Sunny Singh is senior lecturer in creative writing at London Metropolitan University. Her novels are Nani's Book of Suicides and With Krishna's Eyes.

Tomorrow the tigress will hunt

When the soldiers came to the village, I was playing at the well, just where the fields begin, trying to wait till the sun disappeared behind the trees before going home. Of course, Amma would scold when I returned. "One day a ghost will get you. Don't you know they look for young girls like you? And just at the time when the sun is going away," she always threatened. But she still sent Dhanu-akka to find me every evening.

I started running home when I first heard the screaming. But someone caught me by the end of my half-sari and pulled me into the paddy. "Shhh... quiet." It was Chitti, pushing me into the muddy waters even as I struggled to get away. She held me down in the paddy, nearly drowning me in the brown swamp, her hand pressed tight against my mouth. She threw herself over me, pushing me further into the mud.

We stayed like that all night, Chitti lying on top of me, nearly squeezing all the air out of me. The water in the field was cold and the ground was soft. But Chitti was on top of me and even though my fingers and toes felt they would fall off, she kept my back warm with her fleshy body. She lay stiff over me, barely moving, her hand covering my mouth.

The soldiers left before dawn, but Chitti waited till the sun was high and hot before rolling off me.

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