With the ticking clock…
The blood soaked through the stained and yellowing bed sheet. But it was of little notice to the small throng gathered around the bed, all intent on the writhing woman in it. The feat had to be carried out in the middle of the night away from the prying eyes of the nosy villagers. The old, decrepit woman, invited to join the proceedings as her presence would render ‘comfort’, pinned the woman down on the bed with her thick, bloated body while muffling the cries with her pudgy hands. Yet another younger woman, shrewd and lean with brows that appeared to be permanently furrowed, held the legs of the woman apart for the quack to have better access. The quack was bent over between the legs of the woman absorbed, working with a longish metal tool while the husband and his brother stood behind him watching, and alert for any required intervention.
This was the only solution there was. It was destined actually. Ever since the fancy city doctor, with a little incentive had divulged that in another five months or so, they would be the proud parents of a daughter. The husband had spat on the shiny, marbled floor as his only reaction to the news.
The man sneaked out carrying a small bundle under his arm. He fidgeted with the little burden and stealthily walked deeper into the night. He had thought hard about it for the last three nights and settled with the decision to drown it. And sooner the feat was accomplished the better it would be. So, tonight when his tired wife went off to sleep after feeding, he picked it out of the make-shift wooden cradle and wrapped it in his shawl and tip-toed out of the house like a thief. He didn’t need this burden in this time of want. He’d wait till his wife could give him a son.
“Shit! I think she passed out…”
“Whaa..?! Let me see…”
The second man groped about the forlorn body of the girl lying spread-eagled on the ground.
“Dammit, I can’t find a pulse…” After a heartbeat, “I think you broke her neck, you idiot!” he cried.
The third man spoke up from behind them. Agitated he paced the muddy, leaf strewn soft grounds of the woods, “And I didn’t even have a go at her. You rascals took too much time devouring her”
The first man retorted angrily, ” What are you getting at? It’s my fault… You have any idea how long I have been without a fuck? Do you?”
The vehement reply was lost on the second man who was contemplating, distracted. Alive or not, there still was a female body.
When he told his companions of his startling idea, they protested vehemently. Was he out of his mind? They were not animals. Okay, may be they had gotten carried away but what he was suggesting was preposterous!
The debate lasted a few precious heated minutes. But the cravings got in the way, till that was the only option they had left.
The lifeless body wasn’t spared the humiliation either.
“I am talking about the Chauhan’s in the Kothwal district. I heard they have a daughter. She will be around fifteen years of age. What do you think?”
“Will they agree to a marriage?”
“Who cares if they agree or not? My boys will just get her!”
“But you have three sons!”
“They can share. In fact, we will all share.”
“You can’t. You can’t! You will kill her.”
“Probably. Then we will get another one.”
“She ran away! Can you believe it?! She actually ran away!”
“The father must have had a hand in this. She couldn’t have done this on her own.”
“Flog the father, lynch him for all I care… How dare he?”
The little girl held her mother’s hand and looked back at the shrinking landscape that had once been her village.
“Don’t ever come back, Chhutki. Never!” Those were the last words her father had spoken to her. Before he had bundled her mother and her into the goods train in the dead of the night.
“You are too precious to perish with the animals that roam in this land dressed as humans”, her father had cried that night. It was that night when the five men had barged into her home, and had brutally beaten her and her mother, while doing unspeakable things to them, things she had had no inkling of.
“This will be not be the only time. It will happen again and again”, her father had continued crazed and crying, “Till you die from it.”
And then he had looked at his little girl. “A daughter is supposed to be a father’s jewel, a blessing. But I wish, no father has to go through this…”
As if steeling himself for that he had to say next, he had taken a deep breath and held his wife’s hands and said in calm voice, “Run away Sarla, leave, go away. It has to be better than the hell that is brewing in this land. There is no hope for us here. They are not men, they are beasts “
“We will perish”, he had said in his deep voice, “For a race that knows not how it treat its women, a race so brutish, myopic, foolish and sick- there can be no other destiny.” He had prophesied.
A few years later? Or months? Or was it mere weeks?
For miles, as far as one could fathom of that land there was little life. The scenery was brown and dusty. All that had been was burned to ashes or crushed to rubble. Nearby, a lone hyena tore and snapped at what looked like a rotting, days old human carcass while a wake of vultures hovered nearby for its turn.
The women were gone. The children were gone. The men had been left alone with their rising bloodthirsty, feral and beastly hunger till it could no longer be contained, or be content only as forced inmates of a prison and it turned towards each other. And finally it imploded outwards. As the only inevitable outcome. A war. The last man was felled, unknown to him that it was his own warped idea of superiority, of dominance that won the war.
Finally there were none left.
The circle was complete. The spirits of the fled, the escaped, the raped, the brutalized, the murdered- avenged.
A tinkling laugh resonated through the dry and still air like the crack of a bullet, as if delighted at what remained of the greatest species on earth. Mocking and merciless, it whispered into the winds, “I told you so“. The sound carried the stench of the dead and the bitterness of it echoed over the arid plains, amused and knowing, before it dissolved into nothingness.
And then the world was silent again.