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|by Seshu Chamarty|
It was midnight. My husband was fast asleep. We, along with our 5-year old son, lived in a very old house.
I could not get to sleep that night. Outside the window I looked at some dark patches in the adjacent courtyard in the moonlight. In the good olden days the residents prepared food out in the open in order to feed scores of guests. To cook on a large scale, holes were dug on the soil to build sunken furnaces. The dark patches I saw were none other than the relics of those pits. I checked my son if he slept really well.
At that point, I heard the wail. It was similar to that of a kid crying. Stunned, I got back into my son’s room to check him once again. He was alright. Yes, the noise came from the open grounds. Quickly I went to the front door to take a look. I saw about six cats on a wall that separated our house from the neighbor's.
I saw the felines staring at me with their eyes glowing. I let my gaze wander farther, to find if any of their kittens were being bullied. I did not find any. From the house, I heard the voice of my husband beckoning me.
Once inside, I deliberately waited for some time until my husband got his snoring back. I heard the cry, apparently by a kid, once more. Curiosity got better of me and I silently marched towards the front door again. I approached the wall on which the cats perched themselves. They increased in their number to about a dozen now. I was not surprised. I had got so used to their army frequently visiting our grounds. Their owners from the neighboring grounds loved their cats too much. Now, the troupe that had clung onto the huge wall seemed to be in their private thoughts. It was as if they were at a funeral.
Then I scampered in the vacant lot, trying to find what caused that wailing. I had no luck. Felt beaten I joined my hubby on the bed. He was quite awake now. He reprimanded me for wasting my time around midnight. He also gave his piece of mind: it was not your job to rescue stricken kittens abandoned by mothers for good.
Soon it was 1 a.m. I could not get any sleep. It was an unsolved puzzle. Where was that damned kitten? With increased determination, I walked up the stairs, to our first floor landing. Surely I could have a bird eye’s view of the grounds beyond the heads of the cats, well into the neighbor’s land.
In the moonlight, I discovered it was all quiet on the other side too. But the wail continued ceaselessly. Suddenly a thought occurred to me. I quickly ran to the ground floor, and then to the open grounds to take a fresh look at those dark patches. The ancient pits that used to be under the patches were closed by our watchman only that morning. He sealed them with concrete promptly.
I fetched from my kitchen shelf a large spoon, and started digging at the edges of one particular patch which fancied me. The semi wet concrete loosened a bit. The sound became shriller and louder now, as I cleared more of the concrete mixture. I saw a movement in the hole.
I was startled to see an ashen-looking thing springing up from the pit all of a sudden. In the meantime I was shoved aside by someone who jumped on my back. I was thrown to the ground by the thrust. A large cat pounced on the opening of the pit. In the process it injured my arms with its claws. Eventually, it caught hold of the kitten with its mouth and disappeared into nowhere.
The rest of the cats on the wall rose like one, and waved their paws as if in applause.
Note: My another version appeared in the New Indian Express, way back.
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