WSPI-2012-03: Black Night – Short Story of Witch
This short story is participating in Write Story from Picture India 2012 – Short Story Writing Competition.
Black Night – Short Story of Witch
I looked for some time at the colorful and bright demon masks being sold in the market, and I wondered who used them? Why would anyone even keep them in his or her house? They had no aesthetic value anyhow. Were they related to black magic in some way? While these questions pondered me I knew I had to head back to my home and reach there before it got dark. My home was located deep in forest, where I had spent most of my time for the last 2 years now, occasionally going back to the city 230 Kms away, to get some supplies.
On my way back to my forest home, I walked 24 Kms from where the last bus dropped me, after an over-night journey. I couldn’t get my Jeep this time. It was damn tiring, my friends.
Sun was overhead when I reached home. To my surprise I found things were new. The floor was swept, the window panes were cleaner. Then I saw her sitting there.
Who are you? I asked.
Please don’t kill me – she said.
I looked at her, she looked a little polished girl to me and was wearing a shirt and pyjamas, attire which once would have looked good on her, but now was tattered and covered with mud and blood. She was clearly in her early 20s.
She was afraid of me and trembling with fear, more so when I took out my revolver from my jacket. What could I have said to her then?
‘Why are you hair wet?’ I said.
‘Have you taken bath? Your hair are wet’.
‘Yes, that I felt…’ she tried to smile, but stopped, yet she got little comforted now.
‘They tried to kill me, they put a lot of mud and filth on my body’ she mumbled.
Another victim of tribal witch hunt, I thought.
‘Where did you take bath?’
‘Near that well’
‘In the open?’ I gave her a wicked smile. And you guys should know, I am a wicked man.
‘You can go to the room on the left, and clean your wounds.’ I gave her a clean cloth to wipe herself and a few clothes to wear.
‘See what fits you.’ I said as I looked in her eyes.
She tried to smile and went outside.
I started to load my gun. I knew they would come for her, and in case they would want to brand me as a witch’s accomplice, only gunpowder could stop them, I laughed as I thought that.
But they would not consider me a God with a fiery weapon, as they used to, why? Simply because they have seen enough gunpowder being fired on them through the ages. And still these morons could not leave there javelins and poison arrows and start using some guns for God’s sake. This very thought made me to leap to one side laughing, as my stomach pained due to it.
She came inside and I checked her out, she was covered till knees with my big shirt.
‘One girl in one shirt, was that some song?’ I said.
There was a pause.
‘You are a hunter?’ she asked me.
I laughed so hard that she again thought I am going to kill her.
‘‘Yes I am a hunter’’ I went near her, ‘‘and I hunt lonely girls in forest, and you know what I do with them?’’ I asked with my eyes widened.
She gulped in her throat.
‘I leave them where I find them’ and I again roared with laughter as I picked my old grape wine bottle.
‘I am very afraid, they will kill me, they tried to burn me, please save me’ she spoke slowly.
‘I’ll cook for you?’ she spoke in same soft voice
‘I am not hungry right now.’ I was a little surprised by this, her voice seemed different to me now, more soft more soothing.
‘You might be in sometime’ she said.
‘May be, but tell me, how did you land up among these tribal people, where are you from?’
‘Our ship crashed on that side of the shore.’
‘Oh that storm last week. Where were you going, you lost someone?’
‘I did not have any to lose.’
There was a pause. I could listen to the sound of wind blowing in the group of trees around us.
‘Human trafficking you see.’ – she mumbled.
‘Human trafficking, wow that’s a strong phrase, what would they do to you?’ – I smirked.
‘They were smuggling us, me and some other girls, to southern Europe, and then they would take us to somewhere in Middle East.’ She said and stopped. Her eyes looked empty for a while, but suddenly again carried a trace of fear.
‘I was looking for some food in jungle when these tribal caught me.’ Her voice was full of hatred and anger for the tribesmen.
Suddenly somewhere in the forest there were noises, at a distance. Lots of drums and howls occurred and then a sudden horrifying silence swept through the lonely woods.
‘They are looking for me’ she said.
‘How will they find you?’
‘I don’t know; they have their ways.’
‘I’ll protect you, but you have to do something for me.’
I looked at her from head to toe and she looked beautiful to me, suddenly. Was it the grape wine? Has she done something to my innocent grape wine?
‘Can you do anything?’ I emphasized on anything.
‘I don’t want to die. Tell me what I have to do.’
There was a pause, abominable enough for her, as her eyes prodded mine for some emotion, which wasn’t there.
‘You have to cook?’ I smiled. I’ve got two rabbits in my pack.’
I looked at her as she put the big utensil on fire. She looked as innocuous as she could to me. I never expected to find a person like her on my expedition, and this suddenly lead to an odd sensation in me. I had read lot about witch hunting tribes, their ways and their customs. More than that, I had read a lot about witches. Especially the new age witches. You could find them anywhere. They could be normal housewives, models, TV presenters, college students and what not, functioning under secret societies, organizing secret Sabbaths. They need not always stay in jungles but needed to go to dense forests, to avoid attention and most importantly to give a natural touch to their craft, to be in sync with the five elements of cosmos. Not all of them were witches in sense people considered them to be, some were in the cults out of curiosity, some out of respect for it as they considered it a religion. Some of them were obviously involved with black magic and all its black deeds. But then among the witches sacrificed by these tribesmen there were innocent girls as well, like the one before me.
“Tala kapeesheeee” I head a very loud noise from outside. I went outside and saw a tribal standing outside. He looked in his late teens, and was breathing heavily, He was carrying a bow and an arrow, and his facial expression showed anger and disgust. He was a spy may be, but foolish enough to reveal himself. Now when he had located the prized catch he possibly could not stop himself. Night was taking her place on the sky chair as the orange ball dipped itself into the green ocean, so I looked around to make sure nobody else was there.
“What do you want mate?” I asked.
“Tala kapeshe uva” he said. “Tala kapeshe uva”
“Uva e, Uva e” that’s what I could say, somehow.
Uvaneo was their word for a witch, Uva with more disgust I guess. Uva e meant “witch no”. That’s how the people who don’t know a lingo mathematically patch up words, as I did the same, but then he was not in a mood to relent. He replied with a few sentences very quickly which I could not understand, but what I could understand was that he was warning me of dire consequences.
He picked up his arrow and aimed at me, I knew if I would wait one second more I would be dying a very horrible death. Poison arrows were the most lethal weapons these, otherwise, morons had possessed.
I quickly took out my gun and shot his right arm. He fell down with immense pain, giving out a loud cry. She came out running and covered her mouth with her hand.
I looked at him writhing with pain, not sure what to do with him now. But he stood up somehow and took out a big knife from under his skirt. He charged on me holding that dagger, but unfortunately for him, the trees around us heard another shot.
‘Help me.’ I asked her, as I tried to drag his body to bushes, and she did.
‘So did they strip and tie you upside down on fire, or did they make any marks on your body?’ I was talking to her after dinner, as we sat around the fire.
She was very calm now, almost emotionless. ‘They were going to do something like that today, today is the night of no light.’
‘The Amavasya’ I said. ‘Today all around the planet people on both sides, the people of the light and the people of the dark, pray, as if trying to counter each other’s energies.’
‘Oh’ she said, as she took a sharp steak of wood and started to draw on the sand.
‘And today these tribals kill witches, to suppress the evil uprising of black powers.’ I felt I was giving a university lecture on tribal traditions.
‘But why do they target innocent women like me?’
‘They don’t have that strong a feeling of humanity and societal conscience I guess, if they doubt a girl to be a witch, they do kill her, they don’t have any considerations about that.’
‘I just hate such backward outlaws.’
‘But as it’s said’ I rolled my tongue in my mouth, ‘they are rarely wrong, so you could be a witch, after all.’ I smiled as I threw one more block wood into the fire.
‘Yeah you can see my big teeth and golden hair and big-big fingers’ she tried to be sarcastic, but was careful not to do that with me. I was her sole protector now.
‘Is your drawing finished?’ I asked.
‘Uhun’ she said in negation.
I looked at her admiringly as she scratched lines into the sand; in the soft light of our bone fire she looked immensely beautiful. ‘Oh, the grape wine is getting to me’ I thought. Her hazel eyes, her rustic look carrying a modern touch, her slender arms and her slender legs and there was a black thread tied on her left foot.
I was shocked.
This was the thread born by witches of a sub Saharan cult. I had read about this only a few weeks back.
‘How could I not see it before’ I suddenly spoke breaking the silence.
‘We can blind people partially’ she smiled.
‘I bet you can, I mean, but this is what I was looking for.’ I was not able to control my excitement. ’I have been looking for you witches since two years in here, and today when I met you, I couldn’t even…’
‘You knew we were here? Are you a witch hunter?’ she was curious.
‘Nah…I know that there are three of you, initially four but one of you was killed by these tribals. And I am not a hunter.’
‘You know a lot, but then why have you come all the way looking for us, and why are you searching for us for 2 years?’
‘Well, I am interested in your powers, I want to know how you gain your strength, how you manipulate people so strongly. How you blind the inner and outer senses of men…’
‘You have a lot of questions; you are a journalist I guess’ she smiled.
Suddenly, I wanted to befriend her. ‘An authentic witch’, I laughed inside, she would have so much information about all the mystery black magic.
‘See my drawing is finished’ she declared.
It was a human shape.
‘Who is it?’ I asked
‘It’s you’ her smile widened and her eyes brightened as she said that..
I gulped in my throat. I wanted to run but could not. I could barely stand up, I wanted to walk but I felt my feet were very cold, almost rigid, I gasped in horror. I was loosing control of myself and I could feel the trees around me laughing at me.
‘I am sorry I had to do this, this way, but I had nothing to make the puppet, but believe me, sand puppets work fine, always.’ She laughed a wicked laugh.
‘Why are..?’ I was having a difficulty in speaking.
‘I bathed in your place, I wore your cloth, I made you food, it’s never been that easy, you yourself made it, that easy.’
Suddenly she looked much older to me, around 45-50 years old.
‘What are you going to do to me’ I asked her, my eyes were dizzy and my head felt giddy.
‘Leave that! Aren’t you just happy that I would be getting some warm blood today?’ She giggled in a greedy, odd manner.
I felt smothered, dizzy. I was suddenly reminded of those demon masks I saw in the market, were they in some way responsible for my current condition?
‘But, listen, I, … I…’ I was not able to speak clearly, chocking as I tried to force words out.
‘But you saved my life, that’s what you want to say? Well as a token of my thanks I won’t pain you a lot, I’ll directly aim for the heart’- she giggled again. She took that sharp wooden stick in the air and started to aim the middle of that human shape, mumbling some strange language.
‘Come on, come on’ I was urging to myself, I was aiming to kick the burning woods in front of me, towards her. As she brought the stick near to the shape to stab it, I suddenly felt a jolt and my leg swung sharply.
My toe hit the woods burning in fire and few pieces flung towards her.
One burning piece struck on her forehead and she cried out a loudly, falling to a side.
I suddenly felt absolutely free and in control of myself. I quickly slammed one burning wood onto the human shape. For a moment then, I could not decide what to do and then I ran to my camp to fetch my revolver.
She was lying still on ground crying slowly and taking slow breaths.
I went inside picked my gun but it was unloaded, I frantically searched for the magazine, fearing she could come after me anytime now. I was sweating profusely now. Finally I got the magazine in my bag and loaded then gun. Then I took slow steps to outside, being fully cautious.
As I reached near the fire, she wasn’t there anymore. I could see her footsteps onto sand, till the point I could see in the light of the fire. I dared not follow her in the dark. But I took a circle around fire to make sure she was nowhere near. My heart was still beating fast I observed.
I could not sleep the whole night and stayed near the fire, stayed cautious, reacting on slightest of the noise.
As the orange sunlight flashed within the woods, I could see my white shirt lying at a distance. I sprayed oil onto it and made sure it burnt completely.
I decided to throw all things I thought she could have touched, but then I decided otherwise. I changed my clothes and packed up my bag with my essentials, important documents and off course my gun, and tied it to my back. Then I sprayed all the gasoline I had and set afire my wooden house, with all the ‘touched’ stuff in there. I felt a sense of salvation for no apparent reason. I started to walk away. Even when I had walked 5 miles from the place, I could see the smoke.
I bathed for 2 hours in my hotel room when I reached the city next day. I couldn’t be normal for atleast a month after that. I had nightmares about jungles fires, demons and what not. The experience though had lasted only a few seconds had shaken me badly. I could never forget that moment. Her odd laughter, that feeling of helplessness, that chocking throat, hazy vision, that moment when I lost whole control of my being and was her at mercy, awaiting a quiet death in those morose woods, that feeling was still there in my head, hitting me at odd times. I met a temple priest and told him in brief about my problem. I thought hearing about the witch he would ask me a lots of questions, but to my surprise he didn’t. He asked me to do some donations to priests, to give bread to a white cow for 15 days, plant a tulsi plant in my home, and asked me to tie a black cloth some where in front of my house. Slowly those nightmares reduced and went away, and everything was back to normal, but even to this day, that moment, that feeling, stays afresh in my mind, and it will perhaps be, forever. It was indeed, for me, a black night.