THE STRANGE REUNION – A short story
I was glad for the sunlight after days of dull insipid weather. There was another reason to rejoice. Today was the 10year reunion of the 1990 batch of NMS University and my friends and I were looking forward to it as a thirsty man looks for water in the desert.
We had been deprived of juvenile fun for too long, ever since we had taken up jobs immediately after leaving college. In fact, this reunion had taken on the mantle of a succour in desperate times.
We did give a cursory thought to our professors but, not having been prize-winners in any sphere of college life, they had never been an important part of our universe.
All of us, Sheena, Riya, Tania, Suchita and I, had put ourselves through gruelling hours at the gym at the mercy of remorseless personal trainers to get a body to die for. Okay, not really to die for. But at least a body one would not die of shame of, even after two kids and an exhausting lifestyle.
Booted and suited, looking like the successful executives we were, we reached the venue. It was empty. Did we get the date wrong? That would have been possible if Tania had been in charge of the details, she was absent-minded even after so many years.
All the logistics had been tracked by Sheena, the brainy one, the nit-picking, missing-the- wood -for -the -trees Virgo. We all turned, eyes accusing, towards Sheena. Even the perfectionist could meet her match.
The date was right and so was the time. So, where was everybody? We looked around for a clue to this strange turn of events. The farmhouse where the party was scheduled had a deserted look. No lights in the large French windows and no sign of any life.
But wait, a thin, droopy figure moved furtively among the trees that lined the walkway. It moved towards us and suddenly a matted-haired, long-nailed old hag dressed in a long patchwork skirt and a peasant blouse stood before us.
“Glad you could make it.”
The leery cackle sent a shiver down our spine. Beads of nervous perspiration lined our foreheads as we debated whether to make a run for it with our heels or without them. Just then she grabbed Suchita by the arm. Startled, Suchita, the meekest of us, screamed loudly, as she tried in vain to loosen the old hag’s grip.
“We shall have lots of fun. The cauldron’s bubbling and I am hungry”.
Visions of being boiled alive in large cauldrons flashed through our minds. But this was the 21st century and witches no longer existed, atleast not the ones that ate people. But did this witch know it? Shaking in our boots but taking strength in our numbers we pleaded with her to let us go. We would get some tasty MacDonald’s burgers for her instead, we promised her.
As I tried to prise away her fingers from the screaming Suchita’s hand, I applied more pressure than I intended. Propelled by this sudden motion the hag rocked backwards and almost lost her balance. I put out my hand to steady her and was left holding a bunch of hair.
“Was she so old that she has just disintegrated leaving behind only her hair?” this thought crossed my mind as I stared open-mouthed.
This was no witch. This was Mrs. Sita Banerjee, the most popular professor of our time. She was the only Economics teacher who could boast of full attendance in her class.
Why was she dressed so? Had hard times fallen on her? Had she taken up witch craft? Too many questions, that needed answers.
Mrs. Banerjee laughed merrily, (the leery cackle thankfully no longer to be heard) as she told us of the plan by the professors to fool us. The others were partying in a tent behind the farmhouse and we were greeted with shouts of glee as we reached there.
And the cauldron? Yes, it was there but fortunately it was full of just punch.
Our hands were still shaking as we complimented Mrs. Banerjee on her realistic acting even as she prepared herself to welcome the next lot of guests.