It was almost dark, and my mother and aunt were walking along the road on the side of the woods, returning from their aunt’s village where my grandmother had sent them to bring a bag of rice and daal so she and her family wouldn’t go hungry until her husband got paid for the job he had on the railroad. The twilight made it difficult to see, and they knew that soon it would be pitch black and they would be unable to see anything at all. The woods were lonely, and a man could attack them at any moment. Even if they were to scream, no one would hear them. The woods were very thick with vegetation and frightening to walk through even in the daytime. Now that is was night they could hear the crickets and smell the wetness of the dewy soil. They walked past a creek joining with the crickets to make the sound of dark loneliness. Though they kept their ears open, ready to hear the footsteps of a mad attacker, all they could hear was the chirping of the crickets and the sound of the creek.
My mother was cursing my grandmother for having sent her and her sister out so late, when suddenly my aunt grabbed my mother’s arm and pointed to a young woman with long, black hair, in a torn, blue sari and bare feet emerging from the woods. Both my mother and my aunt recognized her as the woman whose body had been found a year earlier on the side of the road. My grandmother had told them that she had been raped and strangled, probably as she had been walking on the lonely road at night just as my mother and aunt were doing now.
She followed behind them as they walked. Though her mouth was gaping and she was pointing to it as if to show them a secret, she said nothing. My mother and aunt were terrified and walked as fast as they could, but the girl kept up with them.
Then, as quickly as she had appeared, she slipped back into the woods and into the blackness of the night.
Though they had heard stories about the reality of ghosts ever since they were little girls, my mother and aunt never believed them until now. They held tightly to each other as they walked, still listening for the footsteps of a man who could attack them and turn them into yet another silent ghost.
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