Thursday, 15 August 2013

Flash Fiction 2013 Shortlist, Vandana Jena

The Whirlpool

The river was in spate. Karan saw its swirling waters with bits of flotsam, scattered twigs and dried leaves gliding majestically on the surface. He held the little girl Choti’s hand tightly in his hand. She prattled on, unmindful of his brooding petulance, and long silences.  “Papa,” she chattered on, “Papa, I want a new doll.” For her it was a rare treat to walk with her father all by herself. She skipped a little, and jumped with fright when a stray buffalo lumbered up the path.

“Choti,” he said, carelessly messing up her silky hair.  He recalled the day when she was born. Her mother, weak after multiple pregnancies, had battled with death before Choti, premature, sickly and underweight had been born. He waited patiently as she scrambled up a boulder and plucked flowers from the bougainvillea tree. Today was her day. He would indulge her every wish.

 Choti  had now reached the rope  bridge  and was swaying  as she  stepped onto the bridge, while the thin rope bridge swung from side to side, due to the  wind velocity, while the  river waters swirled dangerously below.  “Come Papa,” she said, standing in the middle of the bridge, “hold me.” He followed her quickly, picked her up and held her up. She stood near the thin railing of the bridge, her eyes saucer like as she saw the swirling and raging torrent of the river in spate.

It took him one little shove to push her, and see her arms flaying like a little doll, slipping towards certain death. “Papa,” her terrified scream echoed and re-echoed in the wilderness where no one could hear her. He saw her slipping way, his fifth daughter, and another statistic in the number of unreported female infanticide. 

“Papa,” she shouted in terror, betrayal stamped on every part of her body.  “Papa,” her voice had turned feeble. He put his hands on his ears to blot out her screams. But he couldn’t. “Papa,” she screamed one last time. Her head began to disappear and he could only see her hand raised, as though in supplication to him.

“Turn way, don’t look,” he told himself but he could not help looking back as she was being swept away.  Suddenly, moved by a force he couldn’t understand, he tore off his shirt and jumped from the bridge into the river. With powerful strides he swam up to her and held her aloft like a trophy, unwilling to lose her for even a minute. He began to swim towards the bank and saw a man standing near the bank. Suddenly he felt himself being sucked into a whirlpool. He left Choti and saw her floating towards the bank, the man by the bank swimming immediately towards her, while he himself was pulled into the bowels of the river, terror at being sucked into the jaws of death making it impossible for him to scream for help.

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