Story : The Other Side

~Bikrant Koirala~Bikrant Koirala

Blood all over, I am covered in blood. My hands are red, my clothes wet with blood. I look my image in the pond, blood runs down the cheeks and drips off my chin. I wash my hands and face with the water. I again look at my image. The colour doesn’t fade away. I rub hard, very hard with a stone. It doesn’t work either. I jump into the pond to wash myself. At an instance the water turns red, a pool of blood, I want to get out of it but something pulls me inside. I struggle, the thing pulls me more and more. I swallow blood, I choke and suddenly I wake up.

I am sweating, sweating a lot. I reach for the lighter under my pillow, light the tuki on the table. Beside me, my wife is in deep sleep. Not disturbing her, I quietly slip out of the bed, unlock the door and feel the cool outside air on my face and chest. The silver moon light spreads over the place; the chicken coop stands opposite to the hay stack and the buffalo with its large belly sleeps silently under the shed. I smoke a cigarette. The distant barking of dogs and the constant buzzing of bugs, I take a long breath and go back to bed.

With the morning the long night passes away but still most of the light behind the hill. I don’t let Kalpana work much. She is pregnant, 6 months. I chop some woods and heat up slurry for the buffalo. Its size suggests that it’s giving birth this week. The dry woods burn rapidly, crackling, sometimes giving out blaze. The slurry boils inside the black bottomed aluminum pot. Bubbles form and pop off, I keep looking at them. I feed the buffalo and then my wife calls me with a tea glass in her hand. Sitting on a straw mattress and sipping the tea I watch the buffalo lick the pot clean. She appears again. I look at her face she is beautiful, more beautiful than I first saw on the 13th day ritual of Sahila baje, my neighbour. It was three years ago. She puts a bronze plate full of pop corn and roasted soya-bean in front of me and vanishes inside the door. I can still hear her bangles tingling. I am going to be a father very soon. This thought makes me excited and adds a pressure, a pressure of responsibility.

I let the chickens out of the coop and call her to bring the key. For 15 minutes I walk down to my shop. It is a small tea shop along with some regular house hold commodities. As I open it, the first thing I smell is the strong odour of washing soap. It is made from animal fat so it stinks. Behind my shop there is an old Durga temple and aside there is a big Peepal tree. They all prefer to sit under this tree, drink tea and chat. Yesterday, they talked about Bishnu, he is going to die soon they said. The fear of Maoists made him flee to India. Four years he spent in Delhi, first at a restaurant and then in some garage. He returned back black and thin with AIDS. Last I saw him he was skeleton covered only with skin. Counting his breath he is in hospital in Pokhara.

With the midday sun and my shadow underneath my feet, I climb up to my house for the meal. I pass rest of the day in the shop; making tea, selling things, listening talks and sometimes in middle adding my own. The birds start to fly to their nests, the Peepal tree reflects the reddish-orange shade of the drowning sun and I return back to my home with a cigarette between my fingers.

At least two are needed to make a chicken catch easy. But I have to do it on my own. The water is already set on the fire and I am after the red one. It is big than others and more quick and fast. It stretches its long neck, flaps its wings and makes alarming noise out of its throat. It slows down near the hay stack but still cautious. I grab a short, heavy, cylindrical wooden chunk and project at it with all my strength. It lies unconscious on the ground. It makes slight effort as I drag its neck against the blade of chulesi. The blood drops fall on the floor and soon disappear leaving red stains on the soil surface.

Kalpana is fast asleep. It is a crucial time and she needs a lot of rest and nutrition. She doesn’t like see me drinking. But the day long harsh training and running in the woods, at least a glass was necessary to comfort the pain and for a good sleep. I am not alcoholic but I am habituated. I sit out on the straw mattress, pour a glass full from the gallon, light a cigarette, take a sip and a puff. Running up the hills with stones in the back pack, crawling under the barbed wires carrying a fake wooden gun and learning the guerrilla skills in the forest full of long, sharp wild thorns with a pair of Goldstar. The five months long training that never seemed to cease. Then I was 21, two years befor I met Kalpana.

I fill up the glass for second time. I hear loud and continuous huffing from the shed. Flash light batteries, I kept them this morning on the roof to dry up. The buffalo looks restless. The dim glow of the flash light shows fluid mixed in blood on the old straw saddle near its hind legs. The time has come for it. To make it comfortable, I loose its rope, spread a layer of hay and give some water to drink. Thirty minutes pass, the flash light gives up and I light a lantern. In the flickering yellow light, it gives birth. The young calf lies flat on the straw. The buffalo makes strange movements, smells it, licks it on the neck but the calf does not stand. Early in the morning I call Juthe Sarki. Kalpana stands outside the door leaning on the wall, says nothing just observes silently Juthe walking away carrying the dead calf on his shoulders.

Walking down to the shop and up to the home, few weeks are left behind. The naked dead tree with its roots out positions itself horizontal in the middle of the forest. I hit its trunk with an axe, the sound echoes back. I hit it again and echo follows it. I hit it third time, this time I hear no echo. The fourth one doesn’t produce it either. The forest dies; the air gives out no sound as it strikes the branches and leaves of the pine trees, the birds, bugs all go silent. I am afraid; I want to get out of here. I walk, increase my pace. Something is following me but I cannot see it. I run, the fallen pine leaves make it difficult. It keeps on following me. I fall on the ground. It grabs my shoulder and shakes me. I hear the voice of Kalpana. I open my eyes and find myself in the bed and Kalpana’s hand pushing my shoulder. She seems to be in pain. She breathes at quicker rate than normal.

“Call Sabitri didi.” She says.

The rain is pouring down heavily and is still dark outside. I push a pillow under her back to make her comfortable. The umbrella hangs from the wooden beam of the ceiling. The illuminance of the flash light shows big drops of rain falling down. I put my legs cautiously on the slippery ground and move them as fast as I can. It takes more time to reach her home than usual. I call her. She opens the door.

“Kalpana….” I try to explain.

“Wait.” She says interrupting me and moves back into the room.

She is a mid-wife, actually a health worker working for some project and came last week to check Kalpana. Her face is always glum and she rarely smiles. She brings her things and we walk together.

She examines her, turns at me and says, “She is in labour, it’s only 7 months. This is a rare case.”

I don’t know what to do and what does the rare case means.

“She needs hospital.” She says with her glum looking face.

But it is almost impossible to carry her to the hospital in this condition. Walking down for one hour in this rain and dark, too much risk.

“No, you have to do it here.” I look at her and say.

She tries to say something, stops and says, “Ok.”

The water begins to boil. I carry it to the room. Kalpana looks blushed and in great pain. Sabitri didi gestures me to go. I walk out and she closes the door.

I sit outside, light a cigarette and smoke. The sound of rain hitting the sheeted roof makes it impossible to hear anything from inside. I am scared. The lightning constantly reveals the orange tree behind the shed and the occasional breeze sprays water on my face and arms.

The first mission assignment after the months training. They are planning to attack the Baglung Police Headquarter and the Rastriya Banijya Bank, simultaneously. I have to use real gun to kill some real and alive people. We are 67 on our battalion. As per the plan 43 will be charging the headquarter and others breaking in the bank. Rifles, small hand guns, some semi automatic machine guns, plastic grenades, socket bombs, rods, knifes, khukuries, the sun begins to set down and the battalion is ready to move.

But the armies ambush us in the middle of the way. Firing starts from behind the trees. We cannot see them. We fire randomly at the trees. Some grenades explode, many fall down. The bullet penetrates someone’s neck, someone’s eye, someone’s thigh. They all cry in fear and begin to run helplessly without any directions in the mind. Our rifles cannot stand long facing the automatic machine guns. Many die, some manage to escape.

I lie on the ground not moving a bit and without knowing if I am well intact or not. They tie my hands and take me a few meters away. I see a man of our battalion, I don’t remember his name. His hands are tied back. Two other men and a woman beside him are already dead with gun shots on their heads. I am afraid, I wish to live. One of them tells me to kneel down and the other kicks my back from behind. I feel the barrel of rifle which is still hot pushing the back of my neck.

“The bastard killed two of my men.” The first one screams looking at the man.

“You want to live.” He screams again looking at me.

I nod my head. He unties me and hands me a knife.

“Kill him.” He says to me. I don’t understand.

“Stab him, you bastard.” He cries this time.
I move towards the man, he is nervous. One of the armies hit him hard on the forehead with the butt of his rifle. He falls on the ground on his back. I raise the knife with both of my hands, he closes his eyes. I feel the knife touching his rib as I push it deep inside him. I stab him four times. Dark red blood oozes out of the hole in his chest.

“Run.”, the first one screams.

I throw the knife and run into the trees. I don’t know why he let me go. I don’t look behind and I am afraid to hear the sounds of gun shots. They may shoot me from behind but I keep on running. I run for my life.

Sabitri didi stands in front of me. “Come inside.” She says. Amazingly, the small tuki makes the room bright. Kalpana looks exhausted.

“She has your face.” Sabitri didi says carrying the baby towards the glow of tuki.

(Source : Sajha Dot Com)

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