(Still have the characters, Indali and Nakul rattling around in my head. Here’s a longer piece revealing more of their story.)
Nakul dawdled about Indali’s isolated jungle dwelling. He lackadaisically played at keeping a guava from a small, wiry, animal.
“I’m bored. Can we go explore?”
Indali understood “we” meant only the boy and the mongoose.
Nakul’s voice cracked. He had seen about twelve rainy seasons Indali guessed. How long before he chose to leave? She promised to protect him, but he was discontent hiding from others.
“Finish gathering the firewood first.”
Nakul perked up.
“Can we go into the cave today? It’s been ages since I’ve asked.”
Indali marveled he still asked instead of simply doing what he wanted.
“No. I told you when I see better command of your senses.”
“I am in control. I hear and only listen. I can quiet the urge.”
“Yes… you’re improving.”
“Why don’t you trust me, Indali?”
“I do, Nakul. But, inhospitable terrain increases the likelihood of unwittingly losing yourself within your animal connection. You must continually remind yourself you are human.”
“Remembering is easier living amongst people; not trapped here.” he groused.
“Try. You’ll be dead or imprisoned.”
Nakul realized he had pushed Indali too far. He gently held her hand. The python slithered closer sensing the woman’s distress.
“What happened Indali? Tell me. Help me understand the danger.”
“There are things worse than death, Nakul. They caged me, presented me to the world as an oddity. ‘Only a rupee to view the crushing strength of the python girl!’ I try to forget.”
Nakul squeezed her hand reassuringly. He waited for her to tell him more.
“When the Raja took notice… I became… the royal torturer and executioner.”
Indali looked down at the snake.
“It’s one thing to kill to eat; it being your nature to do so. It’s another to needlessly… squeeze the life out of a person… just to satisfy the whims of corrupt men.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“It was time you knew.”
“Indali, it wasn’t your fault. They would have killed you.”
“I was afraid to die, so I murdered.”
“I see good in you, Indali.”
Indali smiled wanly at her ward. She hugged Nakul.
“I understand now this is stifling for you.” gesturing to the surrounding jungle. “Where you struggle to remember you are human.”
“It’s not that bad. I like listening to the animals. I just listen like you told me. I only talk to the mongoose. I promise.”
“I believe you.”
Indali straightened, breathed deeply, and looked around as if searching.
“I’ll collect the remaining wood for today’s fire. There’s another task you can do.”
“What is it?”
“Bees have taken up new residence just up the river. If you listen carefully and… say a few coaxing words you should return with some honey.”
“You mean I can speak to them?”
“Gently, no demanding. Only ask. Bees tend to be generous when approached humbly. Flattery helps.”
“No danger asking when you acknowledge it is something only the bee should do. We’ve talked about this.”
“Yes. I understand.”
“It’s an exercise in the art of control. I see now you are ready to try more.”
Nakul’s face beamed. He danced about excitedly.
“Thank you, Indali!”
“No, thank you, Nakul. I hadn’t realized in attempting to stay safe, I fashioned a cage for myself and you.”
Initially, got close to 1000 words. Enjoyed whittling this down to 544 words. Clearing away what’s unnecessary is often a struggle.
Courtesy of Prompt: Reminded Her.
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