A Symphony of Deaths
Today was a special day. A day of occasion and growth. It was the annual congregation of border patrol security and top serving officers of the national army. What made it even more exciting was that it was the first one since the assumption of the new prime minister in office. After a lengthy era of dictatorship reign, the country was finally released from it’s vacuum tight grasp of despair. Hope was returned, once again.
During such joyous times, Tina could not contain her excitement. Her husband, Narab, was one of the top serving officers of the national army, a hefty position at this time. Tina and Narab were a perfect couple, like two peas in a pod, halves of a whole, a match made in heaven. They were a couple exuding youth and charm. At the same time, they were responsible parents bearing a three year old angel of a son, Zishaan, and an incoming baby girl. Tina was pregnant. This meant her outfit choices had more than halved but Tina was a real big fashionista and a clever little pod. Alas, this was no new challenge.
Narab, a rising officer of the army was a well built but average heighted gentleman. He was a strong witted, humorous guy - one of the many reasons Tina had fallen for him. He was also an officer of discipline. While Narab too was looking forward to this event, he had some disconcertment. With a new government in power, alliances had changed, some held grudges and some celebrated. He just hoped and prayed this event could run smoothly transitioning to a fresh and reformed era.
The day had come for their annual celebration. Tina looked ravenous in a peach coloured jamdani paired with a soft white muslin blouse. The jamdani was barocoded in swirls of flora and fauna. She matched it with fresh white pearls and earrings. Her face was accentuated only with the same tint of pink on the lips and cheeks while dark kajol seamlessly lined the boundaries of her eyes. Her hair was set into a low bun with a middle parting and a few strands of hair loosely draping over her face. She was ready. At this picturesque moment, Narab came out the shower, looked at Tina and let out a gasp.
“My jaan, how are you this perfect?”
“Thank you my love, you are equally perfect to me”
“I doubt that. Alhamdulillah, I must have done something right before coming into this world”
Tina giggled. Zishaan pounced out from behind his mother and began giggling with her. Narab joined in and now the whole family was laughing like no evil could collide and happiness was perpetual. It was a sight of bliss.
They headed out in Narab’s army jeep. Tina had shotgun while Narab and Zishaan took the passenger seats, as per protocol. It was a lovely day. Sun slathering onto the town with some good old vitamin D, paired with a sly breeze swifting through the roads of this fresh new country. This was textbook pathetic fallacy, it was a good sign.
Upon arrival to the venue, the trumpets blared - a welcome gesture to all senior officers and their families. Little Zishaan was startled but his curious little eyes were affixed to the source of such melody. Tina and Narab were quite impressed that Zishaan took that so well, they anticipated an obligatory tantrum. The three of them entered the venue with three different emotions: one of curiosity, one of excitement and the other of skepticism. Nevertheless, they were all relaxed, ready for a day of celebration and enjoyment.
The ground outside the main building was set up as an outdoor stage for the much anticipated event. It was decorated with countless round tables, each draped in elegant white lace tablecloths rimmed in shiny copper. As the flow of guests parading in had subsided, an announcement was made instructing everyone to take their seats. Narab escorted Tina and little Zishan to the third row of round tables and subsequently, made his way to the officers table towards the front of the ground. The Chief of Army was invited to open the program with a speech.
“Assalamualaikum. Today, marks the beginning of a new era. An era that all of you have contributed to the birth of, so I thank you. At this joyous moment, I thank all officers and their families for joining us to make this event so special and auspicious. I will begi-”
Before the Chief of Army could finish his sentence, the border patrol security head intercepted the mic to announce for families of officers to be escorted indoors for an emergency safety evacuation. Everyone was as frazelled as each other. What exactly was this ‘emergency safety evacuation’? Narab turned back to give Tina a reassuring nod. They locked eyes for a few moments before a soldier urged Tina to start moving with little Zishaan. Tina remained alert.
As soon as they entered the main indoor building, every family member was pushed into separate unlit rooms, like animals being shoved into their cages. This caused a chaotic ruckus, but the main doors had closed. No one could hear them.
Tina and Zishaan were hastily pushed into a small dark room. Instantaneously, a petrified and equally confused Tina bashed the door but to no avail. Her kajol ungracefully smudging down her cheeks from the sweat and tears. She went to a silent corner of the room and sat with a tight embrace of little Zishaan. Seeing no other escape, she began chanting all the duas and surahs she ever learnt, anything that came into her mind at this point. She had absolutely no idea what was happening. Then, they heard gunshots.
Hundreds of guns cocked and brush fired off all that could have been alive. Tina knew Narab was still outside, he had to be. The border patrol security were murdering all the top serving army officers of the country. And no one could do anything. Tina, a blind witness, experienced a massacre.
It had been roughly seventy two hours. Tina and Zishaan, like many others, were still locked in. With no food or water, they were well near dead. For Tina, after what felt like months, unknown government personnel reopened the world to them. They saw light. Baby Zishaan was not speaking anymore. Tina, a pregnant woman, was not pregnant anymore.
As Tina was loaded onto the stretcher, Zishaan finally stood up. He walked out, away from his mother into the sea of bodies that lay dead in the cold. Tina eyed Zishaan the whole time. Little Zishaan leapt over the bodies studying each face, just to find one of familiarity, one like his fathers’. He finally found the face, stared for a while then sat down next to it. Tina could see he had found Narab’s body and her eyes welled up. Although she had long realised Narab’s inevitable death, she was now experiencing shock. Her eyes welled up but no tears could manage to escape her kajol lined eyes anymore.
Little Zishaan caressed Narab’s body for a few moments more. Then he began laughing and playing, urging his father to get up. But instead of being able to pick up his father, Zishaan scooped up his father’s brains which trickled through his fingers like spaghetti. The remnants of which had spilled out from the excruciatingly violent blow of the bullets that pierced through the head.
After a year of the incident, Tina had become childless as she suffered from a miscarriage. The shock left her in a state of depression, she could no longer care for little Zishaan. The hospital had become her home. As for Zishaan, the trauma from the seventy two hours and his dead father left him mentally disabled. Zishaan was now cared for by his grandparents, visiting his mother from time to time.
Once a happy, complete family, now a dysfunctional and unbelievable reality.
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