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  • Gaia Saravan

The Goats Have Strange Pupils

Pondicherry blue was all I could see for miles. Home, that summer, was the small house in the village by the sea where my mother grew up, and where I would lounge on the various painted concrete steps and ledges in the vast outside area on the property.  

I ran back through the seaside town to our village in about three minutes, bracing for a scolding from any of my elders on my tardiness, but I was completely ignored. There were two goats standing in our living room that everyone seemed more occupied with. Tall and lanky, I was disturbed by them, their pupils, and their movements, snakelike and in sync. 

My grandmother told my cousin to tie the goats to the banana plant out back. I followed him. 

“Why do we have these?” I asked, and he just kept walking. Despite him being two years younger than me, I always had to corner him to ask him how things are run around here.

“It’s our lunch tomorrow.” 

“Okay, seriously.”

“I’m serious. It’s an auspicious day and so Aamachi (“grandmother” in Tamil) arranged a giant ceremony with, like, everybody from the entire village and a hundred more people from Chennai.”

“And we’re eating the goats there, tomorrow?”

“Well, they’ll kill them in front of everybody first, and then somebody will cook them.” 

“What!” I had never heard of this type of ceremony, something so ancient and barbaric that I didn’t think existed anymore. I had to do something about it. “We have to free them.” 

“No, we can’t. I’ve been through this phase, too. Apparently, if you do free it, you’ll die in their place.” 

Throughout dinner that night, I gave my family the silent treatment. It seemed entirely unfair to glorify the killing of an animal for theatrical purposes, but everyone seemed to be acting no different. It felt almost spiteful that my aunt gave the goats water, as if they weren’t meeting their demise tomorrow. Eventually, I was unable to contain myself and had an outburst, which they all laughed at. 

“It’s either you, or the goats,” my older cousin said as a passing remark. 

The goats were polar opposites: one was black and white, rope frayed from tugging. The other one, plain brown, sat there quietly. It was dark outside now, with just the one light bulb shining into the backyard foliage. The nighttime prayers of the nearby Mosque rang out on the loudspeaker.

I started untying the goats, and once done, I was left to wonder what to do with them. The combination of bellowing Arabic, chirping crickets, and the goats staring at me soullessly made me feel guilty: do I know better than God? I thought about what was said before. I was never someone to stray away from religion, and I always felt God to be a presence close to me, despite being unsure of the consequences.  But what if I remained unprotected without giving this offering?

Both goats, in unison, folded over onto the ground, and stared at me with rectangular pupils. The warm bodies sunk into the dirt, and I was left alone in the white light of moths and flies feeling as if my body was being absorbed into their realm. Everything seemed to go quiet awfully fast, and in a selfish decision, my mind infected with doubt, I tied the goats back to the banana leaf, left a mango for them to share, and slipped back inside. 

The next day, I ate the goats that had now been cooked in a cauldron after a theatrical display of sacrifice. They did not struggle. And when I bit into the piece, I felt cannibalistic, our essences swapped. 


Art by Serena Y. Cheng


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