Highly Commended Story - I Will Always Protect You…
“I Will Always Protect You…” by Tanzim Bint Abdul Majid, St. Mary’s Catholic High School, Dubai, UAE, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Tanzim is a Year 10 student studying at St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Dubai, UAE. She is from Bangladesh. Tanzim is an enthusiastic reader of mystery and dystopian fiction. Her list of hobbies includes reading, painting and a variety of crafts. She is interested to know more about the world and aspires to become a biomedical engineer, keeping up with her belief in the importance of innovation in all fields of life.
I Will Always Protect You…
“You are sentenced to 10 years.”
The bright blazing lights sway across the swarm of bodies like an army of search lights. The crowd that piles on the stage only gets bigger and bigger. A few lurk at the sides in clusters, laughing and joking merrily. The banging music blasts every single corner of the room, its beats coordinating with those of my heart, vibrating my entire body. The spicy smell of strong scents choke my nostrils as roars of chatter conquer my sight. I try to get my mind into the conversation in which I blankly nod my head, but find failure.
Why did I come here? It is my birthday today. Yes…I wanted to forget this inauspicious day that has come again after a year, as it comes every year.
A decade has passed. Days and nights have come and gone. Yet every fragment of that day rings clear in front of my eyes as though it was happening once again. And for the thousandth time I stare into the distance through the eyes of a naïve six-year-old girl…
The twentieth September of 2008 had a bright sunny morning which greeted me with gratifying gifts. My sixth birthday was on a Saturday. We had spent the day high up on the mountains of pristine air. As the sky darkened, we had started our descent down the steep roads. We were all too euphoric to notice the jeep that followed us. All but my brother, who was nine.
“Don’t like the sight of that,” he whispered while I mindlessly questioned “Huh?” to get “nothing” as a reply. I continued to chatter about my best birthday to the world’s best brother, when suddenly the jeep, pulled in front of us blocking the one way lane which led down the mountains. Dad smashed the break a split second before our car would ram into the jeep.
Four drunken men poured out of the jeep and stood in front of our car. Dad got out of the car, glaring at them while mummy tensed. Being my dad’s daughter I stomped out of the car, furious at them as they were ruining my birthday. Mummy was shouting for me to get back in, but it was too late. I was in the field already. My father patiently asked them to make way for us, but they only mocked in laughter. However, one of them saw me and the bracelet that glistened under the setting sun.
“Give that to me,” he demanded pointing at my favorite birthday gift.
“No,” I shouted back, a little afraid at being intimidated.
The man advanced as dad tried to grab me back into our car. I was scared. But no, I did not move, not because I froze but rather because I would not retreat. All my lessons shrieked ‘Stranger Danger’, but I held onto my position.
“Back off,” dad said to the stranger.
“Oh, I just want to borrow it!” he replied with a smirk.
“Back off!” The sternness and edge in dad’s voice surprised me. This time the stranger started reversing.
Only to retaliate.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a silver blade rush towards me. My eyes widened in shock, contemplating what was going to happen. But I did not feel it. Someone else did. My brother had pushed me off and stood there in my position. A deep gash bled on his left cheek. Everything was a blur after that. I didn’t see how dad reacted. All that mattered was my brother.
I saw pain and anger in my brother’s determined deep green eyes. He looked at me and ferociously said, “I will always protect you.”
Mummy rushed to his side trying to ease him of his pain. But nothing seemed to stop the gushing flow of the red hot blood. More people came and joint in; they ran to help my dad after assessing the situation. We were angry, but in their drunken state, those gangsters were infuriated. Seeing dad and everyone else dealing with the other three, the man who held the knife strode towards us. He slashed with it on mummy’s arm, who stood protectively in front of us. He dropped the instrument of pain and pushed me so that I grazed my elbow.
He wanted to harm my brother. I could see it in his black evil eyes. The man dragged my brother who fought back resulting no effect, and thrust him off the cliff. I screamed drawing the attention of the crowd and ran to grab my brother’s arm who, then relied on the mercy of a cliff and my feeble strength.
The man stamped on my wrist so that my brother broke free of the grip. I saw terror in his eyes as he slid down the rock face, while I screamed the piercing cry of a desperate creature, hoping that God would hear my plea and prove that He existed.
I don’t know what happened after that. We could not find my brother through nights using search lights or days spent with search teams. All I understood was that I was no longer somebody’s sister. No more did I have the brother who would protect me always…
I am drawn back to the bright eye soring and loud deafening room as someone nudges me. I turn towards the concerned eyes of my friend.
“You look pale. Are you fine?”
“Yeah. Just feeling a little light headed. I’ll be to the restroom.” I reply and walk away.
It did not work. It never works. I could never run away from that day. I keep visiting it. Reliving it. The chaos in the physical world could not save me from the turmoil of chaos in my heart. A movement in my periphery catches my attention and I see a pair of eyes shift onto me. I turn away, feeling weird. Sensing dizziness, I decide to leave the crowded place.
Walking out of the party hall, I feel grateful for the aroma of fresh air that I inhale deeply, rejuvenating my senses. The sun had set already and the dark gloomy night looms over my head. Cold air whispers as it slides and glides past me, sending a chill down my spine. I tug onto my light jacket. The moon elopes from a cluster of clouds and lends me its light, casting the shadow of a man on my right.
I stop as my heart skips a beat and look at the shadow. It was definitely behind me. I turn to face the person, but find an empty spot as I see a figure slip out. Once again. Once again I feel the uncanny sensation of a pair of eyes watching my back whenever I am out recently.
I desperately long for home as I notice the empty roads. No people. Silence slithers by my side. The pressure of nothingness bores into me. I feel scared. I need to elude this emptiness which frightens me. Deciding to take the shortest route to my home, I scurry off. The sensation remains as I make my passage through the alleys which would lead me back to my haven fast.
The buildings that I brush past are alien to me. I rarely use this shortcut. The feeling presses harder as the distance between me and my pursuer was slowly coming to an end. Fear clutches me, clouding my senses. I feel disoriented and lost. I could not recognize which alley I was in at this point. But it did not matter. I had to go on and away. I run straight ahead and stop in confusion once I reach the center of the alley.
The tarmac crackles under the pressure of a foot at the entrance of the alley. I turn to face my stalker. At once I recognize him as the young man I had seen in the party hall. The light above his head flickers and goes off. His silhouette disappears in the darkness. My heart beats violently and my skin bathes in sweat. I start backing off and bang into something.
My mind stops and starts running at the same time. I recall how I had been determined after that incident, that I would never be helpless. I had trained vigorously in various forms of martial arts so that I would never be scared. So that no one could ever overpower me. And yet today, as the game of fate, I was shivering in fear. All those efforts proving futile, in the time of need. Or maybe, my end had come- I simply had to accept it, that exactly a decade after what happened to my brother, I would perish in the same way- overpowered.
I feel him grip my shoulder. Anger floods my body. I smack my elbow into his jaw amidst my temper. I turn to give a more satisfying blow as the light from a street lamp flashes on his face. This wasn’t the stalker. It was another person. He looked young and was angry for being hit. Did I just hit someone innocent? But then I hadn’t heard him, why would he sneak on me? Before I can decide, he pushes me to the wall, slamming my back against the hard rough surface.
“Hey, young lady!” he says with a sly smile. “You didn’t seem so rough when I was following you.”
It is this man, then, who was following me. Not the one from the party?
I push him off but he quickly corners me again, this time putting his strength and body weight into it. I stamp on his foot with the pencil of my heel. The grip loosens and I free myself. I kick and elbow him again as he winces. Just as I think of leaving quickly, he grabs and throws me against the wall. My elbow scrapes against the surface. I turn to see him remove his pocket knife and slowly cross the short distance with the silver blade, eyes flashing black evil…
A figure looms before me in a protective stance- his back to me. He uses the element of surprise to snatch the knife a second before it could harm him. In a quick move he adroitly renders the man unconscious. The mysterious stranger, my protector, turns to face me.
For the first time I get a proper look at his face. He was probably no more than three years older than me and had brown hair which was now messed up. His emerald green eyes were perfectly balanced beside his thin crisp nose. His fair skin was slightly tanned and clear of any beard or moustache. His thin lips spoke volumes even when shut close. However, the most significant feature is the scar which marked his left cheek. It was like an old souvenir. It was familiar to me. I stare at him. He was the one whose eyes had followed me in the party hall. At once I know he was the one following me everywhere recently.
Perhaps God exists.
He looks at me intently and whispers once again, “I will always protect you.”