Sometimes, She Becomes A Human Too

You would always find her eyes uncovered; rarely blinking. Those otherworldly orbs, on display for the world to see. Sheer blackness in them, in contrast to all the colors that actually formed her. You should be, and maybe you unknowingly would be grateful that her gaze flutters everywhere but to your eyes. No blitz of thunder at your heart to strike.

Sometimes you would find her on the streets, walking hand in hand one day in one’s company, another day in another’s. A realm of angelic grace she would be. Calmly, easily, vigilantly would she take her steps, as if time itself sought refuge under her unseen kingdom – and who knew, maybe it did… You would also find bewitched strangers, hustling and making way for her to pass on as if she were royalty. A feathery thank you would roll out on her tongue and she would walk on, hand in hand, turning a blind eye to everyone… Unaware as to how baffled had she left those faces behind.

Some miracle was she. This girl, Safa – innocent, demure. Extracting joy in even the most mundane of tasks. Like all of a sudden she would stand on her feet, would raise both her arms up, hoping to accidentally touch the ceiling, without even realizing that she had become an immediate cynosure in the room. Then would giggle shyly lowering her vision as her cheeks heated up – when would be informed that everybody was watching her. Some descended fairy Safa was.

You would find her to be the breaker of worldly trends. Not only everyone but everything loved Safa. The sky especially. On some days, in her mind, skies would turn lilac with yellow stars; the shy sun would first hesitate, then refuse to come out altogether, hence the mornings would be dominated by the crispy moon. She would picture the sky bursting in mulberry gradients at other times – though unaware what the shade mulberry actually looked like – and festooned with juicy clouds that hovered heavily. Despite Safa’s absurd imaginations, the sky would never, could never curse her, nor release showers over her. She would somehow always get a predilection for rain. Always.

The way she smiled, ah! That was real – those curves and stretches of her lips that resembled smiles of a migrated traveller returning home decades later. And Safa’s would make the winds gallop, tripping over themselves for a fleeting sight of her. The whole world and everything in it pampered her…

And yet at times, unbelievably, she would turn into a human too…

… So naturally that you wouldn’t believe your eyes. One second she would be sitting over there – waiting – staring with glazed eyes at a wall, then gradually would fall under the spell of sleep; her celestial disguise slipping, like the evanescence of a dream. Her head would be leaning against the rest, her dark mane a messy nest, her mouth ajar; a string of drool leaking from its corner. How mundane, how ordinary would Safa seem.

There would similarly be days when Safa would be found ransacking her knapsack, feeling her hands around for something she cannot find. Frustated then, she would cuss indecently under her breath. If you would be lucky enough to hear that, you would find her so earthly in that moment; so mortal. An angel fallen from grace.

… You would also realize that only she could make those words sound cute. But that acknowledgement would come second – for obvious reasons.

Lights illumined with dignity, would ballet in Safa’s vicinity. If you really possessed eyes, you could watch the lights in the room desperately writhe and burn, performing arabesques and whatnot. All of that, just to grasp her attention, and yet they would fail. She had not, eyes for the ordinary. What Safa saw, others did not; could not…

And nor could she see the things others did see. Yet she would seem so accustomed to the revolving world, navigating with such ease that you would never learn at first glance, of her destitution of sight… Her blindness Safa carried not as a burden, not as a source of pity, but as a debt of this universe to her. Its wondrous compensations she accepted heartily; blissfully.

… But that never meant she wouldn’t give anything within a blink of an eye to watch the sky just one more time.


Glass Shards That Once Were Dreams – part two

Continued from part one…

The next three weeks saw Anzala’s fantasies of her escapes frequent all the more. This had fuelled her rebelliousness. She no longer felt fascinated by the cheap thrills around. Untaken roads, undiscovered strangers, unsolved puzzles; these aroused thrill.

No one could have predicted but this passage of time was what had been the roots for future ailments to come…

When Anzala’s interest for the mundane chores too evaporated, all the workload fell onto Anahlia’s shoulders.

“You’re getting married in no time, better get used to it.” Anahlia’s parents told her, and yet she complied, swallowing down complains. She convinced herself of the belief that no matter the strains of those days, Zahran would treat her like a queen. She deserved it, did she not? After all the poems and verses of love she had etched down in her diary and after all the sketches in her sketchbook for him, she did deserve it. Any cognitive man would have fallen for her after all those dedications.

What kind of a man Zahran was, she knew not.

Oblivious to the creeping dawn outside, Harun had been sprawled out on his bed. Eyes half awake and tinged with red. The pounding of his heart rung in his ears, accentuated by the photograph in his hands. It was of Anzala.

His heavy kohl-rimmed eyes couldn’t help but repeatedly travel the length of her unmoving yet pulsing beauty. She had him mesmerized since first sight. With intoxication seeping into his features, Harun admired her. Worshipped her rather – each night as the world around lay unconscious. Anzala and her pictures were the perpetrators of Harun’s sleepless nights and he used to complain not one bit. But her recent disinterest in Harun made him restless. He felt ominous.

“You still are all mine,” Harun thought and laughed shyly, deliriously. His laugh resembled a donkey’s bray he realized, and recalling Anzala call him donkey made him laugh even more.

Harun tossed and turned, explicitly being tickled by amalgamated thoughts for Anzala; of both growing panic and insatiable desires. He extended his arms, her photo still in his hands, “your devil eyes, your angel face. Mine Anzala… Mine.”

Ogling at her picture desperately then, terrific thoughts reached his mind. His eyes glazed over. He stared into nothingness, and blinkingly then, got his focus returned.

“If you won’t be mine, you would be no one’s, Anzala.” Harun whispered in a deranged manner.

He dropped her photograph on the floor then. Like a hovering leaf in the wind it swayed as it fell, finally resting over the sea of other photographs of Anzala. Hundreds of them.

The rising sun burning in his face made Harun draw the drapes and lay to sleep.

That afternoon, the sun blazed. Amidst the thin crowd of people stood Harun, wearing his skull backpack, nervously waiting outside the girl’s college for Anzala. Her sight, that would quench his spiritual thirst. Bodily one was barely any concern at that moment.

Half an hour swept and yet there was no sign of Anzala. Harun deduced that she probably took a day off, and wiping the sweat off his brows, he sighed and walked back to his car.

Taking the long way back, like Anzala always did was distressing for him, but regardless of that he did. Trying once again to understand her perspective of this world, he attempted looking at things through her eyes. The trees only seemed like trees, not freaks that shakingly laugh like old men as they stealthily monitor human activity. Decaying buildings were no ruins of future, but a mess to look at. Wild alley cats were dirty beings instead of savvy supernatural savages, and the wailing beggars were a disdainful sight rather than heavenly.

Just then, he stopped abruptly in his tracks, his backpack lightly slamming against his back. Earlier look of scorn wiped off his face when he found an ancient-looking beggar leaning against an alley wall, accompanied by the mesmeric form of… Anzala.

He stood there shocked, watching her from a distance. She sat in her uniform, both unwary and uncaring of all the eyes that were on her. She was feeding the ragged, heavily-bearded man from her lunchbox, and making him drink from her water bottle. As he swigged the drink, the decrepit man’s eyes, like pools of whiskey, rippled; and tears flowed in the shape of gratitude for Anzala. But Anzala, oh she just smilingly stared at the man – at his wrinkles as if they were paths on a treasure map.

This made Harun cringe. He reached up and called out to Anzala, making the old man squirm. Anzala looked up at him without a waver on her smiling lips. Just the softness of her eyes turned piercing, forcing Harun to avert his gaze. “Get up, and come over here,” said he.

As she prepared to rise, the beggar gripped her hand tightly, staring hysterically at Harun and then looking back at Anzala, furiously nodding sideways. “It’s okay, baba. He’s with me, I’ll be fine.”

Her reassurances were of no use as the mute beggar whimpered for her to not go with him, and Anzala had to be forced up by Harun’s grip on her hand. Away from everyone’s eyes, they went deeper into the alley. Anzala freed herself of his grip and exclaimed with a contained fury under her cutting voice, “do not touch me again, donkey.”

Harun’s eyes hovered over her angry face and yet he found her ravishing. He found himself spellbound first, and then soften. No photograph of hers in this state did he possess.

“I waited outside your college… You weren’t there.” With his shyness returning, he spoke softly.

“I bunked college to stroll the streets.” She shrugged swiftly.

“Bunked college?” Harun cried out in surprise. At her intimidating gaze then, he shook his face. “What has happened to you, my dear Anzala? You used to… be interested in me,” whispered he.

“Was I?”

Her mocking glare pierced through his eyes and he blinked sharply. Realization sunk within him. “But… I love you so much, Anzala.”

Anzala sighed heavily, throwing her hands in the air.

“Look Harun, you do not love me. You love this pretty face of mine. This face, that is not even me! My dumb ignorant friend, how do I tell you? I am not these contours, these edges. I am not this skin and smudges. I… I look at myself in the mirror and can’t stand to watch the same features that used to amaze me back then. This face, this body, doesn’t feel like it’s me, Harun. These unmerited burdens came to me; I didn’t traverse any mountain to earn them. No, this is an illusion, for I am something deep. These few weeks, I feel as if I have changed and developed. I grew up. In this tiny stay, I feel like I can last a forever. Something unseen, something soulful has always been calling me, and I have a chance to grasp it. These whispers of the breeze, rustling of the trees, floating of the clouds, they are calling me, and I… I am lured towards their arcane voices. I know you don’t get this, but maybe, maybe you someday will… That I have a pulsating soul within that needs its food, friend.

“You search for God at the end of a prayer mat and that is absolutely right. I am not faithless, I believe in all that, trust me. But you, all of you seem so oblivious of the fact that He is elsewhere too! I have… I saw a reflection of God in the face of that beggar, Harun. It’s crazy, but I see it in nature too. These mysteries, even I don’t get fully, but they overwhelm me. I want this side of world to swallow me – I want to lose myself. Trade my face for anyone’s, I don’t care. You’ll have to fall for another pretty face, Harun – you can’t have me. As long as the flare within me burns, as long as my dreams do not shatter, I don’t think anyone can.”

Harun stood in awe, staring agape at her as if a jinn had possessed her. Anzala seemed to be too much engrossed in her own speech to notice him. She was transcended into fantasies with the daggers of her eyes, blunt for once; unfocused.

“I… Did think that you might not accept me, but I didn’t imagine you would become this… ungrateful sinner. You are so beautiful on the outside, by God, but something vile and ugly has gotten inside you.”

Anzala smiled sadly, expectantly, at Harun’s flabbergasted comments, but she did not mind. She just pursed her plain yet striking lips. For the first time had she voiced her fantasies like this and she felt ecstatic. Her words were no longer going along with her spirit – they were becoming her spirit.

Harun clenched his jaw, and he, for the first time stared at whole of her Venus fair face unyieldingly; unrelentingly. For a near minute, his sight on her face lingered in absorption, as if he was memorizing her features.

… And he was, for since that day, along with the lustre in those burnt honey eyes, the flare of her soul too had been snuffed out, like a melted candle that would never light again.

“I have a parting gift for you,” Harun whispered softly.

… Procured the acid bottle from his bag then swiftly…

Before Anzala could even blink to reality…

He emptied it on her face, achingly.

While the acid ate away her skin, Anzala felt fiery pain. And yet it was not as much as that of the evanescence of her dreams.

To be continued…

Glass Shards That Once Were Dreams – part one

“Snuff out the lantern, you know I can’t sleep like this,” said Anahlia.

The room was lit in only partial darkness. Anahlia could only invite sleep upon being devoured by whole of it these days.
With her face cradled on her palms, Anzala let her gaze glide down the mirror. It descended from the curve of her forehead to the soft contour of her chin. A familiar fascination started clouding her face. Staring into the old vanity table mirror in an amused daze, she felt as if mirror returned her stares; praising every inch of her, but with a sort of lasting. Or longing. It baffled her each time. The shy dance of light and shadows, perpetrated by the fluctuating light of the lantern, played with Anzala’s face; its stale yellow glow, bringing a mystic lustre in her piecing dark brown eyes. While she explored her gorgeous features, she saw again, what Harun saw in her. The corner of her lips twitched up, manifesting the confused satisfaction that her whole being felt.
Every visit to the mirror felt anew. Like it was the first time. And despite the luring beauty she spied in the mirror, she could never stare into it for too long. Even though nothing changed, a fear lived in her heart. Fear that something would change. As if, if she kept looking closely for too long, her cheeks that sloped down the silky heaps of her cheekbones would turn hollow, like sucked into pits. Or as if the hands of the clock, like a mad ballerina, would swivel at such a speed that age would taint her smooth olive skin with wrinkles like crevices. Her fascination always morphed into aghast at this. It did yet again, making Anzala avert her eyes and blink to reality.
She realized Anahlia had called out her name several times, after she broke out of the daze muttering “alright, alright!.” Standing up, Anzala avoided meeting her elder sister’s eyes on her. She walked to the hanging lantern and extinguished the flame, introducing complete darkness into the room.
Each night the sisters would shut out all the electrical lights, turning on the soft lantern’s. They did so to give the parents an impression that they are still sleeping, as the dull light wouldn’t betray the illusion of darkness. Feeling her way to the futon on the floor, she laid next to her sister, cloaking herself under the folds of blanket.
Couple of minutes passed. She just laid with her eyes open, lost in a spell of thoughts. Thoughts of escape, and fantasies of living far far away.
… Faceless.
“I don’t feel good, Anzala.”
Anahlia’s voice tore through the silence. It made her sister sit up immediately. In the dark, she made her steps navigate to the lantern, lighting it up. The faint familiar glow ignited the room.
“Wha… What happened? What’s wrong?” inquired Anzala stuttering and falling beside her sister on the mattress. She was never good at nursing situations, and feared that one is about to show up. Anahlia turned to face her.
Compared to Anzala’s sharp features, Anahlia was more on the soft side. Her round face was as if lit by only a hushed radiance, but some radiance was definitely there. Skin of hers was polished with a wooden tan as opposed to her sister’s olive. The softest feature were her eyes. Innocent like a doe’s, they were of the same colour as her sister’s and shaped like perfect almonds. Always glistening. Her nose was fixed down between them; soft and terse, but complete, unlike her lips. It seemed as if her crafter did the job on them in haste, leaving one corner smudged. Because of that, they looked a bit non symmetrical, plain too. On the whole, all her features spoke home. As though her face was the only field on which they could belong. Anahlia was attractive, but not as stunning as to turn heads, like her sister.
“The marriage… with Zahran, I don’t have a good feeling about it.” She spoke in her thin, soft voice, tucking strands of her brown hair behind her ears.
Anzala let out a loud sigh, worriment escaped her. She spoke in her cutting voice, “Zahran is a good man, Ana… Hey, don’t fret! He looks like a… Very manly man.”
“One picture. One picture is all I have to determine everything about him, Anzala. I can’t do it!” exclaimed Anahlia, softly so as to not wake their parents up in the neighbouring room.
“You willing to tell that to Abbu?” Seeing Anahlia bury her face in her pillow then, Anzala replied with a scoff, “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
Her recent motions made Anahlia’s blanket lower, letting Anzala spot the rust-coloured diary.
“You know what really is your problem?” she snatched the diary that Anahlia had been hugging absent-mindedly, and swung it in front of her face. “This! This and that stupid sketchbook of yours. They are it. Let go of him, Ana.” Anahlia’s eyes bulged out in terror and she immediately regained possession of her notebook, hugging it again. Her eyes dampened.
“We exchanged poetries in this, Anzala. You know that. So many promises, so many poems… laced with love. We drew up a realm of towering glass palaces together. Calling them dreams.” Anzala saw her sister closing her eyes as she relived those moments. “It’s all going to shatter, I know, I feel it. I… have lost hope. Now this would be the only token of remembrance I’d have of him after…” She let out a shuddering sigh, thinking of the marriage after two months. “I can’t lose this.”
To Anzala’s surprise, her sister didn’t say this in between sobs like she had expected. She let it all sink in, but she barely had any assurances to comfort her sister with. She always had been the one to ‘stick ’em with the pointy end.’
“No matter the eloquence those poems contain, they are now your past. He is your past, while Zahran, your future. Believe it or not, that is the truth. The sooner you start accepting it, and the sooner you let go of him, dear sister, the sooner would you move on. I know I am hitting you with the harsh truth and it sucks, but I can assure you of one thing. Hope is never lost, dear Ana. Long as life remains, so does hope.”
Anahlia absorbed Anzala’s daggers with a swallow of the lump in her throat. She took a deep breath and wiped the little tear that had just leaked. “Hope…” Saying it out loud then, it really hit her. She raised her lowered face, her doe-like eyes bulging out.  “Yes Anzala, hope!”
Anzala stared at her sister’s now gleeful face with a contained confusion. “Huh?”
Anahlia’s eyes closed. Cherishing the words behind it, she recited her lover’s poem:
“If the palace of dreams I build for you,
By miseries unseen – do erode, love.
Hope still is not lost, for I live in you, 
Rise, do not fall – just hope, my love.”
Anzala still glared at her cluelessly.
“Oh silly!” Anahlia held both of Anzala’s arms and shook her. “You’re right! Zahran could be the one… Maybe, Zahran too will see me the way he did. Maybe he will grasp the light in me too. Maybe he would keep it burning too; brighter maybe? I just have to hope! That’s what this means.” Seeing Anzala’s unsettled response, she knew how crazy she sounded. She still went on, sadly smiling this time, “Sometimes glass does shatter beautifully, no? Piling up into shapeless yet sparkling monuments.”
Anzala stared at her as if she was deranged, but then forced her expression to change to that of relief. “Yeah… I’m just glad you got what I said, at least.”
Anahlia smiled, shaking her head. “What about you, though? Do your dreams include that Harun?”
She found her sister blink, and then snicker. Anzala didn’t expect this. “That donkey? No way. Far from it. He’s just there for my uh… financial support.” She poked her elbow into Anahlia and giggled, absent-mindedly fiddling with anklet on her feet that Harun had bought her. She squinted at her sister and then said, “I am more of a rebel, Ana. You should know, I can’t live the life like you; timidly. On the boundaries they set.” She pointed towards their parents’ room. “My dream is simply to escape.” She blew into her hand, mimicking an explosion gesture at that.
Anahlia waited for her to go on but then realized that this was all she was getting out of her sister. Hearing only this hollowed her chest, but she did not let on. Little did she know, Anzala didn’t even need to look at Anahlia’s face to know how what she said made Ana’s heart fall into the pit of her stomach. She knew her sister too well. Anahlia just whispered a prayer in her heart, that fate may never snatch her sister from her the way Anzala wants fate to snatch.
If only she knew that her prayer would be accepted…
“Sleepy?” Anzala inquired. “No, I think I’ll… Write,” she heard Ana respond. “A poem?” Asked Anzala. “Yes… Relapse of Hope.” Anzala was the biggest fan of her sister’s poems. It was no secret. She lighted up. “Will you read it to me?” she asked excitedly. Anahlia glanced at her fingers, then raising her eyes, responded with a smiling nod. Anzala was on the verge of spilling her merriment when Ana shushed her saying, “if only you agree to slow dance to it the way you always do.” Anzala shrugged her shoulders and slurred deliberately. “Aye, suuure.” She had a vivacious grin plastered across her face.

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