This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Monday, 22 October 2012


On the chosen Feast Day of Caratha, the Witch sent out her invitations for the party, and waited calmly to see who would come.

They came in their numbers, from all over Caratha. College students, businessmen, secretaries, retired teachers, boy scouts, even the odd policeman or soldier. They came without even knowing why they came, for the Witch provided nothing at the party to eat or drink, not even water, unless one chose to purchase mints or toffees from vending machines. But such was the power of the Witch of Caratha that they came anyway.

For the occasion, the Witch took on herself the form of a plump and comely young woman, dressed in black better to set off her porcelain-fair skin and red lips. She seated herself at her desk by the side of the path along which her guests would have to come to attend her party. This path, running behind the Big House, ran along the top of a high retaining wall, with a steep drop down to the concrete yard where the party was; and the Witch sat there, and watched them come, and charged admission. It was only a nominal amount, and they paid without thought; but it a chance for her to check them out and assess their suitability for the Test.

The one she was seeking, the one she awaited, would come. Such was the knowledge of the Witch of Caratha. She would have to find him, or her. That was all.

She saw him early, long before he saw her, even as he was getting out of his car. At first there was nothing special about him; he was just another man, not young, not old. But the Witch knew the Signs, and knew that he had in him the precious nameless Something she wanted. 

It was time to begin the Test.

She stopped him by sticking a golden rod out in his path, so far that it projected beyond the edge of the wall. “Admission fee, please.”

He looked surprised, and fumbled for his wallet. “How much?” Close to, he looked exhausted, with shadows chasing each other in his eyes. That was good. Very good.

She quoted exactly four times the usual price. As he was taking out the money, she caused her desk to creep closer and closer to the edge of the wall, to see whether he would step back away. But, as she had hoped, he didn’t. Even though his feet must have been halfway over the edge of the wall, he compensated by leaning far over the desk. Extremely good.

The moustachioed man behind him – who had a girl in tow and had got out of the same car – tapped him on the shoulder.

“Hey,” he said, not knowing why he said it, unaware that this too was the doing of the Witch of Caratha – “can you pay for me? I have no money.”

“Nor I,” said the girl.

The man the Witch was interested in looked over his shoulder at them, as though he had never seen them before, and that too was the doing of the Witch. With the same puzzled look on his face, he turned back to the Witch. “How much?”

She told him the actual rate, knowing he would notice the difference, waiting for him to protest. He didn’t, and slid the money across the desk to her. The smile she gave him wasn’t even feigned.

Causing the desk to slide back away from the path, she stood, taking his arm.

“I’ll walk down with you,” she said.

The yard was crowded, though most of the people there stood idly talking to each other, without even a shadow of purpose. The Witch guided him, with subtle pressure of her hand on his arm, in the direction of the vending machines, and watched him buy a roll of mints. And, precisely as she had anticipated, he dropped the top one trying to get it out, and handed her the next.

“I have to go back to the desk,” she pouted.

“No, go on, that’s for you.” He scooped up the dropped mint and popped it into a trash can. 

Yes, he was almost certainly the one. She hadn’t chosen him. He had chosen himself.

Now, all she had to do was wait for him to leave. If he wanted to, he could. The way was open, and dribs and drabs of the crowd were already making their way towards the exit gate, being no longer needed. If he didn’t leave, though...

If he didn’t leave, he was the One indeed.


The man came out of the bathroom, towelling himself dry. He had no idea precisely when he had decided to take a bath. He had wandered among the people standing around and talking, watching them come and go, and idly wondering if he should leave too. But in the end he hadn’t. He had no idea why he hadn’t left; it had merely not seemed necessary.

Now, the yard before him was deserted, and with alarm he saw that the daylight had almost faded completely away. Above the retaining wall opposite, the big house with its projecting balconies was completely dark, and suddenly seemed full of some unknown menace. 

Already knowing it was too late, still half-wet, he dropped the towel and hunted for his clothes.

Silently, like a shroud, the night closed in. 

Copyright B Purkayastha 2011

1 comment: