“Come to me, O chosen one. Come …..……” whispered the voice. Slowly, hands curled around my neck and its grip tightened. I could hardly breathe.
“Ahhh ,Ahhhh, Ahhhh ,Errrr”, I screamed struggling to loosen the grip only to realize that it was only a dream; a few seconds earlier it seemed so real.
“Isn’t the medicine helping?” Annabeth questioned me patting on my shoulder as I sat helpless on a wet (with sweat ofcourse) bedsheet catching my breath.
“Na” I nodded.
For the past three months, every night was a nightmare. Someone was whispering in my dream, calling me the chosen one; I just didn’t know who had chosen me and for what?
“What’s happening to me, doc? Now, I am scared to even go to bed” I confessed to Dr. Harsimran on the phone, the next morning.
“Your reports are normal, there isn’t anything. Maybe it’s stress. Calm your mind and meditate a bit before going to bed.” she suggested. I promised to try and hung up the receiver.
It was past midnight; Annabeth was fast asleep. I walked towards the balcony and stood there for a while. Mumbai was still buzzing with activity; dogs were barking and chasing each other on the streets; the waves were quietly hitting the shores and turning back. Everything seemed normal, just my life wasn’t.
I sat down for meditation. My mind was slowly settling down; which was quite contrary to my earlier experiences. Few minutes into it, I found myself in a thick forest surrounded by tall trees. My heart skipped a beat or two; I had never expected this. I could feel a subtle force pushing me. I didn’t resist and decided to play along. My feet were traumatized walking over pointed stones and thorny terrain. Soon I was brought in front of a rocky hill with a small triangular opening at about my waist height; the force had ceased. I had never seen this hill before. I slowly walked up to the opening. There is no one here, I concluded. Just then an object came swinging back at me from within. I was taken aback and in an attempt to save my face, I lifted my arm. The object landed in my palm just in time. I brought the object closer; realized that it was an electronic gadget; it read “25.2 91.5”
“Meet me here. O chosen one”, the same voice whispered.
“Who are you?” mustering some courage I asked.
“I will leave you alone for a fortnight. Come and meet me. If you ignore my calling, you would land into a mental asylum”, the voice threatened disregarding my question.
I sat motionless for a few more minutes. There was slight discomfort in my feet and my hands were holding onto something. I gently opened my eyes. My feet were bleeding, few thorns had pricked. I was still holding on to the gadget. It read _25.2 91.5_
“How on earth did this happen? It was more like a dream” I couldn’t help wondering the whole night.
“Get up you lazy bones. It’s your mother on the phone” Annabeth said handing over the receiver; the sun was back in business.
“Ma, I will call you later” saying so I abruptly put the receiver down after few minutes into unpleasant discussions. Ma never liked Annabeth. Firstly, Annabeth was a Roman Catholic whereas we were Brahmins and secondly, we were in a live-in relationship which was unacceptable to her. She hammered our relationship whenever she got a chance.
“What’s the matter? You look worried. Did Ma say something?” Annabeth looked concerned.
“It’s not about Ma. “ I took the electronic gadget from under my pillow and gave it to Annabeth “I am being summoned.”
I narrated my meditation experience, showed my traumatized feet and the GPS device. Annabeth couldn’t believe what I had just told her.
She left the bedroom in disbelief only to return a few minutes later with her laptop.
“Cherrapunji” She shouted.
“What?” I was confused.
“Cherrapunji-Mawsynram Reserve Forest is where the GPS is pointing to” Annabeth jumped with excitement.
Like most other kids, I had studied about Cherrapunji in our Geography textbooks in school. If we were to go to Cherrapunji, one thing we would need for sure; an umbrella. That’s all I knew about Cherrapunji.
Cherrapunji brought back old memories from school to the fore; one thought led to another; friends, teachers, my first girlfriend and my first kiss were all there somewhere; in my mind, in my heart. Those were the golden days!!!
“Planning to take a month off and visit Cherrapunji. Would you like to join?” I informed Annabeth that evening.
“I would be thrilled to join. Will confirm in a day” I nodded.
That night I slept peacefully; something that was eluding for more than three months now. Next morning, after a hot bath and hot coffee it was time to look out for Cherrapunji on the web.
Cherrapunji is in the eastern part of India, in the state of Meghalaya, about 60 km from Shillong, the state capital. I was mesmerized looking at the Serene landscape, the breathtaking mountain views surrounded by clouds, the waterfalls and multitude of rivulets emanating from it, the deep forests and the experience and joy shared by travelers.
Resting back I thought “This is heaven on earth. What an amazing place this is? This would definitely turn out to be a great holiday to say the least.”
By the time Annabeth came back that evening, I had a file ready with pictures, literature, traveler reviews, places to visit, etc. in Cherrapunji.
“Are you planning on a doctorate on Cherrapunji?” Annabeth joked looking at the file on the table.
“Who do you think is calling me there? I just heard the voice but saw no one. Is it a spirit or a mystic or my mind is playing games with me?” I asked seeking her opinion.
There was no response. I peeped in; Annabeth was changing into a nightie from her executive suit. The answer no longer mattered as I walked slowly towards her.
Two days later, we alighted at the Umroi Airport in Shillong. Omar and Simran had joined me and Annabeth in this endeavor. I had narrated my experiences to Simran; about the GPS and my battered feet. I recollected how I had aroused her enough to embark on this journey. Simran was not only my doctor but also a good friend; more than a friend. In the past, we had indulged in acts which my ma would call evil. But that was before I met Annabeth. Now, I was in a relationship and Simran, I believe was still single.
“How long would it take to reach the forest?” Omar enquired fiddling the GPS.
“Be careful with that” I cautioned him “About 100 km from here. We should be there in two hours”
Omar Usman was Annabeth’s colleague at Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). He was an introvert and was particularly shy of women; quite contrary to me.
Amidst winding lanes, tall trees, breathtaking mountains, amazing views, small streams through the mountains and after multiple stop-overs to enjoy the picturesque and serene landscapes, we were at the gates of “Cherrapunji-Mawsynram Reserve Forest” four hours later.
“Namaste Sahabji. To the guest house? Please show me your reservation” the guard greeted and enquired.
“Bhaiyya, we are on Government of India duty; would be stationed in the forest. Here are the papers” Annabeth said handing over the papers.
“Bhaiyya, is there any cave inside the forest?” Annabeth enquired as he was scanning through the papers.
“Madamji, there are many but one is more dangerous; one that of Trikoni Bhootnath. Just stay away from it” he cautioned while making a few entries in his register.
“Who is that?” Simran asked moving her silky hair away from the face.
“No one knows. No one has seen. But there any many stories.100 years back, our village sarpanch ventured around the cave, never to be seen again” he replied turning towards Simran.
“Can you take us there?” Annabeth requested.
“Ummm, I will show you the place from a distance but won’t go near.” The guard answered in a trembling tone.
Ten minutes into the wet, thick, picturesque yet scary forest; the guard abruptly stopped his bike. He turned back and signaled towards few scattered rocks. I reached out for my wallet, held out a 100 rupees note; the bike circled around our Jeep, the note was picked, and the bike left. So much action but seldom a word? People must be so scared of Trikoni Bhootnath, I thought.
I slowly maneuvered the Jeep till it could go no further. I got down from the Jeep, looked around; the surrounding looked familiar to what I had seen earlier during meditation. I slowly walked further down the scattered rocks and unattended terrain. A few steps further down, I was facing the very rocky hill I had seen; the triangular opening of the cave was clearly visible; chills went down my spine!!!
Back at the base camp (if I may call so), Omar was hard at work. He had already erected three tents. I sat down on a broken tree trunk overlooking the tents; praying for courage.
Two hours later, we were still working on a strategy to enter the cave. The discussion wasn’t going anywhere.
“That’s it. I am going in. Who’s coming along?” I informed the crew; still scared at heart.
Omar tied one end of a rope around my waist and other end to a nearby rock. “Captain, lead the way” he said handing over a torch.
I climbed into the opening and started crawling. Others followed. The spider webs were thick, dense and well spun. For a moment, I felt I may get entangled in spidery web but somehow managed to clear my way through the thick cobwebs, dark spiders, lizards and after crawling for about thirty meters, I finally landed into the cave.
It was dark and mushy. In a matter of few minutes, others had negotiated their way through and joined me. It took us a while to see things clearly.
I could see an old man sitting in a meditative posture, his beard touching the ground. I prostrated before him and said “Maharaj, I have come as you commanded.”
“Why the hesitation in entering the cave?” questioned the same familiar voice. I looked at the old man but he wasn’t speaking. I looked towards the source of the voice but couldn’t see anyone.
“Sit down. You won’t be able to see me” the voice whispered back.
“Why are you torturing the dinosaur with this rope? It’s been dead 65 million years now.” The voice questioned possibly referring to the rope being tied to the rocks at the other end.
It continued “65 million years ago, when we, the mysticoids came to earth, the dinosaurs used to thrive here. We came with a purpose of providing humanoids, our new experiment with a natural habitat. That brought humanoids in direct conflict with the dinosaurs. For 1 million years, they co-existed but humanoids were at the receiving end. We had to do what we did; we blew away the dinosaurs from the face of the earth” the voice paused.
“Ha.. Ha… Ha. This must be a joke. I can’t believe this. We came all the way here to take this crap?” Omar could hardly control his laughter.
“You have the GPS which I threw at you. Don’t you? Do you know its age?” the voice aroused some curiosity in us. Omar quickly grabbed the gps and fed it to carbon dating analyzer. The analyzer made a few odd sounds and finally gave its estimate.
“What? 200 million years?” Omar shouted in disbelief.
“That’s right. Why the disbelief? If we could build a man 65 million years ago; couldn’t we make a gps 200 million years ago? You would be surprised to know that our lifespan is about 500 million years. Now, the time has finally come …?” Omar’s laughter had subsided.
“Time for what?” Annabeth asked impatiently.
“To wipe out the humanoids”
“You can’t do this to humans” Simran who was quite all this while, protested.
“Why not? Remember the story of Noah and Sage Manu? Today, I have summoned my Manu, my Noah; my four pillars. This is not the first time humanoids are being destroyed” the voice clarified.
“You really don’t need to do this” Omar pleaded.
“We do. We created humanoids on the basis of mysticoids; a society which would think and work towards common good. But humanoids are anything but that. Humanoids have failed; so have we”. There was silence.
I realized what he meant when he said “We were his Noah and Manu; Noah (Nirbhay, Omar, Annabeth, Harsimran) and Manu (Mann, Abraham, Nene, Usman)”
“You talk about common good and humans being selfish? You and your mysticoids should be ashamed. You wiped out the dinosaurs; god’s very own creation to make way for your own? Who authorized you to play God? You guys are hypocrites. What … “, I was seething with anger.
“Calm down humanoid. In time the plan would be revealed” the voice interrupted.
“Once I open that door, the beginning of the end would start. Humans, animals would be turned to dust.”
“Sarpanch, would you please open the door?”
We shockingly looked at each other; the man who had gone missing 100 years ago was very much alive; atleast 160 years old now even by rough estimates.
The old man got up. I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, seven…”
The rocks had started falling from the sky, the sky had turned dusty; the winds had gained momentum. My heart cried out to the fact that I would never be able to see Ma, Pa and friends again. The old dinosaur would face further decimation for a long time, I thought.
“No, Not for long. And the rocks fell on the earth forty days and forty nights…….- Genesis 7:12” whispered the voice in a deep heart-pricking tone.
Nirbhay’s Journey has just begun; the mystery is about to unfold ……..