part 1: the man who wasn’t

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Dark clouds gathered in the horizon. The kind of dark clouds that can prove ominous. The next step is a disastrous event, with grandiose destruction of all and sundry.

However, the rare exception does exist where they may be harbingers of happiness… such as for parched equatorial plants, or even residents of a small settlement nestled in the middle of plains; your every crop season reliant on a fickle monsoon.

One such settlement nestled in the middle of scorched plains is where it all began… a settlement eagerly awaiting thunder, lightning, and the accompanying rains to provide some relief from a scorching hot summer.

***********

He staggered into the settlement.. seemingly physically unmarked. A glance at his face told a different story – it was a terrible expression, haunted with an inhuman fear. Eyes, wild with panic, darted around the clearing near the center of the settlement looking for someone, anyone, even as he himself reeled in search of support. His entrance did not go unnoticed for long: it was a small area and staggering men in a relatively empty clearing are hard to miss.

His voice started low, ascending to a scream as he described death, and corpses of animals, and no apparent reason for such fatalities. The bodies were apparently lying not too far from the entrance. A crowd started milling around asking questions in that morbid fascination of death that occupies mankind’s thoughts. He spoke of how he had gone down to the river as he did every day. How, while washing, he had felt a certain unnatural stillness all around him. How he had stumbled upon animals lying near the water in apparent agony.

All very dead.

He did not talk about going nearer, about examining each animal closely. Or of anything else that happened before he had come running back, without stopping to finish his ablutions.

The hubbub that had started with this breathless exposition was full-blown pandemonium by the time he ended it. People started clustering into groups as his yells died away. The questions started:

Where was it? “I don’t know.” “Do you?” “1 km away” “20 feet from the entrance” Who saw it? “Not me.””Him.””No, it was the other guy.””I was told of it today morning by…” Aren’t dead animals bad omens? “The rain is never going to come””We will have to do that thing, the one that..””Are those clouds?”

The questions stopped as suddenly as they had begun; answers were noticeably absent. They turned back to him, him in the center, the cause of all this uproar.

***********

He was not to be seen. At first.

But yet he was right there. Near the center of the gathering. He lay still, collapsed just where he had first started yelling, less than ten minutes ago.

With a loud clap, thunder sounded from dark clouds. The self-same clouds that had gathered in the horizon, had crept in on them while they panicked.

The first drops of rain fell in an empty square in which his corpse lay still, eyes still frozen in fear.

Part 1 of a serialized story: The Man Who Was

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