Sheepdog9 mins 427 9 mins 427
Only now do I feel that twenty years ago when I hit that helpless, wailing woman again and again until she begged for mercy, I should have looked at the horror-struck child in the corner.
From my boyhood days I had known that fear could get me anything.
I picked on the kids of my school and made them do things that I wanted. If they didn't I punched them until they shivered like sheep for slaughter - when scared, people would obey anyone.
I was good at whatever I did - studying, sports, speaking. I knew that I was special, and my parents buttered up my ego day in and out with lush praises. They made sure to put me in schools where I would be assuredly number one - we traveled around a lot, you see.
When I told my father of my terrified classmates he simply smiled and said, 'there are two kinds of people in the world, son. The sheep like them and the wolves like us. Take whatever you want from those people, they will never raise a finger.'
It was all that I needed to hear.
Very craftily my father chose a college where I was the best pupil for all four years - the professors showered praises while the students looked at me in awe. Soon after, I chose a company where I could join as a management executive and be the head of a branch. No one dared speak over me.
I could not lose. By now this was ingrained in my head.
This was when I decided that a woman was all that was missing in my life. I was the boss at my office, now it was time to be the boss at home. I was the wolf and all others sheep.
Very soon my father went searching for a suitable girl. I felt it too far beneath me to find a woman myself - the many I had dated in college were just witless pawns to pass the time with while the clever and headstrong ones I avoided.
So, the proper docile woman was found for me. She was far less educated and successful compared to myself and had a nature where she couldn't refuse anyone anything. Her family and friends called her the sweetest girl they had seen, always busy painting or singing or reading stories.
After taking a massive sum of money from her family in kind, I wed her as soon as custom permitted. In the beginning, she thought that I was simply a bit short-tempered and that she could peacefully continue her hobbies as she wanted. How wrong she was.
I wanted all her attention only to myself. Whenever she wanted to sketch a drawing or read a few pages of a book I had the most violent outbursts and threw her belongings in the trash. By then, her family had lost a lot of wealth due to the poor economy and she couldn't file for divorce. Deep down, I knew that she was too afraid of me to even think of it.
Very soon I took sterner steps to discipline her, just as I had done to my classmates years ago. After taking a few heavy punches, the woman abandoned her passions altogether and began serving me single-mindedly. Good, exactly what I wanted.
Perhaps she thought that a child could bring change in me, because within a year a son was born to us. I didn't care, for secretly I wished for this kid to be like his mother. Easier to control, you know.
Nothing changed. Whenever I felt that even the thinnest sliver of attention was not being paid to me I hit my wife repeatedly until she was reduced to tears, her frail body shaking with sobs. At first, the child screamed whenever this happened but a few slaps after he too grew eerily silent. Even after that if he tried to shield his mother once or twice I would make him taste the metal of my belt until he was unconscious. I was the master of this house and that must be clear.
So he began growing up, my son. He was a strange boy, all alone with his books and a quiet determination to get the best grades. Since we lived in the heart of the city I had to put him in the toughest school there, not one where he could be number one without any competition.
Whenever he couldn't score the highest in a subject I told him that he was practically worthless - after all, what was his focus and hard work for if he wasn't the best? It also helped me keep his self-esteem in check, the lower it would be the easier it is to control.
He didn't break, this kid, and that's what infuriated me deep inside. Because he was a boy, all sorts of physical torture could be inflicted upon him without consequence. And if that too was underwhelming, the sheer mastery I had over his mother would demolish his spirit.
There was to be only one wolf in the family, I told him repeatedly. Me.
In time I realized that my plan had come to fruition - he was too apathetic to protest. He simply studied on with his books and sheaves of paper even when I threw away freshly made food his mother was about to have. Not that it was necessary, but by now who could speak a word over me?
When he was seventeen, he wrote a national exam and got into a university that was among the top twenty or something, not that I cared. What irritated me was that he didn't choose my path - he could have easily applied for some local college and been the best there, but no! The boy had to go where he would always have to face the raging tide. It was stupid, but well, let him suffer.
Now that he was gone my victory was complete. I had, all through my childhood and adult life, gotten whatever I had wanted. No one had or would ever dare speak against me. Wolves and sheep - what a perfect analogy I had been taught.
That was until five years later.
My son rarely came home but news of him did reach my ears through my wife or some social media. He was a student representative, headed some club, was among the top ten in his batch, learnt boxing and grappling - all that. I took no notice because in my own college days I had been the best of the best. He would never surpass me. Never.
At the end of his course he simply vanished to some other state to study with a friend for another national exam. This boy was hopeless, I told my wife straight, for he had ruined the opportunity to get a job and rise up the ladder. She remained silent, but deep down I knew that he had done this to get away from me at the cost of his living.
I sent him no money for coaching or other such expenses, just like I never did for his university entrance. If he was so desirous of always facing stiff competition and not tracing my route, let him pay for his insolence. In the course of months, I almost forgot that he existed.
One morning, suddenly, I woke up to my wife's muffled scream, her voice elated with joy. When I asked her what had happened, she told me that the boy had cracked the exam he was studying for and was now a central civil servant.
This enraged me like nothing else - I simply sat on our sofa trying to digest the news. A civil servant, that meant he was better than me, right? Was I now inferior to him? How could that be possible - no one can be better than me!
Then my wife came to me, a broad smile on her face and carrying a large suitcase - dressed in the best clothes I had seen her in. All the decades of pain and torment had vanished from her face.
'I am moving in with my son. I am leaving you.' She said with the majesty of an empress.
In a fraction of a moment, my whole world split in two. This woman, who had practically been my slave for twenty four years, had dared to speak to me like this! Had all my discipline been for nothing? I raised my hand to hit her until she was just tears and blood.
The doorbell rang, and my wife rushed to answer it.
There stood my son, a man completely transformed. All the apathy had gone from his face and his eyes burned like flaming charcoals. His body was now lined with hard muscles, as if forged from stone.
'Come with me.' He said quietly to my wife.
My rage was volcanic.
'How dare you?! You were nothing when you were a child and I slapped you around, and you are still nothing! You could do nothing but watch when I did whatever I wanted to her! That's what you are, a coward! Do you think you'll ever be better than me? I will teach you such a lesson that-'
His fist hit my face with the power of a missile. I fell backwards on the ground as pain raked my jaw and skull - my vision blurred, my ears ringing.
I saw my son towering over me, my wife just behind him. Vengeance was written across her face.
'Father,' said the young man, 'I am stronger than you, I am more successful than you ever were, and I don't need your money. You have nothing to threaten me with anymore.'
For once, I could not say a word to him - all my anger having abandoned me.
'Do it.' My wife said coldly. 'If a case is filed I'll testify that you were protecting me.'
Then he pounced on me, his boxing skills kicking into his body - punches raining down on my face and torso, his legs locking my body into an immovable position. As warm blood escaped my mouth in torrents I felt something I hadn't experienced in years - fear.
Finally, the young man stood up - a dying cold fury in his eyes.
'There is something you need to learn,' he said, 'that people aren't just wolves and sheep, for there exists a third kind. If the sheep are to be protected from the ravenous wolves, the third entity must be even stronger than the wolf itself - to be the guardian of the weak and the upholder of cruel justice. That is the sheepdog. That is me.'
The sound of the final slap rang across the silent walls of the apartment. By now I couldn't even taste my own blood.
'Pain creates strength, father. That is why I chose the toughest paths always - so that when the time came, you could do nothing against me. I am better than you.'
Then I saw him exhale and take his mother by the arm as they left the house forever. As the door shut, I felt a tremor in my body from abject terror - a tremor which, with time, turned into a cold shiver. Much like what I had made people feel for all these decades.
A shiver that even wolves feel when they are outmatched by a more demonic opponent. Because to me, all else were sheep and I was the wolf - but then there came a sheepdog.