didn't want them to die instantly. He needed them to be alive for a second or two to suck their breaths, their souls.
He needed only thirteen souls and he got them fair and square. But there were fifteen of them. He would've spared two of them, but the last two tried to attack him. They knew they didn't have a chance, maybe that’s why they tried. Humans get a herculean power when they think they have lost everything. They become incredibly powerful when they have nothing to lose. So yes. Maybe it was a reflex to try and fight him.
The last two remaining boys were white t-shirt and the trek lead. White t-shirt advanced with a sharp stone in his hands. Blue Eyes swatted the stone off the boy’s hands, lifted him up, and threw him off the mountain. White t-shirt went flying in the night sky, his scream muffled by the howl of the wind.
The trek lead had in his hands a burning wood from the campfire. Blue Eyes didn't waste time. He bounced up and towards the boy. The next second he was standing in front of the boy, his blue eyes looking into the boy’s. The boy’s face was drenched in sweat and tears and horror.
Blue Eyes knocked the burning piece of wood from the boy’s hands, pushed him down, and sat astride him. Then he went to work. He separated the arms from the boy’s body, held them in his hands for a second or two, and then tossed them aside as if they were some useless pieces of junk. Blood squirted from below the boy’s shoulder blades, sporadically in the beginning, and then gushed out like water from an open tap. The boy opened his mouth wide, but the scream wouldn't come. Blue Eyes inserted his fingers into the boy’s mouth and pulled his tongue out. The boy’s legs started wiggling. Blue Eyes was done playing with the troublemaker. He held the boy by the neck, the tips of his thumbs pressing hard against the side of his Adam’s apple. A second later there was a mild tupp, and then silence. Blue Eyes picked up the body and threw it off the mountain.
Blue Eyes looked up and around. The campfire was still fighting against the moonlight. He leapt towards it and doused the fire by snapping his fingers. He then turned round and ran to his favourite spot: the biggest boulder on the mountain. He jumped up and sat on it and took a glance at the world below him. Seconds later he closed his eyes and went to sleep.
He’s always inhabited that mountain. And he’ll continue to do so. For how long, I don’t know. But it shouldn't be your concern. It’s his.
So there you go. I've told you everything. Remember everything. Remember the details. Can you remember them? Can you? I hope you do. For your own good.
Now. Some of you may be wondering how I know about all this in detail. Where was I when all this happened? Who’s been telling you the story? Who am I?
Well, what do you think?
Copyright © Karthik 2015