Clutching the bedpost knuckles drawn white, Megh watched with piercing eyes and gulped down the questions that distressed him. Swiftly striding, he opened the windows and released the stifling heat. The brilliant rays of dawn bathed the supine form on the ornate bed. Megh rushed toward his father, hearing the anguished wail and gently stroked the clammy forehead.
His father lay in a pool of sweat, drifting in and out of sleep. He cringed, tormented by the macabre nightmares. Ever since the fire had devastated his beautiful abode, his father had known no peace. Or had he lost his tranquillity when he coveted what belonged to another? Wondered Megh, his upper lip curling in disdain.
“Father, it is me. It is my time today.”
Scrunching and squinting opening his bleary eyes, “Ah, my dear son, come closer, let me see you properly.”
Megh inched closer, and his father grazed his cheek. “Beware my dear son. They are coming in hordes, screeching wild.”
Sighing audibly Megh touched his father’s feet seeking blessings. He left his possessed father, who was withering away and met his mother. A meaningful pained look communicated her underlying dread. Clasping Megh’s face between her palms, the mother registered a moist imprint on the son’s head. A drop of tear escaped and tumbled on Megh as he bent to touch her feet. He strode out majestically, never to return.
The mother engaged herself in wiping her husband’s face and body with a soft cloth. She shushed him crooning a melody, as he blathered in incoherence.
“Shoo away these creatures. They make such a din. The cretins are scratching me. Ahhh!”
“No one is here, my love. Open your eyes.”
“They are screeching in my ears. It is driving me mad. Shut the windows. Look out, that horrible tail is dipping into my milk. Aarrghhh!”
Mandodari sat in the darkroom weeping, as she watched the mighty king Ravana deliriously struggling to hold on to the precipice from plunging into the abyss of madness.
It was past noon when the queen left the king. He refused to step out of the room. Dressed in the royal attire, Ravana gazed in the direction of the battlefield, lost in thoughts.
Years ago, Ravana had taken over the reins of the kingdom of Lanka, overthrowing Kubera, his half-brother. During one of his journeys on the Pushpaka Vimana, the famed flying chariot, Ravana encountered a colossal mountain. Nandi the sacred bull of Lord Shiva forbid Ravana from flying over mount Kailasa but Ravana powered by his victories and deeming himself invincible arrogantly tried to lift the mountain. Ravana hurled insults at Nandi and Lord Shiva, which enraged Nandi. He cursed Ravana that his downfall would be in the hands of monkeys.
The sound of a broken vase startled Ravana, and he turned wielding a sword.
“Who is it? Come forward!” Ravana growled.
“How many days will you hide inside your palace?” Squeaked a monkey gobbling up a banana.
“Who is hiding? The king sends his army to fight for him. What do you know other than monkeying around?”
“Ah, you seem to have sprouted courage. Some time ago you were blabbering like a madman.”
Five little monkeys jumped on his bed and began to fling the sheets while another started throwing fruits at Ravana.
“My son Meghnath will turn your Ayodhya princes to ashes!”
Whooping and chattering, a troop of monkeys filled up the room.
“Don’t you know anything? Calling yourself a mighty king! Lord Ram will send your son’s head on a platter.” A prancing monkey screeched, baring his teeth.
“Meghnath decimated most of your kind, half of Sugriva’s army were vanquished. He also killed Lakshman in the war yesterday. Today he will kill Ram.” Ravana smirked.
“Looks like no one gives you accurate information. Lakshman was saved by Hanuman and sanjeevani herb. He is up and fighting today.”
This shocked Ravana, but he managed a smile, “You do not know my son’s courage. He has a boon from Brahma and is invincible.’
“None of the boons can save your progeny. He was cursed when he was born as your son. Don’t you see it? And how many curses are there on your head? Nandi, Kubera …why even your sister Surpanakha has cursed you. There is no hope for you.” With the portentous statement, the monkeys suddenly vanished.
Ravana rumbled with anger, jabbed behind the curtains, moved the furniture, bending and jumping, trying to find the monkeys.
From the window, a monkey crept in, “Your brother Vibheeshana has already deserted you. One by one, you will lose your closest people.”
“Don’t you dare to hurt Mandodari!” Ravana hurled a knife and pinned the monkey by its tail.
“You still dare to hurt a monkey’s tail, Ravana! Nobody stoops to such lows as you, kidnapping women!”
Mandodari hearing the commotion rushed inside and begged Ravana to drop the sword which he was swaying blindly in an empty room attempting to kill the invisible mischief mongers. His hallucinations were getting out of control. The tired king slumped on the floor profusely sweating and drifted off to oblivion.
The queen rested his weary head on her lap and prayed to Lord Shiva for mercy.
“My dear queen, will I lose my son Meghnath? I have lost my brother Kumbhakaran and my peace of mind too. I have lost enough.” His trembling lips could hardly utter the words. He sobbed shamelessly while his mind fluttered between fury and helplessness.
Mandodari gazed at her piteous husband with a grave expression. Her eyes carried answers to his questions, but her lips remained sealed.
The shadows crept longer.
The conch was blown.
And Ravana’s unearthly guttural cries echoed in the palace.
Photo Credits: Unsplash
This is an entry for the event #Supernatural #UniK-7 being held at Writers Room | Room8.
Read the event guidelines here: UniK-7 event guidelines
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