When I listen to some horror stories that come from a rural backdrop, I am often surprised to find out how a sheer horror tale can be dreaded so much. I am fascinated to discover how most of them are moulded by sheer ignorance on the part of the involved. There is so much absurdity and innocence in lands of the uneducated that fear invariably walks tall. This fear then takes bazillion shapes and forms – twisting what was seen, narrating the fantastical, and sharing an alternate better version of their horror stories to scare the remaining multitude.
It then goes on like a game of Chinese whispers and the final person in its bizarre chain reaction narrates a different, a scarier version of that horror tale altogether.
HORROR STORIES: THE ORCHARD
There is this village in Vaishali where amongst all those prevalent dreaded horror stories, one particular horror tale of a tree ghost spread quickly like fire. There were a bunch of mango trees in an orchard that few used to frequent. Those mango trees were demarked by word, so during daytime nobody dared enter someone else’s property. But in the nighttime came out hungry prowlers with an appetite.
SHYAM’S HORROR TALE
Whenever there was a heavy breeze, Shyam used to go mango picking in the dead of the night with his friends. So technically Shyam and his friends were mango thieves. But it was a mere delinquency in their eyes. Some of Shyam’s friend would often tag along during wee hours for the mere fun of it.
One fine day, er…night, when the breeze went savage once again, Shyam was already up on his feet. He tried waking up Kanto but unfortunately Kanto was too deep in a dream to wake up from. So he started out for the orchard alone.
It had become a regular affair for Shyam to go mango picking. He had become sort of a professional. At first he used to fill up his pockets with mangoes and run. But nowadays he was comfortable enough to bring a bag with him so that he could bag as many. It was just like shopping for him, except that there was no money involved. Also, he could pick as many as he wanted, and there was no one around to lift a finger.
VENTURING TOWARDS THE ORCHARD ALONE
Going out alone that day didn’t bother him, and it wasn’t the first time he was daring towards that orchard alone. Kanto’s friendship had been tested on numerous occasions before. Sometimes Kanto would be too lazy to budge, and it was one of those rare days where he would enjoy kicking him in the guts and cursing him before storming off all by himself.
As he walked on swiftly, still aware of those horror stories that had the village by its neck in the back of his mind, capering towards his favourite tree that promised a lot of fallen mangoes under its aegis, he realized how bountiful the tree had been to him. The wind was equally magnanimous. Shaking off that thought, reaching there, he at once got down to business, and started filling up his bag with mangoes. There was an unusual amount of mangoes that lucky day, and he was silently thanking the wind lord for shaking the tree so profusely.
THE MANGO TREE GHOST
As he was about to pick his sixth mango, a streak of bright light fell like snow right next to his mango. Stupefied he tried to look up to see what it was. To his surprise there were tiny balls of fire making their way down towards him. It was raining fire on him. Before he could make sense into what was happening, something hooted in the background. Scared as hell, he blasted off like a bullet leaving all the mangoes behind.
Shyam probably broke all records that the town runners held as he made his way back home.
When he narrated the events of the horror tale carefully, to whomsoever he met, appending it to the list of those prevailing horror stories, without going into the details of what he was doing there, every villager listened to him with jaws wide open. The horror tale of fire spread like fire within no time. By the time it was dawn, half of the village already knew about the mango tree ghost. When someone tried to gossip it on, the person they were trying to tell already knew about it. The list of scary horror stories in the village inadvertently got augmented by one.
THE GHOST HUNT PARTY
Convinced to find out the truth behind it, Chiku uncle, who claimed to be the village’s braveheart, decided to accompany Shyam the next day to see what had scared the bajesus out of him. Too scared to go even with Chiku uncle in the forefront, Shyam begged Kanto and some of his other wusses for friends, to tag along in their mango tree ghost hunt.
Night grew darker that night for Shyam as his heart pounded inconsistently when the hour of their mango hunt neared. Kanto had gone to sleep once again despite the thrill of their ghost hunt only to be awakened by a merciless kick in his guts.
Chiku uncle unknowingly became the Alpha who led the pack. He narrated his tales of valour as Shyam and his reluctant gang listened to him in sheer marvel. As they made their way towards the orchard, trees there seemed awfully quiet to them. To make matters worse, crickets were making them feel ill at ease. Each one of them was saying something to break the monotony of silence.
On reaching the orchard and walking right underneath the tree that had Shyam scared to death, Chiku uncle boldly asked Shyam:
“Okay, where was that tree?”
Before Shyam could even say something, a scuffle broke loose in the tree. It was followed by a loud and deafening roar, as if the fire ghost had come alive. Something set ablaze in that ephemeral quiet, and then the fiery raindrops fell as if the skies were lit alight. Shyam who had already seen that part, tried to locate Chiku uncle, but to his surprise could only find his dhoti stuck on a plant. He squinted to see Chiku uncle running for his life leading the pack once again.
For the fear of being left alone with the fire ghost, and for the fear of being the last one (he believed generally the last ones were eaten first), Shyam ran with all his might once again. Little did he know that he had broken his record in that wild sprint to escape that ghost on the tree. He stumbled a couple of times but he kept looking over his shoulders to check if there was a sudden attack.
When the news of the mango tree fire ghost reached little Tina, who lived with her family few yards away from that alarming orchard, it scared her beyond limit. She looked at the mango groves in apprehension, wondering her thoughts out loud. Scared one day, she approached her big brother asking about it.
“Is there a ghost on that tree brother?”
Her big brother looked at the poor scared creature, and said:
“There’s no such thing as ghosts Tina. Always remember that.”
Then he took out a bunch of charred sticks from his secret hiding place, bound them together by wrapping them around a piece of cloth. He put some kerosene on it, as he did, and covered it with little twigs. Then he lit it up and waited for the twigs to blaze up. He shook it a little, as those burning twigs fell like snow in front of her. He then told his sister:
“There! That’s how I have been doing this. I have been sleeping for the past two days on our tree to teach those buggers a lesson. They have been stealing mangoes from our orchard for so many days now, I realized I had to do something about it, or it wouldn’t stop.”
Tina smiled at her smart brother, thinking how proud she was of him. Forgetting all about that fear that had been gnawing at her soul, she went along to join her friends who were skipping in their backyard.