The birds wheeled high overhead. Death birds. Birds of prey.
“A witch’s escort,” Ma would have whispered, hands fluttering at her prayer beads. She’d have beseeched the skies with cupped palms, waiting for the wail only she could hear.
No. Ma wouldn’t scan the sky anymore. She was gone.
As was most of her family. The urns with their ashes were tied to the neem tree at their estate gate. After the rituals, they’d be cast adrift, their ashes floating away, free.
Overhead, a bird screeched. The witches’ wail. A signal of doom.
No birds had forecast the arrival of the marauders. They had driven swift and ruthless, in the orange glare of the afternoon. Jeep tracks had crisscrossed the desert sands, mocking
They’d cut through the village to reach their farm, and soon the clash of steel had punctured the dappled silence as her father and brothers put up a spirited defense.
No one had come to their rescue. No one would.
“Not just religion! We’re different, you don’t know? Faith, language... More! My family would never accept you. What can you do? Nothing!” he’d said that last evening, after that big fight.
She’d clawed him, enraged; but he’d only laughed, “You low caste slut!”
But that had been a month ago. Rounds of police complaints, pleas to community leaders, social workers--all worth nothing. They’d still been hunted down.
She patted her belly. She’d bide her time. The death bird would call out again.