It was 31st December 2119. But there were no New Year celebrations.
It was only in November that yet another new virus had been discovered. The last few decades had seen the emergence of numerous viruses; however, all of them had been contained within a certain time frame. What worried the world about the new virus was that it attacked only women.
Over the last 50 years, the worldwide population of women had already dwindled, thanks to female infanticide, rapes, murders and other crimes. The lesser the women, the more the world was realizing their importance.
And now, this new virus entered women’s bodies through the air or through other women and men as carriers. Just like a sperm that enters the female body knows its exact way, this virus would go straight for the woman’s ovaries, thus earning it the codename OVID-19 for Ovarian Viral Disease 2119. After destroying her eggs, it would spread to the rest of her body. The fatality rate was 100%.
Years of research had already proved unsuccessful in creating an entire baby outside the human body or impregnating a man with the help of an artificial uterus. It was one act of nature that humans couldn’t change any which way.
Many privileged women now queued up at hospitals to harvest their eggs and remove their ovaries, but the virus struck them anyway. Soon, the world had realized that the end of civilization was near. And hence, the overbearing gloom.
It was early 2120. Somewhere near the Amazon jungles, in a small town, lived Pedro with his wife, Antonia. Antonia was already pregnant when OVID-19 entered his country and Pedro had to protect her by confining her to the house.
When Antonia reached her eighth month, people suddenly realized that she had become the only woman alive in the town. Afraid that his wife would be targeted by lustful men, a panicky Pedro whisked her away to the jungles in the dead of the night.
He drove on till the jungles became so thick that they had to abandon the car.
Days later, a search party found the remains of Pedro near his car. “Attacked by some wild animal”, they concluded. After two more days, they came across a strange-looking cave. It was flanked by two old trees. Their huge trunks leaned over the entrance and bordered it in such a manner that they met on the top, giving the illusion that the cave was dug into a single tree.
They found Antonia sprawled at the cave entrance. Birthing a new life had taken her own. But they couldn’t find the baby.
Deep inside the jungle, where the trees were so thick that sunlight barely reached the ground, was a small village, inhabited by the ancient Argo tribe. The advancements in the rest of the world had not reached here, mainly because of their strong resistance to it. They still lived in caves and huts, wore deerskin to cover the bare essentials and hunted for food. And they viciously attacked every outsider who dared to venture near their village.
Right now, the tribal chief was ill. His son knew that the herb needed to cure him was found far away in the jungle, near the Tree Cave, as the soil conditions were not conducive elsewhere. The Tree Cave was a curious cave flanked by two huge trees. He reached the place and found the herb. He was about to return when he smelt something.
Insulation from the rest of the world meant that the tribals had sharpened senses and the young man understood that a woman and baby were nearby.
He perked up at the thought of a woman. For their village had none. A few moons ago, some explorers had ventured near the settlement. They were chased and killed, shedding a lot of blood in the process. Shortly after this incident, the women in the tribe started falling sick, one by one. They didn’t understand why. And before anything could be done, only the men in the tribe remained.
The Argo followed the scent. Now he also heard the weakened cries of a baby. A little more searching and he found the woman lying just inside the cave entrance. He was disappointed to see her lifeless.
Venturing inside the dark cave, he found the baby. He quietly picked it up and brought it home.
His father was furious. “This baby is not one of us. He is pink-skinned and we are dark. His people will come looking for it.”
“But I didn’t want to let it die.”
Just then, the baby smiled. And the decision was made. The baby would remain. The chieftain’s son said, “I will bring him up as my son. I name him Django.”
Django soon became the darling of everyone in the tribe, for they all knew that they would never see a baby again.
When Django became a little older, he asked his father, “Pa, how come I am of different colour?”
And Pa replied, “On the first full moon night after you grow a moustache, I will answer your question.”
It was the custom of the tribe. On the first full moon night after a boy reached puberty and started growing a moustache, he would be anointed as a man. On this night, his father would also answer the questions which the boy had in his mind regarding adulthood, as well as questions which had been found inappropriate to be answered at an earlier age. He would, from this night onwards, start wearing the traditional headgear, which was a cap with a single bird’s feather on it. Every year hence, a feather would be added to the cap. He would also be presented his own spear and dagger. He could now hunt alone and also venture to places far from the settlement all by himself.
How Django waited for the day to come. He stopped mingling with the other boys of the tribe and spent his time either playing alone or following his Pa into the jungles.
Finally, the most awaited night arrived. Pa explained to him that he was found at the Tree Cave. Django asked, “Are all boys found near caves?”
Now Pa was in a fix. But he knew he had to answer it today. And so he explained, with great difficulty, about a species called “Woman” and how she no longer existed. “You were born in a woman’s tummy, like all other boys here. The woman was pink, so you are also pink,” he concluded.
“So now that there are no women, there will be no boys.”
“Yes, my son”, said Pa, sadly. The years of living without women had begun to tell on him as well as the other members of the tribe. They had to double as hunters and nurturers and they were unable to do justice to the latter role, no matter how much they tried. There was no one to boost their ego when needed. There was no one to mediate and stop fights that arose merely because of the male ego. Problems that could be solved by negotiation were now being settled through duels. There was no way to address the carnal instinct. And the most important thing, which Django also realized by the time the moon set at dawn – their tribe had to end someday.
“Pa, I want to find out where I came from.”
“Django, we are not friends with the outside world. It is full of dangerous people. When they see a person or animal, they aim a long weapon at it and pull a lever. Blam!! A small pellet bursts out and hits the person or animal, killing instantly. My son, you are mine and you belong to this tribe. I don’t want you to come to harm.”
“I agree, Pa, but I want to know.”
“Someday in the future, my son.”
Django decided to leave the topic at that. He also decided not to ask Pa why he felt a certain unexplained longing these days.
Over the next few months, Django went about his duties as an adult. But his thoughts always remained at the back of his mind. He waited for an opportunity to visit the Tree Cave.
And he got it pretty soon. One of the tribe members fell ill. Django was given directions to the cave and asked to bring the rare herb.
That evening, Django reached the cave. He was fascinated by its appearance. But he walked further on, while muttering a silent prayer of forgiveness to the tribal God. He knew that whoever came searching for him would carry the herb to the sick tribe member.
Django walked miles and miles for two whole days. He survived by hunting animals for food.
On the morning of the third day, he heard voices in the distance. He quietened his pace, aimed his spear and walked carefully, till he reached the source.
He stopped when he saw four men near a tent, packing up and loading everything into a van. The first thing he noticed was their skin colour – pink like him!! He kept watching.
The van had a huge portrait of a woman on its side. Django saw the portrait. Long hair, soft face, perfect lips, big chest, small hips, so many curves – this fitted the description that Pa had given, of a woman’s physical appearance.
Django suddenly realized what that feeling of unexplained longing was, when he was jolted by a strange sensation within him. His whole body tingled and he felt something underneath the tiny deerskin he wore, harden and stand up. Bewildered, he put his spear aside and ran his hands over it. He liked the feeling. He repeated it – faster, harder. Oh, what inexplicable pleasure!!
A few minutes later, he lay on the ground, exhausted and satisfied. He forgot for a moment where he was and closed his eyes.
The men started the van. The roar of the engines woke Django. “They’re leaving,” he thought, “with her. I want her!!” And he started running after the van.
The men saw him. They were bewildered. From his appearance, they realized he was an Argo. And also that he was chasing not them, but the woman’s portrait.
They stopped the van. Django continued staring at the woman. His senses had momentarily ceased to function. And the men took advantage of it.
Within seconds, they gagged and bound Django and dumped him into the back of the van.
Four hours and a hundred miles later, the van reached a huge building, with a name board atop it: “Fernandez Research Centre”. Django was unceremoniously dumped into a cage that had been hastily prepared just for his arrival.
But the researchers had underestimated Django’s strength. The raw, muscular Django couldn’t break his handcuffs, but he uprooted the cage from its base, prompting them to instantly tranquilise him.
The research centre was set up and run by Dr. Manoel Fernandez, a tall, lean, cleanshaven man in his mid-fifties, who had spent the better part of his life exploring the jungles. His motive was to find something that would make him famous. Django was his perfect opportunity.
Manoel wondered a bit about Django’s fair skin. The Argos were known to be dark. He decided to make a phone call and find out.
“Hello, Mario? Manoel here. I need your help. We have an Argo here, live. Can you come here as an interpreter?”
Django woke up. Seeing that he was trapped, he forgot all about the woman and started struggling to break free. The workers at the Centre managed to temporarily calm him by feeding him a roast lamb.
Just then, a frail man of around 70 years entered the hall, hobbling with the help of a walking stick. Mario had been an explorer in his heydays. His speciality was the Argo tribe and he had set up cameras around the village to record their ways. It was an achievement that required great courage. However, at the last moment, he decided not to release the footage into the outside world as he feared their commercial exploitation. Thus, he remained an unrecognized hero. However, by viewing the tapes repeatedly, he had learnt a smattering of the tribe’s native language.
Django gave Mario a pitiful look, remembering his Grandpa, hale and hearty despite the 65 feathers on his headgear.
Mario looked Django in the eye and said in the Argo’s language, “Hello.. my name is Mario.”
Django was taken aback. Then he smiled, for the first time – and replied, “My name is Django.”
And thus a connection was established.
Over the next few days, Mario and Django struggled through slow, deliberate conversations. While Mario learnt more about the tribe, Django realized the true state of the outside world he’d never known. Women no longer existed anywhere. To Manoel’s disappointment, the Argos were also bereft of women. Nations had fallen apart and were fighting each other as well as within themselves. War and shelling of random places were the order of the day. Django could even hear firing, a great distance away from the building, that Mario and the others couldn’t hear.
“My, what sharp ears”, remarked Mario.
“That’s because we have resisted what you people call ‘progress’. You have lost your natural instincts. We haven’t. We are so strong, one of us can lift three of you at the same time. Our senses are much sharper than yours. I can smell a person before he comes anywhere near me and recognize him. Can you?”
While Django was happy to have found someone who could talk to him, he also had his agenda. He wanted to find his roots. And escape. Somehow, he felt that Mario could help him.
His instincts were once again proved correct when Mario came one day with a middle aged, stout man.
The stout man took one look at Django and said, “Mario, this is indeed Pedro’s son, I am sure. He looks exactly like him. And his eyebrows – see how they knit together over his forehead, just like Antonia’s. Yes, it is him.”
Mario said, “Django, this is Pancho, Pedro’s brother. Remember, I told you about Pedro and Antonia when you mentioned the Tree Cave. My memory is not so bad, after all.”
“Django, my son”, said an emotional Pancho, “imagine finding you after all these years. It is heartening to know that the heir to the family still exists. Please come home – we are all waiting for you.” Mario interpreted it for Django.
Django was simultaneously happy and pensive. He was elated to know where he was from. But he couldn’t decide whether to accept Pancho’s offer or not. He didn’t reply for a long time. But when he spoke, he was to the point.
“Pancho, I may carry your blood, but I belong to my tribe. They were the ones who gave me a life. And besides, I cannot survive in your place. I must return.”
Pancho was crestfallen. Mario comforted him. “He’s right. Having worked in the jungles for decades, I know he will be happy where he belongs and it is not here.”
“All right”, said Pancho finally, “let’s ask Manoel to release him.”
“WHAT??” Manoel thundered. “For the first time, we managed to catch hold of an Argo and you want to let him go? No way!! You know, he can make me famous!! Fame is what I have worked for, all these years. All these expenses, this research centre, these people working under me – what are they for? I want to make it to the world headlines as the man who conquered an invincible tribe!!”
Manoel did not yield to any persuasion and threatened Mario and Pancho with dire consequences if they interfered any more.
Early the next morning, there was a commotion at the research centre. Django was missing!!
The security guard was found unconscious. When revived, he could vaguely remember Django running away with two men. Django was carrying one of them, along with his walking stick.
The car sped on for miles and miles and finally entered the jungle. Pancho asked, “Mario, why are you risking your life?”
“Son, I spent my entire life researching the tribe, but could not earn anything from it because I cared for them. Now, by rescuing Django, I can be at peace that I have finally achieved something. I..”
“Stop!!” interrupted Django, “Do not enter the jungle. You cannot survive the wild animals. I know how to find my way. I’ll go from here.”
Pancho stopped the car. Django stepped out. He bowed deeply to both Mario and Pancho, smiled and walked away. Pancho saw Mario stealthily wipe away a tear. They turned to go back home.
It was 31st December in the year 2520. The earth was once again densely forested and flourished with animals and birds. There was no human in sight.
The sounds of nature were interrupted by the noise of a strange flying vehicle that landed on the ground. A creature with a human-like body, but eight feet tall and green in colour, stepped out. Its head was covered in something resembling a helmet, with antennae and electrodes protruding out.
“Jeto, come out”, it said.
A similar looking creature came out of the spacecraft.
“Wow, Keto, what a lovely place”, it exclaimed.
“Yes, perfect for us to settle here.”
“And no humans to trouble us.”
“They were no trouble for us, anyway. Just that they had made this place uninhabitable, till they got extinct three hundred years ago. And it has taken so long for nature to revive completely.”
“Finally we have a new place to settle in, outside our overcrowded planet.”
“Yes, let’s bring the others. This is our place now, isn’t it?”
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