Book Review: A Face in the Dark by Ruskin Bond

A Face in the Dark by Ruskin Bond is a very popular short story that has been passed on from one generation to another. It falls in the purview of mystery and suspense genre. Through this story the author asserts that even people powerful and non-believers of evil spirits go blank or have their heart attack when confronted by strange and horrible situations.

Mr. Oliver, an Anglo Indian, is a teacher in a reputed public boarding school for several years in Shimla. He is a strong personality and easily shoos away the gossips of ghosts and devils. His cottage isn’t far from the school gate. He is a bachelor! A strong personality that staunchly dwells on individualism! Shimla bazaar is a chirpy market full of high standard restaurants and cinema halls. People generally don’t take shortcut routes to reach home in the darkness, especially when heavy winds susurrate through the pine trees which make sad and strange noises.

Contrary to all beliefs, Mr. Oliver always takes the shortcut route through the pine forest, however tonight the light of his torch is dim and may soon die. On way the flickering light of his torch falls on a boy alone sitting on a rock. He is wearing the school cap and weeping with his head in his hands, his body shaking convulsively. As a rule, boys are not supposed to be out after seven in the night and now the time is well beyond nine. Oliver goes closer and asks the boy for being out at this time of the night and why he is crying. As he bends close to the boy to look at his face, he goes blank with fear and dropping the torch he runs forward, screaming for help.

Not so far he sees a lamp flickering in the dark night. It was the night watchman of the school. When he approaches him, the watchman asks what the matter is and why he is running. Is there any accident, there? Oliver says that he has seen something horrible - a boy weeping in the forest he has no face at all - no eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.

“Do you mean it was like this, sir?” the watchman asks and raises the lamp to his own face. The watchman, like the boy in the jungle, too has no eyes, etc., no features at all. The lamp goes off in the blowing wind and Oliver dies of heart attack. Well others have had their heart attack at the first instance but he was a tough man thus he has had his heart attack at the second instance.