“Idiots”, he said, to no one in particular, as he swerved his car off the Mumbai By-pass road onto a smaller road.
He had been driving since the past one and a half hour. He glanced at his watch.
“Another half an hour at the most”, he muttered to himself.
He loved long drives, but long drives alone were quite boring. He wished Payal had tagged along. She always liked his company, but this time she had flatly refused. She was scared, she said.
“How can people even believe in Ghosts, much less be scared of them?”. He was speaking loudly to himself again.
He had lost the FM signal sometime back and his GPS was not working anymore either. So talking to himself seemed like the only way he could keep himself some company.
It had all started with an argument.
They were sitting around a campfire, telling each other ghost stories, with each one of them claiming their story to be true. Except him.
He had always been a man of science and he did not believe in things like ghost or God or anything that he couldn’t find evidence of.
They had talked about a place around 120 kms from Mumbai. “The Place of No Shadows” they said, it was called.
If rumors were to be believed, there was this place in an abandoned village, which was haunted. Any person who went there never came back. And apparently, the place was such that there were no shadows.
“No Shadows”, he had laughed to himself, “There always are shadows, unless it was a very very dark night. The light reflects off an opaque body and a shadow is cast. 5th standard science”
The folklore was that the place was haunted by some evil spirit and anyone who went there was killed in what appeared to be an accident, but there were no known cases of people who had been there and returned to tell the tale.
“That’s because there is no one stupid enough to go to a place where there is nothing”, he had guffawed.
Every now and then, an occasional dead body was found on the road near that place, usually in a mangled condition. Cause of death was always an accident, they had said.
He had made fun of them which quickly escalated into an argument, ending up in a bet.
“I will go there. And I will come back. Infact I will make a video call from there for proof and you can record it. I will bust this myth”, he had said confidently.
And so he had left. Well prepared too.
On his front seat, next to him, was an ice box holding four of the remaining six beers in it. Two empty cans were lying on the floor of the car. He had promised himself to dispose them off in a proper place instead of throwing them out of the car.
He checked his phone. No signal. That video call was not going to happen.
He lit a cigarette as he drove own the dark road, slowing down a bit.
He had to look for a red marker. Apparently, someone had tied a red piece of cloth to a stick and propped it up with the help of some stones at the side of the road to mark the place. Sort of a warning to not enter.
He peered into the darkness looking for the red marker as he drove along the road for another 15 minutes.
“Bullshit”, he said as he took a drag from his cigarette, “I bet there is no red marker. I bet there is no place at all. What a bloody waste”
He had almost made up his mind to go back, when he turned around a bend and his eyes fell on a red flag like thing.
It was exactly how it was described to him.
“So someone has actually gone through the pains of trying to make this bloody hoax appear to be true”, he grinned to himself, as he slowed down and parked his car right next to the stones holding the red flag.
He turned on his parking lights and looked out of the window to make sure there were no approaching vehicles before he got down from the car. Not that he had seen even a single vehicle in all the time he was on this road, but he had always been a careful guy.
He switched off the engine, grabbing a beer from the icebox as he made his way to the flag, taking his phone with him.
He had planned to take some selfies at the place, if he couldn’t make those video calls.
He looked up at the bright full moon shining down at him and then down at his shadow cast on the ground.
Just enough light for shadows, he thought.
He made his way past the red flag, through a cluster of bushes to the huge tree standing right behind it.
He kept glancing at his shadow on the ground as he went and stood under the tree, looking around the place.
The place was totally deserted and showed no sign of anyone having been there for quite some time.
A bunch of bushes outlined the entire area, almost as if it was cordoning the place off from trespassers, warning them to keep off.
There were dry leaves lying everywhere, the moonlight reflecting off them giving them an eerie yellow glow.
A few trees were spread around the place. He noticed, with a little surprise, that none of the trees cast a shadow on the ground.
“Strange. How is that possible? Or is it because of the angle of the moon in the sky….”, he thought to himself as he looked down.
There was no shadow under him either.
He felt a chill run down his spine, as the wind blew gently through the bushes towards him, rustling the leaves of the tree.
“What The ….”, he exclaimed as he hastily moved away from the tree, almost dropping the can of beer. And suddenly the shadow was back, the moment he was out from under the tree.
“Shit !! It has to be the angle of the moon”, he thought, looking up at the moon again, shaking his fist at it, “You almost had me there, you jerk!”, he said.
He turned to look at the small clearing in the middle of the area. It looked like this might have been a camping place a long time back. A couple of mid sized boulders lay in the middle of the clearing.
He trudged towards the boulders sneaking a glance at the trustworthy shadow following him.
He plopped himself down on one of the boulders, popping open the beer can and placing it on the second boulder.
He lit off another cigarette as he took sips of his beer, staring at the shadow on the ground in the front of him, staring back at him.
“You aren’t supposed to be here, you know”, he said to the shadow. The shadow stared back in stoic silence.
“No, seriously !! What are you doing here? Go away”, he said chiding the shadow, which moved not one bit.
He took his phone and clicked a picture of the area. Click.
Another one of the trees. Click.
And then one of the shadow starting from his feet. Click.
“The Place of No Shadows, my foot”, he laughed as he gulped down the last bit of his beer. He threw his cigarette into the empty beer can.
“No Littering, Sir”, he said out loud, “Or the Ghost would have to do a Swach Bharat Abhiyaan here”, he joked.
“Damn”, he had to pee.
He walked to the side of the bushes and unzipped himself, the shadow falling right on the bushes.
He peed right on the shadow. “Sorry Brother, but there are no toilets here, so I have to pee on you”.
He zipped himself up as he finished his deed, still looking at the shadow calmly looking back at him.
He lifted his hand in a mock salute at the shadow who matched his actions to perfection. “Thank you for letting me pee on you”, he said as he turned around and started walking back to the car, the faithful shadow in tow.
He opened the door of his car and got in, throwing the empty can of beer besides the other two on the floor of the car. He still had three more of them for his way back. Should be just enough, he didn’t want to get completely drunk and caught by the cops.
He lit a cigarette as he found the keys still in the ignition of the car.
He switched off the parking lights and turned on the engine, the silence of the night broken as the engine sprung to life.
“Oh crap, I totally forgot to take a picture of the red flag”, he muttered to himself.
He knew his friends. They would simply say that he never went to this place or that he stopped at some random place and took pictures just to fool them. The Selfie with the red flag would be the clincher.
He hastily got out of the car, taking his phone with him, his cigarette held firmly between his lips.
He switched over to the front camera of his phone as he angled himself for a selfie.
“Selfie maine le li aaj”, he hummed, chuckling to himself, as he shifted his cigarette to his free hand and struck a pose for the camera, raising his cigarette holding hand, high up in the air.
The camera was perfectly aligned. The red flag right behind him, the shadow leading from his body towards the flag, his outstretched hand exactly pointing out to stone holding the flag.
His finger moved to click the picture and suddenly he noticed……
His eyes widened and his blood froze as he turned around to look behind him, almost in a slow motion.
And that’s when the truck, speeding around the bend, hit him, sending his body flying into the middle of the road.
“The shadow’s hand…..it wasn’t holding a cigarette in it” …..were his last thoughts as he lay there, motionless, as the last breath of his life left his body.
“This is the third accident in the one month that I have been here for”, said the newly transferred Inspector to his constable, who only nodded.
“These guys drink and drive all over the place, they stop for no reason and that too around corners. And then they stand in the middle of the road, with their parking lights off, clicking selfies of who knows what !!! And we have to pick up the pieces”, continued the Inspector as the Constable dutifully shook his head from side to side.
“Wonder what exactly this guy was doing here in the middle of the night? This road doesn’t even go anywhere”, he asked.
“I don’t know Sir, but sometimes these youngsters come here to check if the stories of this place are real”, said the Constable, his face wise with age.
“What stories?”, asked the Inspector, curiously
“That this place is haunted, Sir, The Place of No Shadows, they call it… actually the story is that….there are no shadows here”, said the Constable, “but I don’t believe in Ghost stories, Sir”, he added hastily looking at the angry look on the Inspectors face.
“Go do your work and clear the road, quickly”, the Inspector said.
He looked around muttering to himself, “People will fall for any crap ghost stories they hear. The Place of No Shadows, my foot……..”
Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction and does not mean to encourage any sort of superstition. Like all of you, I am a “science” person. Though, when you come across your shadow next, do check to see everything is in order. Wont hurt, eh? Feedback Appreciated.