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The Young Princess
|by Jayaprakash Raghavan Pillai|
It was her first flight in a plane. That too, in a Droner type small domestic aircraft owned by an English Earl, her father. Now only ten years of age ; she had often wondered how it would be to fly like a bird, see the land from high up and wonder at the marvels of nature, the landscape, sea, hills and mountains as tiny dots far down below; a bird’s view indeed. She had pleaded and pestered her father to give in to her wish. She had told her father, the Earl of Wales that she wanted to see the world as a bird; to see from up above the clouds and look down below to the sights of the valley and the beauteous nature as a bird would see it on flight. Finally the Earl had agreed and he engaged the services of his most trusted pilot George to take her to Europe.
“George,” the earl said, “You are like a brother to me and my family. I trust you will take care of my daughter as you are the only one in the plane besides her in the small two- seated Droner aircraft. George simply smiled and said, “My lord, Trust me”.
As the aircraft was airborne, Susan could only marvel at the sights far down below.
“What a life a superman enjoys!” exclaimed Susan to George, the pilot seated beside her in the cockpit. They were the only ones in the aircraft.
“True! But he is only an imaginary character,” George explained.
“What! She retorted, “You mean he is not real!”
“Don’t you know that?” George said.
“Know! Really thought he was real. I mean as real as any of us,” she replied.
“Really!! What a wonderful thing it would be if he were real!” he remarked.
“I have heard those ladies at the court talk highly of him. The talk of Superman is gossiped around the palace and I have always wanted to meet him,” she said.
“You will meet him soon enough,” he jokingly said, “He always seems to appear at the nick of the moment to save people in danger.”
“What do you mean? She asked alarmingly.
“No! No! Young Princess, It was only a joke.”
No sooner he had said it than they saw a huge bird with large ugly talons heading straight in front of the plane, rather like a nose-dive at their small aircraft. The pilot tried to swerve the plane out of its path but failed in the attempt. A sudden jolt and a violent shake as the plane lost its balance. George immediately steadied the aircraft.
Susan, terrified jumped up from her seat, yelling “What went wrong? She asked, “Is the bird hit?”
George could not reply to her entreaties straight away as he was preoccupied with the thought that something serious had occurred. The plane had hit the large bird that flapped its wings in agony, getting entangled in the front moving propellers. The sharp blades moving at supersonic speed had entangled the remains of the huge bird’s carcass in its propellers. The gravity of the situation was realized and at the rapid approach of an impending doom, George started perspiring. Drops of sweat rolled down from his cheeks. The propeller would stop at any moment and the aircraft
would zoom down to its destruction. Susan, although too young grasped the truth when George did not reply and so she prayed, “Oh Lord, save me, I don’t want to die now.”
Sweet Jesus! ,” she cried imploringly, “I want to live. Oh! I wish my hero Superman was here to save me! I wish to God he was real.”
George, on hearing her wailing felt helpless but he was aware that nothing could be done. So he acted immediately and tied a parachute strip round Susan clipping it firmly in place. “Dear Susan, just do as I say,” George said.
“Jump out of this plane now. But don’t forget to press the button on the strip so that it would loosen the chute as you jump,” he said
“What about you? “Susan asked anxiously.
“Don’t worry,” George said, “I will make it.”
Susan tried to attempt the jump-out but she felt nervous and giddy as she looked down.
“I can’t do it,” she implored.
“Do it now,” George shouted at her and guided her to make the jump.
Try as she would, she could not bring herself to make it. So George made her get ready for the jump. Next moment before Susan realized what had happened; she was plummeting down into space. George had pushed her out after pressing the button attached in the chute. All of a sudden, Susan felt the whole world around her spinning and reeling. She lost consciousness and did not know what had transpired during the fall.
The next moment, when she regained consciousness, she found herself dangling in the air by a parachute hanging from a branch. Looking down below her; a leopard was looking up at her. She started struggling uneasily. She could not surmise where she was. She felt a shiver run down her spine as she saw the leopard eyeing her with interest. The leopard was all set to scramble upwards and pounce on her. Susan horrified, closed her eyes, waiting for the ultimate end, as everything would be over in a minute. Sounds of loud shouting and shrieks caused her to open her eyes to see a strange sight. The leopard had been speared by wild savage men who wore loin cloth that covered the body below the waist. They were jumping, shrieking after the slaying of the leopard. They were completely very dark in complexion and wore beads of strange ornaments. Susan did not know what to make out of it. Why had the Lord saved her? Was it to escape the frying pan into the fire?
No, it could not be that. No sooner was she immersed in thoughts than two of the savages scrambled up the tree and loosened the chute. She found herself landing on a strong carpet mat laid on the ground to check her fall. She got up unsteadily and stood up facing them. What a surprise she had; for all these wild men prostrated themselves before her kneeling down. Susan was perplexed. What could they have imagined? The truth was stranger than fiction. She had been mistaken for their Goddess that had dropped from the heavens. They made signs to her to follow. Nothing else could be done. She followed and in this overgrowth foliage of trees, tall bushes, walking was extremely difficult and Susan was carried by the men in a primitive model stretcher. Susan felt terrified and panicky as she could not imagine how she could last amongst them. After hours of trekking through the forests, they entered a hilly mountainous region. Finally after half an hour, they entered their village where mud houses with thatch roofs were seen in all directions.
Women and children, half naked gathered curiously to find out the catch their warrior men were bringing in. The children were shouting in a language that was clearly unintelligible to Susan. The women looked on but kept in the background till the men whispered something in their ears. What an astonishment for Susan as all the women knelt down before her as if to greet the Goddess that they had known would descend down on them one day. This was the great day they believed. The men and women were hard at work making a royal chair made from branches and covered it with soft leaves of trees and plants to make it cozy and comfortable. When the chair was accomplished, the women knelt before Susan and uttering strange hysterical sounds made Susan to sit on the chair. A make-belief head-dress of leaves and flowers was put on her head.
Then slowly the women and men started their dance around her in a hysterical wild manner that Susan merely ten years of age felt to tremble and shiver owing to fright. But she knew that these natives meant no harm. From the mannerism of these dark-skinned natives, Susan had a feeling that she was in the darkest part of Africa. How long would these natives treat her this way? She could not understand the language and making her understood amongst them was something that she could never succeed. Neither did they want to know anything from her for they believed that she had brought them luck.
Fruits and other eatables were placed before her but she did not take it up in their presence. Thinking their Goddess was not pleased, they brought all the fruits they could gather and placed them at her disposal. Susan could not resist the temptation to eat as she was almost starved. She started picking one by one, tasting them and had her appetite satisfied by eating the tasty ones. The natives were excited when they saw their goddess eating. They danced round in jubilation.
There was no possibility of a way out. Susan felt that she would rather die than continue in this desolate place any longer.
The village of these native settlers was situated on a hilly terrain. The landscape of forests and mountains were visible from where she stood, gazing down at the sights far off.
The landscape was so beautiful, the rivers far down below looked as if snakes were crawling and the sun’s rays reflected on them sparkled like eels swishing through a watery surface.
As it was dusk, the sun’s golden rays made the bits of clouds scattered about to glow like golden red, yellow and orange bringing out the magnificence of the sky as though heaven was preparing to welcome the closing of the day for darkness.
As darkness enveloped the place and no lights were there, the primitiveness of the village terrified Susan, who accustomed to the most luxurious ways of life, found that this place was really a hell-hole for her. A most frightful nightmare that she hoped she would wake up from it all.
But it was true and she could hardly bring herself to stay alone in a mud thatched house given to her. The house had all the facilities the savages provided for comfort befitting their queen. But Susan abhorred it as the flooring was mud with no air passage. Doors and windows were too small and securely fastened to keep away wild animals.
In the hut all alone, it was pitch black. Nothing could be seen and Susan groped her way in the darkness. She made sure that the doors were fastened.
No sound emanated from the surrounding places and all was quiet. The quietness and absence of sounds frightened her and she lay awake thinking of her home. What could her parents be thinking? Maybe they might be thinking that she was not alive.
A sudden hysterical cry heard of wild animals prowling near to her hut aroused a fear in her. The laughing cries of hyenas were audible as though the creatures were circling her hut. She felt trembling all over as she knew that hyenas, the most dreaded carnivores were outside. Any moment those creatures might try to enter inside. She waited, not uttering a sound. Were her protectors, the natives not aware of the danger she was facing.
A scratching sound convinced her that the creatures were trying to force their way inside. She thought of screaming but thought it better to remain quiet.
After some time, the scratching sounds were not heard and she slept soundly from the fright and exhaustion of a tense-filled day.
When she woke up, the rays of the sun had penetrated her hut to reveal that the inside of her hut had been rearranged with fruits and other eatables placed on the floor.
Susan then felt an urgent need; the need to excrete. But to uncivilized women, how can she make them understand?
She just walked out and just rushed to the forest area among the eucalyptus trees. Three women had followed but kept a distance. There she excreted and felt a sense of relief. She really wanted to wash her undergarments as they were the only ones she had and she had to use it till she got another. These barbaric women wore nothing except skins of the wild animals their men had killed. They had looked on admiring the beauty of the white skinned complexion of their Goddess. They knew that none other than a Goddess could have such a glamourous beauty.
As Susan was eating some fruits, a distant rumbling sound was heard. Gradually the noise was somewhat deafening as the sound of a jeep traversing the jungle path. Susan could hardly make out whether she was dreaming.
But there the jeep was and three men, brownish in colour, stout and immense in size. Their eyes gleamed in expectation of seeking some object that they had come for. Pistols in hand, they advanced forward from the jeep parked nearby. The black warriors taken up by surprise picked up their spears.
Susan could hardly believe what she saw. These three men were civilized and may understand her.
She heard shots and as she ran outside, the three men had shot down three black warriors dead. The savage natives were really shocked as they heard deafening sounds followed by a flash from the hands of these strangers. Before they started firing further, Susan approached them. On seeing her, they stopped firing and gazed at her in stupefaction. They had read all about her disappearance. So this was the real Princess of England, they thought. Susan was not aware of their real intentions. These men on learning about her knew where she could be traced and they had reached before any one else.
Susan asked anxiously, “I hope you know English. I am lost and need help.”
One of the strangers said, “We know about you and have come to take you home.”
Susan on hearing this said, “do you know my father?’
“Sure,” he said, “He only called to search for you. We are Africans from Kenya.”
“Where am I really,” asked Susan.
“You are in a hell-hole, a part of Africa in Kenya where no civilized people are known to settle except savages of the jungle.”
“How did you know I may be found here?” She asked.
“We have combed the entire country where your plane crashed but could not trace you”.
“My plane crashed!! Is the pilot safe? She asked anxiously.
“No,” I am afraid his remains were found in the crash site.”
Susan almost burst into tears but stopped exposing her emotion in front of these men and native tribes.
“Come on,” he called Susan. “Get into the jeep before these savages regain their senses.
Susan lost no opportunity in walking quietly to the jeep as the natives curiously looked on. Before they could react, the strangers got into the jeep beside Susan and rushed the jeep out into the jungle road speeding fast.
The savage tribes, on seeing their goddess being taken by these strangers gathered their spears and started pursuing the jeep. But the strangers were able to outrace the jeep away from the village. Soon the pursuing savages were seen as tiny dots as the jeep rushed at terrific speed out into the jungle clearing.
On both sides of the road, teff, the main food grain was seen in plenty. The beautiful yellow golden colour flashing in the sunlight promised adequate supply of the food grains all over the country.
Around noon they stopped at an inn by the roadside. Susan was asked to accompany them. Food was ordered and Susan ate ravishingly as she tasted real food. Extra food packets were bought for the onward journey.
As they continued the journey, the men were extremely quiet and Susan might have dozed off, for when she awoke, the jeep was speeding through the jungle again. All around, thick forest spread out darkening the place. The sun in its glorious red spherical shape was descending down the horizon and streaks of dazzling colours were flashing in the clouds scattered here and there. The shrinking rays of the setting sun had brightened the sky to reveal the magnificence of the glory that may be Heaven.
The men were deeply engaged in conversation unmindful of her listening to it.
“Why don’t we call him now and let him know we have her…….?” Suggested Sikes, “Let us demand a ransom of fifty million pounds,” said Charlie, “He would give any amount to get back his lost daughter.”
Susan was shocked. So these were evil-minded scoundrels. She wanted to strike back at them by a volley of words but thought better against it. She was then phlegmatic for a moment but then shouted at them, “You would never get away. I heard all what you said,” she said,
“You can’t put me inside a hole like that,” she said, trying to resist them as they tried to make her enter a large cave on a hill by the side of the road.
The men forcibly pulled her into the cavern and warned her, “We could kill you if we don’t get what we want,” said Sikes
Saying so, he pulled her into the cavern and pushed her that she fell sprawled out on the dirty muddy floor. Drops of large bones, presumably the remains of animals were seen lying scattered. Evidently these foolish men were drunk or they would have seen through it.
In the darkness the three men were planning a scheme to get the ransom. They had threatened that Susan would be killed. Susan helplessly crawled to a corner aware that some impending doom was near at hand. A disgusting stench that was unbearable to Susan’s nostrils almost caused the tendency to vomit. While she was ruminating over the sad happenings of the past few days, she doubted whether she would be back home safe.
A deep roaring sound repeatedly made by wild animals was faintly heard at the entrance. Absence of light made the whole place pitch black. Darkness prevented seeing beforehand what was entering in it.
The men were drunk but sensing something was amiss drew the pistols. A roar that froze the blood shattered the silence of the night followed by a rush of feet as three heavy objects landed on top of the men. Shots were fired blindly and the loud yelling and cries of the helpless men pierced through the stillness in the night as they were torn asunder by sharp jaws of a lion and two other lioness. The men were killed instantly. Almost immediately the ferocious carnivores dragged the bodies and started feasting.
Susan left in a corner fainted utterly oblivious of what followed.
She was unconscious for many hours. When she awoke, it was day and the lions were gone leaving bones and pieces of flesh they had left over. Those were the remains of the men. Of that she was sure. She shuddered to think of it and left the cave silently fearful of the approach of the lions at any moment.
The lions might have sniffed at her, and the lions generally do not attack or kill those that are unmoving or seemingly dead. Providence has a hand, Susan believed and how long can she escape the dangers that she may be liable to face again.
The jeep was parked outside and it has not been mauled or disturbed in any way. Susan opened the door and got inside and locked herself inside. Now she felt safe and if at all the lions return, it would be only at night. She shuddered to think about what had happened.
She had to escape but how was she to do it. She had often seen and heard her Dad using the phone attached to his car. Taking the phone that looked strange to her, she started the engine first and switched on the phone.
A voice was heard, “Hello!
Susan got excited on hearing a reply. “Hello! Please help me! I need help fast!”
“Please give your location” he asked.
“I don’t know. I believe that I am deep in the jungle. Call the police fast!”
“Ok, Hold on! Police will take up your call.”
Susan was excited. She waited for a long time. Then she heard a voice on the phone, “Hello! Hello! Police Inspector is on the line.”
Susan replied crying out, “Hello! I am lost in the deep jungle. I can’t tell where I am. Find me fast or Lions may kill me.”
“Hold on the phone! We will trace the location and come fast.”
Susan suffering from anxiety and having had nothing to satisfy her hunger for the last two days was in frenzy that she day-dreamed a load of rich food spread out before her. She felt thirsty for a drink. Her throat was dry and she felt like she was travelling in a desert with hardly any water anywhere to quench her thirst. She was like a damsel in distress and as in the fairy tales; she wished a Prince would come to rescue her. She dreamt of the dancehall she had performed often at home. But all these were wayward dreams now.
Dusk was fast approaching and glimpses of the lovely sun’s golden rays spreading over the cirrus clouds brought out the beauty of nature one could marvel at.
Any moment, it will be pitch black as darkness sets in. The lions would return and no hope of a rescue was in sight.
The distant roars of a male lion and lioness made her panic-stricken. She started to quaver in her seat but then a rumbling sound was heard from the sky of thunder as if it was going to rain.
But then the sound was not intermittent but continuously sounding louder. She noticed a small speck in the distant sky. As it approached, it became larger and a gigantic helicopter propelled above the jeep. Susan overexcited at the sight, jumped out of the jeep, hailed the copter by shouting and waving at it.
She was overjoyed to see it descending down near to her. As she turned to look behind, a pride of lions that had gathered, took to their heels as the tremendous noise of the revolving copter frightened them to flee a mighty monster that was seen coming down at them.
Tom and Henry stepped out of the Copter with an Inspector of Police and two other men armed with rifles ready to fire in an eventuality. Tom greeted Susan by embracing her and said, “Don’t worry, you are safe now. We are here to take you home”.
The Princess turned back and saw in the distance the lions watching and waiting. She was escorted to the copter and within seconds the propelling huge blades started revolving in a strong momentum and amidst a rushing of strong wind that rushed around the place, the helicopter rose to the sky like a giant bird taking the Princess to Nairobi, a town in Kenya.
When she got out of the domestic plane that was her father’s, her Dad and Mom were there to welcome their daughter who had been thought dead. Important politicians, Lords and Ladies of the palace thronged the airport to see their princess. A large crowd gathered there to see her. All cheered as the princess embraced her parents who were overjoyed to see their only daughter return. Clara was weeping with joy at the excitement of seeing her daughter alive. She could hardly believe it when her husband had told her that Susan would arrive at the airport soon. Together they had rushed to the airport in their own limousine driven by one of their chauffeurs.
|More by : Jayaprakash Raghavan Pillai|
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