This incident occurred a few years back during my college break. It was a hot summer day and I decided to spend it reading my favourite book. I was reading The Lord of the Rings, and it was a particularly gripping chapter. Frodo and his friends had escaped from the Nazgul at Weathertop. If you read this book, then you are aware of the gripping story line and the nail biting narrative. Coming back to my story…

I had been reading the book continuously all day and well into the night. I started to feel uneasy; I sensed a presence watching me. My foot became numb along with my leg and this feeling spread up my body and reached my head. Fear and panic set into my mind. I frantically started to chant God’s name in my mind, hoping that it would help me. Nevertheless, the numbness in my body did not subside. The presence that was watching me was moving closer to me.

When I felt someone touch my shoulder, I panicked and jumped out of my bed. It was then that I noticed that I was asleep all the while. Though I woke up, I was still shaking with fear. I went out to my parent’s room and saw that everyone was asleep. Not wanting to disturb anyone, I splashed some water on my face and drank some juice from the refrigerator. This had settled my nerves a little. I decided to sit in the puja room (every Indian house has a special room for daily prayers) for the rest of the night. The next morning I spoke to my mom about the incident and she was spooked too. We decided to let it pass.

Soon our maid came to work and she looked haggard. She told us that, the previous night, a fight broke out in her neighbourhood. A person was caught doing black magic and everyone started to lynch him. She said that it was very scary as they found many weird items in this possession. I was still shaken from last night’s events, so my maid’s story added to my fear.

This story had spread throughout our neighbourhood like wildfire. It became fodder for gossip and fear mongering. Everyone was coming up with new stories every day. I found myself falling for these stories due to my own experience. There was a wave of paranoia among the illiterates and the educated alike.

A fortnight later, on a Sunday, I found an interesting article in the newspaper. It was about our brain; the conscious and subconscious mind. The author spoke about how our subconscious mind continues to work even in our sleep. It was still aware of the surroundings, it assimilates data and sound bites throughout the day and at night it gives us signals in the form of dreams, to alert us of our surroundings. It could be a bug or a mosquito buzzing around us, changes in air quality, change in temperature, thirst, and other bodily functions.

This article suddenly made more sense when I looked back at the events of that night. It was a hot summer night and I was locked up in my room reading a gripping novel. I was so engrossed in the book that, I did not take any break to drink water or get fresh air. At some point in the night, the fan stopped working too. In my sleep, I was unaware of all this. My mind had to do something drastic to jolt me awake and hence that dream. It was purely coincidental that the fight occurred near my maid’s house. This coupled with my dream, started a chain of stories and fake news to cultivate fear. I almost fell for this and believed in black magic.

The whole scary summer turned into a fun and eventful summer by the end of it all.