A NEW ROMANCE

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This is a story I wrote keeping in mind young adults and teenagers. I shall be highly obliged for every feedback on this.

‘Am I the last one alive in this treacherous jungle?’

I could see the last rays of the sun, unwilling to bid adieu to me, being devoured by a huge hill on my left. The moon perambulated into the vast sky like a bride; her tantalizing smile was hindered to a large extend by the thick leaves of unknown trees.

Somewhere in the distance beyond a bush a wolf suddenly howled baying at the moon. I removed my backpack in a jiffy; it was empty except for a half empty water bottle, a few biscuit packets, a map and a dead mobile phone.

Hearing a rustling, I turned towards my left.

‘What’s it? My God!’ words didn’t come out of my mouth. My tongue was dry; I knew I was perspiring.

It moved. Something like a bison.

It took several seconds for me to figure out that my death was imminent unless I acted immediately. I had  just one option: trust my tired heels. I ran through the barely visible trees;the beast behind me. Seconds , minutes, hours. I ran till my legs could carry me no more.

The last thing I thought of before falling unconscious was that I had left my backpack somewhere far behind.

The exhausted slumber I fell into did not last long. The smattering of courage left in me was devoured by nightmares. I dreamt of beasts, vultures, and wolves attacking me and sprang up wailing.

I had to beat my smeared cheek many times to make sure that I was alive. Coming to the senses, I earnestly wished that it was all an eerie dream. But there I was…Lying under a spooky tree desperately yearning for a glass of water.

It was all real.

It was part of our training session for the National Cadets Corps. Jungle warfare – they called it. Twenty eight cadets, from twenty eight different Indian states, in seven groups. Group 3 did not turn up at the summing up session.

‘Your job, cadets, is to find members of group 3 who are lost in the ‘Kodaku’ forest.’ Said captain Rakesh Salwinder who belonged to the Madras regiment of the Indian Army through his thickly grown moustache.

‘Any question?’

No questions.

Nobody ever dared.

Everything went well till afternoon. We were having lunch, sitting in an amphitheatre, when suddenly someone shouted:

‘Elephant’

There was nobody left there except perhaps the Tusker.

I hated my dad for signing the NCC risk deed- that he wouldn’t hold the Indian army responsible for any possible mishap including death…

Suddenly, I heard something like the faint trickling of water. I listened attentively. It came from my right. I could hardly make out anything… I moved.

‘Yes, it is a stream’ I screamed. I ran towards it as fast as I could in the faint moonlight, as if I had never seen water before. ‘Water is the most precious thing on earth, especially when it is not available’ I thought.

I took water in my palm and brought it close to my lips.

Something  touched the back of my neck.

‘don’t move or you are dead.’

Water trickled through my fingers.

‘Cadet 21.’ I managed

A cry of relief at my back. I turned.

‘you scared me, idiot’ she said. ‘I’m cadet 22, I have been waiting so long for someone to find me. I belong to group 3.’

I looked at her slender figure. She seemed fatigued. The knife was held loosely in her delicate fist.

‘How did you find me?’ I asked.

‘I thought you came to rescue me.’ She was surprised.

‘yes, indeed, I did.’ I tried in vain to hide the sense of serendipity that enveloped my shy smile as I extended my hand forward. She held on to my hand…

‘Thank you dad.’I smiled.

The moon’s sardonic grin provoked an owl somewhere near as we sat on a mossy rock holding each others arms; waiting for the dawn.

May the sun never rise again. ``

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