“Let’s go play in the rain,” Alex danced on tip toes. Sushi jumped off the bed and so did their dog Brown. She ran towards the door.
“Stop right there. No one is going out and risk falling sick. Both of you off you go,” Peter, their dad, pointed towards their bedroom door. Alex and Sushi made faces exhibiting disappointment and stared at their dad with puppy eyes. Peter narrowed his eyes and looked sternly voicing that he knew their strategy. Alex made a grunting sound and went to his bedroom followed by Sushi. Peter shook his head and walked to the kitchen. Brown followed him in the kitchen.
“Kids! You should have warned me the ordeal I was going to face when the kids were born. We could have saved ourselves from everyday drama,” said to his wife Jazz. Jazz opened the refrigerator, smiled and said, “You always complained about your boring life. So I gave them to keep you entertained. Hope you’re having fun,” she smirked. Peter stood from his chair and walked towards Jazz trying to hold her from behind. She dodged and ran towards the couch while chased by him.
“Why are they making so much of noise? And they want us to sleep through the sound,” Alex complained from the bedroom she shared with her brother. Sushi smiled baring her teeth and walked to the window, “They are having fun. I want fun too. Can we have fun?”
Alex walked to the same window and looked outside. It was a full moon night and the surrounding was illuminated with beauty. He turned his vision to the right and stared at the forest in awe. It looked empty, ghostly and scary. Instead of getting frightened Alex found it interesting.
“Sushi, you and I will have fun tonight without dad and mom,” Alex searched his cloth rack and came back to the window with a rope. He and Sushi climbed down from their 1st-floor bedroom using the rope. The vacation home had a large open space, in the back, which connected the road from one side and the other side opened to a forest. Housing was scarce and every house had a decent distance between them. It was past 11.00 pm and thus no one noticed their escape through the window. Fortunately, the height of the house wasn’t as per the common standards, and thus, the kids climbed down without any injury.
They ran towards the forest holding their hands. Alex looked around to check if they were been followed. But no one was visible. They walked through the trees and heard sounds of birds and insects. Probably animals too. Alex had overlooked a small detail. He was not aware if the forest consisted both deadly and wild animals. He got a little scared.
“I am scared, Alex. This doesn’t look fun,” exclaimed Sushi holding his brother tightly. Alex cleared his throat and replied, “There is nothing to be scared about. Just hold my hand and you’ll be fine.”
“Why are we here? Are we going to see animals, Alex?”
“Not animals. Something bigger. We are here to see ghost. Lots of them.”
“Are they good? Can we be friends with them?” she asked with excitement.
“I don’t know if they befriend a five year old. But they like brave kids like me.”
Sushi looked up sideways and thought whether she is brave too and but came to a conclusion, “I am the scared one.”
“They don’t like the scared one. They eat them,” Alex mocked a tiger to scare Sushi. Alex thought he can distract himself by sharing ghost stories and prove that he was the brave one. He just wanted to hide the fact that he was scared too.
Sushi yelled and started crying out loud. “I want home. I want Mom. Mom. Mom.”
“Shwww. Shut up. Don’t shout. I was kidding. Stop crying.”
“I want to go back. I want Mom. Mom. Mom.”
“Later. I’ll take you to mom. Not now.”
“Now. Now. Now. Now. Now.”
“Will you stop that?”
“Take me home, please,” said slowly and gave her puppy-eye and tear-filled look.
“Fine. But you have to promise to not say a word to dad and mom.”
She shook her head in approval. Alex turned back with Sushi and started walking towards their house.
After walking for a while, he realized the surrounding wasn’t the same. The trees were dense, thick and long. He looked everywhere to find any familiar looking object but found none. They were lost in the unknown forest. He stopped and looked in every direction hastily in hopes to find a way.
“What happened, Alex?” whispered Sushi.
Alex was stunned and had lost his voice. He didn’t know what he should do.
“Alex, are you listening?” shouted Sushi after a few attempts of getting his attention.
Out of nowhere they heard a noise. The noise came from a particular direction and the next minute it came from the other direction. Alex and Sushi hugged each other tightly closing their eyes. After a while, the noise subsided.
“What was that noise?” asked Sushi.
“Some animal,” said Alex quivering.
“What if it is the ghost?”
The noise emerged again and the wind started blowing. This scared the both of them. This is what they have seen in movies, how ghost manifests. They started shouting “Mom, Dad” and collapsed on the ground hugging each other tight.
“You are the brave one. The ghost will eat me,” cried Sushi.
“Yes. I am the brave one,” he realized he should not let go, but fight back. Just the way Superheroes do in movies.
“This is the time to show my friends how I can defeat a ghost,” holding his fist in the air.
Alex took Sushi along and stood up. “Sushi, we have to run back home.”
Sushi agreed and they ran as fast as they could. But the sound followed them too. They changed directions to beat the ghost but it still followed them. After running a few miles, they hid behind a tree in hopes to escape from the ghost. This time the sound came from the other side of the same thick tree. The ghost was behind them, thought Alex. They started running again.
They saw a light ahead of them. Hoping it is their home and they ran faster. On reaching the house, they realized it is not their place. It was a small wooden house with a porch. The sound from the ghost propelled them to enter the house.
Without knocking, he entered with Sushi. It was an old fashioned house with nobody present. He checked the other room but found no one. He took Sushi and got settled on the sofa.
“I am cold,” complained Sushi.
He covered her with a blanket which was lying on the same couch. There was no wood in the fireplace hence the room was cold. In no time, Sushi fell asleep but Alex couldn’t.
“I will save you, Sushi, and won’t let the shitty ghost have you.”
He kept thinking about the ghost and how people talk about them roaming in the forest. He recollected all the stories he had ever heard of “the ghosts of the jungle.” He grew more scared. But he had to reach home before the ghost caught them. He went to the window and looked outside to find no one. The sound of the ghost was simply a whisper now as if the ghost was far away. He decided this was the time to find his way home. He let Sushi sleep and went out to check the directions. He stepped on the porch and looked left and right. He heard a dropping sound and turned left to see a man sitting on a reclining chair panting. He yelled and ran towards the trees in the forest. He kept running till he could not hear any sound. He cried and ran as fast as he could. He cried because he was scared and he had lost his sister to that ghost on the reclining chair.
He did not remember anything when he woke up to the sunlight penetrating from a nearby window. The surrounding was calm and serene. He could hear leaves rustling and birds chirping. “I am still in the forest,” he cried out loud.
“Alex. Alex. Wake up. Its Mom. Alex”
Two arms were around him and holding him. “Mom. It is Mom,” Jazz continued comforting him.
“Alex. Get up son. You’re safe home,” Peter consoled.
“Did I hear dad? He is their too. He said home,” Alex thought.
Alex opened his eyes slowly to find himself in his mother’s lap and his dad sitting beside him on the bed. He was at home in his room. “I really am safe,” he whispered.
All of a sudden he realized he has lost Sushi and left her to that dangerous ghost. He cried again.
“What is it, Alex? You are safe.”, asked Mom.
“Sushi,” all he could say.
“She is fine. Look behind,” said his dad.
He looked behind to find Sushi sleeping on the other side of the bed.
“Stop crying or you will wake her up,” said his dad.
Alex was exhausted with the night’s activities and crying. He fell asleep again in his mother’s arms. When he woke up he heard noises from downstairs. He went down and saw Sushi playing with Dad and Mom.
“Alex,” shouted Sushi and ran to him. She hugged him tight. “You saved me.”
Alex was happy to see his sister alive. “She is fine,” he murmured.
Peter came to Alex and took him to the couch. Sushi played with her mom.
“I did not save her, Dad.” Tears rolled down his cheeks.
“Why did you go to the forest?”
“I just wanted to see the ghost. I thought I was brave and it will get scared of me.” He lowered his eyes due to his foolishness.
“You were brave, Alex. You took care of Sushi in that dark forest full of wild animals, but it was a risk you took. And there is no ghost in the forest. Stop believing those stories.”
“I heard him, dad. I saw him.” He said very slowly.
“What you heard and saw was no ghost. Sushi told me everything.”
“No dad. We heard noises made by the ghost. I saw the ghost sitting on the chair. Sushi didn’t see it.”
“It was no ghost following you, Alex. You heard Brown. He followed you in the forest. He came back to us when we went in search for you in the forest. At the house, you saw Mr. Jadbunwer.”
“A forest ranger. He was sitting on his chair when you saw him and ran.”
“No dad. It was a ghost. There was no one when we came to the house. Ask Sushi.”
“Because he had gone to cut wood for his fireplace. After returning with the wood and dumping the logs on the ground, he relaxed on his chair and that’s when you saw him”.
He was confused and couldn’t believe the man was not a ghost.
“He followed you till you fainted in the forest. He took you to his place and found Sushi and brown sleeping. Brown ran off and followed you when you left home thinking it was a game. When Sushi woke up she gave Mr. Jadbunwer my name and he got you both home.” Scared, Peter and Jazz had returned home from their search to get in touch with some help from the forest keepers.
Alex was silent for moments. After minutes he spoke, “It was no ghost. My friends lied.”
“There is no such thing like ghost. They are just stories.”
Alex shook his head in agreement.
“Who wants lunch?” called his mom from the kitchen.
“Me. Me. Me,” shouted Sushi.
“Mr. Jadbunwer, please come in. Alex, look who is here? Thank you for coming down to meet Alex,” Peter shook hands with him.
“I understand what Alex might be going through. I am here to tell him I am not a ghost,” he smiled and winked.
“Hi, Alex. How are you?” he walked to Alex and offered his hand for shaking.
Alex kept staring his offered hand.
“You will be able to touch it because I am no ghost. Try for yourself.”
Alex looked at him and back at his offered hand. He raised his hand slowly and shook it finally. “You are real.”
“Very much. I was never dead. You can ask my mom.”
Alex smiled and looked at his mom. She smiled back.
“Come sit. Alex, I have stayed alone in that forest almost every week from the past 20 years. I met no ghost and I am a friendly neighbor and a volunteered forest ranger . There are only birds, insects and animals inside. Some animals can harm. You and your sister were lucky to not encounter such dangerous species. Don’t walk out on ghost hunting. It’s not possible without a ghost, you see. You know what I mean,” he winked again.
Mr. Jadbunwer observed him and continued, “There is only one kind of ghost, Alex. Mind ghost. And you already met him. It tricks and plays with your mind. It makes you believe certain things that does not even exist. Don’t let the mind ghost catch you again. Will you believe in ghost anymore?”
Alex replied,” Yes Sir, but only the mind ghost. So I don’t let it catch me again.”
“That’s my boy”, said his mom and dad in unison.