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Fehmida Zakeer

[box]‘Silent World’ is the story of a mother, whose world is, well, silent. In this silent world, vibrations set in, unleashing some kind of a horror. The story explores the rasa, Bhayānakam (Horror). ‘Crossings’ is a moving story of school children off for an excursion. It touches upon the rasa, Kāruṇyam (Tragedy).[/box] 

[box type = “bio”]Fehmida Zakeer works as a freelance journalist as well as an Instructional Designer. Her articles have appeared in various publications such as AzizahHerbs for HealthGood Housekeeping and Prevention, to name a few. Her stories and poetry have been featured in many online magazines such as Out of Print, Muse India and Everyday Poets. Her story, “Shuttered Landscape” has been published in the anthology “Pangea” published by Thames River Press. Fehmida was shortlisted twice in the prestigious Binnacle Short Story Writing Contest.[/box]

Bhayānakam | Silent World

The silence threatened to smother her but she refused to let the skeins of self pity ball up within the empty spaces of her ears. She should consider herself lucky; here she was preparing dinner for her twins and husband when last year this time, dinner for her had been some glutinous mixture sliding down a tube. Not that she remembered it as such, but that’s what she had been told. She remembered very well what had landed her in that state – a blazing headache and a blinding light that burned and sucked her into submission. Two months of life wiped off – she’d been lucky to wake up she’d learnt.

She looked at the twins arm wrestling, presumably yelling each other’s ears off – she grinned, she was now spared the ear splits her ten-year-olds specialised in. She tapped the counter with the spatula and said “Don’t shout.”

Their arms fell off each other immediately and both asked almost simultaneously, “How did you know we were yelling?”

“I knew,” she smiled, thankful of her newfound ability to read lips.

But that’s not the only ability she gained as she adapted slowly to the blanketed world where sound waves could no longer drum beat their presence to her. The waves now took different paths to reach her – they tapped a litany of tingles on the back of her neck or vibrated up her arms and feet. Like the buzz caressing the soles of her feet now. Maybe it was the doorbell but the feeling was too faint and the boys had not raced to the door. She felt it again – a continuous vibration that waxed and waned imperceptibly. The light shade moved a tiny bit. She rushed the twins down the staircase; on the way, they banged on every door down four floors. Minutes later the residents of the apartment complex watched as the earth shook violently and buildings all around them tottered on their foundations.

***

Kāruṇyam | Crossings

“Miss, next excursion let’s go someplace by train.”

Leena laughed. “Sure, Arun, we’ll ask the principal whether we can plan a train trip for our next excursion.”

The bus jumped along the road causing its occupants to clutch their seat handles in alarm. “Baalaa…careful,” Leena raised her voice over the din of the chattering children.

The driver looked back and grinned… “Don’t you worry, Miss Leena. I just wanted to give the children a little excitement.”

“They are excited enough with the outing to Tipu’s fort. You keep your eyes on the road. Please don’t jump over humps as you are wont to.  If the bus breaks down here, we’ll be stuck,” she peered out of the window, “We should have taken the main road.”

Balan waved his hands and looked through the mirror, “Trust me miss, less traffic on the road and scenic too. The children will enjoy, so what if it is a bit of a roundabout.” He pointed and called out. “Children… rail tracks.”

The kids on the right side of the bus craned their necks for a glimpse, while those on the left side let out a cacophony of “We can’t see”.

Miss Shalini reassured them. “When we cross over the tracks in a little while it will come to your side, then you can see.”

Leena walked up to the front. She stood behind the driver’s seat and balanced herself against the pole. The tiny ribbon of the road sped by, causing a green frenzy along the sides in its wake.

A lone sign popped ahead.

“Be careful, this is an unmanned crossing.” Leena sounded a quiet warning.

“I know, Miss.” Balan brought the bus to a standstill. His eyes traced the twin pairs of parallel lines disappearing into the horizon on both sides.

He switched gears and inched the bus forward. The bus bobbed past the first pair of rails. It cleared the first rail of the second pair, and then the engine spluttered.

Balan swore under his breath and twisted the key…once…twice, but there was no response. He tried again…and again.

A boom traversed its way from afar.  Shalini who had walked over, clutched at Leena, “Is it – do you think – it is a train?”

Balan looked through the mirror, his gaze skittered past the sweaty faces of the teachers to the incomprehensive eyes of the children. He kicked open the door and jumped out grabbing the bottle strapped under the seat. The approaching train was a mere speck in the distance, its contours getting more defined every second.

Balan raced towards the train, splashing the contents of the bottle all over him. Leena gasped and looked at Shalini whose eyes were shut tight. She shifted her gaze back to see pungent kerosene vapours leaping in response to the call of the tiny matchstick in Balan’s hands. She sagged against the seat, gasping for breath.

A wail pierced the somnolence of the mid-morning hour. Birds snoozing within the recesses of leafy canopies rose up in alarm contributing to the disjointed eruption of sounds.  A tempest of leaves and burning smells exploded even as the bus rocked between the tracks.

Leena opened her eyes and took a step back – the massive train shuddered to a halt couple of inches away from the bus.

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