How long would it take for anger to turn into fear and then to hope?

Not very long I suppose. It happened that night, when I started throwing words at Milli over some trifle. She cried. I’ve hurt her again like I did many times before and she did forgive me all those times. She would have forgiven me that night as well, only I never knew. I never returned to our tent. I acted differently that one time and went strolling into the forest to let the rage calm down. Soon I was moving as fast as I could and the fury felt good. Thighs started aching and I walked faster and moved deeper into the forest, lost in thought. And then I felt a sharp hit on the back of my head.

I had little faith in the wisdom of elders, but I always respected tradition. Anger will make a fool out of man, they said in our gatherings. Foolish stunt that was, to cross the ghost trees and move into the forbidden forest. Elders were right all the time. I understood why they forbade it, the moment I opened my eyes. I couldn’t move. My hands were bent back and tied together, so were my ankles. I was on my stomach, on a brutally cool wooden floor. It was dark and I was totally stripped. I tried to scream out but all I could let out was a grunt. Rope that ran through my lips was tied too tight. By the noises I could hear and the sway, I made out that I was being carried in a cart. It was all closed, but for a small hole which I think they left to let in air, to survive. I never liked to admit to myself when I was afraid, but that moment, I was in pure panic.

I grunted like that all in nude till my throat burned and grunted still, but no reply came. I toiled to free my limbs or at least turn aside, but only succeeded in bruising my face against the floor to blood. Our tent came to mind. Milli came to mind. I couldn’t recall what we were fighting over. I bit the rope and tightly shut my eyes as I tried one last time with all my strength to straighten my limbs. I failed and stopped moving. I wanted to be with her. Tears followed. I was sobbing.

I was eighteen when I was taken. I do not know how much time has passed. It was long past that I lost count of new moons. But I see white strands in my hair as I look into water when they allow us to bathe in the stream. Rushing water would hurt like blades over the wounds, but I do not want to miss the only chance I get in months to clean my body. After all there are things that hurt worse than wounds.

I do not know if I will ever see Milli again. But I live in hope and regret and endless pain.

-Avinash Kumar


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