Welcome to OBSCURUS, your weekly dose of paranormal fiction. Every Wednesday OBSCURUS features new short stories and serialized novels written by novelist, screenwriter, and voice-over artist Biswajit Banerjee. The realm of the paranormal stretches far beyond the usual horror story. So, while you will get to listen to lots of ghost stories on this podcast, there will also be many tales of lesser-known paranormal themes. To get us started, here's your host Biswajit Banerjee.
HOST TALK 00:00:47
Hello, and welcome to OBSCURUS. Can one survive a free fall through a height of over thirty thousand feet? If you said no, I urge you to check the web. There have been some incredible cases of survival. Today’s story is about a girl who survived an air mishap.
Before I narrate that story, I request my readers and listeners worldwide to visit my website biswajitbanerjee.com for information about my books, films, voice-over projects, and other creative endeavors. You will also find all the OBSCURUS episodes and their transcripts on the website.
And of course, I have another website obscurus.buzzsprout.com which is dedicated to this podcast. All the OBSCURUS episodes, their transcripts, and every episode’s chapter markers are available on obscurus.buzzsprout.com. Do pay a visit, please. HOLI GREETINGS 00:02:03
OBSCURUS wishes all its readers and listeners a very happy and colorful Holi. We hope this beautiful festival of colors fills your lives with happiness and bliss. HOST TALK CONTINUED 00:02:25
Now, let’s start the story. A young girl survives an air mishap even after falling from a height of around thirty thousand feet. She finds herself caught up in a dried tree in a desert. Though, for some strange reasons, she doesn’t have a major injury, survival in the resourceless desert appears impossible. Will the young lady find a way to live? Let’s find out.
DAD DEAR DAD 00:03:10
Written and performed by Biswajit Banerjee
The bodily vibrations returned, one after the other. It took quite a while before Paulomi sensed some life in her body. Where on earth was she! With the front of Paulomi's body pressed tight against what felt like a network of hot tubes, nothing else gave a cue to help her draw inferences about her station. Some more time ticked by before she opened her eyes. Thankfully the vision was intact.
Soon enough, Paulomi knew she was stuck up on a bed of branches of a dried-out tree. And then the horrors of the day flashed past her eyes — the tremendous turbulence in the weather that made the airplane toss up and down and right and left, the screams of the passengers, the unsuccessful efforts of the air hostesses and flying stewards to keep the passengers calm, announcements made by the crew members from the cockpit suggesting that they were doing everything possible to bring things under control, the sudden blast close to the main engine of the plane, the fire that swiftly moved from one side of the craft to the other, shrieks of people in the grip of fire, the second blast that tore the aircraft into two, then the fall ... free fall ... and the screams and cries slowly dissolving into infinity.
How did she survive? Could anyone stay alive after a fall from around thirty thousand feet? Well, yes, Paulomi was alive. Long back, she read an article about a woman who miraculously survived a fall from a height of over thirty thousand feet after a bomb blast tore the airplane in which she was serving as one of the crew members. Not even in her wildest dreams did Paulomi imagine herself to live through a similar stroke of fate!
The young crew member's skull, vertebrae, ribs, pelvis, and legs got smashed. And she was for a while numbed from her waist down. Paulomi reasoned she also must be carrying similar injuries. Perhaps most of her bones were broken.
Attempts to sit failed. However, Paulomi had a hunch that she wasn't paralyzed. So, she spent the next few minutes gathering all her physical and mental powers, and she did succeed. After sitting down, she tried moving her limbs. They moved but with difficulty. She touched her face, shoulders, and legs and heaved a sigh of relief at the realization that her bones were not broken after all. In fact, not a single bone appeared to have been harmed. A miracle indeed! Even after falling from a height of around thirty thousand feet, she was not only alive but had a near intact body. A bigger blessing than the one that saved the young crew member!
As tears rolled down her cheeks, she said, "Dad, did you do it? Did you save me?"
Deep cuts and terrible pains filled her body, but they meant nothing when seen against the mishap's magnitude. Paulomi looked down. Cushions — torn and jagged — lay scattered near the base of the tree. After a few deep breaths, she tried to figure out what might have saved her. Perhaps the cushions landed on the tree and she on the cushions. The cushions might have fallen one over the other in such a way that her body got enough buffer when it fell on them. The impact of her falling on the cushions, Paulomi reasoned, pushed them down. Still, she got the support of the branches that flocked together to form a couch of safety!
Then she gathered her energies again to get down. After she was back on land, she realized she was standing in a desert. With the sun burning right over her head and the roasted sand beneath her feet, she needed to shift to a cooler place. A cooler place? Did a cooler place exist? No, there was none. Possibly, her present station was the coolest of all because it still offered the dim shadows of the dried branches of the only tree in sight. Perhaps climbing the tree again would be prudent. There was a canopy of dried branches which she could at least use as some semblance of a roof. The shadow of the arrangement of the offshoots would offer some relief from the scorching sun. Besides, the tree would also save her from the fiery sand blazing her feet. But climbing the tree again was nothing short of a nightmare. No matter how scary, the nightmare had to be lived ... Paulomi didn't have another choice.
So, she got back on the tree after a good deal of toil. Yes, some comfort did come her way! The feet got relief, and the head got a small circle of shadow for protection.
In a while, the pinch of hunger and thirst turned severe. What would Paulomi eat and drink in that desert? The few visible xerophytes would not make good food. And one couldn't tell. They might also be poisonous. Could she feed on desert animals, she wondered. The very next moment, she found the idea ludicrous. Yes, she had seen some television documentaries on survival skills that showed experts living on raw animals, eggs, and insects. But those experts are never alone. A film crew including medical professionals accompanies them.
With the guarantee of safety, it is not so great a threat for a survival expert to feed on anything and everything. It should be challenging, no doubt, but the presence of a film crew provides a big mental buffer for the survival expert. Stranded alone in the desert, Paulomi didn't enjoy the slightest buffer. And, of course, she had no hunting skills. A burst of laughter... she laughed at the cruelty of destiny! Perhaps it would be better to die a sudden death than survive the mishap and die bit by bit. One thought led to the other, none of them carrying the slightest of hopes.
"Dad, if you made this miracle happen, I wonder why you did it. Perhaps you should have allowed me to die. A quick death wouldn't cause me as much pain as a slow one would. Don't you think so? If you had not saved me, I would have been sitting next to you by now, cuddling your chubby cheeks."
Soon she breathed a little easy as sleep invaded her eyes.
When she woke up, Paulomi found herself in the middle of a sand storm. Yet again, Paulomi came face to face with the ugly truth. Stranded in the heart of a desert, she didn't have any chance of survival. And the ruthless desert promptly presented its extremes to her. It was already evening, and the heat of the day stood replaced by the chill of the night.
Soon the cold turned unbearable. "What the hell," she said, wondering if the sand retained some heat to give her comfort and got down from the tree. No, the sand was not hot anymore! It was cold, and from the feel of it, she knew it wouldn't be long before the sand turned unbearably cold.
So, she had to climb up the tree again. Well, she didn't command enough energy to be back on the tree, but the lack of choices often makes one derive the best from one's body and mind. Driven by the compulsion, she forced herself back into the tree. Hunger and thirst soon impacted her sense of reason. Clouds of confusion plagued her mind, and for a moment, her brain seemed to shut itself off. Then a sudden movement at the base of the tree forced her mind to work again.
The quick ugly, wavy movement of a desert snake on the sand was clearly visible. For a moment, Paulomi had her heart in her mouth. Did the desert snakes climb trees, she wondered. Not just the snakes, other dangerous animals also abounded in the desert. And night happens to be their hunting time. The chance of falling prey to these animals was not too remote, she reasoned. Oh, what a cruel joke her fate played on her! All she could do now was to sit in the tree, keeping a watch on the surroundings.
"Why did you save me, Dad," she said as she realized the fatigue would not let her vigil continue for long. Sleep got the better of her, but she woke up after some time bitten by the frosty cold.
Well, Paulomi had to do something to prevent herself from freezing. The clothes were not enough, and there was no way she could use the branches or the canopy to cover herself. In fact, any such attempt might be disastrous because it could disturb the balance of the branches, thereby making the tree pretty useless. But the cold had to be countered. Otherwise, she wouldn't wake up to see the morning sun. Did she have a trick up her sleeve?
The only idea that struck her was getting down and bringing up a cushion or two for use as a cover for the body. However, the thought of getting down from the tree and again climbing up made her sick. Left with no choice, she forced herself to get down from the tree with tears in her eyes.
Just before she hit the base, she twisted her ankle. Paulomi groaned in pain and doubted if she would be able to climb up the tree again. With unbearable pain, she moved forward and picked up two cushions, almost in the shape of sheets. Then she threw them up, one after the other, towards the bed of branches. After nine unsuccessful attempts, one of the cushions landed on the tree. The second one needed to be thrown up with still greater deftness as a bad throw might bring even the first one back to the ground. Paulomi tried again and again and finally got success. The two cushions were now safely stationed on the branches.
Now, she would have to climb the tree with care lest she should cause vibrations resulting in the cushions falling down. Paulomi braved the pain of her twisted ankle and the risk of causing the cushions to fall back to the ground on her way up. Soon she slept with the cushions over her body. Though not enough to beat the cold, the covers did provide some relief.
Then happened magic - she found herself facing her father. It was the same desert, but the conditions were not harsh. The sun in the crimson sky did not appear threatening. And perhaps the sun couldn't have hurt her anyway, for she had transcended the world of matter. How else could she be in touch with her deceased father? She surveyed the place. The desert, the xerophytes, the tree, and the cushions — every entity in the world she found herself in now had the likeness of the corresponding entity in the world she had known earlier. Paulomi found death to be blissful.
"O Dad, I am so happy to see you. I am sure you have come to take me to your world. I am ready, Dad," she said with a big smile.
Only a supernal smile played on his lips in response.
"Come, Dad, let's go."
"No, you are not coming with me, my child," he spoke in his loving voice, "think of your mother. She will be left all alone. You got to take care of her."
"But Dad ..."
"Listen, you are my bright child, Paulomi, and you shall shine always. I am so proud of you, my princess," his smile now radiated all the warmth of his heart.
"But ... I ... Dad ..."
Paulomi's father seemed to lose the material quality of his being. His body soon turned translucent, and shortly after that, he was completely gone!
"Dad," Paulomi shouted, "do not go ... please."
At that very instant, a noise brought Paulomi out of her slumber. The early morning sun smiled at her. An aircraft was traversing the sky at quite a height. She held a branch and stood up, shouting at the top of her voice for help. In her attempt to attract attention, she dropped the cushions back to the ground. No one took note of her. Paulomi realized the futility of her action but spotted a faint ray of hope. At least the sky above was a flying zone. This meant there was a chance, though a slim one, that she would be rescued.
Early morning sand would not be too warm. So, Paulomi decided to move around to look for food and a better shelter. But she had to be careful not to stray too much away from that tree because if one got lost in a desert, getting back to one's vantage point made a real challenge. In the given circumstances, the dry tree marked her vantage point.
A little distance ahead, there was a mound of sand. Paulomi climbed it and looked around. What she saw kindled her spirits. A part of the wreckage of the plane lay scattered at a distance. Paulomi hoped to find some food and water there.
Meanwhile, another plane went past the sky. This time Paulomi took off her jacket and moved it rapidly over her head. Again no one spotted her.
The part of the wreckage ahead appeared to be the only hope now. After walking down the mound, she moved over to the debris. Oh, the long walk caused quite a fatigue. The remains of the plane were not as close as they appeared to be from the mound.
Madly she searched through the debris. To her absolute disgust, she found no trace of food or water. Again, she laughed in frustration.
The hopelessness reached its peak when she found a scavenger bird taking rounds in the air above her. Without a doubt, it sensed a dying body beneath. Perhaps it wouldn't wait till she fully died. It waited for her to grow more sluggish and would attack when it felt she wouldn't be able to put up a good defense.
"Dad," she said, "I am sorry I cannot keep your wish. Mom has to take care of herself, and I shall soon be there with you in your world."
Then she laughed even louder. At that moment, a sudden realization darted through her mind — she spotted a broken mirror somewhere in the debris. Her father's words — you shall shine — flashed past her mind like lightning. Paulomi looked up at the heavens with a gleam in her eyes, for she now knew exactly what she had to do.
After rushing back to the wreckage, she searched through the things and soon found the mirror. And as if destiny was simply waiting for her to pick up the cue from her father, a helicopter made an appearance in the sky. Paulomi held the mirror up in a manner to make it shine as brightly as it could in the morning sun. It worked. The people in the chopper spotted her! In an hour, she was sitting in the helicopter eating bread and sipping coffee. She learned that the helicopter formed a part of the rescue mission undertaken by the aviation agencies. The lady in charge of the rescue unit said they kept no hopes of finding a survivor. Paulomi's being alive was a miracle of miracles!
Paulomi smiled as the glinting mirror down there on the ground caught her attention. Her father's words 'you shall shine' played like music in her ears.
Thanks for listening to OBSCURUS. If you like what you heard, please subscribe and visit biswajitbanerjee.com for more information about Biswajit's books, movies, documentaries, and other creative pursuits. We shall see you next Wednesday with another episode of OBSCURUS. Till then, take care!