Pralay7 mins 220 7 mins 220
Pralay's muscles felt on fire, his lungs gasped for air and his limbs shook as he peered, standing on the summit.
A dense and alive thong of trees spread around till his eyes went, their leaves gleaming gold from the sunlight. Birds and crickets chirped around. He inhaled the raw and earthly smell of mud as his chest swelled with pride. He had climbed the Rahasya-Giri, The Mysterious Mountain, which everyone feared. Now he would quell the rumors.
The sky thundered and flashed white. It had been a somber yellow day in the morn, but dark clouds had filled the sky now with latency to break down any second.
A cool breeze ruffled his hair and the leaves. For a moment, everything fell silent. Then rain gushed down and smote his cheeks.
Pralay dashed for cover, forgetting the loose soil. His toe stumbled on a rock; he tumbled as he tried to grab something — yelling, watching the bark of the tree near, and he remembered no more.
Pralay could feel the hardness of stone beneath his back. The air was heavy and humid around. It took a moment to recollect his memories—he flung his eyes open.
Dark green leaves roofed the top while rocks made a cave around. The mud felt cool beneath his feet as he stood, and a stream arriving through the covered entrance formed a bay of clear water in the middle.
Pralay bent and saw his reflection as he felt his face—his nose had turned zig-zagged, but healed of any injuries. A green paste covered the area under his eyes and lips, and a leaf was bound around his arm.
He cupped his hands and gulped down water—the sweet drink quenched his aching throat.
He then called if anyone was there, but no answer came. His eyes fell upon the back wall; he went closer to observe better. All of the paintings were blurred and made up of only green and grey, dissolving into each other like two whirlpools.
'Woken?' a clear voice said.
Pralay had heard no one enter, yet a tall lady stood behind, her skin smooth brown and a deer carcass hung over her broad shoulders, her clear blue eyes observing him. This seemed like a rare potpourri of features, yet it suited her well, giving an intimidating and daunting look.
'Who are you?' He spoke.
'This question should be mine—who are you and how dare you climb this mountain?'
'I am a climber, and mountains aren't anyone's property.'
'Yet, there are other peaks to climb. I sent the storm as a warning, but you were quicker than others, so ultimately I had to save you.'
'You can't send storms. And who are you?'
The lady signed as she flung the carcass down and sat.
She said in a low voice, 'I have many names, and I can send storms, but I won't waste time explaining. Call me Bhoomi, or Dharti, or Vasundhara—any would suffice.'
'I will go by Bhoomi. Anyway, I thank you for saving me. My comrades would worry, so…'
'I will show the way back, but first, have food.'
She had lit a fire, hanging the deer over with the help of sticks. Pralay was hesitant in partaking in any wild animal meat, but he hadn't eaten for hours, and his stomach grumbled.
When the deer turned a darker shade, she sliced it skilfully and then served it on a wooden plate.
The meat was harder than he liked, but hunger made it delicious. He ate like a hungry dog without caring about etiquette until he could have no more.
He burped, 'That was not half bad.'
'Yes,' Bhoomi neared to him.
'Now, forget and go back.' She said in a stentorian voice as if making an enunciation. Prashant raised his eyebrows as she held his wrist with calloused and wet hands, squeezing it.
A sudden blow smashed him, which made him prostrate, air screaming in his ears and everything passing in a blur.
When he opened his eyes, he saw her mouth gaped as she inched away, as if he was a ghost.
'What did you do?' he said.
Bhoomi closed her eyes. 'Don't tell me you drank the water from the bay.'
'You did?' She said.
'I was thirsty.'
'That explains.' She clenched her hands, then gave him a look of sorrow and pity.
'If you can explain, kindly. And don't tell me the stream was magical, and I got some flying powers. Though it wouldn't be half bad being a super hero.'
'It is - you got the power to remember and have a shield around. That is why I couldn't transport you back and make you forget.'
'Great. That was a marvellous story and my friends would be worrying.' Pralay stood up.
'No, you can't go. That will set a precedent.'
'That's what I want—those rumours are bogus.'
Bhoomi stared at him with disbelief and anger, standing up too.
'What?' Pralay said, backing.
'Don't you recognise who I am?'
'A wild girl who weaves wonderful stories.' He said with a smile.
'What-No! I am Earth!' she bellowed with bloodshot eyes, and the ground lurched such that Pralay fell, his hips enduring the brunt of the ground.
He stared at her. 'Y-you did t-that?'
'But that isn't poss—' He faltered as the ground lurched and he toppled. He backed as waves from the bay rose and crashed on his face.
Pralay prostrated at her feet, quivering, unable to form sentences. 'This-this is a dream. Oh God, save me, God.'
A firm hand pulled him up. He stood, but stared at the ground—he could control his chattering teeth but not his wobbling knees.
'Don't be afraid. It's just, it gets difficult to control my rage.'
'How can this be true?'
'You saw it yourself.'
'Tell me more.'
'What more? This is my residence, where nature is the best at. The other places—I get too dizzied. You humans have exhausted me.'
Pralay's cheeks reddened. 'We are trying to reduce the damage. The SDG goals and all.'
'That will be too long.'
'You aren't dying.' He said nervously, looking up, 'Right?'
Bhoomi smiled as she turned to the back wall, wiping the sweat off her brow. 'Look at the paintings.'
Pralay went near the wall. The paintings had made little sense before. He felt like something had hit his gut when now the green and grey whirlpools colliding gave him a new picture altogether.
'Green is you and grey is…'
'Pollution. The fight gets weaker every minute.'
A heavy silence fell, Pralay unsure what to say next. 'Humans are already dying because of the pestilence. Some of us are… are good. We have realized your wrath and we are making reforms. I hope it isn't too late.'
Bhoomi gave an ironic smile, 'Oh, but it is.'
He inhaled sharply. 'It is?'
'I have seen my destruction by my own parts, like cancer cells to a human body. I have borne enough already.'
Pralay shivered at her soft tone. 'What will you do now?'
'Ask your choice. Will you aid me in my actions, or go back and try to forget this?'
'What will you do if I chose either?'
'In either case, I will unleash my wrath, and well, bring your population under control if not end it.'
A slap or a kick would have been less painful. Why hadn't his ears been taken before hearing this? '
Don't do that.' He said pleadingly.
'Humans don't realize that they are the unneeded part here. The ecosystems perish if any plant or animal species go extinct, but if your clan dies away, nature rather will celebrate.'
Bloodthirsty! Pralay wanted to shout, but he couldn't stop stammering. He hoped this was a nightmare. Why did he have to come here in the first place? He knew why ignorance is bliss.
'Then why did you save me when you want to kill us all?'
Bhoomi hesitated before answering, 'Probably because you are the first person in years to reach the summit without cowering. You beat the storm in the race. It...It must be a sign. Anyway, what is your choice?'
'You can't make me forget this, can you?'
'In a few days, the power might wear off. Do you wish to forget, or aid me in my mission? I swear if you help me, I will repay my debts, even though you wouldn't put me in any.'
'How will you help me?'
'Hmm… You can save any four beings of your choice.'
Pralay thought of his family–his mother, father, and brother. But how selfish would be that? And what about Aryan, or Neha, or Yash? He knew his selfish deed would enrage his mother. He could already feel the heat rise in his cheeks.
'No,', he blurted out, almost against his will.
'Kill us all, then.' He couldn't believe he was saying this. The words sounded alien to his ears. But he had made this decision, and he wouldn't step back. 'We… we all are guilty in one way or another.'
Bhoomi's eyes lit up with fire. 'So be it. Your name suits you. Destruction for creation. Pralay.'