A Face in the Night
Mr. Oliver, an Anglo-Indian teacher, was returning to his school late one night, on the outskirts of the hill station of Simla. 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. The Simla 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, returned after dark, when he would take a 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 7 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 shock 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 rocked with silent sobbing. ‘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 the 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 building 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, 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 pounding.