What is Jim Carstairs's fate as he tries to escape his diabolical companion? Does The Shorter Road lead to Jim's murder, his suicide, or does it result in something worse than death?

An extract from Haunting India

Margaret Deefholts

[The story so far: Jim Carstairs decides to take a short cut to his destination through the jungles of Assam. He finds himself in the grip of a nightmare, stalked by a ghoul. The following is an extract half way through the tale]

"Abruptly a red mist floated before Jim's eyes and a great boiling wave of rage swept over him. "Damn you!" he screamed. "Damn you!" He aimed his Jeep at the figure, and it swivelled its head to look at him. In the beam of the headlights, its eyes were yellow, the pupils long and vertical. Time yawed, and the jungle swung around him in a sweeping arc. And then the Jeep slammed into the man-animal. There was a snarl, and it was on the hood, an enormous jungle cat with bloodied fangs drawn back in a rictus of malevolence. It drew its claws down the windscreen, and Jim felt his face shred.

Blood spurted out of his left eye and dribbled down his cheek. The glass of the windscreen - he could see it, touch it - but it didn't exist. There was nothing, nothing at all, between him and the beast. He looked into the creature's baleful eyes and his rage drained away. Sheer panic took its place.

The Jeep shuddered to a sickening halt against a tree. Jim recoiled against the seat. A knife, he thought. There was a knife in the glove compartment. He fumbled and found it, the blade sharp and glistening in the light of the dashboard. The thing crouched on the other side of the windshield, watched him draw it out. For an instant it looked pensive. And then, with a contemptuous swipe of its paw, the knife flew out of his hand in a long, arching curve, far into the jungle undergrowth. The man-ghoul threw back its head and laughed, peal upon peal of fiendish glee resounding through the palpitating night.

Jim snapped. Covering his ears he cowered. Stop it! Stop it! Oh Christ Jeezus Almighty...Stop it! The laughter swelled to a monstrous crescendo, echoing and re-echoing like a fever in his brain. Reason died. He sprang out of the Jeep and began running. Running blindly, his breath searing his chest, branches tearing at his clothes and whipping against his face. He ran to escape not the beast, but himself. For now he was laughing too, howling, shrieking and gasping, the sound reverberating in his gut and sucking him into a vortex of insane mirth. The little knife re-appeared at his feet, glinting in the moonlight. He picked it up, savouring its heft, its deadly smoothness."

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