A Face in the Dark

‘A Face in the Dark’ is a horror story by Ruskin Bond. It builds up a sense of excitement and tension in the readers, as they comprehend the plot. The characters and the setting have been created in a way that makes the readers believe that Mr. Oliver’s experience is real.

‘A Face in the Dark’ is a supernatural story set in a pine forest in Shimla. The story is about a gentleman named Mr. Oliver who teaches in a school near the Shimla Bazaar, which is at a distance of three miles from the school. Since Mr. Oliver is a bachelor, and does not have familial responsibilities, he usually takes a stroll into the town in the evening. While returning, he takes a short cut through the pine forest.
The story progresses, and we find Mr. Oliver taking the route as usual. He has a torch in his hand, but the batteries have run down. The light is flickering, when it falls on a boy sitting on a rock, and crying. It seems to be a strange, soundless weeping. Here, the strangeness of the cry makes the atmosphere more alarming. The readers anticipate as to what is going to happen next.
Mr. Oliver gets concerned as boys are not supposed to be out after dark. He authoritatively questions the boy as to why he is there at that time. But the boy does not answer. Here, the boy not answering adds to the trepidation.
After much questioning, the boy looks above, and Mr. Oliver becomes as cold as ice. The boy has no features on his face- no eyes, nose, ears or mouth. He is faceless.
Mr. Oliver runs for his life, blindly through the tress. He stumbles up to the watchman, who asks him the reason for his breathlessness. The watchman is carrying a lamp in his hand, but at this point we are not told anything about his face. The teacher narrates the whole experience, to which the watchman says, ‘Do you mean it was like this, Sahib?’
This is where the story ends, with the wind blowing the lamp out, and the readers are left to wonder what happens with Mr. Oliver. Does he survive or is he dead?


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