Vikram once again went back to the tree, took the corpse down, threw it across his shoulder and began to walk to- wards the burial ground when the Bethal of the corpse said, “O King, have you realised that, despite all your efforts, that which is to happen will happen, and that you cannot change it a bit? There was once a youth named Kunala, who failed to realise this, and lost his own life. Let me tell you about him.” Then he narrated the following tale
Kunala was a young man with an uncommonly kind heart. He was a jolly fellow too. He decided to go to the capital and find work there.
His path lay west, across a forest and a meadow and over the hills. He left his village early in the morning and walked on, with the sun behind him, till he reached the forest at about noon. Inside the forest, it would be cool and walking in it would be a pleasure. It would not be boiling when he came out of the woods.
As Kunala was about to enter the forest, he heard a deep voice say, “Kunala, don’t enter the forest lest you commit murder!” He could not judge where the voice came from or how far. Thinking that someone was playing a prank on him, he searched for the person who spoke but found no one.
He ignored the warning, for he was in a light-hearted mood. He proceeded forward carefully under the shade of trees. He was such a nice fellow that he hated killing someone. But, after all, he met no one in the forest and reached the other end without mishap.
Kunala laughed within himself for having taken the voice seriously. The sun was still quite hot, so he lay down under the trees for a while and took a nap. The rays of the slanting sun woke him up. He still had to cross the meadow and climb up and down the hills to reach the city. So he left the forest and set foot in the field when he heard the same voice.
“Kunala, do not cross the meadow lest you bring misery to the country!”
“Who are you?” Kunala shouted back in anger. “Why do you try to frighten me? I do not believe you. You said that I would commit murder. I’ve murdered no one.”
“But you did!” the voice replied. “A slug got crushed under your foot while walking through the forest.”
“How could I help it?” Kunala said. “Anyone could have done a thing like that. It is a lie that I shall bring misery to the country by crossing the meadow!”
The voice was silent. Kunala proceeded forward.
The sun had already set when he reached the hills. But he knew the sun still shone on the other side of the mountain. He began to climb the mountain when the voice spoke again: “Kunala, do not climb the hill lest you die!”
Kunala was furious. “Why do you frighten me?” he shouted. “Do you take me for a coward? You said I would bring misery to the country by crossing the meadow. I crossed it. What misery did I bring to the country?”
“But you did!” the voice replied. “While crossing the meadow, you came across a swarm of butterflies of which one was greatly frightened because of you. It will fly as far as the capital. It will then lay its eggs on one of the trees there. A certain caterpillar from one of those eggs will crawl onto the pregnant Queen’s neck. She will have an abortion because of the fright. The King will have no more children. His worthless brother will become King after him and rule the country so inefficiently that enemies will take possession of it. And you will be the cause of all this tragedy!”
“Every action will react,” Kunala said. “I will not be made responsible for something that will take place at some future date.”
He began to climb the hill and reached the top in time to see some twilight on the other side. He laughed triumphantly and challenged the voice, saying, “You see, I have climbed the hill, and I am still alive.”
“Why should I lie to you?” the voice replied. “Those who climb hills should come down again. I tell you, you are already dead to the world. For you will see no one, and no one will see you before you die!”
Kunala was frightened. Twilight was fading fast. He thought it was risky going down the hill in the dark and thought of remaining on the top all night. But on second thoughts, fear looked like a useless thing. If the voice belonged to a supernatural creature and if it was speaking with foreknowledge, he was doomed to die. If, on the contrary, the agent did not know what it was saying, he could very easily ignore it.
Kunala began to climb downhill. After a while, his foot slipped on the rocks, and he had a great fall, after which he died. Sometime later, the Queen of the country with her child fell into a swoon one day when a caterpillar crawled onto her neck. She lost the child, had no more children all her life, and the throne passed on to the King’s brother. This worthless ruler brought about anarchy in the Kingdom, resulting in the country going into alien hands.
Having finished the tale, Bethal said, “O King, I have a doubt. Was Kunala wrong in not listening to the warnings? Had he not incurred the sins of committing murder, bringing ruin upon the land and, lastly, the sin of suicide? If you know the answer and yet do not speak. Your head shall split!”
“Kunala did no wrong, nor did he sin,” Vikram replied. “The supernatural voice knew the future, but it could not alter it. If it had, it would have informed him at the outset what exactly would happen. For instance, if Kunala were informed that a slug would die under his foot if he walked into the forest, he would certainly have turned back, and the act would have been avoided. But the voice could not prevent Kunala from walking into the forest, crossing the meadow or climbing the hill. Suppose a supernatural agency with knowledge of the future could not alter things. How could an ordinary mortal like Kunala help kill the slug, bringing ruin upon his country or dying from a fall? So Kunala must de consider as absolutely innocent.”
The King’s silence was thus broken, and Bethal disappeared with the corpse and returned to the tree.