They huddled together inside the tent as they listened to the wind howl like a woman in anguish. They had camped under the shadow of the snow-slathered Himalayas last week with the idea of going mountain climbing. But the weather hadn’t been favourable, so they decided to spend their time sledding and taking photographs in the vicinity. They could hear the pine trees in the distance bending to the will of the mad winds as they sat with grim faces and their arms wrapped around their knees. They had run out of milk two days ago. Shwetha had managed to heat water on the campfire just before the gales began. She let the tea leaves steep and filled three cups to the brim with the amber liquid, added sugar, and handed one each to Sonu and Abirami.
Sonu opened the tent a crack and peered through it, the fire had they had made had died out and a thin tendril of smoke rose to the white sky, as she looked on fresh snow started to fall.
“Looks like we are going to stay inside for a while”, she said as she gently stirred the remaining tea in her cup. “You know I have heard that you can read a person’s fortune by looking at the patterns tea leaves form inside a cup.”
Shwetha and Abirami looked at her curious.
“Why don’t you try to read our fortunes? Then we will have firsthand knowledge of what’s in store for us and that will be handy since we can’t rely on weather reports”, said Abirami with a nervous chuckle as she tried to adjust the controls of the radio.
“Okay.. but first we have to calm our minds, forget about the snowstorm outside. I have read something about it. I will try, drink the tea until only a teaspoon is left, then swirl it around”, said Sonu.
“Alright fortune lady…” giggled Shwetha as they sipped tea. The warm fragrant liquid went down their throats spreading warmth down their cold bodies. It cheered the half-terrified amateur mountain climbers up.
They set down their cups before Sonu who drained the remaining liquid from the cups into a wide bowl and studied the patterns formed by the tea leaves .
Sonu frowned as she tried to recognize a pattern. Her eyes narrowed, “ This is strange, the pattern…the pattern is the same in both your cups, I think it represents some animal. But I can’t seem to identify which. Maybe a dog”
“How about in your own cup?” asked Abirami.
Sonu peered at her cup that she had placed down next to the radio set. She stopped when she recognized the exact shape even in her cup.
The wind had died down and suddenly they heard the blood-curdling howl of the mountain wolf and Sonu finally recognized the shape she saw. It was the shape of a wolf.