Artwork by Aneesa Kaleem
Oh Pakistan, how you have become so hypocritical every step of the way. You tell me this was a free secular country, but in the end, you have proved to be nothing more than hungry old men in power. Nano and ammi used to keep telling me to ‘be a good girl’ and to be a ‘good Muslim’. Be an obedient daughter, they had said. Ha, screw that. I saw how many women, especially in my own family, being demonised and outcasted simply for just existing. Why do men get away with everything? Not this time. You killed me once. And now you will reap what you sow.
“Maro us ko! Churail ko maro!” She must have heard that sentence repeatedly for the last ten days. People, or shall we say men, had gathered in droves to protest for her arrest and try and pressure the head warden in having a public execution. A sigh had escaped her lips, covering her face with her yellow-stained dupatta, hoping that the sounds of the mindless mob would vanish. Her jailers had kept her isolated in the darkest and dirtiest corner of the jail. She didn’t complain; she could make herself comfortable. Her jailers thinking, she could be contained, after all, who would believe that a girl in the 21st century could turn someone into a toad. Brought and jailed in through blasphemous charges, but then everyone knew better. They had a molvi, or a mufti brought in every hour to bless the jail in a manner of speaking. They would recite many duas and such thinking they would keep the “evil” contained. It was ridiculous, because maybe none of these men thought, maybe their Allah had blessed her with these powers for protection and right the wrong. In the ten days, the girl had been stuck in jail, and she had occasionally scared the male guards for her petty amusement. She would tell them of her crime and terrify them with parlour tricks. The reason why she was in jail, she had decided to rip a man’s “special member” and forced fed him. Now mind you, she didn’t kill him, but this man had decided to go and cause unrest. When he did, she turned him into a toad for all the lies he spewed out. This was done very publicly. In her fairness, the man now turned toad, was going to hurt a child and kill. So really, she was doing the world a favour.
The azaan for asar echoed the dirty and unkept prison walls. The chanting had lessened now, they were going to read Asar and then come back to scream some more. Thank god, the head warden was a woman. She’s not bad, a bit strict, but not a bad person. She took the dupatta off her head and stood up and stretched before wrapping it around herself and walked over the bars of the cell. She whistled at the male guard calling him over.
“Oye, get some water so that I can do my wuzu”. The guard looked, no, he stared at her as she had just asked to be released. She instantly senses that this one was going to get cocky and try to make himself dominant.
“oh, and what are you going to do with the water? Curse the entire country with your churail wali harkat.” The sarcasm was not lost to her, and his condensing self was just asking for karma. However, she refrained and had something else in mind.
She took a deep breath and smiled sweetly. “Get the water, or I am going to do what I did to the last guard who acted like a smart ass” The room did get chillier, and he should know, it was the beginning of July, and entire Punjab was going through a heatwave. The guard ran off, cursing and yelling about something how he was better than her. She laughed loudly, and the warden came in soon after with a half a bucket of water.
“why must you scare and annoy every idiot in this place?”
“I did nothing. Paka vada” she smiled brightly and squatted down near the bars as the warden placed the bucket next to it.
“I do not understand you. Everyone calls you a witch. But for the last ten days, you have just treated this place like you are on chutti or something.” The warden raised her eyebrow, and as assessed, the young woman performs her wuzu. “Sirf mardoon ka damagh inta karab ho sakta hai.” She had heard the story of the little girl being saved and agreed with her actions. However, the matter of the man being turned into a toad was hard to believe.
The young woman laughed at her comment and smiled. “Bubbly appa, if I wanted, I could have destroyed the prison and everyone in it, in a matter of minutes. But I am not.”
“Don’t call me Bubbly appa.” The warden spoke sternly.
“Okay bubbly appa, let me show you.” With her hand raised over the bucket, the young witch had started focusing on bringing the water out. The water soon floated and swirled, shined and glimmered around the room.
The warden’s jaw dropped; it was nothing short of a miracle for her to witness something like that. The young witch smiled as the water went back into the bucket. “I told you. I can leave any…”
A gunshot. The young witch looked down to see her dirty kurta staining red. She looked back up and caught the same guard with a smug look on his face. He was thinking about how he had rid of one more kafir. However, a miscalculation on his part, an injured witch, was a dangerous witch. Somewhere in the background, the warden was screaming at the guard. The buildings started to shake. The warden looked back at the young woman, and her eyes had turned red. A shriek powerful enough to leave the one listening paralysed for a moment. This shriek was also causing the brick building structure to crumble.
The building’s structure crumbled away, almost as if the structure had turned into sand. The wind had picked up, and the young witch levitated higher and higher as the prison soon became obsolete. Flying up high enough for everyone to see, the powers of the terrible witch had inflicted. No one in prison or the protests were harmed, but the cocky guard who decided to take the shot was trembling in fear and wetting himself in the process. The moment her eyes shifted on to him, he fell to his knees and begged for forgiveness, all while cursing her existence and how Allah would smite her in the end. She had enough of his nonsense. A lightning bolt came and wrapped the guard, picking him a few feet of the ground. Her blood was boiling, the urge to kill him was genuine, but if she did that, no one would leave her alive or give her the few moments to escape.
“I curse you. You will not be able to move and will be a prisoner in your body till you learn what you have done wrong.” She released him and dropped him to the ground. He will have time to reflect on his actions for a short period. She looked around and teleported to the darker streets of Gulberg Lahore.
Instantly collapsing on her knees and clutching her wound. She had used too much mana, and the blood loss was not helping her in any way.
A whisper in the trees began telling her to form a magical circle and the spell that would go along with it. She used her blood to create the circle with its incantations. By the time she was done, the Pakistani army and rangers had been immobilised to hunt her down.
‘Well that was fast’, she sat in the middle of her circle and started her chants.
“O domine sancte, da mihi obsecro in potentia ad illud ad praeterita quaerer. Ya rab qdws,’uetani alquar lilbahth ean almuru ‘iilaa almadi”
It did not take long for the rangers to find her looking half dead, with the bloodstain covering most of kurta. The guns were pointing at her as she continued her chants. The general gave the order to shoot before the soldier could take his shot, she smiled as the circle lit up and a white blinded them.
Her eyes fluttered open, and as her eyes focused, she saw her cousins and the maids around her. She sat up and looked around and saw the unimaginable. She was alive. A splitting headache-causing her to lose consciousness again. The second time she woke up, she was in bed and was certain she had gone back in fifteen years ago in the past.
You can see more of Arisha’s work on her Instagram at @sitaradoodles