Our flight glided to a smooth halt. We were in no hurry to disembark. As the last passengers to pick up our baggage, we nonchalantly walked towards the exit.
A soft sense of comfort dawned upon us as we stepped out of the airport to take a cab to the hotel we had booked.
A strange feeling of fulfilment and knowing stemmed within, making me sink into the rustic beauty the place offered.
The evening air in Buenos Aires was rather pleasant and welcoming. The city welcomed us like it was just waiting for our arrival.
My first trip to this land, along with my childhood pal Celina was like a dream come true. We were thrilled.
The area I chose to live in was one of the oldest in Buenos Aires. Though the city was known for its “notorious” hauntings, I rubbished these thoughts and beliefs only to soak into the serendipity that this place promisingly seemed to offer.
Ghosts had always piqued my interest since childhood and never made me feel petrified. I had laughed and enjoyed the eerie evening with my cousins, who were s**t scared and spent many a sleepless night.
On one of these spectral sessions, an acquaintance had mentioned Argentinian ghosts; the intensity was extreme.
That’s when I decided to visit this place with the curiosity to experience the uncanny.
People would want to experience places for their scenic beauty, culture and arts. But we landed here in Argentina to experience spirits. Now that’s something to ponder, won’t you reckon?
The hotel where we were booked had a typical aura just like her name, “The Evening.” The lobby’s flora was raised in organic swirls, appealing to the eyes and soul. The ceiling was adorned with a Crystal chandelier. Overall the hotel was designed aesthetically.
While we were moving around the premises, a whiteboard with rice lights caught my eye; covered in dust. I wondered why no one bothered to clean this when the lights on it were functioning.
So I went close and, with tissue paper, wiped off the dust. “Cozy underwater Restaurant” was written with an arrow pointing towards the right.
“Oh wow. This is something unusual.” I expressed.
We got excited and wanted to experience this. When we started moving ahead, someone from behind patted me. I looked back through my shoulder. A young, boy with rimmed glasses was standing behind us. He was fair with the darkest eyes. He had long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail and appeared smart.
“Why did you stop us?” I asked.
“Ma’am, I am the caretaker of this place. Don’t go in that direction. The restaurant is closed.”
“Oh, is it? But why? There is an underwater restaurant. Right? I questioned.
“Yes, mam. But the restaurant remains closed for eons as it’s believed to be haunted,” he replied with fear lurking on his face.
“What?” Celina screamed.
“Calm down Celina. You know this is not true, and rumours spread too fast.” I tried to calm her.
“No, ma’am. These are no rumours.” The caretaker retaliated.
“Ok, we aren’t going there.” Saying this, we turned to go back to our room.
The same night, while I was peacefully tucked under a comforting mattress, crooning like a baby, I felt someone nudging me. The windows rattled; the doorknobs shook. I got up with a jolt.
Some unknown force started pulling me towards it, and my legs impulsively moved in that direction. My eyes remained partially closed, so I couldn’t know where I was going.
Within seconds, I reached the place. A light flashed on my face just for a fraction before switching off completely. I opened my eyes wide and looked around, but the site looked gloomy and inky. For the first time, I felt tremors and butterflies in my stomach.
A light flickered again. I looked around and found tables and chairs neatly arranged. It did not take much time to realize that I was standing in the restaurant situated in the basement.
Seconds later, I found blurred images in front of my eyes, like something floating in the air. The sight took away my breath, and I almost felt the ground slipping under my feet.
Was this my rendezvous with supernatural people or some scary dream? No, it wasn’t a dream. I was standing right there betwixt some weird forms. I tried to scream, but my voice stifled with fear.
I shivered like a shrivelled leaf fallen off its branches. A real fear somewhat got through my skin. “Did I just see some eerie apparitions?” I questioned myself.
I felt a cold draft within me.
“Who….who are you? Why did you bring me here?” my lips quivered as I questioned.
Not one but many voices echoed in that empty room. “WE ARE SPIRITS”. “We are Lazarus souls who are wandering and awaiting our salvation. We were killed brutally and buried here. Will you help us attain salvation? If you don’t, be ready to be our guest.”
A chilled shiver ran down my spine, and there were goosebumps all over my body. The air became increasingly unbearable and chilling. My heart almost stopped pumping.
“Ho… how can I help you?” my lips fluttered as they turned frosty and dry from the dipping temperatures around this place.
My heart and mind screamed in unison and wished I could help these souls find their way to the other side.
I reflected on those days when I would chuckle and not get scared of spooky stories. But today, when I encountered these pale figures, it made me realise ghosts do exist.
“Please let me go. I haven’t harmed you…” I begged, but my cries fell on deaf ears.
I was dragged by my leg and thrown at a distance. I fell on the fetid carpet. I tried to stand on my feet but found myself in shackles. The stench that filled my nostrils was that of rotten carcasses. I couldn’t tolerate the stinking smell and threw up. Later, I started to feel giddy, and I soon lost consciousness.
The following morning, when Celina awoke and did not find me in the room, she tried calling but realized my phone was in the room itself. She waited for a couple of hours, thinking I had gone out for my walk, but when I did not return even after two hours, she rushed to the reception area.
“Where is my friend? Where did she go?” Celina made a ruckus. The hotel staff got worried and started searching for me all around. But none of them could find me.
The sun rays entered the room, peeping through the small window, and fell on my face. I rubbed my eyes and slowly opened them. There was no one around.
“Help! Help!” I bellowed, but my voice reverberated in the enclosed space and ensured it did not reach out to anyone. I started losing hope. I pulled one of the chairs and sat on it, staring at the walls and pondering over my thoughts.
The images had vanished to return in the night.
“SALVATION! SALVATION! We will let you out.” A heavy voice interrupted my thoughts. I got up from my chair with a judder and rolled my eyes. I heard many voices talking, though not clear and dark figures again floated in the air.
“Hey, you, caretaker, Wait. Did you see my friend?” Celina inquired with a teary eye.
“Yup. Mam, Last night, I saw her heading toward the underwater restaurant.” The caretaker replied. This time there was no fear on his face. He looked cool.
“Whatttt? Why did you allow her to go there? Why did you not stop her? More importantly, where were you when all of us had been searching for her since morning?” Celina poured questions.
“Come, I will take you there.” The caretaker asked Celina to follow him.
“But the restaurant is closed. Isn’t it?” Celina asked.
“They have opened now for a brief period.” The caretaker replied.
Celina follows the caretaker and reaches the restaurant. There is only a dim light.
“You said the restaurant is open. But I can’t see anyone here.” Celina said and turned back
The caretaker was missing. The door of the restaurant slammed shut.
Help! Help! Celina screamed.
Hearing her voice, I rushed towards the door. “Oh, God! Celina, how did you land here? We are stuck, and I don’t know whether we will return alive. There are souls here who have not attained salvation.”
“The caretaker got me here. He saw you entering the restaurant,” Celina said.
“How did he know I am here? Where is he now?” I inquired.
“No idea. He accompanied me and then suddenly disappeared.” Celina informed.
“Hellooooo, girls. Are you looking out for me?” A voice came from nowhere.
The girls looked around. But did not find anyone. They could only hear the soft breath of someone.
“Don’t look here and there. I am right here, in front of you, girls.” The voice said.
Their faces turned pale, and they recoiled with a shudder.
“You are the caretaker of this hotel, right? The door is closed. From where did you enter then?” I checked.
“I brought you, folks, here,” saying this he let out a loud guffaw, vanished then reappeared.
The paranormal interference escalated to the point that the girls cowered in terror.
“Celina, we are standing amongst wandering souls. Not one but many. These wandering souls have chosen me to liberate them” I stammered with tears in my eyes.
The atmosphere was so frightening that Celina loses control of her bladder, wetting herself.
“I am sorry I couldn’t control. How are you going to help these souls? You do not have any special powers.” Celina cried.
The caretaker interrupted, “Many people came here and got trapped. No one could help us and became our guest forever. If you don’t want to be our guest, help us.”
He further added, “We troubled only those who disrupted our tranquilly and caused us pain. We did not pick you for harm; rather, we chose you for salvation.”
He continued, “You did not come here on your own. You were brought to this city for our liberation. We were innocent people who were killed by powerful social and political parties. Our daughters were taken away, molested and left to rot in the raging civil war. Moreover, we weren’t given a proper burial. Thus, we remain wandering in pain. A strong desire to seek revenge for our untimely death is the reason we are still lingering.
“I’m sorry to hear this. But in what way can I help you?” I uttered.
“You are a popular journalist in one of the leading newspapers. Their articles travel worldwide with a zillion followers. You’ve always been brave and uncovered many truths about criminals, and corrupt people and saved innumerable lives. End our pain through your mighty words.” The caretaker’s soft voice turned into an animated tone.
Tears streamed down my cheeks for the wandering souls.
“I promise I will not return to my country unless I fulfil your desires. The wrongdoers will be punished soon and put behind the bars. But you’ll have to trust us and let us go.” I said.
The door made a creaking sound as it opened. Celina and I rushed out and reached the hotel lobby.
The receptionist asked in surprise, “Where were you, ma’am?”
I wiped the beads of sweat from my forehead and replied, “We were stranded somewhere. We would like to stay here for a few more days,” I said and quickly went to our room.
Within a few weeks of beginning the endeavour, we both succeeded in obtaining justice.
My prayers for the salvation of these souls, were answered. The ensnared and tormented spirits were finally freed to enter the other realm.
The streets experienced a soft wafting breeze singing happy songs. Finally, calmness descended the lands. The underwater restaurant re-opened for visitors and attracted many tourists from around the world.