Square Zero


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Death by occult.

Mom tells me that we're going on yet another trip to our village that I had been to, just last month. Before that, I had been there only when I was an infant. Last month, my grandpa's brother passed away, and I went for the rites. They live next door at our village. I'm not sure why we're going back in a month. I agree anyway. I missed out on a lot of photo opportunities last time because I did not take my camera. I'm gonna capture the mountains and the stars this time around for sure.

I have a banger time capturing the snowy mountains and the orange sky, for the gram. I notice that the clouds are passing close to the Sun. The Sun is too close, in fact. In fact, I can see so many stars, and I see them bigger than usual. Something's not quite right. I click away diligently at my camera. Night time comes, and we're back in grandpa's house. Mom says there's a ritual for the granny next door. I had attended her husband's funeral just last month, so I asked my mom what's happening. She says not to question her right now, and she didn't tell me the reason for this visit, because I wouldn't agree to go there. I'm left confused, but my mind is occupied with my camera.

Anyway, night time comes and the whole village starts to gather next door. There's a lot of commotion, and I prefer to stay back in my room, but curiosity gets the better of me eventually. We go to their home, and they're performing rituals in the dead husband's room. There's religious fire, swami jis, chanting, mantras, people weeping and the likes, that too so close to midnight. 'Are we finished?' I fake irritation to mom. 'Please, promise me you will do whatever I ask of you, only for tonight' mom blurts out, and I fake a promise. We all move to the granny's room, and she's in a chair, clad in a white saree, no vermilion, sobbing, and not speaking much. The swamis make her do all sorts of poojas. I don't understand what's happening at first, because I see all my other relatives here as well. It seems like all people who were born here have come here to do this or be a part of this. I see my best friend from school show up here. He has traveled all the way from the US to be here. I ask him 'why?', and he tells me he was born in this village too. I ask him why flew all the way here for this, since he has to come back to India in a month again, to get married. He says that's exactly the reason he has come, because he doesn't want bad omen.

They bathe her, apply oils, turmeric and other things on the old woman. She picks up the sobbing. Relatives try to console her. All these arcane rituals get to my nerves. I feel something bad looming. I ask my friend what the deal is. He tells me they are gonna take her to the mango orchards with her husband's grave any time now. They're apparently doing more rituals at her husband's grave, and all of this to prevent Shiva from stealing her soul. I do not understand what he's saying, but I'm terrified. They break her bangles, put her on a platform made from bamboo, and take her out of the house. The swamis tell us all to go home, lock our doors and windows, and sleep with earplugs. Everyone nods. Mom pleads me to do the same, and not fuck around. I fake nod.

Midnight Oh god, I know what's happening. I can't sleep like this. They were prepping her to be killed/sacrificied because she's alone now. They want to take her away to her husband. She's agreed to this clearly, but she was also sobbing, and she looked dazed and entranced. They will do something horrible to her. Oh god. I call my friend, and we sneak out onto my terrace to talk and stuff, even though they warned us clearly to lock our doors and gates. The night is moon lit, enough for us to peer into the distance and spot swamis carrying a lantern and her body, and quiet enough to faintly hear mantras being chanted. I debate with him about the morality of making a good story out of this for maybe an hour, and when we look over to the grave there's no one, but a lantern, and a white sheet, presumably her body. I don't know what happened, but all of a sudden, there's a gust of wind, and it brought with it chills and more. We both experience terror, in it's purest form, without seeing a thing. I can see it in his eyes too. We stop talking, and I hold his hand. We are about to call it a night and go back down the stairs, gently and smoothly, when we both feel it. The night has turned quiet and violent. I can hear my heart beating. Both of us impulsively look over to the grave. We see his red eyes staring back at us with wrath and indignation.

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