My little daughter 'Lily' is a curious girl.She has a new question almost everyday.Here she comes giggling and barefooted ; in a canary yellow frock and throws herself onto my lap.
"Paa, why don't I remember meeting you ?"
Her eyes sparkled.Tiny and adorable.None like mine or my wife's.
"Because you were too small to remember then." I said.
"Do you remember meeting me ?" she asked again.
"Yes, I do my love.You were crying the first time I met you." I laughed with some discomfort.
"Where did you meet me ?"
'I won't answer that ; not to her.'
"No more questions for today.I hear Maa calling you.Go! run child."
'But to YOU ; I will.'
The Moon wasn't lonely tonight.
'Only a loner would live here.' I thought as I approached the only dwelling on the bank of the river Arbret.The cane walls, clutched with scraps of mud looked really old.Standing on hymns.
The thatch was fresh and alive.
"Is anyone there?" I asked.
Out came he, Tall and lean.His grey beard almost covered his face.His eyes looked big therefore ; or he might have eyes that big.The black clothes of his allowed him to be enveloped in the night.
"Maya asked me to visit you.My wife gave birth to a stillborn girl last night.I need your help if you can". I said trembling in the chilly winds coming across the river.
He nodded and gathered some logs that were near.A fire was lit.He sat on the ground.I did the same.
"Sir, I - "
"Call me Son." he said.
"Yes." he said.
I nodded citing my assertion.
"So Mister, I assume you are not aware of WHAT the God asks in return for the birth of a girl he gives you?"
"No." I said.
"Four sacrifices" he said holding up the fingers; "one ought to be a baby."
'Is he telling me a story?' I asked myself.
"With due respect,are you certain this is the intended way ?"
"I myself was blessed with a son by the God and soon will be blessed with another." he said with a smirk.
Before I could ask, he said "Two for a boy, one must be a - "
'baby.......relatively simpler' I thought.Then stood up.
"I must ask for your leave now.I do not wish to take the life of a baby of our village." I said.
"Bring me the head of the baby.And don't let me know anything about the baby and how you got your hands on it."
I looked at him with raised eyebrows.
"It makes me think about it's mother." - he said.
I knew what he was talking about.I started walking away from the fire inspite of not wanting to.
It's the downpour of a lifetime.Maybe the God is angry.
I knocked the door of a cabin; the only one among the company of the giant trees.
An stocky old man in a grey robe opened the door.
"How may I help you?" he asked in a gruff voice.
"I was on my way to Yangmih when it started raining.May I spend some time here until it stops ?" the drenched me said.
Lamps of glass were perched on the wall niches.A rich aroma welcomed me.An old lady in a woolen tunic sat infront of the fire cooking something.Two boys and a girl in woolen attires near her.
The cabin was larger than it looked from outside.It had a small greystone table and three wooden chairs, a large bed and a closet.A cozy cabin and filled up.
The old man asked me to help myself to a chair.I pulled one nearer to the walls so that I could lean my head against them.I closed my eyes.
'I failed.I could not do it.Or did I not want to ?'
"Just one more grandpa" said the girl.
"Enough for today."
"Please." said one of the boys."Father said you used to tell him stories all night, as many he liked."
"No.I did not." spoke the old man. "Have your soup now.We wait till the rain stops and then I will leave you home."
"Have some soup." a soothing voice spoke.
I grabbed the bowl.It was hot but not much to let go.I gulped down a bit.My tongue despised the burn but loved the flavours.
'Luna would have loved it.I should have asked her to go to her mother's.Or had her mother come to ours.'
I gulped some more.
'No! they might come looking for the baby and me to the physician's chamber.I can't let Luna know.I didn't when I could have.I can't now.
Being mother of a child who is ill is far better than being one of a dead.'
I finished the last remains in the bowl and looked at the children.Three lives.I will be just needing a baby then.One from my village will do.
"Let's go now.Kiss your grandma goodbye".
The rain had stopped.I was slow to realise.I stood up and thanked the lady.She smiled.
The earthy smell felt good.Mud sticking to my shoes did not.The moon was kind enough to mock the old man's lamp.The clouds were making their way to other skies.
I was still confused about what should be done to the old man.
'Should I kill him like the others or beat him leaving him with his breath only?'
"How far is their home? " I asked.
"We will be their soon."
The crickets were our company.Time was in a hurry.Something needs to be done now.A man in a leather cloak, taller than any of us approached from the opposite.
His eyes were big and black as his beard was.
"Father !!" said the three running towards him.
"You need not have come all this way, father." said the man to the older one.
"Well, I did." he chuckled.
The man looked at me.But he seemed least interested to enquire.
"Goodbye grandpa." the three kissed him one after the other.
The old man started walking away from us.We too continued our journey.Now there was a stronger man in my way.
'I must have acted earlier.'
We reached a wooden house with thatched roof.The man unlocked the fenced gate and all four entered the premises.I kept looking at them until they weren't.I did not know why I did so.
Maybe because I wanted myself to learn how helpless I was.I started walking again.
I approached the lonely little hut.Maya, the nurse was there ; dressed in a plum red cloak.She was suprisingly silent.Away was the son sitting on the ground, with his hands on his head.
Dressed as he was last.I walked up to him.
"Son, I failed to bring you a baby's head let alone killing the other three." I could hear a baby's wail.
He looked at me.His eyes were wet and red.I looked away receiving no reply and walked straight up to Maya.
"What happened?" I asked her.
"His wife died in childbirth."
I sighed.I realised he yearned to be in company of his own.
"Take me to the place you buried my girl." I said to Maya.
She looked worried.
"Sir, pardon me ! I brought your child to him."
"What ?!!" the son screamed.His eyes were bloodier than before.
I was in a fog.It was a lot for me to think over before something could come out of my mouth.
"You brought me a dead child as a sacrifice ? You wretched woman.I helped you get rid of your husband and you commit this foolish act and destroy everything?"
"Don't act like you did it out of mercy.You had your own intentions." said Maya pointing her index at him.
The son had gone insane.He started screaming.Much more horribly than he did last.The wailing of the baby wasn't the only sound ringing anymore .He rushed inside.
I thought he wouldn't come out.But he did; with an axe in his right hand.Maya knew what he was up to.She ran.But was too slow for the man blessed by the God.
He reached her and made sure the blade went through her skull.He returned with frail steps.Sat down on the same spot.His face now burdened with blood; stayed down.He let go the axe.
Though terrified to the core, I walked up to him.
"Where is my girl's head ?
He did not look up.I asked him again.
"It's somewhere in the river."
I wished to kill him.But what threat does a grieving man care for?
I knelt and placed my hand on his shoulder.
"Let not the grief of your dead wife deny the child your love."
He looked up.
"My sorrow would have not been half of what it is now if I were blessed with a boy."he said and started weeping again.
It was a lot for me to think over again but I could get it well this time.I closed my eyes and recalled the dead child in my arms.
I opened them and looked back.Maya's blood was bidding her farewell and getting soaked up by her cloak.
The wailing of the baby was getting harsher.No mother to comfort her.
"Maybe I can ease your sorrow." I said as my left hand reached for the axe.