By the afternoon, they stopped at a makeshift dock jutting out of dense, green vegetation. Vivek jumped ashore, pushed through the vines around him, cutting a few of them as he went, and saw a crumbling tower. Trees grew over it, wrapping it with their giant roots. Huge stones just barely peeked through the thick foliage. As he climbed up the steps, the guide said, "In ancient time, ancestors used here to sacrifice witches. Blood pour down the steps beneath you."
As he neared the top of the stairs, he suddenly saw a woman tied to a pole, crying for help. A man towered behind her, holding an axe in his hand, preparing to behead her. The sun stood high above them, its light glinting brilliantly off the metal head of the axe.
Vivek ran to stop the man, but it was over in less than a second.
"No! Stop it!" Vivek cried, but he was too late.
The woman's head rolled down the steps. Torrents of blood rushed from the decapitated body toward him.
Vivek looked down. Blood covered his feet. The head rested a few inches away from them. The eyes in the head were open. He recognized the face right away.
"Mala!" How could that be?
He looked up at the executioner and, for the first time, realized he was looking at himself. He knelt down on the stairs and covered his face.
Nature was against him. It knew he had to be punished, so it was distorting his reality.
The guide ran to him.
"Sir, you okay?" he asked.
Vivek looked up at him, then back at the pole where the incident occurred. There was nothing.
"Can you take me home?" he asked, not offering any further explanation.
Two months passed. His nightmares increased. Mala stood over him every evening as he went to bed.
"Go away Mala!" he often shouted. "I hate you! Just leave me alone!"
But Mala didn't move. She just kept standing there, sometimes smiling, sometimes grimacing, and sometimes crying…
"No, this can't be remorse. I killed you for a reason!"
No matter how he would try to convince himself otherwise, guilt and regret filled Vivek's life. The reality of his crime coiled around him, controlling his day-to-day life. He felt despondent. He'd robbed himself of his perfect life, robbed someone else of her life.
He owed a debt he could never fully repay.
He was full of shame for what he did.
He couldn't take it any longer.
Vivek's secretary and other employees were baffled by his strange behaviour. She urged him daily to come back and deal with the business. Things couldn't run without him. Vivek just told her to inform all the employees that he had extended his trip abroad.
Then, one day he called her and said, "I will be back in the office next week."
The news shocked her, but also made her very happy. She immediately informed all the employees and creditors, who had called her relentlessly for the past two months, and informed them of Vivek's impending arrival.