“Zara uttered her first coherent word in the 8th month,” her mom said as she spoke to her therapist. Her mother Zainab didn’t believe in the dark arts or superstitions of a similar sort, but Zara’s sudden silence puzzled everyone who knew her. Zara’s English teacher was the first to point out. That was the first time Zara knew that her silence was scary to people. “Her silence is acidic, pungent, makes my skin crawl. Something very bitter about her. It’s as if something evil has possessed her.” Her teacher whispered her words to the therapist. Zara was outside waiting for them to finish, the little girl was oblivious as her mother accompanied her home.
“Zara, darling, is something troubling you?” Zainab asked that afternoon at lunch. “They bully me if I talk and get me in trouble,” she said through her sobs. Zainab let out relieved laughter. Zainab and her teacher resolved the matter in school, and everyone moved on. From that day onwards, Zara knew her silence had to be a secret. She concealed it with all the noise that she could conjure up. She grew up to the most chirpy girl in the tenth grade. That episode sunk in the background as if it was a distant memory in everyone’s mind until that morning.
Zara came down with a terrible back pain radiated to her chest. It was as if a million horses were racing through her spine. She felt the hooves piercing her back. The sensation radiated all the way to her chest, and every breath hurt. Every rib stung when she moved. She threw up a couple of times. She saw a myriad of colors as she straightened herself. The nerves in her head began throbbing, and she couldn’t open her eyes. Zainab rushed Zara to the emergency.
Zara had a robust immune system unlike her younger brother Zaid. Zara was more like her father who was currently in Africa on a UN peacekeeping mission. Zara had always been her dad’s darling. Zainab didn’t bother him with details that would have him worry. Unfortunately for Zainab, she had aged prematurely with all the work and family stress. She took out her cellphone to call her husband. However, she decided against it. She was sure it was some viral infection.
As Zainab grew restless, a resident intern checked Zara’s vitals. She asked Zara, “Did you meet with an accident or did you fall perhaps?” “No,” Zara replied. The young doctor was baffled. She examined her back and her chest and found absolutely no external marks of injury. She walked out with caution to her senior doctor. “Doctor, her vitals are fine, but her pain seems mysterious to me,” as they walked to where Zara lay. The senior doctor had a daughter of Zara’s age. He knew that he had to handle Zara delicately. As it is puberty was already hard on them. Despite being a doctor, he was always fascinated with how women were a miracle of nature.
“Zara, you have to tell me the truth, did anyone beat you up, playfully or even unintentionally?” Zara merely shook her head to say no. At least from what he saw, the girl wasn’t lying. There was something icy about Zara that he could feel in his bones. She looked so beat up as if she’d never been able to wake up again but her eyes pierced through him. He felt as though he was in the middle of a deserted land covered with shards of glasses and all sorts of plant growth. He wanted to run and never return. However, when she spoke the doctor thought that the warmth had returned. He was back in the present.
The doctor gave the go-ahead for other diagnostic tests, and all of it turned out completely normal. Finally, they let her off with a painkiller injection. Zainab took Zara home, and Zara recovered in a couple of days. The mysterious illness appeared again, and they went through the same cycle with the doctor. The senior doctor was puzzled. But he never saw her again after the second time. She was on his mind for a long time.
To be continued….
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