Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Haunting by Purple Feather

Happiness…  Children… Life… 

“Accordingto the Pakistan Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860), Zulaikha bibi (Ms. Zulaikha)wife of the deceased Ikramullah Khan, should be tried under chapter XVI of thesaid Code.”

“Thatidiot is shouting again! They are always bickering and fighting… No tameez (manners)…” thought Zulaikha.


“Comein… Jaldi (Quickly)! He’s sleeping. Thegirls are in the other room. He just had his breakfast… What are you doing? No,there’s no time! He’ll wake up and all this planning would go to waste!” whisperedZulaikha to her brother, Shabbir.

“Okaysorry baji (elder sister). You’reright, let’s do this. You get the girls and I’ll go to your room.”

Zulaikhahurried to her kids’ room. A worn out, grayish door hanging by its hingeswelcomed Zulaikha into the tiny room. The muck brown paint was peeling offgiving the room an even ancient look. Nighat, the oldest daughter of Zulaikha andIkramullah, was sitting in one corner trying to read a tattered book. The twins,Mona and Minhal, least bothered about the world of knowledge were playing withtheir mitti ke bartan (pottery). As theirmother came rushing in, all three girls started jumping and pulling Zulaikha’sclothes. “Amma (Mother) please takeus to the mela (carnival) tonight.Tell abba (father) to take us!” allthree shouted.

“Calm down… We’ll see. Abhi chalo mere sath (Come with me now)! I want to show yousomething.”
With that, Zulaikha led her children out of the room andinto the small living area located in the center of the house. “Now listen tome… Don’t shout or tell anyone what you’re about to see. I tried very hard toconvince your abba but he didn’t listen to me. He has a big piece of land underhis name which I wanted him to make it under my name. If he dies, it will go tothe government and what use will that be to us? So your Shabbir mamoon (uncle) and I have taken adecision. Come in your abba’s room and we’ll tell you.”
One by one the girls filed into their father’s room.
“No Judge Sahib(sir), she not only murdered her husband but also killed the innocence ofher children. Those girls are so young and still immature. We should also takeinto account the effect of this incident on their minds.” The opposition lawyerprotested.
Zulaikha broke out of her trance. “So what? All I did wasshow them the reality of their father. He refused to give me the land. They shouldknow what kind of cruel man their father is!”
“So you repaid his cruelty by committing cold-bloodedmurder, by depriving those three children of their father?” shouted the lawyer.
Ikramullah was sound asleep. The thin mattress saggedunder his weight. The bed wobbled in protest with each of his earth-shakingsnores. He was balding and his mustache was whitening as every day passed. The wrinkleson his forehead and underneath his eyes multiplied with each stressful workingday.
Shabbir kicked his brother-in-law in the stomach. As Ikramullahjolted upright and shouted out with pain, Nighat cried out, “What are you doing…?Don’t hit my abba!”
“I’ll ask you one last time.” Zulaikha said. “Will you orwill you not give me that land?”
“No!” Ikramullah’s one-worded response hit Zulaikha likea whip. “I know you’re going to sell it and squander all the money. I won’tgive it to you!”
Wordlessly, Shabbir retrieved the axe he had hiddenbehind himself and swung it high above his head. Nighat screamed, “No…”
Zulaikha turned around to see her eldest child’s facejust as the axe began to fall.
The cold metal bars mocked her, as Zulaikha awakened fromher nightmare. “No, no, no…” she mumbled. She could not remove the look offright on Nighat’s face from her mind. Those inquisitive, hazel eyes had losttheir twinkle and glow at that moment. All Zulaikha had seen that day, lastweek, was fear and dread. Now sitting in this 6x6 room of loneliness, she realizedher mistake. The answer she had not known before was now as clear to her as washer own name. In the darkness of the night, she prayed to God for a very longtime.
In the next meeting with her lawyer, Zulaikha attemptedto meet her children. “Please,” she begged him. “I have to meet my girls. I haveto tell them that I’m sorry I took away their father and couldn’t be a bettermother.” But all her requests were in vain.
Every night she was haunted; haunted by the memory of herhusband and the terror of not being able to meet her kids. The guilt was eatingher from inside. She could not live like this. She had to tell her childrenthat she had done something wrong.
Days turned into weeks and like this, a month passed by. Zulaikhahad turned into a frail, wispy figure. Today the court would decide whether shecould see her children one last time or not. As her lawyer approached her cell,she heard the answer in his slow and heavy footsteps. With that, she put thepill in her mouth and swallowed it, asking forgiveness one last time.


  1. Short Story - Yes
    The Haunting - Not really
    Guilt - Not really
    Terror - Not really
    Grade - 4/10

  2. the woman was callous enough to want to show her daughter the brutal murder of her father, yet she's surprised to see the innocence leave her daughters eyes and that leads to her repentance? she had her own husband mutilated with an axe! and there is not terror at all. guilt is superficial.
    you must understand the importance of emotion in developing your essays.