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happy spooky season

If you grew up in Pakistan, you’re probably so numb to horror stories, like me, that nothing really scares you. One thing about Pakistani’s is we love horror, and I am not talking about jump scare horror, but true horror stories, firsthand experiences. I remember the uncountable horror stories that I would hear during sleepovers or camping trips, a lot of which were probably made up. I mean, there’s no way a 12-year-old motorboated a ghost, right? However, there were more than a few that came from trusted sources.

The girl with the arched back

I grew up in a joint family, which basically means I was living with almost 40 other people. My father is the eldest and has 8 younger siblings, he took care of them all his life and couldn’t digest the idea that they would have their own individual lives away from each other. So they found this huge land for cheap, away from the city, basically in the middle of nowhere, and called it home. It was like a little cult minus the satanic stuff. I grew up with kids ranging from ages 5-21, and there were a lot of us. One of my favorite cousins is Konya; a strong-willed girl who cared only about two things, her friends and cricket. She was known for not following the rules along with being determined to undermine the patriarchy in any and every way possible. She came back home late in the evening, exhausted after her cricket practice, and went to the kitchen to drink some water, when she felt someone pulling her towards the floor. We found her on the kitchen floor next to shattered glass, her back arched, her eyes rolled all the way back and her mouth wide open, gasping for air. She was admitted in the hospital and was kept under observation for a month, as the doctors could not find anything medically wrong with her; they did X-rays, MRI’s and ran all sorts of tests to no avail. Eventually, she was discharged and brought back home. She told us how she hears whispers in her ear, after which she feels the earth pulling her back, and due to the shock of it all, she’s rendered unable to breathe hence the wide open mouth. This continued for awhile and left her bedridden, until one day she decided to fight whatever was happening to her. She started by walking across the hall, and then the garden, and then started running, eventually sprinting. However, she was never able to play cricket again and perhaps that is the real horror of it all.

Who’s walking behind me?

My friends and I would take a trip to the north every summer, the heat gets really bad, and the north is the perfect place to be during that time. The journey, however, is kind of long so we would always stop in Islamabad, the capitol of the country, my friend’s uncle lived in a farmhouse there. The first time I saw the place I was speechless — this never-ending driveway would lead to, honestly, a castle. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before, the architecture seemed ancient. I remember being scared of getting lost. The house had too many windows at odd spots, the windows were high up, close to the ceiling and were the only source of light in the hallway. My friend introduced us to his uncle, this tall man with a thick bamboo stick in his hand. He reminded me of ‘Jiraiya’ from Naruto — he was the most intimidating man I had ever met and the fact that he lived in this humongous maze-like place only made him more mysterious and scarier. At lunch he told us how this house had remained in his family since the past 200 years and how upset he was that he would soon have to sell it. He told us to not leave the room late at night because there are beings who have lived here longer than he has and would not appreciate any kind of disturbance. My friends and I were shook and nodded because what else are you supposed to say to that. He had set up the biggest room on the second floor for us with mattresses spread out in the room. The only issue was that the washroom was  in the other room across the hall, my friend had to take a dump at around midnight and asked me to come with him because of how our friend’s uncle had freaked him out with the warning. We went to the other room which was completely empty, no furniture, the walls weren’t painted. It was a chilly gray room and the washroom was even more eerie: a toilet next to a broken sink and some woolen dolls laid on the floor. My friend insisted I stay in the washroom with my face towards the wall while he shits. Being the good friend that I am, I obliged and tried not to breathe to avoid the overwhelming stink of poop. While we were walking back we heard footsteps, so we both stopped and stared at each other in horror and then I felt a chill on my back and heard someone running towards us. We sprinted into the room where everyone was and locked the door behind us. The next morning, before leaving for the North, we told our friends uncle about it, who said he had warned us not to go wandering late at night and then burst into laughter.

Bibi’s house of Jins.

In 2014, my aunt who lived in Karachi, the big port city, came to stay with us in Lahore. I loved having people over, and Bibi was my favorite aunt. She would send me money each year on my birthday, and she was generous, like giving 10k rupees to a 14-year-old kind of generous. She was also extremely witty and funny and did not put up with conservative crap so, naturally, I was inclined towards her and in awe of her. I remember each night before going to bed I would drink my cup of chocolate milk while Bibi would tell me stories. One day I made a request for a scary story. Now my brother had visited Bibi in Karachi and I had heard that her house was haunted, but I wanted to know more, so I innocently asked her about it. Bibi had to move out of her house while her new home was under construction, so a friend of her who lived abroad suggested that Bibi rent her property. This was an old property — a huge garden with tall trees and a three-story house. Bibi moved in there with her two sons and husband. Later they found out that they weren’t the only family living there, she would tell me how they would hear children laughing throughout the day. I asked her when they realized that they were other supernatural residents sharing their living space, she told me that they saw a figure the day they were moving in but did not think anything of it. The one incident that stood out to me the most was actually kind of humorous; Bibi had an argument with her husband and he decided to express his grief by sleeping in a different room, so he grabbed his pillow and blanket and made his way to the room closest to the kitchen, hoping Bibi would feel remorse and apologize when she sees him. He was frowning in bed when he felt that Bibi had entered the room and climbed in bed, he turned his face towards the door in an attempt to express his sorrow, he laid there not say anything while he felt Bibi’s hands running through his hair. It was only when he saw Bibi pass the hallway into the kitchen, he realized it was not his wife who had been cradling him, as a matter of fact it was not a person at all. So, he did what any man in his position would do, he grabbed his pillow and blanket and made haste back into the room to apologize to his wife and asked her to hold him.

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