This story segment contains scenes of body horror, psychological distress and suicidal ideation.
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This was a place outside the contention of human senses.
To the sight it was simply a void, but it felt populated by much more than could be seen or felt. Speech took on a different form here, where something said could carry content far outside the literal. Thought was difficult; she felt as though every word she said in her mind to conceptualize a feeling was contested by a dozen others, as though a shouting match. It was difficult to convey simple concepts, and nothing seemed straightforward.
Certainly this felt like her innermost reaches should feel – she felt cold but safe, in a familiar space that was forbidding and smothering all at once. An internal forum.
All at once, however, she coalesced – and something left her.
There appeared in this void two forms. One was her own body, or the thing she could most closely conceive of as a body. It had little definition to it. She did not possess the tall, lean, strong form that she remembered having. There were insinuations of it, such as the outline of her dark, orderly neck-length hair style, her thin nose and lips; her strong shoulders, the outline of her breasts, her trunk, hips; but much of it was as though vaguely sketched, hollow, as though a gel that could be seen through. She was ephemeral, vulnerable. A strong wind could scatter her form and reduce her to a cloud of gas.
Across from from her stood a smaller but infinitely stronger and more solid presence.
It was Madiha as an eight year old child, at the time of the Prajna attack in 2008.
“We should not be here. It should have been over. Please cease this struggle.”
Child Madiha was speaking. Her voice was so strong she felt she would be blown apart.
But the other Madiha could not speak. Her mouth could not move. She could not reply and tell her that it was not her who was struggling, not her who had to be spoken to. She was more than ready to vanish. Her entire existence hung on by the tiniest thread.
“You are nothing but a fabrication to extend a farce. I’m what is real; the true self that was hidden. I’m your power, your strength, your blood, your flesh – in short, your purpose. We had a purpose, once, and we do not anymore. It is time to be gone.”
She wanted to scream at the Child and tell her to finish it already but she couldn’t.
“We were supposed to die, back then, because our influence on the world had been felt. Violence can be transformative, but the perpetrator is a tainted, broken instrument.”
She taunted her, spoke right in her ear, and there was no defense against it. She was helpless toward this child with burning eyes and a cutting tongue.
Not a word could be said back to her.
“Let us make good on history. Let us be gone and free. That is our purpose. It’s in the blood. Blood in our veins and hands. Tainting us. There’s no escaping it without ending it.”
Madiha felt completely helpless. She could not respond, she could not escape.
Silently she cried out for someone, for anyone, to please quiet this all.
Something else left her – she felt a piece, a tiny piece, cut from her.
Across from both her and the speaking Child Madiha something formed.
It was another Madiha. She was in uniform. Child Madiha was tall for her age; at 8 years old she was already 150 centimeters. When the uniformed Madiha stood up to the child she was over 30 centimeters taller, and seemed almost to tower over her. There was a look in her face filled with defiance and anger. She scared the ephemeral Madiha, the formless, helpless onlooker. Who was this? This was not who she wanted around.
She felt trapped between two horrible beings now. None of them could just give her the escape that she desired. None of them could finish this mess. They were in a stalemate.
“I am not broken.” Uniformed Madiha said.
She had a powerful voice. It resonated across the space.
Child Madiha was not impressed with her. She kept speaking, almost as if still into the ears of the ephemeral Madiha. “Our time has passed. We have no future now.”
“You’re the only one without a future. We continued to make something of ourselves.”
“You stole, to construct a facsimile. You were never anything. Without a past you don’t have a present or a future. You have only what you took. It is time to pay for that.”
“We were not born into the world to collect images and sounds. None of that matters in the end.” Uniformed Madiha snapped back. “We are people, born for more than that!”
The Child Madiha spread her lips in a smile, baring sharp, shining teeth.
“We were born to kill, conquer, and die. We counter the stagnation that occurs at the end of an era and prevent the world from freezing to a halt. We did our part. We fought our war, the war we were destined for, just like the stories. We won and we were meant to be gone. Our existence after that is a burden. The Revolutionary must die so the innocents can have a world at peace, for a time. Can you imagine a world after a war, where all the soldiers still live, still thrash and struggle with the fight in their hearts? That is why you must lie now, never to awaken. You must die so that there can be peace for others at last.”
“I reject that. I’ve already told you that we are more than all of that.” The Uniformed Madiha replied. From the sidelines the Ephemeral Madiha started to choke up. She felt like she was melting. This intensity was a lot to bear. “We are more than soldiers and killers.”
“We are not people. People build, monsters destroy. Which one have we been?”
“What do you think we’ve been doing? What have you been seeing all this time?”
“What have you ever built that can make up for all that you’ve destroyed? You are not needed to build; nobody asks your kind what kind of a world you wish to have. There is nothing to you but the fight, the clawing and the bleeding. You were born out of violence and you thirst for it. That is why you can’t stay out of the fire and dust. Why you must die!”
“Now you are just talking past me. Who even are you?” Uniformed Madiha shouted. “You are not us at all! Why are you in here? Who allowed you to speak on our behalf?”
Child Madiha ignored the outburst. “It is in our blood to kill and to destroy. We are marred by it. Why do you think we have this power? We used it before. We killed and ruined. We said it was for a cause, but did we ever have a choice? We acted like animals.”
Between the circling combatants, the other Madiha curled up and closed her ears. But she could not drown them out. Everything they said was wired directly through to her brain.
“This is not in my blood. I was not born to this. It will not pass from me to another. It is not a name, and it is not a bloodline. It is not about heredity. I deny all of that – it is a role, a responsibility. This is from my people and for my people; it exists to protect our community. That is why what we have been doing can only be called building.”
Uniformed Madiha started to look clearer to the Observer Madiha, and she herself started to become less ephemeral; but that Child Madiha was turning dusty, like a poor TV picture. The Child Madiha spoke ever more viciously, her fangs sharper.
“You do not control this; history is against you. History has set your path, and you will follow. You cannot defy the terms. You were born for this, you did it, and you must do it.”
“We will make it different then. We will defy that mandate of history.” Madiha said.
“It does not work that way! Words have meaning! It is in your biology! You are different! You are a monster! You have no power here to make the rules! This is a place of blood and flesh. You will kill, conquer and die, because it is your inheritance!”
“That consensus is an imposition upon us and I do defy it. I defy you.” Madiha replied. “You are not us, not a part, and certainly not the whole. You are some antiquated thing. This is a new era, and we can shape it. We can shape the terms. You are an intrusion.”
“I am the greater part of you! What do you have other than me? You are alone!”
Now, it was the Uniformed Madiha’s turn to smile and reveal her fangs.
“We have her. We have the real you – we found her again.”
Uniformed Madiha made a pulling motion toward the formless Madiha.
Though the onlooker struggled to get away, thinking that the touch would be the most agonizing experience, she felt the gloved hand seize her by the arm. There was no pain. Her grip was not malicious. It was the gentlest touch she had ever felt – it was not a seizing of her arm. That had only been her fear, her projection. The Uniformed Madiha stroked her shoulders, and knelt down to look her in the eye, and embraced her, firmly and affirmingly.
She was not ephemeral and she was not formless, not anymore. She was Madiha at age 7, a tall, precocious, strange child with no place to be and seemingly nothing to live for, but who took steps to the world of the adults, and who fought, in every way that she could, in ways that defied all reason, that defied the bleak future that had been ordained for her. She wept with the realization that she had never died and she had never gone. She had always been the one in control. She had always been herself. She was not lost.
She was not something other. She was a human, a person.
Always, she had been Madiha Nakar, and that had always meant something.
She was not born for an endpoint. She was born to be; and she was. She always was. And she was not merely things she took from others. Because they “took” too. They all shared, through joy and through sorrow. All of it had made her unique onto her own.
None of it was blood; none of it was clay. It was a chorus, pulsing through the ruins.
Madiha Nakar. Even if the memory was lost, and even if the future blurred.
Across from her the other child lost her face.
She became an outline carved into the void and could not judge them anymore.
Her voice was completely lost, because Madiha had regained all of her own.
“It has never mattered what we were back then.” Uniformed Madiha said. She was in tears; Child Madiha was in tears as well. “We were not born solely to die or solely to kill. Nobody is; we had the agency to do what we did and to choose what we want. It is not in our blood. Back then what we wanted was to lash out against the brutality and injustice that we saw. That was important to us. But we are more than that moment in time. We are more than the scope of time. We are everything we build, and that is everything we do.”
The Madiha who had been taken and co-opted, regained her voice.
“Thank you. I understand. And right now, we want to survive.” She replied.
Uniformed Madiha smiled and looked upon her with tearful gratitude.
“Yes. Thank you.” She said. She stood, and took the child’s hand. “Let us go.”
Hand in hand with herself, Madiha left the void of her anxieties more complete than she entered it. She knew now everything that had happened. Now she could move forward with the world. Melding, the hands of her selves became one. She was just Madiha Nakar.
There was a warm flash, a shiver of premonition and the sound of the rain.
She was back in the flesh, where the world could be changed.