• Debarshi Kanjilal

Pamelgar-Warck | A Short Story

A bit of crass flirting was not unusual to him. As always, he was kidding. But going by the way she was acting, she felt his actions and reactions to be genuinely offensive and unkind. But most of all, she was scared by the thought that he was there; she did not know that had he known it would turn out such, he would not have come along in the first place. He felt miserable, he felt as though he should have been ashamed of himself but he was not, almost as if he was a human-hyena. The woods were thick, and there were real hyenas behind the trees; waiting to pounce on easy prey and gang up to tear apart pieces of flesh and bite away till their whole mouth was stained with blood.

He asked her to stick close - she gave him a cold, confused, bamboozled, threatened, loathing stare; she maintained distance. She maintained her distance and he felt a strange vibe of unwantedness that he hadn’t felt from her until today. He asked her why she would not stick close but she ignored nonchalantly and he did not ask again. He walked calmly, silently, ensured that he was watching out for the hyenas. They were both carefully avoiding the snake pits under the rustled leaves carpeting the dense forest.

He felt that it was the existence of his own self that made her uncomfortable but why didn’t fully understand why it was so? Did he not accompany her through the perilous wilderness of the jungle so she could safely reach the funeral across the river? The least she could do was acknowledge she would not be left stranded helpless in the middle of the jungle where moonlight was dimmer than the gleam in the wolves' eyes, if at all circumstances turned adverse. Despite that, it was the existence of his own self that made her uncomfortable. Some realization it was!

They crossed the jungle unharmed. She thanked him for coming, and wished him for his journey back to the Estrada servants' quarters. She attended the funeral and offered solemn prayers for her late husband. Upon returning home, she drank away the night in the company of the young son of the Changeglade minister. And by then, he had conquered the Pamgelar-Warck forests and returned to the Estradas' unscathed - with callous wisdom, unratified chivalry, stooping head, and drooping shoulders. He wanted to know something, or perhaps he learned everything he ever needed to know. Or did he know it all, all along?

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