As a child and even now, one of the best ways to keep me engaged in a conversation is by telling ghost stories. Being fully aware of the fact that a 23-year-old girl saying, “bhoot wali kahani sunao!” sounds extremely juvenile but the heart wants what the heart wants. Little did I know that I was going to be a part of one ghost story, myself, 1,264 kilometers from home and in another city on a travel trip.
It is almost mandatory for a Karachiite to travel to another city if they really want to enjoy winters and that’s exactly what we did: We planned a road trip with Aba’s friend’s family! Aba’s friend Saeed uncle, his wife and their two sons, Faizan and Arsalaan had made countless travel trips around the country before. So we had a pretty smooth start. Driving from one corner of the country to another, meeting new people on our way, from exploring big cities like Lahore and Islamabad to discovering small places like Mian-Channu and Kallar-Kahar, it was all rainbows and butterflies until we reached Malam-Jabba, Swat!
For those of you who have been to Malam-Jabba know that the road that goes all the way up to the mountain is pretty narrow, dangerous, land-sliding is extremely common there and the construction for roads is ongoing so it takes a great deal of time to reach the top. By the time we reached half of that breathtakingly beautiful hill station, it was already 6pm, the darkness was settling in and it had started to snow, heavy snow! Our goal was to reach the PTDC hotel, the topmost of the mountain, which looked impossible then. So, we stopped our cars and waited for the blizzard to stop. It was getting darker by the minute and there was no one else around except for our two cars. No other vehicle or human or even animal insight. Just us on that gigantic mountain!
Things got weird from here…
Eventually, the snowfall slowed down and we could finally see a little bit of the road. The way ahead of us was blocked by the snow and we couldn’t reverse the cars because of how narrow the road was. I looked around to see if we can find help and suddenly, I saw a group of people carrying trekking poles, walking gradually down the mountain. I quickly asked Aba and Ama to look over there and made a hand gesture to Saeed uncle’s car behind us, pointing my hand towards those mountaineers.
Aba looked and told us that it would take them an hour just to reach where we are. while he was just saying that I looked back to see how far they really were but I COULDN’T SEE A SINGLE PERSON. I rubbed my eyes and searched for them again, rolled down my window, squinted my eyes and looked here and there but it was like they disappeared off the face of the earth. I asked bafflingly, “kahan gaye?” to which my parents looked outside, trying to Look for those for 6 to 7 people that we saw just five seconds ago, disappear into thin air!
We were rescued!
Before we could process what just happened, we heard a loud knock on our window. A tall man, who looked like he was covered in 20 shawls from head to toe which made it harder to figure out his face, offered to help us. He along with his friend, assisted in reversing both the cars and took us to the nearest guest house. On our way over, Aba told him about the people we witnessed on the mountains to which he replied, “idher tou 5 bajay k baad log nahi nikaltay aur woh bhe itne barf mein itna uper? Ap ko koi galat fehmi hue hogi sahab!”
A little shaken by what that man said, Ama and Saeed uncle’s wife, Zahida aunty started reciting all the duas that they knew. After driving for about 5 minutes, we reached the guest house. It was on the side of the road and a little higher from the ground. 10 steps from the guest house was an abandoned and half wrecked building. The rest of that area was nothing but snow and mountains. No other houses in sight but the man who offered to help us, Dilsher, said that he lived close by with his family and was gracious enough to bring us fresh food and piping hot tea from his house.
While he brought us food, we examined the room. Each room had a bedroom and a bathroom, which had a broken window so I could see the highest point of the mountain from there. As soon as we sat down to eat, we heard a knock on the door. 4 soldiers from the Pakistan Army came to check up on the 2 cars that they saw on their radar.
The area we were staying in was once under attack in which a lot of our soldiers were martyred so they still run a very tight ship there and keep a check on everything that goes around there. The wrecked building next to our guesthouse was where the soldiers once lived in and it was one of the places that were attacked. Everything that was being told to us was like fuel to our fear. However, the soldiers did comfort us by saying that they will be patrolling the area all night so we shouldn’t worry.
Time to explore ruins
After eating, I forced Ama and Arslaan bhai to come outside with me and then everyone followed. Chitchatting, having tea and enjoying the fun! It was almost pitch black and the only light we were getting were from the 2 bulbs on the porch. The wrecked building was somewhat visible, looking beautiful and horrific at the same time. Attracting me so much that I wanted to go inside and explore it at that very moment. I started to gradually walk towards it, trying to peek inside from afar. When I almost reached the entrance, I heard a loud voice, “GURYA! WAPIS AO IDHER. ANDER NAHI JANA HY!” That was followed by the cries of Ama, Zahida aunty, and Faizan bhai. I disappointedly started to walk back towards them with heavy steps while looking at the glorious mountain on top.
I stopped abruptly. There! I saw those people again! walking down the mountain. I ran towards my family to tell them but in the blink of an eye, they disappeared again. I thought to myself that maybe I’m tired and delusional. But how can you hallucinate a whole group of people? I tried to let go and joined my family again. Something very unusual happened to me then There were tears rolling down my face. NO! NO! I wasn’t crying. My eyes were just brawling out tears which is very unlikely since the harsh winters typically dry eyes out. No matter how many times I washed it, the water-work just wouldn’t stop. I just gave up.
We were all drained from the travel. So we decided to go to bed. While hearing the echo of wolves’ howl and dogs’ bark, we said our goodbyes. Dilsher asked us to lock the doors from inside, not to open it if we hear any knocks. He also said to call for help or anyone calling out our names. In any case weren’t supposed to open the door! Those caveats made me jump out of my skin. The whole scenario looked like I was a part of a scary movie that is about to reach its climax. We went to our respective rooms, locked the doors and switched off the lights. The window of the bedroom was transparent but smudged so nothing from the outside was really visible except for the light bulbs on the porch.
I slept with my face towards the window and felt a shadow pass by. I cleaned my teary eyes with my sleeves and looked again to see a shadow standing still and closer to the window, then quickly running away. Hurriedly turning to the other side, YA ALLAH parhna shuru kiya and grabbed on to my Ama’s arm. Even then I could still feel a shadow behind me, from the corner of my eye. Or maybe I thought I did. I shut my eyes hoping I would fall asleep and won’t see anything but those entities were not ready to leave us yet.
Suddenly, I heard someone turn on the tap and started showering. Legit sounds of someone showering! Aba heard it too, so he turned towards us to check if it was any of us. My aba doesn’t believe in any of the paranormal stuff so he casually told us that it’s probably a broken tap and asked us to sleep, we had to wake up early to go further up the mountain. Somehow, we all drifted to sleep. In the middle of the night, I faintly woke up to my Aba’s voice, asking my Ama to recite Ayat-ul-Kursi and to pull me closer to her. I slept again, having no clue of what was actually going on
A Travel Trip cut short
I was the first one to wake up in the morning. I opened the window and saw clouds just an arm’s length away, snow bright enough to light up an entire town. The fog, the calmness, forgetting all about last night, everything looked better! Aba woke up shortly after me and asked me to pass me his sock which was lying near the door. He informed me further that we won’t be going up the mountain and that we would travel back home. Saeed uncle and Arsalaan bhai argued when he told them this but Aba was adamant.
We all got ready within 30 minutes and drove back to the city, soaking in the beauty of this place. Upon reaching the town, we stopped for breakfast. That’s when aba told the real reason why he refused to go up. He asked me in front of everyone, “meray socks kaha say uthae thay ap ney?” I answered, “Aba darwazay k pas say. Why?”.
Now going back to the time when Aba asked Ama to pull me closer. Aba woke up to a knock on the door in the middle of the night. Ignoring the several knocks he heard a woman call out his name, again and again! He explained this voice to be extremely sweet. A minute later he saw a woman enter through the door, walk towards him and stood by his bed asking him to come with her. Aba said that he pretended that she wasn’t there and that he couldn’t hear anything.
After a minute of just gawking at him, she grabbed Aba by his arm and forced him to come with her. He pulled his arm and broke free from her grip to which she said “tum esay nahi chalogay”. After a few seconds, Aba saw two men enter the room. That’s when he woke Ama up asking her to pull me close. While Aba recited Ayat-ul-Kursi, those two men held Aba’s feet and tried to drag him. But he pulled himself away due to which his sock came off in that man’s hand which he threw by the door.
The woman asked those men to stop and turned towards Aba again to give him one final message, “isay meri haar mat samajna. hum wapis ayenge! Mein tum logo ko yahan say janay nahi dunge.” All of them left through the door. But Aba kept hearing all sorts of sounds and voices calling him that night. Swat is always going to hold a special place in my heart for its beauty. But I would never dare to go back to that place.
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