Why the Village of Shiminpur is Empty

A series of diary entries by Lopa Roy, as provided by Tamoha Sengupta
Art by America Jones

14th April, 2016

Tomorrow, I will be going to live in Shiminpur village. I’m not sure for how long, but I won’t come back before I understand what is actually going on there. I can already feel curiosity burning within me. I would have gone there earlier, but investigating the hauntings in the local graveyard held me up.

As is the case with each of my investigations, I will maintain a record of all that I observe and conclude during my stay there. Sometimes, the notes are useful to connect missing dots.

Before I venture out, here are the points I know so far.

  1. Shiminpur is a village located in West Bengal, India. It is an island in the river Ganga, connected to the nearest village by a thin bridge of land that disappears when the river swells. It used to be a tiny village, comprising four huts and fifteen people. All male, except the wives. All female babies born were killed–most were drowned in the river Ganga, or buried near the forests that bordered north of the village.
  2. It is also famous for its soil, fertile for crops and wonderful for making any type of soil handicrafts. People of Shiminpur and the nearby villages used the soil for making lamps, small figures, etc. Handicrafts and farming was the main livelihood of Shiminpur. But it was not until recently that the soils of Shiminpur attained celebrity status.
  3. A year ago, a couple of farmers discovered a stone in their rice field. It was about two feet tall, with the words “Jai, Ma Durga” written across it. “Hail the Goddess Durga.” The discovery caused the entire media spotlight to fall on the village, and the villagers there saw a way to profit from this. They decided to sell the soil to people who made idols of the Goddess Durga for the Durga Puja festival. A few months before the festival, on 4th March, 2016, the soil was scheduled to be put up for sale in the monthly market the village had.
    I remember what my friend said to me when he heard the news. “Ironic, isn’t it? The village murders the girls and decides to make money through the festival that worships a Goddess?” I must say that I mirror his disgust. How low can people stoop?
  4. On the day of the market, when people got there, the entire village population had disappeared.
  5. The few investigations conducted brought up no real clues. This is why I’ll be going to stay there. All the investigations only lasted a day, a night at most. They were covered extensively by media, while some were even broadcast live. I’ll conduct my search in silence, without anyone’s knowledge. Some things are best caught unawares.

15th April, 2016

The place is so quiet.

I arrived at 12:15 p.m. on a boat I rowed myself, armed with a month’s worth of supplies. If they run out, I’ll simply row over to the nearby village, two miles away, to replenish them. I made sure to anchor the boat tight and cover it with grass and weeds and leaves, so that it is not visible. I don’t want to draw attention.

I set up my tent behind some bushes, trying to stay as inconspicuous as possible. Inconspicuous from whom, I’m not sure yet.

For over an hour, I wandered through the abandoned village, passing home after empty home.

The fields were full of dead crops and empty patches, and in one of the fields, I saw it: the two-foot-high stone with the inscription. I knelt before it and touched it. It was warm, just as any other stone would be under the sun. Maybe someone had once built a temple here long ago, and it was destroyed and buried over time. Maybe too much farming had simply brought one of the stones to the surface. Nothing extraordinary. It was just a normal stone.

I wandered some more, trying to detect any unusual energy in the air. Nothing.

The sun was bright in the sky over me, the weather was dry, but below me, the soil was so wet in places that my shoes got stuck more than once. Clay. Too much clay.

No living thing in sight, except me, a few scurrying mice, and the birds screeching and flying high above. Overall, there was silence, silence except for the ominous quiet of a vanished civilization, silence except for the roar of the Ganga, incessantly flowing past the village.

17th April, 2016

Living here is strange. I’ve stayed in haunted houses before. I mean, this is part of my job.

But I’ve never before been the only inhabitant of an entire town, city, or village. Not that I’m complaining. I knew what I was heading into when I decided to investigate.

During the day, I roam about the empty village.

Sometimes, I think I hear cries. They seem muffled, as if trapped inside something. I don’t know if I’m imagining it, but they seem louder when I step through the clay-filled parts of the village. I don’t understand how the clay stays so wet, in spite of the dry weather. Yesterday, I knelt and picked some up in my hands. It was cold to the touch, and I was suddenly reminded of the cold of the corpse I’d found in a haunted house long ago. The thought made a shiver go through me. I washed my hands in the Ganga later, but the cold feeling hasn’t really gone away.

Art for "Why the Village of Shiminpur is Empty"

Have you seen the idols get immersed in the river when the festivals are over? Have you seen how their clay bodies dissolve and scatter into the river? That is exactly what happened to them.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2018 collection.

Lopa Roy was an investigator of strange happenings, renowned in India for her inconvenient and highly effective ways of uncovering unexplained mysteries. She was accidentally stabbed to death in Shiminpur on the night of 19th May, 2016, by a thief who mistook her for a ghost. Her body was recovered a week later, after the terrified thief confessed his crime. Her diary, containing these recorded entries, was discovered amidst her belongings in Shiminpur.

Tamoha Sengupta lives in India. Her fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry, and elsewhere. She sometimes tweets @sengupta_tamoha.

AJ is an illustrator and comic artist with a passion for neon colors and queer culture. Catch them being antisocial on social media @thehauntedboy.

“Why the Village of Shiminpur is Empty” is © 2017 Tamoha Sengupta
Art accompanying story is © 2017 America Jones

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