Highly Commended Story - Zhestyrnak
“Zhestyrnak” by Tursunbayeva Sabina, Nazarbayev Intellectual School, Kazakhstan, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Sabina is a student of Nazarbayev Intellectual school in Kazakhstan. Her love for literature started from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series which she would read all day long as a child. Now she’s already 16 and she likes spending her free time reading poetry of Russian authors, especially Joseph Brodsky’s. Sabina finds it amazing how beautiful and accurate writers can describe their deepest thoughts and feelings. Besides, she enjoys coding and reading educational articles about history and society. She’s absolutely keen on these sciences. Her inspiration comes from people and how unique they are!
Kazakh myths tell about a horribly wonderful woman with long brass claws hidden under sleeves of her clothes. Many of nomads described her as a mysterious creature who presented herself as a youthful woman. She was tricky and smart but very closed and silent never saying a word. Kazakhs’ ancestors were scared of this creature because she killed people. They had even given her a name, literally meaning “a brass nail”. Zhestyrnak. Still, not a single person knows her real story. But we should.
There was that young woman, the daughter of God, living in Heaven. The beauty of hers was stunning. She could make anybody fall in love with her, but she had never been in love. She could charm anyone with her beauty and sweet voice, but no one could even make her laugh.
That lonely girl was usually spending time in gardens, bored of monotonous days of her existence, and desiring to find the true worthy sense of it. She had just one another way to while the time away, though. Watching these weird creatures that lived on Earth. As a child, she read about them a lot. She knew what they were like and what they cared about. People. The man.
Even growing up and being an adult, thoughts of human beings still occupied her mind. The girl could spend hours watching that man riding a frisky horse in the windy steppe. He was lovable so much so she couldn’t get him out of her head. Obviously that was something more than just an innocent curiosity. Something truly forbidden and unseemly. Gods noticed it, too. There were disgusting rumors about her meeting a mortal one, loving him and daydreaming about. They said her feelings were weird and ill.
So she had to leave her own home. She gave up everything she had. She was kicked out as a sinner just for being enchanted by a human.
And then, her beloved one was killed by her Father.
Devastating grief of hers was indescribable. She suffered so badly screaming with earsplitting voice so none of birds and beasts around could survive. She cried, bit her lips to blood and scratched herself with her nails. She was in terrible pain caged in her own body and mourning her heart’s love. She despised herself for being so naïve, so dumb, for believing everything would be fine. She hated each one for being hurt that much. They did not let her be happy just once. They did not let her be with him. They took away the man she cared for. They took away her biggest love and her treasure.
And she hated them. How wouldn’t she?
Once she lived in Heaven, she was kindhearted as no one was. But the old her must die. From this moment, she’d never forgive anyone. She’d avenge anyone who had ever made her cry. On Earth, she was forced to grow long claws. She was wearing clothes full of gold and silver ornaments. Instead of being nice, she looked at everybody with a cold, unblinking, piercing stare. She wanted to find the sense of her life – and now it is totally clear. If she cannot be happy, then no one can. If she cannot be with the one she loved, then no one dare. She wanted to hurt people as someone hurt her. She longed for making them feel like she felt.
Her divine incredible power never left. She was still terribly delightful bewitching each earthly man and making them fall in love with her so easily. She could hypnotize a man with her look. And then, when a man fell asleep serenely, she bit into him with her long brass claws, and, having killed him cruelly, sucks all the blood. The taste of a man’s blood was the taste of pain. The sign that they suffer as she does. She wished to know it.
It is believed now that she has finally found peace. Maybe, she had already avenged people for her awful loss. Maybe, someone had killed her. Who knows? Does it even matter?
I just hope, Zheztyrnak’s story will teach us not to judge anyone and let them love who they love. Because everyone, even cruel Gods, deserve to love and to be loved.