“Anybody home? Hello…” Kannappan banged on the door. He waited for a few minutes but nobody replied. Rain was lashing out with thunder and lightning.
“Anybody?… Hello…” Kannappan again banged on the door, this time a bit louder.
“Who is this? What do you want?” A gruff voice replied from inside without opening the door.
“I’m Kannappan. I was going to visit my relative, but I think I’m lost. Will you please help me?”
“Ok, wait a second.” The reply came after a long pause. A middle-aged man opened the door and looked at Kannappan. Joining his hands in respect, Kannappan said,
“Namaste, I’m Kannappan. I came from Chennai. I caught the last bus and reached the nearby stop. The conductor gave directions to reach my relative’s house. I’m coming here for the first time. I think I lost my way. Will you show me the way, please?”
“What’s the name of your relative?” The man asked.
“Govindan.” Kannappan replied. That man was in shock for a moment, then he asked, “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I came to meet Govindan. Is there any problem?” Kannappan was a bit worried. That man sighed and said,
“Sorry to say, but you came here for nothing. I’m Neelakantan. I and Govindan were buddies. A few years ago, he and his entire family succumbed to a fire accident. The narrow road next to my home leads to his home; just fifteen minutes walk though. As you can see, ours is a remote village situated on a hill, where houses are about 1-2 miles apart from each other.”
“Oh!…” Kannappan sighed, then he looked around. He didn’t know what to do.
“Look, tonight you stay here. You can return by catching the first bus tomorrow morning. Please, come in.” Neelakantan invited him inside, and Kannappan hesitatingly followed him. He washed up in the bathroom, and later had dinner with Neelakantan. They talked for hours, and then went to sleep.
“Kannappan… Kannappan… Wake up. You have to catch the first bus. Wake up.” Neelakantan gently tapped Kannappan. It was five in the morning.
“Eh?!… What?… Ah, yes yes. Thank you.” He groggily woke up. Few minutes later, he was up and refreshed. Before leaving, Kannappan thanked Neelakantan.
“Not at all. I just did what any other human would do. Anyway, you go to the same bus stop from yesterday. The bus will arrive in the next twenty minutes.” Neelakantan patted Kannappan’s shoulder.
Kannappan bid adieu and left for the bus stop. He waited for half an hour but no bus came, and there was no one to ask either. So, he decided to walk to the next bus stop. After a few minutes, he heard the sound of a motorbike behind him. Turning around, he saw a motorbike stopping near him.
“Who are you? What’s your business here?” The Police Inspector inquired about Kannappan. Narrating everything to the Inspector, he showed his identity card.
“I see… Come, I’ll drop you to the next stop.” The Inspector signaled him to sit. Kannappan obeyed. The motorbike moved. After some distance, the Inspector broke the silence.
“Look, don’t be scared after hearing what I’m going to say. The Neelakantan you’re talking about has been dead for the last five years.”
“What?!…” Kannappan’s jaw dropped in fear. He felt a little shiver down his spine.
“Yes, he died of cancer. After his death, his family moved out. They come once in a while, but no one stays at night there.” The inspector looked at his watch.
“But the conductor I told you about, didn’t say anything about it.” Kannappan still found it hard to believe the Inspector’s words.
“Yes, he wouldn’t because he has been dead for the last seven years.” The Inspector was calm. Kannappan tried to speak but the shock had overwhelmed him. The Inspector continued.
“The bus you boarded last night used to travel through this village and another two villages. Seven years ago, on one stormy night, the driver drove it into a ravine due to the poor visibility. Only a few people survived. After that, on every stormy night, the ghost bus travels along this route, filled with those dead passengers. The villagers avoid that bus. Unfortunately, outsiders like you board the bus, and most of the time end up dead. You’re lucky since you got down before the accident site.”
Kannappan was sweating in fear. Joining his hands, he thanked the God Murugan a thousand times. The motorbike stopped at a bus stop.
“This is the stop. Here, you’ll get a bus every fifteen minutes. Take care, and please be careful.” The inspector smiled. After Kannappan thanked him, the inspector left.