Somewhere in the middle of Tamil Nadu
Trying the squeeze the sleep off his eyes, he got off the train and on to the dimly-lit station. His bag seemed to follow him to the station floor. He looked around stretching his body and his arms as the dozenth yawn escaped his mouth. He slowly gathered his bag and trudged towards the exit.
After producing his ticket to the ticket checker, he dug into his jeans for his aunt's address. On enquiring with the checker, it seemed his uncle, the new local bank manager, was already popular figure. He was told that the fastest route was to cross the railway track and follow the road for about 2 kilometres. There might be an autorickshaw across the tracks, he was told.
While waiting for the train to leave the station he looked around. It wasn't much of a station but then again it wasn't much of a town itself. Just one among a hundred towns, similar-looking towns. The only difference was that this one now had his aunt and uncle. As the last of his fellow passengers who got off the train made their way past the ticket checker the train started moving.
As the train moved on, he saw this figure hanging out of one of the compartment doors, staring at him. He looked on as this intense-looking character kept staring at him with his dark eyes. Guess, he doesn't like the way I dress, he thought, chuckling to himself. These hick town boys sure had problems figuring a city dude.
Finally the train left the station, calmness descended on the platform and in awhile he realised that he was the only person in the platform. The ticket checker had gone away, probably to catch a snooze before the next train. Gathering his bag, he made his way to the edge of the platform. He really couldn't see the tracks from where he stood but he decided to take a chance and he jumped.
Just immediately after he had landed he could hear squeaking noises and he jumped. He dug out his pen-torch from the side flap of his bag and shined it on the edge of the tracks. He found three or four rats scampering away. They had been eagerly scouting the place looking for any food thrown out of the train. He shuddered involuntarily; rats had that effect on him.
Taking a deep breath he stepped into the darkness, crossing the tracks. In short while he had crossed the tracks and found the path that leads to the road. He relaxed as he took the path. He couldn't believe that a few rats could have such an impact on his day.
As he reached the road which was lit by a solitary tubelight. He looked around for an autorickshaw and immediately spotted one on the direction opposite to his intended path. The sight of the auto wasn't very comforting for it was rather broken down and shabby. He took a few hesitating steps towards the auto, when a head suddenly appeared out of the auto. It was the auto driver. This sudden appearance stopped him in his tracks and he could only stare. Finally he asked if he could be dropped at his aunt's address for which the autodriver shook his head, the auto was very low on fuel so no fares till 8:00 AM, when the petrol bunk down the road opened.
He turned, vaguely relieved that he wouldn't have to travel in that auto. He looked at the dark road ahead and he looked at his watch, 4:26 AM. He debated whether he should hang out at the station till day break or walk the 2 kilometers to his aunt's house. The memory of his aunt's hot filter coffee made the decision for him. Gathering his bag resolutely, he stepped into the darkness. As he walked through the small country road the chill night air enveloped him and he felt fresh and wide awake. He began to like his decision to walk even more.
As he trudged along, he felt darkness engulf him from all sides. A kind of darkness you could never see in a city. It was pitch dark. He could hardly see more than a few feet away. The road was lined with coconut trees which were swaying to the night wind and in the darkness, theyde an eerie combination with the whistling of the wind. Distant rumble of a train too added it's bit to the overall effect. He walked on enjoying everything, he couldn't remember the last time when he had been engulfed in such darkness.
Along with the whistling of the wind, he could hear a sudden rasping sound. He looked around, ofcourse, in the darkness, this was futile. The rasping noise was growing clearer and nearer. He switched on his pen torch and shined around him on the road, only to see a figure moving past him and then stopped.
His breath caught in his throat.
Slowly sense returned to him, it was just a bearded man in a cycle. He was probably on his way to work, in his lightless bicycle. The bearded man stared at him, as if he had done something wrong. Then he thought, maybe he had strayed to the centre of the road but hey how was he to know, after all he could hardly see a few feet only. The bearded man turned and got on his cycle and headed his way.
Looking at him go, he felt vaguely unnerved, something about the whole thing didn't sit so well with him. Damn rats! he thought, what a horrible way to start a day. As he picked up the pace he could see some lights ahead, it was his colony in which his aunt stayed. He let a sigh of relief and walked over there, eventually finding his aunt's house among the lot.
After an hour, as he sat in the porch sipping his aunt's famous filter coffee, the unsettling feeling hadn't left him. Something bothered him about the morning's walk. His brain had clouded over and the pieces didn't fit. Then the haze in his mind slowly cleared, his brow furrowed, a trickle of sweat raced down his face. It couldn't be, he thought. No way! It wasn't possible. His brain refused to accept what his memory told him. The clean shaven man on the train, the mustached auto driver and the bearded cyclist, had the same eyes, the same nose, the same height. It couldn't be. How could they be all the same person? How?
He sat up in his chair, rigid.
To be continued...
(Thanks J for editing this one. I hope you'd take the time to write your version of the story, I'd love to put it up here!)