This is a horror short story I had written for Brev Spread magazine. You should check it out if you’re into really unique content. Oh, and read this one with the lights out for maximum effect!
The Open Chakra
Anxiety swelled in Alok’s chest as he noticed another speed bump in the distance. He held his crotch and waited in anticipation, contemplating the moment when he had to lift his pelvis up for relief. The rickety rickshaw he was in, ploughed its way through a thick curtain of rain. As he saw the speed bump nearing, he got up just in time to avoid undesired pressure on his bladder. He had been looking for a place to urinate for the past hour, but the heavy rains made it difficult to get out of the rickshaw. Alok was on his way to his friend Sandeep’s house for a night of drinking and fun. He had been keeping a watch on speed bumps to avoid involuntary urination, but he couldn’t do it anymore. He tapped the rickshaw driver’s shoulder lightly with his index finger.
‘Can you please stop by the side of the road? I really need to pee.’
The driver didn’t answer at first. Just as Alok reached out to call him again, the driver turned a little.
‘Can you hold it in, Sir? This is not a good place to pee.’
The driver, still driving, hesitated for a microsecond, then said, ‘Sir, I can understand your situation, but trust me, I’ve heard some pretty nasty things about this place.’
Alok was losing his patience. ‘If you’re talking about robbers, I don’t see anyone around. And besides, it’ll only take me a minute to finish the job. Keep the engine running. If something feels wrong, I’ll jump in immediately.’
The driver had no choice but to concede. He slowed down and pulled over to the side, uneasily scratching his thick, curly hair. Alok hopped off and hobbled to a nearby bush. He quickly unzipped his pants and a moment later, closed his eyes in relief. Few things are as relieving as peeing, he thought, especially when it has been held back for an hour. Once the initial relief had passed, Alok glanced down. He was amazed at the amount of urine his bladder had been holding, but his amazement quickly turned to curiosity when his eye caught something in the bushes.
Alok peered into the dark space beneath the bushes. What he saw was unsettling. It was a thick lock of hair coated with red kum-kum powder. Just as he finished peeing, a horrible realization dawned on him. He had urinated on the lock of hair. The rain water and urine had diluted the deep red kum-kum powder, giving it the appearance of blood. He felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. He felt fear, but there was something else too.
Alok walked back to the rickshaw, lost in a reverie. The rickshaw driver, eager to leave the neighborhood, jolted the rickshaw into action. Sitting inside, Alok’s world seemed to slow down. He felt sluggish, heavy, slow, as if he was carrying an unnatural burden. He looked at the crate of beer at his side, the crate he was supposed to drink with his buddies over a movie. He didn’t feel like drinking anymore. The excitement was dead. He didn’t feel like watching movies anymore. He didn’t feel like going to Sandeep’s house anymore. The image of pissing on that unearthly lock of hair played over and over in his mind, eating away at him.
Dreading the answer, he mustered up the courage to ask the driver, ‘Is this area known for black magic?’
The driver turned a little and nodded solemnly. Alok wished he had listened to the driver, but nothing could be done now. He tried to shrug off the morose feeling, but it had settled on him like a dark cloud. He could feel the darkness spreading in the pit of his stomach, like ink in a glass of water. It started with regret and fear, but very soon, he was infested with every negative feeling in the world. Something was very wrong.
The trees cleared to reveal Sandeep’s building and Alok asked the driver to pull over. He got out wearily and glanced at the fare meter drearily; the digits formed the number 132 in red. He picked a five hundred rupee note out of his wallet and handed it over to the rickshaw driver. As the driver fished in his pocket for some change, Alok trudged towards the building. He heard the driver yell out to him, but it sounded like someone was yelling to him from a distant dream. Alok’s legs felt like lead. A fever was slowly taking hold of him. He could feel the heat in his eyes, the energy sapped out of him. It was as if something was pushing his soul out and taking its place.
He got into the elevator and felt a claustrophobic infection seeping in. He pushed the floor button and watched the elevator doors meet midway. He was losing situational awareness rapidly. He felt weak; he held on to the side bars of the elevator and slowly sat down. His head throbbed heavily and his breathing paced up. The lights were too bright for him now and his body too heavy, but at the same time, he felt somehow vulnerable, exposed. He noticed the elevator door open and crawled out to escape the claustrophobia. Sandeep’s name plate was on the door in front of him. He mustered what remaining strength he had and knocked heavily on the door. That was the last thing Alok remembered, when he woke up two days later.
Akshay was the only one who had heard the knock. Sandeep and Elton were deeply engrossed in the horror movie they had started watching. They had decided to start with the movie after Alok refused to answer his phone. They couldn’t wait any longer and Alok had quite a reputation for last moment cancellations. Keeping his mug of beer aside, Akshay got off the couch and walked uncertainly towards the door. He pulled the latch back and the door opened by itself. There was something leaning against the door. Akshay pulled the door ajar and saw Alok’s unconscious body in the doorway. Akshay cried out in shock and the other two rushed towards him in alarm. Shocked, nobody reacted for a few moments. Then, Sandeep, the strongest of them all, lifted Alok’s body swiftly and carried him to the bedroom, a small chamber with dusty walls, a double bed and a mirror. He felt Alok’s body burning up. It was unnaturally heavy too, as if he was lifting two people in place of one. He laid his friend down on the bed carefully, feeling sad and concerned at the same time. After asking the other two to watch over Alok, he proceeded to the kitchen to fetch a glass of water to try and revive Alok. He picked a glass from a shelf full of them and held it under a tap. Deep in thought, he watched the clear liquid swirl and fill the empty glass, when all of a sudden, a blood curdling, almost bestial scream, ripped through the air. The glass in Sandeep’s hand shattered to pieces and so did the others on the shelf. He rushed to the source of the scream – the bedroom, and stopped dead at the door. What he saw made his eyes tear up and his knees buckle. Alok was sitting straight up on the bed, only … it wasn’t the Alok he knew. His eyes were bulging and bloodshot, and he was looking straight at Sandeep. A wave of fear washed over Sandeep and he took a step back. Alok’s eyes had an unusually greyish color to them. His lips were curled into a nightmarish smile, teeth bared, adding to the sinister appearance. He was breathing heavily and the veins on his temples and neck were sticking out to their full capacity. The scream had shattered every piece of glass in the room and the floor was covered with bits of them. The burning fever, the unnatural weight, everything suddenly made sense to Sandeep now. They were dealing with a possession.
Sandeep’s first thought was to tie Alok down. He rushed to fetch a rope from his ware room. On returning with the rope, he asked a petrified Elton and Akshay to hold Alok down. Elton was the first to recover from a fear induced paralysis and walked quickly towards Alok to hold him down. As fast as a snake recoiling to strike, Alok drew his leg back and launched it heel-first into Elton’s stomach. Eton was propelled against the opposite wall with surprising impact. He thudded his head against the wall and buckled down, one hand against the back of his head, the other against his stomach. The kick was inhumanly strong.
Sandeep and Akshay shared a look of fear. Then, Sandeep, overcoming his fear, ran to hold Alok down, but he stopped, not because of a kick, but because of the same stomach turning scream he had heard before. Alok was clutching handfuls of bed sheet on both sides and was wailing miserably with his eyes turned towards the ceiling. It was a long scream and it reverberated against the dark walls of the suddenly morose room. The scream slowly died down and was ensued by a sudden, heavy silence. Alok was now looking unblinkingly into Sandeep’s eyes.
‘Three days … in three days, I will take him with me.’ snarled Alok.
The voice wasn’t Alok’s. It was guttural, raw, evil. Alok had been possessed by the vengeful spirit or aatma of a woman. It was strange, talking to a woman through a man’s body which had transformed almost beyond recognition. The room was now still, except for Alok’s heavy breathing and grunting. Sandeep knew something had to be done, or he would lose his friend. His mind raced. He looked at Akshay. Akshay looked back, then at the rope, and nodded. They both understood each other. Sandeep tossed the rope to Akshay, and in one swift moment, ran up to a possessed Alok and punched him square in the jaw with all his might. Taking advantage of the temporary distraction, Akshay quickly held Alok’s hands to the bed post and tied them tightly, while Sandeep held Alok down. Alok recovered in moments. He noticed Akshay’s right arm hovering directly above him, tying him. Alok craned his neck and sunk his teeth deep into Akshay’s arm, biting off a bit of his biceps. There was blood and Alok’s mouth was covered in it, lining his teeth and dripping off his lips. Akshay howled in pain and withdrew. He was bleeding profusely. Luckily, he had finished tying Alok up.
‘You need to go to the hospital. We’ll take care of this.’ Sandeep said.
‘No.’ replied Akshay.
Sandeep parted his lips to insist, but was interrupted by Elton, who had recovered, but was still massaging his head and abdomen.
‘Go Akshay. You’ll be of no help if you faint by blood loss.’
It was true. Akshay needed immediate medical attention.
Elton continued, ‘Now, a few months ago, when I was coming back from Delhi, I had met a spiritual healer, Rakhi, who was sharing the same train compartment with me. Unless any of you know anyone more qualified to handle this situation, I think we should call her. I have her card. She’s our best bet.’
Sandeep nodded his agreement and so did Akshay. They were interrupted again, this time, by Alok.
‘No matter who you call, I will take your friend with me. He had the audacity to piss on my place of rest. And by doing so, he invited me into his body himself.’
Nobody had understood a word of what they’d heard. Alok was smiling slightly, eyes large and grey. There was something in his mouth.
‘Who are you?’ asked Sandeep.
‘I’ll whisper it into your ear … when I bite it off your head.’ Alok flashed a wide-eyed grin and tilted his head sideways.
All three felt their skin creep. They decided this was best left to the spiritual healer. Sandeep also felt that Alok’s parents had a right to know what was happening with their son. He called Alok’s residential number. Elton called the spiritual leader, Rakhi. Akshay had started feeling light headed. He left for the hospital. Now, all Sandeep and Elton could do, was wait.
Elton stared at his watch; it had been an hour since he had called Rakhi. He had no idea if she could handle the situation, but the fact that she had agreed to come offered a fraction of relief. After jotting down the address, she had said she’d be there in an hour.
The doorbell rang. Both Sandeep and Elton looked up. She had made good time, Elton thought. He nodded to Sandeep who left to answer the door. A moment later, Rakhi’s absence disappointed Elton. It was Alok’s parents who walked into the room. Sandeep offered them chairs, but social etiquette was the last thing on anyone’s mind now. The mother was the first to break. The sight of her son, born of her body, in such a pitiable and horrifying state was too much for a mother to bear. She clutched her chest and wailed in agony, collapsing into the chair behind her. Her eyes were glued to her son. The father cried silently, inside. All his life, he had protected and supported his son, but here was a situation where he was completely helpless. Sandeep and Elton wanted to say something comforting to them, but were at a loss for words. Amidst the wailing, sniffling and despairing, the doorbell rang for a second time that night. It had to be Rakhi. Elton proceeded to get the door. His eyes greeted a familiar face. Rakhi was like someone out of a horror movie. Smoky and distant eyes were embedded in a gaunt face, complimenting a pale complexion. A gown of pure white fabric flowed from her neck to the floor. Her neck was adorned with beads and pendants of all shapes and sizes. In her hand, was a sack full of artifacts, the functions of which were unknown to Elton. He ushered her in. She walked straight to the bedroom, drawn by something Elton couldn’t understand. He quietly closed the door and followed her.
Her arrival brought some reassurance to everyone, like a candle in a dark passageway; the present was reassuring, but the future was still shrouded in darkness.
Alok was getting increasingly agitated, snarling first, but roaring and straining against the rope within moments. He looked at Rakhi with a mixture of hatred and fear. He knew she was a threat, that she was someone who treaded both the dimensions, that of the living and that of the damned. As she slowly walked towards him, the screams got shrill and the movements became increasingly aggressive. Alok bared his bloodied teeth and spat something at Rakhi. It landed on Rakhi’s pure white gown and left a trail of red as it rolled towards the floor. It was the bit of meat Alok had bitten off Akshay’s arm. It was in Alok’s mouth all along.
Rakhi had dealt with such situations before. She reached into the sack she had brought and produced another sack from it, smaller yet. As she slid her hand into the smaller sack, Alok screamed out profanities and desecrations at Rakhi. She grasped a handful of whatever was in that sack and smacked it on Alok’s face. It was a whitish grey powder. Another scream seared the air. This one was, by far, the loudest and the most unsettling. Alok’s eyes started tearing blood, which seeped through the powder on his cheeks. Everyone’s hair stood on end, everyone except Rakhi’s.
Unperturbed, she asked, ‘Who are you?’
‘You will know when I take you to the other side with me, bitch.’ snarled Alok.
Rakhi simply reached into her purse and pulled out a small necklace, a plain black string with an elongated prism hanging from it. The moment Alok saw the prism, he erupted. He kicked wildly and strained madly against the ropes, which was slowly coming undone. Something had to be done fast. Something about the prism was weakening the entity in Alok. A hint of submissiveness was sensed by everyone in the room. As Rakhi brought the prism closer to Alok, he recoiled into a fetal position, hissing with contempt towards the prism and its owner.
‘Answer me or find yourself lost in this endless world of mirrors, unseen and unheard. You will be trapped in this prism for eternity and I will do everything in my power to ensure that you don’t harm anyone else, ever again.’
Alok slowly looked up, and there was hatred in those eyes that would make the devil himself squirm.
‘My name is Beera.’ snarled the spirit at last. ‘I was killed by my husband and his parents over materialistic greed, dowry to be specific. They didn’t even pay me my last rights. They chopped up my body and buried it around the land.’ wailed the aatma. ‘Three years … three years I’ve waited for liberation. I want my killers to suffer, but I need a body to do that. Three years later, this boy opened his seventh chakra for me. I will possess him for three days, a period over which his body will rot from within. And then I’ll take him, with me, to the other side, after using him to kill my cursed family.’
‘Why the boy?’ asked Rakhi
‘The dead crave companionship.’ the spirit smiled wickedly.
Rakhi stayed silent. She soaked up Alok’s appearance. His skin was already turning pale, paler than the whitish powder she had thrown on him. His eyes were wide and grey, exuding an unholy appearance. They were still oozing blood. The blood around his teeth had started caking. He looked like a creature spawned in the dark bowels of hell. Rakhi felt sorry for this boy. She had to save him. She held the prism closer to Alok, much to his revulsion. She called Sandeep over, asking him to repeatedly throw the powder on his friend. Sandeep complied and took the bag of white powder from Rakhi. Beera had realized that an exorcism was to take place and yanked on the rope so hard that the bedpost broke off the bed. Just as she was about to plunge at Rakhi, teeth bared, Sandeep smacked her face with the white ash. What happened next was very quick. Alok’s body fell back and Elton, along with Alok’s parents, moved in and pinned him to the bed.
The exorcism had started. Rakhi started chanting ancient scriptures that were committed to her memory. The air was thick with blood curdling screams and whitish grey ash. Shrieking shrilly, Alok defecated and urinated on the bed, adding to the vileness of the atmosphere. He screamed inhumanly and started levitating towards the ceiling. Rakhi continued with the exorcism, uninterrupted, the prism still held in her hand. Elton and Alok’s parents held on to Alok’s body, resisting the unholy levitation. In Alok’s body, Beera screamed and whipped her head from side to side, but it was a losing battle for the malevolent spirit.
She would have to let go or she would perish. The prism wouldn’t be able to hold her for long, she knew. But she had to leave Alok’s body at that very moment or she would be damned to the other side forever, denied of revenge. The spirit had to lose the battle to win the war. With a final blasphemous wail, the spirit left Alok’s body, which fell limp and silent. The suspended prism turned violently in circles, then settled down. Beera’s spirit was trapped inside the prism.
The air in the bedroom already felt light, as if all the corruption had been suddenly sucked out of it. It was all over. Rakhi looked down at the prism. It had a smoky black tinge to it now, which added to its enticing appearance. The newly risen sun’s rays poured through the only window in the room, and the prism glinted royally. It looked harmless now. Rakhi turned to the boys, ‘I need one of you to throw this into the sea before sundown today. Go as far out as you can, make sure that it hits the sea bed.’
Sandeep volunteered. The sea was a long drive away.
Standing on the burning sand, the hot afternoon was slowly ebbing the life out of Sandeep. He had approached local fishermen and offered to pay them handsomely for a trip into the sea. The fishermen went to work early in the morning or late in the evening, classifying early afternoons as their official nap times. As Sandeep approached bleary eyes fishermen in the peaks of their siesta, they grunted, yawned and threw Sandeep a disgusted look, in that order. The money didn’t help. These people didn’t seem to care about money. Sandeep couldn’t see how he could go out to the sea without their help. He couldn’t come back in the evening. It would be too late. He saw only one solution in this situation. He bent down, rolled up his pants and trudged purposefully towards the salty sea until he was waist deep in water. He took one last look at the glinting prism, spun it overhead and hurled it as far out as he could. It was far enough. The cursed contents of the prism would never be seen again.
‘There are seven chakras or spiral openings in the human body, according to Hindu metaphysical traditions. Scientifically, a chakra is a network of intersecting nerves, a point where all the energy of the body is concentrated. Spiritually, these chakras often act as a portal for the exchange of spiritual energy between the body and the environment. Energy exists all around us and it can only enter our body when we open up a chakra to them, intentionally or otherwise. When Alok urinated on the patch of hair, he unintentionally opened up the seventh Chakra to the negative energy in that place and as a result, Beera’s spirit entered Alok.’
Sandeep and Rakhi sipped on their coffee. They were re-living last night’s events at a local coffee shop. Akshay and Elton were at home, resting and recovering from the trauma, both physical and mental. Alok’s parents were home, thankful to Rakhi and the Almighty for granting their son second life. They tried offering Rakhi some money, but she wouldn’t accept. She was a spiritual being, beyond materialistic greed and ambition. She was born with a gift, a gift that allowed her to see into parallel dimensions. She intended to use this ability for the good of people.
Meanwhile, a whole new world of unexplained phenomenon had opened up for Sandeep, and he was curious to know more.
‘I know about Holy water but what was that whitish ash you used?’
‘It’s called “dead man’s ashes”, and it doesn’t come from any dead man. Among men, few witness the spiritual dimension and fewer still reach the epitome of spirituality. The ashes come from such men. They are the sadhus. The word itself stands for “simple life, high thinking”. The dead man’s ashes are only available at the foot of the Himalayas. When I met Elton in the train, that’s where I was headed. A covenant of spiritual healers, who call themselves the Mayavis or spiritual magicians, collect and distribute these ashes for exorcisms. Only a few know about their existence. And now you do too.’ She smiled at Sandeep.
This piece of information spiked Sandeep’s curiosity. ‘How do you find them?’
‘Getting spiritual, are we?’ teased Rakhi. ‘You don’t. They find you. If you have a spiritual aura around you, you stick out like a sore thumb on their mental radar. That is how they find exorcists like me. And that is how they find the ashes in the first place.’
Sandeep tried piecing all this together. It was a world he had never known existed. No matter how much he understood it, he knew that he would only exist in the periphery of such a world. He drained his cup. He had, however, one last question to ask.
‘So will the woman’s aatma remain in the prism forever?’ he inquired.
‘Think of it this way, Sandeep. You’ve read science in school, so you’ll understand. Theoretically, we’re all made of electrons, living or dead, and every electron has a nucleus; the center of energy. We, the living, have the nucleus within us. It’s from where we derive our strength, courage, hate and all the other emotions strong enough to fuel our decisions. I trapped Beera’s nucleus in that prism. Since her nucleus is corrupt with hatred, vengeance and malevolence, she is detached from it, but cannot wander too far from it. She can exist around the prism but will not be able to haunt or possess anyone unless she is set free.’
‘And how can she be set free?’
‘She’ll be free again when someone opens up a human chakra to that prism. Are you sure you threw the prism as far out into the sea as possible?’
‘Yes I did.’ Sandeep simply said, signaling the waiter for the check.
The beach was a nice place to run, and challenging too. But this particular morning was scorching. Julie bent over, gasping for air. She was training for her first marathon and had decided to do some sprints on the beach. It had been good, but she was getting tired now. She regained her posture and pushed herself again, step after step, stride after stride, until she could push no further. She was dehydrated. She had finished her water bottle down to the last drop. The air had been pounded out of her lungs and her chest burned with bile. She was seeing stars during the day, stars glinting on the beach, in the sand. Grains of sand reflected the suns generous rays sharply. But there was something in particular which shimmered like the North Star. Julie walked towards it. It was a necklace; a beautiful, but simple necklace. Julie picked it up. It was glinting in the warm sun. It had a smoky tinge to it. There was something dark and beautiful about it. Who would throw away such a pretty thing? She thought. She decided to keep it. She pocketed it and started walking towards her car.
The clock glowed 12:00 pm. Julie was a quick sleeper, but this night was different. Nothing seemed more interesting to her than the thousand glinting faces of the prism necklace she had found on the beach. She caressed it with her hands, then she raised her head slightly to slip the black thread around her neck. The prism rested gently between her breasts, on her sternum, on her fourth chakra. Little did she know, that there was a woman under her bed, with abnormally large grey eyes and pale, almost white skin. Little did she know, that the woman was grinning, head cocked to the side. The woman was happy; happy that she had been set free; happy that a chakra had opened for her.
*** THE END***