Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Messenger of Death

I don't think anyone knows for sure when he first came to our locality. But I'm almost sure that he wasn't born here.
When did he first amble down the long roads shadowed by Gulmohar trees? When did he first show his ugly mug near the garbage dumps? When was that instant that he entered this area, to bring ruination and sorrow down upon us?
I don't think anyone remembers when he came here. The few who might have remembered are all gone. Perhaps the stray dogs know, but they can never tell us.

Stray dogs have a strange position in our area. Whilst they are pups, the children adore them, beg their parents to let them be kept as pets. But as these pups grow older, unmanageable, scarred with the life of the street, the cuteness starts to wear away.
And then children no longer like them. They stop sneaking out biscuits and rotis for them. Then begins the hunt. Children are cruel, the younger ones oft the cruelest.
First it's only small pebbles, cautiously, then some stones, and finally rocks and broken bricks.

Whenever a little boy sees a dog, he'll shout at it, then bend down, pick up the nearest rock, and lob it at his prey.
This is done almost as a rule, until the time comes when a dog only has to see someone bending down to flee for his life. They become dead scared of the humans, even the aggressive males knowing that they are living at the mercy of man.
Not him though.
He looks at his attacker straight in the eye, showing his horribly large and misshapen fangs. And then he rushes forth.

The stray dogs would all get names- Tommy, Queen, Boss, Black Panther, Pinknose, Shadow et al.
I don't know what lunatic named him though.  'Pokya' the kids on the street named him. Pok-ya. What the heck is that even supposed to mean? Though I suppose an inexplicable name can be explicable for an inexplicable beast.

An unholy beast he is, horrible to behold. His fur was originally brown I suppose, but most of it is gone now, his skin a sickly rotten gray, an ear and a portion of his tail bitten off. And his eyes, oh the eyes! Blind in one eye with a pure white cataract, pure malevolence seems to pour out of them.

All the other dogs despised him, and lived in mortal terror of his approach. None would go anywhere near him, fleeing as soon as they saw him. Even a pet Rottweiler, famous for its ferocity, would start whimpering and try to hide when it saw Pokya.

An intriguing thing that none paid attention to at the time of these events was his strange absence after sunset. During daytime, he would limp through the streets, or sleep at the old abandoned park. But at night, he seemingly vanished. No one could recall seeing him after sundown.

The first incident occurred an year ago. At around an hour past midnight, Pokya arrived outside the house of Mr Patil, near the little pond.
He sat down facing the house. And then he began to howl.
I've heard dogs howling before, at each other, marking their territories, or in pain. But this sound was nothing like that at all. It sent a creeping sensation down the skin, filling the mind with a sense of dread, of impending doom.
That howling is filled with sorrow and hatred, a darkness that envelops your mind.

Mrs Patil was alone at home. Her husband and son had gone to Mumbai that night.  She tolerated the horrible nagging noise for about an hour, then she came outside to shoo away the damned dog. She threw stones at it to drive it away, but to no avail. Pokya wouldn't budge.
Finally, she gave up and went back to bed. Pokya kept howling till around five in the morning, then he got up and limped away.  The silence seemed even more unnerving.

Mrs Patil got the news that day. The neighbours heard wails of lamentation from her house. Her husband and son had died in an accident in the ghats, their car hurtling down the side of a canyon.
People remarked upon the inauspicious nature of dogs howling.

The second incident was a month later.
Mr and Mrs Dhanovar were an elderly couple who lived in a sprawling house near the park. They sat talking in their garden that evening. The time was 8 pm. Pokya arrived outside their gate.
He sat down facing the house.
And he began to howl.

Annoyed by that horrible noise, Mrs Dhanovar got up to drive the dog away. She threw a large stone at Pokya. He quickly dodged it, then sat down again and resumed howling.
Exasperated, the old lady moved towards the gate. She slipped on the stairs and fell down, breaking her neck.

These incidents continued over the months. Pokya howled at three other houses. Seven people died. He gained the reputation of being a messenger of death.

The Municipal Corporation was contacted, and told to take him and the other strays away. The dog catchers arrived and caught most of the other dogs without much difficulty. After much hesitation, five of them working together managed to catch Pokya and take him to their vehicle.
He remained silent. But as soon as they put him inside, the other dogs started howling and crying piteously in terror.
The dog catchers drove away. When they opened the van at the pound, half the dogs were dead, their hearts having stopped from fear. And Pokya was not there.
He was sitting in the abandoned park, looking balefully at his surroundings.

The sixth incident took place a few months ago.
At the end of a long road, there is a row of old tenements joined to each other, with common walls and ventilation.
Due to the proximity of the houses, the people there were close too, a happy community. They had a leader of sorts in the charismatic Mr. Khadke.
 That evening, like most other evenings, the people were gathered outside talking and laughing. The children were playing nearby.
The electricity suddenly went out.
Pokya arrived.
He sat down in the middle of the road, facing the houses.
He began to howl.

The people looked at him first with dismayed horror, and then in growing anger. They decided to finish the accursed beast once and for all.
Khadke and a few other men came towards Pokya, armed with rods and Lathis.  Khadke struck the first blow. The men beat that dog to death, almost bludgeoning it to a pulp.
They threw the body at the nearby garbage dump.

Morning came.
The milkman knocked at every door, but no one answered.  The same with the newspaper man.
Eight o' clock. The maids started arriving. The doorbells wouldn't ring without electricity. After knocking at the doors of the tenements for more then ten minutes, they began to get alarmed.
Then one of them noticed the smell. Gas.
The police were called. They carefully opened the houses. Gas had leaked from a cooking stove in one of the houses.
Due to the common ventilation, or had somehow spread to all the other houses in the tenement.

47 people dead from gas poisoning. Nine families. You might have heard about it in the news.
It turned out that the gas had leaked from Mr. Khadke 's cylinder. But the police couldn't explain how a leak from a single cylinder could cause death in the whole tenement.
And Pokya's body was gone.

He came back a week later.

Very few people live in this locality now. I am one of them. 
All the others are gone- dead or driven away by the malevolent threat of that hellhound.
I couldn't move away from here though, I have nowhere else to go.

He came here a few hours ago. He's sitting outside my gate. Howling.
I have no idea what tomorrow will hold.
 Perhaps I will die.

I plan on leaving this record though. People should know what happened here.
Oh, how he howls.