The rain fell. The rain pounded. The rain hammered. The wipers fought the tears that just wouldn't stop. Blurred vision and smudged horizons. Uncle drove the car fast, cause if he didn't, the hazy shapes that moved under the rain's blurry cloak would catch up with us. Yakshikal. Witches. Demonesses. Baadha. Malevolent sprites. Mothers carrying insanity in their ghoulish wombs. She-spiders who wove their silver webs thick and sure. Damned women. Bitter hags and nubile temptresses. They moved silently, invisibly under the sheets of rain and their breath frosted our windows. Uncle drove faster. We wanted to stop. The rain came down with steel machetes. The road was slick with their vice. Rivers swelled with black wrath under the bridges. We wanted to stop. But if we did, their outstretched arms would touch us and taint us for life, they would suck the light out of our eyes, leave their sulphur musk on our clothes and steal our souls.
There definitely was something in the air. The weather was just too pleasant and the countryside we whizzed past was alive, somehow indecently so, like a showy virgin in her prime. Vulgar green parrots with their whorish vocabulary flitted among trees, disturbingly green fields glistened softly under the sun, inviting like parted lips, waxy green leaves camouflaged the maavu's unearthly denizens, placid green mossy temple ponds, green bursting with life. Giddy with life. Red blossoms, red tikkas, red sindhooram, red sandalwood, red restraint. We'd driven into a country where everything didn't come with a logical explanation. A place that had a reason darker than piety for the countless kshethrams and masjids that made for sombre milestones within every kilometre or so. Red and green. The air shivered with magic. It was thick with spells that weren't meant to be broken. Silences that weren't meant to be stirred. The air was steeped in witchery. Every so often, an aalmaram in its melancholic solitude would reach out to us. Coconut palms stood grim like unaffected sentries. Then there were the swollen with the pungent, sweetsmelling white flowers. Palapoo. The smell of temptation. Of being lured. Bait. Possession. Inviting.
Fallen, empty she-souls. Cursed, beautiful, deprived, disappointed women. They smiled their winsome smile at us. In our single-minded pursuit of getting to Cochin before night fell, we shunned their invitation. In our air-conditioned car, where we saw the sea before we smelt it, we offended something deep and sensitive. And squealing at the happy discovery of the sea cut our affront closer to the bone. The storm clouds came from nowhere and they loomed low. The heavens growled with thunder. Without too much warning, they unleashed their fury. Lives would be claimed. Good vs. evil, in open combat. Irresponsible, foolish mortals with enraged demonesses at our heels. Demented, unreasonable, bloodthirsty spirits twisted in their white hot rage. Water blinding us. We ought to have stopped and let the storm pass. But somehow instinct got the better of rational. We were outsiders and we weren't welcome. The sooner we got out, the better. Silent, ceaseless invocations clutched closed and tight in a firm fist. Hell was closing in on us. Hell with the fury of countless scorned female-spirits with centuries of pending scores to settle. Righteous wrath, unreasonable vengeance. The haunter and the haunted. Hunter and the hunted. The rain hissed like a hundred thousand serpents about to strike, poison in its fangs. A caterpillar with icy tips made its slow and gradual progress down my spine. Eerie, unexplainable uneasiness we simply couldn't shake off. Thundering hooves right over our heads. Two hours. Racing cars and palpitating hearts. The wind raged. The road dipped and twisted. A fifth persona squeezed between Teenu and me in the back seat. Fear. Would we make it? Uncle resolutely drove on. A relentless fighter. And yet, somewhere a calm within the storm. Aunty. She held us together in a silver thread of prayer. Panic and faith.
Somewhere we took a wrong turn. Providence finally intervened. We'd outrun them. We slipped into Aleppey town. They fumbled and slowly retreated. Towns with their obtuse streetlights and insensitive grotesque structures have a way of disorienting desolate, lost souls. Mortal and immortal. The sun slowly came out from its hiding place. The worst was behind us. It wasn't our time. Not just yet. We stopped for tea and smacked our lips, milky and thick with the taste of being alive.