Minotaur: Epilogue and First Chapter (Sunil Sharma)

Minotaur (Sunil Sharma)

Epilogue

The ghosts appeared abruptly at midnight and easily blended with the surrounding shadowy background. Stealthy and fast movements had earned the popular nickname for them. In fact ghosts were highly-motivated insurgents who struck out swiftly at government targets and then simply evaporated in thin air, leaving no trace. Their secret lairs in high mountains commanded a panoramic view of the battered and blacked-out capital. Now at this unearthly hour, these fierce men in dirty and faded fatigues took up positions at strategic entry points to the bleak city. The cloudy and freezing December night looked sinister harsh shrieking wind had kept blowing from the surrounding mountains for last many days. An unusually wet spell had kept the residents indoors for previous one week. Even otherwise there was not much work. Capital had slowly become deserted. People just fled their homes and migrated to safer south. Fear and desolation prevailed. Bombed-out buildings dotted the skyline, smoke still billowing from the smoldering ruins. A stinking hellhole for hoards of foreign reporters staying in the Hilton City- the only 5-star surviving hotel- for last many days. The rundown, rotten old capital was in the grip of severe winter and raging civil war. Death was stalking every corner. Nothing was safe any more. Anaconda was burning. Ghosts were there that night for their decisive contribution to a coming carnage.

A winter of discontent had descended rapidly as divine curse on hapless Anaconda- capital of New Land- now being torn apart continuously by the invading forces of the exiled warlord and dissident former general Oscar Wee Wee. His guerrillas were moving fast towards the barricaded capital through previous fortnight, burning and killing people in their unstoppable victory march. December 25 was the chosen date to smash their way into the palace of Constantine Caesar- the hated Leader of this communist third world nation convulsed by great civil war for last one year-an unstable political condition common to these parts of volatile Latin America.

As planned, rebel tanks rolled down from hideouts in the high mountains followed by infantry. The timing of attack caught the slumbering city unawares. Heavy bombardment shattered state building and a fragile unbrokered truce. The tired and fast depleting security forces were already demoralized. Many soldiers deserted their posts and fled in darkness of night.  The ferocious tanks and machine guns further ripped apart a wounded city, blasting their way into its bleeding heart. The gloomy city was violently painted in orange-red splashes of the leaping golden fires that singed the overcast nightly skies. The grim assault completely paralyzed lonely and derelict metropolis: electricity cables and telephone connections were cut down immediately by the advancing columns. Radio and T.V. stations were taken over. Announcements of an emergency were repeatedly made by the commanding officer of the so-called people’s Army. Anaconda was again under siege- after about twenty years of communist rule of Caesar. Democracy had won. However, the Royal Palace was still to be conquered.

The Royal Guards stationed 10 km from the huge palace desperately tried to defeat the determined raiders with sophisticated arms but no paid army can destroy will power of angry impoverished and dispossessed young losers. The guerillas finally mowed down the elite units of the resisting Royal Guards in a bloody prolonged fight and reached the magnificent palace at dawn.

They found the fabulous palace but not the dreaded leader whom they wanted to capture at any cost – dead or alive.

The man was officially known as Constantine Caesar, the President, and the Supreme Commander of the armed forces, of the Republic of New Land.

A man unofficially called Butcher. Or Wolf. Or mass-murderer.

But lately he preferred to call himself Minotaur- half man- half bull.

The guerillas were badly disappointed.

The symbol of their victory had again eluded them in this final hour of glory.

He had slipped out by flying in his private jet three hours ago.

The palace, empty, was there as a mocking testimony to his extravagant life style!

The bearded commander of the ragtag group of the bloodied and exhausted fighters spat and fired his AK-57 into the gilded roof of the stateroom, yelling bastard bastard, in a fit of insanity. Their enemy no.1 continued to smile benevolently at the band of marauders from a precious oil portrait hanging on the wall of the state banquet room.

The airborne jet named Palace on Wheels was modeled on the famous American presidential transport plane Air Force One. It was already head towards the Pacific Ocean. The palace had enough provisions to feed a mini army for six months. It had all amenities: high tech communications system in the control room; sophisticated weapons, RDX, dismantled guns and other lethal weapons stored in the cargo section.

The ultimate in luxury travel that had made the Sultan of Brunei feel envious of this flying bird. Ensconced in the soft seat near the window, the just deposed president relished his scotch whisky and smiled. Bastards! Catch me if you can! I am immortal!

He sipped scotch and lit his Havana, his mind drifting back……

20 years earlier…. On a December night like this, his own group of guerillas had marched to the ancient decaying capital from their caves in the thickly-wooded mountains in the North, and captured the windy in a swift bloody operation lasting only twenty-two hours.

Deja  Vue!

The presidential bodyguards were taken by surprise. Nobody had anticipated this audacious move of the rebels. All the guards were massacred and the old president taken prisoner.

Caesar had personally commanded the firing squad that killed the old pathetic head of the state, at the crack of the cold dawn, in the courtyard of the palace where official receptions were held to honour the visiting foreign dignitaries. And he had declared himself the new President of the Republic.

Now 20 years later, on the same December night, history was repeating itself in the same sequence. But I am alive!

He and his Group – a dreaded coterie of friends and officials – had made good their escape from that burning cauldron of ethnic hatred and strife that the country had become over last many years.

Good riddance! Goodbye!

He relaxed. After sometime, he went to the spacious conference hall where 20 men and women were waiting for him – his trusted aids.

“Cheers”, said the tall erect man in his fifties, “We are now on our way to the safety of a new home.” The group clapped and cheered. “Let us celebrate”, said the graying Leader and smiled broadly. Immediately tensions dissolved at 24,000 feet in the air. Everybody felt happy and relaxed. All of them had made a good escape from certain death. We are lucky.

If they had not escaped in time from the coup leaders, they would have been the morning meal to vultures outside the palace walls. 

“We are invincible”, Minotaur declared. We are untouchables.

They all agreed. A new life and new identity awaited them, or so they thought at that time. End of earlier life and start of a brand-new one in a distant nation. They drank and thought of coming excitements of a fresh existence and place- another adventure for them.

Very soon, by an ironic twist of fate, their life and plans were to change again within a brief span of four-five hours.

The man, going by different names: who called himself Minotaur- the president who once ruled ever a nation of 50 million people and now deposed by a bloody coup- was again going to be the ruler of an isolated little island in the Southwest Pacific ocean.

The ex-president was soon to be king of an island obscure in the immensity of the Pacific Ocean by odd circumstances. But Times were strange to him already. The flight marked the decisive end to an old existence of royalty and wealth. Kind of Epilogue to those fast fading years- now history forever. Old Caesar was dead and new Caesar was born.

In two hours their high-tech jet that cost billions to the poor nation was caught in a severe cyclonic storm, lost direction and forced to land on the edge of an island- lost in the swirling mists of time – nestling at the edge of the blue waters of the ocean. It almost broke into two halves, wings totally destroyed and engines useless.

The presidential party was however safe but utterly stranded in the coming dawn!


Chapter 1

 

Nobody could figure out what exactly had happened that fateful night. The events happened so fast that for everybody around they were not concrete events but a mere blur of fast action in fast forward mode. Nobody was keen for explanations also, what counted most was that the Group and Prez had survived near death in the palace, and, second death by drowning in the choppy ocean. You should feel lucky if you survive two deaths within a span of not more than twelve hours. That is why they call me the child of destiny. At a later stage and convenience time, they tried to figure out the reason of the crash of the Air Force Palace- that high-tech bird worth billions but could not find out the real reason since pilot was dead. What perhaps happened was that the jet ran into an unexpected storm, lost altitude and crashed because of some technical snag or human error. That part was history. The important thing was that they were all alive and clustered together around him in a new place on a new dawn. I am immortal! Thought the deposed dictator, lying sprawled out at the alien shore, looking at the light crimson sky. Tall date palms swayed gently in the breeze. Perfect silence prevailed except the gentle rolling of waves.

The morning after appeared glorious. The immensity of the blue Pacific was humbling experience for the tiny survivors, stretched out on the white sands, ordinary mortals shorn of office, dominated by the thickly wooded hills in the back. The thick impenetrable jungle, deep and mysterious, started almost at the edge of the white sands, so near you could feel its moist breath tingling your naked skin and also, clearly hear hissing of leaves and overhead melody of bird songs in interlaced branches of tall trees. The air was languid and atmosphere tranquil. A golden rising sun had splashed its rich colours on the island, turning it into a heavenly setting which their hungry eyes found pretty soothing: the entire place generating a feeling of strange timelessness and primeval solitude, almost suggesting eerily the very beginning of Time itself in that obscure piece of land which no civilized person had discovered so far and which for this precise reason was able to retain its elemental charm.

Gawd! This is fabulous! I will call it Paradise.

Many months later, looking back, he thought my judgment was not very correct. Later that that morning, he called his group, and drawing himself up to his full height, proclaimed in husky voice:

“I , Minotaurch, hereby claim this piece of land, this unique creation of God, as my own, and declare myself the King, the territory as Paradise, and all you as my subject.”

The twenty members of the group bent down and said, “Long live the King!” the King spoke, “From this moment onwards, we all shall refer to each other by new names. Civilization and culture are now left behind. We have to forget all that. God has given us the gift of a new life in a new place, untouched by the so-called civilization, a civilization that was the source of our near death, a civilization that is selfish, ungrateful and driven by popular sentiments as mobs.  All that is past. We would like to severe all our connections with this thing called civilization. We would start n new life here.” Then the King took out his wristwatch, a Rolex, and trampled upon it. The group followed.

“Time stops for all of us. We are the new pioneers on a new mission. We do not need their time.”

Then he picked up a machine-gun and fired a volley into the lumbering half-submerged hulk of the jet. It immediately caught fire. “Our last link with the outside world, a painful reminder, goes up in smoke. Now, we are all marooned here on this island, free to start a new bohemian life of pure indulgence here.”

He gave a lingering look to the burning jet, “Together we shall create a new world, an ideal world, a world more fulfilling than the one we were forced to abandon in great haste on account of the greed and power ambition of some there. What we could not finish there as a project, we would finish here. The project of a noble world where all people are treated as equal and co-partners. Comrades, welcome to the island-nation of Paradise.”

The most precious cargo from the plane was salvaged earlier in the morning. Diamonds, rubies, gold, silver. And boxes of ammunition and weapons. Tinned food. Dry fruits. Tinned powder and dry soups. Flashlights. Machetes. Battery-powered T. V. and radio sets. The cargo was salvaged by 20 able bodied man servants of the former President, who were the diehard loyalists, selected from the village and clan of the President. His most trusted human cargo- his body-guards and servants- trained in lethal weapons and the art of assassination, each one a deadly commando who could blow entire townships, and kill the toughest opponent with various degrees of skill- manual and sophisticated ways of killing- and who always followed the Prez everywhere, even in the bedrooms of the foreign hotels where their leader went to seek pleasures of the ‘decadent’ West!

They were the much-dreaded ‘ghosts’ who protected the supreme leader from invisible people with eyes, ears everywhere in the land always hovering in the shadows, blending with the background, unobtrusive and silent, always alert and watchful, multi-lingual, highly-intelligent commandos trained by the former American seals in all deadly arts of the espionage; martial arts by the Japanese masters, Yoga by the Indians. They were the elite force with direct access to every ministry. Their leader was the six-foot two-inch tall, scarred face giant, nicknamed Gorilla for his massive physique and strength, who, as the chief of the internal secret police called the oriental Gestapo by the Americans, was a terror for the whole nation. It was rumored, in the power circles of the capital, that even the Great man was also a bit terrified of the brute that was not accountable to anybody. A man, shrewd cold calculating, with the mind of Carlos, the jackal; the ruthlessness of a Hitler and the hear of a serial killer. It was said when a just God was giving away conscience and human virtues like compassion, pity and morality, this creation of God, known as the Gorilla or one-eyed giant, was nowhere to be seen in the queue of recipients of these divine gifts and was instead spotted by the angels consorting with the devil! The story graphically captured the inner mindscape of the killing-machine, in part responsible for the downfall of the benevolent leader who had brought in communism to their feudal land. There were many attempts to poison or kill the one-eyed giant but the lucky bastard had not only survived but grown in strength, each failed assassination attempt driving him more paranoid and ruthless, to the extent he ceased believing in human attribute called goodness, and surrounded himself with ferocious Dobermans and bulldogs. Wags even said he only preferred to converse either with the President or with Pal, his Doberman; with the former he talked on the “need-to-talk” basis and with Pal, he talked for hours. Between the executive power and the dog power was a gray area where no mortal or even feline charms were allowed admission. Even otherwise, no same person, in full possession of faculties, would have enjoyed occupying that risky dangerous area. ‘Only dogs can appreciate each other, I mean pack dogs”, said a minister, who, a week later was found murdered in a French hotel! Since he is an important part of our story, some more details. Gorilla, cleaver as he was, learnt his survival instincts from the mean streets of Anaconda, the capital of the nation, and having acquired street-smart skills at a tender age of ten, understood the logic of the situation of the disadvantaged and the deprived : kill your opponent before he kills you and then survived to tell the world your version of the story. Over the years, he perfected these predatory skills to a religion with its esoteric rituals and codes, applying them to the urban jungle, getting hundred percent results for his master. A different matter that the world press shouted, “Murder of the human rights” and entire young generations were wiped out or missing . The town and the  country were plundered, raped and burnt. It all gave him a high. With the murder of dissent, the cult of disappearance, the secret eye, his mythical powers grew next to the Benevolent one. It was said he had secretly videotaped all sexual activities, underhand dealings, drug deals of the Group and the Great Man himself. The exposure meant certain death to them all. Besides, he had all the details of the money laundering and billions illegally stashed away in the Swiss banks.

Nobody dared question him.

When warning became acute of the impending revolt, he stashed the palace with arms and ammunition and drug money and planned their escape. So, everybody was in debt to the hated Gorilla for his/her life.

They were all thankful to the scar face for their timely escape from the jaws of death.

A wonderful feeling to be alive!

It was ruined fort, solid and massive, with parapets and walls. Still intact, obscured in the thick tree cove, standing on a steep hill, discovered by the Gorilla and his twenty soldiers, all armed and well-protected in their fatigues. Gorilla’s first love was technology. He had stashed hi-tech items in the cargo section of the jet over the last week. This had included all-season combat fatigues, night-vision goggles, sophisticated pistols and laser guns for his army of the chosen twenty. The elite of the elite corps of the secret service, the ultimate killing machines, programmed to kill and survive in the most hostile climates, loyal only to their chief. They could remain without food and water for many days, eating the natural resources available in their immediate local conditions- the all-terrain machines out to finish the job assigned at any cost. They were not afraid of any living things- fear was alien to their system- but only of their superior because failure meant death by the firing squad in the compound off the fortress- like headquarters of the Hydra- the secret police. They were not allowed to marry or drink. They were in the service of the nation and prepared for personal sacrifices. And they were paid King’s ransom for their loyalty. After a 5-years commission, they were repatriated to their local units in the Hydra and, handsomely rewarded, allowed to lead a normal social life. The money and prestige that went with the job were enough motivations for these men coming from an impoverished village background. Money, according to Gorilla, was the best invention of capitalism that could tempt even the saints. Money, babes, liqueur, food- these are the four universal temptations that can never be resisted, the only difference being that every victim picks his own choice of undoing. This brigade of 20, as it was unofficially called, was a Mossad and Navy seals amalgamated- they were not mercenaries, terrorists or pro killers; they were highly motivated and having their distinct ideology, much like Mossad, rooted in religion and a threat-perception unique to their strategically-located nation, in the international chess- game being played by U. S. A. and china, and the hegemonic ambitions of both the superpowers in their country evoked a jihadi xenophobia and anger. The foreign powers were committed to destabilize their country and any threat to the country was a personal threat to their own well-being. These powers and their agents were to be exterminated and threat postponed, naturally they saw enemy in the shadows and at home also.

The ideological programming suited Gorilla and the Prez. It paid dividends. A million ‘agents’ were massacred by the secret police and hundreds of dissidents finished by the brigade. The personal stakes of Gorilla were very high. By creating this parallel force, Gorilla- the survivor, was ensuring his own safety in the ever-changing political climate and the intrigues of the Group of the current administration, where nobody trusted anybody, and where the distance between a medal and sudden disgrace was only a pistol away whose trigger was in the hands of the highly moody, irritable, paranoid chief executive- the hangman in Gorilla’s personal lexicon- who was mercurial and awfully fickle- minded, “A man who would not trust even his own dad or son”. Gorilla was extremely terrified of this man whose power- hunger, ambition, greed, lust and a paranoia- had produced a strange chemistry within him that made him an absolute predatory beat in the human garb with a smiling face, dreamy eyes and English- educated, great intellect.

A cold killer of the highest order! Dada Amen or general Pinochet or Milosevic were his mere shadows. Gorilla despised this disgusting man. He called the man were wolf.

But, of this and much more, at a convenient point.

The important thing was that an ancient fort was discovered in an unexpected setting and unexpected way. The fort lay sprawled in the midday sun. The thick vegetation had obscured it from the prying eyes of any chance explore. The tropical forest, dense and impenetrable, rose around them like a vertical column, casting humid darkness everywhere, making the entire place shadowy and eerily unreal. The brigade, trained in the jungle warfare, found the whole setting to their liking. There was a deep solitude and majesty to the lime stone ruins, a pre-historic ageless splendor which evoked a worshipful attitude among the explorers who instinctively hesitated before entering the fort as if it were the sanctum sanctorum of a primeval shrine of the early faithful at the very dawn of time. Centuries sat upon each other in that place which was not violated by the human presence. Everything was preserved calm, acting upon the human nerves as a balm, made them relaxed for the first time. It soothed their fevered brains. They sat down, in the huge paved central courtyard, surrounded by the spirits of the forest, in a timeless zone.

They call it communing with nature.

By early evening the ancient fort was ready for occupation by the new settlers on the virgin island. The brigade had done a thorough job. They had cleared the weeded winding paths and made the inner chamber habitable, at least, for the time being. The great chamber was prepared for the party. The battery-operated flood-lights lit up the old chamber. A vast chamber, high-ceilinged windows set in the high walls, damp and moist with centuries old memories and impregnable solitude, became vibrant as the human footfall and voices echoed and bounced back from the bare stone walls, unsetting ghosts of a lost civilization, in that gloom. It is present meeting the hoary past, thought ex-president, who were the hands that built his fort on this steep hill? Were they advanced people like the Mayans and the Azteks ? Now, that entire civilization was permanently lost in the swirling mists of the time, with no trace left except this fort. A complete, vibrant culture reduced to dust, muted in these stonewalls, beyond retrieval. And outside world not even aware of their existence. I thought I was the universe , the heart of my nation, the most visible face of it, here I am, feeling so small and ordinary in these gloomy dancing shadows from the obscure past. These stonewalls had seen many royal banquets and revelries and wars and now nothing remains of that submerged history, only these magnificent solid ruins. Away from the civilization, in the middle of the jungle, out of the sudden encounter with the mythological past, the feeling of the utter insignificance and the twin ideas of mortality and total oblivion in the relentless and ceaseless motion of History over succeeding centuries. All the greats, after death, were as irrelevant and valueless as the masses.

These distinctions do not have any meaning to the logic of history. Out of the social ferment spring pharos and the plebeians and who are assigned to the dustbin, once they exhaust utility, to the tyranny of these impersonal forces of development. 

In the all-engulfing silence, humidity and dampness accumulated over the centuries in the fort; the brooding mysteries of the jungle hovering like restless creatures of the night, and intermittent jungle sounds combined with the sound of crashing waves of the ocean in the background created the magic of a primitive era on that moonless night for the new settlers, fresh from the urban experience, which was unique to their citified sensibilities. Through a time-warp, they in their own manner, experienced a journey sliding back to a time that was preserved intact on the island, an experience denied to a highly-regimented metro life style where nature has receded as quietly as a loser from the arena.

He saw the horseman clearly. Outside the ‘security parameter’ where ten commandos guarded the royal party from the jungle as a precaution, a hundred yards away from the great chamber, in the middle of the courtyard, clearly outlined against the leafy background, a tall robust man with piercing eyes and a royal presence that automatically commanded respect from the onlooker. He was riding a white stallion of the finest pedigree, the hair and beard flowing in the wind, a massive chest, a stern face and eyes that were blazing at the intruding aliens in that sacred enclosed space.

He was watching him only.

Minotaurch was not given to sudden flights of panicky fear. He was known for courage and bravery. He rubbed his eyes and pinched himself.

The apparition was for real. They were locked in staring contest. The horseman was radiating raw power and elemental energy, which he could feel immediately. Minotaurch had never seen such a commanding handsome person whose mere presence lit up the whole space with so much of the magnetic force and charismatic appeal.

It was like coming face-to-face with a rare heavenly spectacle. A royal resurrected from the tomb of buried centuries. Now they do not make them like this anymore!

The horseman, reading his mind, smiled dazzlingly.

Then he was gone!

A good omen! I am going to meet this handsome personage again.

Gorilla had few favorites. One of them was a man of medium size. Lean and thin with not an inch of extra fat, a lean fair face with a boyish look and an innocent smile, an ordinary guy you will fail to notice on a deserted street. He had a vulnerable look and a helplessness of a kid in social situations that instantly drew the sympathies of the female species who instinctively tried to reach out his natural disguises, this look of injured innocence and bewilderment along with a deliberately-cultivated habit of stammering, and it helped him pass as a man of no consequence, a man ordinary, in circles that mattered, where people found him an object of pity and ignored him within few seconds of polite talk. He would stammer so awfully and get so nervous in the parties that polite company avoided him for social embarrassment and left him in the corner with his martini. The rich and bored wives of the diplomats or ministers, all of them liked him for his expression of a whipped lapdog, his obedience, loyalty and total submission. The European women, the sexy Latinos, the Africans- all females of various capitals of the world liked their little professor of anthropology who constantly wore the whipped-dog expression and a gentle, docile manner which turned them on because they never expected such a female behavior from a male, at least, not from their egotistical violent philanderer husbands and lovers who treated their bodies and souls as waiters treat the soiled silver cutlery after the banquet. They felt powerful in the presence of this male, with tear-shaped spectacles perched on his nose, who never abused them and who was a polyglot, brilliant with math’s, and highly intellectual. Besides, he could walk your dog, iron the clothes, fix the tap in the kitchen, start a stubborn Porsche, knock out a swaggering drunk in the bar, recite Latin love poetry and Symbolists, tell you about the Egyptian pharos and the tribal organization of the Masai tribe, and, above all, ignite you in your skirt without touching you! Naturally an entire global army of wealthy powerful women was ever ready to do the bidding of their fabulous lover, even to jump in Seine or the nearest river at his command. He was the doer and thinker both- the ultimate fantasy of the female species. Besides, he always treated them with respect and gentleness and not as a decorative piece in his personal armory.

Not for nothing, he was called the chameleon.

Sitting in the corner, nursing his martini, alone and absorbed, he would watch them in those power lunches and dinners and mentally record everything. Arms deals, drug deals, executive decisions- everything interesting he could get from the wives, mistresses and daughters of the world politicians and generals. They themselves coaxed out the info from their men and lovers and fathers, without arousing suspicion in the least, for their little wonderful Romeo and the ‘book’ he was writing for the oxford!

He was no threat to any powerful male and easily domesticated by the jealous females who watched and guarded him as oriental girls their virginity.

This arrangement suited both the parties. It was jokingly suggested in the Hydra that he had climbed down drainage piped running near the windows of bedrooms, in the middle of the nights, in major capitals of the world, that he could write an expert book on the art of climbing the treacherous slippery drainage piped in the event of an unexpected, sudden arrival of a suspicious husband or an ageing keeper of voluptuous young mistress. The Chameleon count not is detected even by the counter-espionage cells of C. I. A. and K. G. B. The dream of every spymaster! A master with disguises, a Masters from Harvard in Anthropology, he was taught the art of wrestling and the poisons by the Apaches, Kung Fu by Master Lee. Even Carlos admire him.

The deadly assassin. The most deceptive man in the world of espionage.

Gorilla recruited him immediately and groomed him as his son and successor.

Chameleon- the vital link between Gorilla and the rest of the Hydra. When the elite brigade failed, he was given the impossible and finished the assignment on time. Chameleon- the brilliant  tactician. The suave face of the Hydra.

The ultimate. The champ. The deputy chief of the organization. Only  two people knew about his existence and real identity:  President and the Gorilla. There was no official record about him anywhere. He preferred the anonymity.

Outwardly he was living in one of the middle-class sections of the city Anaconda, in a two-roomed apartment, with a wife and two kids, a battered car and a dog, and a correspondent’s job in La Monde with flexi hours. As faceless as you and I in a city of 10 millions. Deception is the name of the power game, gorilla had declared once. Chameleon ardently believed in this maxim.

He was the last passenger on the palace on wheels.

And a key player in this unfolding saga of power, deception, treachery and murders.

Of him, again, at a later stage.

Colonization had begun.

They cleared the obstructing forest and cleaned the fort rooms. The fort, despite ravages of time, was in pretty good shape. From the towers, the sea a couple of miles down was visible. A winding paved path snaked down to the beach. The rooms were furnished with the bedding taken out from the jet. The iron doors were a bit rusted but quite serviceable. The rooms for the soldiers were built at a lower level and in a circular manner. The main chambers were built around the central courtyard, a twenty-minute walk away from the humble soldiers quarters, again in the semi-circular style, on a higher level, closer and interconnected, almost in the heart of the fort, or in the care of the innermost parameters of safety as Gorilla noted with amazed satisfaction. Half-a-mile down, on the lowest level, were again rooms that ran along the outer steep walls of the fort, without doors, each one to accommodate roughly forty people. A canal was apparently sunk in the central courtyard to irrigate the landscaped gardens. In the eastern side, facing the horizon was a carved marble structure, on an elevated mound, an open space with a high domed roof supported by marble pillars, a vast airy marbled hall with a wide and deep sacrificial pit. The pillars depicted scenes of the ritual worship of the gods, the chief deity being the sun god, followed by the cobra and the fierce wind and rain gods. The principle deity was shown as a terrific red-faced person, a thunderbolt held in a raised right hand, the left keeping the wind and the rain gods on a tight leash against a golden-coloured mountain kissed by clouds and drops of water.

A temple dedicated to the sun, observed Chameleon, a practice common to many aboriginal tribes of the world, a sacred place facing the sun in the east, where rituals carried out of please the sun. many tribes thought that the sun, finishing the day’s journey, dies a violent death in the evening, never to rise again, thus plunging the world into the terrors of unmitigated darkness, but as the yellow orb rose almost tentatively every morning in the east, they offered rituals to please and placate this fiery creatures in the mornings, without fail, a practice still observed in certain religions like the Hindus. The sacred place was so constructed as to catch the first morning rays and announce the birth of another day to the people lower down. The elevated structure was open to the winds and rains except its domed roof so that the sacred fire could be protected from the bad weather. The royal chambers were lower to the temple and equally airy and well lit. They had a high ceiling, latticed windows, marbled halls and covered balconies and wide verandahs. In the middle of this circular structure of decorated rooms was again a rectangular – shaped deeply sunk area enclosed by a marble wall of the height of a medium-sized person, the royal hamam, said our little professor of anthropology.

In the western ramparts, nestling under the shadows of trees, were the royal courts where the king sat for the audience and disposed off the petitions, the outer courts for the public and the inner ones for the select courtiers, as the frescoes clearly showed. The finely-etched and executed line drawing showed the kings and the courtiers hunting, fishing and feasting, the features of the kings refined, almost patrician, the color of the faces, light dark.

It signifies marriages between the invaders, Europeans probably, given their almost Greek-like chiseled handsome features, and the vanquished tribes of dark color, either Africans or the Central Americans claimed Chameleon. The cross-breeding means a couple of generations at least who lived in this vast, undulating fort, that is, a recorded history of the conquest of a pre-literate culture by the invaders, going back to, at least, two centuries. The privileged position of the new set of rulers in these drawings amply demonstrated that the conquerors were of advanced culture that had muted their native subjects. All the natives were pained in lowly positions and blended in the background. Maybe they were taken as slaves by the conquerors. Another important thing was the striking resemblance of these dark faced, wide-nosed, heavy-lipped natives, with flat hairs combed in the tradition of the Egyptian slaves, hairs that were not  curly, to each other :They were not shown possessing a distinct personality or varied  features of their race but as a race of humanoids with identical features, almost a tribe of hairy ape men, lost and intimidated in a highly-sophisticated culture, beyond their cognition, their status not more than a pet dog to their masters. A classic colonial ideology, said the anthropologist to his spellbound special class, in those hot and humid rooms, many months ago.

As far as I remember, he continued, the islands in the archipelago in the Pacific, right from the 16th century onwards, were sites of power struggle between various hostile European nations. The French, the Dutch, the Spanish, the Portuguese, and the British were involved with the others, in a bitter war for the colonies, and these islands were known for spices, tobacco and sugar plantations. Some even had rare diamond mines buried in the jungle, at the foot of the mountains, a sure temptation for the nations to fight among themselves for laying sovereignty to the islands of fabulous wealth.  Besides, these islands were to be converted into trading stations for the trafficking in ivory and slaves for the Western powers. America was proving to be a big voracious nation, for these imported slaves from Africa and such islands. So the whites arrived with their guns and boats and later on, the Bible, to claim and rule over these islands and nations. The paintings just show this kind of vandalism being given cultural legitimacy by the painters of the courts! The painters who were themselves implicated in giving shape to the conquest through cultural means. The class listened mesmerized.

Why worship of the elements, these elaborate rituals and a dedicated temple, if they were the Bible-toting white men? Such practices were not compatible with their religion, which was monolithic in its conception of God? At least, not animistic.

You have a valid point, Highness. You see I was giving generalizations about the political and economic aspects of a forced subjugation of a people who were not materially advanced to counter this type of invasion and tyranny, colonialism is the name of the game, this loot and plundering of the natives, just for profits.

Any student of comparative philosophy and history can tell that the early Christianity, as a religious practice of a minority- persecuted for its faith by the existing dominant religion, the so-called paganism of the Romans-itself appropriated the current feathers of that old religion which the new one wanted to supersede, at least the popular features of the religious practices of the community, and trained them in a transmuted form- the myth of resurrection. Always helped in appealing to the popular imagination.

Here also we are seeing the same design at work. The early invaders knew, through experience, that winning hearts of the dominated could be achieved by retaining their popular customs and practices, so they adopted their mythology wholesale , and I suspect, over the years, came to believe in these practices for continuing in power, as a matter-of-fact they drove their power from these totemic powers, an equivalent of the divine- contract theory of the kings the world around, a delegation of the earthly powers to these usurpers by the divine forces. It earned them the loyalty and superstition of the dominated. Another point: the early colonizers were not prejudiced and aggressive in pushing their religious agenda, as were their 18th, 19th century successors; civilizing and saving the souls of their pagan subjects were not primary concerns for these early aggressors, they were keen for profits, power, good life and were slightly deficient in the later evangelical zeal of their successors, consequently their openness and receptivity or lack of biases and a distorting view helped them in integrating them with the local conditions and enjoying the hedonistic spirit of paganism. Resurrection, for example, can be traced to the Egyptian myth of Osiris, the god dead and risen. Then, Ionian Greeks accepting Crete culture; Romans, the Greek culture. You see the point ? Moguls? Synthesis of their belief system and the  Hindu system. And the later crusading Christianity blending with the local cultures, speaking in their languages and idioms, the nativization of their names, etc.

A mile down the Western ramparts were small window-less room meant for the slaves. The etchings in these rooms threw open a vastly different past to the newly arrived settlers. The barracks were gloomy and haunted by sadness, misery and humiliations of the slaves, standing out through the mists of time, you could feel those histories of brutalized dreams and deprivations, of the loss of individuality and dignity, of men turning into their opposite- an object of labour, means of wealth, for their masters, and no more, an over-worked mule, with no human attributes and emotions. “It is a different time zone; an opposite consciousness viewing things from the other end.”

The crude drawings showed the tortured animals, men with the animal heads, men with tails and claws, horns and blazing eyes. The slaves, agonized relations with an unequal, unjust world. In a very clever manner, with mythical narrative devices, the rulers were shown being trampled upon by an army of fantastic animals and birds, the artistic inversion of the actual world in the realm of imaginative! The artists carefully concealed their intention and the identity of the rulers. For any casual visitors to the barracks,  these twisted men-animals were nothing but the product of a savage mind, but for the that mind, it was an expression of a latent human desire of confronting and controlling an external alien force powerful than the primitive one. In short, art as a means of power, magic over a more brute agency, beyond cognition and comprehension for a simple non-technical consciousness of the primitive artists. The sleepy dusty centuries , buried in those hopeless barracks, got regenerated there at that moment for the royal class, through the gentle academician’s voice of the chameleon , whose first love was anthropology Claude Levi-Strauss, in the Paris of the 50s. o borrow a phrase from Saul Bellow, our Chameleon was a “deep reader”, to whom philosophy, classics, linguistics and math’s, that is, things abstract and analytical, gave a sense of jouissance matched only by the art of assassination, where his cold mind was in perfect control, body anticipating a sense of orgasm that would relieved all tensions and make him feel light and floating. “I am an author, a novelist, during such assignments, perfectly in control over his medium, deliberate and conscious.”

This irreverent attitude towards the most privileged form of the Western literature once scandalized an Oxford don greatly. The tea party was on in the lawn of the home of the don, undergrads circulating freely, stiff professors discussing merits and demerits of Marquez on that late afternoon in the early 70s,when the bespectacled don said hoarsely, “You must be insane … making such absurd claims. Either insane or drunk!”

 

He could see the little don himself on the edge of insanity.

“I can prove it”, he said quietly, the eyes glittering, voice steely. A most dangerous guy during such moments when the assassin tried to surface out of that ordinary facade.

“Prove it”, the professor croaked, sweaty and nervous.

“O.K. Listen”.

“Go ahead”.

“An assassin lives by violence. O. K.?”

“No doubt there.”

“You agree”.

“Yes, I do.”

“You also agree that the methods employed are also violent.”

“Yes, I do. Certainly”.

 “In the same manner, a poet does an organized violence to the language, doesn’t he?”

“So what? I do not get you”.

“Simple. A poet, a novelist, a painter, through linguistic violence and stylistics, kills exhausted, over-used literary forms, overthrows the old irrelevant forms and thus, by violence and annihilation, innovates, renews and recreates a new from adequate to his own content.”

The little don, fat and fiftyish, living in the world of books and looking at the world through literary books, was speechless. “You talk like the Metaphysical John Donne, young man”, he could speak, barely audible, in a voice choked with a raging fury. “Exactly, professor. I have used an analogy, violent and farfetched, which would have delighted Donne no end.” Professor’s eyes, beneath the loud message: If I were to lay my hands on this Eastern imposter…. Only my reserved nature and sense of decorum prevents me from murdering this…. This, a, foreigner! Gawd! Chameleon was enjoying.

“Look, Doctor, what Symbolists did? Impressionists. Cubists. Proust. Joyce. Eliot. Beckett. They all murdered old language and conventions and recreated a ne, vital form of literature. A symbolic murder! Murder and death leading to regeneration. That is like the myth of Osiris who dies only to be reborn in a more vital form. An assassin also performs the same unpleasant task. Disposes off a useless guy. Gets paid for doing a fine job. In case, assassin messes up the whole lousy thing, he creates stink, and death awaits him for this unproductive violence”.

Need not be said the old professor’s remaining day was totally spoilt. They occasionally met in the town, but it was the professor who would do the vanishing act by ducking behind parked cars, starting the entwined lovers there, pretending to be checking the license-plates!

Chameleon called this type of lit as the ecriture nouveau, new writing , a phrase picked up by an American critic, working for the New Yorker, who made it fashionable for that type of writing which evades, challenges, undermines and finally subverts the dominant traditions by innovation , invention and renewal of the existing ossified forms.

“Content in search of fresh forms. We no longer need passive recorders of reality but thinking characters who have this genuine need to make sense of experience, life and world. Who are questioning old assumptions and certainties, no longer relevant, to the contemporary conditions of existence, and, who are formulating new modes of apprehending the world. In a way, making sense of a world, creating it in their unique way”.

Nobody could suspect remotely that this ‘professor’ of anthropology, with wide-ranging interesting in music, archaeology, history and what not, was the most deadly assassin of the international world of espionage and terrorism who had murdered powerful people inconvenient to the regime and blown away planes and embassies of the western powers in order to spread a reign of terror, power hostile to his country.

A brilliant mind, trapped in a wrong body! Summed up his seniors.

This digression helps understand the purely analytical mind of the Chameleon, whose penetrating logical analysis could break down the veils of the centuries and deftly revel the essence of things in a reassembled form.

Things in a fresh light!

Power fascinated him. Power as a historical product. The way it has been constructed. The way men rule over others, in the name of competing ideologies. The way it degrades and depersonalizes its recipients and the people going to be subordinated by it.

The binary pairing of the dominant/subordinate; mighty/weak; master/ slave; master races/ servant races; white/ black. He  studied world philosophies and popular cultures to understand the manner in which discourses of power have been constructed to justify exploitation of man by man, in the most brazen fashion. While studying and explaining the significance of the primitive crude wall-drawing to the royal class in the damp gloom of the barracks centuries-old, he was suddenly stuck by an epiphany of a simple truth, profound in implications, that the resistance to power was a human attribute and a desire, as ancient as the unjust world, uniquely human quality which could never be suppressed by the most totalitarian system of the world, at any period of time.

The resisting impulse to power was as strong, if not exactly equal to, as the universal desire to posses power.

For every Marcus Licinoius Crassus, there is a Spartacus, 74 B. C. Whether it is the literary impulse or the political one, the resistance is there, latent or active, in all of us to challenge any totalitarian form of oppression, in any sphere of the social life and strive to achieve a harmonious balance between the regenerated form and new content, in an endless struggle for the ideal. Human yearning for the ideal has never dimmed, howsoever illusory it may be. In a way, it is spring of human dynamics, action, and praxis.

Once it is realized, the world will stop growing.

At the back of the barracks, the flight of stairs led down to the underground, the dungeons, where amid damp dark and dead air, illuminated by torches of the commandos, was a huge pile of bleached bones and skulls. There were chains and instruments of terror lying about. The place was full of ghosts!

They hurriedly came out of the depths, emerging in the fresh air, as a band of badly shaken tourists, from Auschwitz. It was a universal story: domination defiance, terror. Bones and skulls, with gaping sockets and a tortured death grin, mocking the terror, whose representatives were now dust, grinning at the absurdity of the iron chains and other apparatuses, showing the ultimate triumph of defiance over the state.

From Prometheus via Spartacus to nelson Mandela- the spirit of the marginalized, the oppressed could not be broken even by the most sophisticated instruments of the star chambers of the states, throughout ages, in the world.

A diary was discovered, in a sheepskin bag, in one of the outer rooms of the fort, written in English by an English sailor Francis drake in the year 1900. The hand was neat and small. It was a day-to-day record of his existence on the island. A couple or entries were pretty interesting.

This entry, for example:

                                                                    

                                                                                                16th June, 1900

I, Francis drake, of Great Britain, left on this devil’s island by my merchant ship, for insubordination and rebellion by the captain, on the third morning of my stay as a marooned seaman here, hereby do declare myself as the sovereign of this island in the name of the King and the Queen, and in the name of our glorious Empress Victoria, under whose benevolent rule, the sun never set on the empire. Empress Victoria is true British. During her reign, Britain ruled the waves, and, God bless her soul, our tiny cold rain-lashed island could become the greatest power on earth! Her rule brought great prosperity and wealth to our nation, and light to the bloody heathens, the dark-skinned peoples of despotic Asia and dark Africa, who worshipped false gods and led an evil life. The merchants and priests of the Empress brought order and our Lord, the Savior, our Jesus, to these Barbarians.  The Englishman civilized these continents, educated the bloody natives and converted them the animals, these creatures of a lower scale to the God’s ways.

I, Francis Drake, of Great Britain, tae this island, in the name of the King and Queen and our just God, and hereby solemnly declare the island before God, I hold the power in the name of Britain, and although lord and the King of this wilderness, I remain a loyal subject and a regent only of our Monarch.

 

Glory to our just God and England! Amen!

This fellow was either raving mad, unhinged by the remoteness and wilderness of the island, or suffering from the grand delusions of an empire-building, so common to the petty mediocrity, sent as minor officers of the empire to the far-flung colonies where, the only white presence with the project of empire-building and consolidation, they were revered by the natives or hated by them, the whole experience either making them feel as the Lord or go crazy in the lonely outposts of progress. A theme explored by Conrad, Kipling and Maugham, thought the new King, Minotaurch, bemusedly.

The following entries, random, are also interesting.

                                                                                                             

                                                                                                              August, 1900

 

The island, known as the Devils Island, is crawling with fantastic creatures, the spirits of the forest. The seamen plying  this route and the folklores circulating the widely- scattered islands and the trading stations tell of these dreaded creatures, half-men and half-animals, inhabiting the island , who  materialize and vanish like the winds. The Europeans and the Negroes dread this island where flying creatures of fantastic strength and power kill any stray alien.

Only God can save me!

Yesterday, for example. I see this creature, in the dim light of the rain forest. I sees and feels the blurred thing. Huge, monstrous. The face of the horned ox, a painted black body, and the agility of a monkey. As I turn around and looks hard in the thick shadows, the creatures as silent as the tiger, melts in the shadows, without sounds of retreating foot falls. My hairs stand. I say, Hullo there, any Englishman? Because often ships abandon their rough seamen on this island where, marooned, they die of madness or disease like malaria, diarrhea. No answer. I feel the blazing eyes of the monster and look around. I am sure the creatures was there! I does not imagine things. I cannot crack up by this lousy place. The worst beatings cannot break me. My Scottish captain knows this, let his damned soul roast in hell. Always cursing and mocking the English sailors, this bloody Scot!

One of these days, I is going to kill the bloody bastard, this scot ape the author of my present fate.

Am I going soft in brain?

The bloody wilderness can unsettle. I see ghosts everywhere, in the fort- a horseman, in the forest- the horned ox-men always following in the shadows, in the treetops- shadowy monkey- men, all of them watching silently, driving me mad. The untamed nature, the wilds, the deep forests, are hostile to single, isolated modern man, who cannot handle them at all. They can swamp and kill the civilized mind, in degrees.

A giant monster to this puny man. My just God, my Christian faith can save me from these pagan ghosts. Amen!

I have lost sense of Time.

I drew lines on the fort walls to keep track of time. Then I got muddled up, lost count.

Does it matter?

Time, an invention of the civilized mind, does not operate in this abyss.

Every day is like the before and to follow, in the shadow of the tall forest, brooding and silent, unchanged.

A dumb giant!

I no longer care.

Time has no meaning.

So, goodbye, Time.

Ta Ta Bye Bye.

A major pillar of civilization has fallen for me!

I am becoming earthman.

The jungle man.

My beard, hair have grown. The depth of silence- broken by the forest voices- is eerie.

It drives me to madness.

Before this depth swallows me up, I try various ways of staying alive.

I talk to myself about rainy London pubs, the excitement of Trafalgar square, king’s cross station, the bustling West End, the external charm of the Thames, the changing of guards at the Buckingham Palace, of Piccadilly, of Hyde park. I talk and talk with myself.

Exhausted, I go to sleep, seeing English villages in dreams.

Then, waking up, I listen to the birds and mimic their voices. I can do 20 bird-voices perfectly. I can mimic wind’s voices also. And of the sea, too!

I whistle, moan, whisper, starling the birds. I laugh like hyenas and roar like the lions.

What a fun!

I measure days by the progress of sun.

Afraid I am becoming jungle-man.

Have you ever felt marooned? Awful! Horrible! Away from the sounds, sights, color of London, the greatest city on the earth, and the picturesque, quaint little English village, with their greenery and the churches, you feel trapped in the jungle, which is like being trapped in a womb, a second time.

It can eat you up. Swallow you. Unless you understand the jungle. Then you are part of it and welcome addition.

I mimic birds. I count stars. I see the beauty of the full moon. I can identify jungle sounds. My hearing has become sharp. The beast no longer scares me but I scare them!

Generally they do not touch you. I am beginning to feel safer! If I do not respect jungle, it will kill me. Jungle- home to our ancestors- home still to savages.

I write this diary to keep touch with my writing self.

My account here that keeps me sane.

It is like a written dialogue with self.

In our culture, the literate western one I mean, diary writing has an important place. You can clarify. Pour out thoughts. Can straighten them out, sorting out. An important record!

The important of language: you can understand and describe world through this.

An important weapon.

The jungle also has a language of its own.

Yesterday I saw a horrible sight.

It curdled my blood. I could not believe my eyes!

Half-a-mile from the fort, in the northern direction, near the mound where royals are buried, I found a skeleton, bleached and broken, under a tree, placed in a prominent position.

Anybody could see it reclining against the tree.

A marooned sailor?

Half-a-mile away, in the direction of the sea, near the beach, another propped-up skeleton. Then, six hundred yards or so, three more skeletons piled up, near the coconut tree. Then, walking from, in the middle of the thick jungle, placed on the trail leading to the fort, horizontally, a pile of white dried human bones. As if somebody was trying to give out the message that these poor souls had met the terrible fate, awaiting similar fate as of the same tribe. Venture not! That is the message, I suppose.

Whosoever has done them must be awfully cruel. Intelligent also. For nothing, it is called Devil’s Island. The sailors and the natives call it haunted. Nobody survives there. They talk of fantastic creatures that appear and melt away in a jiffy. I am also being watched by these invisible forces. I can feel it. The fort is saving me. For example, I am walking back from the beach. The mid-day sun is hot. The jungle is humid and dark; I have my gun and the knife. Ample ammunition has been left by that bloody Scot at my disposal. Clothes, food, matchboxes and candles, binoculars, hunting knives- all in ample quantity. Like many seamen, the Scot is also superstitions. Does not want the ghost of  a marooned sailor on his conscience1 Sailors often see the  unredeemed spirits of the dead seamen on the foggy nights, the spirits of their friends who died on board and were pushed overboard in the sea for the waiting sharks there!

The spirits are known to rise up from the sea on the cloudless dark nights and  beckon their mates on board. Hypnotized, these poor souls jump overboard and drown in the choppy seas, the home and grave of the seafarers.

So, I am going back to the fort. I hear the footfalls loud and clear. Gripping my gun, I spin around, and see a fleeting shadow merging with the misty background of the tropical jungle. It can be upsetting! Being hounded, cased, stalked. On a deserted island. What do they want? I resume walking. And I hear footfalls, my hearing sharp and sensitive, I hear breathing. I stop and turn around. Nobody! I reach and fort. The sounds stop. As if mortally afraid of the fort such a big mystery!

Is it devil? I can feel devil with my cross and Bible. It never shows up. Only follow me. It wants to frighten me.

Who are these skeletons?

Who killed them?

Who arranged them such a way that they are visible to any chance traveler or outsider.

I guess some intelligent bloke is displaying them as exhibits of his crime and taunting the occasional explorer to come get him.

Does such an intelligent creatures inhabit this island?

Where ?

God’s is my strength.

I am going to catch the bastard and bring justice to him.

I am alert.

The journal!

Kept on the upper ledge of the thrown-room of the fort. It fell down right before me by the force of the rain-driven wind the blast of which enters through the wide gaps. It looks it was pushed down by the spirits of the dead men whose skeletons were discovered by me. In the fading light I went through the journal. Established contact with the civilized world gain. The dead were speaking through the journal to their compatriot, in an unusual but common setting. That is the power of language and the recorded journal. The dead rise again!

To sum up, for any future reader of my diary, the chances being  less as who will come to visit this wilderness.

But who knows?

Someday, somebody may come here in the wilds.

Forced by the circumstances as I was.

To that reader.

The journal, dated 1908, is a series of long and small entries by the group leader.

An expedition was sent by the governor of the Solomon Islands to map out the Devil’s Island, in the name of the British monarch. There were thirty British people and 150 Negroes on the ship Britannica. The large and swift ship was loaded with provisions and ammunition enough to last a year. William Clive, a descendent of Lord Clive who ruled over Hindoostan or India, was the leader. He was the archaeologist of good international standing. A whole team of experts was helping him in mapping out the island. The team had surveyed the island in different boats. According to them, the islands is 350 miles long. The coconut trees, coffee, sugar and rubber plants could be seen on the island. The tropical island, for the most part, is deserted. Exotic birds and animals live in the jungle. The heavily forested hills rise up in the jungle like an upraised, tight fist. Except the area near the shoreline, the heart of the island is still not accessible on account of a dense forest. There are no roads or good trails. It is risky to venture out into its heart, as there are no expert guides. Once lost in the wildness, an explore can never hope to find his way back home. The surveyors also thought that the island might have silver mines also!

William Clive, during his five-month stay, had dug up the history of the fort. He carried out excavations on certain select areas. On the basis of the clay poets, stone tablets, pieces of porcelain and clothes, Clive was able to find out the age of the fort. Probably the fort was made around the year 1550s by the Spanish warriors with the help of the local slaves from the nearby islands and Devil’s Island itself. The fort was rebuilt in 1760s by the successors of these Spaniards and the slaves settled on the island. Stone tables and other records, Clive tells us, speak of constant war between the rulers and the natives who were fierce warriors themselves. May by they were, Clive goes on in his journal, people of Melanesian origins forcefully settled there and who interbred with the small clans of the local natives over the years, who never liked their masters. They were cannibals and head-hunters, deadly with their poison-tipped arrows and javelins, muscular and short and dark-skinned who never forgot and forgave any insult, and a much dreaded tribe for the rulers and the natives of the neighboring islands.

They were suppressed repeatedly. Perhaps, hundred years ago, the natives overran the fort and massacred the bastardized rulers who had interbred with the locals and grown careless. Clive tells of certain painting, which depict the war, found in a series of caves on a hill sixty miles from the fort, done by the victorious natives. The bodies of the rulers were shown in them as being eaten by the clan around bonfires so that they can possess the powers of the white man.

Since then, the fort was never inhabited and went to the ruins. Where does the clan go?

Clive has no answer.

Yesterday horrible.

I sitting under the tree and gazing at the Pacific Ocean, remembering things. The shoreline stretching. Cool breeze coming and fanning. I dozing off, seeing English villages, the English rain, and the church steeples. The hulk of Victoria bobbling up and down in the gentle sea, a misty grey rain coming off the sea and washing the ship’s decks in strong patters, a grey mist spreading. Seeing mother, dead mother, smiling and waving. Little pink-faced Elizabeth waving at me. The London pubs. The whore. I waking up.

Jesus, holy Gawd!

What do we have here?

The white bleached skeleton, the full human skeleton, lying a few feet away from me, the gaping skull looking at me. Mother Mary! It was not there, some half-an-hour ago!

I am sure about that.

I come to the shore daily. I sit under the tree and watch the sea for hours, hoping to catch a ship out there. I sit, stretch, run, shout, sweat out there.

I was keeping my routine.

I must have dozen off.

Who placed the skeleton?

Surely the murderer who had killed these people.

A warning to me?

Let me catch the bastard.

Why does he not show up?

Wants to frighten me out of my wits.

I am not a game, as my American mate Bill would say.

I am going to kill this monster.

 

Jesus is on my side. Nobody can harm me. And I have my gun, revolver and knives.

Amen!

I had my first encounter with Evil. I have selected a trail, less thick, which leads to the main cobbled entrance to the fort. Huge iron doors with sharp iron spikes still guard the entry to the fort. This trail is less dangerous and more open. The trial is roughly four miles from the beach to the fort and well-lit by the afternoon sun.

Yesterday I was returning around afternoon, having killed fowls and birds , when taking a winding turn, I see the figure with a bull’s face, horns and bulging tongue, red piercing eyes, and the short and stocky body of a warrior. The evil form just burst out of the uneven grassy ground- I cannot, for Chrissake, say anything definite. I was so started I was rooted to the same spot. Spell-bound. Stock-still. My instincts told me to take out my revolver but hands were frozen, the will blunted, fear churning my stomach.  The horrible stinking figure fixed me with a dull stare, which bored into my skin like the hot irons. It just stood and stared with death’s grin. The figure was not very clear in the noon shadows of the jungle but visible enough. The shadow, which followed me often and tormented me? The devil in the human form with his hideous face? The jungle can make you jumpy and frightened. You are on your edge.

There was a loud shrieking sound at my back, the sound of a falcon. I turned around my face and looked up. There was no falcon. Or was it an eagle?

I turned back, right hand clutching the birds’ carcasses, left on the revolver.

 

There was nobody there!

I felt the ground shaking. Is the jungle fever catching up? Was I seeing things? I saw evil figure. Right there, in front of me. And then the devil vanishes! Was it an illusion? But devil exists, I sure about it. The lord, our Jesus, drove away he ghosts and devils, the evil spirits possessing people. Then there is the Loch monster of the Scottish lake. There are many houses in the English countryside haunted by the dead.

The evil exists. The devil was there to torment me, no doubt.

The cross saved me.

Some how they do not cross the fort. They are awfully terrified of it and stop just before the gates of the fort, afraid to move inside. The solid fort, long and rambling on top of the steep wooded hill, 7 mile long and 5 mile wide, is my safe haven from them. The parapets have crumbled on the eastern and western side, the huge stones dislodged in most places, the walls breached by the passage of time and the wild grass, but otherwise it is in pretty good shape. It badly needs repairs. Once repaired, it can stand for 200 hundred years or more. Here, I feel safe. I can feel the dead Europeans moving around during dark grim nights but I know they will never hurt on of their own.

I have always admired European and British empire-builders. The little men and women with a romantic quest for the unknown. These adventures souls left their homes and hearths and came to hostile countries, with a belief in God, themselves and the superior civilization which the Western civilization definitely is, and turned the dark Africa, despite Asia, The far East into beacons of progress and development. They united these barbarians into single nations through Western education and the English, French, Spanish and saved their souls from eternal damnation for believing in their false gods. Merchants and priests- together they have done a marvelous job which no navy or army could achieve. They have brought money and wealth to heir motherlands, peace order to the savages and barbarians. Western values and culture to hostile lands and thus, made them new. I salute the pioneering spirit of the Western man, the superior man, whom no odds can weigh down. He is the chosen one of the God.

I sees them everywhere. Springing out from the crevices, nooks and corners- like the mushrooms. They are watching me. I sure about it. I is going to die here under this foreign sky. Dysentery and fever is not subsiding. Going to meet my maker soon.

I sees them all- vividly, clearly. They are waiting and watching as patiently as the jackals watch the lions eating the kill.

I knows they going to kill me and eat me up. I knows sure.

They follow me daily to the gates of the fort.

Yesterday the whole day I was in delirium.

Floating in and out.

Mama came to me, dear mama. Papa came to me, rising up from the mists, smiling.

My village, London, floated up and down in the river of memories. Little Elisa, my woman Jane, Henry and Peter, my robust ruddy sons.

Some dead, some living.

London Street drenched in soft gentle rain, wrapping it in a grey fast-moving cover, shivering and wet in the wind coming off the graceful Thames, the gray rain lashing the eternally-handsome river.

The crooked streets of my village wet in the wind-driven rain hovering and then gliding like a ballet-dancer. The quaint little neat white-painted cottages, red-tiled sloping roofs and the chimneys thrusting out, spires of the red-bricked church, the humble roughly-hewn graves in the graveyard, the common green outside. The English frosty winter and the marvelous summer!

My Gawd, Jesus! How real they look in your feverish dreams! I can feel and smell them so close. My poor lovely heart burst out and I cried, papa surfaced out of the depths of mines, as in a remote past, drunks as usual, singing and rough, covered in soot, swaggering, “You going out to sea, my eldest, my dearest. Good! Sea always better than the coal mines. I is nobody. N-O-B-O-D-Y. I is but coal dust of the big empire. Sea better! Go and bring glory to little England and a bit money to your poor family. Bye, Sonny.”

Father embracing the eldest.

Mama crying. Brother John misty.

The dead of the family coming to me in my fevered state for last many days.

Am I dying?

Jesus save me from this death in a foreign land under strange stars amid the ruins of the past and the cruel wilderness near an alien sea. Alone and dead, unmarked and uncared, on the Devil’s Island, like Clive and his party.

Anyone who reads this should offer a prayer to an unknown Englishman whose romance with the sea may end abruptly and unheroically. A romance forced because an able-bodied, semi-literate man, coming from the working-class family, does not have much choice in case of careers.

Either mines or the sea!

Dusty death.

Or death by the choppy angry sea.

Death for a nobody!

All my illusions are over.

I am just nobody in this god’s world.

A minor player.

I pour out my heart in this diary to keep up talking to myself, to be in touch with the English language. Difficult to remember English here!

Hararas are coming . have invaded. Shrieking. Dancing. In hundreds. I am in hiding and writings this entry furiously.

Harara- the fierce ones.

Harara- the devil!

Harara- the killers.

They will get me, sure. Waiting and watching.

Hyenas of the jungle.

Wolves of the jungle.

Patient as the vulture.

They are coming. Bye! Bye!

The poor wretch! A wretched end to a wretched existence! Thought the ex-president, looking at the dried-up blood stains on the diary’s last pages.

The English sailor was, perhaps, murdered by the dreaded Hararas. Who, the hell, are these Hararas?

Some mythical creatures? Devil’s army?

Or the plain imagining of a fevered mind of a marooned seaman abandoned on the island for rebellion and violence? A standard punishment for such mutineers in the 19th century sea-faring world.

The Hararas, said Chameleon, are the most feared tribe this side of the Pacific. They are fiercely independent and abhor contact with the outside world. Zealously guard their isolation. They are the descendants of the now-dwindling Arara tribe still found in the Brazilian rain forest, the total number of Araras being 200! The Hararas migrated from Africa, the common home to all human kind, some 11,000 years ago and settled down on the various islands of the Pacific Ocean. They are hunters and food gatherers, living in a clan, dependent on the forest for their food and clothing. They are known to be cannibalists, good musicians and very sharp hunters. Have an amazing capacity to mimic birds and animals. In the 1850s a missionary Henry Livingston, a distant relative of David Livingston, was able to penetrate their close-knit clan society and observe them closely. The first and the last White to enter their isolated world, Henry was himself converted to their philosophy respecting ecosystem to mother nature, their simple basic needs, and a strong sense of community values. They worshipped the forest spirits, never killed more than their requirements, lived in perfect harmony with nature and the other members of the clan. They never plundered the forest for selfish greed or profit, like their civilized counterparts of the industrial world, and lived a simple life where the clan, the tribe, was more important than the individual. Their universe was the forest, which provided for their very limited basic needs, their mythology, and a rustic place for their dead. The Harara instinctively realized the Western world could realize in the 20th century only: that the forest was essential for the very survival of this planet. A current version of their life-style, a more secular and sophisticated one, is the self-enclosed and self-reliant kibbutz of Israel, or the communes where sects or new religions offer an alternative communes way of living, based on minimal needs and the brotherhood of love, in direct opposition to the extremely materialistic, consumerist society of the West. Henry Livingston was deeply impressed by their simple, non-aggressive style of living within their own community. “The Hararas are the children of the forest. Very caring affectionate folks. Have minimal needs. The individual is not significant for them, the group is, much like to children everywhere, who feel fulfilled when inside and part of a group, and abandoned lonely, outside their play-group. Of course, when they grow up, they lose this natural capacity of kinship with the group in our fiercely competitively and individualistic Western Society. The Hararas are gentle as a lamb, when friendly, and as vindictive as a mad tusker, when provoked. The enemy who earns the wrath of these peace-living innocent people is in mortal danger, for their enemies never survive to tell tales to the world. They hate hypocrisy, lies, betrayal. And the White man for stealing their lands and forests, much like the Red Indians.”

Marvelous! Thought Minotaurch, this man sure is an asset for us, with his prodigious reading and a photographic memory.

The story of Henry Livingston finding the Harara acceptance and approval reads like a romance.

Armed with the Bible and boxes of medicines and clothes, the fearless Scottish missionary, went out in a canoe to the islands where ‘Savages’ were settled. Washed ashore by a strong wind and a powerful current, he reaches an island in the afternoon and alights there. He finds a dark-skinned wooly-headed youth near a clump of trees shivering awfully and running a high temperature. He pours out water in his flask and mixes the ground quinine tablets in it and administers it to the feverish helpless youth, for whom any human help is welcome, all the time being watched from the shadows by the fierce, angry tribe. Course the missionary was not aware of the presence of the tribe or the fact that the youth was abandoned to die of the ‘Shaking fever’ on the beach by the tribe as the fever was a sign of gods’ wrath which was visiting the hapless youth. The youth, of course, recovered fast from his malarial fever, thanks to the white medicine, and who could walk steadily within ten hours. He bows to the white man and the members of the tribe surround the stranger and take him to their chief’s hut. The youth, as happens in such tales of coincidences, is the eldest son of the chief. The shame-faced chief, feeling guilty on account of the shaking fever and the wrath of the gods visiting his own family, is saved from humiliation and boycott of the community. The jubiliant chief treats him, Henry, as his younger brother, admitting him promptly into the mysterious world of the dreaded Hararas. Gradually Henry got totally assimilated into the primitive world of his adopted community and accepted their worldview by becoming one of them, by marrying the native woman, and living like them in the island as the White Harara.

Over the time, the legend of the White Harara spread throughout the islands and the trading stations as far as Africa. Americans came to know about him in the late 1810s and one of the White Harara. He spent months in the island and got permission of Livingston to read and possess the extensive diary, which the missionary was able to maintain. His account of the Hararas was published by Hogarth Press, London. The story of Livingston’s discovery, conversation and full integration within the Hararas community created sensation in the English-speaking world. The discovery of an aboriginal tribe of hunters and food-gatherers, their polygamous and ancestor-worshipping culture, their deep isolation caused much excitement. National geographic sent a well-assembled team of anthropologies to study this tiny community of 1,000 people. The team was greeted with poisoned-tipped arrows. The White Harara, like his native brethren, wanted no contact with the civilized world of the West.

“Contact with the civilized world is a plague for the Harara”, wrote the converted occidental, “It will wipe out the entire way of life and culture of a community which is religiously following a nature-based life-style of the primitive people, our ancestors, at the dawn of the human civilization. Such existence, fragile and threatened, is fast disappearing, with the wholesale massacre of such tribes or their forced conversion to Christianity, and a precious, unique life-style is lost forever to the mists of time.”

No doubt, Livingston deserved his new title.

Since then, the Livingstone account, a painstaking and exhausted account, extremely reliable and authentic is the only historical account of an old tribe and its prime real culture available in the Western world. It is called My tryst with a Vanished Time and a few copies are, in reprints, available in the libraries of National Geographic and the Royal society, London.

Of course, need not to say, this is a wonderful tryst with a lost time. Written in heavy Victorian prose of the times, slightly romantic in its longing for simplicity of life and communal orientation of that culture, the book is really enjoyable. It documents a community, which has never been observed since then. It may have certain flaws but it sure is an important document about a very old tribe.

“So, the Hararas murdered the English Seaman Francis drake and earlier the British expedition led by William Clive”. “Well your Majesty, it appears so. The modus operandi mentioned in the book by the White Harara is almost same. They first stalk the victim very quietly and stealthily like a tiger-they easily blend with the forest in green/grey-painted bodies and the colorful headgears of green leaves and shoots-always surprising him at the most unsuspecting moments. Easily appear and disappear like a ghost in the shadows of the forest. These fleeting sightings of painted, atrociously dressed creatures in the fading light of a dark still jungle which urban mind cannot comprehend, adds mystery and terror to a fast-disintegrating mind. It starts hallucinating in the jungle, feeling trapped and hopeless, and becomes susceptible o the external suggestions that the person is being haunted by the evil spirits. Meanwhile the ever-watching patient warriors swoop down on the victim when he is the most vulnerable and depressed, his defense mechanism very low, and finish him off. Skeletons of the victims are placed strategically to warn other intruders about the similar fate for them, if they do not pack off.”

“The primitive version of a serial killer or a mass-murderer?”

“No, Highness, I am afraid not. A serial killer is a stalker, chooses hi victims carefully who are helpless and defenseless like women, children or the old, and kills them in a ritualistic cold-blooded manner. He suffers from some emotional trauma, this pathological killer and finds some folks as his hate- object: calls-girls, Hispanics, blacks, gypsies, and old persons- those sectors whom he finds inferior and unproductive. His thinking is perverted. He has no control over his actions and has moral deficiency of character. He teases victims and the police. He taunts them to catch him, if they can. He gets a high out of killing innocent and helpless victims.”

The group was again hypnotized! “The Hararas are peaceful people. Non-threatening and non-aggressive. They are forced to kill those who, in their perception, are threatening their safety, their lands, life. If they do not eliminate this bigger threat, they feel they would be wiped out. So, they resort to killing, in order to survive an unequal situation. We cannot judge them with our standards. Let me take up another metaphor: Nations at war. The aggressor wants to gobble up a larger chunk of the territory of a weaker nation, which has to wage an unequal war against the aggressor. Vietnam, remember? It is a do-or-die situation far the threatened nation. Their rhetoric, hysteria, perceptions, and coverage- everything would be mutually different. In the same way, modern rulers and the dictators also eliminate any potential threat to their safety.   They have their own justifying logic for their actions. They are also a good example of mass-murderers. Stalin? Hitler? Mussolini? Franco? The list of the 20th century mass-murderers is long and impressive.”

Mass-murderers, President, Resign! The voices, remote, hummed loudly. Sweaty faces, against barricades, shouting in the summer heat. The helmeted police in the riot-gear. Frenzied air. Students, teachers, lawyers, journalists, mothers. Angry and shouting in the central courtyard of the Supreme Court:

“Murderer of democracy.”

“We want the missing back.”

“People want justice.”

“President and the Group are corrupt and Killers!”

 

He had to shake off those shouting faces and angry voices clinging to him leech-like.

The Group was stunned. Nobody had dared speak like this in his presence. “You are highly perceptive intelligent and analytic, professor.” Minotaurch said and smiled. And brave, too!

The moment passed.

“Does it mean the Hararas are still around?”- Gorilla.

“It is difficult to predict at this stage. Either they are here or left, fearing more arrivals from the outside world. We do not have the means, presently. The Hararas are known to live in the deep jungle.  They live in bamboo huts in a semi-circular manner, in a clearing, surrounded by the thick jungle. They have trained falcons and dogs who act as their sentries. Their huts can be dismantled in an hour or so. And like sure-footed animals, they can withdraw into the heart of the jungle, where they can survive for months.”

“tracking them is difficult?”

“In a way, yes, majesty. Those trained in the jungle warfare may find it a bit difficult to track them, as the Hararas, as distinct from urban guerillas, are the natural inhabitants of the jungle. The jungle is in their blood and they can beat the very best trained commandos in the jungle-game. It is like an art-critic challenging Picasso to a painting competition or an Olympic runner, in competition with the cheetah, in the race in the wilds.”

“If the Hararas are around, they will surely be watching us. They will be the first ones to establish contact with us. We need not worry”, said the King.

You have every reason to worry, bastard, thought chameleon, the Hararas are the most intelligent, tenacious and deadly enemy, the like of which you have never seen! Gorilla thought, our days are numbered. They have the jungle with them where we urbans are the sitting ducks for them.

From the frying pan into the fire!

The Group was thinking nervously. Very soon, they were going to learn their fate in that ‘deserted’ island in the Pacific Ocean.

As mentioned by Francis drake in his diary, the royal mound was half-a-mile from the fort in the northern direction. There were huge tombs and a great mausoleum there but the passage of time and the Hararas had much vandalized them. The rulers, fearing this vandalism, had buried their dead in more modest graves and painted the sun god on the entrance to keep off the natives. It had helped in containing the damage to the graves on that mount.

On a high, now roofless wall, there was a painting done in the rich colors, depicting the typical ruler with his headgear where the fierce-eyed sun god was shown in all his brilliance, sitting on the throne, surrounded by the cowering natives. In the fare ground, the dark-skinned natives were being punished with a ball of fire, coming directly from the heavens, before a half-dug grave of the royal. There was a message below that. The rough English translation is:

 

Beware!

The diggers of the royal graves,

Touch them not

The royals,

The direct descendants of

The sun god fierce.

Invite you

His wrath

Who easily

Forgets them not

Such profanities.

The sun god

Fierce and red-eyed

Sends down

Plagues and famines

And wipes them out

For committing such

Sacrileges on His very own

Descendants

Who rule over the islands

Under his watchful eyes.

 

Under the full moon, on a gusty pleasant night, Minotaurch felt the overwhelming presence of somebody in the semi-dark central room, guarded by the elite commandoes. As if somebody were trying to communicate.

He woke up, aware of the invisible presence. Centuries hung over the room, layer upon layer, with their sinister dark secrets and intrigues of the former rulers.

How the dark night transforms the whole perspective! It was a pleasant night, a chill in the softly-whispering wind sweeping the fort, stars shining in the sky, lit by lonely cold full moon. A deep mysterious silence prevailed. The silence of centuries linking him with the early cavemen surrounded by a thick dangerous rolling nature, thousands of years ago, on a night like this : the hairy, bearded, matted cave men and women huddled around a warm orange fire leaping high and lighting up their ape like rough features, the night terribly cold and windy, the forest teeming with the dangerous creatures like mammoths and big lizards, the solidarity of the clan their only defense against the gigantic creatures.

We are lucky not to be born in that age!

He came out of the central courtyard, the attentive commandoes watching. He felt the cold on his bare skin and found it refreshing. The stars blinked at him and the rabbit in the moon gave one-toothed smile. Mellow dark pulsated around him in waves. The soothing moonlight illuminated his stony pathway. The fort was silhouetted in broad outlines against a silver-hued vastness of the sky. Jungle sounds came in filtered and subdued on the wings of the wind.

He was overawed by the majesty of the night and the setting, so balming to his mind still rankling with the recent defeat and disgrace. The night looked so tender, soothing and mystical, different from the artifice of the city lit up by the sodium-vapor lamps.

It is wonderful! This serenity and the tranquility1 Primeval spirit of the jungle communing.

He stopped at the edge of the central courtyard and watched the ruins of the fort in the milky whiteness of the moonlight. Moon—the constant source of romance, poetry and philosophical speculations- the lonely wanderer in the blue infinite space, looking down upon the earthlings every night for millions of years, spreading cool light in the pathways of solitary wayfarers, cheering them up from his empyrean heights.  The handsome rugged moon, full-faced, slowing as a lamp in the dome, connecting him up with the first inhabitants of the earth, when no time existed!

I can feel our early ancestors in my blood! The hoary past in me! We are all connected, he thought, with each other through our common home in Africa and our descent from the African Eve. And now we are pitted against each other in the name of race, color, region and nation. Once we were one, now many. Killing. Raping. Plundering. Worst than the wild animals! We call it progress in the high-tech late 20th century: progress, science, rationalism, tech advancement, yet two ‘World-Wars’ in the ‘Western world’ in the chiefly European theater; Holocaust, Nazism and Fascism; Khemer Rouge; Pol Pot; dictators in the uniforms in Asian Sub-continent, Latin America, Africa, all in a century which talked of peace and waged war achieved greatest scientific and tech advancement! A rational century in theory and irrational in practice. A century, which saw the beastly side of the man, no beastly is a wrong term, the most horrible satanic side of a man.

He sat and continued to absorb the gentle scene undulating before him.

The voices of the rioters echoing and finally drowning in a hail of bullets near his place only a couple of weeks ago.

He could still hear them out, here on this green knoll, enveloped in the timeless tranquility and the shining soothing light of the ageless moon.

He could hear the first earthmen breathing and talking through the swirling mists of the mobile centuries on that particular instant where the remote past and the sophisticated present freely intermingled in the smooth-flowing of memories, activated by a sympathetic imaginations and a receptive mind.

How strange! We carry them in our genetic code. Our past in our present! This moon is appealing to a buried humanism in me!

A humanism, I thought, no longer existed in me.

Then he saw the horseman.

Clearly visible, mounted on the white stallion, fully armoured, the right holding the shiny lance, the visor in place, an iron-man- majestic, radiating raw power and animal mystique. Watching patiently the new king of the fort. The head of the horse bobbling up and down, restlessly in the bleak background, the wind rustling up the mane of the horse and the plumes of the dead warrior, fascinating!

The horseman gave a tug to the horse. It started moving towards the eastern wall of the fort, the rolling wavy darkness no hindrance to the well-trained instincts of the thorough-bred animal. The horseman did look once in his direction.

Come on! The non-verbal command was clear.

He followed as if under trance.

The horseman and the footman crossed the temple of the sun god. The horse started climbing the steep ramp the eastern side of the fort in a slow but sure way, galloping over the broken and dislodged stones lying in irregular pattern of that neglected ruined fort, the pedestrian also following carefully. Finally, the ascent over, they reached the wide rampart overlooking the shadowy jungle bubbling with its own nightly life. A blast of pure cold air hit the mortal of the strange company. The forested side of the island lay spread out in the inky blackness, a blurred hundred mass. The fort was on the highest hill and therefore, commanded a heightened view of the surroundings, now appearing in an irregular jagged shape.

“This is all yours- for asking”, spoke the horseman for the first time.

“Who are you, Sir?” Asked the mortal of the dead in an unsteady voice.

“A conquistador, who else, son?”

“But you are dead!”

The warrior laughed a rich laugh.

“True, I am dead. For five hundred years.”

“Then? You rose from the dead?”

“The conquistador never die. They are immortal. Graves cannot hold their spirits back. I still live in many. In Y-O-U.”

“Me? We are not even related!”

“In a way, we are and are not. It matters not. My spirit will live in you and through you.”

“How?”

“Finish our unfinished project.”

“What project?”

“Conquer this island.”

“Why me?”

“I see a kindred spirit and an untamed ambition in you. You are a worthy successor to me. Go, conquer this land. All yours.”

“How?”

“Make efforts. You know the power game. Once you were the king.”

“You know me?”

“I know people like you. Driven by lust for power. That is our consanguinity. Binding historical epochs and cultures different.”

“Power is fickle-minded mistress.”

“But worth keeping. Do not nurse your defeat and hurt. Come out of it. Grab it. It is up for grabs- power.”

“If I fail-again?”

“You are born to rule. And powerful die powerful deaths. They are not ordinary mass. Folks like you.”

“I shall try.”

“Good luck!”

And the horseman vanished!

He was dazed, post-encounter.

Was it real? Was he imagining things?

The jungle has opened up new vistas of perception?

Perhaps.

Many years ago, in the capital, he had a distinguished friend in his palace: Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The year was 1982. Marquez had won the noble for literature. He had thrown a party to honor his stocky cheerful friend from Colombia. Both of them had admired Ernest Hemingway. The diplomatic corps, journalists, university teachers and writers attended the party. A garden party in the trimmed undulation rose garden of the vast palace. Drinks were being passed around. A general bonhomie prevailed. The soft breeze from the mountains was blowing down. There were coloured bulbs in the rose bushes and small trees, lending the place a touch of fairyland. The royal banquet was laid out in the middle. He, as the Prez, stood up and announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, on this magical night, I am delighted to present the master of the magical realism. Please welcome this great Colombian. Earlier Colombia got bad press but now, thanks to the master’s magic, we have to change our old views about them.” A hearty laughter followed. Then: “he is my personal friend and now, the state guest. It means your Prez is not a bloody politician but keeps company with the greatest creative of the world who tells us, generals and presidents, how to behave. They are the moral rulers of the world, the uncrowned kings, more powerful than the Bolivios of the world.”

Later on, during an informal discussion, the Prez asked Marquez, “Your so-called magic realism is a constant challenge to the expectations of a readership brought on the Western traditions of realism and straight-forward mode of story-telling. Your work undermines and teases these realistic and rational expectations of the literary readers to, umm, an infuriating level. In a way, if you do not mind, your work totally frustrates these expectations demanded from a high-caliber work of fiction. Therefore, my question as a well-informed reader is what exactly is the relation between the real and the fabulous, the rational and the fantastic, the fact and the fiction, in your work?”

A hush fell over the intelligent gathering there. They are prey impressed.

Marquez smiled.

“Mr. President, you are more perceptive than the university professors and professional critics. I have always suspected you entered a wrong profession which has the most attractive perks, of course!”

 A loud laughter followed.

“Well, if you had not been a politician, surely you would have been a writer of great merit….. And a big competition to me.”

Laughter.

“I never enjoy this label but it has stuck. You see, the Western novel has enjoyed the highest pedigree- Balzac, Flaubert, Stendhal, Dickens, Tolstoy, mann0 and it is product of Enlightenment and Realism. Our perception of reality is different. I explore the unreal of the real. Now, what is the unreal? The unexplained is the unreal. The fantastic is the inverted picture of the real and the rational. The mythologies were real for the primitive but unreal for us. The Witches, the ghosts, in Shakespeare were real to the Elizabethans but unreal to us. So you see, the fact and fiction, the real and the imaginary, are all artificial categories.  They are not fixed but flow into each other. Human mind, in contra-distinction to the animals, is both rational and fantastic in nature, that is why we could create greatest art. And this dualism is my province that of reality and the non-reality- the product of human brain and consciousness.”

That day he could not appreciate this high-brow stuff.

To-night, on the eastern rampart, he suddenly understood Marquez, again in a magical territory and time unique.

Reality which is not necessarily rational and rationality, not necessarily real!

He had seen Hamlet staged by the Royal Shakespeare and liked the play. He still remembered hamlet’s dialogue by heart:

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Here he was, the former president, a self-declared King of the island, being visited by a royal ghost from a distant past and being asked to complete the unfinished project of colonization of an island about which he knew nothing.

A strange world of magic and reality. A territory where the strange and the empirical, dead history and suspended present the fantasy and the real seamlessly merged together and ran together like a powerful stream. No doubt, civilization and its norms were no longer valid here.

It is a wild country here with its own logic.

He was sure: he was not hallucinating.

In his dramatic life of ups and downs, he had seen ‘miracles’ happen.

Certain things in life cannot be explained rationally and realistically. His ascendancy and fall-both very spectacular for him. Things he never thought could happen to him!

And this apparition, this honest ghost, rising from the dusty centuries, just awaiting his arrival to deliver his message.

It is all happening in a dream! He thought.

Three days later, their peaceful world changed again.

The skeletons were back.

The first one was near the gate, propped up against a tree trunk, a letter stuck in the empty eye-socket. Half-a-mile down, near the beach, another full skeletal figure, the hideous skull gaping, another letter in the socket.

 A third skeletal figure, horizontally in the jungle trail leading to the fort.

Francis Drake’s account sounded true.

“What does it say?”

Gorilla differentially handed over the bloodstained letter, pierced in the heart, written on a long white paper in ink.

“Beware! We are watching you.

The alien never had  a chance here. Beware!”

Minotaurch missed a beat. The ghost was true. Colonize. A deserted island? His own band of followers? Those who already acknowledge his sovereignty?

At that time, he had no answers. Colonization means conquest of the locals. Where should he find them? It appears they have found us! “So Hararas are coming!”

“Yes, Sire.”

Minotaurch considered the message.

“How come, professor, they write in English?”

Chameleon smiled.

“The white Harara.”

“A what?”

“We forgot Livingston factor, sir. The man who went out to convert and got converted himself. Who married native woman there and was called the white Harara.”

“So?”

“Simple. He learnt their speech and taught them his language. His children and grand children naturally are fluent in both the languages. And worldly-wise also.”

“What should we do now?”

“Just wait. They are going to make contact soon.”

Very soon as they were to learn.


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