By Anwar Iqbal
Drown, O people, drown. Do not try to escape. You cannot. Feel the burden of your sins. It will not let you swim. You never lived peacefully. So at least die peacefully. Let the water rise above your head and pull you down,” said the monster.
“I am no Noah. I have no boat. I cannot save any, man or animal. You followed me. Now pay the price,” the monster roared.
“But before you disappear, let me tell you a story. It is your story. Your indictment. You must hear it so that you know why you are dying.”
Once upon a time, there was a town with four neighbourhoods. Each had its own chief. They also had a chief protector to fight their real and perceived enemies.
All five knew magic. They could walk on water, eat fire and charm beasts. They could take a rabbit out of a hat and a hat out of a rabbit.
They could do many tricks, nothing useful though. I mean nothing that was useful for their people although whatever they did always benefitted them.
Everything they touched became theirs. They also seized what they did not touch. When they owned all there was to own in their town, they ventured out to seek more. They looted and plundered wherever they went.
They were smart, some would say cunning. Yet they had one drawback: they had no common sense. Common sense is for the common people, not for their chiefs.
So one day, while they were crossing a dense forest, they saw a heap of bones lying under a tree. They had never seen such bones. Some of the bones were larger than those of an elephant. Others were smaller than that of a rabbit. Some resembled a dragon’s teeth, others the backbone of a snake.
Some were sharp and pointed. Others were dull and heavy.
“Never saw such bones,” they said to one another. They inspected all the bones. Tested them with whatever tools they had in their magic bags. Argued over them for hours but could not decide what recent or prehistoric beast it was that died under the tree.
So they decided to try their magic.
“Let us bring it to life using our magic,” one of them said.
“Good, I will use my skills to assemble the bones into a skeleton,” said the other.
Then he chanted some incantation and charmed the bones into a skeleton.
All five inspected the skeleton but could not decide what it was.
So the second chief came forward and recited his mantra. When he snapped his fingers, flesh and skin grew on the skeleton.
The four chiefs and their protector inspected the skeleton again but failed to determine what it was.
The third chief tried his magic and caused the unknown beast’s heart to beat and pump blood. It was half alive.
This time they inspected the beast from every angle but could not solve the mystery.
So the fourth chief offered to try his charm. But before he could proceed, the chief protector said: “Let’s take some precautionary measure. How do we know it will not eat us when it comes to life?”
He climbed a large tree and hid behind its dense foliage. Aiming his weapon at the beast, he said: “I am ready.”
So the fourth chief took out a little box from his magic bag and put some powder into the beast’s nostrils.
First it moved its head, wagged its tail and then with a roar, it sprang to life. They had expected it to stand on its four feet, like most beasts do. But it was standing on its hind legs while his front legs stretched out like two huge and ugly hands.
The four chiefs ran and hid behind the tree where the chief protector was aiming his weapon at the beast.
“Stop,” shouted the protector, “I have a dangerous weapon and I can blow you into pieces.”
The beast laughed. “Ha, ha, ha! A weapon? I am not a beast. I am a monster. No weapon can harm me,” he said.
“I know you are a monster. I always knew that,” the chief protector confessed.
“You did?” shouted the four chiefs. “Then why didn’t you stop us?” asked one.
“You would not have listened to me even if I had,” the chief protector replied .
“You wanted to prove that you could do anything, even revive the dead. You did. Now bear the consequences.”
Then he said to the monster: “I know weapons cannot harm you. But I also know what can.”
“And what is that?” asked the monster.
“You have an insatiable lust for human blood. If you do not get your daily quota of blood, you will die a painful death as you did before we revived you,” said the chief protector.
“That’s true,” said the monster.
“But why would you help me, an enemy of the human race?”
“We have our enemies too and we can help you feed on them,” said the chief protector.
“Deal,” said the monster and the two sat under the tree to plan how to feed the monster without hurting the protector’s town.
As they finished, the four chiefs, who were watching the two from a safe distance, joined the protector and the five went home. The monster waited under the tree.
They returned the next day but each came separately. The chief protector came first. He gave the monster a long list of his enemies with all the required instructions: where to look for them, their weak points and the most effective way of catching them.
Then the protector took out a smaller list from an inner pocket and said: “These are our enemies inside the town. Please make them disappear too.”
The four chiefs also listed the people they wanted dead: rival religious, ethnic and lingual groups they did not like.
While leaving, one of them asked the monster, “What is your name?”
The monster burst out laughing.
“Name? I do not need a name,” he said.
“So what shall we call you?” asked the chief.
“Well, I am a product of your basest and vilest thoughts. So call me by the name that suits you the most,” said the monster.
The chief, who loved religious rituals (not responsibilities), said: “I will call you the Defender, defender of my faith.”
“That’s fine with me,” said the monster.
The others chiefs also asked his name and received the same answer. One of them called him the Purifier. The other called him the Cleaner. And the fourth called him the Avenger.
All wanted him to do the same thing: to kill their enemies. That’s why they invented these fancy titles for him.
The monster was good at his work. He was efficient, ferocious and swift. He killed so many and so quickly that the entire world had to sit up and notice.
The external enemies, who were supposedly the main target, suffered much. But soon they learned how to deal with the monster.
As it became difficult for the monster to hunt in other cities, he focused his attention on the people he was hired to fight for. Soon a river of blood flew from his forest to the town. It surrounded all four neighbourhoods, hissing like a snake, always expanding.
People were in great distress. They spent their days counting the dead and nights mourning them. Every day there were new deaths and every night more people to mourn.
Even the chief protector’s soldiers were not spread. Thousands were killed.
The river of blood entered the town, knocking at every door, hissing at every resident.
Young and old, men, women and children, all suffered.
So the chiefs were forced to take notice. They paid several visits to the monster, urging him to focus on their external enemies only. He refused to obey them.
Next, they asked him to stop the killings. He refused.
They came back, not knowing what to do.
Since then the killings have continued unabated. The river of blood continues to rise, day by day. People do not know how to escape it, where to go, what to do. Now even the chiefs fear they too will drown in this river.
“You heard the indictment,” said the monster as he finished the story. “Now hear the sentence: you will all drown in the river of blood.”