A sigh of relief escaped him as soon as he entered the Metro Station. The heat outside was scorching. It was still March but summer seemed to be at its peak already. The sanctuary of the underground metro station was his escapade from the heat. He pulled out his white kerchief from his pocket, removed his cap and wiped the droplets of sweat which had beaded on his head. Pulling out the water bottle from his back pack, he downed the remaining water in a single gulp as he made his way towards the platform.
3 o’ clock in the afternoon was the worst time his client could have chosen to schedule the meeting. But in his line of work client was God and no one ever said no to them. Grumbling under his breath he continued to move towards the platform. He checked the information panel for the arrival time of his train. There was still 20 minutes left. He mentally calculated that it would take him at least 25 minutes to reach his destination station and 5 minutes walk from there to the client place. He checked his watch. It was still 2 pm. He was well within time. So he looked around for a secluded place and on spotting an abandoned pillar a little further away he went and stood there.
The crowd at the platform was sparse compared to usual. There were few kids in school uniforms, who stood dwindling their water bottles, their white shirts soiled and crumpled and ties hanging around their throat, displaced carelessly from their designated place. A little distance away, a group of girls stood in red, green, yellow denims and color coordinated tops, their lips smacked with bright red and pink color and eyes lined heavily with all kinds of colors other than black, giggling and chattering among themselves. There were few others like him, dressed in their work formals, their laptop bags uncomfortably perched on their backs, wearing that same heat struck weary look. Then there were the old couple dressed classily, the man almost sending an aura of retired military personnel with similar dignified lines of age and experience on his face with his wife holding a big brown leather bag, wearing a beige trouser and a long white cotton shirt, a lock of grey, neatly blending with the rest of her short straight black hair, with crow feet near her eyes.
His eyes wandered amidst the strange faces of that uninvited party, trying to comprehend a story from all the unspoken messages that their faces reflected. Nobody bothered to even look at the lone body that stood near the pillar, everybody comfortably unaware of the fact that his eyes were carefully canvassing them. And then his eyes came to a stop at a form which he had not noticed before. There huddled close to the other pillar, with its head lowered stood a figure. He was not able to make out at first whether it was a lady or a man. The person was well hidden behind the broad pillar. All he could see was the occasional glimpse of something blue, which peeped from behind the pillar. In a futile attempt to catch a glance of that person he craned himself.
Curiosity had clouded his reason. He shifted from his resting position steadying himself and started moving towards the other pillar. He moved slowly, careful enough to not attract anybody’s attention. But right then the otherwise peaceful crowd around him erupted into frenzy. His inconspicuous demeanor suddenly disturbed, he was taken aback. Then he realized the cause of this sudden disorder. He could hear the train approaching. He looked at his watch. It was already time. And by the time he could stabilize himself; the train had already reached the platform and halted. The crowd was now moving into the train. He knew he didn’t have time to lose.
Abandoning his quest he started moving in the direction of the train entrance, with the crowd. The train was crowded as usual. And as usual there was no place for him to sit. He somehow managed to find a place to stand, holding one of the yellow hand holders which hung from the rod above. He had not even steadied himself when the doors closed shut with a hissing sound. He jerked and almost fell on another passenger standing nearby as soon as the train started moving. He pulled himself up and apologized fervently to the person on whom he had fallen. And then from the corner of his eyes he again caught a glimpse of the blue outside the window. His eyes shot in the direction trying to get a clear look to satiate his curiosity. As the train moved out of the station he finally caught sight of the figure that had invoked so much oddity in him.
There near the pillar stood an old lady dressed in black, her head of silver hair covered by the hood of her black jacket and a blue silk scarf loosely tied around her neck, the lone color in her entire ensemble, which freely flowed in the air. Her skin, which was completely frayed and wrinkled, seemed to have aged 100 years old and her eyes, which were sunk in their sockets, were glazed grey. As she caught him staring at her she stretched out a wrinkled hand with dirty long nails and screamed out his name in the scariest sound he had ever heard. He reciprocated her hollow scream and screamed back in agony that had filled his head. Seconds later everything blanked out.
He woke up to find himself in a white room. Everything around him was blurred and hazy. The room was cold and he could hear the monotonous drone of a machine beeping somewhere. He felt groggy as he tried to open his eyes. He tried to speak but all that came out of his mouth were meaningless mumbles. He was confused. He knew not what was happening to him. And then suddenly a face appeared in front of his eyes. The person looked like a doctor.
The doctor checked his pulse and instructed something to the nurse who stood behind him. The nurse handed him an injection which the doctor injected into him. A wave of daze engulfed him and he blanked out again. Hours later when he woke up he, he saw the same doctor again. This time the doctor smiled at him.
“How are you feeling now? You are drugged so you might find difficult to speak so just nod yes or no.”
He nodded a yes.
“You have been in coma since a month. You had already slipped into it when you were brought in. We haven’t been able to figure out a reason for your condition as there seemed nothing wrong with you. Your parents have been informed and they are arriving here soon.” Saying so the doctor smiled.
“By the way would you now leave this scarf? You have held on to it so tightly that it had been impossible for us to take it out of your hands. You have been a curiosity ever since you came in.”
He gave a confused look to the doctor and then looked towards his right hand. There in his fist he held the same blue silk scarf. Memories came flooding back. It was the same scarf that was tied around the neck of that old lady. He looked back at the doctor with a look of horror in his eyes. His head filled with the same scream and agony from that day. He let out a painful scream again. Once again everything blanked out.
PS: Should I title it “The Witch of the Metro Station”?