Those were the days when I would just look at the sky and wish to be like a bird. I wanted to fly freely knowing no boundaries. But more than that, maybe what I wanted was to escape the awful reality. Genocide, Carnage, Rape, Arson, Migration, had all become terrifyingly commonplace things. Humans were no longer humans; they had turned into cannibals, blinded by their hunger for human blood. I had never witnessed such chaos in my village. Everyone there feared that the bigoted Hindu mob might barge into their houses any moment, killing the men and raping the women, irrespective of their age. So, many people started leaving the village, with their most important belongings and started migrating to Pakistan as soon as possible. Others initially scavenged over these empty houses and looted all the valuable things left by the people. But the stolen things again became ownerless, being left behind in another empty house.

As I was walking towards the woods thinking about whether an empty village can still be called a village, suddenly I heard someone panting. It was a man, behind the bushes. My first instinct was to forget that I ever saw him and start walking away. But his cries for help somehow continued to echo in my mind, until my feet dragged me back to the place. The young man held his hand against his belly, which was red with blood. I asked his name.

"Khalid", he replied.

I could sense the anguish in his eyes. Without much delay, I took him to my house through the backdoor. I had recently started calling it my house. Earlier it was my grandfather's house. He was still alive, just very old and senile. Once his bad health tied him to his bed, I started going out of the house freely, just to experience the terror that the outside world was.

I made Khalid rest on the bed, as I fetched some things to clean his wound, which seemed to have been caused by a knife or spear. After applying for medicine and dressing the wound up with a cloth, I sat near him. We both knew we were hungry, but I could not give him any food. Ration supplies had stopped and I had to convince myself to preserve every grain of rice we had. But I offered him water and let him sleep, obviously after informing him not to do anything that raises suspicion. He slept for more than twelve hours and when he woke up I had to give him some food from our share. He asked me my name in Hindustani.

"Ayisha", I replied.

"Thank you for helping me. Are you sure keeping me here won't cause you any trouble?" Khalid asked

"Only my grandfather is there at home. As long as we don't make much noise, he will just assume that it's just some neighbour I am talking to. Anyways he can't get off his bed so he prefers ignoring things other than the ones risking his life", I replied.

"Doesn't he know that in such circumstances, calling neighbours over might also threaten your life? This partition has made us all strangers again", Khalid said.

"I agree. But his room has become the world for him. He doesn't know what happens beyond it. And it's not even worth knowing. His room and the world are similar; both have people dying in it", I said.

The next day I saw Khalid writing in Hindi. I could only read and write Urdu, so I did not understand what he was writing. I assumed he had a family somewhere because he said he was writing a letter. On inquiring, he revealed that his family died in the partition violence recently. He also told me that his belly injury was caused by an attack from a person belonging to the other side. Then I told him how I lost my parents to a famine a few years ago.

At night I heard footsteps. I quickly got up and saw that Khalid was taking a stroll. I urged him not to unnecessarily move as it would be good both for his injury and for our safety. So the next few days he remained on the bed like an obedient child. We talked more and more every day until we became friends. I realised he was my first male friend. After a long time, I wasn't alone in my house. It took him three weeks to get better. He could now walk without any pain. Walk away too.

"So now that you are better, where are you planning to go from here? Pakistan or somewhere else?", I asked

"I don't know", he replied and continued "what about you? You should leave for Pakistan as soon as possible."

"I would have. Maybe. But I can't leave my grandfather like this. I can't take him along too. I know this house, this country is not safe for us anymore. But stepping outside this house is also terrifying. I have seen people leaving, but what is their destination? I have heard that your blood reaches the soil before you reach Pakistan", I replied.

One morning, Khalid decided to leave. I knew he couldn't stay for long. I tried to inquire about where he was planning to go. He replied vaguely and thanked me for everything, saying that he couldn't pay me back in any way. I wanted to say that his company was more than enough for me. But I didn't. I felt a sudden wave of sadness. The moment was heavier than I imagined. I was expecting him to be sad too, but he seemed tense. For some reason, he again asked me if I would leave for Pakistan anytime soon. I replied in the negative. He told me to stay safe as I bid him farewell.


I was again alone in the house. Everything seemed freshly common. It was past dusk that day when things took a turn for the worse. I could sense a lot of commotion in the village. I assumed it was someone leaving again. But the commotion soon became chaotic. I got alarmed by several noises and screams and without even taking a glance out, I grabbed all the money and other essential things in a bag. I was trembling with fear when the thought of my grandfather entered my mind. I didn't know what to do.

Just then someone started banging on my door. I thought this was the dead end. I hunted for some sharp object while my hands were shaking. The person took my name. It was Khalid. What was he doing there? I opened the door and yes, it was Khalid. Without saying anything, he just held my hand and asked me to come with him. The view I saw was horrifying. Some houses had already burnt down to the ground, ours could have been the next. Many people were dying, women were screaming and others were running to save themselves. The thought of my grandfather again came to my mind but I had to make a choice. I didn't look back. I just followed Khalid.

We somehow escaped the place and entered the woods. I wanted to forget the hell that I saw that day. The thirst for blood, the hatred, the cruelty, the madness; was this how humankind had decided to define itself? 

Suddenly in the woods, Khalid released my hand and ordered me to keep running without looking back. I asked him what he would do, to which he replied that he couldn't come with her. This time I did not hold back. I requested him to stay with me.

Suddenly we heard footsteps; someone had followed us. One of the devils who was involved in this massacre had secretly followed them. I was seized with fear, and so was Khalid. The burning village could not terrify him as much as this moment did.

"Where are you going with that girl Indradhan?" the man asked Khalid.

"Uh...Brother, nowhere. Just the usual thing", Khalid replied in a surprisingly nervous and terrified voice.

I could not understand what was going on. Who was Indradhan? What did Khalid mean when he called the man his brother? Did they know each other? What was happening? It seemed there was greater darkness surrounding me than the night sky.

I could sense that the man was unsatisfied with Khalid's reply.

"Brother, do you think I would break your trust? You know I lost my parents because of these devil Muslims. I was also the one who led you all here. Trust me!" Khalid said.

I lost my mind after this. I felt betrayed. I felt betrayed to the core. All these past weeks seemed like a sham. 'Khalid' was someone else. He was one of them. He was one of the devils. He was the one who caused this massacre. I caused this massacre.

The man came closer and forced himself upon me. I was struggling and screaming but he continued. As soon as he tried to tear off my clothes, Khalid smashed the man's head with a rock. The man died. I was still breathless. But for some reason, it wasn't unexpected. For some reason, I knew Khalid would save me. I felt surprisingly relieved at that terrifying moment. Khalid held me but I shrugged his hands off me. I didn't know how much to trust him anymore. But something made me believe that I would be fine.

There was no going back. Behind me, there was a village that had turned into ash. I was with the person who was responsible for that. He was with the person who he was supposed to kill. We knew that the only way to save ourselves was to start everything over again. Start over our beliefs, start over our bond and start over this world around us. We knew we had to dream of a world where hearts were governed by boundaries.

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