by Qirrat Ali
Pin Drop Silence. Not a single sound could be heard except for the occasional flickering of the illuminating fire set up in the room’s corner. I glanced down at the blazing fire that seemed to reflect the valley’s grim atmosphere for the past week since the dreadful announcement. A million thoughts raced through my mind, yet I could not voice even one of them; I felt my head was a second away from exploding.
With quivering hands, I check Maahnoor, my nine-month-old daughter’s temperature, once again. My heart plummeted to the bottom of my chest. The fever reducer was not working, and I couldn’t afford to wait any longer. But could I afford to send her with my husband to the doctor at this time? It was only a few blocks down the street, but leaving your house anytime after the curfew was gambling with your life.
We both stood at the window for twenty minutes before the armed silhouette finally left its position and could no longer be seen anywhere nearby. With one final kiss, the father and daughter, draped in a black shawl, stepped out into the dark night. All I could do now was sit, pray, and, most of all, wait.
It has been eight hours already, and with each passing second, the dread within me grows. As soon as the clock indicated that I could go outside, I grabbed my dupatta and ran out. A huge part of me was hoping that they stayed the night at the doctor’s place, considering how dangerous it was to make a safe round trip. But another part of me continued to conjure all the worst-possible scenarios despite my constant attempts to push such thoughts away.
Just as I was about to knock on the clinic’s door, a scream pierced through the quiet atmosphere. Before I knew it, my feet automatically started rushing towards the source of it. I saw a female hunched over, spilling her breakfast contents in the grass around the street corner. But the sight that made her spill her guts out made me lose my breath; an infant’s crumpled lifeless body was lying in the field with dried blood splattered all across it.
I could not believe my eyes. Could the armed men be this barbaric? I raised my head and stared into the Maahnoor’s eyes that screamed innocence that it was unjust to have taken it away from the world. The last thing I remember was touching my wet cheeks before the world around me blacked out.
It has been ten weeks since I lost my baby and last saw my husband. Ten weeks of constant flashbacks of her dead body lying all alone in that vast field. Ten weeks of continuous regret and a replaying mantra of “I shouldn’t have let them step out of the house that night.”
For the past ten weeks, I prayed for a source of help to prevent this beautiful place from falling into a death-trap. Maybe I was asking for the impossible, considering we had zero contact with the outside world, and no-one probably even knew what was going on inside. But it gave me hope that maybe this would miraculously bring back my lost husband and save us from the awaiting unfateful outcome.
What made this harder to cope with was that our once peaceful valley had turned into a battlefield, our brothers beaten, and sisters raped every second, to stop us from fighting for our rights. These armed soldiers deployed by our so-called leaders were taking every chance to induce fear within us. Most of all, they were succeeding.
Author: Qirrat Ali
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