Rabeya Bibi leaned against the guava tree she had planted eight years ago and looked at the river flowing past. The children lay sleeping inside the hut. Hamid had missed the last boat and wouldn’t be home. The night was eerily still. Not even the leaves swayed. Her restless mind warned her of impending danger.
Her thoughts went back to a similar night years ago.
Hamid was pacing outside, while she had sat next to the window waiting for a signal. And then they had heard the whistle. Within seconds, the couple had gathered their belongings and set out through the back door.
The journey hadn’t been easy. Fatigue and hunger soon staked their claim. It was impossible to move beyond a point. A traveller found them lying unconscious in the woods. Three days later, they found their perfect abode – a quaint little hamlet besides the banks of a river. The villagers had welcomed them cordially. Impressed with Hamid’s physique, the landlord had leased out his plots for cultivation. While the fertile alluvial soil paved the path for his success, Rabeya earned fame for her ‘Kanthas’, the richly embroidered quilts.
Bibi looked up at the brightly-lit sky and muttered a prayer. Not everyone gets a second chance.
Padma looked up at the sky dolefully. Tiny lights shone in them – her guiding lights. It was also Purnima* – the night of the high tide. Almost time! There was no other alternative. How can they be allowed to scot free? She commenced her journey.
As she advanced towards the settlement, her thoughts went back to her childhood. This was the place where she was born – her home. This was where she grew up. It was a happy place – the forest around her, the birds for company and the stars – her compass.
And then everything changed one night. The men found her. It was by accident. They had been out hunting in the forests when they lost their way. Lust! How it had shone in their eyes. And those sharp knives – gleaming with the blood of the hapless animal they had butchered. They had stood there – observing her, mapping her body and then they had left just the way they had appeared. Her relief was short-lived for they came back. This time it was a battalion. And they claimed her. They ravaged her. She had borne it in silence.
It was time to avenge, time to shed the MASK and unleash her fury. Padma let out a growl and thundered, fastening her pace.
Rabeya had dozed off. The deafening roar of the river woke her up. It was too late. Padma hurled herself into the village, catching them unaware, flooding their huts, obliterating everything that came in her way.
“Don’t take the river for granted. When the time comes, she will reveal her true self just the way we do,” her mother’s words rang in her ears as the mass of swirling water claimed her.
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