It was a cold night with gusty winds. I wished to reach my home that was five hours drive away by 11 pm.but was held up here. I could leave only at 9.30 pm.As I was feeling hungry I had my dinner at a road side dhaba.That took away another 45 minutes but I was determined to drive through the night though I would miss the sleep the whole night. The highway was practically empty with occasional trucks. It looked the drizzle may break into a heavy rain anytime. But I was cruising along at 70 km as the road was wet. There were occasional hamlets enroute with faint light from the lonely huts but otherwise the drive was a monotonous one.
I had promised my wife I would be back for dinner. She might be anxious why I was late. The battery in my cell phone had run out. It was a little past midnight that my car abruptly stopped even though I had filled the tank full. It was pitch dark on the desolate stretch of the road. I tried to start several times but it did not work. A couple of lorries went by without stopping while one offered a lift.
Worried I looked around and in the flash of a lightning, I saw a house a little away. Wondering how crazy people are to build houses with none around, I walked towards it. I could see light inside and was relieved by the thought of likely inhabitant inside. I knocked the door and repeated when there was no immediate response. After what looked like eternity, there appeared a face behind the window. I was surprised to see an extremely beautiful woman in thirties with long black hair falling on her glowing shoulders. There was a faint surprise in her eyes and the twirl in her lips made her more enchanting.
"I am stranded with my car having broken down. If I have a torch, I can open the bonnet and see what is wrong. It is pitch dark outside" I said
"Oh, oh.I am sorry I do not have a torch. My husband is also not here to help you" she replied
I lingered for a while not knowing what to do but I saw from the corner of my eyes how she was eyeing at me with interest.
When I slowly turned back towards the gate, she said “I don't want to send you away. Since no one else is there with me, I was hesitant. But it will be cruel not to invite you when you are in such a predicament. Please come in. You seem to be a decent person. You can leave immediately after the day breaks."
When I sat on a large sofa, she went inside and brought me a pillow." You can sleep on the sofa. I expect my husband to come only by tomorrow morning and you would have gone by then. Feel comfortable” she said.
She looked extremely fetching at close quarters and dignified in bearing. I could smell a whiff of lavender perfume but she made no wrong move except for her coy smile. After she left, I could not sleep for a while lost in thoughts of her. I heard her close the door and the sound of bolt. Must be a cautious lady, I thought.
I don't know when I fell asleep but around 3 am I heard a sound of a door being opened. I was worried whether it could be her husband come earlier than expected. Feeling drowsy I did not get up from the sofa.When I heard the birds chirping and saw the light of dawn through the window I awoke and found a light bed sheet covering me. I could get the smell of lavender. Startled I sat up as she had not given me any bed sheet when I went to sleep. She must have come in the night around the time I heard the sound though to what purpose I could not understand.
When I heard the creaking sound of some door being opened, I turned to see an old lady, somewhat ugly and bent with features that looked grotesque. She smiled at me and asked "I hope you had a good sleep. When I came around three, I found you lying crumpled and so covered you with a bed sheet"
"Where is the young lady whom I met last night? She told me no one was there except herself. Are you her mother by any chance?" I asked in a confused state of mind.
"No mother. No one else came. I am alone here” she said with a smug smile
"It cannot be. I saw a very beautiful young woman in thirties and was even attracted to her. There is some mistake somewhere" I said
"Really? Were you attracted towards me?"
"What me? I told you that she is a charming young lady"
"See now. Is she the young lady whom you saw" the old ugly woman said and transformed into the young lady amidst eerie laughter. When I looked at her disbelievingly, I could see the flesh fading and skeleton appearing. I turned and ran screaming for my life on the road followed very closely by howling voice.
Abruptly I woke up in the car on the highway that was surrounded by anxious passersby.