Page 1

in the moment of his death, I know him at last. Know both of them, in fact.

The pieces of them fall into a new pattern.

So strange. So perfect.

His childhood--in Nasik, where he was born to the widow Ashalata Devi in the third year of her mourning.

His context--the clash and grind of one world against another. Of implacable West AGAiNST intransigent East.

What would a Brahmin’s widow know of the world?

Sensibly, she found herself a rock to cling to–-Colonel Edward Yeames Cathcart of the Deolali Cantonment.

But how the neighbours’ tongues clicked, even before the child was born.

Vimal seems restless today, Malabai. Sing him a song, or tell him one of the old tales.

Do you know the story of Jarasandh, Vimal baba? Of how king Brihadratha’s wives gave birth to half a child each?

As you say, memsaab.


And the demon Jara glued them together into one boy. Whole, but monstrous and thwart. A boy who belonged nowhere--

7/30/08 11:05:08 AM

So may demons meddle with many an honest woman, and though their babies may look human--

Enough. I’ll sing my son to sleep myself.

As the memsaab wishes.

Pay her no heed.

Why, mother? Why does everyone tell me that story?

Why does everyone talk to me about demons all the time?

Was--was my father a demon?

Did Malabai say that to you?

She said it once. And some of the servants’ children call me Raksha-spawn. They spit on the ground after I’ve passed.

You shouldn’t have to listen to talk like that. You shouldn’t suffer for my---for stupid superstitions. I have a friend in the British Army. I’ll ask him to help us.


7/30/08 11:05:08 AM

Deolali Cantonment.

The lad I talked about, Captain Soames. Vimal Dhatri. Throw him in with your Bandar-log, eh?

Knock some of the rough edges off him. Certainly, Colonel Cathcart. We’ll make sure he feels--at home.

Gentlemen, meet Vimal Dhatri, the latest addition to our little menagerie. But sir, he’s a native, sir!

How perspicacious of you, Williams. I would never have noticed.

Sir, is he to share a dorm with us?

Of course he is. if that distresses you, feel free to make your complaints directly to Colonel Cathcart.

Not there, boy. You haven’t earned yourself a chair yet.

For now, you will sit on the floor.

Dhatri, you may sit.


7/30/08 11:05:09 AM

in 1600, Queen Elizabeth granted the East India Company its royal charter. But civilization in India begins when General Clive gives the Nawab of Bengal at Plassey I will be a good old-fashioned testing you on hiding. these dates.

Don’t mix with your betters, Jungle Boy. We’ll teach you your place, if Colonel Cathcart won’t.

Your mission is two-fold. To bring civilization to this country---and to maintain civilization in yourselves, so far from home.

“I come not to bring peace, but a sword,” Christ said. For the true believer--the pilgrim--must walk through blood and fire to reach his goals.

Wake up, ape! it’s back to the jungle for you.

Salter, I see you fidgeting at the back.


7/30/08 11:05:09 AM

All right, my lads. Look lively. These heathen jungles are full of all the worst things you could imagine.

Tigers and cobras aren’t the bloody half of it.

But Sir, Dhatri has an unfair advantage. He’s as black as a nigger. if he hides in the shadows, he’ll disappear!

So to start the wilderness games, we’ll have an exercise in camouflage and using the ground. At my signal, you will all hide, and I’ll come looking for you.

Thank you, Bingham. Yes, Dhatri will be given a fair handicap, of course. He’ll be carrying this.

And he’ll be wearing this.


7/30/08 11:05:09 AM

Dhatri, don’t be a fool!



7/30/08 11:05:10 AM

She smelled him the moment she awoke.

H--Hello? is someone there?

The raw, sour, sensual smell of fear and sweat and mud. She heard the world’s-end thunder of his heart, and her first conscious thought was this:

I must have him.

To run from her? Across her own jungle?

The land that FiTTED her like a skin? That she WRAPPED around herself at night like a cloak?





7/30/08 11:05:10 AM


Hhhhhuman child.

Full of red juice and brittle bones.

Wh--where are you? Come out!

I’m here, little morsel.

Little playmate.

Little toy.

I’m at your side.

And everywhere else.


7/30/08 11:05:10 AM

Now what have you to say to me---before I feast on your heart?

Are you---are you a friend of my father’s?

Dhatri! Where are you, boy? Show yourself!


7/30/08 11:05:11 AM

C--Captain Soames! There was a--

There was a creature! I ran from it, and I--

Silence, boy.

You can speak when you’re damn well spoken to.

You led us a merry dance, didn’t you? Disobeyed my express instructions.

Williams. Bingham. Be good enough to hold the nabob still for me.

Got him, sir.

Discipline is the cornerstone of virtue, Dhatri.

This will do you the world of good.

Go to, sir. We’ll hold him.


7/30/08 11:05:11 AM

Put him on the bed, and let’s get out of this.

He’ll bleed on the sheets.

Well that’s his problem, isn’t it?

No! No! Don’t kill me! Don’t--


I had my chance to kill you out in the jungle, but I stayed my hand. Tell me about the others.

Soft you now, little boy.

The pale ones. The ones who beat you. What are they? When I went to sleep, there were no such walking worms upon the Earth.

The--the others?


7/30/08 11:05:11 AM

What do you want to know?

Do they bleed and break , as your kind do?

Of course! Why? Don’t you?

I am Jara , of the Rakshas. immortal. Spawned from the feet of Rahu. Before the sea spewed up the land, I was. And when the land melts back again into salt tears, I will endure.

But--it is colder here now than it was. The walking worms have bound the land with iron, and words of power. Even the air tastes different.

What if I gave you the power to hurt them back? How would that be?

Fight them? N--no. I want to fit in here. To belong.

Golden boys and pink-FLeshed boys are irreconcilable , are they not? We will FLght them together.

To belong? Hah. Let me know when that project fails, golden boy. For a while at least, my offer stands.


7/30/08 11:05:12 AM


As you say, memsaab. His childhood--in Nasik, where he was born to the widow Ashalata Devi in the third year of her mourning. What would a B...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you