Shadows in the Sun
While most of the village of Kalidum slept, something horrific had taken place in the cover of darkness. The pitch black of the eventful night was gradually fading away, giving way to the mellow softness of the morning light. A new day was dawning; a day of uncertainty, different from the one that had swiftly turned hope into despair.
“Ouch!” A thorn tore into her foot and Mayuri stopped to pull it out.
“Carry me!” Rajani cried.
“Shush!” She dragged the child behind her.
They had not travelled too far when a rustling in the bushes nearby made her blood turn cold with fear. Mayuri turned her head to look back and tightened the grip on her child’s hand, when it happened.
Like a ferocious beast, Nimaii charged into the brush, as soon as he was awake and found that his captives have made good their escape. The pain in his head was unbearable, his eye now black and blue was swollen completely shut, his legs felt like rice pudding and his arms lay heavy by his side. He forced his legs to carry him and ignored the dullness in his arms.
He had no choice but to go after Mayuri. At least, he must take the child back.
Perhaps, Nimaii was having second thoughts; it was time for Mayuri to die today, after all.
Although disoriented and slow, he came upon them without much difficulty. A host of plausible explanations for Mayuri’s death passed through his demented brain.
She was distraught and ventured into the brush in her weakened state and bled to death.
Even the police will believe that, if there was an investigation, Nimaii thought with confidence as he hastened his pace in pursuit.
The rustling in the brush filled Mayuri with renewed apprehension.
Mother and daughter ran deeper into the brush, and were making progress, widening the gap. Nimaii, on the other hand was slowing down, clutching his head in pain.
He was still quite a distance away when Rajani tripped and fell. Agitated, Mayuri stopped in her tracks to pick up her child. “Get up. Hold my hand. Come on.”
“Maiee, carry me, Maiee,” Rajani cried.
Barely able to carry herself, Mayuri was slowing down, losing the advantage of a head start. Yet she picked up the child, placed her on one hip and dragged herself along.
They had not gone far when hunger and thirst, the ordeal of childbirth and the trauma that she went through began taking its toll on her exhausted body.
“I can’t do it. You have to walk, child.” She set Rajani down.
The distance between the hunter and the hunted was gradually narrowing. But she was not ready to give up, yet.
“Ooff!” Once more she attempted to pick up her child but the two fell back on the ground.
She could hear him closing in on them now. Mayuri dragged Rajani behind a bush; a hand over her mouth, and held her breath, hoping not to be discovered.
She could hear him stomping his foot and cursing.
“Did you think you could hide from me?” He growled. He narrowed his one open eye and looked around.
He spotted them crouching behind the next bush.
“Ha, ha, ha, ha.” A devilish laugh filled the air and Mayuri put up her hands in front of her, in a defensive gesture.
“Who will save you now, huh? Where will you go?” Menacingly he moved towards Mayuri.
“Let me go—I won’t tell anyone—just let me go.”
“Tell all you want. Who will believe you?” There was no compassion or caring nor pity in him.
“You buried your own children as if they were dead rodents.”
“They are better off dead and so are you.”
Her mouth dry, her heart racing, the thunder of blood beating at her eardrums spelled out her fate. She would die today, at the hands of this beast. Faced with certain death, a rush of rage steadied her nerves and gave her a sudden rush. She pulled herself up and held out her hand to her child and made a run for it.
“Run Rajani. Hide, hide in the brush—go—go.” The little girl, frozen in fear, did not move.
“Move child! Do you want to be dead? Come on! You can do it.” She dragged the girl along.
They ran, Nimaii close behind, in hot pursuit.
“No use—I will catch you.” He cursed and called her filthy names.
Faster and stronger, Nimaii caught up with her in no time at all. Mayuri hit the ground as he dashed toward her. He caught up, pounced upon her and gripped her ankle.
“Let me go.” She screamed.
Trying to free his grasp, Mayuri rolled over and kicked him with her free foot.
Over and over, she kicked till his grasp loosened.
“No—I will not let you—you will not…” She twisted and kicked and struggled till she was free and stood up.
She reached for her weapon, gripped it with both hands, raised it above her head and brought it down on him with all the force she could muster.
“Ahhh!” There was a surprise look on his face and he let out a snarl.
Mayuri stood over him now, just as Nimaii had stood over her, many a time, in the middle of the night and violated her. He was just as powerless now as she had been then. She raised the rod and brought it crashing against his jaw.
“Don’t look, Rajani—don’t look.” The little girl hid her face in her hands and screamed.
“Rajani—run—look away— just look away.” She was like a woman possessed.
Once more, she raised her weapon and struck her tormentor. The rod came crashing upon him, over and over, till his one open eye rolled back into his head. He was bleeding, his body convulsing like a slaughtered rooster without a head.
He will not decide when she will die? One day! But not by his hands! Not today!
Once again, she tried to raise her weapon—her hands dropped to her sides—the rod fell to the ground –thud—thud –thud—thud. Mayuri collapsed in a heap, unconscious.