Highly Commended Story - Senior Category
“The Brown Cloak” by Soumya Ghosh Moharer, Udayachal High School, Mumbai, India, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2018.
Soumya is a 9th grader from Udayachal High School, Mumbai, India. He is a blogger, a quiz enthusiast, a voracious reader with a huge appetite to absorb new ideas and thoughts. English, French and History are his favourite subjects.
The Brown Cloak
I heard the sound of footsteps that creaked on the stairs. The bedroom door handle turned slowly. I had palpitations… Who could it be at this unearthly hour? The door opened. Outside the door stood a ghostly figure of a thin, frail girl with long, black hair. “Gretel, you!” I exclaimed. She was in her nightdress, and her face was pale with fear. I noticed that she was shivering. I threw my brown cloak around her and waited for her to calm down. After her nerves steadied down, I asked her, “Is everything alright? What makes you come down to me at this hour?”. “Th… th… the window… a face… an old man,” she murmured, and then she fainted.
Gretel had moved into the neighborhood just a month ago. Last week, she came to my place in the evening and introduced herself to me. She told me that she lived all by herself in a quaint little house on the hillock, which was located beside the cemetery. There were rumors that the house was haunted. The villagers told Gretel that it was not advisable to live there. “Once, there was an old man,” said a villager to Gretel, “who did not believe in these so-called ghosts. To prove himself right, he told us that he would move-in into the house beside the cemetery, and live there till he breathed his last. Saying so, he moved in that day itself. The following night, we heard an ear-splitting scream coming from the house. We rushed towards the house and slowly, hesitantly went inside. On reaching the old man’s bedroom, we found him shivering with fear. He pointed at the window, and muttered ‘gh… gh… ghost’. Saying this, he blacked out. He never gained consciousness; he died of shock. “To this day,” continued the villager “his ghost is said to roam around the house at night, along with his forefathers from the cemetery...” Gretel told me that she had not believed the villager’s spooky tale. She had been living alone in the house for three weeks, and nothing had happened to her…
When Gretel came to, she narrated her whole story. When she was sleeping, she was suddenly awakened by a tap on the window. Startled, she woke up and glanced towards it. Outside the window, she saw an old man. His face was pressed to the window, and he was scanning the room carefully. Suddenly, his eyes fell on Gretel. She told me that the old man’s eyes were lifeless, and his eye slits were quite hollow. The moment Gretel saw those eyes; she could not bear it any longer. She jumped out of bed and came rushing towards my house. She told me that this incident traumatized her, and she could not live there any longer. She would go to her aunt’s place the next day.
I was rather intrigued by this matter. I decided to go to Gretel’s house the following night to investigate for myself. Morning came by and went, and when the first few stars began to twinkle in the sky, I started walking towards Gretel’s house. The house was indeed quite old, and one look at the cemetery beside it gave me the creeps… I entered the house, found the bedroom, and settled myself comfortably on the bed. Nothing happened in the first four hours. Tired of staying awake, I thought of having a nap, when someone… someone tapped me on the shoulder! My heart thumping, I turned behind and saw an old man looking at me. “Fancy coming to my house without even telling me!” he said. I ran out of the house, my mouth too dry to shout or say anything. While running towards the village, I happened to glance at the cemetery. On one of the graves, there lay something brown in color. It was my cloak! I bent to pick it up when I saw the inscription on the tombstone:
I had been fooled by a ghost… My head was reeling. How was it possible?
“Did you hear? A body of a young man from the village has been found beside the cemetery”, said a villager. “In his hand, there was a brown cloak. I wonder what business he had near the cemetery…”