Brothers in Sand – Amrita Lall

Illustration by Vaishnavi Suresh

Illustration by Vaishnavi Suresh

I’m thinking of you as I look at these trenches that I’ve built. I think you will be pleased when you come see these. Yours is a little bigger, of course – you’ve always needed a little more space, you always did steal a good deal from all our shares when Mom gave us our equals every day. I didn’t mind it in the slightest by the way, I’m not sure about the others, but I know I didn’t. I don’t.

These sand pits, mine on the right here, yours to my left; serve more purposes than one. These are for the nights when we won’t have to sleep out in the open – we can come settle here, the sand cool and cozy. These are also for our lazier days when we can hide from the others and cover ourselves with the sand, keeping to ourselves and hopefully, they won’t hear us sniggering either. I don’t think they will – I lay curled up here this morning for quite some time, the sand on my head and on my legs and on my chest; I heard the others pass by, and I heard them asking each other where I could be. They were right here and they didn’t have a clue!

Yes, I think you would be proud.

Ah! Come soon. I want you to come see this soon.

*

Where are you? I haven’t seen you in three days now.

Also, I have a little confession to make. Before I say anything, I want to tell you that I’m sorry. The others wouldn’t stop badgering me, asking me over and over and I couldn’t hold it in for too long; they finally managed to get it out of me – I did end up telling them that you probably decided to get under the fence, and crossed the road and went across. I can almost see your face; I can almost see your disappointment at my having spilled this out. I am so sorry. I really am. I know it was to be our secret, just ours, but they were persistent, and well, you know me, I can have a mouth too big for my own good sometimes. This was two days ago though.

Knowing where you could possibly be seemed to pacify Mom a little, but not enough, I think. I told her, I told her exactly how you always tell me, that you have the heart of a wanderer and that you always find your way home in the end. The frown on her forehead relaxed slightly at that and she smiled a little and nodded. We then recalled that one time when you got as excited as you did by that big herd of buffaloes as they came down the road that you didn’t stop running and traipsing between their legs for a long, long time! Mom had come back that evening and told us how someone had let their little one almost get killed, and then when our grinning faces told her with pride that it was you, I remember how furious she had gotten. Mom and I recalled that day and she laughed and told me how a truant probably never quits being a truant. That memory definitely did put her calm in a better place; it even made her come roll in the sand with us!

It’s been different today though. She won’t stop crying, she has been crying for a long time now. We’ve tried consoling her – we licked her face, right below her chin where she likes it best but it only made it worse, she only cried harder after. We love her the same way I think, her chin our favourite spot and it probably functioned as a reminder and a trigger, it probably made her think of you and worry about you some more. I almost showed her the sand pits but I have a feeling that she will draw me closer and cry harder.

I’ve been telling her how you’ll be back soon, tomorrow if not tonight, but it won’t help. Things have changed around here, you know. She doesn’t let us go anywhere unless we tell her where we’ll be and when we’ll get back, asking us to stay huddled together under those wooden planks, and that we should stay there till she gets back with food. But I don’t think she’s out there just looking to feed our stomachs, I think she’s looking for you, I think she’s deciding whether or not she should cross the road and go get you; the thought of it scares me, it scares me very much. Come back soon, will you? I don’t want her to go over there. We’ve managed because we’re little, but I don’t think it will be too easy for her. I’m not sure the holes we dug under those walls will be big enough for her, and she might not be able to push her way through the holes in that wire-fence? Come back before she really does decide to go? I hope she isn’t on her way already. I really hope so.

*

We miss you. I miss you more than the others, I’m sure.

And, something happened today.

We were all out in the morning sun – I was rolling around in my pit and the others were either running around or napping in the open and then suddenly, we heard Mom as she came running to us, shouting out to us, telling us to run and hide under the planks and to push our bodies as far as we could manage, underneath. I couldn’t get out of the pit soon enough and she ran up to me, her face livid as she picked me up and ran to under the planks. I’ve never seen her be like that, her teeth bared, panting so heavily, and her face seething in fury. I’m not sure but I don’t think it was just anger. I think I saw her be scared too? And that terrified me. Have you ever seen her scared? I don’t think any of us ever has, before. We asked her what was happening, but she didn’t say a word and instead, asked us to stay quiet. And then, is when we saw. We saw them – they were so big! They were huge, ten times our size at least. There were three of them, the shadows, and they just walked by us, and as they walked by slowly, we held our breaths; Mom – upright, her teeth bared, her eyes wide open, her body, taut. I don’t know what it was, I don’t know who they were, but what I do know is that I never want to see a day like that again. I never want to see them again.

It’s been five days now, I’m starting to get worried too. Where are you?

*

Yes, his brother had been a truant.

That day though, he hadn’t been one. He had been running around on his own, looking for a red bug he had seen around the previous night; he had decided that he would look for it in the morning light but he hadn’t had much luck and was running around sniffing, looking still. He had been up a couple of hours before his brothers, running around looking for his friend from last night; it was true, his was a more restless disposition than the rest. Their Mother had been away for a few hours already, out for their morning meals. It had been a happy morning; it had been a happy morning till then, till they came.

There were shadows, the kind his brothers would only see days later. He had been busy trying to move a rock bigger than his self because he thought his red friend was hiding under, when it happened. The shadows bent and picked him up before he could realize what was happening. They picked him up and started walking away, taking him away from his red bug who seemed to have appeared suddenly out of nowhere, taking him away from his brothers who slept in a huddle several feet away, unsuspecting and in the middle of possible dreamscapes, taking him away –  away from there, away, away.

*

His favourite brother, his partner in truancy, grew up to be fierce, ruthless, and ill-tempered. He spent most of his time waiting by the road, chasing people down – people on foot, people in cars, people on scooters, all kinds of people. With time, maybe he even came to forget why he had harboured that rage back then and had started chasing people. Or maybe he never forgot. But, he never stopped chasing.

He never met his brother after their first two weeks together.

Maybe his brother even passed by him in one of those cars that went by, maybe he even chased it.

Mother had told them much after he had been gone, that it might have been the shadows.

And, the shadows thought he made for a wonderful pet.

Twenty something student of Law who doesn’t know what makes her happier than putting words to paper. Fond of music, art, literature and dogs. Hopes that someday she’ll be able to write and only write, and then, write some more. For now, her work can be found at http://museplease.blogspot.in/.