(Because I can’t stop putting these up)
(There are more parts coming in)
Story appeared in the Nation newspaper on December 29, 2013 and is written by Pamodhi Kuruppu.
(Back on it once more. After such a lengthy wait, here’s more of my historical work. Hope it’s likable. This is where their relationship starts getting more and more strained, and we will know who is responsible for it too.)
(I’m back again with my reinterpreted Sri Lankan ‘demon’, a suffering man, who despite his terrible plight, is still powerful enough to resist almost all physical attacks)
He kept watching from the tangled undergrowth, stalking the herdsman persistently. The old man was frail and bony, with a slightly protruding belly, all of which showed him that his victim was facing some kind of disease. And this disease had made the poor herder partially malnourished. Even his stick looked like it was facing famine of some sort, being worn and stubby at the end.
However, he pushed on, loudly raising his voice as he sang.
The predator drew in closer, the tangle of branches and overhanging foliage still masking him from the buffaloes and their master.
Thoughtfully, he groped around for something large and powerful, a rock perhaps. His meat had run out, and now was the chance to get some. His stomach began to growl in anger as he cursed under his breath. Hunger was the greatest driving force of all in the hellish wilds of Malayadesha and the neighboring hillside jungles.
And he’d been taught that it alone would keep him alert and fit throughout his life, long or short.
Slowly watching his prey move by, he listened hard. The chorus of crickets and frogs was overwhelming to his ears, just like it had been all those years ago…
“The hunt is like meditation,” she tells the boy at her side as she slips easily through the jungle, “not that I was some pretentious saint who would sit starving for months, but it’s the easiest way to tell you what it is.” The boy with her is obviously her son.
He is scarred by some strange, unknown disease. He is horrifying, his face a dark, puckered and scarred mass, but his physique is powerful, less on the defined side but still muscular like a wrestler. Obviously he never cared about the athletic beauty of the fisher boy, toned through pulling in huge nets and rowing against treacherous rapids. Nor the rice farmer’s slim son, on the gaunt side but still a head-turner, sun-burnt skin gleaming on his near-naked body.
Fourteen though he is, this is someone who would prefer to use his elephantine bulk and tremendous mass to take on his prey with his bare hands than to have young women fawn over a sleek and trim form that is useful for running but not always for fighting.
This boy has no time for girls, neither does he see any up close. So he imagines some of the women whom he gets a glimpse of on some of his hunts, lying with him on some nights, allowing him inside them. But wait. Now is not the time for pleasure. That will have to wait. Right now he fixes his gaze on his mother, who hisses, “Now tell me, what is it we are after?”
“Cattle. Five cattle with at least two men, walking off to a waterhole. The tracks and their voices tell us they are able-bodied, strong men who can defend their herd. There is one lame cow. She has a bad right hind leg, so we should be able to fell her if we strike her there.” He seems to smile in satisfaction, and his mother kisses his deformed face gently, her eyes softening for an instant.
She sighs, “I have taught you all too well. One day you might hunt me and kill me too if you can”-her sly, apparently false smile changes- “and I believe you can. But right now, let’s focus on lunch.” Eagerly, she undoes her scant cloth, and pulls out a massive knife from a small leather pouch tied to her hip.
Now the boy wants to imagine this superpredator in action.
She is lithe and powerful despite her thinness, and she is more an animal than a woman. A leopardess without spots, she is liquid death in the depths of the forest. And he knows that she is brutal, relentless. The thrill of the chase, the splash of blood against her breasts, the snapping of her vicious teeth and the feeling of soft flesh raked away beneath uncut nails.
The woman looks at the trail once more.
She curses silently in Sanskrit as she looks at the vegetation. Someone has trampled it carelessly. A cow has also taken a toilet stop. Eager to carry on, she beckons him. “Dung,” she tells him as she scoops some of the warm, fresh mass into her hands, “is a good way to track. But you know that, don’t you my dear?” Her smile sets him on the alert. He was uneasy, like she would whip her knife against his neck and slice his jugular.
“I…know,” he mumbles…and they carry on the hunt. His hopes are fixed on the kill, of tasting fresh meat once more…
“You taught me well enough,” he hissed as he passed above the cattle on a rise of rock, “but I just prefer a cleaner kill to you bloody slash-and-disembowel. His wooden club, practically the trunk of a small tree, was ready. He looked around once or twice, tensing his muscles as he determined his angle of attack. The buffaloes and the herdsman had no clue that he was there.
But the youngest bull was setting him off a bit. That damned beast seemed so self-assured that the monstrous man could practically feel the confidence in its heart as its muddied horns strained to gleam in the fast-fading moonlight.
Damned animals had it good.
The herd was just below him.
He pounced. Quickly, the herder reacted in the only way that he knew. The attack was so swift that the poor old man tried to strike with his stick, but ended up whacking one of his animals in the face.
Startled, he looked in fear as the buffalo grunted, then growled under its breath, threatening to charge. But he had hardly any idea what was happening to one of his most valued herd members. The young bull was being pounded mercilessly, blows raining on its head, into its eyes and nose. Once or twice it attempted to rise up against its attacker.
The buffalo’s screams of pain were like some primal cry from the depths of hell, carrying off into the night as it struggled to overcome its brutal opponent. This club was tougher than the killer had thought.
This was his life.
He laughed with glee as the animal’s mouth bled and he grabbed its horns, twisting its head and neck around. Those arms bore unnatural power, as he remembered. And this was what they were for.