Minotaur: Seventh Chapter (Sunil Sharma)

Minotaur (Sunil Sharma)

The Beginning of the End

The island of Hararas was in great turmoil. The kingdom of Constantine Caesar was being rocked by repeated revolts. On December 25th- the second anniversary of the takeover of the Eden by the outsiders- a series of bomb blasts shook the small peaceful emerald-green island and left the new King and emperor badly shaken. Hi-tech had made its silent appearance on the island and exploded the centuries-old peace of the tropical paradise. The new colonizers felt threatened. The first three bombs went off in the main silver mines that killed and maimed the foreign supervisors. The second wave of the blasts killed Zulu warriors guarding the local prison and concentration camps where slaves were kept under most inhuman conditions. The third series of country bombs exploded on the parameters of the palace of King Caesar, damaging the outer electrified wires of the big compound wall. All these bombs went off within a space of few seconds in a fury of sound and blinding light, before midnight, flooding the island in the wash of the orange light, the deep silence shattered by the deafening sounds spread across a wide stretch of space.

Terrorism, urban variety, had arrived on the primitive island. Caesar, half-drunk and nude in his bed with Eva Hassan, could not feel the enormity immediately of this fiery unexpected resistance. A few minutes later, he was composed, his left muscle of the face twitching, eyes steely, voice cold as an old coffin. He told the naked mistress in a far-off voice, “I was right. Mark is alive. He has left his signature. The bastard is hiding somewhere. On or off the island. I am going to meet him soon.” Eva just stared at him wide-mouthed. The blasts stopped but started off madness on the island. 

Caesar, blind with hatred, went nuts. The natives paid a heavy and bloody price.

As was the practice, the old and the infirm, the young and the adult were rounded up, a helpless lot of terrified folks, brought to the middle of the old ruined fort and condemned to death. The natives had no defense. They were traitors. The imperial guards shot them point blank and hung them up from the trees where they swung lifeless like kites in the fast cold morning winds sweeping the colony. The rest of the slaves got the message: any disturbance on the innocents. The corpses rotted in the sun for 2 days. On the morning of the 3rd day, when the island woke up from another night of fear and uncertainty, the corpses were not there. A bi poster was found near the dilapidated entrance to the old fort. It said in English: Beware! The ghosts have arisen. The Dead will take revenge on the living. The Curse follows.

The Curse of the Ancients, the spirits, the undead!

There, beneath the black letterings on the palace of the hated Caesar was another big poster with crude drawings on it. A group of natives, short and stocky and dark, was performing a war dance in a circle. A white man was shown tied up on a stake and a fire about to swallow him up. On the right hand side, top margin, the caped silent reaper was shown, waiting patiently, praying in the shadows.

On the left hand, near the bottom, was drawn a crude figure: half bull and half man. The adjacent panel showed the figure of Minotaur writing in pain, an arrow driven across his body, the pointed tip clearly visible, dripping with dark blood. The third panel showed a pack of hungry wolves drooling for their human prey, the bull part severed away and lying on the ground.

“Somebody wants to put a hell of a scare in me. Somebody familiar with the Greek mythology, my past, my history. What the hell are you doing? Can you not catch that son of a bitch, that bugger? Catch him. Smash his network. Otherwise burn down the settlements of the native. Kill everybody”, screamed a livid Caesar. He was pacing up and down the royal chamber. Chameleon stood quickly in a corner, nodding, “Find the bastard in 24 hours. Go!”

Finding that bastard was not that easy. Chameleon nodded and left immediately. Who can catch walking ghosts? An old Harareese proverb came to his mind. Once the dead wake up, the world trembles. And the dead had arisen from their tombs. 

Another attack came from an unexpected quarter. Next day, late morning, Caesar riding a horse chanced upon a nubile young maiden taking a bath in a secluded corner in the river, screened off by the boulders and shrubs. The virgin, brown and nude, was singing and splashing in the waters, oblivious of the world around. Caesar watched, panting and heaving like his horse, excited by the sight of this earth goddess rising up from the clear water of the Ken-Ken River. There was total stillness around. He watched her and felt a new sensation. There were stirrings in his loins. A delicious feeling swept him. After a long time, Constantine Caesar felt a very strong desire for this dusky maiden rising from the cold waters of a crystal-clear river murmuring quietly in the heart of the island. Big mountains stood like solid work of stone fashioned by nature. Very quietly Caesar dismounted and approached the bathing beauty. “My Venus”, he said huskily, his croaking voice and sweaty face suddenly starling the young daughter of the jungle. She saw the hulking figure of the intruder and froze, her maiden bust heaving like the frightened heart of a deer in the presence of a stalking tiger. Caesar, smiling, said, “I am your king, my lovely maiden. Today, you will be privileged to have me as your first lover in this serene valley. Very few maidens have this kind of opportunity. You are indeed very lucky!” the maiden, scared as hell, screamed, her uncovered bosom rising and falling like a series of crashing waves against the shore. Caesar caught hold of her and lifted the wet maiden out of the waters as if she were a mere doll. The young woman thrashed violently, trying to escape from that vice-like grip. She screamed hysterically like a trapped animal. Caesar carried her to the edge of the forest cooing, “Quiet, my little angel. The kings are to be obeyed. You are very lucky today. I will make you my queen. Now, be quiet and enjoy.” He laid her down on the soft grass, his facial muscles twitching, throat dry, eyes glazed. The naked dark short woman looked at him, totally paralyzed with fear now. Soft sunlight filtered down from the green canopy above. The bird song reverberated in the dale. There was complete solitude. Caesar started taking off his trousers.

“Stop!”

Caesar, furious, spun around. A dark short stout native, a young man with a powerfully built body glistening in the mild light of the day, confronted the king with a hatchet raised in his right hand.

“Leave her immediately.”

Caesar laughed dizzily. Nobody disturbs a hungry lion about to feast on the prey. “And who the hell are you, moron?” he snarled at this apparition that had sprung from the shadows of the deep jungle.

“I am her lover.” Said the youth very quietly, showing no fear. Only deep hatred. “No. I am her lover. I fancied her. I will take her. She is mine.” Said Caesar, voice barely audible.

“You touch her and I will kill you, bastard!” hissed the youth, eyes blazing with hatred. Caesar smiled, a mad look coming over his fine features distorting his face. He charged at the native, sweeping the young challenger of his feet, and throwing him off in the wet grass. Then he started pummeling the youth with iron fists.  The native, being agile and very young, slipped in the belly. The woman stood shivering behind a shrub. Caesar doubled up with the impact of the hit, rolled over, then recovered quickly. The youth came flying hand raised, and hatchet ready to strike. Caesar stood still and then lightly stepped aside, dodging the rush of the charging enemy who, unable to connect, went hurtling down in the mud, near the sloping bank of the peaceful river. Caesar flew in the air and kicked him in the groin, a deadly Kung-Fu chop. The youth went flat in the slush, crying in pain. Caesar gave another kick and then head butted the fallen native. Then he began hitting the youth with powerful fists, right and felt hooks, that totally bloodied the squarish face of the native. Both rolled over in the mud. The youth, in a last rush of the adrenaline, punched the bulky figure of the foreigner in the chest and belly, hurting the latter in this sudden spurt of defense. They fought like two enraged trapped bulls over a disputed territory, drenched with the slush, looking like two mud-baked fighters engaged in a mortal combat. The native was no match to the martial art expert and boxer, the skills Caesar had honed up during his jungle days spent with Romareeo and continued to improve over the years. Martial arts and the boxing had become a life-long passion for him. He daily practiced them for four hours in order to stay alert and fit. All those demanding sessions were paying off. His imposing height, weight and training were a deadly combination in a one-to-one, hand-to-hand combat everywhere. The commando training and survival skills in the jungle warfare were added qualifications to a cold focused mind of a calculating victor.

As Caesar was about to twist the wooly head of the younger man, something very hard hit him on the head from behind. He flinched, released the native and fell flat on his face in the wet mud, his head exploding in pain. From the corner of his eyes, as he fell in one slow motion, he saw the naked woman standing a few feet away, the hatchet raised in her upraised right arm, her eyes wild with fear, anger and another strong emotion he knew so well in his long career as the president and an absolute monarch: hatred. Blood flowed from his skull. A bright light blinded him and he passed out in the slush and mud of the river bank of the peaceful Ken-Ken.

A gentle afternoon rain washed his face. When he came to, he staggered up, felt the caked blood on his head, somehow climbed his horse and reached his palace in the rain, wet to his bones. The doctors attended to him immediately. A manhunt was launched but in a colony teeming with natives and captured and imported slaves, it was difficult to find the youth. When a common man starts hating you, beware of their contempt! An old saying of the New Land came back to him that night.

Another incident happened in the next month that stunned everybody around. In January, around 24th, a masque was organized on the lawns of the palace. It was the 3rd year beginning in the island. Although time was never recorded there, some rhythm was registered and experienced of the passing seasons. Winter was severe on the island. Nights were lovely. The Zulu warriors had laid a security parameter. On the wide trimmed lawns an open-air barbeque party was arranged for the top members of the court that included doctors and engineers and security persons. A masque ceremony was held. The guests came in various masks and elaborate costumes. A band played soft music. There was laughter. Wine flowed. Guests paid respects to the tall elegant monarch and Eva Hassan, the beautiful hostess, shimmering in white gown, gloves and diamonds. Chameleon stood discreetly away, some 500 meters, holding whisky and talking to a dark native woman, almost half drunk. A gentle darkness had fallen behind the illuminated palace and lawns. Soft breeze was blowing across the venue. Majority, by midnight, were totally drunk and boisterous. Caesar had drunk moderately. He was talking to some women who were openly flirtatious. Eva Hassan was seated on a chair and watching the scene like a bored queen.

Then Caesar started strolling around, slow and measured, smiling and waving. Then the assassin struck.

A squat man, wearing a war mask, a painted skull, came out of the mild darkness, near the edge of the lawns, and quietly confronted a relaxed Caesar who had been wandering near the chest-high shrubs. The assassin sprang upon an unsuspecting Caesar from sideways, his dagger flashing in the moonlight. The glint off the sharp steel of the dagger caught the eye of a slightly crouching Caesar who became alert immediately and ducked in the opposite direction a reflex action. This action dislodged the assassin’s attacking position and the murderous dagger just ripped his thick sleeve. Caesar rolled down on the ground and kicked at the assassin’s right leg. The squat man fell down on his face out recovered the balance very fast. He got up and began fleeing like an arrow. Caesar felt for his pistol, whipped it out, took aim and fired. The bullet pierced the runner from behind and exited smoothly. He died few seconds later. The report of the pistol brought the Zulu warriors to the scene. Chameleon searched the dead man and found a neatly-written note, now bloodied:

Beware!

If not this time, next time!

We will get you. Soon. Tyrants are never safe. Even in their graves.

“Bust this mad organization NOW”, he yelled. “Fifteen Days. Either you finish them off or I will finish you off, Chameleon.” Caesar said coldly.

Chameleon nodded and withdrew. The party was over.

Next afternoon, a long-distance call was received on a secure line at Chameleon’s private office.

“When can I expect delivery of the promised cargo to our firm?” A husky voice asked in a neutral voice. “Within 15 days.” Chameleon said. The line went dead.


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