Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trapped!

I am not very good at writing fiction, but do keep making the occasional feeble attempt at it. This story is one such attempt, originally written in an hour for a course in Term 5 at IIMK. I've made few modifications to the original draft, with the result that I am not overtly thrilled with the way it has come out, but the underlying theme is something which has been bothering me for quite some time.

The door of the cage shut behind the keeper, and Mordy waited for the familiar click of the lock that followed it. No sound came, however, and after a few minutes, Mordy couldn't resist his curiosity, and ambled his way across to the door. With his large paw, he nudged it, and it slowly opened a few inches. The keeper had gone, his duties done for the day. Dusk was rapidly losing its daily battle with the night, and a blanket of darkness was quickly engulfing the zoo.

Mordy pushed the door open and walked out a few feet, when a wave of terror hit him. Suddenly, he was petrified, and blanking out of fear. A cold wind had up, giving him goosebumps. He fled back into the cage and hurried to the farthest corner. He tried to ignore the open door, but it stared at him, tempting, confusing, seducing and utterly terrifying. He started pacing up and down in the cage, his mind a chaos of emotions and thoughts. He remembered his days in the lush, evergreen rainforests of the Malabar coast. Life had been a daily battle then, struggling for food, chases gone wrong, the unbearable pangs of hunger when the prey had been too wily, and, often, intensely satisfying too, the incredible feeling of being satiated and not needing to chase those darn bucks for another week or so, long afternoons spent on the warm rock on top of the lone hill in the forest and those intensely heady days with Kayra. The thought of Kayra sent a tear down his now increasingly scraggy face. Where was she? How would she be? Would she be still roaming those paths with his children? Or would they be out on their own, intimating the forest that a new predator was on the move, and that they had become a force to reckon with on their own? Life had been tough and exciting, frustrating and rewarding, stressful and leisurely, all at the same time. The constant struggle to stay away from that two-legged ape who could magically kill you from a hundred feet away, who would kill and then not eat, for some reason, who would kill for reasons Mordy could never understand. And yet, they had been so magical, those days.

A deafening crash brought Mordy back into the present. Thunder, followed by a heavy shower. He couldn't really complain about life at the zoo. There was absolutely no struggle. Food was regular and plentiful, and brought to him chopped and cleaned, everyday precisely at 7 in the morning. The zoo was well off and treated its animals well. The cage was clean and comfortable. And yet... Mordy missed the jungle. Years of lazing around and doing little had blunted his wild instincts. Even the children didn't seem to be too scared when he growled at them anymore, they laughed and pointed it out excitedly to their parents. He was bored to death. Life had become a meaningless chore and an orgy of sleeping and eating. His rippling muscles, primed for the kill in his forest life had been smothered in layers of fat. His keen, taut face had turned aged and scraggly, the wear and tear of years of having nothing to do and thinking about it showing clearly.

Yet, life in the zoo represented security. He liked the keeper. He got food regularly, didn't have to worry about the next kill, didn't have to fret over whether he was becoming too old to chase down prey or whether his tactics were too outdated. He didn't have to freak out, seeing his dad die of hunger, not being able to chase prey on his own, and refusing to accept charity from his son. Mordy thought hard and long, but just couldn't make up his mind. It was easy getting back to the forest, he had the night in front of him. Several times, he walked to the door of the cage, stepped outside, only to have the same, gnawing fear hit him like a thunderbolt. Several times he walked to the farthest corner and refused to look at the open door, but it refused to let him be. The clouds disappeared as soon as they had formed, and a full moon shone over the horizon, flooding his cage with white light. The wind picked up again, and hit Mordy in the face as he gazed at the moon through the bars of the cage, contemplating his past, present and the future.

The open door of the cage greeted the keeper from afar, as he walked in after signing his name for the day. Wild panic set in, and a bead of sweat trickled down his spine. Mustering all the courage that he could, he approached the cage slowly, anticipating a charge any moment from the thick shrubs spread all around the cage. He tiptoed to the door, and peered inside, trying to get a view of the farthest corner, the only one not visible from outside. With a sigh of relief, he saw Mordy looking at him, spread peacefully on the floor, his tail involuntarily swatting the half dozen flies which always seemed to be bothering him. A strange look had spread over his face, placed on the floor between his front paws - the look of an animal truly trapped.

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