“We are never alone, are we?” An Excerpt from Shinie Antony’s ‘Boo’

Have you ever felt someone was watching you, even though you are all alone? Shinie Antony’s ‘Boo’ is a collection of thirteen well-crafted paranormal tales, each uniquely haunting in its own way. The stories penned by Shashi Deshpande, K.R. Meera, Jerry Pinto, Durjoy Datta, and many other illustrious names are sure to send a chill down your spine.

Here’s an excerpt of the introduction of the book.

The unknown has always beckoned. Infinite, cobwebby, black as the night, silent as the grave, what we cannot see hear touch. What, furthermore, is perhaps not alive.

My own experiences of the uncanny stay mine; fear takes me where it will. There were whispers without words and things I almost saw. And unlike what I always thought, squeamish as I am and lily-livered, these semi-happenings did not creep me out. Sometimes I saw them as other-worldly warnings, sometimes they were not meant to be seen and my eye had somehow breached a divide, sometimes my mouth formed words I did not mean to say . . .

The paranormal has many subgenres, but of these it was not the occult, poltergeists or screams of the possessed that brought me to these stories, but the psychological thrill. The mind is where it all begins. The mind is where it lives. This feeling that there’s something out there—and it is on to us. It knows that we know. And we must forever pretend we don’t know, not catch its eye—even when it is looking straight at us.

The gothic charm of K.R. Meera’s story, the sweet smell of onions in Kanishk Tharoor’s tale, the burden of hindsight in Shashi Deshpande’s mythofiction, the menacing narrator in Jerry Pinto’s story—they all bring in the supernatural slyly, stylishly. Durjoy Datta, Jahnavi Barua, Manabendra Bandyopadhyay, Kiran Manral and Jaishree Misra give us the old-fashioned traditional ghost story, the one where the banshee sighs or screams. While Ipsita Roy Chakraverti decodes a message from the beyond, Madhavi S. Mahadevan and Usha K.R. take us to places where the backstory is everything.

We wouldn’t be here—you reading this, me writing this—if we didn’t know. Despite science, reason and a raised eyebrow. Deep in our bones, when all falls silent, there is a knowing that precedes births and lingers after deaths. It lifts the hair at the nape of our neck; it stares at us, infatuated, from behind stairs; prescient, it invades our very rocking chair, replacing peace and calm with a restless zigzag; it rotates its head 360 degrees when we aren’t looking.

It doesn’t dispel though we move on, go our ways, live lives, love and let go. What is it that shifts just beyond our vision? Who listens when we talk in our heads? When does dark get just that little bit darker? Why that word on the billboard—the same word we just finished thinking about? And then bumping into the very person we thought of after a hundred years only that morning . . .

What do we know about ourselves besides incidents and milestones and birthdays and heartbreaks, what do we know of that which cannot be known? It is there in a photograph or painting you see—the feeling that you’ve been there before, seen that face somewhere. We are here but we are elsewhere too.

A haunting. Begins as a catch in the side, a stiff neck, a hunch, a bad feeling, pins and needles, an eye twitch, sleep talk, a leg gone numb, vertigo, spasms, heart that trebles its beat, a smell, a chill, a spell, a tingle, dreaming the same dream, a sudden vision of what’s to come, waking at 3.33 a.m., a song no one else can hear, the sound of breathing when we hold our breath . . .

We are never alone, are we?

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