By Salil Chaturvedi
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On an island on a river not too far from the sea live the dreaded Narks.
Usually they can not be seen, but once every year, when the weather changes and it starts to get slightly cold and nippy in the evenings, you must be extra careful. That's when the Narks come out for a single night.
No one knows why the Narks come out for just one night. Some people think they come out because they are hungry, because they have eaten nothing for one whole year. There are those who claim that they have seen Narks eat a cat or a dog or even a pig in a single swallow, without even chewing. If it is a small buffalo they chew it three times and then gulp! down it goes their enormous throats.
Some people believe that the Narks come out to fight a war. Now, that is quite possible because they all come out carrying mean-looking weapons and besides, they look so angry. They carry all kinds of weapons — swords, spears and axes that are so sharp that they can slice through anything, even unseen things like your thoughts.
The Narks come in all shapes and sizes, appearing in different parts of the island. Some slide out slowly from the swamps in the north of the island. Others pop out of the fields to the east. Some come riding the wind from the south, and the remaining just drop out of the trees in the dark.
All the Narks have one thing in common — Big Crooked Teeth! Some have sharp spikes coming out of their feet and even their stomachs. A strange trait they all share is a love for music, though they do not like to dance. They like to stand or sit in one place and listen to the music very loud. Then, suddenly, they fall silent at midnight. No one knows why.
Of all the Narks, the blue ones are the most ferocious. They like to sit outside houses, leaning on them when they get tired. They wait patiently for someone to come out of the house.
Some people say that the Narks protect the house while others say that they eat anyone who comes out of the house. Whatever it is, no one on the island comes out of the house, especially if a blue Nark is sitting beside it.
As long as the Narks are listening to their music you can approach them. Some adventurous people even take their pictures. But it is never safe to stand next to a Nark for very long. It is said that if you look at one for too long you would have bad dreams for a full year.
In the morning, just before the sun comes out, all the Narks disappear in a bright flash of light along with a loud earth-shattering sound that wakes up all the dogs on the island.
All that is left of the Narks are ashes where they had stood. The ashes are carried by the wind into different corners of the island. It is believed that the Narks use the ashes to build their bodies again. Because the ashes are distributed in all directions, it takes them an entire year to make their new bodies. But that's just guesswork. No one can ever say anything about the Narks with any degree of certainty. They just keep coming back year after year. There is so much happening in the world that we can’t be sure about.
Salil Chaturvedi is a poet and writer. He is the Asia region winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition (2008) and the Unisun/British Council Short Story Competition (2007). He has been widely published in journals such as AntiSerious, Himal, Indian Literature, Out of Print, Wasafiri, Guftugu, Indian Cultural Forum, etc. His haiku and haibun have appeared in various journals including Haibun Today, Contemporary Haibun Online, Frogpond, Modern Haiku, The Heron's Nest and others. His first collection of poetry, titled In the Sanctuary of a Poem (2017), can be purchased from Dogears, Margao here or from Amazon here.