By NLRC Staff

Maya got very scared. She started remembering the ghost stories she had heard. When people used to tell her such stories, like the ones where they had encountered ghosts while walking alone at night, she did not use to entirely believe them as she lived in a big city. When she used to hear such stories, she used to try to visualize such lonely dark nights, but the discrepancy between the reality of the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, its bright lights even during the night and the imagination of such lonely dark nights had always made her unsure whether she should be believing in such ghost stories or not.

But the current situation Maya found herself in was different than her times in Kathmandu. All those ghost stories came back to her; she started remembering each and every act of those stories. Ladies with feet pointing backwards, the ball of fire moving on its own, the extinguishing of the light as a suspicious animal came to drink the water in a well and the automatic turning on of the light as the animal left the well, and all those other stories came back to her so vividly that she felt as if such events were happening right then and there and such characters were roaming next to her.

"What can I do?" helpless Maya whispered to herself. She simply kept on moving ahead, partly because she was too scared to stop and look around. She did not even have enough courage to look at the sides, let alone behind. She just kept looking straight ahead and continued walking like a machine or more like a zombie not knowing what to do.

A distinct sound, that appeared to be sound coming from a snapping branch, diverted her attention away from her imagination of the ghosts. A group of deers were trying to run away from Maya. "Oh, the deers, that probably means that tigers are not as close," Maya tried to comfort herself. The deers reminded her of other animals that she could encounter. "What if other animals come? I have nothing to defend myself," Maya thought and then started thinking about the things she could do. She grabbed a few of sharp stones about the size of a fist lying next to the path. She put the stones in her pockets and held two of them in her hands. "At least, if something comes at me, I can throw these stones at it," she thought. But she did not want to scare the potential threat either, so, she put both her hands in her jacket pockets with the stones intact in the hands, so that the stones were not visible but at the same time it put her in a state of being ready in case she needed to use them right away.

But then the memories of the ghosts started coming back to her. What was she to do with the stones in her hands when the fear of the ghosts would not go away? As she prayed to get out of the park, she noticed a group of monkeys sitting on a tree branch to her right about a few feet in front of her. As she got closer to them, she noticed that they were not regular monkeys. "Oh no; they are langurs," she whispered to herself as she noticed that they were the long-tailed Asian monkeys. She had heard from her uncle that a langur could pick rocks and throw them at people. He had told her that once while he was walking in his village, he had seen a group of langurs sitting on a tree at a grove, and that the langurs had thrown rocks at him as he had approached them.

"I hope they don't attack me," Maya prayed. "But what should I do? Should I stop or should I keep going?" Maya was not sure what would be worse. She neither wanted to do something different nor wanted to get close to them. "If I stop, then it means, I will be breaking my pace and they might think I am starting to do something against them," Maya thought, "And if I continue without breaking my pace, the path passes right by them, and they might feel threatened."

Poor Maya, she simply seemed not to have enough mental strength to process what was going on. All those thoughts of the ghosts, which had scared her to the point of not being able to stop or look back, tipped the scale towards not stopping and keep going at the risk of getting attacked by the langurs.

"I am getting closer to them, it will be okay; take the next step," Maya tried to console herself as she took those heavy steps, with her hands still inside her pockets and firmly holding the stones, "two more steps, one more step." Maya did not even dare to look at the right side, let alone make an eye contact with the langurs. The langurs did not get bothered at all by her approach, and they just stared at her as she passed by them. "Okay, I am one step away from them, now two steps away," Maya continued her conversation to herself, "maybe I just survived."

For a long time, she could not let her mind off of the langurs. But her mind was soon occupied with a slight illumination of the path. The path seemed to get a bit clearer. She looked up and she could see a couple of stars in the sky. "Oh, it looks like I am getting towards the edge of the park," she thought as she noticed that the trees were not as dense anymore. As she walked further, she could see more stars in the sky.

"Woof, woof," Maya heard a barking sound in the distance. She was not sure it was it was a dog or a wolf in the jungle. "I hope it is a dog," Maya prayed. "If it is a dog," she thought, "then it must mean that there is a village nearby." As she walked ahead with the optimism of getting to a village, Maya heard a sound coming from a radio. She then started running towards the sound. All the ghost stories did not bother her anymore.

As she got closer and closer to the sound, she could even recognize the music playing on the radio. It was the music from Radio Nepal she used to hear every day before the start of a news bulletin at the top of the hour. Maya could then figure out that she was near a village and would soon find her way. She felt as if she had just won the biggest battle of her life and as if she had gotten a second life.

As the music stopped, she could clearly hear the three beeps the radio station used to play, two short ones followed by a longer one to be precise, at the top of the hour right after the music. Soon after the familiar "Beep, beep, bee..p," she could clearly hear a voice say, "This is Radio Nepal. The news [is] read by Harish Chand."

"Oh, it is the eight o'clock news," Maya inferred once she heard the anchor speak in English. She knew that the nightly English news always aired at eight o'clock, and she even recognized the anchor from his unique style of opening the news bulletin.

It was such a relief for Maya. Soon she reached a small hut where the radio was playing. She noticed the dog, whose barking she had heard earlier, near the hut. An old man stepped outside the hut and greeted her. "Oh, you have not arrived at the village yet. It is just a small hut between the park and the village. But you are very close to the village. Let me walk you there," the old man tried to help Maya out. Maya followed the old man as he showed her the way. The dog was following both of them.

"Thank you so very much," Maya expressed her gratefulness as the old man returned back and as Maya entered the village.

In no time, Maya reached Muna's apartment. "Oh, I had been so worried. My colleagues and I were searching for you everywhere," Muna expressed her relief as she saw Maya.

Maya told her all about how she had lost her way on the way back from the safari. Muna was spellbound.

"Well, looks like someone who came to Bardiya National Park looking for adventure had quite an adventure," Muna tried to lighten up the conversation.

"Oh yes, just a little bit more than I had hoped for, I guess," Maya laughed. "But you know what Muna," Maya tried to make a point, "I will always remember this experience, and may be it happened for good. At a minimum, I'll have a great story to tell, and I would not have gotten this opportunity if it was not for your help."

"Typical Maya," Muna expressed her favorite phrase to describe Maya, "always trying to look for positive things."

Maya was leaving Bardiya National Park the next morning. She thanked Muna for all the things Muna had done for her. Muna was thankful that Maya had remembered her and visited her.

After dinner, Maya and Muna stepped outside to the back porch and spent some time talking and enjoying the beautiful moonlit night. The deers, that had come as usual to spend the night at the backyard, looked at Muna and Maya as if they were a part of the conversation as well. Some of them were sitting down on the ground. A fawn put its head down next to its mother's warm shoulder. It had been a long day for Maya as well. "Good night, Muna," she said as she entered her room. As Maya lay on her bed, the pretty scene of the fawn sleeping next to its mother came to her mind; and she soon fell asleep herself.

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