On reaching the village, a thought crossed my mind and I found myself relaxing. Bheemchatti’s only doctor, Dr Upadhyay had his clinic by the side of the main road at the end of the village below. Being a good friend of mine, the doctor had shown me where he kept the spare key should there be any need for medicines in his absence.

Having been driven away from my own house by a heartless churial, I would not have to wander outside on a cold winter night in search of a warm place to sleep. Pulling my jacket closer, I hurried to the main road and using the spare key logged in the window frame, I let myself inside the clinic.

That night I slept restlessly as I wondered what I would do next.  I had to catch the bus to Dehradun early next morning and then a flight from there to my hometown. I was yet to pack my things all of which were above and there was a churail in my living room who refused to leave.

When I woke up, the clinic was drowned in light and the doctor was already attending to a patient suffering from fever. Not wanting to disturb him, I smiled gratefully at the doctor and quietly left the clinic. Stepping outside, I noticed that the snow had reduced and intermittent rays of sunlight peeked through the clouds. Time was running out, and I realized I had no option but to return home and face the intruding spirit.

As I made my way toward my house, a sense of trepidation gnawed at my insides. I knew that confronting the woman who had occupied my home would be a daunting task. The thought of involving the police crossed my mind, but I quickly dismissed it. Without any solid proof or harm done to me, filing a complaint would likely be futile, especially considering the disbelief I would face due to the intruder being a woman, possibly a dead one. Besides, involving the police would require me to stay back until the case was resolved, and my flight back to my hometown was scheduled for the next day.

As I approached my house, a surge of fury coursed through me when I discovered that the door was once again locked from the inside. Overwhelmed by frustration and the light of the day being on my side, I began banging on the door and screaming, desperate to regain control over my own dwelling. I stopped momentarily wondering why none of the neighbours had come out to find out the cause of the commotion he was creating. In a split second, he saw Rani Chachi’s face appear in her window and disappear. Was she hiding from me?

Confusion and anxiety gnawed at me and I once again attacked the door with my gloved hands. When the door refused to budge and no one came to my rescue, I calmed down a little – breathless and tired. Picking up a stone from the edge I broke the window pane, letting the cold wind gush into my house. I smiled at the little victory. Throwing the stone away, I stood in front of the window.

Peering through the window, my anger turned to fear as I beheld a chilling sight. The house was enveloped in darkness. The curtains were drawn over all windows and doors were shut close. Only a few rays of light managed to escape and landed on the floor creating little pools of light. The woman was seated on the floor, surrounded by flickering little lamps, their feeble glow casting eerie shadows in the room. In the centre, she held something that she seemed to be talking to or perhaps chanting something. When my eyes finally adjusted to the darkness, shivers ran down my spine realizing what the object of her worship was—a human skull. It was sitting there in the middle of my living room surrounded by lamps and ash. The sight confirmed my suspicions that she was no ordinary woman. Her appearance and the macabre object she prayed to resembled that of a black magician. She was the spirit of a witch – the most powerful of spirits!

A sense of dread washed over me as I stood frozen, my mind grappling with the terrifying implications of this revelation. The woman’s presence in my house had taken a sinister turn, and I realized that my situation was far more serious than I had ever imagined.

As I stood there, witnessing the haunting scene unfolding before my eyes, I couldn’t help but wonder what malevolent forces had been unleashed upon my home. The woman’s actions and the eerie ambience enveloping her filled me with a primal terror. But something in me forced me to stay, to not run away. Something told me that I must confront this woman.

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