FICTION: Replete with Henna

Your tongue flicks off the blood on your lower lip. It tastes extraordinary. Like it has been mingled with something extraordinary. You feel cheated as more pain takes over and life drizzles out of you a little more. You flick some more blood off your lips, struggling to recollect how its unadulterated version tasted like. But your mind is one big blur. You give up on the hitherto lost cause as you are abruptly reminded of him. You scream out his name. A loud and savage scream that draws out the last few remnants of your body’s coherence. You try turning your almost mangled head, desperate to at least catch a glimpse of what has happened of him. But your head seems to be stuck into itself. You cry through the pain. You apologize to your father. You apologize to your mother. You apologize to your uncles, and their wives, and their pathetic little children. You apologize to every sorry bastard that makes them all up. And then you apologize to him. Your head still stays stubbornly still. You call out his name again. And this time his smiling face flashes in front of your eyes…

Your fate has been decided for you. In this wilderness, you are untraceable. They have assaulted your body. They have mutilated your ideas of eternity and triumph. You play with their honor, you play with your right to live. Your father, the hardworking honest man who always bought you everything your heart desired. Your mother, who rubbed chickpea flour against your skin because you weren’t fair enough to be “really pretty”. They were your world. You were their world. But at 16, your world had expanded to ease in that one boy with bright eyes and an intelligent mind, and a voice that sounded like rasp. A boy you thought was destined for easy greatness. Together you could do anything, you could even save the world. But saving the world did not warrant the saving of your own deluded self.

You drag your body, or at least think you are dragging your body, for you are certain you want to live. You are certain you want your long hard body to be decked up in a bride’s red, replete with henna on your hands and feet. You are certain you want to experience the presence of a man inside you… His clumsy hands, and how lifeless they felt on your breasts. You remember your carefree laugh, your insults to his “man”hood. Always keep it packed inside. Don’t ever take it out of your pants. You are such a boy. He was such a boy. Only 19. And you are 17. And that is what you will remain unless… Unless you live. You want to live. You want to live! You gather all the voice in your body and scream. Help! Someone! Take me to the hospital. Stitch me up. I want to live. Let him die. Kill him again. But let me live. Ma. Papa. Ma. We will all go back to how it was before. We will all be happy. I will birth you grandchildren with the man you will choose for me.

But no one can hear you. Or probably you have mouthed all those words merely inside your head.

Help, you say one last time, relishing the promise of your own sound. But no one helps. Violated, unusable, unfit for further consumption due to tampering by a man who is of a lower caste than you are, they have no place for you in their world anymore.

Prashila Naik is a writer and technologist, currently based out of Bangalore. Her work has been published in various online literary magazines from India and elsewhere, such as Kaani, Muse India, Jaggery, Papercuts, Bombay Literary magazine, Bewildering Stories, Spark and Indian Review, among others.


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