Chandrabhanu lay motionless as a rock on the wet and cold forest floor, camouflaged in the colours of the jungle like a predator patiently waiting for his score. Neither the seldom trickling of the night dew nor the occasional insects crawling across his seasoned skin made him blink or move. The creature he was after was nothing like any other predator he had ever hunted before. After twenty-one days of chasing this ghost in the darkness, his chances to succeed was best on this illuminated night of the hunter’s moon.
More than three hours had passed since he had moved. The unflinching wait had slowly sunk his weight a few inches into the mossy forest floor. He had finally managed to track down the beast to this ancient cave in the darkest heart of the woods but wondered how to bring down this mighty foe. The animal was stealthier than the ebbing mist amidst drizzling rain on a cold and wet jungle morn. Till now, he had only imagined the monster but had not actually seen it in flesh and gore.
He kept his bow and arrow down. The hunter gauged; they would not be effective in bringing down the beast. His long sword capable of inflicting lethal wounds could only slow down the creature, he thought, but not kill it in time before it could finish him. He could use his dagger only as a last resort in close combat and nothing more. So, his only hope was to pierce the monster’s heart or head with Madhushula, his trusted ancestral spear.
Chandrabhanu belonged to the Asura people, a small Austroasiatic ethnic group living in the western part of West Bengal bordering with the Jharkhand state of the Indian subcontinent in the year 1900. Mythologically Asuras or Rakshasas were a power-seeking class of beings, demigods, titans, demons, or antigods related to the more benevolent Hindu Gods, Devas or Suras. Throughout mythology barring exceptions, Rakshasas were known to terrorise human beings and fight with the Gods.
Historically Chandrabhanu’s forefathers were hunter-gatherers and iron smelters. His family believed that the spear Madhushula was given as a boon by Lord Shiva to their forefather, the Rakshasa Madhu. A weapon forged by the magic of Gods that destroyed anyone who directly fought with its master.
Chandrabhanu, however, did not believe in mythology. The hunter relied on the performance of his spear, with which he had killed many a beast. He had the strongest and deadliest-accurate javelin-arm in the village. The man had once brought down a ninety-kilogram razorback wild hog at a distance of one hundred meters with his fabled spear throw. The suddenly agitated swine was about to attack a little girl who had managed to land on the rampaging path of the frenzied boar.
He believed that the spear was forged on the never extinguished sacred fires burning in the ancient smelter’s hearth in the heart of their village by one of his forbearers. It was made from a very special metal only found in certain caves, now lost to knowledge, deep in this prehistoric forest. With its unique bluish-black coloured tinge, the metal of the spear was indestructible and true to its ring.
Bangasur was a tranquil village hidden in the jungles of the Purulia district of West Bengal. While at the end of the 1800s the world had progressed in several fields with inventions such as the telephone, motorcycle, and the automobile, the self-sustained hunter-gatherer iron-smelting Asura people of Chandrabhanu’s Bangasur village remained unaware of those human advancements. They lived according to their thousands of year-old Tribal systems, undiscovered and undisturbed by the modern world in any way.
All was going well until one day, the creature nicknamed ‘Boba’ started terrorising them. Losing farm animals and livestock to predators was not new in the region. Foxes, wolves, tigers, and black bears at times would kill domicile prey but never before had people been annihilated so consistently by any creature of the forest. Children, women, and even adult men had become the beast’s prey.
It was as if the beast was on a serial killing spree, addicted to human blood and flesh. It was as if it did not have to but loved to kill. Only severed body parts of the victims were ever found, if at all. None of the taken had ever survived and returned to tell about what happened to them.
Nine months had passed since this dark cloud of fear had engulfed the village. The Asuras of Bangasur had tried everything to capture and kill the beast. They had laid traps, patrolled the village night after night but had failed to put an end to this reign of fear. Though their vigil had brought down the casualties to a great extent yet every month, at least one person would become Boba’s prey.
Chandrabhanu had waited too long. The patient hunter was becoming restless. He had to decide whether to compromise his camouflaged position apt for a lethal surprise strike on the unexpecting predator emerging out of the cave or should he enter the dark cavern to further investigate. He was not a hundred per cent sure whether the beast was in or outside the grotto at the moment.
Earlier that day in the morning, back at the village, the exceptionally strong and behemoth Chief, Doraka, had gathered all the Asuras for a meeting. There had been another kill the night before. For the first time, Boba had failed to take the body. It looked like the villagers were successful in chasing the beast away.
“It seems Chandrabhanu has failed. It’s been 21 days, and the hunter has not returned. The beast must have killed him also,” spoke up the Chief’s eldest son Sukra, a dark and violent gargantuan character, who was hated by most of the villagers.
“Well, whether he is dead or not, it is certain that he has not yet been able to kill Boba,” added Raka, the Chief’s younger son, an equally violent giant-like man and his brother’s trusted aid, also despised by most in the village. The two siblings did not like Chandrabhanu and were against him going after the predator. Their father had, however, insisted and sent the hunter to get rid of Boba from the forest.
“We must not jump to conclusions. If there’s anyone in the village who can hunt down the beast, it’s Chandrabhanu. We must not forget; tonight is Hunter’s moon. There is a high chance for our man’s success. The beast Boba was unable to take away his last kill, which is a good omen. I am sure Chandrabhanu is alive and will only return after killing the creature, I am certain. For now, we must all continue to be vigilant,” said the strong and old Chieftain.
Chandrabhanu had made up his mind and rose up from his camouflaged place. Leaving his bow and arrow behind, securing his long sword on his back and with the short dagger fastened around his waist, moving like a stealthy Jaguar, the hunter entered the chilling cave. In his hand, he firmly gripped his trusted spear Madhushula pointed into the darkness.
The cave was not completely void of light. Piercing moonlight from openings in its roof, illuminated the place in patches. Under every dimly lit pillar of red lunar beam coming down at intervals from the ceiling, the hunter saw the cavern floor littered with bones of the predator’s prey. He closely looked at every pile of bone. There was something about them that had caught his attention. It had to be factored in this hunt for the life and death of an entire village.
A stench of rotten flesh filled the air. This was certainly the lair of a vicious carnivore; from whose rage it would be really difficult if not impossible to escape. The hunter had nearly reached the belly of this mass grave. Whatever creature ruled this place had to be just a few meters away. Chandrabhanu calmed his senses, slowed his breathing, and even brought down his heartbeat ready to make a move at any moment.
Somehow, he only kept on thinking about the bones. Before he was able to think any further, a soft growl from the dark end of the cave made him motionless, and he quickly shifted his gaze towards the darkness. As the hunter stared into the black void, two pairs of glowing eyes flickered for a moment and then blackened.
Twenty-four hours later, at the break of dawn when both the hunters moon and the rising sun illuminated the jungle, in a secluded clearing, just beside the village, stood the young man Dhamu frozen immobile with terror and speechless.
It was strictly prohibited to step out of the house at nocturnal hours, but he could not help himself, he had to relieve his bowels. Now he realised this mistake was about to cost him his life. Fear had made him immobile. He could not scream or move himself.
The villagers believed that anyone who fell in front of Boba became stiff and lost the ability to speak. They believed the creature had magical powers that made its victims freeze. Dhamu felt exactly this way. A few meters in front of him he saw the gigantic shiloute of the creature that had been terrorising the village.
Unable to breathe or even shut his eyes, frozen stiff in fear Dhamu waited for it all to end. Boba leapt from his position and sprinted towards his mute victim. As the creature sprang to land his killing blow, it fell with a mighty thud on the forest floor two feet in front of his helpless prey.
Dozing birds in the nearby trees startled by the noise of the creature’s falling body flew into the dawning sky as monkeys screeched and jumped on branches. Finally managing to break free from the freeze of terror, Dhamu screamed to the top of his voice, as tears burst out of his eyes and he fell on his knees, sobbing with his hands covering his face, unable to believe that he was still alive.
Moments went by and the villagers rushed out to see what had happened. There in front of Dhamu lay dead on the forest floor no beast, no creature, no ghost, but a giant of a man clad in animal fur. He wore gloves of deadly animal claws at the end of his stretched and lifeless arms. His head was pinned to the wet and cold forest floor with a spear of bluish-black steel pierced through his skull.
Chandrabhanu emerged from the nearby bushes. The hunter had spotted Boba more than a hundred meters away from the top of the nearby hillock. He saw the dark shiloute of the creature about to end the life of a person. The hunter’s moon and the dawning sun had given him just the required light to aim and throw his spear, to make this unbelievable kill of a lifetime.
Twenty-four hours earlier back at the cave, the light of the hunter’s moon had revealed to Chandrabhanu that none of the bones on the cavern floor was human, they were all from animals. At that moment he became certain that the carnivore who lived in that cave was certainly a fierce predator but not Boba the human slayer.
The two pairs of glowing eyes that had flickered for a moment back at the dark end of the cave had revealed to Chandrabhanu that they were cubs of the predator that lived in that cave. Luckily the mother was not there at that moment and Chandrabhanu decided to return to the village. On his way back it was by sheer luck that he spotted Boba about to kill Dhamu at the clearing in the forest.
The hunter approached Boba’s lifeless cadaver and pulled out Madhushula from its skull and turned the huge body around to reveal the face that had for so long been terrorising the village. It was a huge man, surprisingly not the violent Sukra or Raka as everyone now suspected. They were there in the crowd, equally anxious as everyone else.
No one could believe it as they lay their eyes on the lifeless face of chief Doraka with a hole in his head. It seemed like something had triggered the ancient demonic killing genes of the Asura chief, and he started taking pleasure in taking innocent lives and disposing of the bodies in the forest for wild animals to take care of the carcases.
Today, if you happen to visit the jungles of Purulia in India’s West Bengal state and manage to land in the Bangasur village of the hunter-gatherer iron smelting Asura people, do not be surprised to hear about the story of the hunter Chandrabhanu and how he slew the creature Boba on one night of the Hunter’s Moon in the year 1900. Who knows they might even allow you to see and touch Madhushula, the ancient speak forged by the magic of Gods that destroyed anyone who directly fought with its master, they say.
Copyright © 2021 TRISHIKH DASGUPTA
This work of fiction, written by Trishikh Dasgupta is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, send an email to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with Trishikh on the CONTACT page of this website.
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