Nothing impresses me in life, I was nothing but a standard definition called “spoiled-brat”. Like every other normal girls of my class I always showed-off my appeal in front of guys especially the innocence part. But girls knew the other side of the coin, my bossy nature. I was their mistress and they obeyed me like dogs. Of course no one wants to oppose me. I was a very normal girl and things were normal for me until one day my mom made a fortune and landed herself as a millionaire. My mom was a workaholic who had no time or interest to spare. From time to time she would sympathize and enact her melodrama asking sorry for not spending enough time with me , like I would believe her. She was only interested in finding a rich scape-goat as a husband to increase the value of her price tag.
In the past, there was a time when I was a normal girl yet I had some problems. I was teased and bullied by my seniors. I was called and made fun off everyday by their nasty plays….eventually this became my normal life until the day I lost my dearest dad. The only kindest person in this whole world to whom I opened up to, I lost track of my life. My heart became empty. After some days of death I resumed my classes, on the following day the girls called me for their fun session, I resented and was furious for some reason, all the pent-up rage overflowed me…….in minutes the place was a huge mess. I was transferred to another school for injuring one of my senior’s head.
I felt detached from the world, it was filled with an unfathomable void and loneliness. I tried my best to dissolve it but I wasn’t able to escape it. As I was aging this emptiness became part of me like my only companion. There were other companions who were close to me from the real world. The closest was Mera who knows everything about me ,yet still accepted me wholly for who I am. I met her in this new school and never treated her like the other girls.
March 31, 2017 the beginning of summer holidays…..
Mom wanted the house for herself as her new fiance wanted to spend a few days with her along with his family. I was annoyed but didn’t bother. Mera proposed a trip to her usual summer house. Nothing grand but it was a small yet cozy log house at the foot of the hills. Compared to my home I was a lot comfortable there.
I left for the the calm log house with mera .We settled ourselves by night. The house was occupied by me, Mera and her big sister Janu. We were searching for “blacky ” our pet kitten. She was nowhere to be found. She usually stays at the house all-round the year taken care by our maid . ”Don’t worry girls she would be here by midnight” assured the maid but I was a bit annoyed by her carefree reply non stop chewing the betel leaf while saying so. “Probably it should be on the roof of someone’s house in the village” added Janu.
Ah…. I forgot to mention about the village, our nice summer home was surrounded by rural villages on three sides and the mountain’s forest on the back. Most of the villagers were literally nomads which was displeasing to me. But for some reason I still preferred this place, maybe because of its forest, the stream or the orchids that Mera owns. But most of all, I loved spending my time with the old man who is our neighbor. He was the only literate in that village , a retired military soldier. A kind man who tells me a lot of stories and wacky puzzles. I was also his favorite, every time when I met him ,he would say that I resembled his daughter exactly. His wife died giving birth to his daughter yet he lived a happy life with his daughter for some time but the tragedy struck again claiming his daughter’s life. He said that she was attacked by a tiger which are extremely rare around this region.
Every time the old man say my face he was happy with an honest smile that met his eyes . That sincere smile I have seen only in Mera. The old man and I were the same, detached from this world living in our own world of solitude. My solitude moments was empty with lone thoughts with no regard for the world. But the old man was different, his solitude was not empty, it was filled with memories of love. Every passing moment he lived with them, his wife and daughter.
The next day the sun rose vividly and I woke up from my slumber earlier than usual. The air was cleaner than the city. I began thinking of my schedule for the day, Mera was supposed to go to the village for some work so I rescheduled and decided to visit the old man early and his new story was arousing my level of excitement . I greeted the old man as I entered his lawn. He was sitting on a wooden chair near his dove’s little cage. Some usual vintage stuffs like his old screwed up radio, an old magnetic compass dotted around him on its usual places. Those were signs that the old man is spending his moments of solitude with bliss.
“Oh sweetie you are earlier than usual ”, “ Mera had gone out on an errand so I came early“. The old man smiled and called me inside and gave me my usual coco milk and started narrating his story. Today was a narration of the local myth spoken around the village for generations. “The guardian of the forest which offers a wish for a sacrifice “. It was said that the guardian’s protects the people for nearly a century expecting nothing in return. The guardian’s accumulates the hate of people and free them of their hate. All the pent-up emotions of hate can break the balance and make the guardian go berserk, so in order to free this hate the villagers sacrifice a life and in return the guardian calms down and grants them a wish.
Then after a bizarre narration of the illogical story came my favourite part, riddles. I didn’t know how time flew and it was almost time for lunch, the old man said that he will take me to the oracle where the so-called guardian resided at evening. I chuckled and said “sure, why not?“.
I had my lunch and goof ball maid asked me if I planned on visiting the village, I asked “why?” and she replied” If you are going could you get me some betel leaves from the shop?” I got angry,” No, get your own I’m going for the forest with the old man”. It was evening and the sun was slowly setting in. There seemed to be some commotion going on in the village. It seemed that Kadak a young little fellow went missing for two days. I smirked and discarded the issue and the old man was waiting for me in front of his house. He then took me around the village and we went deep into the forest. The old man took me deeper and deeper as the world’s light went dimmer and dimmer. I had a creepy feeling and grabbed the old man’s hand out of a child’s instinct. I know I was a grown-up girl but I couldn’t help it as I held his hand I felt comfortable, deep down inside me a fuzzy nostalgia memory started stirring up.
“Walking in the woods with my dad“. I didn’t remember anything, his face or his voice but the warmth of his hand. “We are here” stated the old man. The place was amazing like the one which comes in fantasy movies. A grove of Banyan trees with lot of ant-hills………… well may be snake-pits. In the center was a ferocious statue of a deity. Seemed like goddess of war, just seeing the statue was sure enough to send a chill down my spine.” Hey gramps can we go? I’m not feeling good you know….” there was nothing but silence. I hesitantly turned back and saw the old man. He had his face hung down for no reason. “Hey answer me…” There was nothing but awkward silence.
“Sorry child but I have no other choice”.
My eyes enlarged as he took out a dragger out of his sleeve. My voice was muffled and body started to tremble. Only a moment transition but there was a huge difference in his eyes. An eyes filled with anguish pain and anger.
” Wha..t are you say..ing ?” I stammered.
“ I will bring back my daughter…”.
My voice couldn’t make out and for some reason I was totally afraid though I didn’t know what he was up to. I could feel a killing indent from him. “Don’t misunderstand me dear I had no other way…..I tried sacrificing the feline but It didn’t work…..I even gave him a human offering but I wasn’t granted a wish”.
“Finally I realized that in order to bring back my daughter I should sacrifice someone who looks like her perhaps a girl of her age”. I was shocked, the words missing cat and a boy echoed in my mind and everything became clear. The old man is speaking the truth and I realized what was kept in store for me. I couldn’t accept it….several times I tried to end my life but I knew I was half-hearted. Even now I don’t know what to do, to accept my fate or fight for my life? My life was empty anyway. The man slowly approached as I kneeled down subconsciously. My eyes were teary .One part of my mind was in defeat while the other trembling in pain awaiting the end. I cried,” I thought we were the same, lonely and we made a good company comforting ourselves…”. The man stopped a few inches before me, “Don’t think of living you were nothing but a living disaster who didn’t care of people even though you had your precious ones near you, you never valued them. Only when you lose them you will know my pain. It’s very simple girl, my world of solitude exist because I lost everything and your world is empty because you don’t value them”.
I shouted, “How could you do this to me…… I want to live! Though I think that no one will care if I die, I can’t die here I have to set things right I have to make my mom pay I have to apologize to Mera I have to make this whole world turn their heads towards me for making me lonely. I want to make sure that my child doesn’t have a screwed-up childhood like mine. I want to grow I don’t want to die dammit.”
The old man clenched his teeth and his dragger “Don’t you dare cheat me you are nothing but filth, you are nothing like my daughter, the way you look like her is more the reason to kill you. You defile her image, her voice, her smile, my memories of her, there is no way I can let you live!“ “DIE!!!”.
My eyes were closed, I couldn’t accept it……it’s like always, I wasn’t able to escape it I wasn’t able to fight it, neither my loneliness nor my existence . Or so I thought…..
Meanwhile back at the village……
The local police have arrived at the village to deduce the case of the missing boy Kadak. Based on a witness’s testimony the police found the culprit. The old man’s house was raided and he seemed to have disappeared. The neighborhood was questioned whether anyone knew where the old man left. The maid was shocked hearing the incident she said that the young mistress and the old man left for forest a few hours ago. Mera shuddered she didn’t know how to react and then she screamed hysterically of her name. One of the shepherds happened to witness the old man and girl at the forests and reported to the police with the location where they were last seen. Some men and the entire police team went in pursuit.
Meanwhile back at the forest……….
The sun has lost every trace of its light and dusk had finally set in. I was gaining back my conscious little by little after a blackout. I was in a bloody mess. What I experienced was true horror, my mind has gone beyond numb and I wasn’t able to react to my surroundings. I didn’t care about the dusky night nor the creepy sounds of the forest, I didn’t pay attention to Mera who was crying or the horde of men who came here in search me but my mind was filled with the memories ……
Just before the old man could struck me there was a ferocious growl.
A tiger appeared out of nowhere with its bloodlust eyes. The darkness of the forest which was growing added more to the effect. My heart almost stopped. The old man freaked out and ran away after almost falling down twice while backing away in fright. It was too much for me my mind lost my cool and like an animal I screamed in fright. The tiger became aware of my presence and it averted its eyes towards me. My scream became louder and the annoyed beast of a cat pounced on me. It almost felt like something heavy crashed over me, I nearly chocked and was out of breath. The tiger growled……I cried,” Help me …..Daddy “out of sheer panic.
Maybe it was the effect of the fuzzy memories of my dad. I didn’t know the exact reason for why I said that neither for why the old man came rushing back.
“AGHHH!!!!………GET OFF HER YOU BEAST!! “.
The old man caught the tiger and rolled along with it to the left. In an instant the beast dug its fangs on the old man’s shoulder. The old man cried in pain and in another instant the old man repeatedly stabbed the tiger like a mad man.
He repeatedly stabbed the tiger in frenzy while shouting, finally the tiger dragged him by his shoulder and threw the old man and then the beast collapsed. The tiger was giving out its feeble wining from time to time until it finally passed-out. I was practically exhausted I could hear nothing except for my breathing and the old man’s. The old man coughed a lot and was stammering a lot to say something.
“I’m such an fool…..why did I even run for this girl?”
“Guess I could still see my daughter….” “cough…cough” “hey kid…remember….you were just lucky…..”
“ I don’t know when I became like this…..I managed to live even after my wife’s death but after my only treasure my daughter was gone I couldn’t bear it I lost my reasoning….this emptiness is vile and made me weaker….weaker….so weak that I became aggressive and twisted.”
“Don’t dwell in this darkness my dear…” “cough….cough”
“ I know…I know…that this emptiness is soothing and helps you to escape the crushing reality but this emptiness also hides the extended hands that might reach out to you……..this wall which you create around yourself becomes a breeding pen for a monster”
“The only hand that extended to me was your little hands….”
“But the monster in me which had grown so much that I couldn’t accept you”
“crawl out of this wall before you turn yourself into a monster“.
My memory recollection ended….as the last tear dripped down my chin.
I knew what the old man was saying I knew this way back. I knew what was wrong with me and what should be done even before the old man’s final lecture. But that was the problem. Even when I knew what my problem was I couldn’t escape it. I just wasn’t strong enough to break down this invisible wall.
Mera sob ended and she hugged me tightly. I was then I realized….” How could I have ignored her?”. Then I remembered that every time….every single time she was there for me even when I ignored her she stood there for me with that glee on her face. “Every single time she will come for me breaking down the wall“
Now it’s time to reach her extending hand and start the so-called “resetting my life” that I always wanted. I hugged her back.
“Sorry na, for leaving you”.
“No one in this world is alone. There are always hands that are extending towards us….It’s just that they are invisible to the naked eye.”
“Being alone is soothing….a safe addictive for a teetotaller who needs comfort for a broken heart. But as all sedatives do, this solitude makes you weaker….so weak you turn aggressive and hurt the weaker or oneself.”
“Being strong is to be able to live”
“Strong enough to not to dwell in darkness”
“Yes, as of this aspect no one in this world is strong enough to survive on his/her own. That’s why we form bonds…..all you have to do is to reach out for this extended hand or extend out your own”.
“Nothing can be empty……the non-emptiness of solitude is either love or hate but cannot be empty”.