I stood on the outskirts. It had been a long day and the herd stopped to rest. They surrounded the pond and hogged down the cool water. I had had my sip and lurked on the edges of our marked territory. We were going to settle her for the next few sun sets. While the leaders discussed the future of the herd, the followers looked at them with monotonous eyes. Nothing out of the ordinary.
A young leader was rebelling against the aged ones; the minister was intervening with the leader’s wishes. They were all agitated and prepared to fight. I had been a part of it all not so long back and now as I looked at them squabbling over petty issues to assert their dominance I felt my food rise up my throat. I looked around my not so special herd. We were all slaves of one another, slaves of the rut that we were forced into. As a young one my folks told me that to survive I must fall in line as the entire herd did. We survive because we follow each other. I was never the kind to follow suit. I was different but they changed me to become one of them. The only way to fit in was to be normal. Was to be enslaved. It wasn’t a cruel life. Much better than the kind of life ill fated rebels had received. Imprisonment by the humans, being murdered by a stronger predator and worst of all being caged. At least I had a secure survival. I had food, water, shelter and a future to look forward too but I swear the open meadow that I stared at looked so tempting. When you have the gift of speed in your bloods merely standing still just doesn’t work.
It was a moment’s glimpse that caught my eye. As I looked around the boundary of our occupation I caught a glimpse of the beautiful meadow right ahead. Right as I was about to stare into its beauty I heard screams. As I turned I saw a fight breaking out between the old leader and the new one. They argued and fought as they always did. And I had to go forward to calm them down. It was my job. Unsuccessful, I managed to be thrown off. Giving up I went back to my spot. As I looked back at the open space the meadow beyond me felt a tingle in my nerves. It was beautiful. An open ground with a never ending horizon to run after and the element of not knowing what lay ahead. I felt a jolt I hadn’t before but I couldn’t leave. Leaving meant rebellion and rebels were never treated right.
Yet that meadow looked so beautiful, the grass honestly seemed greener and the fresh air was just too irresistible. But every eye of the herd was on me. They never understood me. I was the weird one. They never understood my musings about freedom. I could see right through each and every one of them. How each of them had compromised so much to fit in that they resembled each other in more ways than one. And they considered me an outcast who was too foolish to understand that to survive you either becomes the alpha or you follow the alpha. And the alpha was no leader himself but was a slave of the herd. It was suffocating to pretend to be ordinary when every bone in my body wanted to rebel. Was I too afraid? Or was I just bound? I didn’t know. This life that I had chosen was the only life I had ever known. Our herd frowned upon rebellion and called it a sin. But why would they consider freedom to be a sin. I wanted to run away yet my legs felt heavy as if they’d been bolted to the ground beneath me. I was stuck in this herd with no friends. None of them understood me. None could be trusted. Each of them had their own regrets that they reflected unto others. The greedy ones only wanted power and food. The selfish ones took what they needed. The holy ones were above everything else and were engrossed in their own world. The foolish one’s played into the hands of the greedy and selfish ones. The sincere ones never got their dues yet kept working unquestionably. The alpha men treated everyone else like dirt and everyone was an alpha to someone else. The lowest of them all were the returned rebels- the ones who had failed to find freedom or survived from a misfortune and had to return to the herd. They were treated like dirt. Everyone saw them as the black sheep. No one respected their will to explore. As the day ended the herd began to rest. I was about to sleep when the minister approached me. I was appointed as the back guard which translated into a night watchman for the entire herd. The minister did babble on about how age had taken its toll on the alpha. When I refused to be a part of his petty politics he left disappointed. And I was left with no other alternative but to stand still and stay awake and alert. As time went by my visitors increased. One after the other followers of the young alpha came and hounded me with ill facts about the old alpha. Power struggles- they all have the same pattern. One contender who is too eager and too hungry and one contender who is too adamant. I heard them fuss about the sorry condition of the herd. I was dazed and my head began to hurt. With time their numbers decreased and I was left in my solitude. Silence never seemed better. The fresh cold air in my lungs made me feel alive. I felt that urge again to run. To run into the wilderness away from all of it. I was in a place where unknown darkness seemed more tempting that the well known life that I had.
In that moment, the temptation just overtook me. I ran! I ran away from the place where I had stood still for so long. I felt like God. I was running like I was meant too. The wind had to catch up with me. The sound of my hooves on the grass was music to my ears. I felt the air rush on my face. It tasted sweet, like the taste of freedom. I was in control; every turn I took was my own. I could feel the shackles breaking. I didn’t feel any burden no more all I could feel was liberation. I was free. Running wild like I was meant too and it felt real. It felt natural and most of all I felt elated. I ran and I ran into the wilderness unaware of what lay ahead. It was a chase and I was in pursuit of the horizon that never seemed to come closer. I was free and happy for the first time in my life. I felt like I had when I was younger when the word responsibility meant going back to mother at sunset and lying under her warm body and drifting off to sleep. I was free. As I kept running I realised that I had left herd behind. I knew I had to return in time. Yet the time I had now was mine. All mine.
-Shweta A. K.