“Stupid, stupid…stupid,” Aron cursed himself; then realized that he had been more cowardly than foolish. Trusting Maya had been Sid’s folly. But Aron blamed himself even for that, after all he was the grown-up. But to run away leaving the poor boy alone in the jungle with the thugs was shameful by any standards. When Aron reached the town and was among people; the few people who had come out in the morning; he slowed to a fast walk till he reached home.
But Aron could not bring himself to enter the house. He knew now that he could not be at rest anywhere till he had done the right thing.
He couldn’t trust most people now, not even the police in the town. Some of them were too sympathetic to the “cause” of the rebels. Maya’s treachery had come as a shock, even though he should have seen it coming. He kept walking till he reached the bus stop and entered the morning bus about to leave for the western big city. By the time the sun was shining bright he was already half the way there.
Sid had been accosted by four men as he made his way to town and these men were very rude. He would have gone along with them anyway, but it seemed to Sid that these men were very angry about something. As soon as they met him, the small man who was older than the others gave him a stinging slap on his left cheek. when Sid raised his arms to defend himself, there was a flurry of fists from all directions till he fell down on his knees. He was ordered up and pushed across the rickety bridge east of the wharf. Soon as they had crossed the bridge, one of the men tied a blindfold on Sid’ eyes. Sid’s sense of direction suggested that they had walked for half an hour to the north at a brisk pace and then turned towards east. Thereafter He couldn’t tell for sure because the movement, though mostly on level ground, appeared to change directions frequently. He did feel the sun on his face most of the time, especially because it kept getting stronger as the morning progressed. They walked mostly east for a long time. There was no way of knowing for how long. Sid had grown thirsty so he noticed as they passed a water body.
He knew there was a water body because they let him walk into it and had a good laugh as he splashed in knee deep muddy water. After that the blindfold was removed. Sid saw that they were walking on a narrow path that had been used quite often. In front of them were hills covered in green and they began to climb up and around the hill in a winding path that led to a valley just behind the green hill.
It was noon when they stopped walking. There were several people going about and a few just sat looking at the procession of five that walked into the village.
Sid had been abducted to a village of peasants. there were small cultivated patches, rising nearly halfway up the hills. He saw sheds that housed cows. There may have been many such villages in the region. But the peasants and their families who quietly went about their work were not the only inhabitants of this particular village.
There were the ruffians who sat about playing cards as if they owned the place.
They were reasonably nice to the locals as reward for being good hosts, but of course there was punishment in store for those who would squeal about them to the authorities.
They suspected that it was thanks to Sid that Dara was in prison. Now they had caught up to the squeal and brought him here to face the punishment.
It should be an example to all.
To be continued…