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. My name is Biswajit Banerjee, and I am your host for this show. In this episode, we will visit a relatively lesser explored paranormal territory. In case you've missed any of the earlier episodes of OBSCURUS, you can catch up with them on the blog of my website, biswajitbanerjee.com which also carries all essential information about my books, movies, voice-over projects, and other work areas. At the top of the website, click on 'Obscurus Blog,' and you will be taken to the page where all OBSCURUS episodes are listed. Click on the link of the episode you want to listen to, and the episode along with the transcript will open up for you to enjoy. You may also like to listen to the podcast on obscurus.buzzsprout.com, my dedicated website for this podcast. Apart from the transcripts, the episode chapter markers are also available for easy navigation on obscurus.buzzsprout.com.
It's time now to get down to the story. The protagonist of today's tale is sure to have kept a file safely on the top shelf of the cupboard of his office chamber. Notably, he's the only one who has the key to the shelf. But now, he can no longer see the file there. Where has it gone? Let's find out about it …
THE FILE 00:02:47
Written and performed by Biswajit Banerjee
Ten or eleven days ago, I had kept it in the top shelf of the large wooden cupboard of my office chamber -- the file, I mean. Now, the file was missing. I had received at least a dozen calls -- a majority of them from my immediate boss and the rest from the Chairperson's Office. In about a week, the Chairperson was to present the strengths of the PVC pipes we hoped to sell to a conglomerate of estate companies. The missing file had all the essential data for making the presentation, including some confidential data which were not digitally backed up. While we could still make a presentation with the information available in our digital files, the work would be a terrible one without the confidential data. What a mess I had gotten myself into.
The intercom rang again -- possibly the ninth or tenth call from my immediate boss, Mr. Praveen Rao.
"Get the file, Abhinav. The Chairperson is waiting to see the documents," Mr. Rao said on the phone.
"Yes, Sir, I am looking for the file. Please give me some time."
"What do you mean -- 'you are looking for the file,' I asked you to keep it safe and handy, didn't I?"
"Of course, you did sir, and I did follow your instructions. Somehow ... you know ..."
"All I know is that the Chairperson is waiting, and I must give the file to him immediately. Get it, I give you another two minutes. Bring the file to my chamber."
Someone knocked at the door as I placed the handset back over the switch hook. The door opened, and Ms. Malini Basu, my personal secretary, walked in with her dictation pad and a pencil.
"Sir, we can do the letter now."
"Which letter, Ms. Basu?"
"You told me last evening we need to request the PVC suppliers for a better deal. If you are not busy with something else, you can dictate the letter to me."
"Yes, sure ... but ..."
"Is something wrong, Sir?"
"Yes, well ... the file ..."
"You are looking for a file or something?"
"Indeed, and I don't have a clue where it is."
"Which file, Sir?"
"The one on the PVC pipes."
"The one Mr. Rao gave you a few days back?"
"Yes, do you have any idea where it is?"
"No, Sir, but you kept the file, didn't you?"
"I did, yes."
"But now you can't recall where you kept it."
"No, Ms. Basu, I do remember where I kept it too, but the file is simply not there!"
"Has anybody taken it away?"
"Unlikely, I don't think anyone could take the file without my knowledge."
"Sir, I am not sure I understand you."
"Look, I kept the file in the top shelf of the cupboard and locked it. There's only one key to it, which is lying with me. To the best of my knowledge, there is no duplicate key."
The intercom rang again. What would happen when I cut a sorry figure before Mr. Rao and the Chairperson? Perhaps my excellent track record would prevent them from firing me, but what impression would they be left with? What if they issued a written warning to me to be careful in the future? How humiliating!
"The phone is ringing, Sir."
I picked up the handset.
"When are you getting the file, Abhinav?" Mr. Rao practically howled from the other side.
"Sir, I, I ..."
“Didn't I tell you the file doesn't have a full digital back-up for security reasons?"
"Sir, I took all possible care to keep the file in a safe place."
"Oh, I see, and now you do not quite remember where that 'safe place' is."
"No, Sir, I remember, but ..."
"What? Somebody took the file?"
"Looks unlikely, Sir, because no one else except me had the key to the safe..."
"What the hell are you telling me, Abhinav? Has the file disappeared on its own? Perhaps it was getting bored in the 'safe place' of yours. So, it thought of taking a stroll in the streets, what do you say?"
"Sorry, Sir, but I wonder how ...?"
"Enough is enough; I want the file now. Is that understood? If you can't bring it now, you will leave me no choice than to take action against you. I am not going to let my reputation be ruined because of your recklessness."
Oh, how harsh those words were! Mr. Rao conveniently forgot my contributions to the success of the company. My innovations and ideas had helped the Board of Directors tide over so many legal encumbrances. My team's tireless efforts had helped the company make unprecedented gains on so many occasions. All forgotten! All ignored! For Mr. Rao to be so rude to me was unthinkable. He hurled an insult that would stay with me.
"Sir," Ms. Basu said, "please sit down. You look so disturbed."
"The file ... you ... Mr. Rao wants the file now, but ..."
"Are you sure you kept the file on the top shelf of the cupboard?"
"You mind if I check?"
"Of course not. Go ahead, the cupboard is open."
As she opened the cupboard doors, I hoped she found the file. After sorting through the files and papers on the top shelf, Ms. Basu took out a file.
"I believe this is the file, Sir."
"What! You got it?"
I took the stuff from her hands, and indeed that was the file!
"How could you find it there? The file wasn't on the shelf." I said.
"The file was very much on the shelf, Sir."
"But I looked for it at least twenty times in that shelf and I could not see the file." I stood wondering how Ms. Basu took out what was not on the shelf.
"Sir, I guess you should quickly pass the file on to Mr. Rao lest he should call again."
"Oh yes, you are right, Ms. Basu, and thank you so much. You saved the day for me."
"I am your personal secretary. My job is to help you, Sir," she said with a smile.
"I will be back shortly. Please wait for me."
"Sure, Sir, I will."
I walked out of my chamber with the file pressed tight against my chest.
"Where did you find this, Abhinav?"
"The file was where I kept it, Sir."
With a touch of amusement spread across his face, Mr. Rao said, "In the 'safe place,' you mean? Why didn't you find the file earlier?"
"Not quite sure why?"
"But I can tell you why -- you didn't look through your stuff properly.
"Come on, Abhinav, you are believed to possess strong nerves. How could a call or two from the Chairperson's office make you nervous? So much so that you were unable to find the file in the safe."
"I didn't lose my nerves, Sir. I hardly ever lose my balance."
"Whatever, thank you for bringing the file. Somebody is in the Chairperson's chamber at the moment. So, I will meet him in a while. Thanks again."
Back in my chamber, I sat thinking about the file with Ms. Basu across the table. Though Mr. Rao was back to his normal conduct when I gave the file to him, the unkind words he used in the morning were still ringing in my ears. To tell the truth, I couldn't blame him for the rowdy behavior because anyone in his position would perhaps have done the same thing. Even I, for sure, would be angry with a junior staff if he or she lost an important file and suggested something so stupid as the file disappearing on its own. Regardless of who lost the file, the blame would also fall on Mr. Rao for reasons of collective responsibility.
As a professional, I had to ignore what happened and get back to my work. But Mr. Rao's words were not the only source of my mental block. What puzzled and bothered me even more was the disappearance and reappearance of the file.
"Sir, can we do the letter now?" Ms. Basu asked.
I nodded. After picking up the relevant documents I needed to dictate the letter, I realized my mind was for the moment in an irredeemable mess. For certain, I needed time to recuperate. Maybe I shouldn't rush into dictating the letter with half of my mind not functioning well. That would be counter-productive, I reasoned.
"Is...anything wrong, Sir?"
"Nothing is wrong, but I don't think I can dictate the letter today."
"Okay, Sir, the letter can wait for a day. Let’s do it tomorrow."
"Indeed, tomorrow sounds fine"
"But do you mind telling me what's bothering you?"
"Well, Ms. Basu, the way the file disappeared and reappeared on the shelf is puzzling. You might think I am crazy to believe it happened, but I'm sure the file was not on the shelf when I sorted through the things. Do I sound crazy?"
"Sir, you don't sound crazy at all. I am sure you kept the file on the shelf and didn't find it there in the morning."
"You believe me?"
"Of course, I do, Sir. Such things have happened to me so many times."
"Inanimate objects disappearing and reappearing, Sir."
"Can something like that happen?"
"Traditional science, especially, classical physics would tell us such things cannot happen. But quantum physics tells a different story."
"Do you mean quantum physics has an explanation for an inanimate object to disappear and reappear?"
"Not really, Sir; I am telling you my understanding of things. As a science enthusiast, I have read hundreds of popular books on quantum physics. What I have gathered is many paranormal happenings may find an explanation in the ideas coming from the world of quantum physics."
"Are you saying that my inability to locate the file was a paranormal event?"
"But this experience..."
"Your experience is not unique. Several people have experienced similar things. For example, a television remote may go missing and then reappear in exactly the same place where one had kept it at the time of disappearance. In some cases, the lost object reappeared in a completely different place, far removed from where it was lost. Reports of objects like key rings, books, mobile phones, toys, watches, pens, and other small items disappearing and reappearing are many in number. Such acts do happen all over the world. Of course, an object's weird behavior does not occur before the eyes of an observer. Such acts only happen when nobody is watching."
"Strange but true, Sir. Sometimes, things actually go missing for good and later reappear in places where they are least expected. You might lose your wallet in a golf course one day only to discover it safely nestled amongst your things in a cupboard some other day."
"What have you experienced?"
"Well, there are many, but I will narrate one experience that stands out firm in my memory. About twenty-five years back, my husband ... well, he was my fiancé at that time ... he gave me a gold ring. A few days later, while I was traveling by bus, I suddenly noticed the ring was missing from my finger. I started searching for it everywhere and asked the fellow passengers if they had seen a ring somewhere. Well, no one had any idea. The ring was gone! I was so surprised because the ring couldn't just fall off my finger. It was a good fit. And of course, no one could have pulled the ring out of my finger without my knowledge. Gone for good or so I thought."
"You had been wearing the ring all the time."
"Of course, I had been wearing the ring since the moment I got it as a gift."
"Were you married when you lost the ring?"
"No, Sir, I lost it about a month before the marriage."
"What happened then?"
"About five years after the marriage, I found the ring in a jewelry box in a cupboard in my matrimonial home. No one had any clue how it got to the box. No one else, except me had the key to the shelf where the box was kept."
"You think the ring disappeared on its own from your finger and reappeared in the jewelry box all by itself when you weren't watching?"
"That is, for sure, a solid possibility."
"So, the file's disappearance and reappearance in the cupboard when no one was watching is also a strong possibility."
"But how can an inanimate object disappear and reappear on its own?"
"Well, Sir, I can answer that question based on my interpretations of certain findings of quantum physics."
"Go ahead, tell me."
"Well, physical events are believed to be observer-based. Therefore, a thing or an event is real only so long as an observer is watching it. When a thing or an event is not under observation, it may cease to exist. Yet again, when a potential observer wants a thing or an event that has gone missing to return, the power of his future observation may make the thing reappear."
"But larger things don't disappear just like that, do they? What about a building? Or a tree?"
"Sir, larger things are always under observation. For example, over a long time, someone will surely see a building. It will never be out of everybody's sight for long periods. But the same reason does not apply to small things such as keys, which may be under the observation of only one of two people. So, over long periods, a small item may just disappear since no one has observed it."
"And what length of time would you consider as 'long period?'"
"That question can't have a definite answer, Sir. 'Long' and 'short' are relative expressions. An object may also disappear over what you may feel like a short period."
"A weird but interesting explanation," I said.
"I have another possible explanation and a simpler one -- an inanimate object might possess a consciousness of its own. Our sciences might not have developed to a degree to understand and explain that consciousness. So, no matter how weird this sounds, the disappearance and reappearance of such inanimate object may result from their own choices to be present or absent."
"Well, Ms. Basu, I cannot discount your inferences and explanations."
Ms. Basu smiled in response. "All's well that ends well, Sir. I guess things ended well for us."
"Yes, indeed. At least, I managed to provide the file to Mr. Rao. Otherwise, things might have been bad for me."
After a couple of faint knocks, the door opened, and Mr. Rao barged in.
"Abhinav, where is the file?"
"Which file, Sir?"
"The one Chairperson wants to see."
"Sir, I gave it to you a while back."
"Maybe you brought the file back; just check."
"No chance, Sir. I gave it to you. When I was leaving your chamber, the file was right in your hands."
"Oh, but ..."
"What happened, Sir?"
"I don't know ... I kept the file back on the table and started working on my computer. When I turned back to my table, I couldn't see the file there! So, I thought you got back into my chamber while I was working on my computer and took the file with you."
"I can never do such a thing, Sir; I am not so ill-mannered to enter your chamber without your permission. And Sir, wouldn't you know if I had entered your chamber?"
"But, where's the file?"
"I have no idea, Sir."
"The Chairperson is calling me, what do I tell him? Please check the place where you had kept the file."
"Sir, the file cannot be there."
"Abhinav, it won't cost us to check."
I quickly opened the shelf confidently. The file was right there!
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!