Midnight Messenger is a short story that I wrote today, in one go from start to finish. It’s a tribute (of sorts) to our boss Ashok Banker. Ashok, thanks for your vision and work!!
"Rama", he relished the way that name rolled on his tongue. It echoed in his mind, each instance raising the hatred brewing inside. Oh, how he longed to sink his teeth into the mortal's flesh, drain the lifeblood out of him. And watch him as he died, his life squeezed out a drop at a time. He would get to that, eventually; but today, he had a job to perform. He had a message to deliver. Not in words, but in blood and death.
He watched the mortal from his perch. For three days, he had tailed them. He had been careful, slipping into the shadows, merging into the dense treetops, following Rama and his two companions. Sita, he had called her, Sita. What an ugly name, not to mention that she looked every bit ugly as his mistress had said. She was out of bounds, naturally, given the Lord’s obsession with her. Why did someone like Ravana, who could get the Apsaras of Swargalok to pleasure him, want this ugly little mortal? This was beyond his comprehension. Strange are the ways of the rich and powerful, he thought, but then, maybe Ravana’s purpose with the mortal woman was not pleasure. He felt a strange arousal, a bestial urge to watch what his Lord did to, or with, the woman. NO, he shook his head, he was slipping. He had to stay focused.
He positioned himself on the branches, spreading his bulk to lower the strain on the tree. It was not yet nightfall. He needed some rest. He would sleep till dusk.
He woke up some hours later, disturbed by the incessant chirping of birds. Foul creatures, they had sensed his presence near their nests. He hoped the mortals had not noticed this ruckus. The fair one looked up to the trees, his ears straining to catch the bird-speak.
“Yes”, he licked his lips, in anticipation. This was his target, the one who had insulted his mistress. This one he would kill today, and take back his head. And if last night’s teaser was any indication, his mistress would heap unimaginable rewards on him for this feat. He had to play the waiting game. He had to make sure this mortal was alone.
He had watched the dark one kill his brethren, and in some ways, his presence was quite intimidating. But the fair one was a fair game. He smiled at his play on words, and shot out his tongue to grab the nearest bird. It was in his mouth and then in his belly in a matter of seconds. Tasty scraps, they would hold him for a few more hours.
It was dark when the mortals finally ate their dinner. They had been laughing and talking through the whole affair. Particularly, the woman and the fair one. Though he did not understand what they said, it gave an impression of light banter. The dark one was brooding, but he smiled occasionally, perhaps to convey his attention to their conversation.
He slithered downwards from his hideout, careful not to make the slightest noise. By the time he was near the ground, the fair one was alone, stoking the fires with his staff. Very good, and about time too. He was nearly dying from hunger.
He crawled across the mud floor, right behind the mortal. He stood there for a moment, feasting his eyes on the firm flesh of his human prey. He would strike high, near the base of the neck. That would stun the mortal for sure, making his next task easier. It was indeed easy to rip apart and eat up anything if it did not move or make any noise. He stood up, poised and ready to strike. That was his first mistake.
The blow struck him in the head. It was a blunt, heavy blow. He could barely make out the dark hand which carried the staff when he lost his balance and toppled over. This was not as planned, but now, he could take them out together – the fair one and the dark one. He spun around to face his assailant. That was his second mistake.
The fair one got up to his feet quickly, and by the time he had turned, the second blow struck him squarely in the face – drawing blood and fragments of his flesh. He ignored the pain and lashed out at the dark one, aiming for the right shoulder, and finding his mark. The dark one staggered under the blow giving him precious moments to deliver the final blow. He flicked his tail and threw the other mortal into the bushes. There would be time to deal with him later. He had to address the higher threat now. He drew himself up to his full height, over a half and a man to the mortal on the ground before him. “Rama”, he said again, enjoying the name itself. He drew back his head, ready to strike. That was his final mistake.
There was movement in the corner of his right eye, and moments later, he screamed. He screamed again, as the second arrow stuck in his right eye. He turned to face his attacker. The woman!!! He glared at her with his remaining eye. She stared back, unblinking, another arrow ready on her crossbow. He hesitated for just a moment, and the third arrow hit him in the neck, severing his vital arteries.
He fell on the ground. His vision clouded. The world grew dark. He could feel the mortals walking over to him, examining him as a butcher would inspect his days work. He felt dark, enveloped in a cozy darkness.
“Rama”, the name echoed as one final call.
And then there was Light.