Night on the haunted highwayPrakash was aware of the legends surrounding the road but was determined to reach his destination before daybreak.
The night on the highway was as dark as a dungeon. The road was momentarily illuminated by shards of lightning that cast shadows which seemed to dance to an unfamiliar melody. The knuckles of Prakash, a middle-aged man with a salt-and-pepper beard, were against the leather gloves as he clutched the handlebars of his motorbike. He was aware of the legends surrounding the road but was determined to reach his destination before daybreak.
As Prakash clutched the motorcycle’s handlebars, he was pelted mercilessly by the torrential rain. It was a constant deluge, and each drop felt like a small dagger against his skin. His bike’s headlight pierced the darkness, revealing the gleaming blackness of the damp asphalt. The wind howled like a banshee, and the roadside trees swayed as if they were exchanging secrets.
Prakash had heard tales of the highway’s sinister history, including the accidents, peculiar disappearances, and unexplainable sightings. Locals spoke of a malevolent presence lurking in the shadows, a spectral figure capable of sending chills down the spines of even the most courageous individuals.
As he rode deeper into the core of the night, he felt a growing sense of unease. He was unable to shake the sensation that he was being observed, that unseen eyes followed his every move. The rain-slicked road seemed to extend on forever before him, vanishing into the night’s obsidian void. Then, Prakash noticed a figure standing on the side of the road in the distance. A lone, saturated hitchhiker whose silhouette appeared to sway in the ferocious wind. Despite the repeated warnings, he halted his motorbike and pulled over.
“Need a ride?” he shouted through the torrential downpour.
The hitchhiker turned towards him, the hood of his drenched poncho concealing his face. His gratitude was evident in the silent manner in which he clambered onto the pillion seat of the motorcycle.
“Where are you headed?” As they merged back onto the damp highway, Prakash inquired.
“Kathmandu”, was the quiet response.
Understanding the need for silence on such a night, Prakash refrained from pressing further. They rode together, accompanied by the persistent rain and the raging tempest. The road stretched before them interminably, and the motorbike roared through the darkness. Slowly, as the minutes turned into hours, Prakash was unable to resist stealing glimpses at his mysterious passenger. The individual remained a mystery throughout the night, concealed by his raincoat.
Finally, Prakash broke the silence with, “So, have you heard the tales about this highway?”
The hitchhiker did not immediately respond, but after some time, he spoke in a low, eerie voice. “I have indeed heard them. The accounts of accidents and unusual events. It is said to be bewitched”.
Prakash could not resist uneasily chuckling, “Mysticisms, my friend. Simply superstitions”. The hitchhiker remained mute, but Prakash noticed a gleam in his eyes. Fear, possibly. Or perhaps something deeper, a profound belief in the supernatural. The rain continued to fall as they travelled along the desolate highway. Prakash could only see a few metres in front of him, and the ominous atmosphere weighed heavily on his shoulders. He could not help but experience mounting unease. Suddenly, the headlamps illuminated an old, rusted-out truck by the roadside. It had flat tyres and fractured windows, as if it had been abandoned for years. Prakash slowed down, pondering how a vehicle in such poor condition had gotten here.
The hitchhiker’s hold on Prakash’s waist tightened, and his voice trembled. “We should continue. Do not cease”.
Prakash was unable to contest the urgency in the man’s tone. He revved the engine and raced past the abandoned truck, but in his rearview mirror, he caught a fleeting glimpse of movement: a shadowy figure standing by the truck with hollow eyes, observing them.
He trembled and focused on the road ahead, attempting to forget the strange encounter. The highway continued to wind through the treacherous terrain, and the tempest continued to be merciless. The night seemed interminable.
As they rounded a bend, however, Prakash’s pulse sank. A truck had overturned in front of them, its enormous body strewn across the road like a dead animal. Prakash murmured “no” under his breath as he attempted to find a way around the wreckage. The wind howled melancholy, and the rain appeared to intensify as if the elements themselves were conspiring against them.
Again, the hitchhiker spoke with a terrified intonation. “We need to go back”. Prakash looked at him incredulously. Going back? To what end? The deserted truck?
The hitchhiker vigorously affirmed, “Yes, indeed! It is the only option! We have to return”. Prakash hesitated momentarily, divided between his desire to reach his destination and the urgency in the voice of the hitchhiker. He made a decision at last. He reversed the bike and retraced their steps. As they neared the abandoned vehicle, the hitchhiker abruptly yelled, “Stop!” Stop the bike!
Prakash jammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop alongside the corroded vehicle. The hitchhiker leapt from his bike and ran towards the truck while his drenched coat flapped in the wind. Prakash observed with bewilderment as the man crouched next to the overturned vehicle and dug his hands into the mud. Then, to Prakash’s astonishment, he extracted a soaked, muddy photograph of a family with their smiles frozen in time. The hitchhiker’s voice trembled as he turned towards Prakash with tear-filled eyes. “These were my relatives. They passed away due to this catastrophe. I am the sole survivor.” As Prakash realised the truth, a chill ran down his spine. The hitchhiker was a ghost, bound to this highway by the calamity that had befallen his family.
The spectral hitchhiker remounted the bike, his rain-soaked form somehow appearing less opaque. Prakash realised he had accomplished his mission by locating the photograph and returning to the accident site.
As they continued along the highway, the tempest began to dissipate and the night gradually gave way to the first rays of dawn. The presence of the hitchhiker waned as if he were finally finding calm. Prakash arrived at his destination as the sun began to rise, his heart weighed down by the events of the previous night. He was aware that he had encountered something unexplainable and extraterrestrial.
And as he looked back at the eerie road stretching off into the distance, he shuddered, thinking of how many more tales were hidden in its mysterious shadows.
Upreti is a student of psychology at TU.