A Spooky Tale For Grownups
GUY RAZ, host:
Now, there are few people who enjoy scaring grownups more than David Wright. He's a librarian at Seattle's Central Library. And David Wright spends every other Monday at the library reading creepy, mysterious and treacherous tales to adults at lunchtime, from 12:05 to 12:50, just long enough to eat, get terrified, and make it back to the office.
We asked him to read us a story worthy of Halloween Eve, and he chose a tale by an Indian writer named Ruskin Bond. Here's David.
Mr. DAVID WRIGHT (Librarian, Central Library, Seattle): (Reading) "A Face in the Night" by Ruskin Bond.
It may give you some idea of rural humor if I begin this tale with an anecdote that concerns me. I was walking alone through a village at night when I met an old man carrying a lantern. I found, to my surprise, that the man was blind.
Old man, I asked, if you cannot see, why do you carry a lantern?
I carry this, he replied, so that fools do not stumble against me in the dark.
This incident has only a slight connection with the story that follows, but I think it provides the right sort of tone and setting.
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. WRIGHT: Mr. Oliver, an Anglo-Indian teacher, was returning to his school late one night on the outskirts of the hill station of Shimla. The school was conducted on English public school lines and the boys - most of them from well-to-do Indian families - wore blazers, caps and ties. "Life" magazine, in a feature on India, had once called this school the Eton of the East.
Mr. Oliver had been teaching in this school for several years. He's no longer there. The Shimla Bazaar, with its cinemas and restaurants, was about two miles from the school; and Mr. Oliver, a bachelor, usually strolled into the town in the evening returning after dark, when he would take short cut through a pine forest.
When there was a strong wind, the pine trees made sad, eerie sounds that kept most people to the main road. But Mr. Oliver was not a nervous or imaginative man. He carried a torch - and on the night I write of, its pale gleam, the batteries were running down - moved fitfully over the narrow forest path. When its flickering light fell on the figure of a boy, who was sitting alone on a rock, Mr. Oliver stopped.
Boys were not supposed to be out of school after seven P.M. and it was now well past nine.
What are you doing out here, boy, asked Mr. Oliver sharply, moving closer so that he could recognize the miscreant.
But even as he approached the boy, Mr. Oliver sensed that something was wrong. The boy appeared to be crying. His head hung down, he held his face in his hands, and his body shook convulsively. It was a strange, soundless weeping, and Mr. Oliver felt distinctly uneasy.
Well, what's the matter, he asked, his anger giving way to concern. What are you crying for? The boy would not answer or look up. His body continued to be wracked with silent sobbing.
Oh, come on, boy. You shouldn't be out here at this hour. Tell me the trouble. Look up.
The boy looked up. He took his hands from his face and looked up at his teacher. The light from Mr. Oliver's torch fell on the boy's face, if you could call it a face. He had no eyes, ears, nose or mouth. It was just a round smooth head with a school cap on top of it.
And that's where the story should end, as indeed it has for several people who have had similar experiences and dropped dead of inexplicable heart attacks. But for Mr. Oliver, it did not end there. The torch fell from his trembling hand. He turned and scrambled down the path, running blindly through the trees and calling for help. He was still running towards the school buildings when he saw a lantern swinging in the middle of the path. Mr. Oliver had never before been so pleased to see the night watchman. He stumbled up to the watchman, gasping for breath and speaking incoherently.
What is it, Sahib? Asked the watchman, has there been an accident? Why are you running?
I saw something, something horrible, a boy weeping in the forest and he had no face.
No face, Sahib?
No eyes, no nose, mouth, nothing.
Do you mean it was like this, Sahib? asked the watchman, and raised the lamp to his own face. The watchman had no eyes, no ears, no features at all, not even an eyebrow. The wind blew the lamp out and Mr. Oliver had his heart attack.
RAZ: That's librarian David Wright from Seattle's Central Library, reading "A Face in the Night" by Ruskin Bond.
And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. From all of us here on the show, happy Halloween.
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