It was 10 AM sharp. It was the last and the 15th day of the Management and Communication skill (MCS)class. A crowd stood at the entrance, waiting to sign their attendance sheet. Getting one’s signatures on this sheet was a no less than a victory, because the attendance could not be marked even a minute after 10.
There was a certain level of excitement and joy that filled the air today. Being a mandatory training course, some of us were really delighted that it was finally the last day. Many like Shreya were happy that they would not be made to get up in the chilly winter mornings from the next day onwards, while others were happy that the day would mark the end of their woes of not getting an off to go back to their home towns.
We were a huge batch of 74, with people coming from far and wide.We were really a remarkable blend of diverse backgrounds and personalities.To add to this great mix, there was a Deepak from Nepal, Komal from Dehra, Vasudha from Mumbai, and rest were from different cities of Punjab.
But it was this ‘rest’ group, which was most active in promoting their own towns and cities.
Today too, I saw a very familiar debate going on, as I entered the auditorium. All of us were now pretty used to this once a day ritual. We all knew by this time, where Giderbaha was, or that Abohar was famous as mini California or that two strong girls, Sonali and Mahima would leave no stone unturned to declare their own ‘Fazilka’ town the best, whenever the former tried to show their own superiority.
“Have you guys got Zomato app working in your place?” Someone asked Rishab from Giderbaha.
“Does Giderbaha have a Dominos outlet?” Hitesh in the audience queried. He had recently got 60% off on his pizzas.
“Have you ever tried ‘Kinnows’ from my Abohar a.k.a Mini california as its called? I bet you would have never ever tasted such export quality, deliciously juicy, oranges ever!” The actor Anmol replied instead, promoting his own hometown’s speciality.
“Oh really? Mini California is it?” Sonali chimed in, quite skeptic of what Anmol had just said.
“Guys, our punjab is the best. Chuck the debate.” I suggested.
“No, No, East or west, India is the best!” A coat and tie clad Karan furthered the conversation.
I simply hoped our Nepali classmate did not mind. But the good thing was that an after party had been arranged on the last day of the class, which some 39 of us were attending. Most of us were charged up and in a happy mood because of this. Chances of a serious brawl were a bare minimum in that excitement filled atmosphere. Some had come dressed for the party while some of us had plans to go back home, get dressed and reach the venue directly.
Inspite of the last day nostalgia and warmness, there was a weird chill in the air. We were shivering despite wearing so many layers of clothing.
“Such chill … this only happens when there is something paranormal nearby” Twinkle sitting next to me said.
I smiled and then the conversation flowed to whether ghosts actually existed. While Sonali and Twinkle discussed their beliefs, I took their leave and went downstairs to drink water. The corridor was still and silent, with everyone sitting upstairs in the auditorium.
Suddenly, a soft and sweet jingling of someone’s ankelts broke the silence.
“Someone has really decked up for the party” I thought and smiled. A whoosh of strong winter breeze gushed in through the back door and stroked my face, tousling the hair. The wind was as chilly as it could be.”Paranormal activity”, I remembered Twinkle saying and went back up, smiling.
I staggered through many legs, some people sitting in the row gave me space while I had to say “Excuse me” to others busy chatting among themselves, until I reached back to my recliner audi chair.
I sat in the middle of Twinkle and Sonali, who were now discussing sun signs. The trainer for the day was yet to arrive and thus we had free some time to chit chat. When I reflect now, this time of each day was the period where memories to cherish for lifetime were created.
I was busy listening to them when I felt something brush against my feet. I looked down only to find nothing. Then I sensed panicked fidgeting in the seats ahead until a loud shriek pierced our ears.
Each one of us went silent and looked in the direction of the voice. We saw Simran, a sweet girl with long flowing hair, now perched on her chair, looking horrified. Her eyes had buldged out to twice their size as she pointed to something down. We could not see from our seats what exactly it was, but yes, I saw something move swiftly underneath her chairs, hiding itself in the shadows.
Till that time, Rishab from Giderbaha, Sarcastic Saksham, Smiling Sahil, Simple Swar and Marvellous Mehek were sitting facing backwards in their chair, trying to gauge what had caused such condundrum and drama.
Perplexed, they looked down at what was being pointed and Well, they could not keep their guts intact for long. As they realized they had attracted the attention of this red eyed creature with razor sharp teeth snarling at them, they found it utterly sensible to run!
Soon enough, the hell broke loose. The events unfolded too fast, not giving anyone time to think what was happening.
First, Simran ran from her place towards the exit, her group consisting of Hitesh, Akash, Heena, Nitesh and Shreya following suit. Second, the panic spread and soon many were abandoning their seats to a safe place, pushing and shoving anxiously.
“What is it?” Raghav and Arjun called out together in concern. Their group of five was sitting in the back rows. They could not get an audible reply in that utter mess of a situation.
The only understandable thing in the whole episode was that it was time to move away.The first ones, who had managed to reach the any of the four exits to the auditorium too stood helplessly, as the doors would not budge. It seemed as if someone had bolted them from outside. The strongest of the lot and the ones who called themselves aspiring cricketers could not open the door however hard they kicked and banged it.
The amazing bit was that no one exactly knew what they were running from. It was the fear of a menacing, unknown force and the many terrified faces all around oneself that heightened the anxiety. This propelled the urge to get to a safe place but the efforts clearly were going down in vain.
To add to the fire, Between the shouting, screaming and disarray, the lights went out!
The girls, along with boys, screamed. It was not the usual michiveous hooting this time for sure. Adorable Anu and Natural Neha, who had hitherto gone silent with fear, switched on their phones’ torches. Soon, most of us who had their phone handy followed suit except Poojita , who had mistakenly left her smartphone on her seat and Pallavi, whose cell had gone dead.
Suddenly, someone fell down the auditorium’s steps, rolling down towards the stage. A loud thud and a painful wail was heard..
……TO BE CONTINUED.