This story is by Mayera Tufail and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Her heart pumped fire into her veins. Pain transcended her body; she was falling into an endless pit of darkness and despair. Anger, it poisoned her soul. She struggled to breathe; air could not find its way into her lungs. Gasping for air, she grabbed hold of her inhaler. One puff, another and then another. Her lungs expanded, her vision cleared out. She picked up the pen, opened a new blank page. The emptiness of the page scared her; it was a true reflection of her state. Slowly, her hands trembling she began to write.
A dog barked outside, the wind blew and the birds chirped. Mother Nature carried on, as if oblivious to the fire raging within her mind.
Where have you been? A part of her felt intensely betrayed. Her life had been a chaotic mess, of which she could make no sense. Suddenly, an image flashed across the screen of her mind. She was young, meek and fragile, trembling with fear. She uttered a prayer, Oh god let her not find me here, please, it hurts. Tears flowed through her eyes, back then she could cry, she could feel. The door pushed open. It made a loud sound, as the wood hit the brick wall. In an attempt to save herself, she tried to run but the absence of friction on the floor, made her loose her balance and she fell down. Mom please, she cried I am sorry. The stick hit her hand, then her chest and then her legs. Instantly she could feel sympathy for the wall, hit by the door. She closed her eyes. Pain gripped her shivering body; it made its way to her heart. She let out a shrill scream, the one of a dying animal lost in the abyss of the forest. Where were you then when I called out your name? She continued with a rage so unnatural that the paper tore slightly. How could you let this happen to me? How can a god so merciful and loving let this go? She was no more than 4 years old. He promised her candy, they went to play in her room. He locked the door. But why Baba? She said in her innocent voice, naïve as always of the tragedy that was to befall her. He reached for her frock. Something penetrated her, she could not fathom what, the pain was unbearable, He blocked her mouth. Shsshhhh. It will all be over, He said. Just as it started, in a quick flash, it came to an abrupt halt. These few seconds of her life, would play in her head for the rest of the years to come. She felt impure, tainted and stained to the core, so much so that she would not wear anything white. She felt intimidated by the purity of the color and how easily it could be stained, just like her chastity.
God is one. She had learnt, just as she recited the Arabic verses she did not know the meaning of. The one and the only. He loved you as much as seventy mothers, but seventy multiplied by zero, was still zero wasn’t it? He answered the prayers of the pious, the honest and the good. So was she not good enough? Was she a product of Satan since the day she was born? Why don’t you just die, she had heard her mother say to her several times, I curse the day you were born. Why doesn’t she love me? How am I supposed to obey and love them when I am not loved in return? The Holy Scripture said that parents were a symbol of god on earth. Why did the God she worshiped so angry, so vengeful, and ready to strike at any given opportunity with a fresh tinge of destruction. How could she a mere human being, his humble creation have wronged him? Her head pulsated with throbbing pain. She poured herself a glass of water and took four aspirin tablets. The pain could not be felt, not now, when she was making a conversation with the highest divine force. Why did you save me when I tried to die? The doctor had examined her with contempt, sixteen tablets? How much was your pain? She bowed her head in shame. Guilt gripped her heart. The rest of the evening was a blur, but that was not the last time she had tried to end her existence, but each time, she had survived. Why save me? Why not the child who died in the blast? She had seen a child being shot to death, as terrorists lay siege to his school. The child had tried to escape, multiple shots were fired. Unfortunately he could not survive. The image had haunted her for days to come, she begged her God to use logic and reason, but no avail.
Why did you let them give me away? She remembered the hurt she had felt as a teenager knowing that the people she had called parents were not synonyms of affection any more. She was adopted. It had always been a distant thought, but now it was staring at her in the face. Her name, her life and her identity, nothing was the same. She resisted the change and refused to grow, but the tides of the wild sea carried her far far away, from comfort, from the place she called home. She prayed, each day, five times over. Silence. There was no answer from God. She called out his different names; spoke as eloquently as she could, despite the darkness inside. The darkness enveloped her existence; she grew tired of the silence. Exhausted and finding no purpose for her existence she had tried to kill herself once more, but she did not die. Why can’t you let me go God? Just let me be. This time God had punished her for her sins, they trapped her in the prison. Depression they had called it. The bathroom door had no locks, neither did the door. The nurse would not leave until you swallowed all your drugs. Across the window she could see the birds fly, the contrast between them ever so great. Once again she had called out to God. Please make it hurt less, make the pain disappear. But it never stopped, hell raged on. Was God punishing her for autonomy? For the will to die? If he is omnipotent and our creator shouldn’t he understand her pain? There was no reply. It was as if the kingdom above the skies was sleeping in an ignorant slumber, oblivious to the suffering of mankind.
Maybe God was a game only those with safe childhoods could play. Maybe the concept of God did not apply to her case, for her God was something abstract, a force that had ceased to exist. God you betrayed me! She had too many questions with very few answers. She was naked; the clothes of faith that had once protected her were there no more. She left the rest of the page blank.
She was stuck between the two worlds; one provided baseless assurance and the other a cruel hard reality. She was neither a believer nor an unbeliever, neither the faithless nor the faithful, neither the obedient nor the rebellious and neither the pious nor the sinner. She was nothing. God did not love her enough to be admitted in paradise, neither did he see hell as her permanent abode. So much was the polarity within her soul, that she could have been the perfect symbol of yin and yang both. She was either going to find light or immerse herself in darkness.
From the skies above, God smiled. She was his perfect piece of art. Duality in one soul, dark as the night and bright as the day, a stark contrast of white and the black. The staunch believer of the unbelievers, the most faithful of the faithless, magnificent as ever, his majestic creation. Very few dared to make the journey that she did, the journey to know oneself, the journey to the center of the universe, the journey to find God himself. She was the chosen one. The creation of the creator.
“The shape of life was a circle, and every point on that circle was at an equal distance from the center—whether one called that God or something else altogether. For only in the mirror of the other, can one glimpse the face of God.”
Elif Shafak in Three daughters of eve.