This he bought from an antic store. Made of real rope, thick and sturdy, in a neat circle, looked like one of those that he had seen in the western movies where sometimes vigilantes would apprehend a bad guy – maybe a horse thief or a cowardly killer – and hang him from a tree. Simple justice.
Antic stores weren’t his kind of place. He was walking by the store and this thing lying on a shelve next to the display window just caught his eyes. The shopkeeper had asked for more than he thought it worth, but he paid. He had just an inkling about the usability of it, but since he purchased and carried it home, he realized his life wouldn’t be complete without it. All his life he had waited for this.
In the coming days, he would often wake up late at night, would get the noose out from its blue reusable bag and put it around his neck. He would just let it be there, feeling the roughness of the rope against his skin, imagining the agonizing last moments of the subject as the noose pressed harder and harder into the throat – cutting of air, lungs desperately seeking oxygen, slowly the hope disappears and cold darkness takes control, and death be his.
Malik stood near the intersection of Nicole and Russel streets, in bright, hot sun, looking at the two-storied house, not even a hundred feet away. He carried the blue bag, the noose inside. He did this every few days, when he felt the need to diffuse the pressure that continued to build up inside him, in his brain or somewhere deep within. Just standing here, staring at the house, watching nothing happening there, no movements, no voices, no sign of life. The sun baked him good, sweat ran from head to toe, his mind blank, just staring at something so beautiful and still. It was a good-looking house, in a good area, must have cost a neat million if not more.
Many times, during these circles of gazing he had tried to summon up his courage to go down to the front door of the house, ring the bell and wait for someone to open the door. He had envisioned himself doing so at night, in his home, with the noose around his neck, knowing he didn’t have the guts. He despised that fearfulness, that hesitation in him. Son of a farmer, somewhere in a poverty ridden village on the other hemisphere in South East Asia, he had taken a big leap, made possible only due to his meritorious educational achievements which brought scholarships and opportunity for higher education in the west, later a job, a good life. But the mild-mannered little boy who once had held the skinny hands of his older sister and roamed from hut to hut in their corner of little village had remained the same. He hated himself for that. He wanted to be brave, angry, mad and revengeful.
Those long, thin fingers! In his memory she had always been fifteen. Skinny, but immensely pretty girl with a bubbly personality, flickers of light in her two wide eyes, curious, interested – just about in everything. And there was him, was he five, maybe six, nobody was keeping track. Like a shadow he followed her, grabbed those thin fingers just in case she went too fast or just flew away leaving him behind – with it the world of amazement!
He unmindfully extended his right hand in the air and grabbed into something – an imaginary hand, warm, strong. And then he realized his mistake. Ashamed he looked around for any surprised onlookers, questioning his mental sanity. There was none. Or maybe there was. The main door of the house opened. And a boy walked out. He stood on the porch and looked right at him. He must have had seen him grabbing the air. His eyes looked sharp under a frown, unfitting for a boy – eight? Nine? Shorts and a half sleeve shirt, bare feet. All these days of mute observation and this was the first sign of life! Who was this boy? What was he doing out of the house, alone, staring at a suspicious stranger? He started to feel a little nervous. The same old fearfulness crawled down his spine in a slow and steady trip. Was the boy being the lookout for the devil inside? Was he related to him, the devil? Was the devil watching him all this time from the deep inside the house where darkness prevailed?
He felt sweat seeping out of his head, itchy, heart beating little harder. Wasn’t this what he had been waiting for? The devil must know he had been found. Time doesn’t forgive sins, only revenge can. If eye for an eye makes the world blind let it be. But with his head sweating and heart beating hard, he had little hope of doing anything. He looked at the boy and their gazes locked, measuring each other out, asking silent questions, attempting to read each other’s body language.
The boy waved at him. Malek looked around, just to be sure that it was aimed at him. He took a long and deep breath but couldn’t make up his mind about responding with a similar wave. Why the boy with an unusual frown waved at him?
The boy asked him to come close with a gesture of his hand. Baffled, Malek gestured back, calling the boy to him. To his utter disbelief the boy obliged. With firm strides and the frown still imprinted on his face he walked at the edge of the driveway, looked both sides for oncoming cars and then walked across the road to Malek. Standing on the sidewalk just feet away from him, the boy looked up at him, his whole body turning into a big question mark. A few very strange moments passed in total silence.
“What’s your name?” asked the boy.
“What’s yours?” Malek asked back. This boy was a definite spy, out here compiling information to be divulged to the insidious devil inside, hiding in his dark cave, too afraid to deal with his past sins.
“Why are you standing here?” the boy asked.
“Is he home, watching me?” Malek asked.
The boy took his eyes off from Malek’s face and fixed it on the bag that he was holding.
“What’s in the bag?” the boy looked curious.
“Is the man named Alek Mia in there?” Malek asked, moving the bag behind him, out of clear view.
The boy smiled at him, almost cordially, and then sat on the sidewalk with his feet on the street. He patted on the concrete next to him. “Are you going to sit?”
Malek looked around him, habitually, there was nobody. He sat next to the boy, placing the bag next to him, away from the boy.
“Do you know stories?” The boy asked, in a matter of fact way.
“Do you like to listen to stories?
“This is a story of a girl. She was fifteen. So pretty! Even though her cloths were torn, hair was dusty, lips were dry, stomach was empty. She was the oldest daughter of a poor farmer, in a land far far away. The little land the farmer had, produced just enough to survive. Then, when the sun scorched, or the rain won’t stop, or the diseases infested the paddy – he had little to do but to ask for heavenly interventions. One year, the girl, with these beautiful and warm hands with long, thin fingers, was sent to the house of a rich landlord as a maid. Only ten miles apart but seemed like an ocean. Her little brother waited for the winter when she would return home, when there would be not much to do in the landlord’s house and she would be released. The farmer counted days, the girl would bring him money, to carry on until the next harvest…the same old boring story of poverty and helplessness. The winter came and the girl returned. She was lying on a hastily built stretcher with bamboo sticks, completely still, not a word, not a smile, even no blinking of her eyes. That was so strange! A wind of a girl sails across the ocean and returns a still body with this thick imprint of rope in her neck. Farmer got little money for his loss, the landlord relieved with the cops happy with their gifts, the little life in the ovary taken care of – it was fitting conclusion of an otherwise uneventful trip for the unremarkable girl with warm hands and long, thin fingers. That’s the end of the story.”
The boy stood up, a very vague impression flashing on his childish face, and said, “Can I get that bag you are holding?”
“Did I tell you there is a noose in the bag?” He said.
“If I hadn’t already guessed that would I have asked for it?” The boy boldly said.
Malek almost mechanically passed the bag to the boy, who then proceeded to walk across the road, across the drive way, and into the house. After a while, the wait that seemed like eternity, he returned. There was something round inside the bag weighing it down, and a liquid as red as blood oozed out of it. He handed over the heavy bag to Malek, who with exploding eyes saw the severed head of an elderly man in a noose, resting inside the bag.
“What have you done?” He screamed in total disbelief.
“Isn’t that what you wanted?” the boy said, smiling.
Malek felt a revulsion of bile making its way up his throat, his stomach twitching, vision foggy. He dropped the bag on the black asphalt pavement and started to run, as fast as he could, as far as he could, until he was too tired, too exhausted and disillusioned.
The oceans didn’t have enough water to wash the devil’s sins, why would Malek be the one to run away? He returned, perhaps with a little more courage, still holding the bag with the noose inside.