We were seated in the canteen - I and Sid.
I am Jiva - shortly 'Jiv' and 'Sid' in his fullness is S.I.Dinesh.
Sid was silent. It was unusual of him. I couldn't assume that he was focusing on eating, because he couldn't have developed a good habit like that in two days.
"You are unusually silent Sid....for the past two days"
"I am alright Jiv, may be I am tired because of the late night calls". He tried to smile.
"Oh...I see, the courting phase..huh? So, you guys getting to know each other?"
"I guess so".
I noticed the lack of interest in his answer.
"Sid...you look like you are haunted...you can tell me if you have a problem."
He looked up halfway through that sentence. He looked terrified.
"Is everything alright with Nisha?"
He was just looking at the food...now fiddling it with the spoon. "Jiv...shall we discuss after office hours?".
"Sure man...no problem".
We were walking towards the parking area. I tried looked at his face. It appeared to me as if he was rehearsing his monologue. After a few more steps, I stopped near my bike. He continued walking towards his bike. I called out.
"Sid...do you want to talk now?"
I folded my hands and looked at him as if to say that I was ready.
"Jiv..what I am going to tell you may sound crazy, funny..or whatever GRE word you want to use."
"Ok....I moved into a new house 2 months back - after my engagement". He looked at my eyes for the first time during that conversation. He had a 'you know about it' expression.
"Yes...". He had invited me a lot of times...but I never visited. "So, is he angry with me?" - I asked myself.
"For the past one month, every night around 12, I have been hearing the jingling sound...of anklets..."
I realized why he hesitated so much to talk to me. He must have thought that I would make fun of him.
"Something strange happened the last two nights....I generally switch off the TV before going to bed...in fact well before that. The TV somehow gets switched on during the night."
He shook his head and continued..."Look...it may sound very foolish. I have tried to think this out rationally...but I am scared...I am scared"
I was still looking at him. I was trying to make out if he was making up this story to hide something else.
"So...this is what is happening", he concluded.
Sid is someone who talks with common sense. We together have made fun of people who told us such stories. So, I decided to see it for myself.
"Ok...we go to my room now. Let me pick up some items and then we go to your room. I am staying there tonight. Alright?"
He seemed to get back a bit of his usual radiance.
After dinner, we reached his house. It was an independent one. There were a few more houses around. Only a few of them seemed occupied. The very next house was vacant.
"Most houses seem vacant.."
"Yeah...the area is just coming up"
"You think Nisha could manage alone here"
"These should be occupied in a month..that's what I hear. Let us get in"
We got in. Instinctively, I dropped myself in the couch in the hall.
"It will be good if at least the next house is occupied", I said with a yawn.
"It was occupied. There was fire accident one month back...electrical leakage. So, they have temporarily moved out"...he dropped himself in the couch opposite to me. As he sat, he said, "or may be permanently...I am not sure". He sounded discouraged.
I looked around the hall. I gazed at the TV and said..."that must be the haunted TV".
"Jiv...it's almost 10. Nisha is probably waiting for me online. Late already. I will use that bed room. You can take the other one. Blanket, pillow everything is inside. You can feel at home".
"Sid...what time do you sleep?"
"Around 12"...and with that he went inside.
I went closer to the TV. It was placed on a TV rack. There were some news papers in the space under it and a stand to hold mobile phone. I put my phone in it and switched on the charger.
I switched on the TV and sat back on the couch. The room had a nice jasmine aroma. I started scanning the book rack from where I was. There were a few ghost stories. I smiled to myself and thought he may have been reading too much of them. I got up and picked a non-fiction to read . Switched off the TV and came back to the couch.
I woke up suddenly....and looked at the wall clock. It was 11.30pm. I had slept off on the couch itself. The night was so silent that I could hear the clock's arm moving second by second. There was no sound from the room where Sid was. I thought he must have slept. After a few sleepless nights, my presence should have given him some assurance, after all.
I thought of switching on the TV and the decided against it, lest, I might prevent the 'miracle' from happening. I tried to concentrate on the book again.
Around 11.55, I began to notice the jingling sound. It was feeble first..then I began to hear it better...and better. Seemed like someone wearing anklets was walking closer to the house. There was another sound accompanying it, which I could not clearly make out.
My heart started pounding. I looked at the TV expectantly...it remained silent.
I decided to open the door and reached it with quick steps. The sound stopped for a moment or two. I couldn't open the door though. Sid must have locked it. I was able to hear the jingling sound again. I ran to the window and tried to peek out. The sound started fading now. It seemed to be moving away from the next house which according to Sid had had a fire accident and no one lived now. I stopped hearing the sound in a few seconds.
I came back to the couch leaving the window open. I sat there expecting the sound to re-occur.
I tried to recall what happened. The sound was surely close to jingling of anklets. It sounded as if someone walked along the road outside. Could have been a human. Why did the sound stop when I opened the window? Why 11.55pm?
I switched on the TV, just to make sure it worked fine. I kind of expected it to show a scene from some ghost movie....but no, it didn't. I switched off the TV and laid down in the couch itself. My brain started running a slide show of all the horror movies I had watched. I got up, closed the window and came back to the couch. I tried hard to stop thinking of the ghost stories I had heard.
When I woke up in the morning, it was 7.10. I looked at the TV...it was quiet. In place of my phone, Sid's phone was in the charger. He must have already woken up. I tried to decide whether to tell him about what happened the previous night.
"Good morning Jiv"
"Very good morning Sid. Did you sleep well?"
"Yes, after a long time. You seem to have slept off in the couch. Did you sleep well?"
"I did. So any paranormal activity lat night?"
"No Jiv...did you hear anything?"
I had already decided the response.
"No Sid...I didn't hear anything. I guess the TV didnt wake up abruptly either."
"But Jiv, it really happened the last 2 nights. You won't believe me now."
"Let's see...I give you one more night".
He raised both his thumbs. He must have felt glad to have company.
We reached his house a little early that evening. I stopped at the neighboring house.
"Sid...you keep moving..I will be there in a minute".
Sid who had already reached his gate by the time, stood there looking at me. There was no sign of anyone having been there. I started walking towards Sid's house.
"No one is trying to repair it?"
"Yeah..they do...on week ends", Sid said as he opened the door.
After refreshing, Sid started preparing dinner. I was in the hall, browsing in Sid's laptop. Sid's house had a modular kitchen overlooking the hall. So, we were able to talk even as he was busy in the kitchen.
"Sid, the sound that you said you heard, which direction was it from?"
He pointed to the direction in which I had heard it.
"You hear it from inside?"
"No, I usually sleep in the hall...it was only yesterday that I slept in the bed room."
"So...you chat with Nisha till around 12 and when you are about to sleep you hear the sound. Any idea what time the TV gets switched on?"
"Not sure, the day before yesterday, I was woken up by the sound from the TV at around 1.30"
"So, somewhere between 12 and 1.30?"
Yahoo messenger suddenly popped up.
"Nisha_666: Hi Siddu da"
"Dude...your fiancee is pinging"
I carried the laptop and gave it to him.
He gave it a few feather touches and gave the laptop back to me.
"I have logged off"
"Sid...her ID is Nisha_666?"
"Yes Jiv...she was born on 6th June 1986." His face became terrified as he said that. May be he hadn't paid much attention to the "666" until I asked him about it. He came to the hall and stood near me.
"Jiv...I am confused now. Things have been going weird only after our engagement. The fire accident in the next house...the jingling sound, the TV getting on..everything"
"Sid...calm down. Sit!". He sat down...but did not appear to have calmed down.
"Sid...your engagement was 2 months back. The accident happened just 1 month back..right?"
"Yes, more or less"
"Ok...and the TV thing is happening only for the last two days?"
"Yes..." he looked at the TV rack saying that. "The mobile stand...I received it 3 days back. It was gifted by Nisha. Jiv, I am confused".
"Ok...Ok...wait...don't get crazy. Let me think".
"Have you switched off the stove? Do that first." That gave me a few seconds to steady myself.
"Ok...I want you to do as I say."
"See, nothing happened last night. So, don't panic. I am sorry..I shouldn't have asked you about Nisha. It was a mistake. Let us think rationally."
"No...you are right. May be nothing happened last night because she knew you were here".
"What the hell are you talking..ok...ok...give me a minute. Easy."
"Don't tell her that I am staying back tonight. But behave normal. Just go ahead with your chat tonight....and try to extend it till after 12"
It took some effort to calm him down. I prepared the dinner and had to eat it myself. He didn't take anything. He was trying to divert his mind by watching TV.
I spent some time browsing. Around 10, he went in to chat. I asked him to leave his cell phone with me.
I took the keys from him. Latched the hall door without locking it. I put his phone on charge in the mobile stand gifted by Nisha. I kept it back under the TV and switched off the TV. Left the window open.
I could not concentrate on the book. I just sat there and waited for the two arms of the clock to come together. There was no sound till 12.05.
Then, I heard the sound approaching. I peeped out of the window. The sound was nearing the window. I could not control my anxiety and ran to the door and went out.
I saw a old man pedaling his cycle towards Sid's house. His cycle keys were making the jingling sound. I quickly checked if he had legs...and laughed at myself for being such a fool. The old man and I exchanged looks. He seemed to smile at me. He crossed Sid's gate and stopped at the neighboring house. As he switched on the light near the gate, he asked me if I am the one who lived in the house. I nodded. Without me asking anything, he explained that every night he switched on the light at the neighboring house on his way back to his house. He was the watchman of this house. He had found a job elsewhere now. His son switched it off in the morning. He wished me and started pedaling again, his keys making the jingling sound.
It was a big relief for me. I thought everything was solved at last. I started walking towards the door. The jingling sound was fading. I came in. Locked the door behind me. Sid came out of the bed room. He was puzzled to see the big grin on my face. As I was about to explain what just happened, suddenly, the TV switched on itself. The grin was gone off my face. As we were both looking at the TV in shock, there was a text message in Sid's phone. I grabbed the phone. The message was from Nisha. It read "Sweet dreams :)".
Sid was spellbound. But, that message made things clear to me.
"Sid, after your chat every night, you put your phone on charge in that mobile stand?"
Sid who was still terrified, just nodded his head.
"And..in the morning when you wake up, you see Nisha's text message?"
"Yes...what does it mean?"
"It means...your house is haunted, BY FEAR".
"Some TV sets get switched on by the radiation signals received by mobile phones if they are kept close to the TV. Ever since you told me this problem, I have been searching google to find reasons as to why a TV set would get switched on automatically. Only today evening I came across a discussion thread where someone has reported this problem. The TV gets automatically switched on a couple of moment before any text message is received."
I demonstrated it to convince him. "See..." I said with a big grin.
He appeared relieved. "What about the jingling?"
"That's easier. But obviously, I could not find the answer for that through google. It's your neighbor's watchman". I explained that part of the story to him.
He hugged me. He seemed excited. It did not appear that he was going to sleep anymore. I was tired though. I slept off in the couch.
Nisha received a text message from Sid - "Game over. Well Played!!"