Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Haunting by Alias

As the sun set, an ear-splitting scream rent the air. Within a heartbeat, the entire atmosphere became as silent as a graveyard in the darkest hour of the night. Sarah’s hands shook and her lower lip trembled at the thought of what had happened. Looking at her husband, Ahmed, with complete disbelief and helplessness, Sarah’s eyes began to fill with tears. As Dr. Bilal began to explain to them what actually caused Zara to become “crazy” the tears started to fall from their eyes. Sarah could not get the image of her 16 year old daughter trying to scratch her eyes out from her head. The fact that Ahmed and Sarah could not understand what was actually happening to their own child was now driving them insane. Gradually it was dawning on them that when Zara mentioned the “river flowing rapidly through her body” and the “violent drum that beat within her day and night” was nothing short of the truth! Dr. Bilal explained how Zara could hear every single sound that her body was making; the opening and closing of the valves in her veins and heart, the heart pumping the blood, and the blood racing throughout her body. Her mind did not allow her to hear the world around her; it was as if her inner demon had focused her hearing upon herself. Sarah and Ahmed were as still as statues carved out of marble, unable to move. Despite the utter stillness, Dr. Bilal could actually feel the air around them vibrating with mixed, turbulent and near-violent emotions.

The doctor explained that two of Zara’s major nerves had been swapped, causing her to hear the sounds in her own body, which worsened when she was stressed out. It was true! Whenever whispered words pertaining to her madness reached Zara’s ears, her expression would take a horrific cast. She would claw at her ears, making them bleed. The pain would reach such an extent that she would physically harm herself to relieve the mental anguish she was suffering from. Upon witnessing such horrific acts, Sarah would recoil from her daughter, unwilling to touch her; too scared to help her! Dr. Bilal went on to tell them how victims of this illness sought an escape of this mental anguish through any means, the easiest which was physical harm. As these words sunk in, Ahmed recalled the times when his innocent daughter would bash her head against the wall and scream uncontrollably.

Oh, how could they have done this to their own flesh and blood? Chained her up to the bed like a wild animal in order to save her from herself. Years of belief was shattered in an instance; the strength they had derived from the conviction that their daughter didn’t know any better, and they were only treating her this way to protect her, had dissipated. The terror they faced when Zara used to physically attack herself was now transferred into horror at how they would face her when they passed from this world to the next. Even with her last breath she insisted she was not insane, but they never believed her, not even once! The concept of her illness was unfathomable and never heard of, but that was no excuse for not believing and understanding their daughter. Faced with the horror of what they had done to their own child was the only emotion running through Ahmed and Sarah. No other feeling or thought registered. All they could think about and see was Zara’s lifeless face covered in scars, her body a pathetic mass of open wounds and broken bones!

Had they got Zara to Dr. Bilal sooner, it would have been a matter of an operation room, a surgeon, and a surgery! Unfortunately, it just did not work out that way. The fact that Zara could have been a healthy, happy, normal girl was a mind-numbing thought. It was a thought too much to bear and fragmented what little was left of their sanity into tiny shards. All that that was left was a gaping black hole filled with guilt and echoes of Zara’s screams!


  1. Mmmm....WOW
    Short story - complete
    The Haunting - absolutely
    Terror - YES
    Horror - YES
    Grade - undeniably 9/10

  2. The genre of this story is tragedy. The story portrays the life of a couple and how they face terror over their daughter's condition and then guilt because they never believed her. For a reader, the story brings out feelings of pity and sadness for these people. The writer has written this to create awareness of different kinds of problems faced by people and the eagerness of people to treat a situation as abnormal, if not proven scientifically.

    The writer starts after Zara has died. At this point, her parents become aware of the fact that she was telling the truth. After this, the story gives a few flashbacks to fit in what actually happened to Zara. It ends with Sara and Ahmed grieving over their daughter's death and blaming themselves for not getting her treated.

    In para 1, the phrase "ear-splitting scream" indicates that something is wrong to cause this kind of disturbance. Furthermore, "as silent as a graveyard in the darkest hour of the night", this phrase foreshadows the information given to us later on that Zara is dead. The phrases used to describe Zara's condition, "river flowing rapidly through her body" and "the violent drum that beat within her day and night", paint a clear picture in our mind about Zara's condition. They help us in imagining what actually happened to the 16 year old. The last sentence written in para 1, Despite the utter stillness, "Dr. Bilal could actually feel the air around them vibrating with mixed, turbulent and near-violent emotions" indirectly explains the emotions that Sara and Ahmed are experiencing.

    In the last line of para 2, the word "bash" explains the severity of the situation that Zara and her parents are facing.

    In para 3, the simile "like a wild animal" literally made me feel sorry for her. I could picture her fighting against the chains that bound her. "The concept of her illness was unfathomable and never heard of, but that was no excuse for not believing and understanding their daughter"; this line brought out the feelings of guilt that Sara and Ahmed faced. The punctuation and language, "her body a pathetic mass of open wounds and broken bones!", used here signifies that Zara tried very hard to stop herself from hearing inside herself and she finally succeeded.

    The tone in this story is filled with grief, terror and guilt at different instances. This makes the story more interesting.

  3. Genre is fiction in the form of a tragic short story. Intro is fine but I wouldve like some indication of tone.
    You wrote 'Furthermore, "as silent as a graveyard in the darkest hour of the night",' What you needed to do, was focus on the SIMILE and explain briefly how connecting the silence to a graveyard actually gave the story a dark, morbid tone indicating that something ill was about to happen.
    You need to indicate the changing tone at each and every point and need to zero-in on the words which help you do so.
    As a first effort, this is good. Grade stands at 7/10

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Commentary on : Haunting By Alias

    The genre is tragedy (fiction).As it is written in third person subjective, I found it particularly interesting. It gave me little insight into the characters but it also gave me a chance to contemplate about some things on my own, to play the detective. The purpose of the writer is to rid us of our stereotypes. To make us realize that just because we don’t know of something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Zara’s parents didn’t know about that illness that’s why they labeled her as possessed or mad. Although ignorance is blissful but often we are afraid of what we don’t know so we come up with our own bizarre conclusions in an attempt to rationalize.

    The author has used various literary tools to paint a very graphic picture. I say that because it aroused strong emotions in me, it moved me. It raised the hair on my neck. A graveyard and night have sinister connotations. The author could have used any other simile she deliberately employed these words to foreshadow something unpleasant. The word crazy written in inverted commas subtly implies that the parents, version of craziness was questionable. Or maybe the girl just appeared to be crazy and there was something else wrong with her. The diction is used so skillfully that we can almost hear the ‘violent drum that beat through her day and night.’ The belittling tone of the first paragraph makes us pity the helpless parents.

    She has effectively used onomatopoeia by including words like ‘swap’, ‘pump’. The diction has the power to draw out the reader. Sometimes I even get the feeling that I am inside Zara’s body, ‘watching the nerves swap’, and ‘the heart pump’. In the second paragraph the tone is harsh, creating a morbid picture. The words’ claw’ and ‘cast’ hint that she is gradually becoming less human (at least in the eyes of the parents). Claw implies that Zara had become like an irrational, ‘wild’ animal with no control over her emotions. The author’s tone is slowly becoming accusatory until it fulminates in the last paragraph. Recoiled has a greater impact on the reader’s mind than any other word could have had. It has a jarring, disturbing feeling to it.

    The mother tortures herself by asking rhetoric questions like “Oh, How could they have done this to their own flesh and blood”. I think the third paragraph has a strange, underlying pattern to it. It sends out vibes about transition and unexpectedness. The words ‘shattered’, ‘dissipated’ show that the parents had never expected their life to to take this turn,. to become so meaningless in the space of a heartbeat. But they grudgingly realize they have to move on,’ they have to (pass) from this world to the next.’ The author has persistently used an animal like imagery. ‘Zara’s lifeless body (was) likes the pathetic mass of open wounds and broken bones’, like the body of a decaying animal, exposed to predators. She was ‘chained’.

    The last paragraph has a depressing and chiding tone. The parents are tormenting themselves by thinking of how they could have saved their innocent daughters life. But the ‘gaping hole filled with guilt and echoes of Zara’s screams’ came back to haunt them.

    This story is very realistic. In a satirical way it has targeted the society. It made me realize that life doesn’t always have a happy ending.

  7. I would have preferred to have a little more emotional expression in your essay. they faced terror and horror, that is told to us by you. but why isnt it illustrated instead? why not show, widened eyes, quickened heart beats, shaking hands and lumps in the throat and perhaps a constricting pain in the chest? the guilt can be more palpable too! it would take your writing to a whole new level