As afternoon made way for the evening I had no choice but to leave with my cousin and his friends, my cousin at the wheel of his newest, shiny vehicle driving towards the city. A few kilometers away from home I feigned an upset stomach and got out of the Jeep, asking my cousin to go ahead and that I would meet him at the border of the village.
My perennially doped cousin and his friends were happy to have me off their back and drove off leaving a cloud of dust even before I could fully alight from the Jeep.
As soon as their Jeep drove away, I began running towards home. I zipped through fields, jumped over canals, and ran like there was a band of ghosts trailing me, thoughts of my unsuspecting mother at the mercy of those men she thought of as brother-in-law’s spurring me to run faster. It was pitch dark by the time I finally reached home, to see the door of our shed wide open and my inebriated uncle lunging at my mother who ran and cowered behind a buffalo.
As I stepped towards my Uncle he had circled the animal and lunged for my mother once again, mouthing obscenities. Before any of us could react the buffalo did, giving my drunk uncle one swift kick, sending him crashing behind. Uncle fell backward, his head hitting the stone column around which the rope on the buffalo’s neck was tied. He glared at me wild-eyed before he crumpled towards the floor. A pool of blood widened around his head, till it formed a trail that ran down from behind him towards me, mesmerizing me as I followed its path.
The sudden calmness startled us. My mother and I exchanged fearful glances. The buffalo went back to flitting flies away with his tail. Before we knew what to say to each other, two of my uncles burst into the shed, alcohol bottles in hand, raucous laughter piercing the stillness. They stopped abruptly and looked around, confusion writ large on their faces at my presence, till the scene in front of their eyes wiped the leery grins off their mouths. They saw their brother lying on the floor, a halo of blood around his head, and my mother and me standing on either side of his lifeless body. Only when the anger in their eyes turned to fear as they looked towards me did I realize what has caused the change.
They thought I had killed my uncle.
That fleeting glimpse of fear in their eyes was all I needed to ignite the rage I had kept bottled up inside. That fear was a catalyst that changed me in that single moment. I no longer felt like a scrawny 16-year-old. That fear that I saw in their eyes made me feel like a powerful 16-year-old boy.
After the death of my oldest uncle, my 3 surviving uncles maintained a distance from my mother and me. A fearful distance. My mother was horrified when I told her what her brother-in-law’s intentions were.
Me? I had tasted power and wanted more of it.
After that incident I swam in the Sanjhi every morning, my body getting stronger and my thoughts of the future less fearful with each passing day. Before the next harvest season came around I was no longer a scrawny kid. I had also lost one more of my uncles. He was found dead in his bed one morning. He may have died in his sleep or been killed in his sleep.
The fear in the eyes of my bastard surviving Uncles told me that they suspected me, once again. I was now wise enough to know the power of silence and how the guilty interpreted it. I kept mine.
As the seasons changed each year I could feel a shift of power. My uncles were growing older and their children more useless by the day. The wives and children of the two deceased uncles had taken their share from the family fortune and moved away from our village. The smarter children of the surviving uncles had moved abroad, either by marriage or by opportunity, and they had no intention of coming back to this hick town. Only the pampered, and drug-addicted children stayed behind a liability more than an asset.
That left the field clear for me. Was it fate or was it justice? I didn’t know and I didn’t care. All I cared about was my goal.
This post is a part of the Blogchatter Half Marathon.
I am writing A Fictional Short story – A River Runs Through It – for this theme.
Read Part 1 of the story here