Chapter 1:

A Heart of Melting Stone

Lily of the Valley

The expanse of mankind is scattered with its own universes, each carrying a unique experience. Tremors in one realm can shake those that surround it. Some try to remain untouched and undisturbed, unaware that isolation is impossible in the human experience. A lot of unforeseen tremors are beyond one person’s means. So why do we suffer? Why are we so fixated on the reasons for madness and the need to blame ourselves? Why is the remedy for pain the pain itself? Perhaps it is our inherent urge to be unsatisfied. Who knows? Humanity is, after all, an ever-shifting enigma.

Saanvi went deep near to emptiness, and was close to becoming a hollow husk, but she did not care. She had grown indifferent to caring about such matters. All she needed was a woman’s touch that could temporarily soothe  things beneath.

She explored the woman in front of her, her fingers delving into the blossom of desire, evoking soft satisfied sighs from the woman’s lips. And the favour is exchanged. Their bodies synchronized in a harmonious rhythm, finding solace in the embrace of one another’s hands and the gentle touch of their lips.

When their union reached its pinnacle, a moment of release followed, accompanied by a satisfied moan. Their breath grew heavy, and their hearts pounded. However, only one of them wore a smile.

“That was... wow! You really know how to show a lady a good time!” She expected Saanvi to return the compliment, but she did not.

“Did... Did I not satisfy you? Did... Did I do something wrong?”

Saanvi lay on the bed in emptiness, in stillness, and such a thing had broken, not with her lover’s plight but by shattering of a bottle and spilling of wine from a careless hand. The man was of medium build, whiteish coloring and a long face mirroring a parrot. His eyes and face transitioned from shock to pain on witnessing their nakedness. And then his lips curled into disgust, a certain disgust that went deeper than infidelity. If it had been a man instead of a woman the hatred would have been less intense.

“You whore! You dyke,” He shrieked. He stepped forward, held saanvi by her neck and pushed her against the wall.

“Surprised?” Saanvi smiled icily. “Have you ever seen her drive? It’s very obvious that she prefers delicacy of flowers over aggression of swords, well, in your case, needle.”

He thumped her head against the wall and gave her a tight slap. His wife begged him to stop, grabbing his hand, which he shook away with disgust.

“Don’t touch me, you disgusting whore.” He snarled.

“Proving my point, aren’t you? Resorting to violence while pretending to be righteous sanskari man.” 

He forcefully seized her by the throat and pushed her down onto the ground.

“You are not a woman! No woman would do such a disgusting thing,”

“Do what? pleasing your wife better than you?”

He started and got kicked in the groin, making him recoil. He crumpled to the ground in pain. Before he could stand, she grabbed her clothes and quickly departed and locked the door behind her.

“Open the door! You skank! Open the bloody door!”

"And why the hell would I do that? I've always wondered why men ask their victims to stop running or open the door. It's pointless. Obviously, they won't open the damn doors. People who find themselves in such situations don't want to be hurt. Simple logic mate,"

Saanvi quickly put on her undergarments, noticed that she forgot her shirt and jacket, but did not care that much. She swiftly pulled on her pants and reached for her sunglasses and effortlessly slid them onto her fair face. The shades cast a dark shade over her blue-green eyes.

She pushed open the gate and didn’t bother to close it as she stepped out. A middle-aged woman walking by gave her a sour look, shaking her head in disgust. Some men gawked at her, while others looked twice or thrice to confirm what they had seen.

She stopped by a vendor and asked for a cigarette and the man stared at her like a deer in headlights.

“I asked for a cigarette, mate. Marlboro. You got it?” He did. She took a cigarette out of the box and put it between her lips.

“Now, where are the fucking matches? How am I supposed to light it?”

He lit her cigarette with a lighter.

“Good man, good man, but nothing beats the matches. I taste a bit of the butane when lighting off a lighter. Matches just tastes better,” she said after letting out the smoke. Tendrils of it wove over her, creating translucent patterns, before making a fleeting escape.

She tried to hail an auto rickshaw, but none seemed to stop until she stepped on one auto’s way.

“What the hell! What’s wrong with you? Are you crazy?” shouted the driver.

“Astute observation, brother. Now take me to 3rd lane indiranagar, ramalanka.”

He looked at her up and down, scrutinizing her but not in a queer way.

“I will pay.” She said, flaunting the two thousand rupee note.

“Lady, did something happen to you? Did someone attempt to assault you?” he asked with sincere concern.

“It happened. I kicked him in the balls, lost my clothes in process and the matter was settled. Children for a shirt and jacket, an equivalent exchange. Now, will you drive me home or not?”

He gestured her to get in and dropped her at her house, safe and sound. She handed him the note.

“Keep the change. Buy something nice for yourself.”

The people in her neighborhood cast their usual curious and disgust glances in her direction. She entered her home and made her way into the living room, which was filled with beer bottles and various types of trash.

Right at the Centre was a noose and a stool.

She walked towards the stool, climbed on top of it, and let the noose hang over her neck. It would only take a moment for an eternal slumber. However, she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Fear held her back. She slowly stepped down from the stool, made her way to the kitchen - came back with a beer bottle in hand, and drank till she passed out over the sofa. 

Syed Al Wasee