Pranks. Being a hostel-ite for four years now, I knew pranks are a part and parcel of the hostel culture. Some pranks are funny, light humored that help build bonds. Some pranks are cruel – horrid and very much designed to hurt. And some pranks – they turn out to be life changing experiences, just like the one that was played on me during my first week in a new hostel.
It was my first year of Engineering. As a new student in a Pune hostel, I had been warned about the things I would have to face. So, New Year’s night when all the seniors from my hostel threw a party in room 222 and invited me for it, I knew I was in for a rough night. Early evening, I made my way to the room, dressed in casuals- jeans and a black tee. As I neared the room, the all too familiar smell of alcohol entered my nose. The seniors were all grins when they saw me approach. They welcomed me into the room. Handing me a bottle of beer, they included me in their usual banter about girls, weed and girls on weed. My time at the party passed well, the seniors were surprisingly all smiles. I decided to ease up and have a good time with them.
Perhaps it was the three bottles of beer I had or just plain stupidity on my part, I never noticed how the room started looking emptier by the minute. It suddenly struck me as the last senior smiled and waved at me, right before going out of the door and slamming it shut. It was followed by a click, the unmistakable sound of the door getting locked. It had happened too fast. I didn’t even move from my place. I ran to the door and started slamming my fists on it, pleading to my seniors to let me out. I was only met with laughter. Slowly, even the laughter died out. I tried slamming my body on the door, kicking it for a whole of five minutes. But, to no avail. Exhausted by my effort, I sat down on the only chair in the room. I was all alone.
‘Well, how bad could it be? ‘, I remember thinking. The seniors would have to return in a while. I would wait for them right in this chair. It felt really hot after all that exertion. I was glad the fan was working. The lights flickered, something that happened every day in my hostel. They flickered once again. And then they were gone. All had become pitch black. Now, panic started taking over. I wasn’t really fond of darkness. It sort of surrounded you and closed on to you. It engulfed me. In this sense, I’m sort of an anti-Batman. If he would use the shadows, I would want to refuse them. In fact, whenever I sleep alone, I make sure to keep the lights on. I don’t know what is worse, the darkness, or the apparent horrors it hides.
Now, almost every hostel everywhere has its own haunted room stories. In my hostel, they were all about room 222. Panic was replaced by fear as I recalled the stories. The headless ghost, the old witch and the man-eating bed, all tales I had heard about the room. It was hot but I broke into a cold sweat. An eerie silence surrounded me. No cuss words flying around, no threats, not even any god-awful crooning. Every small creak made my heart beat faster. My fear had now taken the form of pure terror. I stayed rooted to my chair, shivering.
But then, the rational voice inside me cried out –
‘No. You cannot lose it. You need to stay calm.’
Yes, I could do that. Speak to myself. It had always helped me calm down during exams.
‘There is nothing to fear here. It’s only me and the darkness. I only need to control my mind. I must calm down’, I went about speaking to myself. It showed effect. My heart slowed it’s pumping of blood.
I continued reassuring myself-
‘All these tales have only been made for entertainment. Getting me worked up is exactly what my seniors want. I can’t let them get what they want.’
My hate for my seniors worked wonders. Soon, my heart started beating normally. I calmed down and started breathing freely. I had conquered my fear of darkness.
I grinned, pleased with my valiant victory over my fears.
‘You can rest easy now. Take that you seniors, you can’t do shit to me. After all, is darkness not merely the absence of light?’
‘Yes, it is.
, Said a voice behind me.
To be continued..