The whole village had turned up for the hunt-expectant of a share of the kill which would supplement their diet (which included whatever they could garner from their fields-meager crops) which constituted of paddy, leafy vegetables and the few tubers they had planted. They looked up to their Landlord- a man they considered to be blessed with psychic powers, a man who could divine when to plant crops, and where to dig wells for a source of pure sweet water.
It was getting late and it seemed as though the day would would turn out to be one of the days when they would have to return empty handed. The beaters had passed ahead, beating the bushes for hidden animals, while the hangers on waited with expectant breath for a big one, an animal which would feed many stomachs. Their favourite kill was a species of deer which grew really big, weighing about a hundred kilos. Ideally, their landlord would kill a couple of bulls filling the cooking pots of all the village folks. The deer had become a nuisance for the farmers because they ate away the valuable shoots of the crop whether it was paddy or mustard, and so the village head often advocated the culling of these animals from time to time.
The moon ascended into the sky, big and bright, imbibing the whole land with a golden glow- shadows lengthening into absurd shapes, causing the imagination to run riot about imagined animals and possible monsters lurking in the bushes. Their landlord had brought his tractor- the jeep not a good option because of the possibility of the wheels bogging down in the wet mud. The crickets sounded loudly-an ominous tone of monotonous warnings. Imagined creatures wriggled in the underbrush and there was a expectant tension in the air. This would be a night like no other they had ever seen. The cloying scent of the mustard blossoms overwhelmed their senses as they waited for their landlord to fire his shot at the quarry.
The shadows lengthened, and the men began to yawn-their landlord, with his Winchester repeater rifle walked ahead of the team of beaters.He was a man short in stature but then buoyed by the expectations of the village folk had a chest which swelled to larger proportions with pride. He didn't want a share of the veal- rather it was the regard that the village folk had for him that filled him with a sense of greatness. A man filled with the conceit of greatness, coupled with a sense of leadership. He had principles: he never shot at females or those with child!
At some moment of time there seemed a pause, it was as if there was a lull before the storm, and then things moved with a pace that seemed almost dreamlike. The beaters suddenly exclaimed-and their landlord raised his rifle, aiming at a spot in the distance. For what seemed ages, the rifle pointed at a spot in the distance, the barrel not wavering, and then there was a loud report-a flash that seemed to freeze the action like a a time lapse photograph. Time froze, and then a commotion broke loose as a herd of deer broke loose out of the bushes. The village folk trusted in their landlord-they knew he never missed! The tractor with the mounted search-beam chugged to the spot where the kill lay. The batch of carvers rushed to the spot of the kill with knives sharpened to part skin from flesh and bones from sinews. Their idol, the landlord had a smirk on his face as he sauntered to the spot of the kill, conceited by the confidence that he could never miss. The village folk trusted his skills, and respected his beliefs.
The tractor with its search beam closed in before the meat-carvers, and then the beam settled on the prey, and then it was as if the gong of doom had sounded, a sense of foreboding settled on all those gathered for the kill. It was a doe with a child in its womb, and she was breathing her last, each gasp a curse on the man who had shot her, and the men who had supported him in his hunt! It was with a sinking heart that those who had gathered dealt the Doe the final death blow. A hushed silence settled on the scene. The crickets fell silent-the very world seemed to fall silent to see what these men had done in their hunger for a few mouthfuls of meat. With a silent sense of foreboding they carved the mother with knives sharpened to cruel sharpness. Of their landlord, there was no sign. He was later found crouched in the bushes, his head in his hands. He knew, he had done something terribly wrong, something that would bring him and his men great harm.
This incident would have great implications for the people of the village in later years to come. A great drought came over the village, robbing them of crops that would feed them throughout the year. Of the landlord, well his youngest son turned into a drug addict, while his elder son lost his job as a teacher in a school. The Landlord became a demented man who became as mad as a hatter. That one incident was to leave an indelible mark on the whole village.An atmosphere of doom settled on the village. The wells began to spout brackish water, crops failed, and a number of cases of miscarriage were reported. Everyone who had been part of the hunt that night was affected in some way or the other.The people blame, to this day the incident.
This story was told to me by the man who shot the doe that day. a disturbed person who tries to seek answers from the scriptures. The incident that shook him up a great deal seems to have left him depressed and anxious. But then it seems as if he might sold his soul to the devil.
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