I have goat-phobia. Undiagnosed and untreated. Goats, particularly those with big horns give me the goose bumps. As a child I hated reading Billy Goat Gruff and it was the only time in school life when my English teacher wasn’t too happy with me. As Muslims we celebrate Eid-ul-Adha each year. For which people get goats/cows/camels for sacrifice days before the celebration . It was that time of the year. There were goats in our backyard. And not just one goat……but twelve sturdy goats with horns. Since we used to be a big joint family. My cousins and sisters used to go out and feed them. Then they would take rounds around the neighborhood with their friends and feed them ‘bajra’ (millet) and water. Not me. I didn’t socialize in those days. My ‘nerd’ status warded off any and all jibes of being a ‘fraidy cat’. I would conveniently be found with my nose in a book when kids gathered to feed the animals.
I’d had a nightmare and couldn’t go back to sleep. Cuddling up with my stuffed teddy didn’t help. After tossing and turning for ages, I went to grandma’s room and sneaked beside her into the spacious yet hard bed. She just had a single thin mattress on her bed, which she’d been using on doctor’s advice after her back began to give her trouble. The house was gloomy and dark. Night bulbs flickered in shadows and made shapes. There were giraffes on the walls, and a something that resembled vampire’s fangs. Crickets and night owls were croaking eerily in the dark some where out side. All in all it wasn’t my favorite setting. I pulled up the covers, peeping out from under them as I often do while watching a horror movie. Watchful yet not watching.
Then I saw something. Right across this room was grandpa’s. His arm chair was rocking and a goat was sitting over it. A white goat. I could see it’s sharp horns glinting under a pale yellow fluorescent bulb. I froze. My whole body went numb. How did it get into the house ? My mind was whirling with possibilities, not all of them sane. I saw it move, and it looked at me. The arm chair moved, a dreadful creaking sound reached my sensitive ears. Now any moment the goat was going to come and shove it’s horn into me. I began counting. Counting, as someone told me, can eliminate fear, happiness, boredom or whatever it is that you’re feeling. I’d counted to a thousand. The goat didn’t sleep , it was however quite observant. I cringed in fear when I saw it stare at grandpa’s sleeping form. It was either going to take him or it was going to take me. One of us were going to be killed by this goat tonight. I wanted to wake up grandma but since she’s a sound sleeper, I figured that the goat would reach me before grandma opened her eyes. Plus I had a temporary mouth paralysis and didn’t feel capable of stringing together a sentence. Hours went by. I heard the grandfather clock in the hall ‘tinggg’ after every one hour. Sleep eluded me until three in the morning, after which I went into a merciful slumber.
Grandma shook me in the morning. I felt stiff and sore. Goat. As soon as the word crept into my mind I sprung up. I looked at the arm chair. A big white, crumpled bed sheet was resting on it.