It had just been over a week since I started my job as a Warehouse assistant. My role did demand me to accommodate late hours in the evening, but until my training period was on, I could sneak away sooner. That honeymoon period lasted only few days. By then I had gotten used to the public transport bus schedules to time my walk from the Warehouse exit to the bus stop. It being in outskirts, there would be very few people from my bus stop. Usually none. Cabs charged a fortune for pickup from there, so affording that was out of question.
That day I had to stretch much later.
The nip in the air was typical of November in this part of the country. I pulled my headscarf tighter around my ears, switched on the torch light of my mobile phone and fastened my pace on the gravel and stone road. It was a stretch of darkness until the main road where a neon streetlamp post and a bus stop were an indication of civilization. I looked at my phone. 9.25 PM. There should be a bus in 5 mins. If only the Warehouse had a shuttle of its own.
As I reached the bus stop, I was glad to see someone waiting there already.
‘Hi…,’ the greeting just came out spontaneously.
She smiled and then turned around to look the other way from where the bus would come.
She looked familiar. I tried to place her as someone working in the Warehouse but couldn’t.
‘Do you work around here, or do you live here and are going towards the city?’ I asked casually.
Not trying to intrude much, I fixed my gaze on the approaching bus. We both got on. The bus was sparsely occupied. She was still there by a window seat when I got off at my stop. I said a polite ‘bye’.
I did see her a couple of times after that. Our greetings still limited to a courteous smile to acknowledge each other.
It was a Friday night. I needed to finish up a report, so I would not have to come the next day. I prepared myself to miss my set deadline of the 9.30 bus and take the next one at 10PM.I spruced myself up to brave the eerie feeling and got working.
With 10 minutes to spare, I reached the bus stop. Voila! She was there.
‘Hi…didn’t expect to see you!’ I blurted out with a big grin on my face. Her presence was comforting.
She replied with her usual silence sprinkled with a smile.
Few minutes passed. I kept checking on time. It was already past the scheduled time.
Bored of waiting, I introduced myself so we could get talking. ‘I am Jyoti. I work at the Warehouse. Do you work around here somewhere?’
‘No,’ She kept it short.
‘Ah then you live here and travel towards the city?’
She was about to say something else when our conversation was cut short by an approaching bus.
As the wheels of the bus screeched to a halt, I could see it was not our usual bus. It looked like a long-distance coach. The helper by the door said, ‘We are going towards the city. Can drop you somewhere more convenient. There has been an accident on the way, the public bus will not be here for a while. Do you want a ride?’
I was famished and tired of waiting. Without giving a second thought I said, ‘that would be really helpful. Common let’s go.’ I heaved a sigh of relief and gestured her to come along.
As usual with her around, she led, I followed.
As she got on the flight of steps, she stopped and turned around to face me. Her eyes looked odd. With a sudden jolt she pushed me away and said, ‘Do not get in. Call for a cab and go home’.
She got inside and the door closed behind her. The bus took off. She got a ride, and I was left to fend for myself in the cold dark night.
Aghast, I gaped at the departing bus. How could she be so inhumane!
I had started to shiver. Not sure if it was from the chilled winter breeze or the fear of unknown. Within seconds just before the bus was about to disappear from my vision, I saw it go up in flames.
I cannot remember what followed next or how I reached home. Next morning, I woke up with a heavy head. I flipped through the newspapers scouting for the bus incident. There was news of a coach burning down close to my workplace. The driver and helper were declared dead. But there was no mention of any passengers. Did she escape?
The following week I tried to leave work early, citing health reasons until Friday, when I had to be at the bus stop for the 9.30 bus again.
She was standing right there, smiling at me.
‘Haaa…i..i..i..i… You alright?’ I struggled to speak.
‘Bus…fire…you escaped?’ I could barely frame a sentence.
‘That bus had to burn. So did every bus or car that came my way since then, that reeked of malice. As for me, I am invincible.’
Confused and a little petrified, I stood mum. Who or what is she? When is then?
As if reading my mind, she continued. ‘You wonder who I am. Well…I was a regular girl just like you. I had a name and identity. Until they abused and crumpled it on that fateful night. I fought back to the best of my strength but back then I wasn’t invincible. So, they got better of me. And then, when I was lingering between life and death, they conferred upon me a new name and identity;‘Nirbhaya’ which translates as ‘fearless’. I have kind of stuck to that name. Since then I go around sniffing fear.’
Photo Credits: Lucas Quintana
This is an entry for the event #Supernatural #UniK-7 being held at Writers Room | Room8.
Read the event guidelines here: UniK-7 event guidelines
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