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Life's biggest surprise is the advent of a new day.

That's what little Bapi was thinking as he saw the eastern part of the sky transforming into bright orange slowly. A wry smile emerged on his face pondering the day ahead. The gilli-danda ground behind Vayu-Vatika restaurant, which opened just a couple of months ago, will be filled with boys and girls of his age today. All the people in the nearby suburbs of Panagarh have been waiting for this day, to watch hundreds of their children participating in the annual game today.

With the Engineering college commencing a couple of years back, the small town of Panagarh has now become a hub of activity. The local market, the shops, the housing complexes, and the roads have all seen a surge of activity as well as earnings. People got appointments as canteen boys and managers, like his friend Chhotu, in the college. Even new stores are open every month to meet the needs of the residential students and the professors, boosting the earning in Panagarh as a whole.

All in all, the small town was advancing, becoming a well-deserved neighbour to Durgapur, just a few kilometres away, even with the fiasco that happened in the college a few months back. Bapi moved forward, chewing the neem branch, just on his way to the field.

It's supposed to be ready by afternoon today, with boundaries created by bamboo fences to make place for the ground for the contest. Probably some Engineering dadas and didis might also come to experience today's matches here. The speculation surged him with newfound energy just as he noticed the walls a little ahead.

The red brick walls, far away from the Army base and the Panagarh forest, were almost alien. But, Bapi knew what they were. He had heard the stories that his father and grandfather had mentioned to him for the last few years.

This was a small English fort from the1800s. His father, Jatin Madu, would say while

sitting outside their mud house in the evenings and enjoying the puffed rice there. They had

created a tiny, fortified stronghold here, just before the Sepoy Mutiny. But once the Mutiny started, this place was deserted. His grandfather would say,looking distantly at the open grounds all around the area.The whole place was covered by Indian soldiers of the Bengal Regiment. They massacred hundreds of English soldiers back then. Only the smaller walls and the two pillars of the gate remain now.

And those pillars were what Bapi could see now.

Beyond that, he could identify big trees like Banyans and Arjuna standing as if they were silent sentinels of time. But the little seven-year-old ignored them as his mind ventured about the grounds that lay beyond.

He could not see the place yet, and his anxious mind was overrun with thoughts. He increased his pace just as he crossed the pillars, trying to reach the ground quicker now.

As he crossed the first Banyan tree on his right and saw the broken red brick walls, suddenly his face turned ashen.The colour in his face drained as he saw what was waiting for him there.


His frantic howl reverberated throughout the area while his vision blurred.

Chewing his lower lip and trying to show as much fearlessness as possible, Bapi moved

towards the scene that seemed to be a waking nightmare.

The man was somewhere between twenty and twenty-five, his frozen glassy eyes open

and full of fear. His curly small hair, muscular build, and scorpion tattoo on his right hand

indicated who he was.

Farukh dada!! Bapi cried again, in vain, his eyes filled with tears.

Farukh was one of the young boys of his village just on the western side of the Kanksa-Shantiniketan road, who would come up here to find fallen dry branches for the village, and grass for the cows. Even yesterday, Bapi had seen him before he ventured out in the early evening.

His tall frame of five-ten was reduced this time to a dead body, sitting with his back on the wall. But the most frightening thing was not his body itself. His light brown skin was white as a sheet as if his body was drained of blood. And then the boy noticed the two spots, just on Farukh's neck, on the left. Puncture

marks, like some big needle piercing the skin, side by side, a couple of inches apart.

And Bapi's eyes widened, fear gripping his senses as he fell on his butt. Only one thing filled his mind.

Dracula has struck again.

Two Days Later

Dracula was just a novel by Bram Stroker from the 1890s. This was just a tale of

fiction where the protagonist, Jonathan Harker, finds out that the owner of the castle in

Transylvania, Count Dracula, was, in fact, a vampire. And later, when Dracula moves to

England pursuing Harker, Abraham Van Helsing and a few others finally killed him by

impaling him with a piece of timber from a tree.

Joy stopped, smiling and looking at each of us in turn, while grey smoke escaped his

lips in small bursts. With a flick of his fingers, the extra ash from the burning tip of his half-

finished cigarette fell on the ashtray. The others looked at each other uncertainly, not

realizing where the discussion was going.

We all know about the tale of Count Dracula, courtesy of numerous books, movies, and

Web shows all over the world. In fact, Dracula had been so popular that it probably inspired

movie makers and storytellers throughout the world to create different versions of the story

with multiple characters throughout the last century or so. The bloodsucking vampires, the

vampire bats, and many others were all a product of that single story — Bram Stroker's


It was just yesterday evening that nearly all of us came back to our hostel for the start

of the second semester. The Panagarh Institute of Engineering and Management looked full

of students wearing sweaters and jackets and running and gossiping throughout the campus,

college building, and the hostel. At this time of the morning, most people had already had

their breakfast, while some late risers, like us, were waiting for the final remnants of the

morning food in the canteen.

In mid-January, the temperatures in Panagarh seemed to have dropped to three or four

degrees Celsius, making us all blow warm air into our hands to keep our hands from freezing.

At ten-thirty, I guess probably only the last pieces of bread and omelette were available

here, barely sufficient for three people or so, while we were some ten guys huddling together.

That would explain the wait.

While waiting, it was Raima, who started the topic related to Dracula.

Do you know that for the last month or so, people of Panagarh and nearby villages

have all panicked due to some kind of Dracula attacks?

For the first minute, we all spoke hurriedly regarding the topic, just as my best friend

appeared at the canteen door.

Here comes the great detective......Kunal said with enthusiasm in his voice and a smile

on his lips just as the newcomer sat by my side. "The great Jayashis Dey."

Jayashis, or Joy, as we call him, just smiled, shrugging off the words, and quickly lit a

cigarette. I knew very well what was in his mind but didn't speak out loud.

I am not a detective, dammit. I am a truth and mystery seeker.

With a mouthful of smoke coming out, a few seconds later, he asked what the

discussion was going on. Once Raima, me, and the others stated to him about these supposed

Dracula attacks, the guy just laughed out loud and spoke about Bram Stroker and his novel.

But wasn't the stories of Dracula based upon a Wallachian Prince? I spoke this time,

locking eyes with Joy.A certain Vlad Dracula?

Joy raised his brows as I spoke, with admiration in his eyes, just as Chhotu came with

our breakfast. The two tables joined together were enough to serve eleven plates.

Yes, Aru. You are right. Joy said as the others looked at him.Vlad III or as he was

known more commonly, Vlad the Impaler, was one of the most notorious princes of Callahan

history. In fact, the whole of Romania itself. He was the second son of Vlad Dracul, the ruler

of Wallachia, Romania, in 1436.

He took the last drag of his cigarette before crushing the bud with his boot while we all


He was a capable but cruel ruler.He muttered as smoke escaped his mouth in the form

of rings.He was a hostage of the Ottoman Empire once, but later he was released. Once he

became the ruler there, Vlad Dracula had a special level of punishment. He used to impale his

enemies that were captured. Even whichever criminal was brought before him, or whoever he

deemed as a notorious person, he used to impale them.

But....but...Shibashis said, his mouth full of bread and, hence his words nearly nonsense.Who hus dat gut to du whith blooscuckin vanpisers?

Huh!! What?

We all looked at the guy as he tried to speak again, but it was a repetition of the same

gibberish again. Finish the food and speak, idiot.I said, mock anger in my eyes, while I tried my best

not to laugh out loud.

But what has that got to do with bloodsucking vampires.He finally spoke after a few

more seconds once he got rid of the mouthful of bread.

Oh! Yeah....Joy smiled while eating at short intervals. Vlad got his name from his

type of torture — Vlad, the Impaler. According to some Wallachian historians, he was

considered a hero, a person who tortured or killed only in the interest of the state.

However.....He stopped for a moment to have some water and continued again. According

to normal folks there, Vlad Dracula was no less than a monster. He…he

became ecstatic as he saw his enemies being impaled and blood getting drained...from their


Joy stopped speaking as his face was filled with small droplets of sweat, and he slowly

breathed. I closed my eyes as the grisly image of people being impaled and the blood pooling

slowly near their feet danced in front of my eyes. Pushing the thought away, I looked back

again, noticing Joy's eyes on me.

As a result, people called him a bloodsucking monster. And that became the inspiration for Bram Stroker's bloodsucking vampire, the Dracula. He even named the monster by Vlad's

patriarchal name — Count Dracula.

For the next minute, everybody seemed to contemplate the thought as we all ate in


For the last seven months that I have known him, my friend Jayashis Dey seemed to have been a really intelligent and awesome human being. Even after being rejected to join the army twice, the guy was not disheartened. He joined the Engineering college, and apart from studying here, he helped the police solve a staggering mystery during our first semester in college. As a result, all the students and professors here looked at him with respect and awe. His words, his views, all had certain effects on us, the people closest to him. But, if someone could look at him without knowing these details, Joy was just another average college student. A handsome, tall, and young student, nonetheless.

I sighed as I focused on the breakfast while the others started speaking animatedly.

What happened in the first class?

Well, all the professors have not yet ended up in college after twenty days of holiday.

Yeah, I reached in the morning only, and feeling sleepy still.

I listened to the conversations and smiled inwardly.

Tring. Tring.

It was then that the BBC Sherlock ringtone suddenly started. The others stopped

speaking, and all looked at Joy in unison as he fished his phone out of his pocket. Looking at

the eyes of the others and understanding the awe, it was clear that they were thinking the

same thing.

None else deserved this ringtone on their phone more than Joy.

Hi Sir. Joy said, smiling, as he gulped the food and picked up the call after noticing the

caller's name.

I couldn't hear what the other person was saying, only what Joy was replying. Came this morning only.

Yes, sure.

In...afternoon? After lunch? Sure?

Yes, she's with me. Sure.

He locked his eyes with me and raised his brows as a smile formed on the corner of his face.

We need to go to Kanksa Police Station after lunch today.He said as his eyes danced with energy.Inspector Biswas asked for both of us.


'So, what you are saying is.....' Joy stared at the pictures in front of him on the smooth

and clear laptop screen, scrutinizing them, before looking back at Inspector Biswas with

raised brows, '....that these are all Dracula attacks?'

His voice must have shown his opinion on the matter as Biswas shifted in his chair

uncomfortably, shaking his head in bewilderment. The paper cup and the tea in it had been

sitting in front of him for the past ten minutes. It must have turned cold by now, but the

Inspector barely glanced at it as he continued looking at me and Joy.

'What can I say...' He uttered in his signature deep voice. 'These villagers,

they.........they have been saying that these are Dracula attacks. We got three cases in total in

the last fifteen days. Same kind of M.O. No blood on the victim's body.....'

Working with Joy and the police on different cases before this, and being a voracious

reader of crime thrillers, both in Bengali and English, I was aware of what M.O. stood for. In

this case, the deaths or murders or attacks, whatever we could call them, had the same Modus


So, we got three dead guys..... I started this time, putting my hands on Inspector

Biswas desk and locking eyes with him.

"All aged between twenty and thirty, drained of blood and have these marks on their neck."

Yes Aratrika.The man said, looking at me with a sad smile and nodding, his eyes still looking confused. They say that these are Dracula's bite marks, and he is the one draining all the blood from his victims....

To quench his thirst. Joy finished, his eyes squinting as he looked back at the pictures. I didn't understand what was there to see in the photos. There were a total of twenty- two pictures taken from the crime scenes, and all had the same haunting appearance.

All the three men from different villages in and around our Panagarh Gram were seen lying on the ground, their dead eyes vacant like glass. Trickles of dried blood could be found

snaking their way through the neck from the bite marks. Each person's skin was as white as a

sheet, as the whole body was devoid of any blood. As if someone has sucked every single

drop of blood from the men's bodies, before or after they have died.

The pictures brought back some haunting memories of another dead body I had found a

few months ago, during the first case in college that I worked with Joy. The lifeless eyes and

the fear in them reminded me of the cold and deserted body of one of my hostel mates that I

had accidentally discovered.


I looked back at Biswas to see him scratching his chin as he continued to look at Joy.

Well, that's probably right. What can the police do against someone like Dracula?

But, my question is.....Joy whispered slowly, his eyes still fixed on the pictures.

...why is Dracula suddenly attacking now? In the last fifteen days? And why is it here, in


The questions suddenly made Biswas sit straight as he exchanged glances with me, and

then we both looked at my friend.

What do you think?I inquired as I tried to make sense of his queries.

Well.....why now?Joy said, sitting up straight now and looking at me and then at

Biswas.Is it that Dracula was on fast till Christmas? Or that he suddenly got his visa

approved to India, from Transylvania? And that he decided to hang on to Panagarh instead of

towns like Durgapur, Asansol, Raniganj, or even Kolkata?

What do you mean?The inspector urged, now taking hold of the teacup and sipping,

before screwing his face and throwing the whole thing in the trash can just by the side of his


I mean......Joy chewed his lower lip and looked back at the picture and then at Biswas.

If its Dracula....where was he till Christmas? And why only three victims? Oh...I get it.I said, my eyes glinting suddenly.If...if it was Dracula's work, he would have needed a body every night to suck blood.

Exactly.My friend smiled and looked at me, his eyes appreciative, making me blush. you mean it's not Dracula attack?

Biswas's eyes were getting bigger as he sat up, contemplating what Joy was saying. I haven't said anything, sir.Joy said, now pushing the laptop away, towards the Inspector.All I can do at this stage is think and get the answers to my question. We all sat there in silence for a few moments before a question popped up in my mind.

What do the post-mortem reports say?

Hmm? What? Biswas was probably in deep thought when I asked, startling him a bit,

as I noticed Joy smile.

Probably he had never thought that I would ask something like this. Most of the time, it

was Joy who inquired these questions when the Inspector asked for his consultation on such


Well.....The Inspector seemed to collect himself before shuffling through a few sheets

in a file by his side. it is.

The man looked at the report and then glanced back at me and Joy, who seemed to be

curious to know the answer as well.

It says.....Cardiac arrest. Natural death.

While I had thought that there might have been something fishy to do with the deaths,

Joy seemed to be extremely satisfied with the answer, as he nodded, to my surprise.

Probably due to extreme fear.He muttered, looking at me and then at Biswas.Dracula

probably came suddenly and attacked them. They suffered massive heart attacks, before the

bloodsucking vampire even bit them.

So you believe in Dracula attack?I asked, bewildered.In twenty-first century? In


I couldn't digest the fact that my friend, someone who has become an idol to me and

many others in college, could believe in folk tales of Dracula.

A truth-seeker should keep his mind and eyes open, miss Aratrika Roy. Joy said with a

smile as he locked his eyes with me. I could see the different colours of his eyes, one dark

brown and another blue, a form of Heterochromia, clearly now.I should not judge something

without enough evidence or deduction. There's nothing right now that suggests that the

attacks were not from Dracula.


Yeah...ahem.Biswas interrupted as he spoke again.The little boy, Bapi, who

discovered the last body, had given a statement to police that he had once seen a tall man's

silhouette near the broken fort. The man had some kind of cape hanging from his body,

reminding us of Dracula.

This surprised both me and Joy, as both of our jaws hung open in matching expressions,

along with widened eyes and straightened backs.

Can....can we speak to him?Joy asked this time, his eyes never leaving Biswas...and

the others, along with the victim's relatives?

Sure.Biswas smiled. was dark that night.The young boy of around six or seven years of age said. He was wearing shorts that looked like they were blue once but now turned into a shade of grey somehow, his upper body bare and his brown feet shoeless.I and my friend Kanak were returning after the end of the carnival. We....we ......

The boy's eyes were wide with fear while he tried to recall that night two weeks ago. Biswas was seated on a small cane chair provided by Bapi's father, while all the others in the village, nearly fifty of them, stood around the surrounding area. Joy seemed oblivious of the presence of so many people. His eyes were focused on Bapi, his words, and his expressions while I was a foot away from him, my eyes going over the whole area.

We....took a shortcut through the Samshan Kalimandir, through the broken fort and

Vayu Vatika, to cross Kanksa and our village here. Joy nodded. We were indeed a bit away from the Kanksa Police Station. This village, just a kilometre from Ijjatganj, was just a five-minute driving distance from the police station.

When we were crossing the field just before reaching the fort, the big banyan trees and the Arjun trees started.Bapi continued, wetting his lips with the tongue. That time I first noticed the shadow, and showed Kanak.

Another boy, around five, stood near Bapi and nodded vigorously, his wide eyes nearly popping out of their sockets as Bapi gestured at him and continued.He.....he was about a kilometre and half away from us and it was too dark to see anything clearly.Bapi gulped.But, it was clear that whoever it was, he was tall and muscular. He seemed to be wearing some kind of bedsheet on his back, and his clothes were

all dark. He....the man...he was there...for maybe a couple of seconds, before we lost him.

We...we blinked.... Kanak said this time, his voice husky with fear....and the...the

man....Drac....Dracula...he is gone.

Thank you guys.Joy smiled at them while giving the two young boys an Eclairs each. We spent fifteen more minutes there, speaking with the other members of the village. One thing was clear. The people of the village were all afraid. Their expressions, the wetting of lips, fidgeting hands, the widened eyes were all indicating the same thing. We are avoiding that road, babu.One of the men in the village, Sukha, said, his hands folded in a namaste as he looked at Biswas and Joy.After Faruk's death, nobody has gone through that area. Not us, not from the other villages as well. Dracula will kill us all, drinking all our blood. He...he is thirsty. Yes sir, he....he is very thirsty.

The last bit was said in a whisper, as Sukha looked away from us, over Biswas's shoulders, somewhere in the void as his body trembled a bit. The same situation was with the others as well. Even Faruk's mother, whose eyes were bloodshot and wet due to crying, seemed to be trembling as we discussed Dracula.

After a few more minutes, Joy and Biswas decided it was time for us to go.

As I entered the hostel in the evening, I was still haunted by the folded hands of the

villagers and their fearful eyes.

Is there a Dracula in Panagarh?

I have to go to Kolkata tomorrow.

From where I was standing, on this mid-January night, Joy was nothing more than a silhouette to me. The distance between us was around three hundred meters, but the chilly night of Panagarh, as well as the lack of too many lights around the street between the girl's and boy's hostel, made it look like a big distance. I could see him smoking as the burning tip of his cigarette turned bright orange, and a moment later, his whole shadowy face was covered with bluish-gray smoke that dispersed through the air.

There were others as well, either smoking or gossiping on the boy's hostel terrace. But from this distance, I couldn't make out exactly who all were sitting. Joy seemed to be the only one walking back and forth through the whole terrace as he spoke to me through his new wireless earphones.

Oh, but why?I uttered, surprised.

Well, I need to know a couple of things, discuss a few elements with Sobhan uncle and

will probably be back day after.He whispered.I want you to stay here and do something for

me. I...I will go with you to Kolkata. Joy, you dare not leave me out of this like earlier


My voice must have been threatening over the phone. The next moment, I heard him

stammering, as I saw him stopping his pace and looking towards me on the girl's hostel first-floor balcony. I mean...... He stopped speaking and took a drag of the cigarette before

I saw him throwing the bud away and speaking again. I need you here. You need to cover for

me in college. I will tell my roommate that I am going to Durgapur to see a new movie, with

my cousin from Durgapur college. You need to support my alibi.

I closed my eyes, trying to digest what he was saying. For a moment, I thought of throwing the phone away and never speaking to him again. The guy calls me his friend, asks me to help him in cases, but every time, every single time.... I breathed hard and long, trying to calm myself. No point arguing with the idiot. He only knows how to solve crimes, how to find the hidden truth behind the criminals and their

work. He doesn't know how to unearth the truth hidden in a girl's mind.

I sighed. Let it be.

Fine.I replied, grinding my teeth.But, this will be the last time I will do anything for you.

Arrey....arrey....I heard Joy speaking, nervousness clear in his trembling voice.Please Aru, don't be angry.

Why shouldn't I? I nearly burst out before looking around and controlling my voice.

Girls were moving around on the balcony. It was just eleven in at night for us. The girl's hostel balcony was not this crowded earlier, but with students just traveling back here today after a twenty-day break, things were a bit different today.During the first semester, you worked alone with the police, keeping me in the dark. Then during the case of lying truth, you keep all your observations to yourself until the last moment. And now this. Why Joy? Why do you not trust me with the details of the cases?

It's... He sighed.It's not like that Aru. I don't want to say anything before I am fully sure. That's why I keep certain details from you until I am confident enough that whatever I am thinking, or whatever has been unearthed, is actually the truth.

Moreover, your help is indispensable for me.He stopped for a moment as I saw his silhouette moving from one side to another again.Without your help, it would be impossible to solve any case. Here also, tomorrow, I need you for some reason.

That made me stop. He needs me here for a reason. The way he said it gave me a different confidence. And it was not only to cover for him in college.What...what is it?

You need to take a risk.He whispered on the phone.It would be something similar like that night, in Panagarh forest.

His words sent a chill through my spine as suddenly the dead eyes of one of my hostel mates flashed through my eyes. It was dark.....probably the darkest of nights for me. I suddenly remembered two first-year students following me, hunting me like predators through the Panagarh graveyard and the open fields before I ventured inside the Panagarh forest and stumbled upon the nearly rotting dead body.

I shook my head, trying to get past the memory of four months ago.

Huh! The word came out of my mouth involuntarily as I started breathing harder.

What...what do you want me to do?

My breathing became shallower, and my eyes widened as he revealed to me what I had

to do.

Silence gripped the whole area.

Not a single soul could be seen anywhere, neither was any moonlight. The night felt as dark as inside a cave. Except for the cold breezes at times, that chilled the very bones of anyone bold or foolish enough to stand outside at this hour, there was no movement at all. The only sounds were coming from the crickets, but it has been nearly ten minutes

since that sound had stopped as well.

Ssssshhh. Sssshhhhhh.

I looked around as I heard the sudden noise and sighed in relief to see the branches and

the leaves of the nearby trees swaying.

The breezes again.

It had been difficult to come out of the girl's hostel at this hour. With the hostel gates locked after seven-thirty in the evening, there was no way our matron, Mrs. Nirmala Das, would allow me to go out at ten-thirty in the night. And with my history, I doubt that even if I had told her the truth, she would have allowed me. So, I had the only other choice.

I have to go out today.I told Raima, my roomie, before getting ready in my black outfit. Need to take care of something tonight.

What the hell are you talking about, babes?My beautiful yet paranoid friend asked, her jaw hanging open.Where.....where are you going?

To help Joy.I said and smiled cryptically.

To help........Chandreyi said, grinding her teeth. She has always been a frequent visitor to our room, from the time Joy helped her with her relationship with another guy in college.

You haven't even told us what's the case this time. guys solved another case after the first semester in college...; Raima

spoke, her cheeks puffed in mock anger.....You haven't told us anything about that. And now, today Biswas called you guys. Joy has vanished from the college tonight, and you are going to help him. At this hour, in...Her right hand extended, gesturing at me before she spoke the next words.In....that outfit. Why?

I smiled. Friends. They always think about you, look out for you. But, the biggest thing is that they are always curious about you. Not their fault. Even I don't know why Joy asked me to do this tonight.

I looked at my dress in the mirror. The body-hugging tight black leather jacket and the black gymnastic pants below made me look like some kind of grave hunter. I was instantly reminded of Lara Croft, and I smiled inwardly.

I sat on my bed and started wearing the black boots that I had brought this year, during

my visit to Gangtok with my parents, just ten days ago. A minute later, I sighed, standing in

front of the mirror. Everything is perfect.

Will you tell us? Chandreyi was looking at me, fuming for the last couple of minutes,

waiting for my answer. When nothing came from my side, she seemed to have burst out.

I looked back at her and then at my roommate, who seemed to have an identical


Relax guys.I smiled.I will tell you everything later. You know how Joy is. Even I have no idea about all the details. But.......

Ping. Ping.

I was alerted to the new WhatsApp message and quickly opened my phone.

Got a clue about the Dracula case. Got a list of new developments in Panagarh in them last two weeks or so. Just watch and follow my instructions. Tomorrow should be the curtain-raiser.

I must have been watching the message for more than a minute, trying to understand

the meaning of it. It was then that I noticed the presence of my friends around me, looking at

the same note from my two sides.

Dracula?Raima said, her eyes wide this time.So....that is it? Dracula's case? Chandreyi seemed to be in a trance on the other hand as she looked at the message and then back at me, her face white as a sheet.

What....what...are you guys doing?She finally got her voice, which hinted to have cracked a bit as she spoke to me.

Don't worry.I said, gripping both my friends hands.I will tell you guys everything once I come to know. Besides.......I paused for a moment to decide whether to tell them or not before I decided to trust my friends.I am covering all my cases in a journal of sorts.

Hopefully, someday, I will be able to publish them as books. Then, India will know what a college guy named Jayashis Dey has been doing.But...Raima spoke now, looking at the floor and then back at me.How are you getting past Nirmala mam and breaking out of the hostel now?

I smiled and then winked at her.

Ten minutes later, suddenly there was a commotion on the ground floor of the girl's hostel. One of the girls, Rini, from the first year was having a blue and black fight with another girl, Chandreyi. Along with Nirmala mam, nearly the whole of the hostel were gathered in the common room on the ground floor, where the duo was seen clutching each other's hair and shouting. By the time the matron and the others were able to stop the fight, the whole building was a cacophony of sounds.

And in all that commotion, nobody noticed that one of the girls had gone to the under- construction site of the terrace, got hold of the papaya tree, and jumped into the first tree nearby before moving towards the back of the college campus and crossing the boundary, silently.

Once out and away from the college campus, it took me five more minutes to reach the graveyard near the back of the college, and from there to the broken fort and open fields in another few. Once there, I was able to hide between a couple of bushes in front of me and a broken wall of the old fort in the back.

Just as Joy had asked me.

It was half an hour of silence and ignoring the mosquito bites before I heard the first sound.

Hrsssssss. Hrssssssssss.

As if someone was slowly moving over the dried grass, further away. I turned my head towards the……

……….And my breathing nearly stopped.

Only one word came to my clouded mind.

Continue reading the rest of the story from page 4 in attached link