Ara in the Amazon – Short Story
Ara in the Amazon
BY: Sudama Panigrahi
The green foliage of Amazon flashed and the snow capped mountain was like a mound of milk while the valley marched like a river of silver. Ara stood in the shadow of a tall bright oak tree. Riding in the night was tough and unsafe but the woods was neither safe. The dense forest frightened and hid packages of dangers. Behind Ara, her mare nickered and she felt the animal’s breath on her shoulder, as it nudged gently. The mare was restless and so was Ara. She swung into the saddle, clutched the rein. The mare neighed when she heeled it and moved towards the direction where Jon had gone missing.
The mare rushed into the woods like a bullet from a gun, as leaves and branches of low lying plants slapped on Ara’s legs and the body of the mare. It was like a minuscule gale trying to thrust into the thick woods like a drill making a hole as dust travelled at their back. Ara gasped but she clutched the strap of the saddle as if they were made for each other and had met after a long time. Her legs rested firmly on the stirrups and the girth was tight on the belly.
The canopy of dense foliage blocked the silver moon and Ara saw a black shadow slanting towards her. A dark patch of cloud had completely eclipsed the moon.
“Even this shall pass away.” She armed herself with a shield of optimism and moved on.
The fear of darkness and slithering creatures had vanished and she penetrated into the den of pitch darkness in lightening speed. She thought about the evaporation of fear and sudden rush of synergy into her vein. Possibly, for the ecstasy of reunion, she thought and maintained the tempo as an unknown force guided her foray into the forests.
She lost the way. The mare neighed and stopped. She alighted and tried to find a way. However, the darkness of the cloud and the dense foliage shrouded her way with a gloomy cover.
“Where has he gone?” Ara asked the question to herself. “And what is there in the forest that engulfed him like a summer wild fire burning the woods?”
She ruminated hard. “No, I’d fight against any odd and rescue him.” She walked ahead a dusty way stood to embrace her. She galvanised her confidence and mounted onto the mare. Her nudge alerted the mare and it galloped into the woods.
The neigh of the mare and the knock of hooves rippled in the silence of the woods. The branches slapped but the mare sprinted and showed her commitment to Ara. All of a sudden, she saw a spurt of light at a yonder distance. Curious, she controlled the speed involuntarily and the mare slowed down. The wind stopped and she stood on the floor.
She looked around and concentrated her ears. Nothing unusual, the same thick layers of darkness, perhaps darkness had vowed to shroud the night. The shaft of light was the only unusual thing to frighten her. Neither did darkness provid relief nor the light to her. Dilemma! She felt shaken as her courage dwindled. Closing her eyes, she stood for sometime and walked back to the mare. The mare stood, she caressed its neck and wrapped her hands around its nape. The embrace reassured her dwindling valour. She gathered pluck and walked towards the shaft of light.
Dry leaves crushed under her boots and the crushing sound faded in the serenity of the woods. She doggedly and gingerly moved closer to the light. A gust of wind kissed her cheeks and she was a bit out of mind. In the chasm of second, the shaft of light vanished, as if someone had been rubbing a piece of diamond on a stone and shredded to tiny particles reducing the diamond and luminosity to nothing.
Stunned, she stretched her curiosity and one of her feet thrust into a muddy hole. The boot slipped inside and she clutched a sprig of shrub. Ah, close shave.
The moon came up and showed its commitment towards the night. A wave of cool breeze swished and gathered all fallen leaves like a herd boy gathering bovine or a motorised trawler marching forward with a monstrous net causing a mad rush of marine population, towards imminent death.
She rallied her breathing and jumped up minus her boot. “Oh, God.” She heaved a sigh of relief and pulled the boot. Mud splashed on to her. She cared little to the splash and silently trudged towards the mare. Hugging the mare she mounted onto the saddle. The mare neighed and marched forward. A hill was in front of her and she was unable to say properly whether the mountain ran towards her or she ran towards it. The mysterious spurt of light vanished completely from her mind.
“Jon, Jon,” She harked and her cry rammed onto the hill and ricocheted to her ears. She heard, ‘Ara, Ara’ and tried to locate the source of sound. The sound fainted in the wind. ‘Shit, an echo only.’ She rued.
The mare stopped all of a sudden and gasped exhaustion. She rammed onto its nape and gripped its neck. Breathing of the mare was audible as if some hundred snakes were hissing. Looking around she got down and both cooled down their nerves.
“Jon, I could not save you, love you darling.” She walked a bit and looked upward. The black patch of cloud had dissolved in the sky. She kissed the mare. “Darling, are you ready?”
The mare neighed and nodded its head. It rested on the ground. Frustrated, she closed her eyes.
“Jesus, where is he?”
‘Save him before the dawn.’ A gentle voice echoed.
“But where is he?”
The mare as usual slept on the leafy carpet of the woods, without any movement. An owl screeched, the hooting rippled and dissolved in the air. She stood for sometime and tried to hold her increasing heart beat.
“No, I’ll have to move without the mare.” She decided firmly and walked ahead.
“Ah,” she tripped on a stone, screamed and a shaft of light illuminated her.
“Beautiful lady, you can’t rescue him. Go back and don’t try to defeat the darkness of the woods. It’s no use to fight with the pitch force.” A wave of eerie laughter overpowered the serenity.
“Who are you?”
“I’m the serpent king.” A dose of mad laughter invaded her ears.
“Where is Jon?”
“Jon….” It taunted. “Comes the sun in the eastern sky, we’ll have a feast on him. Look ahead, the night suffers from labour pain and I’m sure she will give birth to a festive morning.” A spurt of hiss dissolved in the air.
“Don’t be that happy, sometimes labour pain happens to be false. At times it results in miscarriage or still birth. Labour pain can be symphony but sometimes it happens to be cacophonous and brings tears too.”
“Beautiful lady,” It hissed. “optimism is a prostitute everyone cherishes her embrace but when death looms large, what is the use of her mad kisses and false hugging? When death is imminent, hugging is but a lullaby for a nightmare.” The snake slithered towards her and the shaft of light came closer.
Ara was silent but feared little thanks to her foray in the forest for quite sometime.
“Better give up.”
“No…that is your fear towards my ebullience. The smile of the morning is my prize. Anyway, leave it, tell me why do you want to kill my love?”
“That bastard conducts research on the Amazon forest and once his research papers are published, dooms will dance here, scalding our habitat to black patches of land. We cannot tolerate the blatant exploitation of our habitat.”
“But it will benefit mankind….”
“Mankind….” It laughed. “What about the inhabitants of the woods? You human beings have destroyed vast stretches of forest at the cost of countless life, pushing many of our brothers to the verge of extinction.”
Ara was quiet. ‘Of course, it echoes the right thing.’ She saw the light crawling towards her.
“Leave Jon for God sake. His study is not to destroy your habitat but to build something for betterment.”
The snake became silent and the luminosity dwindled. ‘Ara, leave this snake, Jon is in the woods, cross the river.’ She heard a voice and surreptitiously moved ahead. The snake hissed its frustration and slithered behind her.
“Stop there, you audacious girl, I will kill you,” the snake hollered.
She did not say anything and scampered ahead. A spurt of wet smell sneaked into her nose and she felt the presence of water. Sometime after, she heard the gurgling sound of a stream and became happy as if she struck a gold mine. The river bed rippled the moon light and brisk breeze kissed her body. It was a dose of synergy that bolstered her courage. As the stream rippled, the moon joyously danced on the water, perhaps the water was a swing. Ara savoured the serene water. ‘Jump.’ An urge propelled her and she jumped onto the river bed. Lo, she was on the other side of the bank. She heard the hissing of the snake king and thanked the river for coming in between her journey and the impediment.
She heard the hissing of the snake and saw the light. She looked towards the silver bed. A blob of light illuminated the other shore and saw a wave of fire coming towards her. No, it couldn’t reach to her and the river bed doused it completely. The snake lashed its tail and she tried to move ahead.
Ara heard sniffing sound of something as if someone sneezing or a jet of air drilling the soil. She saw a boar haphazardly running towards her and smelled dust that the boar had disturbed. She was frightened. Snake, boar and the river bed in the middle, she saw success ahead and smiled in mind.
She ran from the boar and the later ran towards her. The snake again hurled a blob of fire from the other end of the river. Dangers travelled to sandwich her to death. The boar ran and she changed track. The boar jumped onto the river bed and the fire from the mouth of the snake travelled toward the river bed. The fire banged on the face of the boar and banged on the bed of river.
Ara sat down and heaved a sigh of relief. Nerves cooled down and when she raised her head a pleasant light greeted her. Like a flea to light, she moved towards the light.
It could have been death or life, but she moved ahead charily. The light changed colour in the pattern of a rainbow.
“This is good sign.” She thought and her lips blossomed. She felt invigorated and came closer to the light. The light was like a sentry in front of an entrance of a cave. She stood for a second and entered inside slowly. The path to the cave was filled with darkness but as she stepped forward, the luminosity increased gradually, as if her moving ahead had something to do with the light.
The screeching sound of bats and their pungent smell overpowered her ears and nose respectively. She tried to stop breathing and a bat scooped her cheek.
“Ah.” She screamed but the cry merged with the screeching sound of the bats. She felt spilling blood but she cared a little and moved on tearing the serenity of the cave. A flame of red light sprinted towards her but she negotiated it and the fire burnt a flying bat. The burning smell of feathers filled her nose.
Ara became cautious and silence greeted ahead. She stood on a spacious floor, dimly illuminated by flames of fire. She heard a creaking sound and saw a huge bloc of stone dipping inside. From the chasm emerged a seven hooded snake and she saw the same glittering light of the woods.
“Brave girl, you finally arrived to your graveyard. Welcome. The morning is but a matter of time; you will die with your lover together. Oh, love, you’ve incredible cohesiveness and attraction.” It guffawed.
The cries merged and ‘JonAra’ banged on the walls of the cave. She saw Jon inside a cave and stood nonchalantly.
She ran towards him. “Oh, Jon I love you darling.”
Her step fell on a patch of stone and she stumbled. When she got up, she saw the bars in front of Jon, sliding. Jon embraced Ara and both kissed frantically.
The snake crawled towards them breathing fire of frustration and hissing wave of venom.
Jon saw the snake and said, “Let’s flee.”
Both closed their eyes for a trice and prayed and the hoods of the snake approached near them. When they opened their eyes they saw the hoods and a swing: death and life at the same time.
They jumped onto the swing and safely swung outside the cave. A huge explosion followed, as if an earthquake struck or a dormant volcano erupted. The rainbow light moved and became a blob. It blasted on the sky and they saw the seven hoods of snake shattering to smithereens.
“Thank God.” They embraced each other and closed their eyes. The sun rose in the east and gradually a beautiful morning emerged from the womb of the dawn.
They heard a horse neighing and running towards them. The galloping hare came near and Ara greeted her mare. Both were happy and rode to safety.
“Ara, I love you.”
“Love you too.”
Both embraced and the mare neighed. The sun bathed them with a shower of crimson light and both were happy for their reunion.