I longed to run today. To run with my maximum speed, like a deer running for its dear life. To exhaust myself. After two minutes of brisk walk, I increased my pace and started jogging. The evening air is chill, typical of any wintry evening. As I jogged uphill, my breath became raspy and coarse. My lungs burned for oxygen. I took long, deep breaths to satiate them. Despite this, I started running. I felt like a raged bull dashing towards the muleta. Hundred meters ahead of me stood two towers, on either side of road, like a pair of giant bouncers at the entrance of a club, imbuing fear and ready to take out those who dare to defy their authority. As I passed by them, I felt as if I were traversing a portal into a new world painted in orange hue of the setting sun. A few meters further rose a statue of an old man, observing each and every one passing by him. As I crossed him, his ominous eyes followed me all the way until I took the next turn.

          Then I saw her, walking on a single file of bricks with outstretched hands and grace of a wildcat. I stopped right there gasping for breath, pretending I was out of breath. I dabbed the napkin at my forehead to absorb the sporadically formed sweat beads, all the while, peeping at her, for I am shy when I am around women. With the setting sun directly behind her head, she appeared like a wingless angel with a halo. She carefully pushed aside those locks of golden hair fussing about her face to prevent them from obscuring her vision, tilting a little to a side to maintain balance and in the process, revealing her exquisite countenance. Her serene, innocent face made me forget all those hurtful things my so-called friends said, which impelled me to run like a wild ox in order to quell my anger. Her eyes… Oh her eyes!!! I could get lost in them and wander forever without ever getting exhausted. The sound of her smile was like music to my ears. Seeing her there like that made the whole world, except her, frivolous to me. Suddenly she lost her balance and slipped. My heart skipped a beat.

          Relishing her beauty, I was oblivious to him walking beside her. He caught her and they remained in that posture for half a minute, like a dancing couple would at the end of their performance. She freed herself from his hold. Then she saw me, gazing at me for a full minute. Now her eyes were infused with dread, like those of a captured animal. For a moment, I doubted if what I had seen a little earlier had been my imagination at play, a byproduct of my excessive reading of romantic novels. “What are you looking at, you loser?” came his booming voice as he spat those acrid words at me. I stared at him, dumbstruck, like a deer spotted in headlights. She was looking at the grass on the ground, folding her hands in front of her, reluctant to meet my eyes. He approached me saying “what the hell are you looking at?” and pushed me, sending me stumbling backwards. I wanted to say “I am looking at an angel, not hell”, deliver an unexpected blow to his gut incapacitating him and then hold her hand forever. But my timidity stopped me from uttering even a single sound. I got up slowly, dusted my shorts and resumed my jog, all along aware of his icy glare.

          Even before I took a few steps, I heard a shrill cry which sent jitters along my spine. I turned around only to see no one there. The cry came again, instilling the agony of its composer in whatever living form it touched. I cannot make out the word at first. But the third time it came, the word is as clear as the sound of water droplets in a horror film with eerily silent ambience. “Help…” I looked around once again to pinpoint its source. Abruptly, all the scenery around me vanished, leaving me in a void which then filled with the same cry as before, only this time it is amplified thousand times. Then the void filled with her image giving me a feeling of flying in some strange 3D holographic picture. There lay her limp body in a posture that would make any onlooker look away in guilt, her ghastly face distorted in pain, streaked with tears and devoid of its previous innocence, but as serene. Her lifeless eyes stared at me as if blaming me for what had happened to her. Her dress was torn in places, along with her skin, exposing deeply cut wounds to buzzing flies, where blood oozed slowly due to the cease of its circulation. I felt my stomach churn and thought I would get sick when I observed the absence of any sound as if the world was on mute. Catching me off guard, a brilliant light illuminated the whole picture making every small detail so vivid that it made me want to gouge my eyes out just to stop looking at the horrible image. Then came again the ear-splitting cry which would have shattered each and every piece of glass within a radius of half a kilometer.

          I suddenly sat up in my bed, sweating profusely. I reached for the water pitcher, took a sip and lay back in the bed only to spend the rest of night rolling and tossing around. Ever since I saw her photo and the story of what happened in newspapers, this nightmare started haunting me, firing each and every neuron of my brain with remorse for not fighting back that hapless day. I will, forever, carry the guilt of her death on my conscience. But I have no regrets at all for what I did to that gruesome monster who committed this horrendous crime and tried to escape the wrath of justice on account of a minor technicality. No, I have none.

      One last thing. If I had learned anything in the past few years confined to this claustrophobic cell, it would be this – Never ever leave any beast, whether inside or outside, untamed, lest it shall devour you…

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