With each tap of his shoes approaching my door, my heart thumped faster. I scampered under the cot in an attempt to hide from him and realized immediately how futile it was. The room was glaringly lit with no furniture to bounce of the white light except for a steel cot that definitely could not hide a grown-up woman under it. Still, I wanted to get away from his gaze even if it was for a sliver of a second. He unlocked the door, keys clinking and cluttering, in his enormous hands, hands so big that he had scooped me up with ease, carried me on his shoulder and shoved me into this bleached room some days ago, maybe a couple of days ago. I could not tell. The white walls did not let time seep into it. Lights were always on and meddled with my sleep. There was a window but it had been boarded up with wood. I could sense no human movement beyond its walls. Where was everyone?
I tried to thread a coherent picture from my muddled memory. I knew I was at the mall when I heard a gunshot. I started to scream while the confused crowd swirled around me like a million ripples. Then the man with the huge hands appeared from nowhere hauled me into his station wagon with ease. My screams were drowned in the cacophony.
The door opened with a creak and the man entered with a plate of sandwich and a banana. He placed the porcelain plate on the bed. From where I was, I could see he was standing at the end of the bed legs spread in an authoritative ‘v’ and arms crossed.
I had no choice but to crawl out, not just because he could drag me out like a rag doll but I was hungry too. I wolfed down my food sitting cross-legged on the floor all the while aware of what was going to follow after I finish my meal. Once I was done, he looked at me to do my bidding. From somewhere within the pit of my stomach, I knew I had to fight today. I sat stubbornly staring at the floor defying him. He squatted and gave me the box containing white capsules and a glass of water. I continued to ignore him, shivering slightly.
‘Don’t do this to me, darling. I had a long shift at the hospital and I am very tired. Please take it without a fuss’, his voice reflected his impatience.
Suddenly, he grabbed my jaws, spilled in the pills and the water. I gagged and choked. But my mouth was forced shut with my nose closed. I heard the porcelain plate fall from lap and break as I struggled. When he released my jaws after a few seconds, the capsules slid down my throat along with the hungry breath I had taken.
For a fleeting minute before the chemicals kicked in, I thought I saw an apology in his glistening eyes.
I hated to go down into that induced sleep, viscous and congealed, thick and caked, that tasted red in color.
I was woken up by a gentle hand that shook my shoulder. I squinted to get a better look. She was standing there with a shard of porcelain plate that had broken earlier. Strange, I did not hear her unlock the door. She was about my age. Was she his accomplice? I sat up and took the piece from her. It could be my escape keys. It was sharp enough to draw blood. I hid it under the pillow.
He came in this time with his white coat, his name Dr. A Faisal, MD, Department of Psychiatry embroidered on it. The coat would prevent the shard from causing any considerable damage. She had to go for the exposed parts, the neck or the face. As he placed a tray of corn flakes and milk on the bed, I jumped up on him with the broken china. My hands and legs were not as steady as I thought they would be. I stumbled and fell off the bed upturning my breakfast. I saw fear in his eyes. He swiftly snatched away the improvised weapon from my hand but not before I nicked his temple with it. He ran out of the room and before I could gather my wits, returned with a tiny syringe in his hand.
When I came around, I was in a hospital room with my six feet husband, pitiably scrunched into the sofa cum bed. If I was admitted into the hospital, it meant my psychotic bout had been very bad. I knew it because I was Dr. Saima Faisal until the illness took over me just like it had taken over my mother in her prime and pushed her to suicide. The plaster on Ahmad’s temple explained a lot. Tears stung my eyes. How things had spiraled down!
Ahmad was that handsome six-footer, every girl pined for. However, he had his eyes only for me. I did warn him about my genetic disposition. But nothing back then had indicated the severity of the onset. We reasoned I might even escape it. Young love made everything look surmountable. A whirlwind romance later, he had carried me in his strong arms across the threshold of our house. To add to our bliss, Bilal came into our lives exactly in a year’s time. Then, Fate thought we had too much happiness to boast and snatched Bilal from us when gunmen entered his school in Peshawar.
Now, a tyre burst or a balloon popping, anything that sounded like a gunshot, might unleash my hallucinating mind. I had no control over it just I had no control over Bilal’s fate.
I muffled my sobs as I turned to look at my loving husband who lost his son and his wife to a single gunshot.