Monday, April 06, 2009

Where fools dare...

He could almost feel the teeth sink into his flesh as he tore through the woods. The chase seemed endless. And the wolf, tireless. She had been on his trail for almost an hour now. She had picked up the scent of his blood at the brook, the man-eater.


The Onbitwish Woods had been his playground for over a decade now; just like it was for the young men and women around him. The older ones often told them stories of the lurking dangers at the heart of the woods. Some of them told tales of their own experiences with the perils; the ones who survived; the ones with scarred bodies and hearts. The others were never spoken about. But as was the case with most young ears, the wisdom largely went unheard. While some novices shriveled away, the more daring explored. But it was probably the effect of the barrage, no one dared go down too deep. Beyond return. Beyond redemption. But on that unfortunate evening, the gates opened for him, to the land of no return.


The woods seemed to be all around now, closing in on him; smothering him. He closed his eyes for one moment, trying to recall those countless times he had come to pick up berries, pluck herbs, and collect pebbles. How he jogged along directionless and yet ended up at the clearing near the hills, where the shepherds played cricket. His mind was blank. The track that used to emerge from behind the trees stayed hidden. He had come too far.


Nobody in the village liked the Robinsons. He loved them. They always spoke fondly of the woods. They were the proud and unscathed survivors. He spent most of the time sitting around their verandah, listening to their story about the woods. It was unlike anything the others would say. They spoke of flowers, of fruits and shining dewdrops. Of deer, of chirping birds and sun rays that wriggled through the leaves. They never spoke of the dark heart of the woods. They never spoke of hidden dangers. They spoke about trees that talked and leaves that tickled. Of streams that sang and creepers that danced. They never mentioned the land of no return.


The rustling of the leaves was louder now. She was close. And then, he saw it. Two sparkling eyes, red as blood, were staring at him through the thick bushes. Beads of sweat populated his forehead as the creature emerged from the thicket. He stood frozen as it dashed towards him, his eyes closed in a prayer he was trying hard to remember. The words of the elders and the Robinsons echoed in his head. The elders were louder.


His mother never let him visit the Robinsons. Nor did his father. They had never been to the woods themselves. Still they had a happy life. So why should their only son do anything different? Perfectly reasonable. But the Robinsons had gone to the woods too. And they were happier. Every time he posed the question, he was sent to his room.


Seconds ticked. Nothing happened. No weight on his body, crushing him to the ground. No canines ripping his throat apart. He opened his eyes, nervously. The wolf was gone. A small pit had opened up in front of him, the kind hunters dug for wild boars. The creature had fallen into the trap. Gathering the little bit of courage that was left, he slowly approached the pit. The wolf was in it, curled up in a corner. It was writhing in agony. It had broken a limb during the fall, he reckoned. He turned back and walked, looking back every now and then, thanking his stars. He reached the clearing by dusk.


The night was restless. He couldn’t sleep. Images of the wolf in pain returned to haunt him. What if the poor thing was hunting for its starving cubs? What would become of the cubs if the wolf died in the pit? What if? A million questions troubled him at first and then slowly lulled him to sleep.

His father’s cuckoo clock woke him up in the morning. He had his breakfast quick and fast. He picked up a piece of rope and chunk of meat from the storeroom. Kissing his mom good bye, he rushed towards the clearing and into the jungle. This time, the only voice in his head was of the Robinsons.

1 comment:

Debbie said...

Really enjoyed reading it!! Welcome back!! :) It was really vivid and should not end here... Go on...