Chapter 2 - The Executioner
I wandered around, trying to keep my phone high up, and hoping to get a signal. After fifteen minutes listless walking I came across, what looked like a massive, grotesquely shaped tree. It was high enough to cover the dying light of the sky, with its leafless branches and it’s roots spread out for yards. I hopscotched between the roots, as they brought me closer to the base of the tree. There was an entrance in the bottom, a hollow, which looked like it could have easily housed a bunch of teens smoking weed. But such was not my luck, no teens trying to smoke weed, no one but me, staring at the darkness inside the hollow of a ginormous tree.
I tried my phone again, and realised it was dying. I needed to charge my phone. Stupid smart phones. Dammit!
Again, I heard the whispers, this time stronger than before, clearer, more urgent in their demands.
“It is here come on, now.”
“Come to the tree.”
“Will you open your heart for it?”
“We want nothing more but your heart?”
I knew it was the air that was whispering, the air inside the hollow. It threw waves at me, waves with words etched all over them. And I swear I saw a white orb, something like a will-o-wisp, beckoning me inside. I started to shake in fear. But some rational part of me kept telling me that I could not let fear paralyse me. I had to get out of there and get out now.
I decided to ignore the tree and kept walking, fast. I had to reach a clearing some time, right? Between trying my phone for a signal and wiping my tears, I did not hear the horse hooves until they were right upon me.
And no, Sir; no, this time, I did not whirl around with fear in my eyes. I stood with my back towards the horse and prayed aloud, “Please don’t let this be the headless horseman, please Jesus, please!” And after I felt I had prayed enough, I turned around, prepared to face my destiny.
I was not prepared for what I saw. The horse was a majestic black stallion, tall and menacing. We were standing nose to nose and eyes to eyes. Mine, were filled with unshed tears of terror. And its eyes were filled with a crazy lust for the next hunt. And yet I did not look down, or run, and I did a quick check of my skinny jeans. They were not wet, not yet at least.
“Stay, Devil.” came a command above the stallion. What kind of a name was ‘Devil’? You get a black as midnight horse, with murder in its eyes, and name it ‘Devil’. Yeah right, that was so not scary. Why can’t people name their pets like me? Look at me, two dogs Puffball and Furball. Even though one is a St. Bernard and another a Siberian husky, their names just don’t inspire fear. People love them. At least, all my girlfriends did. Daniel hates those names. He was embarrassed introducing Puffball and Furball to his friends. Which was little satisfaction considering how he doesn’t get a ridiculous name like I do.
So, here I was staring down ‘Devil, with murder in his eyes’, trying not to break out and run, screaming, again. When I heard another command, “Step back little girl. Devil has a fetish for soft flesh.”
What? What? WHAT?
My over active Selective APR (Attention Perception & Retention) kicked in. All I heard was ‘Little Girl’, ME?
Who in their right mind would call a 29 years old, gorgeous woman of the world, jet setting, high flying, glamorous executive, a ‘Little Girl’? The guy was definitely blind and blond. All I had to do was to look up to the source of that command and confirm the blindness and blondness.
And look up I did, I had to squint to see the rider. All I could see was a broad shadow, blacker than the night around. I could barely make out the longish tendrils of his hair sticking out behind his ears and the base of his neck. Everything else was in shadows. I was just overjoyed to find that the rider had a head on his torso. Phew!
And then my eyes were drawn back to Devil, he bowed his head and stepped back. Stepped back, yeah. Now that; I was used to and familiar with. Apparently the animal kingdom, revered me, loved me and bowed every time they were faced with me. Remember what I said initially about me being different. Yes, that was it. Animals adored me, not that I complained much. But it does become a concern when you are ten years old, on a safari with family at Serengati, you wander around on your own, you get lost, you find yourself stranded and frantically trying to find your way back. And you land bam in the middle of a pride of lions. To their credit, the lions (God bless them) did not realise that people do get licked to severe dehydration. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Story of my life, I tell you.
So here I was in a face off with Devil, when he steps back and concedes defeat to my super stare. Hell yeah! Oh, I hope he doesn’t start licking me. It is a problem, especially since most animals don’t brush their teeth….like ever.
“So, may I know why you are grinning like the Cheshire cat and not running for your life?”, says the horseman with his head still intact. Somewhere between me rejoicing my super stare and Devil’s defeat, the horseman had decided to step off his high horse.
Up close, he was tall, really tall, taller than “6 feet of hard muscle” Sean. He must have been around 6’3” feet, and tremendously broad. And when he came closer, I could make out his shadowy face under the moonlight. His eyes were hooded; he had a straight aquiline nose, a square jawline and a three day stubble. His lips were thin and a mean scar ran down his left cheek. Leisurely, my gaze razed over his sinewy, muscular ridges.
He walked like a warrior, slow, with purpose. It was as if his eyes were on everything all at the same time. He looked me over from top to bottom while simultaneously scouting the surroundings and making sure we were alone. He wore some kind of a sleeveless button down leather vest and breeches, with mean sounding spur boots. And if I counted the menacing looking tattoos that filled both his muscular arms, he had pinned the executioner look to the ‘T’. When he came close and towered over me, I realised that with my puny 5’7” to his 6’3”, I was really a little girl. His looming presence clogged my throat and fear coiled inside my stomach.
Up close his eyes were ocean blue, with flecks of green. And they bore into mine, making me fidget from one foot to another, and my cowardly bladder complained to release itself.
Dammit, why the hell did my mom drill it into my head that I am a doe eyed girl? All that psychological conditioning came into play when I could hear my legs straining to run. I swear to Jesus I was tired of curbing my instinct to choose flight v/s fight, especially the instinct to scream like a banshee. Girl, grow some balls! And no, I was not talking about the existing ones.
Just when I could feel my balls growing, my mind decided to flash newspaper cuttings of all those incidents back home where women had been caught alone, helpless, raped, tortured and left for dead. Oh no, I was so in trouble. I kept trying to switch on my phone making desperate sounds somewhere between sobs and squeals.
Suddenly a hand shot at me, what was that, was the executioner carrying a bloody axe or was it a scythe? Now I did scream like a banshee and run. Dammit, flight you always win! I ran blindly to get as far away as possible from Devil and ‘The Executioner’.
Behind Devil gave a long unearthly battle cry. I didn’t stop, didn’t slow down. I just ran, ran for my life because seriously dying the executioner style was never a life long dream.
My heart clenched, my breath came in ragged gasps and my body was on fire. I must have run half a mile or so before I collided straight into a wall. The impact hurt like a bitch and landed me on my ass a few feet away. When my head was done admiring oscillating stars, I was glad to have finally reached a man made structure, which meant there would be people around.
Before I could look up at the wall, I saw the wall bend towards me and carry me up in its arms. What the….?
Okay, it was time to open my eyes really wide. And when I did, it wasn’t a wall that I had hit; it was the executioner, who was now carrying me in his tattooed arms. Where the hell was the axe/scythe? And how in the name of God did he overtake me? All those years of running marathons had given me the advantage of speed.
But seriously, how did he reach so soon? Devil was nowhere to be seen. That means he would have had to run to catch up with me, and while I was panting like a hundred and twenty years old granny, who had just climbed two floors, ‘The Executioner’ walked like he cased and carried women weighing sixty-four kilos, every single day.
Between panting, coughing and holding on to his neck, I asked him, “Way u fooohjgikj zee?”
“What?” came the same commanding deep voice that made you want to jump out of your seat. Okay, I guessed he did not get it, I could totally get that. I have never met a smart executioner. Actually, I have never met an executioner, period.
Let’s try again, after gagging, coughing and panting some more, I repeated, “Why are you following me?”
“Oh so you do know, where you are going?” his voice was laced with sarcasm and amusement.
Now it was my turn for, “What!”
“Well, the way you screamed and ran, towards the forest, I assumed you had no idea that this path will lead down Reaper’s throat.”
“Reaper’s throat?” I asked. Sounding disapprovingly stupid.
“It is a deep gorge in the middle of the forest. Maybe another two minutes from here, had you fallen you would have positively broken a few of those lovely bones, possibly even made a fine meal for a family of lynx.” He sounded like that happened everyday.
Okay, the last part didn’t worry me, except maybe being licked to death by them. But broken bones and neck did scare the bejesus outta me.
I looked up at ‘The Executioner’; he was formidable and scary as hell. Big, carrying my substantial weight effortlessly in his arms. He smelled like the ocean, fresh, salty and spicy. His body felt hard, and my soft curves sunk into the hard ridges of his muscles. And I don’t know what it is about danger and desire, but suddenly my desire to play with fire surfaced and I tentatively ran my index finger across the scar on his left cheek. His skin felt cool like water, and electric. He would be handsome, if not for the scar. It gave him a dangerous edge. Something, like most foolish women, I found tremendously arousing.
He mouth suddenly grabbed the tip of my index finger, and lightly held it between his teeth. Surge of electric waves passed through my body as I shuddered in fear and craving. His eyes looked into mine, and I could see desire lacing the ocean blue spheres. An urge uncharacteristically strong overcame me to slowly run a thumb across his lips. I felt his body become taut as he sucked in my finger, deeper and harder. His arms held me tight, his gaze intensified. He let go of my finger as he slowly put me down. And as my feet landed on the ground I realised I was still wobbly. I leaned onto to him and looked up to meet his penetrating gaze. With his arms around my waist, he pulled me closer and brought his head down.
My breath caught and I went back to panting. Oh shit, was he going to kiss me? I was not sure what I wanted more, his lips on mine, or a few kilometers between ‘The Executioner’ and me. My mind ranted like a broken record, “6 feet of hard muscle Sean…6 feet of hard muscle, Sean”. I ignored, the stupid thing, as usual. I looked into those blue eyes with flecks of ocean green. I felt his firm grip on my hips. My body was on fire as my breasts pressed into his hard chest and my heart beat against his. His heat seared through my clothes, scorching my skin. I was hot all over. But instead of touching my lips, his lips grazed my ear lobes and he spoke in a whisper, “Go back to where you came from.”
Before I could say, “huh?”, I heard the familiar chants of “Timmmmm”, “Timbukkkktuuu”, “Where are you dear?” “Timbuktu Olsen, we are looking for you?” Dammit, now he would know the bane of my existence, my name.
He gazed down on me, with an amused smirk, that I so wanted to wipe with my lips. But now was not the time, I had to let my team know I was here. I turned around, and shouted, “I am here, guys.” I tried to find my phone in my pocket and realised I must have dropped it somewhere between running like a cheetah and screaming like banshee.
“Shit”, I turned around to ask ‘The Executioner’, if he noticed where I had dropped my stupid, smart phone and why would he ask me to go back. And just like that he was gone, I swear, it was like he disappeared. I would’ve heard had he walked away. One moment he was there, holding me, towering over me. And next, gone.
Poof. What was that all about? Freaky, huh!
I looked down to find a card near my feet; maybe executioner left his number to continue where he left off. I felt a tremor of excitement in my stomach as I lifted the card. I was in for a rude shock. It was plain black with nothing written on it, except for three words. And not your usual variety that starts with I and ends with you. It said, again “Go back home”. Was that a warning? Did he not enjoy me running my thumb across his lips, or the feel of my hips against his?
I felt spurred by the rejection, no man had ever told me to go back. Damn, I was getting old.
“Are you alright?” I heard Runa’s worried voice. I felt guilty about being so involved in my shallow self that I did not realise how worried they must have been.
“Sorry, guys. Guess I wandered off and panicked. Let us go home.”
Thankfully Mehtab and Isabella did not comment. Weakness had no place in the corporate jungle.