On the Way to Over There by Shirani Rajapakse

I was trudging up the mountain when I met a leopard. He appeared from over a rock at the side and stopped a few feet away glaring at me as he flicked his tail in disinterest. I stood still and watched him surveying his kingdom nonchalantly, sniffing the air and glancing surreptitiously my way. Pulling out my camera I fumbled with the buttons. One click and he was frozen in time his tail up in the air as if waving a flag. He blinked as the flash caught him in surprise. The wind howled around us like an old man in the throes of death. The cold slapped my face as I wondered what to do. The leopard was in my way. I could not move ahead. We stared at each other eye to eye like children in a game of stare me down.

“Go on, go on," he said after a while. “Don’t mind me. I want to take in the sunshine before moving on," he yawned. “I’ll join you at the top."

He pawed the snow, sniffed and moved to a side. Sitting down he began to lick his paw like a child an ice cream cone.

The cold blew in his face but he didn’t seem to mind while I shivered up the mountain one heavy step at a time. The sun’s lazy fingers lit up the snow making it shimmer; gold streaks on white like the embroidered saree I wore one day in summer. The tall trees in the distance bent their snow laden branches and waved me on. Snow everywhere, in my mouth, in my eyes, melting in my nose as I moved up, up to swirl with the clouds at the peak. As for the leopard, well who could tell if we’d meet again?


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