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Instant Karma

by Gowri Bhargav

“Do you think we can do this?” asked Pete.

“Of course! Let’s strike this place off our bucket list,” said Jim.

The soaring temperatures burned their skins and drops of sweat trickled down their foreheads. The two bold hikers stopped to catch their breath before ascending the last half mile of the hair-raising hike, holding the chain rail. It had precipitous drops up to 1000 feet on either side. The Angel’s Landing Trail is one of the iconic hikes in Zion National Park, Utah.

With a final rush of adrenaline, they mustered all the remaining strength and completed the vertigo-inducing hike. A sense of accomplishment brimmed on their faces as they enjoyed the panoramic views. They emptied the last bottle of water that they had, crushed and threw it along the edge, and headed down the potentially treacherous trail.

“Now we can boast that we have successfully hiked one of the most dangerous trails,” said Jim.

“Yes, Dude! It’s time we show off. Let’s build a few cairns along the edge of the chain rail and click pictures to flaunt our hiking skills,” said Pete.

“Isn’t it illegal to build cairns?”

“Come on! Once we are done taking pictures we can always scatter them.”

They both gingerly placed their feet on a narrow strip of sandstone beyond the chain rail and picked up and stacked a few loose stones to build a picture-worthy cairn.

“Say Cheese,” said Pete as he stood along with Jim holding his phone.

Suddenly a lizard crept onto Pete and squirted blood from its eyes. Being startled he lost his balance.

“Damn! Jim…, hold me,” he shouted and tried grasping Jim’s hand.

Unfortunately, it made Jim lose his balance too. They both plummeted down the deathly cliff.


I am a Short-horned lizard. Here’s my unheard story.

It was the mating season. My babies were born one bright summer morning in July. They all looked healthy and had a voracious appetite. I carefully hid my burrow beneath a few loose sandstones so that I could go hunting. I had chosen a place that would go unnoticed by coyotes, snakes, or hawks.

I went to an anthill nearby and managed to trap a few ants with my sticky tongue.

As I was heading back, I saw two crazy hikers lifting the stones I had thoughtfully placed over my burrow.

Oh, Humans! It had never occurred to me.

The moment the stones were lifted, my babies became vulnerable. A vile, watchful hawk spotted them and quickly took them all by the time I went to their rescue.

While I was grieving over the loss, the hikers were in complete oblivion, celebrating their accomplishment. They nonchalantly built cairns for amusement.

I decided it was time I taught humans a lesson.

I squirted blood from my eyes on one of them. He became terrified, lost balance, and pulled his friend too. Their screams echoed and within moments, silence filled the air.


This story was written for the prompt ‘Cairn’ and won a special mention in Penmancy platform.

Picture Credit : Pixabay



Though there have been reports of hikers falling off the cliff, the above story is entirely fictional.




  1. Angel’s Landing Trail:


  1. Hikers have fallen and died from Angel’s landing: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/utah/articles/2021-03-20/13-have-died-since-2000-on-angels-landing-trail-at-zion

  2. Cairn building is illegal in National Parks:https://zionnationalpark.com/zion-national-park/balancing-act-the-history-of-rock-cairns-and-why-stacking-rocks-is-discouraged-in-zion/

  3. Short-horned lizard is a commonly found reptile in Zion National Park. If threatened by predators they squirt blood from their eyes.


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