Monday, December 9, 2013

The Hotel

The chain of events that I am going to tell you about today is nothing short of extraordinary. Even though it has been two years since its occurrence, thinking about it never fails to send a chill down my spine. I have tried numerous times to explain what exactly had happened, tried to reason with logic, but failed miserably. Maybe you can figure something out after reading this. I haven't talked about it to anyone, haven't even discussed it with my wife after returning from that fateful place, all in the hope that it will cease to exist in my memory. That hasn't worked, so maybe venting it out will.

It all started in a bitterly cold December morning. We made our way up towards the beautiful city of Darjeeling. Soon, we were surrounded by lush green mountains and enveloped by a thick layer of clouds. My wife, Neeta, could not contain her excitement. We had been planning this trip for weeks now and it felt good to finally take a break and give in to relaxation.

We reached Darjeeling at around five in the afternoon. Our hotel was located a few miles away from the main city. It was a secluded spot, away from the hustle and bustle of the famous Mall Road. I stopped my car in front of a large board that said 'Hotel Mountain Retreat'. It wasn't a big hotel. It only had around five rooms, but it afforded an excellent view of the Kanchenjunga range. We entered the hotel and were surprised to find that it was nearly empty. In fact, we could not see anyone apart from the hotel staff. I confided these thoughts to the man at the reception counter, to which he replied:

'People prefer to stay closer to the Mall Road. No one bothers to come out this far. It is a pity, actually. People no longer appreciate the beauty of peace and quiet.'

All five rooms were located on the first floor. We were given room number 102, which according to the receptionist, provided the best view of the snow-capped range. It was actually a suite, with a small bedroom and a cozy living room. There was a small refrigerator in the living room which allowed us to keep in it the various food items we had bought on the way. Both rooms had large windows which opened up to Kanchenjunga. Since the journey from Kolkata was tiring, we decided to spend the rest of the day in the hotel itself, and start exploring the city the next morning.

And that is when it all began......

It was around 9 p.m. We had just finished having our dinner, and had plans to turn in early. I went and stood in front of the large window. It was pitch black outside. The only thing I could see was my own shadow on the grass below. To my surprise, there was something else on the grass. Another shadow. I could see a small patch of light on the grass, presumably coming from the window of the room beside ours. And I could see a shadow of a man, standing at the window.

'That's funny', I said aloud, 'I thought the receptionist said we are the only guests here.'

Neeta said, 'Yes we are. Why?'

'It seems there is another person staying in the room next to our own. Look.'

Neeta came up to the window and looked outside. The shadow had not moved. It was eerily still. It did not move an inch.

'Maybe he checked in after we did', suggested Neeta.

It was quite possible, of course. Curiosity got the better of us and after some trepidation, we quietly went outside. We went up to the room in question. It was room 103. Suddenly, Neeta froze in her tracks. I stopped instinctively and looked at her. She was staring at the door. Fear occupied every inch of her countenance. She pointed slowly towards the door. I followed her gaze and realized the reason for her reaction. The door was locked from the outside!

'Did...did someone lock him out?', Neeta stammered. I had no answer. I rushed back to our room and went up to the window. The shadow was gone, and so was the patch of light.

That incident kept us awake for most of the night. The next morning, I asked the receptionist about our mysterious guest. He said that no one had checked in after us and that we were the only guests staying here. I didn't ask him about the shadow and risk being thought of as a freak.

The rest of the day was enjoyable. We spent all day exploring the city of Darjeeling. The scenic beauty all around helped us get over the happenings of the previous night. We decided to dine out and had a hearty meal at Glenary's.

I do not want to divulge all the small details of our outings during the daytime and digress from the main topic. So, let us move ahead to our third night in that fateful hotel. I saw that shadow again, right next to mine on the grass. It was completely still. I raised my hand and put them on the window grills. To my surprise, the shadow did the same thing! My heartbeat raced. I raised my other hand and waved. The shadow waved at exactly the same time. I would be lying if I said I wasn't scared out of my wits. I turned around to call my wife, but before I could do that, I heard a blood-curling scream come from the other room. I had never heard such a scream before in my life. It was a cry of anguish, a cry from someone facing death. Neeta came rushing out of the bedroom. The scream from 103 continued.

We rushed outside and pounded on the door of room 103. I was shaking but managed to shout:

'Anybody in there? Are you okay?!'

Suddenly, it stopped. A deathly silence took over. I saw the receptionist come up the stairs.

'What happened, sir? Why are you shouting?', he said.

'Didn't you hear the screams coming from this room?', I asked, bewildered. 'There is someone in deep trouble in there.'

'What scream?!', he said, 'there is no one in there. That room has been vacant since summer. Like I told you, we don't have many guests here.'

I refused to believe him and demanded that he open the door. After some persuasion, he obliged. As soon as he opened the door, I rushed in. The room was dusty. It was a small room, unlike our suite. It was completely dark and completely empty. Neeta and I searched the entire room. There was no hint of anyone having stayed there recently. I went up to the window, the same one from which the shadow had emerged. I could see the light from our room on the grass. But what I saw next made my head spin. The shadow, the same one, was standing very still right at our window. 

I ran back to our room, but there was no one there. My wife says that was when I fainted.

Now, let us skip over to our fourth night at Hotel Mountain Retreat. I woke up suddenly. I glanced at my mobile phone. It was around 3 am. I felt very thirsty. I saw Neeta sleeping soundly next to me. Suddenly, I heard a thud coming from the living room. And another one. Fear gripped me again. Should I wake Neeta up? I decided to let her sleep and gently made my way to the living room. I saw the shadow move across the room. There was definitely someone there. I entered the living room and gasped. The refrigerator door was open, and I saw Neeta crouched over it. Hearing my gasp, she lifted her head said:

'Oh, you scared me honey! I woke up feeling really thirsty. So I came here to have some water. Do you want some?'

I was stunned. If Neeta was here drinking water, who was in the bedroom sleeping in our bed? Shaking with fear, I went back to our bedroom. To my horror, I saw that my wife was there, sleeping in our bed. I felt a knot tighten in my stomach. I turned back to the living room. There was no one there and the refrigerator door was closed. I could feel the fear paralysing me. I went over and woke Neeta up.

'Neeta, d-did you just get up to have a glass of water?', I stammered.

'What?', said Neeta groggily. 'I didn't go anywhere. Why did you wake me up?'

'I just saw you near the fridge. Listen, Neeta, we can't stay here anymore. There is something seriously wrong with this place!'

We decided to check out first thing in the morning. The receptionist was surprised to see us leaving so soon. We didn't bother explaining our reasons. We just took our bags and left.

We managed to find a cab that would take us back to Kolkata. On our way, I chanced upon telling our driver all about the horrors of the last few days. When I finished, he asked:

'Where did you say you stayed?'

'At the Mountain Retreat hotel', I replied.

'That is not possible', he said. 'That hotel was burnt down due to a fire in June!'

'What!', I said, shocked. 'But-but we were there, in that hotel for the last four days!'

'Let me prove it to you', said our driver and drove us back to the hotel.

I will never forget what I saw there.

It was a sorry sight to see. Hotel Mountain Retreat was completely burnt to the ground. Only a few blackened pillars remained, and a faded signboard. Our driver explained that there had been a huge fire here in June which had completely destroyed this hotel, and that there had been no survivors. He continued to tell us all the details, but I was no longer listening.....

I understand there must be many questions in your mind right now. Believe me, I have been struggling with the same questions for over two years now. How did we stay at a hotel that no longer exists? Who was the shadow? Whom did I see near the fridge? What had happened to us in those four days?

I am afraid I still do not have any answers. Neeta and I don't discuss it anymore. I guess that is the best option. We have put all those incidents behind us. There is just one thing that keeps happening to us even now. Somehow, we always wake up at around 3 am, and feel as if our bodies are burning. Like we have caught fire. It lasts for a few minutes, and then stops. Happens every night. God knows why......


  1. Nice chilling story which gave me goose bumps. The story will be in the back of my mind when we'll visit Darjeeling again.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. What a thriller!!! Well written!!! But too scared to go back to sleep :)

  3. Engrossing and racy..the suspense is very well built! loved the part "If Neeta was here drinking water, who was in the bedroom sleeping in our bed?"..keep them coming Lash