Fiction

The Hunt is Not Over
- Vibha Lohani

The claw-fight was necessary. Blood oozed out of my wound. The crimson stain on the floor is evidence of the ghastly fight. Shaila will arrive soon. The monster needs to be killed before it harms her.  I am exhausted, but so is he.

He feeds on my strength. I know how to play around and fool him. After all I am a Ghost Hunter.

And I am the best in business.

Ghost hunting is a profession. It’s alright for you to not believe. For us, the day we stop believing, we will stop seeing them. Now that will be a catastrophe for the world, because the make-believe world that you live in, is filled with ghosts. Ghosts of all kinds and from all times – Past, Present or Future.

Ghost Hunters just make life a little easy for you. We hunt the worst ones and burn them in the violet fire. It is not an easy job, but I’ve always liked the kill.

I have to get back to business. There is this one kind of Ghost which is very difficult for a Ghost Hunter to track and kill.  I am currently on such a project. It lies low and waits before every move. It gives the Ghost Hunter a slow death -- sometimes killing him by killing his most beloved people. I have to destroy this one before Shaila arrives.

Shaila is a Ghost Hunter too. She is brave, charming, a daredevil and also the love of my life. I thought it was one sided until recently. Shaila expressed her love for me. That night, in her arms, I saw him for the first time. I instantly knew he had waited for long. He had waited till I had found the one weakness he could hunt.

Argh!

The tunnel is dark and he hides well, but my Silver Claw has injured him. With every drop of blood, he loses his breath. These are not ordinary claws. They are claws made by my father. He too was a Ghost Hunter. It took him twenty years to make these special claws. He made them from molten silver mixed with edelweiss blood and crocodile sweat, finally treated with mountain cobra’s venom.

 

Yes, I know, edelweiss is a flower and flowers don’t bleed. That is exactly why extracting blood from edelweiss is next to impossible.

Next to impossible, I said, not impossible. My father extracted blood from this alpine flower. It was exactly the ingredient needed to make the claws invisible to the Ghosts. The cobra’s venom makes them deadly for these icy demons and crocodile’s sweat, I am not sure, but I think that helps in preventing corrosion.

He is lying low. He is waiting. He knows I can feel him the moment he moves. I can attack him.

I know he is injured. I can feel the iciness  around.

He is waiting for Shaila. He can feed on our weakness, on our love, to survive.

Ah!

I am going deep inside the tunnel where he dwells. The movement is killing me. My wound is deeper than I had imagined. The haemostatic plug over the wound has broken open. My blood is turning blue. This is not a good sign. I have to hurry.

I close my eyes. I have to ignite a fire inside. The only thing I can use as fuel is my blood. I will have to use the Silver Claw.

He is alert. I can sense the tension. He has anticipated my move. I hear a sound.

Footsteps!                                                                          

It must be Shaila.

Godspeed, I have to move fast.

The Silver Claw hangs on my belt. I touch the warm metal. Edelweiss blood keeps the metal warm even in the coldest of places. It feels like fire to my skin but I can still hold it. I remove it from the sling belt and wear it on my hand. It fits like a rubber glove.

 

Eeee….

A screeching sound erupts and echoes across the tunnel. He can sense the Silver Claw. His scream is deafening, but I cannot waste time covering my ears. The footsteps are closing in. I look at the Silver Claw. It gleams in the darkness. With all the power I can muster from within, I shout and attack my wound.

Eeeeaargh!

He screams. The footsteps are nearer and my work is not yet done.

Come on … come on, make your next move.

He is on the prowl. The Silver Claw has deterred him a little, but he too has heard footsteps. He knows Shaila is around. Her closeness gives him strength and makes me weak. How ironical is that?

What else can I do but deal with it? I broke the principle rule of being a Ghost Hunter. I fell in love. But it doesn’t deter Shaila; she seems the same as earlier. I know she is strong willed and can be viciously cruel to the enemy. Ghosts fear her presence. They don’t challenge her. He seems to like her.

‘Love can be dangerous to a Ghost Hunter,’ Father had said the day he handed me the Silver Claw.

I have to make my move now, before she reaches here. He is waiting for her.

Once again, I breathe the icy air. The metal still clings to my hand. I don’t drag myself any more; I stand.

Yes, every inch of my body hurts and the wound near my heart hurts the most. Yet I stand and venture deep inside. I know he is there as injured and as furious as I am. I call him out. Challenge him to a duel.

 

Silence as always. Ghosts don’t make their presence obvious, but this one has an ego that will work against him. I felt it long back. I felt it the night  I was in Shaila’s arms. His ego brings him down to the level of man. His ego makes him weak.

Shaila’s footsteps are getting nearer; she will find us any moment.

 

He seems equally tense. His weak moment means my opportunity to attack.

But why doesn’t he defend Himself? Is he unable to or is he too weak? The footsteps have stopped.

Shaila is around. I cannot see her. He has managed to keep it dark inside.

I told you he is a difficult one to catch. He can clutch a Ghost Hunter’s soul. I can feel him churn my heart every time I look at Shaila. I know he dwells in my soul. Catching these soul suckers is not an easy task. The journey within is exhausting sometimes deadly. It is deep and dark inside and the path is like an ever-changing maze. Many Ghost Hunters go astray in finding their way out and they die.

Someone is sobbing. It is Shaila.

I cannot see, but I can feel. It is my soul after all. She is reaching out to him. Why is she crying? Why is she not lighting the violet fire? Why?

They are in love. Oh Lord, the Ghost and Shaila are in love.

Souls are dark places. They hide some very dirty secrets. All that stuff in stories of a white light rising out of the body is mere imagination. A Ghost Hunter will tell you how dark a soul can be.

I am in love with Shaila, but she has chosen him over me.

I raise the Silver Claw with all my might. I can see them in the white glow of the metal. The lovers have fear written all over their face. This is the moment of revenge.

Ah!

Just one stroke and blood splatters all across. The weapon is red with her blood. The Ghost is dead.

Shaila is not.

 

 

She is a now the new Ghost in town. Women can make things complicated, but not for me. I am a Ghost Hunter and one of the best in the business.

The hunt begins.

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After a work life of nearly fourteen years, Vibha Lohani decided to pursue her passion for writing as a profession. Over a period of two years her stories were published as part of anthologies and won a couple of contests. Her story ‘Father’s Reading Glasses’ was published by Penguin Random House as a part of the anthology ‘Something Happened On The Way To Heaven’ edited by Mrs Sudha Murty.