Fiction | Short Story | Cusp | Preeti Nangal


(Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence)

It was the second day.

They unlocked the door and stepped in. The room had no furniture and the only window was barred with planks of wood obstructing every grain of light. A finger flicked a switch and the muck covered bulb filled the room with an arrogant flash.

A woman was lying in the corner. Spending the entire day in the dark, this was an unwelcome intrusion. The light hurt her eyes. She recoiled and covered her face with her hands. The three men encircled her ravaged body as one of them pulled her by her arm like an overused rag doll. She was in a trance of pain. The darkness had exhausted her and she had no will left to resist.

Throwing the empty bottle of alcohol aside, one of the men bent down and started groping her body when a young boy rushed in.

“Here,” he said in a frail tone, handing another chilled bottle to one of the other men, and looked down. The man who crouched beside him, with white and grey hair, was his uncle. He was past his middle age but the lust seemed unquenchable.

The boy felt nauseated but he dared not show his disgust lest he would be homeless again after a few nights of shelter.

With one corner of the room drowned in groans, the boy sat in another corner trying to maintain his distance from the scene. He tried to keep his eyes off it but it did not help; the recurrent image from his past flashed again and again in his young memory, causing him pain like pointy spikes pressing against his body. He did not remember whether it was day or night; it did not even matter. What mattered was the movement.

His father lay like an animal between his mother’s legs riding her like a wild dog; just like the men in front of his eyes. He did not know what was happening then. He had barely learnt to hold the stub of a pencil in his hand. But the manner in which his mother’s saree was pulled up and her blouse was stripped open, he felt something was not right.

As he grew up, his aversion towards his father also grew strong and he thought, more than once, of throwing his chappals at him but he never dared. His father was a masculine man with a heavy body and dark beard. He could beat anyone till they died, the boy grew up thinking.

Since he left home six years back, every man the boy lived with wanted to sleep with a woman every day. He could not understand why, and it had not been long since he could. 

As his body was changing, he was becoming used to a certain kind of smell.

He was never proud of his body. Girls would look through him if at all he managed to meet their eyes. His father called him a bastard who could not imagine to have spawned a son so lanky with skin like tattered blanket. With each passing day, the boy could sense that the reason for which he hated his father was the reason for which he could almost worship him.

The boy’s eyes fell on the men in the room. The circle seemed to have reached its completion as his uncle was about to bend again; but just before he did, he stopped, mid-way, and looked at his nephew. As soon as their eyes met, the loner was summoned with a nod. After some hesitation, the young boy lifted his body, and in his manner of awkward walking, stepped up to the scene.

The corner smelt of something familiar. He saw patches of blood on the floor and a trail of it still dripping from the woman’s body. He had seen her yesterday and realised that today she was less alive.

“Your turn,” his uncle said. The boy looked at him, and looked on. He knew what his uncle meant.

The boy looked down again and felt himself going numb. That is when his uncle patted on his back and suggested that nothing could go wrong. Having stood frozen for a second, as if deciding which spikes needed to remain in his memory and which ones thwarted, the boy bent down, opening the button of his loose jeans.

All that while he thrusted himself, the only image he had on his mind was of his father lying on top of his mother. He had coveted a body like his father’s for long where a mere look at one’s physique could induce both fear and awe but he could not attain it. He had failed; he was weak and a woman, his mates said.

In an attempt to prove them wrong, he held the throat of the woman pinned under him like his vendetta was directed at someone else. He held the frail neck tighter with each passing moment and let it go only when he could hold it no longer, under the spell of shivers that made his body convulse.

As he lay lost in the ecstasy, and the woman lay immobile, the three men looked on with their mouths agape.