I thought I had lost her, in that pale and dark night. The entire house was on fire and her hair, billowing in the wind. Watching all of her dreams and hopes broken, she stood quietly in the stillness of night. No emotion on her face just tears dropping off her eyes like raindrops sliding down the glass.
People around her were rushing. Some were trying to save whatever they could from that fire, some were rushing to collect water and try to slow down the effect of fire until the arrival of fire trucks. All her poems, her novels, her stories that she had written with heart were burning. If she willed, she would have saved her emotions from burning, but she didn’t even try.
I met her for the first time at local library. She would always visit the library and read novels. I could guess from her reading pattern that J.R.R Tolkien was her favorite writer. Maybe because in his writings she was free to roam in those green fields, among the huge trees, on the great hills, and just below the clouds that she could touch. That land where serene water flows and there were trees loaded with fruits everywhere.
But outside the library, a gloomy world awaited her. If seen through her eyes, I could easily tell that she could only see the dark clouds below the darker sky. Something was missing from her life and she was not even trying to achieve it. It seemed as if her life was stuck between home and library.
“What is the problem?” she once approached me when I was looking for a book to read.
“What problem?” I replied anxiously.
“You always keep stalking me. Who are you?”
I lost my breath, not knowing what should I say, but then, somehow, I managed to reply, “I thought you might like some company. ”
“I do.” She answered without hesitating or thinking for a second. I was speechless again, but managed to say, ” So, how may I help you?”
“You can hand me a book, I want to read”. She replied with the same attitude and same grim eyes.
I was not expecting something so direct from her but for a month, all she ever asked for was books and nothing else. I tried my best to talk to her, but she always avoided such conversations. She would always be sitting in a corner, reading a book and tapping her pen.
Her eyes, her attitude felt as if she was trying to tell me something but I couldn’t exactly understand what it was. She would always leave without notifying. Her every move was unusual, she was… strange…
One Sunday when the library was closed, I was reading a book at my home. I fell deep in my imagination thinking about her, and suddenly as I snapped back into reality, I realized that I was tapping my pen the same way she would do. I had read about Morse Code, and my gut was telling me something.
The next day, in the library, while I was carrying books around, as soon as she realized that I was near her she started tapping her pen in repeating patterns. It caught my attention and I noted it down. I pulled up a booklet about Morse code and started to decode the taps.
“H-E-L-P_H-E-L-P_H-E…”, this had to be a coincidence. Why in the world would she use Morse code to ask for help when she could just ask. Maybe she had a reason but what could it be. I decided to play along and replied “A-B-O-U-T_W-H-A-T”, but no reply came instead the occasional taps stopped. I tried again a couple of times but still nothing.
It wasn’t until the next day that she decided to reply back “M-A-N_A-T_3-7”. “Ah, so she is using Morse code,” I thought to myself. Even though I didn’t know what “3-7” was supposed to mean but I started to understand why she was using Morse code.
As I had guessed, it was about a man who I imagined was stalking her and hence the reason for her not to ask for help directly. I didn’t know who that person was or what threat he could pose but it was my time to become a hero. Now, I had to figure out what the message meant. I thought that it might be an address, but how to decode it?
In two cases, there are only two options. Either it was street no. 3 and house no. 7, or it was house no. 3 and street no. 7. So, I visited both addresses, but none recognized her name; Rihanna. The second day I realized that she was actually referring to row no. 3 and column no. 7 of the library chairs.
There really was a man who would visit the library and sit on the same spot every day. But he never faced in the direction of Rihanna, he would always face opposite to her, but why? and now that I know who the guy was, what was I supposed to do?
In the evening, when the man left, I followed him till he reached the railway station. But soon I lost him in the crowd and suddenly someone bumped into me and handed me a piece of paper. Before I could wrap my head around and understand what was going on, the person got on the train and the train started to leave.
I ran far from the crowd and unfolded the piece of paper. It said, “Tell her to let me die in peace.”
And this is when the story started to come together.
Click here for chapter 2
Written by Waqar Farooq
Edited by Ayaan Ashraf and Mehvish Zahoor
Also read: Warrior
Also read: A Father's Letter
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