The village residents had assembled in the courtyard in the swirling mist of the early dawn. The massive peepal branches enveloped the courtyard in an eerie shade. The glistening mustard fields, encircled by clusters of low-roofed brick houses, painted the monotonous landscape of the deserted village in hues of yellow and green. A herd of goats, sheep and buffaloes was grazing on the lush pastures near a water trough. Children hopped about on an old red rusty tractor parked under a shelter.
But the daily customary village routine was thwarted. The peasants hadn’t taken their ploughs to till the fields. The women, clad in loose-fitted shalwar kamiz with chadars pulled over their heads, appeared petrified as they mumbled to one another.
Yusuf Baba, the village head, looked stupefied, seated on a wooden slab bench. The frail-looking elderly man, dressed in a beige-coloured dhoti-kurta, restlessly ran his fingers through the scanty hair on his head. ‘I sighted the same ghost last night. We need to beware. Our village is possessed,’ he urged.
The villagers gathered close to him as he spoke about tossing and turning in bed all night after he felt he had seen a ghostly figure. ‘At half-past four, my sleep was interrupted by the…