I never thought Apsara could kill. But she did, today.
And it all started with this conversation between two orphans with unknown pasts and unknown future, at St. Matthew’s Orphanage.
“Julia, I have to live the experiences I want to write about.” Apsara made a bold statement at the fragile age of 12. “My heart shivers at the thought but I cannot bear the fact that my hands don’t get possessed by the writing spirit.”
She whispered to me, “I’ve written ordinary stories about the church. Now I want to write something dark, extraordinary and unique. I don’t have any experiences and research is always incomplete.”
Our gazes turned toward our English teacher as she recited Walt Whiteman’s poem, “The powerful play goes on and you might contribute a verse.”
I whispered to her, “What’s the plan?”
“The plan is to play multiple roles and contribute multiple verses. But first I need to run away.”
The pitch-black night, inspired Apsara’s dark plan. In the brisk morning she rushed to show her plan to me, but unfortunately for her and fortunately for the orphanage, she collided with a couple, came to adopt a child. Her grey eyes, fair skin and innocent appearance were enough. With the crushed plan and teary eyes, she was forced to leave, with the old businessman and his illiterate but beautiful wife.
I stayed in the orphanage. But she wrote to me every month in a language only we understood. And she visited me on our birthday at the church. Her letters had matured as the time passed. I saw the world outside through her descriptions.
When we turned 18, she visited me at the church. “My writing has gone stale. I want new experiences. Maybe join the stock market with dad? It’ll be an intellectual and unique experience.”
“As a female, I suppose yes.” I replied.
The sun shone bright and so did Apsara’s life.
Soon after that her letters smelled of pure PRIDE as she boasted about her profit in her shares and progress in writing. “Purpose of my life is to play 7 personas and write about it. As seven is my lucky number. And my first role is of an investor is a success.” She mentioned it only to me as Apsara didn’t trust people with her secrets, which many would consider as immature, crazy and unrealistic.
She sent me a copy of her unpublished elaborative novel about a young woman who with her knowledge makes her way up in the stock market at a fast pace and crashes with an equal speed when accused of a scandal.
I was happy for her.
Two years passed. The clouds of July turned black and cried and so did Apsara. She with her over-confidence invested all the money and lost it because of the lack of applicable knowledge. Her fosters parents had gone broke because of her GREED.
She visited me at the church in the evening, cried her heart out. I asked if she’ll give up on the 7 personas.
“That’s my purpose. After publishing I will fake my death. As nothing makes an author sell more than his death.” She stated determined.
While leaving she said, “Julia I am running away. But I will keep in touch.” Before I could ask anything she had left.
In dire need of money and unique inspiration for the second role she became a prostitute. And a part of her was tempted at the idea of sex. Born and bought up in church but she chose LUST over chastity. She told me it awakened her muse and gave her quick money. I was still friends with her, odd friendship between a nun and a prostitute by choice.
She wrote a trilogy based on her experience which sure was much better than the other unrealistic erotica in market, including the stories of many unheard souls in the whorehouse.
At the last page she wrote, “Apasara means Angel, but I am taking it to a whole new level. My pen name will be Apsara F.A.”
F.A. stood for Fallen Angel.
8 years passed, Apsara played her role extremely well and created masterpiece after masterpiece.
We turned 28 and she visited me like she did every year. The clouds were acting shady, confusing the city with appearance of sun with instalments.
She rambled, “I was so bored until I met this journalist, Abhay. His eyes had landed on the book, I wrote poems in. And he offered me a way out of prostitution; to live with him and he promised me I’ll get published in the newspaper. I am thinking why not?”
I had nodded in agreement but I knew the intentions of Abhay were shady like the clouds that day.
Every now and then she told me how she’s gaining some recognition on a small scale in the world of journalism. A year passed but she only remained a poet in the eyes of the world, while in reality she was the one writing articles for Abhay and he took all the credit.
He exploited her talent and her feelings. She thought he was nothing without her so she left him but he maintained his high profile. ENVY took over her, as she was not considered a better writer by the world and her own inner muse, even after writing several articles for newspapers. Abhay underestimated her power of story-telling.
There was thunder and lightning spread all over the sky just like how Apsara came to be known in the eyes of the world.
Headlines, “Journalist Abhay Terran Exposed.”
She told the media that Abhay had forced her into prostitution as she was broke and also to get some experience, which was a lie. She exposed his secret visits and plagiarism in his articles as a proof. The people pitied her and she got her fair share of fame. A stupid and shocking move by Abhay though, he committed suicide but that only made Apsara more famous.
I continued to live, safe behind the walls of the church.
She took advantage of the situation and published her trilogy, on which half the world roared and half the world applauded. She didn’t forget to add how a priest had visited the whorehouse though not for preaching.
She enjoyed excessive luxury; shopping with celebrities and eating at 7-star hotels.
We turned 32 and she sent me a manuscript, “Diary of a journalist.” Her knowledge about journalism mixed with her imagination. It was as if revealing what happens behind the scenes but it was not.
She informed me when she came to meet me about her latest interest in food and she plans to critique food in exotic hotels.
“The quality and the variety in food is something I never paid attention to. And I want an excuse to write about food.”
‘GLUTTONY,’ I thought.
“It’s good you are doing something simple for once.” I told her.
“It’s not simple. Everything I do is intensified for me to a level only I can understand. Anyway thank you for being there for me for such a long time.”
The world of literature was turned upside down and Apsara enjoyed the attention, until an interview took place.
The nuns and I watched the interview, seated on the couch of our dormitory.
“Rumour has it that some of your trilogy is based on real life? Is it true?” The woman with an overly chirpy voice questioned.
“Yes it is true, even the scene where the priest visits my protagonist.” Apsara winked at the camera and laughed.
“The end is fictional though.”
3 years later rumours were being spread that a movie is going to be made out of Apasara’s work. The scandalous priest was disclosed and his reputation was ruined. The number of adoptions reduced and priests were looked at with suspicion just as much as the Muslims are suspected to be terrorists.
The priests in the city spent a lot of time in church repenting and mourning over the loss of respect.
The wind of October was cold like Apsara’s heart.
On our 35th birthday, Apsara came veiled to the church to meet me. The few priests gathered at our church didn’t pay attention at her. Apsara whispered, “It’s fun to see priests getting punished for once.”
Unable to control herself she laughed at the priest planning to get their reputation back.
Of course everybody had seen the interview and everybody recognized her laugh.
With eyes blazed with anger, one of them rushed towards her. Apsara in her defence sprayed pepper spray towards the priest but he came and grabbed her. With her one hand stuck in her bag, she struggled to get out of the grasp. The first thing that came to her hand was a pocket knife and she stabbed the priest with it. One stab was enough, but blinded by her RAGE she stabbed him multiple times until he stopped breathing.
Everybody present in the church was shocked. She dragged me out and in no time we were in her car, before anybody could react. She drove with such a fast pace that we were in the next city within half an hour. We stopped at a mall. She grabbed the cocktail dress, still in plastic and a blanket from the backseat. She wrapped the pocket knife in her blue silk scarf. She hid the dress and pocket knife under each arms and covered herself in the blanket. In the mall’s washroom she changed while I kept a watch outside. She came out and told me to stay in and come out after a while. I obeyed.
(Tense changes to present tense.)
And now that I think of it, I never thought she could kill. But she did, today. I come out after a while and see her.
She sat in the Starbucks café, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered in her blue silk scarf. I cannot see regret on her face just satisfaction of putting an end to someone’s life. She was staring out to see if someone had followed her. I join her and see no one.
”The police are slower than a turtle.” Apsara mocks.
She instructs me to leave and gives me money, keys to her secret villa in a village called Jawhar. She hugs and thanks me.
After a week, on the news,
“Apsara F.A in police custody for murdering a priest, no bail granted.”
Everybody present in the church that day makes a statement against Apsara, lying, “She attacked him when he just tried talking to her.”
She makes herself comfortable in the jail with all her money and contacts. She lazes around like a SLOTH, as the court will take ages to come to a conclusion.
She doesn’t write to me so I go and visit her. With a dishevelled appearance she faces me. She lectures me on why I came to visit her.
“Shut up! Who the hell are you talking to?” The constable asks Apsara.
She replies, “To the one you permitted inside,” and she points where I am standing.
“Nobody is there, mad woman.”
“Julia is standing here!”
The constable ignores her. And I disappear. Yes, I am her imaginary friend, I exist in her mind.
Apasara faints. After several tests it’s concluded that she’s mentally unstable, she’s schizophrenic. She cannot differentiate between fantasy and reality and I am her imagination, which is true, in a way.
Few months due to her medicines I don’t appear to her but she always thinks of me, that’s how I still exist. During one of the days she manages to escape the medicines. I appear and she chases me, like we did when we were kids, we both end up on the terrace. She manages to catch me, she gazes at the sky and then at me.
“I wasn’t able to fulfil the purpose of my life. I didn’t get to play the 7 roles. They have fake friends, I have imagery, they are forced to play roles in life by society, and I chose the roles I wanted to play. And they think I am mad. All artists are mad.” She rants to me.
“I was happy with being an investor and writing about it.”
“But then I was expected to always gain profit, by others but by me also.”
“I am bad because I bought loss. I am bad because I chose to be a whore. There’s demand in the society and I just supplied it with my own desires.”
“They never said anything about how Abhay exploited me, it was only about the lie I made up. They vote for politicians, who lie and they did the same here.”
“I am wrong because I don’t do charities and spend money in exotic hotels. Why don’t they equally distribute the resources? Ban the business, feed the hungry.”
“Yes, I killed the priest, but what about all those killed in the name of religion, thanks to such priests?”
“I took advantage of my money and made myself comfortable in the jail. But doesn’t everybody look for convenience rather than justice, equality and truth.”
“I don’t know who I am, but aren’t they too unaware of who they are, just, roles, statuses, labels and standards. I chose my life, and they are forced to choose one, and I am the one who is mad? Isn’t this world mad?”
“It is. You have completed 7 roles.” I tell her.
The guards arrive in the background, Apsara climbs the wall, looks down, and I stand beside her.
“I did? Oh well then I always give my extra, here is the 8th role I play as dead.” And we jump both of us falling with equal speed and I lie beside her as she plays the role of dead.
Mariyam Saigal, a young poet, finds herself creative in making up stories and so one could consider her as an amateur writer. Her poem is published in first print anthology of The Bombay Review.