The Seance – M. Hoffman

Ouija.jpg

This is the beginning of a series of stories that took place at a school which will remain unnamed for privacy reasons. All the names of the characters in the stories are made up. The spoken parts are reproduced as is, so expect some typical Indian English. This series doesn’t aim to scare you like other horror stories, rather it is a collection of events that a bunch of friends, with an interest in the paranormal, experienced during their school days.

Having just finished my post 10th grade holidays, I was gearing up to go back to school. It was a co-ed hostel, located more or less in the middle of nowhere, with no other establishments within a 7 kilometre radius at least. That didn’t mean it wasn’t a good school though, it was surprisingly very well equipped, and nearly every student loved it there. Surrounded by a forest and even a small mountain in the distance, it was a nice break from the concrete jungles most kids study at today. All around the campus there were trees and greenery, and in some places the buildings were built around the trees.

But not everything about the school was as good. For one, the food was pretty bad. Being limited to vegetarian is one thing, enforcing jain food (which means no onion, garlic, or anything that adds taste) is a whole different ball game. At least we managed to sneak in snacks, and most of us survived off of that. Another rule was no electronics of any sort. The only gadgets we were permitted to use were the school computers, and that too only for the high-schoolers. The 11th and 12th grade students were also allowed small mp3 players, so that was another saving grace.

On reaching school, I rushed to the senior boys dorm and greeted my friends Ranga and Krishna. After our customary poking fun at each other, we went to select our rooms. Each boys dorm was separated into 3 rooms, 2 which could accommodate 6, and the central room accommodating 10. We usually selected the small rooms as we found those best for bonding and having fun. On entering we noticed a new kid called Ashish, so we went and broke the ice with him and his parents. Once all the kids had checked in and all the parents had left, we had our routine meeting with the dorm parents outlining all the do’s and don’ts of the school for the new kids.

Now Ranga was the idiot obsessed with ghosts and anything paranormal. I was interested too, but at times even I’d be a bit wary. The two of us had a history of pranking and generally freaking out everyone at school. Given that the school was isolated and in the middle of the forest, it wasn’t too hard to achieve either.

This break, Ranga had apparently done research on seances. He had even gotten printouts of instructions, as well as everything required to perform one.

(Procuring things at school wasn’t easy as we had no access to any shops, only a simple tuck shop for stationery and the odd chocolate.)

We decided to perform one that night, after dinner, in the canopied area behind the boys dorm blocks. As I pored over the instructions, Ranga went around searching for people to take part in the seance. Out of all the new kids, only Ashish showed interest. Krishna had absolutely no interest in this stuff, so he flat-out declined. Ramprasad, a silent, studious and rule-abiding kid, was interested, but seemed to be more worried about getting into trouble for leaving the dorm rather than the possibility of contacting other-worldly spirits. Our resident wannabe body-builder, Raghu, who was actually scared at heart, said

“No bro, I have to sleep so that I can wake up early and gym tomorrow.”

The other two guys in our grade, Akshay and Balaji, were already asleep. After shutting off the lights and making sure the dorm parents were asleep, we huddled around Ranga’s bed and discussed our plans. The fan was spinning at max speed, to compensate for the humid summer night.

“Okay, everyone’s read the instructions right? We’ll be performing a seance with an Ouija board which I’ve printed out. I’ll be the medium, and you guys tell me the questions to ask before-hand. We’ll have to sit in a circle, okay? And I’ll be the one holding the planchette for the board.”

“But what if we get caught? We aren’t supposed to…” started Ramprasad,

“Eh, shut up man,” interjected Ashish.

“Any serious questions?” I asked.

“Doesn’t look like it,” said Ranga, “let’s go.”

The night has humid, with a thin veil of mist. We slowly crept downstairs, tiptoeing around the squeaky stair, and gathered at the bottom. Since it was a new moon, we had to rely on the dull circle of light from Ram’s flashlight, and make our way through the shrubbery behind our dorm, to a small clearing near the fence. The sand crunched beneath our feet as we walked.

“What if the security guard finds us?” asked Ram.

“Man, relax! Even if he catches us, what will he do?” said Ranga while setting down the Ouija board. Pulling a matchbox out of my pocket, I started lighting the candles and agarbatthis (incense sticks). We sat down on the grass and placed our fingers on the planchette.

“Spirits of the night, I beseech thee, Find favour with mine call and summons, On the seven winds I beg thee travel, And greet me in mine presence, For a speaking of things that need bespoke, From this moment hence, Thy powers do I wish invoke, For things that need be your presence,” chanted Ranga.

Right about then, a strobe of light appeared in the trees, with a voice accompanying it.

“Who’s there?”asked the voice. By the time we got up, the light and its owner had found us.

“What are you doing out here…” he stopped short, noticing the Ouija board behind Ranga’s back, and the fumes from the put-out candles and agarbatthis.

“Nothing anna, we were…” started Ranga, but he was cut short. (anna was a word for ‘elder brother’ in the local language)

“I know what you guys are doing. Stop your obsession with these things. The last time I saw a group of kids like you do this, it didn’t go well. It’s not safe to meddle with things we don’t understand,” said the watchman. We just stood there sheepishly, staring at the ground.

“We’re sorry anna, we won’t do this again,” I said.

“Fine, now go. I won’t tell the administration this time, but if I catch you again, that’s it,” said the watchman. After gathering our things, we trudged back to our dorms dejectedly.

“See? This is why I didn’t want to come. I knew we would get into trouble,” started Ram.

“Okay, then next time you don’t come,” said Ranga.

“What do you mean next time?”

“Next time. You think we’re gonna listen to that old fellow? Of course we’ll try it again, but next time in a better place.”, said Ranga.

“You’re crazy,” said Ram exasperatedly. We snuck back into our rooms and slept it off.

A few days later, when we had a free period during school hours, Ashish, Ranga, and me sat to plan our next midnight adventure. As we were discussing, two girls from our class, Parineeti and Simran, joined in as they were also interested. To accommodate for the fact that they couldn’t sneak behind the boys dorms, we changed our venue to the library courtyard. The courtyard was in the centre of the classroom blocks and pretty far from the dorms, but at least the guards wouldn’t be patrolling there.

“So you guys know what to do right? We have to sit in a circle, and I’ll ask all the questions,” said Ranga.

“You guys are sure this is safe, right?” asked Parineeti. She was a bit on the superstitious side.

“Yeah, we are. Anyway, what’s the worst that could happen?” I replied.

“You never know what could happen Amit…” shrugged Simran.

“Just chill, if anything happens, we’ll just run back to the dorms.”, said Ashish. After convincing the girls that it would be fine, we went to scout the place during daylight.

“We’ll do it right here, under the banyan tree,” I said. The banyan tree was bang in the middle of the granite-covered courtyard. We also set our escape routes, in case things went south.

At around 11:00pm that night, we all gathered under the banyan tree. It was an especially cloudy night, but the ground was still dully illuminated by the full moon behind the clouds. Again, I lit the agarbatthis and candles while the rest assumed their positions. The only sound was crickets buzzing and a faint breeze.

“Guys, we’ll start now, and remember, don’t freak out,” whispered Ranga. He chanted the passage again. As he reached the end of the verse, the courtyard grew uncomfortably silent. All of our hands were on the planchette; I clearly noticed Simran’s hands were shaking.

“Are there any spirits among us tonight?” asked Ranga. There was no movement on the board. Even the crickets stopped buzzing at this point. A minute or two passed, and Ranga asked again.

“Are there any spirits among us tonight?”

The central candles flame went out. Everyone was visibly shocked. Simran even let out a gasp, which was quickly shushed. The wind started to pick up, and the other candles went out as well. Ranga started muttering something under his breath. In the distance, a window slammed shut. The planchette began to move, to the horror of everyone. Ranga’s muttering kept deeper and louder. By this time even I was a bit anxious.

“Ranga?” called Simran, her voice quivering. No response.

“Ranga!” yelled both Simran and Parineeti.

“BOO!” shouted Ranga suddenly, opening his eyes. The girls screamed, until we covered their mouths. Ranga was laughing away.

“Haha, I scared you guys totally!” he giggled. Annoyed, the others got up and started walking away.

“Guys, guys, don’t go yet! We have to end the seance properly to be safe!” I said, “come back!”

“Yeah whatever, you dorks,” said Parineeti as she hugged a petrified Simran and walked away, along with Ashish. Ranga and me were worried. This was not good. Having no other choice, we gathered the things and made our way back to the dorms. We knew that not ending a seance properly had consequences, but we had no clue they would be this drastic.

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