About 30 members of Utkal Enclave – a small apartment block in Bhubaneswar, were getting ready and completing last minute packing of picnic baskets which they were carrying for the day’s trip.
About 10 families resided in this 4 storied Block in identical 2 and 3 BHK flats. The landowner Mr. Satish had partnered with a Real Estate developer some years ago and converted his ancestral bungalow into this modern residential set-up giving him a steady rental income.
Mrs. and Mr. Satish had 2 children, both of whom were settled and working outside Odisha. So it was to their pleasant surprise that they got more than what they had hoped for. Not only the monthly rents gave them financial comfort but the people residing there became their extended family providing both with a wonderful support system in their retired years.
It was winter vacations and like previous years the families had decided to go on a picnic with food and evening refreshments. Each of them had contributed to the menu and now with their hands full with the picnic baskets they made their way down to the 2 waiting TATA Wingers. These were 15-seater vehicles which would take them across to the picnic site.
While last year it was The Botanical Gardens in Nandan Kanan, this year the chosen destination was the Bamboo Huts at Deras Dam. It was located only 25 odd km from the city making it an ideal getaway for family and friends. There were quaint bamboo cottages near it which one could book and enjoy the time there.
Very soon they were set to go and being punctual was on top of every one’s agenda. It was already 3 pm and the plan was to reach before dusk so that they could catch the sun set over the forest tops while sipping their evening tea. They were all looking forward to a picnic packed with fun, laughter & some time pass idle chatter.
Of course, the gorgeous views of the Deras Dam waters and greenery all around just added to the overall anticipation.
Other than the sumptuous array of snacks, a live barbeque and a giant bonfire also awaited them. It was no wonder then that all of them, especially the children were eagerly looking forward to the trip.
What they did not know that tonight something else was also awaiting them atop that hillock.
Both the picnic vehicles arrived at the gates within few minutes of each other. The forest department vehicles would ferry them to the huts and one of them would stay back for the return trip. The strict rules banning entry of private cars inside protected green zones meant both the rented Wingers had to be parked outside the gates.
All of them clambered into the official vehicles, their excitement running high anticipating a grand affair atop the hillock at dusk!
However no one knew the colour of dusk tonight would take on a completely different hue matching the fear in their eyes…a colour none of them had seen or felt before.
Despite their best efforts the families realised they had arrived late. It was already close to 5 pm. A stop at a small roadside dhaba for fritters had taken up a little more time than they would have liked.
Being winter the day light was already beginning to fade. The sun after completing its hard day’s work in trying to keep up the mercury was all set to chill down on the western side.
They were now in groups of 4-5 making their way up the dirt path to the bamboo huts. Since the entire place had been booked for Utkal Enclave there were no other people now except them.
The climb was soon coming to an end. What was also coming to an end was the tranquillity of the evening.
A slight breeze had picked up in the green foliage above & the sun light ebbed lower…as if someone had lowered the wick of an old oil lantern.
The group was now standing at the end of the steps. The table top picnic spot lay in front of them with the bamboo huts to their left. Coloured plastic chairs had been neatly arranged by the staff for them to sit and enjoy.
However a shocking scene awaited them all. A scene so horrifyingly fascinating that even the most fearful amongst them had also not imagined it possible.
It was beyond any horror flick they had ever seen…and it was happening right now at this moment in their lives.
To be Continued…