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WHISPERS




INTRO 00:00:00


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, I am Biswajit Banerjee, and it is a great pleasure to welcome you to this episode of OBSCURUS. I have explained why the paranormal must not simply be reckoned as the realm of ghosts and spirits. The word “paranormal” can be broadly thought of as something not normal, something that deviates from the usual nature of things. Putting it differently, the paranormal is more of an exploration of the unknown, our attempts to delve deeper into the mysteries of life and death, existence and non-existence. Believe it or not, we cannot even take our existence for granted. I hope to discuss this idea someday through a story. In case you are wondering how can question marks be put on the very existence of things, let me ask you a simple question – when you are dreaming, do you realize you are not in the real world, but in a web spun by your mind? Perhaps in ninety-nine percent of the cases, the answer will be “no.” Likewise, what if the supposed real world turns out to be a larger dream? Maybe one day, this dream will break, and your consciousness will realize you have been thinking of a mirage as the real world all along. Think about it, and visit my website biswajitbanerjee.com for information on my books, movies, voice-over projects, and other creative endeavors. You could also visit obscurus.buzzsprout.com, where all episodes are available with their transcripts and chapter markers for easy navigation.

Okay, I will be back with you very soon …


SEASON’S GREETINGS 00:02:58


OBSCURUS and Biswajit Banerjee wish all the listeners, readers and followers Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a jubilant new year. As your friends and well-wishers, we are committed to your reading and listening pleasure!


HOST TALK CONTINUED 00:03:15


As for now, let’s dive into today’s story. In a small hotel in a township, Shankar hears whispers in his room. The whispers appear to be emanating from inside a wall of the room. He doubts there’s a corpse stashed away in that wall and that the disembodied spirit is crying for help. Is there a body inside the wall? And is there a spirit in his room? Time to find out. Here we go …


WHISPERS 00:04:01


Written and performed by Biswajit Banerjee


The discolored portion of the wall in Shankar's hotel room

The screen of the cell phone flashed “Wifey.”

“Hello, honey,” I said.


“Papa, it’s me, not mama,” Kritika, my eight-year-old daughter, said from the other side.

“Hi, darling, so wonderful to hear your sweet voice.”

“When will you be back, papa?”


“So, you are missing me?”


“Tell me, tell me, tell me.”


“A week.”

“What! A week! So, your mobile phone will be away from me for a week, you mean?”

“You are missing me. or my phone?” I laughed.


“Missing you a bit, but I am missing your phone very much.”

“Don’t worry, Kritika, you will be able to meddle with my phone soon enough.”

“Where are you now?”


“Well, I am in a small township called ‘Aryapur.’”

“In a hotel?”

“Yes.”

“Are there ghosts in the hotel?”

“Well, I haven’t seen any yet. But I will certainly tell you if I meet a ghost.”

“Okay, would you like to talk to mama?”

“Sure, I would have called her anyway.”

“Bye, Papa.”

“Bye, darling.”

I bit into a burger, waiting for my wife to take the phone from Kritika.

“Hello, Shankar,” my wife Payal said.

“Hello, honey, what’s up?”

“Why didn’t you call?”

“I would have called in a while, caught hold of some grub first.”

“So, you are in the hotel already?”

“Oh yes, it has been an hour or so.”


“How's the hotel?"

"Not a great one, but you can't expect anything better in a township like this."

"That means you are not comfortable."

"Don't worry; I just need to spend one night in this hotel. Tomorrow by noon, I will finish my job here. Then I will leave for Bombay with my client in his car."

"Is your client staying in the same hotel?"


"Yes, he is here, a few rooms away from me."

"Did he meet you at the railway station?"

"Yes, he did."

"Sounds like he is a nice man."

"He seems to be a decent man," I said, "in any case, all I need to do is to survey his properties in this township and Bombay, and check the legal papers. What kind of man he is really doesn't matter. I simply need to do my work."

"Umm, hmm, but do take care.”

"I will; you too take care, and tell Kritika not to miss my mobile phone so much. She will get it again to watch her movies soon."

"As if she is not watching movies in the absence of your phone! She has asserted her rights on the tablet and my phone."

"Oh, how sweet. I miss her so much."

"I know you are missing your daughter, but do you miss me also at times?"

"Come on, honey," I responded.

"Okay, call me when you are free tomorrow."


"Sure, good night."


"Good night."

***

The township didn't catch too many television channels. One of the repeat telecasts of a Calcutta League Soccer match was due around 12.30 a.m. There was no chance for me to see the game, as not a single sports channel was available. Being a late sleeper and a late riser, it was not yet time for me to go to bed, but what else could I do? Maybe going out to the veranda for some fresh air would be a good thing. After all, the township was in an area of rocky terrain, and the hotel I was staying in was nestled among large hills with many trees.

After putting my slippers on, I moved to the door leading to the veranda and unlatched it. The door opened inward, and before stepping into the balcony, I glanced over my shoulder, not quite sure why. Did I sense a movement behind me? Not quite. Did I feel some uncanny presence in the room? Again, the answer was “no.” Then why did I look back? Did my subconscious mind pick up a cue of something strange that my conscious mind missed? The very next moment, I tossed out such thoughts. I wondered what tricks my mind was playing on me when I was alone. Are there ghosts in the hotel? Kritika's question came to my mind, and I smiled. What hilarity would bubble within the little girl when I told her about my sudden fear of the unknown. I could almost hear her say — Daddy, what a coward you are - and roll with laughter.

The door closed behind me as I moved over to the railing. A soothing breeze touched my face and hair, and I closed my eyes. Such fresh air is such a rarity in cities. A town like Aryapur had some definite pluses over city life, notwithstanding the inherent difficulties. For several minutes, I stood, leaning on the railing for support, enjoying the serenity of the surroundings. And then whispers flowed into my ears. Somebody appeared to be speaking inside my hotel room. Fear replaced the calm in my nerves in a flash as I opened my eyes and rushed back to the door. After pushing it open, I stepped back into the room. Nothing had changed. And I spotted no trace of an intruder. I wondered if someone spoke in my room or the words flew into my ears from one of the adjacent rooms. But the adjoining rooms were vacant; the receptionist had told us so when we checked in. My client didn't like any of the neighboring rooms and chose a place several units away from my room. So, the words didn't come from the adjacent rooms. But they couldn't have come from my room either. I was the sole occupant of the room, was I not?

My thoughts led me to a single conclusion, which appeared to be the only plausible explanation for the whispers. The inference was that I didn't hear whispers, and they must have been caused by the strong winds passing between tree branches. For sure, it did appear the murmuring was coming from inside the room, but with so many trees and rocks around, it wasn't improbable to misjudge directions. Although still not entirely convinced by this idea, I decided not to waste any more thoughts on the whispers. After latching the veranda door, I checked the place for any possible signs of unusualness. No, everything appeared normal.

I switched off the lights and slipped under the blanket. The bed mattress was too soft for my comfort, but it was, after all, a question of spending only one night. In a while, I fell asleep.

Well, I am not quite sure for how long I slept before the whispers woke me up. What I heard was something like, Please help me. I am trapped in the wall right in front of you. A woman had spoken the words.

After turning on the lights, I looked around again. No sign of any soul other than me! Are there ghosts in the hotel? Kritika's words rang in my ears again, but this time they didn't evoke a smile. Something about the room was wrong. However, I could do little in the middle of the night. So, after sitting for a while on the bed, with random thoughts crisscrossing my brain, I decided to try to get some more rest. Starting around ten in the morning, I would be working with my client, and, for sure, I needed some amount of rest.

Around an hour after I had switched the lights off, someone's whispers broke my sleep again. The words now had greater clarity,

Don't just keep lying there. Get up and help me. Please help me. I am trapped in the wall right in front of you.

In a flash, I got up from the bed and turned on the lights again. Now, I had no doubts. A woman was seeking help. It was not my imagination; the whispers were real. She was trapped in the wall across me. With the handset of the intercom pressed against my ear, I dialed the reception number. A man responded from the other end in a dreary and incoherent voice.

"How can I help you, sir."

"Why didn't you tell me this room is haunted?"

"What!"

"This room is haunted."

"Which room, sir?"

"I am talking about room number 19, the one you gave me to stay in this evening," I said.

"No, sir, it is not haunted."

"Oh, yes, it is. I didn't expect you to acknowledge the truth."

"Room number 19 is not haunted, sir, believe me; no room in this hotel is haunted."


"Somebody's whispering in this room. Do you understand that?"

"Who, sir?"

"How can I tell who?"

"You must be mistaken, sir."

"I don't expect you guys to say anything different."

"You can change your room, sir."

"Do you think that’s a convenient thing to do at this hour? All my luggage is scattered. And who can tell, the room you give me next might be even more haunted."

"Is there a way I could help you?"

"Demolish the hotel. Will you do that for me?"

I hung up, thinking about what I should do next. My eyes then fell on the wall before me, the one where the whispering woman was supposedly trapped. The section of the wall right behind and above the television had a slightly different color. In certain places, the plaster had come off. Upon closer inspection, I found the wall to be bulging outward. What did this mean? Could a body be hidden inside the wall? The corpse of the whispering woman? Beads of sweat gathered on my face despite the cold conditions. The ghost wanted the truth about her death unearthed, or so it seemed. I went back to the phone, picked up the handset, and redialed the receptionist's number.

"Hello, reception."

"Something is wrong with a wall in this room," I said.

"Sir, I told you, room number 19 is not haunted. Yet, I am willing to change your room. What more can I do, sir?"

"Didn't my words reach your ears? Something is wrong with a wall in room number 19."

"What can be wrong with a wall, sir?"

"The wall has a forward bulge."

"But a bulge in a wall is a common thing."

"This is not just a bulge; the color of a section of the wall doesn't match that of the remaining wall. Plaster has come off in certain places."

"What are you trying to say, sir?"

"Can't you understand? The part of the wall I am talking about has been retouched. Someone must have broken it for some purpose, and then put it back together again."

"Repairs keep happening in the hotel, sir."

"Shut up; it is useless talking to you."

After banging the phone on the switch hook, I looked at the wall again. The bulge appeared all the more prominent now. Since the discolored area of the wall was dry, the body must have been stashed in the wall long ago, I reasoned. If it had been a recent happening, apart from the wetness of the wall's reconstructed portion, there would also be a foul smell. The odor must have died with time. I picked up the handset and called the reception again.

"Hello, how can I help you, sir?"

"Connect me to the local police station," I said.

"What! Why, sir?"

"Do as I say."

***

Chief Inspector Surinder Singh and the two police constables examined the bulge in the wall.

"So, you think a woman's body is inside this wall?" Mr. Singh asked.

"Yes, I think so," I said.

"This is crazy, sir; there is nothing inside," the manager of the hotel, Mr. Aryan Kohli, said.

"Chief Inspector, such bulges are quite common," the receptionist explained, "they result from decreasing wall stability or with the addition of extra floors."

My client, Mr. Prabhat Manchanda, was also in my room now. Two other people were present; I didn't know who they were. Perhaps they were guests from other rooms. The disturbance had drawn the attention of many, it seemed.

"I think he is right," Mr. Manchanda said, nodding and pointing at the receptionist.

"There's another floor above this level, right?" the Chief Inspector asked.

"Yes, it was constructed about a year ago," Mr. Kohli responded.

Mr. Singh looked at me. "What would you like our department to do, Mr. Sahai?"

"I have already told you, Chief Inspector, break this wall," I said.

"Are you sure breaking the wall is the right thing to do, Mr. Sahai?" Mr. Manchanda said, "I think the bulge is because of the weight of the floor over this level."

"We cannot just break this wall, Mr. Sahai." Mr. Singh moved his head. "We need to follow established legal procedures."

"But I am positive a body is stashed in the wall."

Mr. Singh smiled. "And your conclusions are based on the ghost's whispers?"

"Yes."

"Dead women cannot whisper, Mr. Sahai." My client appeared disappointed.

"I know it sounds irrational and stupid, but the ghost of that woman did whisper to me, Mr. Manchanda."

"If you want us to break the wall, you must lodge an official complaint, Mr. Sahai. And if you are proved wrong, you will have to pay a substantial amount as damages," the Chief Inspector said.

"This is ridiculous," Mr. Kohli shouted, "we will ask for a huge compensation. You cannot just toy around with our property."

"Take my advice, don't jump into all this," Mr. Manchanda pressed my shoulder, "you must have had an auditory hallucination."

"I beg to differ, Mr. Manchanda, it was no auditory hallucination. Trust me, the woman's voice was loud and clear."

"Will you file an official complaint, Mr. Sahai?" The Chief Inspector asked.

"Yes, I will."

***

After the preliminary police formalities, the two constables and some other helpers pushed the wooden cabinet, along with the television on it, to one side of the room.

"Please remove all your stuff to some other room, sir," one of the constables said, "we will break the wall now."

By now, I had arranged all my luggage. A couple of hotel attendants shifted my suitcase and laptop bag to Mr. Manchanda's room.

A folder of legal documents and my mobile phone were still lying close to the television on the wooden cabinet. I put the phone in my jacket's inner pocket and gave the folder to an attendant with the instructions to keep it in Mr. Manchanda's room.

Then the constables started working with their electric hammers. The manager, the receptionist, and other hotel staff were enraged to their entrails, to say the least. Several people, mostly guests, had gathered in and around my room. In one corner stood Mr. Manchanda, disappointed and possibly angry. He might be cursing himself for choosing my services.

The front part of the wall came off quite easily. Indeed, there was a body, now a skeleton, with traces of dried flesh!

"Oh, my gosh, this is impossible," the Chief Inspector murmured.

The constables put the body in a forensic sack and took it out of the room. A photographer clicked pictures of the crime scene.

"This is the strangest case of my career, Mr. Sahai; I can't believe my eyes." Mr. Singh said.

"Even I can't believe my eyes. This means the ghost had indeed whispered the truth to you, Mr. Sahai." Mr. Manchanda observed.

"Chief Inspector, we are as surprised as everybody else. We don't know what this means," the manager remarked, walking close to us.

"This is like a nightmare, sir. We don't know how the body got into the wall," the receptionist added.

"We will look into all that. The investigation has yet to begin," Mr. Singh said.

"Until this point in time, I didn't believe in ghosts," Mr. Manchanda remarked.

And now, the woman whispered the words again.

Don't just keep lying there. Get up and help me. Please help me. I am trapped in the wall right in front of you.

"What was that?" Mr. Singh asked.

"Whisp ... the whispers," I said.


"Whispers?"

"Yes, those are the words I heard earlier."

"I know whose voice that is," Mr. Manchanda said.

"Whose?" I asked.

"I am a movie buff. That is the voice of Amanda Jones, the famous Hollywood actress. And I can also tell you the name of the movie where she spoke those lines. That's a horror movie called Whispers.”

"These are lines from a movie?"

"Yes, Mr. Sahai, and I guess those lines came from inside your jacket," Mr. Manchanda said.

I pulled the mobile phone out of the inner pocket of my jacket.

"I think the supposed whispers came from that phone," the Chief Inspector said.

"From the phone!" I muttered, trying to find my way out of the bundle of confusion I found myself in.

After browsing through the various utilities on the phone, I arrived at the widget called “Alarms.” The lines of Amanda Jones from the movie Whispers were set as an alarm, ready to go off at certain times of the night.

"That looks like an alarm," the Chief Inspector said.

"Kritika," I whispered to myself.

OUTRO 00:28:33


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!

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