An amazing tale of a lively young boy, who follows a trail leading to a vicious tribe, but can he courageously save his parents before its too late? Here comes…
The village was called Arasa, which means king in Kannada. It was based in South India, near the border of Andhra Pradesh. The village was small and infamous, with hardly forty houses in it. The village was green. It contained rows of houses, with one school called Arasa High School and a village panchayat of hardly ten members, both situated at the smack centre of the village. There was a forest at the edge of Arasa. It was separated with the help of a stream. There was one bridge, made of stones that floated upon the river, which was used by woodcutters to get across, so as to not be swallowed by the swift currents of the river. The river was filled with different colourful fishes, orange, black and white, rainbow coloured, and many more. The forest was sometimes used for picnics, camps and woodcutting. Otherwise it was mainly undiscovered. All the residents knew about the forest was that there was a tribe that dwelled in the forest, which had been named Arasi Tribe, after the village Arasa.
In this village, there was a young boy about twelve years of age, named Vivaan. He had short jet black hair which was always messed up, and a dark complexion. Vivaan usually wore knee-length shorts along with a half-sleeved t-shirt. He was roughly 170cm tall accompanied by hard muscled and a strong body, mostly due to his love for sports. Vivaan was extremely sportive and athletic, with really quick reflex actions. Vivaan not only excelled in sports, but also in academics. He was the topper of his grade and never got below 95%. The boy was undoubtedly god-gifted and talented, and everyone around him was expecting something or the other, and it was pretty much decided by the people that Vivaan would succeed. But were they expecting too much?
Vivaan came home one afternoon after playing football in the nearby garden with his friends, but was utterly shocked when he found the door open, and everything inside the house broken. The windows were shattered and there were shards of glass everywhere. The two beds and one sofa were ripped and shredded, and the utensils were all broken. The clothes were ripped and there was no money anywhere. Blood covered the floor like a soil covering the roots of a tree. Vivaan paced his steps and ran from room to room screaming, “Ammi! Appa!” And then Vivaan walked back to the living room as a traumatic attack hit him and he collapsed to the ground, the right side of his face buried in blood. Slowly, one by one, tears rolled down his cheek and splashed onto the blood. Vivaan closed his eyes slowly and drifted off into a world of nightmares, and woke up in a few hours, screaming.
Vivaan closed his uncle’s eyes and muttered a short prayer in his name, and then walked outside for some fresh air which he really needed. But then he noticed something he hadn’t noticed before. Right in front of the door there was something written, but in a language that Vivaan was unable to decipher. Following that, there were a few drops of blood every yard and also foot prints, much eroded but still fairly visible. Vivaan decided to take upon him this great risk and followed the footprints and red stains.
After nearly half a kilometre in a familiar direction, Vivaan arrived at Arasa High School. The gate was open and the short man who was the gatekeeper did not question Vivaan on entering which he found surprising until he looked to his right. The gatekeeper was sitting on his chair with his arms and legs dangling because of the height of the chair, and his head was resting on the headrest. His throat had been slit open and his tongue was falling outwards, although it had been cut in half. There were red streaks lining his skin and one fingernail was missing. In an instant, Vivaan imagined himself like that, and turned around to leave, but a large figure blocked his way.
The man was wearing a large blue robe which dangled down to his knees, with golden stars embedded on it. A hood veiled his face, and all that could be seen was his long white beard, which reached his chest. In his right hand, with bony fingers and loose wrinkled skin, he held a staff longer than the man himself, with a crystal sphere at the top. Now the mysterious man spoke one word in a deep booming voice, “Move.” And Vivaan, too frightened to refuse, obeyed. He continued into the school building, where his shock multiplied by a thousand times.
Blood was spattered here and there. Red covered the school. A few leaves were scattered across the hall. There were uncountable marks on the walls, as if something sharp had been scratched against it, like a spear or a sword. There were muddy footprints leading in a single direction, of feet not shoes. Shards of glass covered the floor in front of broken windows. Vivaan noticed a small sharp piece of a rock in the far corner of a room, as if it had been broken from something. He also found a few pieces of wood. “I can’t take it anymore.” Vivaan whispered to himself, closing his eyes as if there was a bright light in front of him, and ran. Ran as fast as his legs could carry him, towards the exit. All Vivaan wanted was to get out of the bloody school and continue his journey with peace. “Anyone could go crazy seeing all of this,” Vivaan said, but only to reassure himself.
As soon as Vivaan had breathed in fresh air of the open world he fell to his knees, gasping. Then he fell to the ground completely. He hugged his knees and began whimpering. “How-how should I stand this. I think I’m losing it.” He cried. And then he closed his eyes.
It was evening, the sun was setting, by the time Vivaan opened his eyes again. Surprisingly, nobody had woken him up. He got up and decided to go back home, decided it was of no use. Decided that his parents would be waiting for him at home. And he remembered not to go through the school. He walked a few steps forward and then somebody tapped him on his shoulder. Vivaan whizzed around and saw the same strange person, who looked like a wizard. He spoke, “That’s the incorrect way,” The man pointed back to where Vivaan had been standing a few seconds earlier and continued, “That’s the correct way.” Vivaan ignored him this time and started back on the way home, but as soon he stepped forward he was back in his earlier position, as if he was teleported. Vivaan looked around and saw nobody.
Vivaan shuddered at the creepiness of the situation, as a chill was sent down his spine. He walked on, following the footprints again. Arguing was of no use. Vivaan crossed the bridge which separated the forest from the village, but stopped at its head. He remembered what his mother always used to tell him, “Don’t you ever cross that bridge. You understand? Otherwise,” Vivaan remembered how she made actions of chopping something.
“I can’t disobey her. I just can’t. She told me not to ever do this. Not even for her, and that too on a guess. What if someone else had been murdered or captured, and it was just at my place. Maybe I had accidently entered some other house. Who knows? Come on Vivaan. Talk sense.” In the end, Vivaan screamed once loudly and turned around. Only to get hit in the face. Vivaan crumpled to the ground.
“Don’t you get it? Stop turning around and just move it!” It was the warlock. In a second he disappeared, but his staff didn’t. Vivaan quickly pushed himself up and grabbed the staff. It was a great source of power, he knew.
Vivaan ran across the bridge forgetting about everything else. He had finally understood that this was meant to be done. The mysterious man may have been a spirit or a wizard, but now Vivaan couldn’t help believing that he was right, is right, and will always be right.
The boy had no idea where he was going. All he knew was that he was in the middle of the jungle. Vivaan stopped a few minutes later when he finally had control over himself. “What have I done? Where am I?!” he screamed. He fell to the ground and started slapping himself. “It’s all this staff’s fault! It took over me!” He wailed, while trying to break it. But he failed, terribly. He hit it on his knee, jumped on it, bit it, hit it against the tree, smacked it on the ground, used brute strength, but nothing happened. It was as if the staff was made of tungsten.
Vivaan finally decided he had to get rid of it and climbed to the top of a tree. He was just about to throw it away as far as he could when he noticed thin wisps of smoke curling up from a far off section of the forest. And he understood what it was as soon as he saw it. It was the morning ritual of the Arasi Tribe.
“Run run run!” Vivaan kept on chanting as he ran towards it. He knew he had no other option, as the way home… he knew not. Vivaan hid behind a bush when the burning sticks and papery ash were finally in sight. He noticed a few tribesmen around the fire, banging there spears on the ground.
All the tribesmen had hair which fell to their shoulders. They had two white stripes on each side of their face and wore a band over their head, which had three red feathers. They were mostly naked, except from a circle of dense leaves around the waist. They had necklaces with what looked like teeth in them, which they constantly wore around their necks. Most of them had scars along the length of their backs, stomachs or necks. They walked barefoot, and were constantly rubbing soil on their arms and legs.
A couple of minutes later, about ten more people stood around the fire, and one of them, who seemed like a leader, shouted, “Martha!” The rest, in return, chanted, “Ya hoo hoo!” It went on like this for some time, until they brought two people dangling upside-down from long sticks, only their wrists and ankles tied together with ropes. They both seemed unconscious, and were bloody with cuts everywhere. One was a man, the other a woman. Four men were carrying the sticks towards the fire, and then hung them on two long sticks on either side of it, causing the victims to get burned over the fire. Vivaan recognized them at once. They were those whom he seeked.
He stepped out from behind the bush and threw the staff at a man. He fell to the ground. Vivaan ran and used his athletic skills to jump through the air and grab another man by the neck. The rest were throwing spears, but his hostage acted as a shield. He jumped down and grabbed his staff, protecting himself from the spears. Thank god for those reflexes. Vivaan stabbed a few men, but then realised he didn’t want to kill them. All he wanted was his parents. So he rushed towards them and pulled the stick down; he could untie them later.
There was a scream. He looked around and saw it was the leader of the Arasi Tribe pointing towards Vivaan. Suddenly, they all charged at once towards him. Not being able to escape quickly enough, especially with the weight of his parents, he was captured, but not put to death.
Vivaan opened his eyes to find himself hanging from the stick, the same way his parents were. All the blood was in his head and his back was aching. His vision was blurry, but he could vaguely make out a couple of figures. “Ugh,” he muttered, as his head began to throb. Soon, his vision cleared and he saw his parents, neither dead nor burnt. They were lying on the ground, their wrists and ankles still tied. It was dark outside. They were in a huge chamber open from the top but closed from all four sides. There was blood on the walls, and it was made sure that nobody could scale up them. There were rocks and sticks on the ground, and Vivaan began to cry, until he saw the warlock’s staff. It was just lying there, in the middle of the chamber.
“Ammi! Appa!” he cried out, but they couldn’t hear him, at least, they acted as if they couldn’t. Vivaan began to sway from side to side, and didn’t stop even when the stick began to jump dangerously. It was more than a ten feet drop, he was aware, but he had realised that there was no other way. Even if his parents were up they wouldn’t be able to reach so high. “Whoa!” he shouted as he fell down, and landed with a thud. “Ow! My head, my back.” It felt as if there was a rock lodged in his back, but he couldn’t reach it. Vivaan’s head had landed centimetres away from a large rock that could have easily crushed his head.
Vivaan tried to bite his rope off but it was too thick. So he just dragged himself along the ground, knowing how much his back was bleeding. When he reached a rock with a sharp edge, he began to cut through it. And when his wrists were free he untied his ankles’ ropes. His wrists and ankles were bruised and had deep slashes in them. He couldn’t even twist them without screaming in agony. Vivaan lay there for some time, and then finally mustered the energy to free his parents, although they were both still unconscious. And then he picked up the staff, and energy flowed through him like waves flowing along the ocean. He smashed the staff on the wall of the chamber, and a crack appeared, as weak as it was. He smashed it more and more, until there was a hole in the wall, big enough for a human. He dragged his parents outside and into the darkness, only to face more danger.
There were four guards outside holding spears, circling the chamber continuously. Vivaan could have easily escaped without being spotted, but he couldn’t leave his parents like that, all alone. He dragged them along but was spotted and a spear came hurtling in his direction. Vivaan tried to dodge it, but his ankles refused to move, and it lodged itself in Vivaan’s shoulder. He fell on one knee and screamed. He pulled it out and screamed more. Cried more. Grabbed the gash and tried to stop the bleeding, but that only made it worsen. He tried to hit the staff in the leg of the tribesman, but missed because of his slow action, and the man grabbed it and threw it as far as he could. It settled in the top branch of a tree about a hundred feet tall. Vivaan’s head dropped to the ground. “Why?” he whispered, not caring about the soil and possible ants entering his mouth. “I just want to go home.”
All of a sudden somebody slapped him, real tight across the face. He bolted right up. But it wasn’t the tribesman. In fact, he wasn’t in the forest anymore. It was a beach. Vivaan got up and began to walk towards the sea. Apparently, he was perfectly alright, completely healed, physically and mentally. Vivaan stopped where the tides reached to him and gently touched his feet. “What happened?” A voice said. Vivaan looked towards his right. It was the wizard, although he was now lying in the sand, sucking some coconut water from a coconut through a straw, with an umbrella above him, providing him shade. He was wearing knee-length shorts with palm tree designs on it. A matching t-shirt covered his top. His head was bare and sunglasses covered his eyes. The beard was still intact. The staff he was accustomed to holding, was missing.
“I can’t go on.” Vivaan replied.
“My power is gone.”
“The staff. My source of power. The reason to how I managed to face the tribe, how I managed to escape.”
“My child,” the man sat up, using the pole on the umbrella as a backrest. “It was never the staff. It was you. Your belief. You could’ve easily faced the tribe and escaped, because you believed in yourself. It’s all in you, it’s the power of belief, the power of belief…”
“Aagghhh!” Vivaan screamed. He was in the battlefield again, on the ground, hurt, with the tribesman standing above him, ready to kill him. The staff was still missing, but Vivaan didn’t worry about it anymore. He had understood. Vivaan mustered the energy, and used the pep talk to punch the man in the face. “Uppercut!” Vivaan smirked. The man flew backwards and fell down, a couple of teeth broken. Vivaan caught the spear thrown by another guard, like Captain America’s entry at the beginning of Avengers Infinity War. The spear was thrown back by Vivaan, using his weak and untrained left arm as the right one was injured badly, and apparently the tribesmen had not been taught how to dodge spears. It lodged itself in the centre of the man’s chest and a second later he too fell down. By this time, his parents had gained consciousness.
“What’s going on? Vivaan!” his mother questioned, and suddenly screamed as she saw something hurtling towards them, still dizzy from the trauma.
“Nothing much – get down!” Vivaan suddenly screamed and pushed his mother to the ground, the spear missing her by barely an inch. She groaned and started scolding him, but he interrupted her by saying, “Now’s not the time. Follow my lead.” The trio crouched down and tip-toed across the field towards the forest, where they were unable to be spotted. The guards ran in opposite directions to find the family, but they were late. The family had fled.
Neither Vivaan’s mother nor Vivaan’s father could walk for long, they both had also been injured like Vivaan. And the boy couldn’t help but agree. It had been a long couple of days, that too without food. So they decided to camp in the forest for the night, risking their lives. Any moment the tribe could find them if they continued to search for them, and then there were also wild animals. But there was no other way. They couldn’t go back home.
Vivaan kept lookout for the whole night, though his eyes were sore and he wanted to relax. But he knew it wasn’t over. And that was confirmed when a spear hit the tree. Vivaan didn’t move, he didn’t make a sound. He didn’t dare breathe. He heard crunching of dead leaves and rustling of branches and leaves around him. But then it quietened, and was eventually gone. Vivaan sighed of relief. But then someone strangled him. And strangled him hard.
A voice spoke in Vivaan’s native language, Kannada, “You think you can come and disturb my tribe. Murder my people and escape. Well, the answer is no. You can’t make it out of this alive,” the man pressed on Vivaan’s throat harder. Vivaan began to cough and gasp. He began to lose consciousness, and with that, hope. He thought it was all over. He failed terribly. “You can’t. I’m going to kill you. And not with a spear but with my bare hands.” His grip tightened and squeezed around the boy’s neck. His windpipe was pressed. Vivaan couldn’t even breathe now, much less cry for help. In a few seconds, he would be dead. His mission would fail. And Vivaan would be carried to Yamaloka or Naraka…
There was a bang, and Vivaan fell to the ground. He vaguely saw somebody else on the ground near him, when a stick was brought down on his head a few times and lodged in it. And then Vivaan went too…
It was dawn. The bright light was shining down upon them. The parents were brushing their teeth with a neem branch, and applying some leaves with medicinal value on their cuts. Good thing the father was an Ayurvedic doctor.
The son got up slowly and rubbed his eyes. And was stunned. The leader of the tribe was lying a few metres away from their campsite. His eyes were open in shock, but he was still. There was a large cut in the centre of his forehead, and a huge and amazingly sharp stick was dangling over the edge of his head, joint just by the tip. Vivaan croaked, “You killed him?” His throat was still sore from the previous day, and he was still coughing. His cuts had healed enough overnight to walk home.
“Mm hmm.” His mother nodded. “He was strangling you, so I stabbed him in his head with a stick.” She put a leaf in her mouth, chewed it and swallowed it. “There was no other way.” She spoke of it as if it was no big deal, a totally cool and extremely normal thing to do.
Vivaan was astounded. “Let’s go.” He said; it was all he could manage. So the small family of three walked home, limping and groaning but definitely feeling better, after a terribly dangerous and life-threatening three day trip, with memories nobody else had, and nobody wanted, for sure.
The next day, the bridge was broken so that the tribe couldn’t get to the village again, not that anybody knew whether they were athletic enough to jump across the stream, or maybe swim through it even with its current. The woodcutters would have to find another job. The school was closed for a month, till the time it was cleaned. Vivaan’s house was also cleaned, the price paid by the village panchayat. All the dead bodies were burnt, as all dead people are, and the bones were washed away into the river. The family concerned was admitted into a hospital for free, and were catered to. And soon enough, all was the same. The only difference, or the main difference, was Vivaan’s mindset. He thanked the wizard, but didn’t see him ever again. And his line kept on repeating in Vivaan’s head, day and night, “It’s all in you, it’s the power of belief…”