I am hanging dead in the dreadful darkness. Three demons abruptly ended my otherwise pretty life. Overlooking my stern denials, their unjust noose was busy in multiplying its murderous grip.
Being hung for so long had frozen me. A couple of hours ago I was active and busy with my chores. I was waiting for my husband, helping my children with their homework, swabbing the courtyard, doing the dishes, enjoying a marriage party in my neighborhood, and eating food. But my envious destiny did not like all that. It conspired with the three devils to murder me. Alas! It was not gentle enough to withstand my familial comforts.
Sunita is my name. I am twenty-eight and married. I live in a village, Babupur, which lies in the North of India and is famous for its wrestlers. Like eleven days, the eleven years of my married life have passed. I feel fortunate being a part of a blessed family. Rakesh my husband is almost of my age. We have two children, Aakash and Aarti. Both are school going. On seeing the children, my friends amusingly say, ‘Sunita, your family is complete – a son and a daughter, too – now do not attempt for another one’. I am always glad to hear it, and I thank God.
Two rooms – a courtyard – and a hut next to the courtyard was the setting of my home. For our bread and butter, Rakesh drove truck from the capital city to the southernmost states of India. The route was lengthy, and sometimes even the goods were not available at one location. Consequently, Rakesh would come home only once or twice a month. Since Rakesh was in this business of driving, everything seemed fine but for his habit of drinking alcohol excessively. I turned blue when I saw his addiction with alcohol. Earlier it was limited to a few pints, but that soon changed into heavy bouts of drinking liquor, as a result, he had turned into a mentally and physically weak person. The clothes which fitted superbly on him once were ill-fitting now. Turning furious in a moment on trifles was an indispensable part of his everyday life. When I appealed to him to give up the habit, he complied just for a few days. His visits to the village were not frequent but whenever he visited he drank uncontrollably with his alcoholic friends.
On the 10th of November Rakesh told me that he would be at home today. Moving forward hastily, the daylight seemed impatient to meet the darkness of night. The blowing wind had cooled down today’s temperature for the rest of the day. As the dark clouds hovered above head, it suggested that today would be a rainy night. Waiting for Rakesh in such fearsome weather conditions had made me over-anxious.
The day was passing by and the wind blew faster now. The roaring black clouds had intensified darkness. While I was sitting in the courtyard and helping the children with their school assignments, I heard sounds of drums coming from the street. It was a marriage party from my neighborhood making its way to the bride’s village. The ambience of excitement tempted Aakash, and he insisted for joining the procession but there was no one who could take care of him, therefore I did not let him go.
Now tranquility replaced noise around. The crazy wind fluttered the branches of the resting trees and kicked off utensils placed on wall shelves. I hastily collected the mess and put all that inside a room. It was already evening and darkness due to the black clouds was making it scarier. The power supply we couldn’t think of in such weather conditions, hence I had lit candles in both the rooms. As it was the day of marriage in our village today so the groom’s family had sent the dinner for us. Even during the dinner, the children asked, ‘Mamma, when will father come home?’
The disquieting arms of the terrifying darkness were carefully taking the whole village in their grasp. The flutter of trees slowed down; it announced the soon to be approaching rain. After having dinner, we came to the bedroom. The flame of the candle was dim, and the weather was not in favor, so the children did not take much time to sleep. Otherwise they would go on playing. Before lying down, I latched the door from inside. The door was loose and its flapping disturbed us. The wait had taken my sleep away. I was lying on bed and just looking around.
Ten, the clock on the wall struck. The vehicles’ honking was hitting on my ears. The returning of the procession had begun. I got up, strolled and finally reached the door. Among the honking sounds, I heard some people talking. I looked through the peephole on the door to know who those people were. All of a sudden, thunder in the raging clouds convulsed me and filled me with horror. I started shivering. To get control of myself, I moped inside and breathed heavily. As soon as the wind drifted away, rain started pouring down. It started battering the place noisily, and I could clearly hear that sound.
Moving towards the bed I heard someone was talking loudly. I stopped and tried to guess who it was. Got closer to the door and I recognized, it was Rakesh. He was abusing a man from the village. His faltering tongue revealed that he crossed limits of drinking today. Immediately, I picked up an umbrella lying in the corner, unlatched the door, held my saree up, ran through the courtyard, and reached the hut. I saw not only Rakesh but also his three friends with him. I was right. All of them were drunk but Rakesh drank too much and was lying on a cot. One of his friends was with him and the other two were sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on another cot. The one who was sitting with Rakesh, I knew him, and the rest I had never seen before. Sonu was his name and he was also from Babupur. Sometimes he visited Rakesh at home. I was sure they must have started drinking today when Rakesh returned from Delhi and his friends could be returning home from the procession.
‘Would you like to have some tea or water?’ I asked. Sonu replied, ‘We are okay, thank you’. I expressed my gratitude for bringing Rakesh home. Going a bit forward, I lent my hand to Rakesh and requested, ‘Let us go inside’. He ignored me. I further said, ‘The weather is not good, and it is already late’. As he was dazed, he ignored me again and hit my hand and gave a jerk. He rebuked me, ‘Go to hell, but let me be here’. He insulted me in the state of intoxication. This was what I had become habitual of, so I requested him again, ‘Let us go inside, please!’. Only ‘Shh…’ he could utter, and then alcohol in his veins and blood engulfed his heart and mind completely. While leaving, Sonu said to me, ‘You do not need to be worried, tell us which room to take Rakesh in’. I thought for a while that I was alone and it would be impossible for me to take him inside. So I pointed my finger towards the bedroom, and requested Sonu, ‘If you could please bring him in to that room’.
I left the hut. Avoiding water clogged pits in the courtyard, I reached my bedroom. Without letting a noise out, I held up my sleeping daughter in my arms and took her to the adjacent room. Noticing the candle, which was to be snuffed out soon, I quickly removed the scattered clothes on the bed and freed some space for her. Then, in a hurry, I went back to pick up my son, and brought him in. Now he was in the same bed beside his sister. I did all of this because Rakesh in his grumpy mood might spoil the sleep of the children.
It was raining ceaselessly. After putting the children down to sleep, I came out of the room and closed the door quietly. Heaving a breath of relief, I moved towards the bedroom. As soon as I got into the room, I found the candle was put off. The bedroom was filled with impassable and frightful darkness. Nothing was visible. I randomly took a step forward, and I felt as if someone was behind me. Panicked! I looked back. Before I screamed out, a man thrust a hanky into my mouth. Without any delay, the second man emerged from somewhere in the darkness, trapped me in his hands as I was trying to fight it out. When I wanted to hit the ground to make some noise, the third one got hold of my legs. The sudden occurrences of events were no less than a doomsday for me. The merciless act of them jolted my heart and brain at once and numbed all my senses. My eyes were continuously open, hands and feet were dead, blood was racing in my body, and my soul was shivering. I was wet and damp in sweat. Now I was confined in the hands of the three sinners. My mouth was entirely sealed; the hanky that was stuffed in it choked my voice completely.
Nothing could be worse for a woman than the attempt of three men to rob her dignity. Their sense of morality got drowned in alcohol and now they were robbing off my dignity. They assaulted me as vampire bats. My soul was crying inside, and my whole body was trembling. I was groveling for mercy but sadly my appeals were turned down. The one who gagged my mouth with his hand spoke and suggested to move. I recognized his voice; it was none other than Sonu. The revelation of him shattered my heart. I was not strong enough to bear this fatality. I threw curses at Sonu. It was evident who the rest of the monsters were. Both, those were sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the cot. Their wild imposing force had defused my nerves. I was in great pain. Putting all my strength and efforts together, I attempted to get out of their trap but regrettably could not. If there was any sound transpiring during the scuffle, that was getting lost somewhere in the lashing of rain. It seemed that the rain had also conspired with these devils to ruin my dignity. My heart was going to burst and stop beating, my eyes were coming out.
In their savagery, they slammed me on the bed. They were breathing in lust. Every passing moment for them was a delay in their impious act. Much dominated they were on me; none of my rescue tricks could prove any obstacles to their sordid act. They were gasping heavily. My legs turned so cold, and my hands were pressed as tight as if they had been fixed to a wall. It was impossible for me to protest now. My mind had surrendered all its grit now. I could see the world of my golden dreams shattering into uncountable pieces. I wished, ‘This earth cuts itself into two halves and I plunge in it before the nefarious plan of these devils succeeds’. In this struggle, I was very much tired and my efforts had come to an end. There was no more thinking and was no more understanding. The ugly scuffle compelled me to pant heavily. They had initiated to execute their wicked plan for which I was brought onto the bed. The way they took off my clothes was like they were peeling the skin off from my body. Their removing my clothes off and shaking me as lunatics do was not less than cutting my heart with the sharpest sword. My heartbeat increased, the veins in my brain had all swelled up. I fell unconscious. I did not know who I was, where I was, and how I was. I had just metamorphosed into a lifeless statue. Now there was nothing in my body except my fainting pulse. And I was sure it was going to stop soon.
One after another, all marauders succeeded in their abominable task. Leaving me wretched, they began to discuss among themselves what to do next. They were distraught, not because of what they had done to me but about how to hide everything before the day break. The terror of tomorrow was observable in their downcast eyes. Subsequently, it was decided that they must terminate my life forever before I would disclose anything about them. They further emphasized that it must be ended up in a way that no one could even doubt that it had been done by them. No more Sunita now, only a forlorn body was laid on the bed which was just counting its remaining breathes. I was in a situation that I would never think of. Now the trio of the beasts had to execute their plan decided a while ago. They retrieved my clothes, and then one at a time, they skillfully clothed me. Sonu picked up the scarf and with the help of his friends he curled it up into a lasso. He put its one end around my neck and held the other end in his hand. After mounting on the bed he passed a signal. His friends responded immediately, they started lifting me up and kept lifting until Sonu stepped forward and succeeded in tying one end of my scarf to a ceiling fan. I was already dead. They were going to kill me just for their sake. Still on the bed, Sonu was constantly looking at the scarf for he thought it shouldn’t come loose in the midst of the action. Both of the other two men supported me from below and they started withdrawing their hands slowly. As their grip on me withdrawn, the other murderous grip of the lasso kicked in action and it began choking my throat. After leaving the culprits’ hands, my legs strived to touch the ground impatiently, but pity! It was not destined to happen. In a few moments, I swung, and my pulse that was feebly on for some time stopped forever. Thus to quench their filthy thirst, the three demons injured me severely and finally took my life. To examine whether I was still breathing or not, Sonu placed his palm over my nose and his friends palpated my pulse. Interacting with their eyes, they smiled when they confirmed I was lifeless. Wiping sweat, Sonu dismounted from the bed. He put on his clothes, his friends did likewise, and he indicated them to leave the place. One by one, they escaped. As decided in their terrible plan, when the three went out, the last one inserted his hand through a slit of the outer door, and latched it from inside.
Silence was all around and I was hanged in my bedroom. I was weeping but my tears denied coming out. I was screaming but my voice was lost somewhere in my throat. Due to the tossing all along, my whole body ached. I was trying to set myself free from the captivity but my attempts at it went in vain. Once life leaves, every single part of my body would be in rebellion against me.
Now there was neither any noise nor any concern. Yes! If there was something, then it was an uninterrupted silence. Being hanged for long had drained me. The dawn was closer. After getting down from here, I want to finish many house chores. See, how messy this room is! I will organize it first, then mop the house, fetch some water from a tap in my neighborhood, and clean the utensils. And yes, the most important, I will help my children take a shower, dress them up, comb their hair and make their schoolbags ready. I will prepare breakfast for them and put coins in their small pockets. But alas! I will not be able to do any of these jobs because life has been separated from me. This night happens to be the last night of my life. I have to remain alone in the darkness. It is everything I can see now. I am not frightened here. Neither am I ambitions nor have any desires. No more dreams, no more complaints, and no more expectations. Everything which was in my possession is buried with my breaths. If there is any complaint left, then it is that the person who promised to remain with me for seven lives, vowed of my protection, but today when he was much-needed while the three beasts were destroying my honor, he was enjoying his intoxicant world, why?
Reader, I request you, ‘Do me a favor, please’. From where I am hanged, all I can see is only a wall of my bedroom. On the wall, there is a niche and a lunchbox is kept in there. You kindly put in two chapattis and some yoghurt. My son has to go to school today, and as long as his lunchbox is not ready, he will not go. And yes, on the very wall, there is a peg beside the niche, two hair bands, red and blue, are on it. Please set them in my daughter’s ponytails. Certainly, she will be pleased. Both of them will ask you where I am. I leave it to you what your reply would be.
Shahid Ahmad holds a master’s degree in the English language. His first short story titled, ‘A Murder in August’ is in LangLit, an international journal. He is a lecturer in English and has been teaching at Jazan University in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since 2009.