The phone callWhen Shankar Chettri answered the phone from Sheela, little did he know that things would take a strange turn.
The phone rang, and constable Shankar Chettri immediately picked up the receiver.
“Hello, you have called Nepal Police's Maitidevi station," said Shankar in an authoritative voice.
“Hello, it’s me, Sheela. Please answer me,” an old lady said with a sense of urgency.
“Hello, madam. Yes. Who are you, madam? Can you repeat your name please?”
“Prakash, it’s me. Where have you gone, Prakash? Please come back. I am too old, Prakash. I’m all alone. I can’t live like this. Please, please come back.”
Shankar was overcome with sudden rage, and his jaw clenched. It wasn’t the first time someone had made a prank call to the police station.
But just as he was about to lash out in anger, a sensible part of his brain took over, and he calmed down.
“Madam, I’m afraid you’ve dialled the wrong number.” However, it was impossible for someone to misdial the number 100. But given the urgency in the lady's voice, Shankar thought that the lady had genuinely made a mistake.
But the lady did not pay heed to Shankar and went on saying, “Prakash, I’m too old to go for walks. My knees hurt. Please come back from wherever you are. Please." Her voice choked with emotion.
A spasm passed through Shankar's face, and his knees felt weak.
“Prakash. Prakash.” Now her voice became loud and shrill. The lady hung up the phone.
The peculiar nature of the call left Shankar stunned, and he came back to his senses when he heard someone call his name.
Shankar shuddered in his seat and looked back, and saw that the person calling his name was Inspector Rabi Pandey.
“What happened, Shankar? You look visibly shaken. Who called you?”
“Nothing, nothing at all. It was just, you see, it was an old lady. She called me Prakash and told me to come back to her. And that she was very lonely. And yes, she said her knees hurt.”
Rabi folded his hands and pursed his lips. He spoke at length.
“Oh, it is Miss Sheela again. I forgot to tell you about her Shankar. You see, three days ago, she called us and kept asking for a Prakash. This has been happening since the day you went out on leave.”
Shankar put his elbows on the table and leaned in interestedly.
“So, she’s been pranking us for days, eh? She shouldn’t be wasting our time like this.”
“This isn’t a prank call. Don’t worry, Shankar. Miss Sheela is a harmless old lady. She lives in a yellow house near Maitidevi Temple. The thing is, her husband died a month ago. I get the fact that she misses him. But it's strange that she would call the police to talk to her dead husband."
Shankar sank back in his chair and took a deep breath.
“Strange. Very strange indeed,” agreed Rabi.
The lady kept calling the station asking for Prakash for the next few days. Even though Sheela's calls irritated Shankar, he always spoke to her politely. A week later, her phone calls started getting stranger.
At 4:30 pm on November 15, 2021, the police station's phone rang. Shankar looked at the phone and recognised Sheela's number. Shankar answered the call and calmly said, “Hello Nepal Police's Maitidevi station. How may I help you?”
“Hello Prakash, help me. Prakash, please come save me. I am about to die. It’s too cold here. I can’t move. My hands are freezing. Please come quick. I don’t think I will survive this.”
This was the first time Sheela had talked like this, and it shocked Shankar.
“Miss Sheela. We are coming to your place. Please stay calm.”
Upon hearing Shankar utter these words, Rabi leaned in through the door and asked about the call.
“Miss Sheela just called. She said she was dying and that we needed to come help her. The cold, she said, was too much for her.”
Shankar and Rabi took out the jeep headed to Sheela's house in Janata Marg, Maitidevi. When the duo reached the house's door, it was unlocked. So they slipped in and searched for Sheela.
“Miss Sheela, are you there?” said a concerned Shankar.
There was no answer.
“There,” Rabi pointed to a door, “that must be her room.”
Shankar pushed the door, but the door got stuck halfway through.
When they looked in through the open space, they found Sheela lying on the floor, her leg blocking the door.
As soon as they entered the room, they felt a sudden drop in temperature. Shankar's nose ached as if an ice-cold hand had gripped the bridge of his nose. Rabi leaned down to feel Sheela’s pulse and announced that she was dead. They called the hospital nonetheless. Shankar pulled out his DSLR and took pictures of the dead body, the telephone, and the room. Then he called for backup. More police officers arrived shortly and began to examine the scene.
While Shankar was scanning the room, he noticed a yellowish oily substance on the telephone. He pulled out an evidence bag and put the substance inside.
When the ambulance arrived, they put Sheela’s body in the stretcher and put her on the back of the vehicle, and the police sealed the house.
The forensic report came that night, and it stated that Sheela had died a day before the police found her. Shankar told the forensic doctor that this was impossible as the lady herself had called the police station 10 minutes before her body was discovered. But, the doctor was firm with his decision.
The next morning Shankar walked into the police station with an air of a shattered man. He was still in shock with the forensics department's report. Not long after he had sat down on his chair, the phone rang.
When Shankar saw the number in the display of his landline, his jaw dropped. It was Sheela's phone number, but Shankar answered the call anyway.
“Prakash, you should’ve come. You know how much I writhed and twisted in.”
Before Sheela could continue the sentence, Shankar hung up the phone. He rushed out of the police station, jumped on his bike and headed to Sheela's house. He flung open the house's door and stopped right before the room where he had found Sheela's dead body. When he entered the room, he felt the temperature drop. He looked around to see if the windows were open, but they were all shut. He scanned the room and saw that the telephone had the same yellow substance. He remembered that he had wiped it the day before. He picked up the receiver and pressed it to his right ear. The phone was dead. He now remembered that the police had contacted the phone company, and they had immediately disconnected the phone's connection.
Suddenly, he felt his stomach churn, and he felt like he was being watched. He heard the sound of water dripping. He looked up at the ceiling and saw a mist rising to touch the ceiling. Within a few seconds, the mist disappeared right before his eyes.
When Shankar reached his office, he saw that a crowd had gathered around his desk.
“Where were you, Shankar?” demanded Rabi with a stern expression on his face.
Shankar ignored him.
“Where are the photographs that I took of Miss Sheela's room?" said Shankar.
Rabi handed Shankar a brown envelope.
Shankar took out the pictures and began leafing through them as Rabi looked on.
“Look,” Rabi said, pointing at the picture of the telephone. Right above the telephone was a faint white mist. The mist looked unclear. Rabi pulled out another drawer on the table and pulled out a camera.
“The photographs are all here in this camera,” he said, thrusting the camera to Shankar.
Shanker opened the galleries and started going through the photos. When he found the photograph of the telephone, he zoomed in on the mist. Rabi and constable Shankar looked in silence as they saw the picture—hovering above the telephone and in front of the green wall was a mist that resembled the face of Sheela.
The police station's phone rang. The two men slowly turned towards the phone and looked at the number flashing on the screen. It was Sheela’s number.