Warrior of the Soul

Book 3

heeding the call


David Pratt

© July 2003

Part 3   Fatal encounter

~ 1 ~

The man glanced at his watch and put his foot down on the accelerator. He had successfully accomplished his mission and was now taking the object he had obtained to his superior. He had been promised a large sum of money in return, and he hoped finally to put his tortured past behind him and begin a new life.
    He was travelling in a jeep down a narrow winding road leading to a village. He hadn’t intended to pass through the village as it held unpleasant memories, but he had changed his mind as it would save time.
    He was approaching a very sharp bend. But he was driving far too fast. The jeep swerved off the road. The man slammed on the brakes and swung the steering wheel to the left trying to miss a tree. The front of the jeep struck the tree and the jeep spun round clockwise. The man’s head smashed against the side window and the vehicle came to a standstill.
    A few minutes later Sushila came upon the scene. She was returning home from a nearby village after completing her day’s work at a nursery. The jeep had overtaken her a little earlier, and she had been annoyed at the driver for speeding by so close to her. She ran to the vehicle and opened the driver’s door. A bearded man was hunched forward, unconscious. Sushila pushed him back against the seat. There was a large bruise and gash on the man’s forehead, a cut on the right side of his face, and his nose was bleeding.
    ‘You poor man,’ said Sushila as she reached over and turned off the ignition.

Khamseen was driving back to the village with Keshava after a visit to a nearby town to buy some computer equipment. This was the first time Khamseen and Uma had visited Keshava and Usha since Khamseen had been released from prison. Their last visit had been four years ago, when they had all witnessed a beautiful, mysterious light display above the mountain. A year later Khamseen had been found guilty of illegal financial dealings and had spent the past two and a half years in jail. He and his wife had just opened a clothes shop in a town some fifty miles away.
    Many things had changed in their lives over the past few years. But one thing that hadn’t changed was that whenever Keshava and Khamseen spoke together, they invariably ended up arguing, though they no longer resorted to insults.
    ‘There’s no way that the neodarwinian theory of evolution can be wrong,’ declared Khamseen. ‘I’ve had plenty of time to study all this and it makes a lot of sense. Basically, the first living organisms arose by chance in the primeval oceans and have gradually evolved towards greater complexity and diversity through random genetic mutations, with the least well-adapted variations being weeded out by natural selection, or the survival of the fittest.’
    ‘You’re welcome to that belief,’ said Keshava. ‘But don’t forget that the origin of new types of organisms through natural selection has never been observed in action, and that 99.9 per cent of genetic mutations are harmful or even lethal. And anyway, the genetic code merely contains instructions for making proteins; it doesn’t explain the shape of an organism. The probability of a cell developing by chance alone is staggeringly remote, and this is even more true of intricate organs such as the human eye or brain. Or what about the mammalian reproductive system, all the complicated features of which would have to emerge simultaneously in perfect working order! Or the ability of a caterpillar to metamorphose into a butterfly.’
    ‘You clearly fail to understand that given enough time even the most improbable things become possible,’ said Khamseen. ‘And remember the earth is billions of years old. It’s true that we can’t prove that no additional factors are involved, but I see no reason to think they are.’
    ‘Many qualified biologists would disagree with you,’ said Keshava. ‘Another major problem is the complete absence of a continuous series of transitional fossil forms between major groups of species – between invertebrates and fish, fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and birds, reptiles and mammals, and apes and humans. The fossil record gives little or no indication of how the fins of fish became the legs and feet of amphibians, how gills became lungs, scales became feathers, and legs became wings.’
    ‘But as you know,’ said Khamseen, ‘some scientists now argue that evolution takes place in sudden spurts. So that gets round the problem of missing links.’
    ‘On the contrary. You just argued that it’s the enormous amount of time available that enables slow, random mutations to bring about higher forms. But if these changes now have to be compressed into short spurts, it makes the whole scenario even more implausible. There’s certainly no denying that the fossil record does show that most species appear on the scene very suddenly, live for millions of years essentially unchanged, and then inexplicably die out. Insects, fish, birds, vertebrates – all appear as if out of nowhere.
    ‘Animal and plant breeders have applied “intelligent selection” to create many new breeds and varieties of domesticated animals and cultivated plants, but they’ve failed to produce any changes on the scale required by darwinian theory for the evolution of creatures of a completely different type. Some scientists argue that in addition to genetic change there must be some sort of “creative urge” or “directing influence” at work, enabling life to evolve toward forms of ever increasing complexity.’
    ‘As usual you’re trying to smuggle in mysticism by the back door,’ said Khamseen. ‘Whenever you see an unsolved problem you jump to the conclusion that something mystical and “paraphysical” must be at work. But . . . Hey look over there, there’s been an accident! Let’s check it out.’
    Khamseen brought the car to a standstill behind a crashed jeep. They were surprised to see Sushila walking towards them. She told them the accident had just happened and that the driver was unconscious but only had minor wounds. After discussing the matter they decided to take him to the house of Sushila and her mother in the village so that they could give him some first aid. They would contact the police from there.

~ 2 ~

Sushila and her mother looked at the tall, injured driver lying on their settee. They had dressed his wounds, bandaged his head and cleaned the blood from his face.
    ‘He seems to have led quite an eventful life,’ said Mrs Askari softly. ‘Look at his damaged lips; they obviously weren’t treated by a competent doctor as they haven’t healed properly. And several of his teeth are broken or have been knocked out. He has a very war-torn face, doesn’t he?’
    She wiped some dried blood from the man’s greying beard with a damp cloth.
    The man groaned and opened his eyes.
    ‘Where am I?’ he asked gruffly.
    ‘It’s alright. You’ve had an accident and were knocked unconscious, but you only have minor injuries. Two of our friends have gone to fetch the police.’
    Keshava and Khamseen had gone to the police station in person as no one had answered their phone call.
    The man started to sit up.
    ‘Just lie back and rest,’ said Mrs Askari. ‘You may have got a bit of concussion.’
    The man tried to smile at her.
    ‘I must collect something from my jeep. It’s very important.’
    ‘Well I’m sure it can wait until the police get here. They won’t be long now.’
    The man looked worried and restless.
    ‘I must get back to the jeep, it’s very important,’ he said to himself, swinging his legs round and sitting up. He raised himself to his feet and tried to walk, but immediately fell back onto the settee.
    ‘I’m a bit dizzy . . . I must get to the jeep . . .’
    Mrs Askari looked at her daughter.
    ‘What do you need exactly?’ asked Sushila.
    ‘The briefcase on the back seat. It’s very important.’
    ‘I could go and get it on my bike,’ said Sushila. ‘It would only take ten minutes. If it will make you feel better.’
    ‘Oh thank you, thank you very much,’ said the man. And he sank back on the settee and closed his eyes.
    Quarter of an hour later Sushila returned carrying a case, which she put down by the settee. The man was fast asleep.
    Her mother told her that Keshava and Khamseen had returned during her absence. The police had said they would come to the house as soon as they could but were very understaffed. Keshava and Khamseen had then left for Keshava’s house, a couple of streets away.
    The man woke up twenty minutes later and seemed reassured by the sight of his briefcase.
    ‘Perhaps you’d like to go and lie down in one of our spare bedrooms,’ said Mrs Askari. ‘It’s only just out of this door here.’
    ‘Oh I don’t want to put you to any trouble, you’ve been kind enough as it is,’ said the man.
    ‘It’s alright,’ said Mrs Askari. ‘Please go and lie down in comfort. You’ll not be disturbing anyone. My two sons don’t use the room any more.’
    ‘Are they away?’ asked the man.
    ‘Yes, far away.’
    They helped the man to the room. Then Mrs Askari looked at the clock.
    ‘I’m sorry the police are taking so long. I’ve got to go to the shops now and while I’m out I’ll drop by the station to see what’s happening.’
    They left the man to rest, and after her mother had departed, Sushila sat down and started to read a book.

Keshava and Khamseen were sitting outside in the garden, continuing their discussion, while their wives sat indoors in the cool, discussing their husbands.
    ‘It seems highly implausible to me,’ said Keshava, ‘that the physical world and all its lifeforms have evolved without any overall direction. How can one organism be transformed into a higher form of life without any inner or outer guidance? It’s rather like expecting a tornado sweeping through a builder’s yard to assemble a house! Neodarwinism is fixated on bodies, which are supposed to be no more than complex machines. But perhaps what really evolves is the consciousness that animates them.’
    ‘You’re drifting off into empty verbiage again, I’m afraid,’ said Khamseen. ‘You’ve every right to believe that there’s always “something more” than what we can see. But it hardly amounts to a quantifiable, testable theory.’
    ‘To claim that the incredible variety, beauty and resourcefulness of nature are simply the unplanned result of a few blind forces is also an untestable theory – nothing but an expression of faith. Is it really so absurd to think that there’s an element of intelligent design in what we see around us?’
    ‘Yes, totally absurd.’
    ‘Ok, let’s look at some examples. Experiments have shown that if bacteria are starved by feeding them a substance they can’t digest, they begin to mutate many orders of magnitude faster than the “spontaneous”, “random” mutation rate, but only in genes that subsequently enable them to consume the substance and survive. This phenomenon of “directed mutations” or “adaptive mutations” may also explain the speed at which pests, from rats to insects, develop resistance to poisons.’
    ‘So we don’t yet understand everything,’ said Khamseen. ‘I’ve never denied that there are interesting puzzles still to be solved. And I certainly don’t rule out the possibility of forms of cooperation and coordination and feedback that we haven’t yet identified. But these are probably just minor details.’
    ‘I doubt whether “adaptive mutations” and “directed evolution” will ever be understood within the framework of materialistic science,’ said Keshava. ‘Genes and organisms that “respond” successfully to environmental challenges are not acting randomly but purposefully, and this points to an instinctive intelligence at work that goes beyond purely physical mechanisms and processes. To explain the origin of species, some scientists now invoke “organizing principles”. If this is more than just a vacuous expression, it can only refer to the influence of levels of reality beyond the physical. Why shouldn’t there be finer grades of energy-substance, closely linked to mind and consciousness? A whole range of unusual and anomalous phenomena point in this direction. Why shouldn’t nature be alive and conscious throughout, guided from within outwards?’
    ‘Ok, let me modify something I just said,’ said Khamseen. ‘I agree that it’s not totally irrational to argue for some element of design. I did a lot of reading on this in prison. Personally I find the arguments unconvincing. We do at least agree that the idea of a selfconscious “God” as found in the Christian tradition is a fairytale – a being who wakes up one morning and says, “Now, what shall I do today? I think I’ll create a universe, or a planet, or a new species.” What you’re arguing for sounds more like a form of subconscious intelligence; it could even be an unrecognized form of electromagnetic intelligence, for example.’
    ‘Yes, at the very least. I think there must be some sort of universal mind and memory to explain evolution. Obviously there’s no perfect, omnipotent creator – there are too many flaws and failings and too much suffering in the living world for that. But there could be a variety of nonphysical, formative agencies involved, expressing and building on the evolutionary habits arising from the past. But even this hypothesis leaves us with many intriguing questions. If a number of coordinated, directed mutations took place all at once, it’s conceivable that one creature could give birth to a new but similar species. But it’s hard to imagine one creature giving birth to a creature of a completely different type, such as a bear giving birth to a whale, especially since genes don’t explain the shape of an organism. Since transitional forms are largely absent from the fossil record, it seems to me that new types of creatures must first take shape on the ethereal level before they materialize into visible, physical forms.’
    ‘All this sounds far too wild for my liking,’ said Khamseen. ‘A much more plausible explanation has been proposed. Some genes exist in two different forms, one of which is dominant and the other recessive. If a gene is recessive, or unexpressed, mutations can occur over time without affecting the organism in question. Then, at some point, regulatory genes, which we don’t yet understand, activate the recessive mutated genes and deactivate certain other genes, giving rise to the abrupt appearance of a new organ, or perhaps a new species.’
    ‘So just the right genes mutate randomly in just the right way, and then at just the right time exactly the right genes are randomly switched on or off to produce an evolutionary novelty?! I thought you didn’t believe in miracles!’
    ‘I don’t. I believe in purely physical, natural and lawful processes, but essentially random and unguided. Life is an amazing accident.’

Usha and Uma watched through an open window as their husbands sat talking. Usha was cradling her nine-month-old daughter in her arms.
    ‘So how has Khamseen been since he got out of prison?’ she asked.
    ‘Like a reformed man. I just pray it will last. He’s abandoned his old domineering ways, and he’s more considerate and more satisfied with what he’s got. It was touch and go, though, while he was in jail. We were close to divorce on several occasions. You see, at first he was in a state of denial, trying to make out that he hadn’t really done anything very wrong. So I broke off contact for a while. But eventually he started being more honest, and his letters became long confessions. He was really giving himself a hard time. Then Keshava wrote him that long letter telling him it was time to pull himself together and think of the future – and of me.
    ‘Well, it all worked out in the end. You know – you may not believe this, as I know he’s occasionally been a bit nasty towards you – but my husband is actually a well-meaning and caring man. He can get very upset about all the poverty and injustice in the world. I’ll never forget the time – it was just after he’d been released – that he visited the centre for homeless children that my mother helped set up, where I’ve been doing voluntary work during the past couple of years. You could tell he was really moved by what he saw, especially the new youngsters who were brought in. Anyway he disappeared for a while and I saw him out in the grounds, so I walked up behind him and found him sitting there sobbing his heart out. I crept away again as I didn’t want to embarrass him.’
    ‘I’d never have thought of Khamseen as the sentimental type,’ said Usha.
    ‘Well men are strange creatures. It’s sometimes difficult to penetrate the thick concrete wall they build up around themselves. Maybe Khamseen’s time in prison was just what he needed. And if we ever decide to start a family, I just know he’ll be a wonderful, doting father.’

~ 3 ~

Sushila walked into the spare room with a cup of tea and some cakes. The man was lying on the bed staring up at the ceiling.
    ‘I’ve brought you something to eat and drink,’ she said to him.
    ‘Thank you, you’re very kind,’ said the man.
    ‘Are you a wood-cutter?’ she asked. ‘I saw the axe in your jeep.’
    ‘Sort of.’ The man noticed a photograph standing on a bookcase. ‘Are they your brothers?’
    ‘Yes, that’s right,’ said Sushila. She picked up the photo and showed it to the man. ‘The older one is Sahula, and the younger one is Ranjit.’
    Suddenly the man spilt the cup of tea down his shirt and let out a cry of pain.
    ‘Oh dear, never mind,’ said Sushila. She ran to get a towel, and when she returned the man was sitting with the photograph in his hands, with a distraught, almost demented look in his eyes.
    She wiped his shirt for him.
    ‘I think you need to get some more rest. I’ll leave you in peace for a while. Just call me if you need anything,’ she said, putting the photograph back on the bookcase. She left the room and closed the door behind her.
    Terrible thoughts were assailing the man’s mind – thoughts of revenge, lust and murder. He would never get another opportunity like the one that now presented itself. His body swelled with intense, uncontrollable sensations.
    Fate had brought him to the house of Ranjit, the young boy he had murdered eleven and a half years ago, and of his brother Sahula, the freaky monk he had twice failed to murder. On the second occasion he had struck him with an axe and seen blood spurt from his neck, but his superior had later informed him that he had failed to kill him. Not only that, he had tried to kill a friend of Sahula’s but the axe had mysteriously rebounded and hit him in the face, turning his mouth into a bloody mess. He still bore the deformities.
    Sushila and her mother had been very kind to him. But so what? This would be his ultimate act of revenge for the humiliation he had suffered at Sahula’s hands. He would slit Sushila’s throat and then violate her.
    What a terrible, wasted life he had led! Long ago he had entered the service of a dugpa, a practitioner of black magic. His guru had assured him that by allying himself with the dark forces he would acquire everything he wished for. But his several criminal acts had not prevented him from suffering constant disappointments, and he had still not managed to acquire any notable occult powers. That was why he had finally resolved to start a new life. But he needed to commit this one final act of evil. The urge to do so was simply overpowering and irresistible.
    Of course the police would know he was responsible for the murder, but they would find no clues about his identity in the stolen jeep. And once the deed was done he would escape by hijacking a car. Then he would start a new life somewhere, with a new identity, thanks to the large sum of money he would receive when he handed over the object in his briefcase. He had stolen it from a monastery that morning on his superior’s instructions.
    He quickly opened his case and checked that the object was still there. He also took out a knife. Then he walked slowly and quietly out of the bedroom, and moved towards the settee, knife in hand. Sushila was sitting with her back to him, engrossed in a book.
    Step by step the man edged towards her. He was now just two feet away. He began to reach out with the knife . . .
    Suddenly the doorbell rang loudly.
    Sushila sprang to her feet and turned round. She saw the man, knife in hand, the grim expression on his face. Taking in the situation at a glance, she screamed and dashed out of the living room and into the bedroom, with the man in hot pursuit. She bolted the door and the man banged on it with his fists and cursed loudly. It didn’t matter, she would not escape.
    The man marched to the front door and angrily pulled it open, knife at the ready. There was no one there. He stepped outside. There was no one in sight. Then he ran round the side of the house. Sushila was opening the bedroom window in a bid to escape. She screamed when she saw the man and closed it quickly.
    The man raced back into the house through the front door. He ran straight at the bedroom door. Under his weight, the flimsy bolt gave way and the door flew open. He rushed inside, but Sushila had been standing against the wall close to the door and ran out into the living room.
    She tried to leap over the settee, but caught the top of it with her foot. She fell sprawling to the floor, landed with a thump and rolled over. The man bounded forward and Sushila cowered before him, hysterical with fright.
    ‘Why are you doing this?’ she cried. ‘We only wanted to help you. Why do you want to hurt me?’
    ‘To take revenge for this,’ said the man, pointing to his deformed lip and broken teeth. ‘It happened while I was trying to kill Sahula. At least I managed to kill Ranjit.’
    ‘How could you have done such a thing?’ exclaimed Sushila in disbelief. ‘He was just a little boy! What a horrible thing to do!’
    ‘Just shut up and die bravely!’
    ‘But at least tell me why you killed my young brother. Don’t you like children? Don’t you have any of your own? Have you had a troubled past?’
    Sushila was trying to play for time. She had made a quick phone call from the bedroom on the man’s mobile phone before trying to escape through the window.
    ‘And why do you want to kill me?’ asked Sushila tearfully. ‘I’ve never hurt you. Why don’t you just leave quietly?’
    ‘Stop nagging for God’s sake and die like a man!’
    The man seized her with his left hand and was about to slash her with the knife when the front door burst open. Khamseen and Keshava stormed inside. Taken by surprise, the man momentarily relaxed his grip. Sahula pulled herself free and rushed away from him.
    ‘Be careful, you two! He says he killed Ranjit!’
    ‘You murdering bastard!’ Khamseen shouted. ‘I’ll kill you when I get my hands on you!’ He was beside himself with rage.
    The man snarled and slashed the air in front of him with the knife. ‘Just try it!’ he said menacingly.
    Suddenly a look of fear spread over the man’s face. ‘No! Not now, not now,’ he cried. He was beginning to shake and froth at the mouth. He collapsed moaning to his knees. The knife fell out of his hand. The three onlookers watched helplessly as he went into violent epileptic convulsions. He was flailing his arms and legs uncontrollably, howling and regurgitating, his face a picture of misery and despair. After a few minutes he became still, apart from an occasional twitch and whimper. Khamseen retrieved the knife and then tied the man up.
    ‘Why did he attack you?’ Keshava asked Sushila.
    ‘I don’t know. But he said he’d murdered Ranjit.’
    ‘Did he say anything about Sahula?’ asked Keshava.
    Sushila hesitated. ‘He . . . he mentioned his name, but he wasn’t making much sense. I think he’s extremely disturbed. Poor, sick man. I’ll go and get his briefcase. Maybe it will provide some more clues.’
    She walked into the spare room. The man’s closed briefcase was lying on the bed, and his mobile phone lay nearby, where Sushila had left it. She opened the briefcase. Noticing an object wrapped in cloth, she uncovered it then gasped in wonder as her eyes fell on a stunningly beautiful, luminous crystal, seven inches long and five inches wide.
    At that moment the mobile phone started to ring. She was inclined to ignore it, but on a sudden impulse picked it up and pressed the talk button.
    ‘Hello,’ she said softly.
    After a few seconds she turned off the phone and put it in the briefcase. Then she hid the crystal at the bottom of a drawer, closed the case and took it with her into the living room.
    At that moment, the front door opened and her mother walked in with two police officers. She gaped in amazement at the scene before her.
    ‘What on earth has been happening?’
    ‘The man went berserk and tried to kill me,’ Sushila explained. ‘He said he’d murdered Ranjit but didn’t say what happened to Sahula. Luckily I managed to ring Keshava before the man got to me. He and Khamseen arrived just in time.’
    The police apologized for being so late, saying that they had gone to the wrong address. They looked inside the man’s case, but found only the mobile phone, a map and a blank note pad. They would take him to the police station, and then go and recover the man’s jeep. At least they now knew the identity of Ranjit’s killer and would seek to bring him to justice. And they would investigate the man’s background to try to learn more about Sahula’s fate and about the man’s motives and possible accomplices.

Late that evening after everybody else had left the house, Sushila talked over the day’s events with her mother. She showed her the beautiful crystal and told her of the mysterious phone call.
    ‘It was a mechanical voice, a bit like a robot, and it said: “The crystal is stolen. Hide it and guard it well.” Then it rang off.’
    ‘Ah, there is so much we don’t understand. Maybe it’s a good omen and means that Sahula will pay us another surprise visit soon.’
    They both looked towards the door, half expecting Sahula to walk in. But he didn’t. It was four years since his last visit. There was no telling when he might return, or when Sushila might learn more about the crystal.
     ‘And what made the doorbell ring at just the right moment?’ said Sushila. ‘Khamseen suggested it was just a couple of kids playing a prank and the timing was sheer luck – but that sounds rather far-fetched to me.’

Nine months later Sushila received an unexpected letter telling her she had won first prize in a lottery competition. She and Usha had been in a nearby town eight weeks earlier and had seen a notice for the competition: a chance to win a week’s holiday for four on a remote island. Neither of them ever bought lottery tickets, but Usha persuaded Sushila to buy one for a laugh. And now she had won! After much discussion, it was decided that she would give the tickets to Usha and Uma and their husbands, and that Mrs Askari would pay for her daughter to accompany them on the trip. They had three months to make their preparations, and they were all looking forward to having a very enjoyable time.

Warrior of the Soul - 3: Part 4

Warrior of the Soul: Contents