She wakes up, naked. As if from a nightmare, relieved finally to know that the terror in her heart belongs only to her sub-conscious.
She tries to sit up, but there is a searing pain in her limbs. She wonders why it hurts so much to breathe.
Head throbbing violently, she rolls her self to the edge of the bed and slides her legs off seeking the help of gravity. They fall to the floor with a soft thud. She places her hands under her breasts to push herself off and crumples to the floor on her knees.
Her mind is a mess.
Full of the taste of roast lamb, and berry juice.
Horrific screams and boisterous laughter.
Somewhere underneath it she can sense Aamir. But he’s drowned by the pain tearing through her being.
She’s never been so helpless in her life. It’s an effort just to breathe.
There’s a flash of vague faces looking down on her… all laughing with wicked pleasure. They are all different, some bearded, some clean shaven. But the eyes are all the same… full of hunger, ravenous.
Suddenly she feels fear grip her heart as one of the faces begins to cross the threshold from obscure fantasy into recognition. She sees Ayaz and her body convulsing with fear, purges whatever is left inside her. She sees blood mingle with the vomit on the floor.
The vomit gives her strength. Not much, but enough to stagger onto her feet and sway listlessly like a barren branch.
She can smell sweat. Not hers though, no, it’s too cold to sweat… too cold to be naked. It’s a pungent sweat, the sweat of a man dripping on her like toxic rain.
She stumbles towards her wardrobe. Desperate to shield herself from the cold mountain air ripping through her skin to her veins. She can feel her blood freezing. Begins to tremble and can’t keep her teeth from chattering.
She takes one step too fast and her desperately weakened body loses its balance and comes crashing down on the floor. She can’t figure out what has happened. She wonders if Sahil’s malady was contagious. The symptoms are the same… but no, he was poisoned. Did Ayaz poison me? The thought pops into her head uninvited. She begins to recall the dinner last night. Was it last night?
She can remember a clock ticking in the distance but it won’t show the time. It’s like it has no hands to tell how late it is.
But she remembers Ayaz now, in his ugly pink shirt and the cheap grey suit. And that horrendous tie, all black… who the hell where’s a black tie these days?…she finds herself wondering.
Then slowly the dinner comes into her mind. The luscious meat. She can taste it again… mixed with sweat and smelling putrid. She shakes her head to clear her thoughts and tries the strength in her legs again.
Slowly she clambers up to her feet once more and finds her self reflected in the mirror before her.
It’s too cold to be naked she thinks again looking at her self standing like a zombie, looking like one.
She notices the thick silver bands around her wrists and suddenly sees her arms tethered to a bed-post, her hands hanging life-less, jerking again and again but not of their own volition.
She shakes her head again to focus. FOCUS she screams inside her head and finds herself staring back in the mirror. It takes a second to tell reality from dream… but she sees herself clearly now.
Bruised and battered. Black marks on her arms, her shoulders, her forehead… and her heart begins to throb.
Her eyes dart from wound to wound remembering the pain that each one had caused when inflicted.
Finally, she sees the blood dried on her thighs, too close to her vagina to have come from anywhere else,
The memories return in staccato bursts of agony. She feels the pain rise from her womb and envelop her body. She sees Ayaz on top of her, yelling, laughing, spewing obscenities. She can’t move, she keeps looking from his face to the duct tape on her wrists rendering her motionless, defenseless.
She knows she is screaming but he seems to be deaf to her pleas. She knows she is crying but he has a huge smile on his face. She can feel him thrust himself inside her again and again while she begs for him to stop.
He didn’t stop. She remembers. He never stopped.
Then the tears fall as the whole night restores itself in her mind. From the moment she stepped through his door to the moment she passed out from pain under her fifth assailant.
She falls to the floor, tears streaming from her eyes but unable to scream.
She wonders how she got back home.
She wonders why she is still naked.
She wakes up again at the sound of someone knocking at the main door.
“Bibi?” a voice yells from outside.
Bibi again and again, accentuating the knocking, giving birth to a desperate song.
It’s the maid…she remembers her voice… does she know? She wonders.
And knows the answer immediately.
It becomes clear to her then.
Everything falls into place and she can’t believe how stupid she had been.
She knows the weakness in her own legs last night wasn’t from sitting too long, it was from the rohypnol in the drink she had been served. She knows that Suraiya wasn’t being sent off abroad to re-unite with her lover…her trembling had not been from excitement but from fear. Just like hers now.
And then Aamir pops into her head to aggravate the pain to a whole new apex. She can’t even begin to fathom what to tell him. She had never mentioned Ayaz to him She had never even hinted at his existence… and now everything he would have warned her against had come true and she couldn’t even turn to him.
That more than anything else, more than the horror of being gang raped, more than the inerasable sense of repulsion for herself, more than the utter helplessness and the constant disgust, it was the feeling of having betrayed him somehow, of having become too unclean, too violated… too vile… for him, that drove her off the cliff.
She couldn’t go back to the hospital… she knew everyone knew. She couldn’t even think of facing Ayaz again, the mere thought of him made her faint from fear and revulsion. So she stayed in her house, shunning the maid till she stopped showing up, avoiding the driver until he stopped coming to work. She knew he had brought her back to her cabin, stripped off her tattered dress and satiated him self on her barely conscious body. She remembered now, as the days went by, she remembered everything.
Sitting closeted inside the cocoon of her wooden cabin, she suffered alone, unconcerned by the world unraveling beyond her door.
There was no one left to turn to. No one left to trust. No one she could tell and no one who would care. They would laugh at her, point fingers. She with her high ideals and warped sense of reality had never even entertained the though of being the one to suffer.
Hate filled her soul. It filled everything. It overcame her capacity to care, to love, to be human the way she once knew. She hated everyone. From Ayaz to Sahil. Except Aamir. Him she couldn’t hate; him she only pitied… and hated herself instead.
When she saw him enter the cabin as she sat contemplating how to kill herself, her instincts led her to joy. Relief so great that for an instant she forgot all that she had come to hate in herself and rushed into his arms. Hugging him so tight that he couldn’t breathe. She was truly happy in that moment, in her husbands embrace, just like always, she felt safe. Loved. Pure.
But then he kissed her. And with the kiss the truth of her existence came back. In his lips she tasted Ayaz. She tasted him and hated him with all the passion that was left inside her. She wanted to cry now, knowing that the only man she had ever loved was forever condemned to being a stranger. She couldn’t tell him anything. And she couldn’t reciprocate his love. There was only one thing left to do, the one thing she had been contemplating all along anyway. His being here, her inability to love him back, just liberated her off all apprehensions. .
So when they slept together that night, she edged away from him. The thought of their bodies touching terrified her. Silently she wept as he slept, longing to feel his skin, too scarred to even dare.
And while he slept she made her way to the vanity case
Opened the book and ripped out two pages, grabbed the note from Ayaz, inviting her to her own destruction, tucked them in her hand, grabbed the thermos from the kitchen and headed out to the edge of the world. .
As she stood at the edge watching the river rage far below, all she remembered was Aamir. She closed her eyes, keeping his face in her mind and surrendered herself to the wind.
Unable to breath on her way down to the water, she passed away in mid-air.
Right before her body slammed against the jagged rocks jutting out of the water to receive her.