THE DARK CREATURE OF THE JUNGLE
Shankaranna comes running; most of the middle aged people of the village are sitting under the Banyan tree, talking the affairs of the world. There’s a wild terror in Shankaranna’s face, the day steadily growing darker gives an even scarier look to Shankaranna’s face. He stumbles, catches hold of the edge of the cement structure built around the Banyan tree, panting.
“Arey! What happened, Shankaranna? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” asks Raman, the eldest in the group.
“Huh? Seen a ghost… you say! I was… I was chased by it!!” Shankaranna replies, his voice cracks and the terror still clear in his face.
His sentence shocks the rest of the group. Raman breaks the silence with a laugh.
“Hahaha! A ghost?! You don’t think we are little children do you? A ghost chased you? Are you sure it wasn’t your own shadow? Haha”
Hearing Raman’s words most of the men laugh. Shankaranna interrupts their guffaw indignantly,
“I’m telling the truth! I was returning from Basavapura. It was late so I took the shortcut through the jungle. At first I could hear the chirping of the wild birds and crickets. I heard an occasional fox at a distance but none near me. As I went deeper into the jungle I couldn’t tell the time as the dense foliage made everything darker. I was almost through the jungle, I hadn’t realised when the chirping of the birds and crickets stopped, and I noticed an eerie silence which was broken now and then by some half played music.”
“Music? Wa_” Somebody tried to interrupt.
“Ahem! I heard some half played music. At first I thought it was my imagination and ignored it. But as I went forward, the music got louder and louder and harder to ignore! The music sounded so lonely, sad and terrifying! I went forward and came to a clearing in the woods. Light seeped through here and there between the roofs of leaves. And there, at the other edge of the clearing… At the other edge… there was…”
Shankaranna stopped to take a breath, recollecting his terrifying moments. The crowd had gone silent, not one peep. The tension could be felt a mile away. One of them couldn’t bear the suspense any longer,
“What was there, Shankaranna? What… What was it?” he blurts out.
“Yeah, continue Shankaranna,” “Tell us what happened next!” “Don’t stop now!” cued in a few more.
“There was a huge dark creature, it had a violin and it was playing a slow, lamenting tune. The shape of the creature did not appear human so I turned to leave before it noticed me. But then CRACK! I stepped on a dry twig and I saw the creature stiffen and turn towards me, its eyes glistened like 2 pieces of hot coal! I saw white sharp teeth as it opened its mouth in a wild grin. The violin in its hand vanished and without a moment’s notice it ran towards me! As the sparse sun-rays hit its skin it glistened orange here and there! I jumped back; as I turned to run I glimpsed… razor sharp claws on its feet, screeching against rocks as it pounded toward me. I didn’t see here or there, half tripping over rocks and tree trunks, jumping over puddles and wet leaves I reached the edge of the forest and I heard a sad roar, almost a cry somewhere far behind me! As I saw people, I felt safe! What was that creature? I don’t know, but it was terrifying and I know… I know now for sure that it wanted to… DEVOUR me!!”
As Shankaranna finished his story, he was greeted with a stunned silence from the crowd. Even Raman was at a loss for words, for once but he recovered first,
“You tell an interesting tale Shankaranna. Are you sure of what you seen? This isn’t some story you created to fool us, is it?” asks Raman, seriously.
“No of course not, Raman! I wouldn’t even dream of doing such a thing! What I say is the truth!” insists Shankaranna.
“Alright then, tomorrow morning me, Bhima, Somayya; we four will go and see what Shankaranna really saw there. We’ll definitely find some foot print or paw prints to lead us in our search. Shankaranna, you too come with us and show us where you saw this… mysterious creature. Let’s meet here at 8 and start our search.” Raman lays out his plan.
Bhima and Somayya, known for their muscle power readily agree as an opportunity to show off their strength and Shankaranna reluctantly agrees.
The next morning; Raman, Bhima, Somayya and Shankaranna gather under the Banyan tree along with some people who came to see them off. Holding powerful torches and sticks, they head towards the jungle.
Shankaranna leads them towards the clearing that he came across the other evening. Though he leads them astray a couple of times as he couldn’t recall the exact path he took in his terror the previous evening. As they near the clearing, they hear no melody or any sort of music as Shankaranna described. Raman glances at Shankaranna to see whether he is luring them into some stupid prank to fool them but he sees genuine fear in his face! Bhima and Somayya look confident thinking that their physique probably scared any creature there.
“There! That’s where I saw that creature!” Shankaranna points to one edge of the clearing, where a rock of about 3 feet height jutted from the forest floor. Bhima and Somayya were searching the ground for tracks of any foot print, but the dried leaves gathered all around made it difficult to spot even one foot print. As they came near the rock they observed the trees close to the rock had many scratch marks on it, some were quite fresh marks! They understood that it was some large animal which had claws and the only large enough do such a thing and living in that part of the world was… a tiger!
“This cannot be! No one has ever seen a tiger in these parts for the past 20 years! How can one appear so sudden?!” Raman was a bit scared. Since some marks were fresh, the tiger was probably in the vicinity! They weren’t prepared to deal with a tiger; they had only sticks and torches!
Shankaranna began to whimper.
“Quiet! Listen, we have to get back to the village now! Bhima, Somayya keep a sharp look out, we don’t want to be surprised. Bhima come behind us and Somayya, you lead the way back. Let us go and make as little noise as possible” Raman took control of the situation.
Bhima and Somayya, though a bit scared, did as they were told. With Raman and Shankaranna in the middle, the procession back to the village began. Shankaranna, clutching his shirt in fear and trying his best not to make any noise and tears streaming down his eyes, stayed close to Raman. Raman, even though afraid, he did not lose his cool, no wonder the people looked up to him.
As they walked as noiselessly as possible and were at the edge of the clearing, they heard a rustle at the other end. The tiger was back on the rock they left, cautiously eying them. It had some kind of object strapped on its back. Looking at him, they froze. The tiger jumped down and took two steps forward, his tail flicking from one side to the other.
Then the strangest thing happened, the tiger took down the case from his back and took out a violin! He jumped up, shouldered the violin and was about to start playing when Shankaranna, overcome with fear lets out a shriek and runs in panic. The shriek, high pitched as it was, irritates the tiger’s sensitive hearing and he lets out a growl involuntarily, jumping forth and his face twisted in annoyance.
The growl and the sudden movement breaks through whatever resolve that Bhima and Somayya had left and they throw down their sticks and start a wild run towards the general direction of the village!
“Stop! Stop you fools! Don’t run away! We can take on the tiger, STOPPPP!!” yells Raman, running after them.
The tiger looking at all this; is very sad. Why… Oh why does no one ever listen to his beautiful music? He plays so beautifully! The music of violin lifts his spirits and makes him soar above the clouds, but why don’t the humans, who can play the violin with ease, listen to his music? In sadness he lets out a sad cry and starts a tone of melancholy.
As the group of running foursome reach the edge of the forest, they come to their senses and the fear loses its hold over them, they gradually stop; panting. Finally Raman has caught up to them. He is quite angry at the pathetic performance of Bhima and Somayya.
“You… You COWARDS! If we stood and fought we had a chance! What are we going to tell the people? Should we tell them that just a glimpse of a tiger we ran shrieking like scared little girls?! You two didn’t even think the consequences of your act and look at the mess we are in now! We are lucky the tiger didn’t chase us!” shouts Raman, his anger beyond control.
As the thought that going back to the village and being jeered-at and laughed-at hit Bhima and Somayya their already pale faces began to pale even more. Shankaranna was even more terrified to utter more than a few syllables that made sense.
“There’s only one way out of this now, we have to pretend we fought a mysterious creature, exaggerate a fight that never happened and hope those people believe us. Here’s what you’ll say…” Raman comes up with a ruse that brightens Bhima and Somayya’s faces.
Shankaranna seems too scared to remember any story, so Raman makes him swear that he will never talk of this incident ever again and if anyone asks he was too terrified and he doesn’t remember anything from that incident. To which Shankaranna agrees.
They all go back to the village and the villagers eagerly waiting to see what happened listen to the wildest tale ever said among them. The elders hushed the older children who found loopholes in the “Dark Creature of the Jungle”. The rest of the villagers listened in awe as Raman, Bhima and Somayya narrated how a mysterious dark creature tried to lure them with enchanting music, it’s sharp teeth glistening in the veiled light, how the creature jumped in front of them and they fought against it with nothing but sticks! Afraid that they might overpower it, the creature ran away and they were too tired to pursue and had to give up the chase and on and on goes the story of the “bravery” of the four who went in search of the mysterious creature.
The story spreads across many villages around the jungle and the elders scare the children with the stories of the “Dark Creature” which will take them if they don’t finish their dinner or the ones that don’t finish their homework. All the while, the lonely tiger sits on his lone rock wishing that someone, at least one person would listen to his marvellous tune.
This is the prologue for a children’s story I’m writing. This prologue is about how people exaggerate things and how they try to hide their own mistakes and then preach the world to do the opposite. It’s also a story that tells that people don’t give anyone a chance to see what they can really do. © Me.