The forest called.
And the Beast.
From the hut, Raja looked at the mysterious swathe, right blend of darkness and light; the mobile chiaroscuro playing tricks.
Home to odd beings—the giants, witches, elves, fairies. Daily talked to the fairies: requesting the airy denizens for a glimpse of Ma and Pa. The clouds, magically, turned into their smiling faces. The trees kissed a tear-stained face, the breeze whispered lullabies; the winged creatures made him fall asleep on the carpet of the leaves.
Grandpa demanded an explanation: I asked you not to venture into the forest. Why did you go?
— I love the place. The hut is lonely.
Grandpa yelled: Every mortal is lonely. Stay inside. The Beast lurks there. It prefers human flesh.
Raja nodded, waiting for the next opportunity.
Raja wanted to meet the Beast. On sleepless nights, heard roaring that curdled blood.
—What is a beast?
He once asked.
—Dangerous. Wild. Marauder.
—How he looks?
—Double-headed; eyes as smoking coals; swords as teeth and serpents, twin tongues!
The whiskered guy with red eyes should know. Feared for his deadly aim and fiery temperament. The cops once arrested him with the hides of leopards and lions. When Ballu returned from the jail, he was called the Devil. Frequented the forest, returning on each trip with the dead animals and tusks.
—How do you know?
—I see him often.
—Can I see him?
—Yes. Inside the jungle. Near the Tiger Temple.
As he stood near the temple -ruins, he saw nothing. Finally, he gave up the quest. Returning, requested the mother fairy for the fabulous Beast.
The wish was granted.
… The familiar roar…the monkeys chattered…the deer ran away…then, deep silence. A most magnificent animal appeared abruptly, out of thin air, looked at his seeker with kind eyes. The kid froze. The gaze was hypnotic. The striped animal strolled on the dirt trail and then vanished, walking like a royal; unhurried, graceful, its whiskers quivering in the cool breeze. As a departing gesture, it roared a gentle roar. The whole body of Raja and the jungle shook. It was a mystic encounter, changing him forever!
Raja had never seen such a majestic animal—radiating natural power and energy.
He is not the Beast!
The Beast could have easily killed me! But spared my life.
Ballu promised to show the real beast.
Both went on a secret adventure.
After a long wait, Ballu said, the Beast. It needs to be killed.
Not the double-headed monster but the same splendid animal appeared nonchalantly into the view.
As Ballu took aim, Raja stopped him.
—He is Not… the Beast.
—He is the Beast.
—No. Another species, different rules. Not even wild!
Ballu aimed again, a mad Raja fought the cold-blooded killer in that wilderness, screaming bitterly:
The Wild Beast! Wild Beast!!
Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.
Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:
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