It was time. She could hardly contain the excitement in her heart that threatened to break the silence of this peaceful night in the guise of her uncontrollable mirth. But all she did was smile as they loitered around in the secluded pathway, showering insults & jibes at each other. You could see they were friends but competitive ones. You could also make out that they were ordinary men, the kind that you wouldn’t give a second look to. They sat on the podium beneath the banyan tree at dusk… almost night. She saw one of the men get up, stretch and yawn open mouthed and loud as he did so. She must have been nearer than she thought as his musty, sweaty whiff caught her unaware and she almost gagged. She took a few steps back, careful not to create any noise. She stepped on a twig, it cracked noisily. The men did not notice. They were busy leering at the young teenager who was walking along the path with her bicycle at her side, having being rendered useless by a flat back tire. The lady in the shadows saw the men as they looked at the girl and then turned to each other -a knowing look passing between them. They started walking towards the girl, their nonchalant manner most convincing.
It was night now. All anyone could see were silhouettes & shadows. Some way away, you could hear the traffic of office goers honking their way to their homes after a long, hard day at work. The men approached the teenage girl & politely inquired what she was doing here so late and if she needed any help. The lady in the shadows saw the girl shake her head and not stop to chit chat with the men. Smart girl, she thought. The last thing she needed was someone to witness what she was about to show these men. The men seemed to take the girl’s refusal on face value and backed away. The girl looked visibly relieved. The woman knew better. A few steps on, a nail jabbed into the school girl’s front tire and with a loud blast of noise, it burst. The girl lost balance, in her surprise, and tumbling she went to the ground. The men resurfaced. ‘They have this scene down to the way the leaves on the trees should rustle’, thought the lady as she silently prayed the girl to run.
‘Leave the bicycle with us. It seems so tiresome to lug it across all the way home.’ They suggested. The girl seemed to consider it. The woman tensed. The smelly man said – ‘look we can show you the shed where you can simply keep it under lock and key. The girl shook her head. “Thank you, I’m fine”, she said and purposefully quickened her retreat from this dimly lit, smelly men infested pathway. But the putrid man was blocking her way & his friend was holding on to the rear of the bicycle. The woman felt her pulse quicken. Just like when she was in their clutches. The girl left her bicycle and retreated, fear clear in her stance even in the low light.
Not another, not tonight. The woman came out from where she had been quietly watching this spectacle unfold. Her right arm around the dagger she had held close to herself all these years… waiting for the right opportunity to feed it with the blood of her offenders. Not another, not tonight. She moved quickly and with the dagger slit the throat of one man while knocking out the other with one smooth kick on his face with her booted right foot – a pair of boots she had personally fancied with nails protruding precariously. Nails, because she was a lover of irony & it was only befitting that she entrap these men with the weapon of their choice. Hadn’t they used nails to entrap her, all those years ago? ‘Run’, she commanded the girl & so the teenager did – she ran like she understood that her life depended on it. Who will she tell? When would the others come to this scene? The woman’s thoughts only briefly went to the now almost invisible silhouette of the running girl. She turned to the man she had stabbed – The smelly one. She remembered him. He had smelled that day too… his stench causing her to throw up as he tried to kiss her. ‘We were just helping the girl… I’m bleeding… I’ll die…take me to a hospital… Wake up, wake up, wake up!” he shouted in fear. She remembered how she, too, had fearfully pleaded and how he had told her “I’m just teaching you a lesson for being out this late, and it’s just your luck to chance upon my way”. She got to two inches of him, his stench no longer an issue as her senses were only attuned to her vengeance. ‘Are you scared?’ she asked him, echoing him. “Are you scared… why are you out after dark, huh? You should be scared… you’ve taken too many chances… you must learn what can happen.” She had pushed and clawed at him, kicked and cried & shouted at the top of her lungs while people went about their business, intrigued but not bothered enough to stop whatever was going on beyond the shadows. The man staggered a few steps back – hands in front of himself, protecting himself… not quite able to get his feet to run. The woman had had enough. She wasn’t here to play games. She was here to execute him for his sins. And so with one graceful motion, she kicked his filthy outstretched hands out of the way causing him to fall sideways on his knees and before he knew it, the dagger was buried deep in his neck. She stabbed him a couple of times more, just to be sure. His blood dripped from her hands and she was repulsed. But there was still one more to go. She now turned to the still unconscious man, the friend… she remembered him clearly too. She had been screaming her lungs out when the other man had showed up. She remembered how she was relieved for a split second, for she thought this new man would help her. Instead, he had helped him. She stood there looking at him for the longest time. She did not want to kill him. Killing the first man hadn’t brought her any joy. She had thought it would. It hadn’t.
The lady in the shadow finally left 30 minutes later, when the ambulance she had called was just coming up at the scene. The newspapers would later describe the scene of the crime as the cleanest crime scene they had ever seen. No witnesses. No evidence. Two victims. Both dead. One with multiple stab wounds to the neck. Other castrated. Both seem to have bled out – slowly and painfully.
Months later, in another city, she waited in the shadows. It was time. Her offenders must die. She looked on at the scene as the two girls were trying to make their way whilst ignoring the cat calls the three men walking alongside were raining on them, just like they had done yesterday. She couldn’t help but smile. Not another. Not Tonight.