Beneath the Moon and Stars

It was 2 months after Ved Bausch had relocated to Germany that he decided to go for a hike. It was 1998, American boy bands were the nation’s heroes and east and west Germany were united a few years prior. In India, cricket and Bollywood were celebrated with success on both sides along with the introduction of mobile phones and talk of the internet.

Ved was living in Delhi in India, his father was German and his mother was South Indian. They met when his father visited India for a work project that lasted several years. The constant back and forth was no longer possible and Ved’s mother had waited until he graduated from school to move to Germany permanently. He was 17, a tall, outspoken boy who spoke fluent English, Tamil and German. He had a chocolate brown complexion, black hair and green hazel eyes. Ved did not want to make the move but he had to.

‘The boy with green eyes’ was what he was referred to by students in his school who didn’t know him. He was the only student who had hazel-green eyes with Asian features. Thanks to his unusual looks, he was popular with the girls and due to his outgoing personality, he had a large group of friends.

Ved’s mother Drithi, had received criticism throughout her marriage for marrying a Westerner at a time when love marriages were uncommon. Ved’s grandparents did not support the idea of their only daughter moving to a foreign country and wished she would continue the marriage the way she did for the past 20 years. “They don’t speak English, how are you going to manage?” they would constantly ask her. “Ved speaks German, he will help me out. And I can speak the basics Maa” Drithi reassured them. “Just saying danke schon and guten morgen is not enough! You and Ved have no family or friends there, everyone is so independent in Europe” they told her sick with worry. “We will be fine! It’s not a sin to put my husband first for the first time in 20 years Dad!” was Drithi’s reasoning each time.

They moved to a medieval small town called Monschau. It was surrounded by lush forests and rivers, and it was certainly different from the city life Ved was used to. The vast greenery that surrounded Monschau was used as a Nazi training grounds back in the day which would later become the ‘Eifel National Park’ in 2004.

The town had half-timbered houses built along the banks of the Rur river. The smell of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts lingered in the air. There was an old castle and The Red House that were considered tourist attractions. The inhabitants stared at Ved and his mother everywhere they went. “That’s the German stare kanna(an endearment term used by Tamilians), Dad has told you about this remember?” Drithi told him as they settled in to a new life.

Drithi found it hard to integrate into a town that spoke no English. There was no store she could buy Indian spices from and everyone was quiet and respectful of each other’s space unlike the hustle and bustle of Delhi and how she used to pop into her neighbour’s house for tea every evening. Ved had his own struggles, he could integrate linguistically but he knew he was different. The German students were polite but they did not make him part of their inner circle. “It takes a long time for Germans to become your friends Schnucki, but once they are your friends it’s for life” his father advised him one morning as they walked towards the bakery.

His father was right. He met Sebastian when he was 19, one year after his life in Germany had passed. Sebastian was a tall, blonde haired blue eyed boy who loved Haribo(a popular German candy) more than bread. He was a Star Wars fan just like Ved and they both had a passion for geology. They were the only male students in his class who would pick excavation visits over a game of football or the hardcore sports that their other friends loved.

Sebastian certainly found it strange that Ved’s mother dried chillies in their garden in the summer or how the house always smelt of weird spices. He also found their religious beliefs different from his. Ved’s entire family went to church on Sunday yet they had a dedicated area at home for Hindu idols and pictures. “This looks a little off Mrs Bausch, I am going to pass” he told Dhriti when she offered him idli with coriander chutney. “What a rude boy!” Dhriti told Ved after Sebastian had left. “He’s not rude Amma, he told you the truth” Ved told her shrugging his shoulders to emphasise the point of his friend’s honesty.

It was a balmy Saturday morning in May when they decided to explore the Eifel National Park area. They knew of a prohibited mine area deep inside the forest. Armed with bread, water and an umbrella due to the unpredictable weather, they set out on their journey. Anti-personnel minefields, sown with Glasmine 43 mines dating from the Second World War period, still existed in this region. These sorts of mine cannot be easily cleared because there is still no device able to detect them.Being the geology enthusiasts they were, their research had revealed that there were Carbonatites buried in the prohibited area. Carbonatites are a relatively rare type of igneous rock, they are known to contain the highest amounts of rare earth elements (REEs) of any igneous rocks.

They hiked a long way through the forests to get to the spot. After hours of walking, they spotted the prohibited mining area. Their search was around the area so they split up. It took a few minutes of going away from the mine and deeper into the forests when Ved realised that he was lost. He could not find a path that he recognised. “Sebastian!! Wo bist du?” he called out. There was only silence in response. “Sebastian!! Ich bin hier!” he called out louder this time. There was no answer from the other side. He could hear the babbling of the river nearby, so he decided to walk towards it.

The river was brimming with life, fish were jumping out and in, the water looked golden in the sunlight, and deer were drinking their share. The leaves were the brightest shade of green he had seen in his life. As he walked along the path, admiring the beauty and ensuring he didn’t disturb the animals in the process, a dark flash of light caught his attention.

There, in the far corner of the river, a cat was watching him. Except, it was no ordinary cat. “It looks like a Lykoi (a breed of cat that has a wolf-like appearance due to natural mutations from a domestic shorthair cat)” Ved said aloud. It was too big to be a Lykoi though, the cat was the size of an adult Beagle, with dull orange and white fur. Green eyes and a ferocious wolf like face that almost looked beautiful. “What kind of mutated cat is this?!” Ved said aloud again as he walked towards the creature out of curiosity.

The creature however had other plans. Within seconds the cat had climbed onto the highest tree and looked down at him. ‘That’s abnormally fast even for a cat!’ Ved said as he looked at the creature from down below. The cat suddenly started meowing loudly. It was the strangest meow he had heard. It sounded in between a meow and a howl. It was so loud for a creature of that size, it echoed through the forest.

Ved looked around to see dark shadows emerge from the trees. When the shadows entered the sunlight, he could see they were all Lykoi-like cats. Some bigger than a Beagle, most of them were black and white, some orange and white, all of them had green penetrating eyes. ‘Was this some kind of mutated cat breeding area?!’ Ved thought to himself.

The cats approached him slowly, and Ved’s panic began to rise. These were no ordinary creatures, they looked straight out of a horror story. All the creatures were now meowing at him, except it was more of a howl than a sweet meow. Ved decided it was best to run away from the situation. He prepared himself mentally to dash through the cats who were now dangerously close to him. He jolted at light speed not looking back.

A rumble tore through the atmosphere causing him to stop running. There was a sound that he could only describe as the loudest hoot he had heard from an owl. He looked back to see a giant shadow behind the tree where the cat was still perched high up on. The shadow emerged to reveal itself. It was an owl the size of a man, its giant grey wings were resting under it. Its giant yellow-orange eyes stared directly at Ved and the cats had now gathered around the owl.

‘Is this a Strix?!” Ved said aloud astonished at what he was seeing. Strix was a malevolent mythological creature that was believed to be the result of either supernatural monsters or shape-shifting witches. The Strix was also associated with vampires due to the fact the creatures were believed to feast on human flesh and blood.

No owl, not even a mythological one was known to be this large. Its presence was towering and it did not make any effort to attack him. Instead, it stood watching him, its unblinking eyes fixated on him, while the cats stood around it like an army. The cats had now stopped meow-howling and the entire forest area had a thick blanket of silence that covered it. The river had fallen quiet and the deer were nowhere to be seen.

Ved took the opportunity and began running again. He reached the other side of the river and then looked back. The creatures had all gone back into hiding. An object in the sky caught his attention, and he looked up to find an enormously large bird with its wings spread out flying right above him. ‘Holy shit! It’s the creepy owl Strix creature!’ he said aloud. The owl looked majestic in the sky, it had an aura of a pale golden glow that encompassed it’s entire body.

The owl swooped down and grabbed a deer and swiftly flew back into the sky. Ved stood there stunned at its agility despite being such a large creature. The bird glanced at him for a microsecond before returning its gaze to the sky. Terrified that he might be it’s next meal, Ved darted towards the path that would take him to the prohibited mine area.

Mulling over what he had just seen and trying to piece together information about mythological creatures he had read stories about and mutated creatures that scientists had discovered in different parts of the world. “But how are they in this area?” The Nazi training grounds had been deserted after the war. Ved simply did not believe in magical creatures and knew that something was amiss.

After hours of getting lost through paths that all looked identical he finally made it to the spot where Sebastian and he had separated. Sebastian was nowhere to be seen. “Sebastian kannst du mich hören?” Ved screamed at the top of his lungs. The sun was setting and he had not brought a flashlight with him. He had to reach home before the sunlight died. With a heavy heart and an anxious mind, he walked to the nearest bus stop.

Sebastian did not return home. His parents filed a missing person complaint 1 day later. His entire family, some of their friends and Ved set out to search for him at Eifel Park. Ved ventured into the path that had led him near the river, he consciously chose to go alone. This time he couldn’t find the spot where he had seen the deer drinking water or the tree where the cat had climbed onto. He was worried that Sebastian had fallen prey to one of these abnormal creatures and he had to get him out.

He tried hiking through different paths near the mine until the rest of the search party started calling out for him. “He’s not here, we have looked everywhere!” he heard Sebastian’s father telling the others. “We will keep looking, let’s go home for today,” they said trying to convince the poor man to retreat.



One response to “Beneath the Moon and Stars”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: