I thought I had lost her, in that pale and dark night. The entire house was on fire and her hair was waving with the wind. Watching all of her dreams and hopes broken, she stood quietly in the stillness of that night. No emotion on her face just tears dropping off her eyes like raindrops sliding off a rooftop.
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 the fire until the arrival of fire trucks. All of her poems, her novels, her stories that she had written with all of her heart, were burning. If she would have willed, she might have saved these from burning, but she didn’t even try.
June 2015. I met her first time at the 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. Maybe because in his writings she would fade away into those green fields, among those huge trees, on those great hills, and just below the clouds that she could touch. That land where serene water flows and there are fruit trees everywhere.
But outside the library, a gloomy world awaited her. If seen through her eyes, I could easily tell that she would only see the dark clouds blow 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 just from home to the library and from the library to the home.
“What is the problem?” she once approached me when I was looking for a book to read.
“What problem?”I replied nervously.
“You always keep stalking me. Who are you?”
I lost my breath, not knowing what I should say, but then, I managed to reply, “I thought you could use some company.”,”I do.” She answered directly without hesitating or thinking for a second. I was wordless 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 would always avoid me. She would always be sitting in a corner reading a book and tapping her pen.
Her eyes, her attitude was as if she was trying to tell me something but I couldn’t exactly tell 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 to reality, I realized that I was tapping the pen the same way she would do every day. 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 hell 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. I lost of him track in the crowd, but suddenly someone bumped into me and handed me a piece of paper. Before I could wrap my head around what was going on the person got on the train and the train started leaving the station.
I got 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 Also read: Warrior Also read: A Father's Letter
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