The mood across the table was gloom. A heavy aura of tense suspense had descended into the living room. You could see worried expressions on our faces if there had been enough light to do so. I was staring down the length of the very last candle that flickered weakly on the table between us, as if my intense glare could somehow make it last longer.
Outside, a tropical storm raged on. The 30 miles/hour winds cut through the tropical foliage in a menacing howl. Just beyond the front yard, about 100 yards away, the Atlantic Ocean was attacking the beach with tumultuous waves that broke with a furious splash. This orchestra of the howling winds, the furious waves, punctuated liberally with thunder did lend the perfect background music to the situation. It was 9pm and pitch dark outside, the last candle was fading fast, there was no power and the phones were dead. The storm raged on outside and the ocean inched closer every passing minute. This was, without a doubt, the perfect setting for a ghost story. It was time! The candle, with one final flicker, went out. As if on cue, lightning flashed outside, and in that brief moment we caught a glimpse of each other, before being left in absolute darkness.
So far, our week-long Puerto Rico trip had been a joyride. I had flown into San Juan from New York and driven about 2 hours to a small town of Mayaguez. The five of us were staying at a secluded beach house, about 4 miles away from the city of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. This house had everything, 3 bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a bar-b-que grill on the porch, a hammock, a lush green front yard that led on to a private beach on the coast of the Atlantic. It also came with came with 2 kayaks and a mango tree in the garden, lush with ripe sweet mangos. Every morning, thus, there was fresh mango milkshakes for breakfast. And the cost of all this, only a thousand dollars for the entire week!
Action in Puerto Rico
The only thing that could top this deal was Puerto Rico itself. The people here are hard-working and not, often, very well off, but they always carried a smile on their faces and warmth in their demeanor. Indeed, I made more friends in those seven days than I had the entire year. There is a little known hidden beach in Mayaguez, called the ‘dirty’ beach. A small path through the forest suddenly opens up to the clear blue water, surrounded by cliffs on all sides. If you like surfing, cliff diving or the ocean is general, this one is a must!!
I spent the week high on everything this small island had to offer, and it was a lot! Kayaking through a narrow tropical passage in complete darkness on a moonless night, among overarching trees, I reached a small clear water opening. What is special about this, you ask? Well, the water is bio-luminescent. Every time your pedal, or hand, or anything really, hits the water, you see it light up like the water was made up of blue LEDs.
The clear calm waters of the Atlantic Ocean offer an excellent spot to go deep sea diving. The descend deep into the heart of the water brings with it a mesmerizing sense of. Sunlight fades to a blue hue as you go deeper into the ocean. Fish swim about you looking curiously at the weird creatures that have just come to their territory. Then, suddenly, it looms into view, an old ship! Sunk ages ago, it is now sitting patiently on the ocean floor, playing host to the corals. Makes you feel like a true explorer.
If you love to dance, Old San Juan is the place for you. Every building in this old town with cobbled streets is a salsa club, with live music, awesome drinks and no closing time! Even if you don’t know salsa, everyone is more than willing to teach you. There is so much live music on the streets, you didn’t even need to go into a club. This place also has the prettiest women I have ever seen! Between all of this, our trip had been an absolutely enticing experience.
But today, one day before our trip came on to an end, storm warnings had come flooding in. It was all over the news and the radio. Roads were closed down and shops shut their doors early. The storm had hit around 7pm, and shortly after that, we had lost power.
Diving in Puerto Rico
Earlier that afternoon, I had had the bright idea of playing soccer in our front yard as we made our way back to the house after a dip in the ocean. The game had only lasted about 10 minutes when Raj had slipped and hurt his ankle. He was in considerable pain and, possibly, had a torn ligament. As the remaining four of us sat in the darkness now since our last candle went out, he was resting in one of the adjacent bedrooms, asleep.
Suddenly, Pom remembered something. There was a radio in the house, and it had a light attached to it. He stood up and scrambled across the room in the darkness, bumping into every possible piece of furniture along the way. When he had finally reached the desk at the end of the room, he felt around it, and, after dropping an item or two, was able to find the radio in question. He tried turning the light on, and, obviously, the battery was dead. But we were in luck. Pom found a dynamo at the back of the radio. Knowing that it was the only way to light, he did not hesitate. Taking a firm grip on the handle, he started spinning it with all his might. Immediately, a shrill siren started wailing and it sends a wave of panic across the house.
“Help, help, help me!” I heard Raj crying out in agony from the bedroom. Nik stood up with a start, eager to see what was bothering Raj, and flipping over his chair in the process. The chair landed on Deb’s arm. “Ghost, a ghost!” he shouted, and in a minute had jumped on to my lap. My chair, not being able to hold our combined weight, gave way. We all heard the sound of the wood breaking as I made my way, butt-first, to the floor. Meanwhile, the sound of the breaking wood convinced Pom that the roof was being blown away by the storm. “Run to the basement” he shouted. In trying to do so himself he knocked over a lamp, which landed right on Nik’s head. “The ghost has got me” Nik screamed, trying to wrestle the assailant from the great beyond. He grabbed the cross he always wore around your neck, waved it around him frantically and started screaming “The power of Christ compels you to leave us alone!!”
I was on my feet by then, having pushed Deb off me. Raj was still shouting for help from the bedroom! As I made my way to the bedroom, I felt my left leg refusing to move. Deb had wrapped himself around my left leg with both arms and legs, probably still afraid of the ghost Nik was trying to fend off.
Somehow, dragging my leg and Deb with it, I reached the bedroom. “What’s the matter?” I asked Raj. “Didn’t you hear the siren?” he said “They are declaring an emergency, get me out of here, don’t leave me here to drown!!”
Who knew a small siren attached to a radio could cause so much chaos! Why would you put a siren there anyway?
Written by: Atriya Ghosh
Just your average laser scientist who loves adventure and lifts from time to time to justify a gym membership, Atriya is a Ph.D. student at The Pennsylvania State University and works with ultrafast optical holography. Be it chasing the Northern Lights or trying to survive a hot-air balloon crash, Atriya loves adventure and, apparently, staying in school while all his friends are getting married and raising children. While traveling, he loves talking to the local people and making new friends to gather insight into their culture and pick up stories that are locally popular, and then put them in writing in the form of small articles.