It was dark. The rain poured like there was no tomorrow. The river, like an angry wife, displayed its tantrums in full flow.
A lone candle cut through the darkness.
The Coracle Man sat in his filthy hut on the riverbank. As he had always done for the past 35 years, he awaited patiently for passengers to ferry across the bank.
It didn’t matter to him that the river was in full fury with the rain lashing hard. Rain or shine, he had been there. Moving people from bank to bank.
The river was known for its unpredictability. Calm sometimes, devilish mostly. A lot of men had tried their hand at ferrying… only to be devoured by the might of the river. Only this guy had survived.
The villagers said he possessed ‘special skills’. All these years, he had effortlessly ferried people across the ill-mannered river. Through raging torrents, he had taken people across safely, always.
Though people felt safe ferrying with him, no one dared to have a conversation with him. He was notorious for giving a cold stare to anyone who asked a question!
‘The only one he talks to is the river,’ they said subtly implying that he could as well be half-insane. ‘Doesn’t get any better with age, you know,’ said the village headman.
The villagers knew they needed him. No one but him had lasted for more than 6 months in the job and people were scared of the river.
He was now in his 70’s. The prime of his body now gone, the arms and legs no longer strong, he still managed to get his job done well.. only because he now relied on his will power.
Something in him wouldn’t let him retire!
There was some sadness and longingness in his eyes. His cheeks bore the strain of a man who had lost much in life. With every passing day, it grew intense.
“He always lived alone, never had a family,” the villagers said.
The oldest man in the village, through his failing memories, recalled that something bad had happened 30-35 years ago in the Coracle Man’s life and ever since he had lived alone, refusing to talk to anyone.
That night, a well dressed stranger appeared at the Coracle Man’s hut. He appeared to be in a hurry.
In the dying light of the candle, with a commanding voice, he said he wanted to go to the other side.
The Coracle Man raised his head and took a faint look at the stranger. Without uttering a single word, he sprang up. The rain and the river were still having a bout of violence as they both climbed into the coracle.
The next morning, an empty coracle came floating by. The Coracle Man and his passenger were nowhere to be seen.
Up and down the river, the villagers searched for them. No sign at all.
The river was unusually calm that day.
The police came few days later in search of a man who had gone missing. The cops had a photo, a smart looking old man in his 60’s or 70’s. No one had seen him, the villagers said.
When the villagers cleaned up the Coracle Man’s hut, they noticed a newspaper clipping preserved carefully in his broken desk. It was the story of a girl who had been murdered and thrown into the river, the accused being an affluent lad from the city.
There was another clipping. This one said the same lad had been acquitted as there was no witness to the murder.
Someone in the crowd mumbled how surprised he was by the silence of the river.. something he had never seen for years.