Short Stories » Thou Shalt Not Be Afraid

Thou Shalt Not Be Afraid

More than twenty years ago, I was crossing the deserts from California to Utah. The days were hot, and nights were freezing cold, as is usual in deserts. We travelled in a group, in a train of perhaps forty wagons. So far, our journey had been uneventful; we had spotted an occasional coyote or a desert snake, no humans.

As was my custom, I had a pocket Bible with me, which I consulted every night before sleep. On one of the nights, I came across the verse: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day."

I pondered these words, and wondered what it meant for me. For it had become my experience that Bible verses had rather quick meaning for me in daily life. This particular verse, however, which hinted of violence, seemed uncalled for in the circumstances: we were at peace with the Indians.

So thinking, I went to sleep, but was awakened by some noise before midnight. We were being attacked! Our animals had already been led away in a herd towards the hills, by our attackers, who, I soon learnt, were the native Indian tribes. This was a surprise to me, since I was under the impression that we had made peace with them long back. But then, there were too many Indians out there, and this could be a rogue band.

Havoc ensued, and four Indians were shot. There was no casualty on our side, but there was much alarm in our camp. We had a narrow canyon to go through the next day, and there were forty miles to the next watering place.

Nobody slept the rest of the night. The Indians had not left us. Now and then, a bullet would strike our wagons, reminding us of constant danger.

The whole of next day, we were aware that the Indians were following us closely. As we passed the narrow canyon, we had all our weapons out and ready, in case there was a shootout. But nothing happened. We were not comforted, though. Dust clouds behind us and to the right and left of us were a sign that the Indians were following us, very closely. Though we had enough men, and weapons, we could not match the Indians for stealth and timing of attack.

Sure enough, when we reached the Muddy River, we spotted a long line of red men standing between the water and us. They looked belligerent, but strangely, were not holding any weapon ready, though the arrows lay close by.

There was much debate in our camp about what to do. In the end, we decided that we would strike only if we were attacked. We passed through slowly, warily. The Indians watched us closely, but, amazingly, did not attack!

Then I knew what those lines in the Bible meant. They were a warning and a promise at the same time, hours before the danger came. We were neither destroyed by the terror at night, nor wounded by arrows during the day.

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