I’ve wanted to work with Tutu Dutta for ages, so thrilled to have her story ‘The Craving’ in our reprint anthology, Insignia 2020: Best Asian Speculative Fiction!
Hope you enjoy this teaser…
By Tutu Dutta
The afternoon warmed. When the sun set and enveloped the peaceful valley in a warm glow, her aunt brought her a plate of food: rice with chicken roasted with bamboo shoot. As the heat of the day gave way to cool evening air, she heard members of the longhouse gather in the long open space along the verandah to sing and tell each other tales and jokes. It was a convivial time enjoyed by all—except Kinambura.
When their quarters were finally empty, she tossed aside her blanket. She climbed down the ladder to the main room below, and crept to the back door of the longhouse. Once her feet touched the bare earth, she ran through the tapioca and melon farm to the edge of the luxuriant bamboo grove behind the longhouse. As night descended, the evening light faded, and a slight breeze blew through the bamboo leaves. She waited impatiently for several minutes, wondering when he would turn up. Her aunt might notice that she was not in her little bilik. The air had cooled noticeably; she shivered and turned to leave, when she heard a sound. Her heart missed a beat. Montuk appeared a few feet away, looking more wickedly handsome than usual in the dim light. She ran to him and they embraced.
She laid her head on his shoulder, tears running down her cheeks. “They’ve arranged for me to marry Tingoran!”
“Who? What are you talking about?” He held her by the shoulders, his eyes boring into hers.
“My father has arranged for me to marry Tingoran! He will be coming with his men in a few weeks’ time. They will be bringing the bridal gifts and we will be married on the same day!” Kinambura’s finely etched eyebrows drew together in anxiety. “What am I going to do?
“Tell me more about this. Exactly when are they expected to arrive, and which route will Tingoran and his men be taking?” His rough voice surprised her.
“I don’t know. I suppose if they start in the morning, they will arrive before sunset. I think my aunt and the maids are preparing to cook a feast for their arrival.”
“There are a few routes from the village of Tambunan to here. Which route are they most likely to take?”
She frowned, then laughed. “Of course, Tingoran will probably take the route through the hill side. He always did hate to get his feet wet. He will have to wade through the stream in the route through the valley. Why?” She teased, “Are you planning to scare him away?”
“I will give him the scare of his life.” He laughed, twisting his lips. She saw a strange expression as he said, “Tingoran will never ask you to marry him again!”
He pulled her to him and looked deeply into her eyes. His dark eyes gleamed with resolve. “You are mine, Kinambura! You will always be mine; no one can take you away from me.”
Insignia 2020: Best of Asian Speculative Fiction is out now!
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