Mahtab Narsimhan

THE SILVER ANKLET

Tara turned to face Ananth. Turned back. It was gone.

“What …happened …Tara?” Ananth was out of breath, his face streaming with sweat.

“Here,” said Tara. She jabbed the air with her finger. “I saw a huge hyena right here and it was staring at me. Oh God, Ananth it was massive. It looked – I don’t know – hungry.”

Ananth stared at her for a moment, uncomprehending. Then he burst out laughing. “Good one, Tara. You’re kidding, right? That was brilliant!”

“Ananth, stop laughing. I’m serious. I saw the hyena. It was right there as clear as day.”

“That’s enough, Tara.” Ananth grasped her arm and pulled her toward the fair. “Joke’s over.”

About them the annual fair in the village of Ambala was at its peak of colour and noise. Along the periphery of the field, vendors hawked their wares: clothes, pots and pans, jewellery and handmade crafts. In the centre of the grounds the rides whizzed around. The food stalls, selling everything from sweets and snacks to biryani, thronged with people.

“I’m not joking.”

Ananth stopped at one of the stalls and pointed. Two patches of damp ground littered with wooden sticks marked the spot where he had thrown the ice-lollies.

“Couldn’t you have played your joke after we finished those? What a waste. You’re buying the next round.”

Tara was too annoyed to say anything. Had she really imagined it? Was it just the mid-day heat that had made her see that horrible beast? Those searing yellow eyes and those powerful jaws still made her pulse race. She shuddered. No, she hadn’t been dreaming. She met Ananth’s gaze defiantly.

“Hyenas haven’t been seen in the Kalesar forest for years, Tara. If you had to pick an animal, you could have at least picked something like, uh- I don’t know, maybe a wild boar. We have plenty of those.”

“I know what I saw. You can say what you like.”

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