Guest post – A short story by Aroosa Mushtaq Malik

Bakhtawar barged in through the door. Her chaddar had slipped off her head, and a look of sheer panic and agony tormented her face, for she knew it now: there was no saving her daughter from the merciless mob.

They were on the doorstep now, banging on the wooden door. A small chain lock was not enough to keep the men out; men who howled like wild animals set free from captivity, like hounds, let loose on prey. She wrapped her arms tightly around her daughter, who cried soundlessly in her arms, awaiting her fate.

Forcing their way in, knocking over everything in the path, dust rose around their feet as they stampeded into her room. Bakhtawar could only scream as the men lunged at her daughter, pulling her from arms and dragged her outside. She was stripped off of her clothing in the street, the men tearing her esteem apart, shaming and ogling her, finding excuses to touch the swell of her nubile breasts, brushing palms against her pelvis. Bakhtawar’s cries were muffled amidst the wild shouting of the crowd. She wanted to laugh at the irony of it too; lustful animals, the lot of them, stoning her daughter for honor’s sake.

She was taken to the boys’ playground where a football match was already underway. It stopped as the crowd lugging her daughter emerged into the playfield. The players stopped in mid-runs and mid-shouts and the ball bounced off someone’s leg unnoticed. They paused and stood, mouths agape. She watched them lead her daughter among the vultures, her path blocked by other women.

“You heartless animal! They will kill my daughter. Have you no mercy, have you no shame? She’s naked among them. My daughter…”

Bakhtawar wept in the tangles of arms that kept her from going to her daughter.

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