It was getting dark. I quickened my pace as I strode along the woods. My home was a few miles away and the path ahead looked deserted. I was walking briskly when, all of a sudden, a short, rotund-looking man sprang out of the bushes. He looked scared and exhausted and his breath was heavy. It was evident that he had been running for quite some time. I stopped in my tracks and offered him water (I was carrying a water bottle). He drank hungrily and uttered a note of thanks. His breath became normal and he spoke, “I just saved myself from a devil. Had I not run away at a lightning speed, I would have been dead by now.” He was still panting slightly.
“Did you say, devil?” I enquired.
“Yes Yes. You do not believe me? You may find my story amusing, but I swear I just had an encounter with a diabolical spirit; a devil, to be more precise.”
“Now now, calm down, relax. And tell me what happened. I may be of some help to you,” I suggested mildly.
He was a small, portly man of about 40. He had large, bulging eyes and toothbrush moustache. There were only a few strands of hair in his nearly bald head.
“My name is Ratanlal,” he began. “I am a doctor by profession. I reside in the nearby village of Behrampur. You see, I had gone to the city to visit an ailing patient. Today, at around noon, I received a telephone call. It was an old lady on the line. She said she was feeling unwell and requested me to visit her. I noted down her address and hung up after assuring her that I would be on my way immediately. I boarded a bus that was heading for the city. An hour later, I was standing outside a shabby looking bungalow. It had a withered and old look. I pushed open the iron gates, crossed the garden and went inside.”
Ratanlal paused, apparently, to catch his breath. I offered him more water and some sweets which he gulped down hurriedly.
“Tell me, my friend. What happened after you entered the bungalow, “I asked.
“I entered the bungalow but there was no one in sight. My first impression was that it was deserted and I was nearly right for the lady was its only inhabitant. As I stepped inside, I heard someone cough. The voice was coming from the adjacent room. I pushed open the door and entered the room. It was small and dusty. There were cobwebs all over the wall and the paint had peeled off at several places. The old lady was lying on the bed, apparently, in great suffering. I sat down on a chair by her side and took out my stethoscope. I was examining her when suddenly, her eyes turned blood-red and sharp, pointed fangs began to appear on her mouth. I shrank back in horror and took to my heels. I scurried off to streets and hailed a cab. “Behrampur?,” I asked. The taxi driver nodded. I entered the taxi and was trying to catch my breath when the driver turned and faced me. He had blood-red eyes and was sprouting fangs. I shrieked in horror and forced myself out of the cab. I ran and ran and ran and bumped into a traffic police constable. He asked me, “Why are you running?” I told him, “I met a devil. I am running from the devil.” I was panting. He replied, “You can’t run away from the devil” and then, to my horror, the policeman grew fangs and his eyes became red. I screamed. But there was no one around whose assistance I could seek. So, I ran and ran and ran. I looked back to check if I was being followed, but, to my relief, I had left the devil behind. And then I ran again till I reached this place. I need to get back home as fast as possible. I will catch a bus back to Behrampur. I thank the Lord,” he looked up at the heavens, “that I am alive. I will never visit the city again. The village priest had warned me earlier not to visit this city. I should have listened to his advice,” he finished.
“The village priest had warned you?” I enquired.
“Yes yes, he had forewarned me that some harm may befall me if I lay foot on this city.”
“Then you are a fool. You should have paid heed to his words,” I shot back.
“Excuse me, I am an erudite physician with a degree in M.B.BS. Who are you to address me as a fool?”
“Didn’t you understand what the policeman said,” I whispered caressingly. Ratanlal stared at me. “You can’t run away from the devil,” I smiled. Ratanlal’s face wore a confused look and then it turned into that of horror, as my eyes changed colour and fangs grew up.