It was past midnight when the train screeched to a halt at some unknown station. Shruti woke up. Surprisingly, the compartment was empty. She peered outside the window...she could hear a strong hustle from a crowd nearby.
She alighted from the train and walked towards the gathering as she caught a few words like ‘Poor child’ and ‘Must be a love affair.’ As Shruti pierced through the crowd, a mutilated body came into sight. Her battered face seemed faintly familiar even as the wheels had brutally crushed the young body. A girl, possibly, in her early twenties, had plunged into the deathly tracks as the train approached roaring. The mob was busy speculating the reason behind her committing suicide but, for some strangely uncanny reason, Shruti felt she knew the plausible cause.
Jerking herself out of the curious onlookers, Shruti began to walk back to her silent compartment. As she crawled forwards, she felt she heard another footstep just behind her. She whirled round but saw no one. A tad perturbed, she shook herself and recommenced her journey back to her coach. She could see from outside that the train was virtually empty. Pensive and brooding, she found the silence as deep as the eeriness of the moon-lit night.
Then she heard it again- the crackling of the leaves.....this time far more distinctly. Panicking and perspiring, she quickened her pace but whatever ‘it’ was, was now breathing down her neck. And then she heard a murmur as someone called out her name softly. She turned around......she saw ‘it’. She mustered courage and asked ‘Who are you’ knowing pretty well it was a pale shadow she was talking to. Then the shadow turned paler, thinner and began to fade away into emptiness.
Shruti threw a glance heavenwards. Moon was being enveloped by a spread of thick, black clouds. Only the last ray was peeping out keeping the shadow barely alive. Shruti looked back at the shadow. It was melting away along with the flickering light.....and then finally..... it spoke its final words which continued to ring in her ears for hours- “Didn’t you recognise me? I am your soul. You just got run over by the train.........”
(By Ritesh Agarwal)