WINNER OF BOUND'S CHILDREN'S CREATIVE WRITING CONTEST
Korra could feel the snow; soft and gentle, like a mother’s loving caress. Slowly collecting on the ground, it created a blanket of fluff, promising her comfort. When she had been younger, she had relished the feeling. Dancing about in the snow and even making the occasional snow angel. She had been oblivious to the cruelty of the world back then. Now, she could see through the illusion for what snow really was; brutal and cold. For with the winter months came starvation and chilly winds. The snow also fell through the gaps in the roof of her home, turning into sludge as it melted by the smouldering flames in the hearth. It made the floor slippery and wet, the air cold, and she and her family often struggled to find warmth in the hovel they called home.
Now, she could see through the illusion for what snow really was; brutal and cold.
There had been a time when they were a happy family. A family, Korra thought bitterly as she tracked her prey with keen eyes, following its steps. The string of her bow was pulled terse by the fletching of her arrow. Shoot, a tiny voice seemed to say in her head, but she knew better. Impatience had once been her undoing and she wouldn’t let it drag her down now. For she had nothing to waste. Her mother and two sisters would be waiting her her in anticipation, and she would not be able to stand their grumbling stomachs and sallow faces if she returned home empty-handed once again.
She wanted to laugh; to laugh at the situation she had been thrown in. She supposed she had grown up quick but what could you do when you were your home’s anchor. She wanted to chide her younger self for being so oblivious, so stuck in her own world. Perhaps if she hadn’t savoured her freedom, if she hadn’t been so selfish when it came to money, she and her family might not have felt so empty. If she had grown up then, she wouldn’t have to now. Her eyes found her prey once again, a majestic, grey wolf that would keep their bellies full for at least a week. There was no time to dwell on her childhood for the past didn’t matter anymore. She had to think of the present, the future. So, she focused on her hunt.
She wanted to chide her younger self for being so oblivious, so stuck in her own world.
She waited for the wolf to come out from behind a tree, for a hasty shot could mean the difference between life and death.
Both hers and the wolf. She did not think she could go on for much longer, her diet mainly consisting of dried mint leaves and tea for the past few days. She felt a chill run throughout her body as the howling winds continued to assault her. She smiled as the wolf moved out from behind the tree and into the range of a clear shot. Such a naive thing, Korra thought. A naive but beautiful thing. For that was what the wolf was. It wasn’t pretty or dainty but rather savagely beautiful, it’s features carrying a wild, untamed edge. She would feel sorry for killing it.
A loud thwack sounded throughout the entire forest as she let her arrow fly, her bow trembling from the fore of a sudden release. The arrow buried itself in the wolf’s eye as the hulking beast collapsed onto the ground. Korra should have been thrilled, but she couldn’t help the twist of guilt in her heart. For her father had taught her to respect life. “Life is deserved by everyone and everything.” He used to tell her. That had all been fine until he died and left her alone; left her the man of the house. And her family had then turned to her, not realising that she wasn’t a man, but a girl. And she had struggled to make ends meet as her mother entered a coma of despair, her sisters confused and scared. It was then she had learnt to hunt. Her initial days had been full of despair, her tired teenage self hadn’t known what to do. The hunger had kicked in first, leaving her weak and desperate, then their poverty had been acknowledged and she had become a miser as her sisters fawned over the pretty things in the market they couldn’t afford. She had then turned to the woods, where she had initially picked fruits and nuts, her slender body agilely climbing the tallest of trees. Then, she had found the courage to pick eggs from the nests of birds. Soon, she had found another world in the woods, and found her father’s bow. Roughly fashioned out of oak, the bow had come accompanied by a quiver of arrows and she had soon found their use. Every day she would practise, for hours and hours in the woods and soon she had become a master.
And her family had then turned to her, not realising that she wasn’t a man, but a girl.
Her thoughts went back to the present and Korra felt a twang of gratefulness. She had to be, for her fatigue had not delayed her, slowing her down just enough for her shot to miss, and the wolf to attack her. A violent shudder shook her back into her hunt and she approached the wolf. She nudged it with her foot as she awaited the slightest of telling that the beast was alive. When none arose, she pulled her arrow out from where her arrow had penetrated the wolf’s eye and entered its brain. She had meant it when she had said she could not afford to waste, and her quiver was already emptying. She inspected the wolf in detail. Its pelt would fetch a fine price in the market and its meat would considerably improve the hollow feeling in their stomachs. With her remaining strength, Korra pulled the wolf to her home in the village and she couldn’t help but wonder, what if the roles had been reversed? If her fatigue had caught up with her and the wolf had eaten that day.
Written by Rheea Mukherjee
Rheea Rodrigues Mukherjee is the author of The Body Myth (Unnamed Press /Penguin India 2019) which was shortlisted for the Tata Literature Live First Book Award. Her work has been published and featured in Scroll.in, Southern Humanities Review, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Vogue India, Out of Print, TBLM, and Bengal Lights, among others. She co-founded Bangalore Writers Workshop in 2012 and currently co-runs Write Leela Write, a Design and Content Laboratory in Bangalore, India. Rheea has an MFA in creative writing from California College of the Arts.