THUD, THUD, THUD!
Khrystina nearly jumped in fright as a sudden barrage of three successive poundings smashed against the white maple door. Her breathing became deeper and faster. Her panicked heart emulated a fight-or-flight mode pufferfish deep within her chest.
CLICK, CLICK, CLICK!
The door knob squirmed around its axis in futility. Although she was relieved that she had locked the bathroom door, her fear did not subside. Her bladder swelled like a rising hot-air balloon, just barely preventing the trickling of a golden stream.
THUD, THUD, THUD!
She pulled down her leggings and her underwear in haste, and the lower half of her body collapsed onto the toilet seat. Her legs oscillated as if they were the plucked strings of a guitar. In the face of an ever-rising terror, her mind lost its unconscious resolve to withhold the process of micturition, and a flood of urine gushed out of her vaginal lips like overflowing water from a crumbling dam.
The wisdom of experience had long taught her that silence was the best course of action. Although fear, terror, and panic had contorted her mind into that of a flustered animal, her instincts did not fail to warn her. Like a red laser beam cutting through a thick cloud of mist, her instincts cut through her clouded mind with the message: ‘Don’t do it. Just hold on to your silence for a little longer.’ She knew that she should listen to her gut, but her mouth, like her bladder, just couldn’t hold it in.
At first it came out like a small stream:
She said loudly, “I am peeing. Don’t come in here.”
But almost immediately, she realised that the stream had grown into a gush which she could no longer control:
She shrieked, “DON’T COME IN HERE, YOU CRUEL BRUTE!”
CLICK, CLICK, CLICK!
The door knob squirmed more rapidly and more violently.
She howled louder than before, “HAVEN’T YOU MADE MY LIFE MISERABLE ALREADY? HAVEN’T YOU TAKEN EVERYTHING FROM ME ALREADY? I HATE YOU, YOU EGYPTIAN RASCAL! CAN YOU AT LEAST LET ME PEE IN PEACE, YOU BASTARD? CAN YOU AT LEAST LEAVE ME WITH THE RIGHT TO PEE IN PEACE?”
Khrystina cried out, “I should have never married you, you wife-beATING BRUTE!”
She knew that he had heard her, and that he had chosen to remain silent. This both unnerved and infuriated her.
She continued, “OH MIGHTY ADEEL IBRAHEEM FAROOQ HASSAN GAMAL! DID I DO MY JOB OF BEING YOUR PUNCHING BAG WELL TODAY? DID I MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE A MAN? DID BEATING THE CRAP OUT OF ME FINALLY MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE A MAN?”
A disembodied voice called out in a low, fruity manner from the other side of the door, “Khrystina.”
It continued weekly, “Khrystina, I am sorry.”
A pool of tears welled in her eyes, distorting her vision and flooding the plains of her soft cheeks. She squinted her eyes, sobbed hushedly, and sniffled. Golden buds of relief blossomed in her heart, but a storm still brewed in her mind.
The voice croaked, “I am sorry. You don’t deserve this.”
While one part of her wanted to forgive him and let it go, another part of her impulsively wanted to get even; momentarily she wanted to hurt him like he had hurt her.
She blurted out, “Everytime you hit me, I wonder to myself just how you became like this. But then I try to step into your shoes and see the world from your perspective. An orphaned bastard boy raised by the streets of Cairo. With no mother or father to teach him the rights from the wrongs, how can I expect you to know better?”
By referring to his parentless poverty-stricken childhood, she knew that she had plunged a dagger of emotional pain into his heart. She had hurt him deeply. She knew it. But she couldn’t help herself. She had to deal the killing blow.
She declared triumphantly with a tone of vindictiveness, “I am all you have, little Egyptian orphan. You have no family to love you - no mother or father or sister or brother. I am all the family you’ve got.”
A single half-hearted blow to the maple door. She could hear him slump to the floor on the other side. Almost immediately, she felt guilty. Terribly guilty. She shouldn’t have said what she had said. In her mind, she began weighing the pain caused by his physical blows against the pain that her words had inflicted. She wondered which one was worse, and whether her impetuous strike at his Achilles' Heel was justified.
She pressed her ear against the door. Receding footsteps. The front door slammed shut. She sighed, partly in relief and partly in sadness. She knew his post-beating ritual very well, and knew where he was heading: the superstore at the mall. He was going to purchase a generous quantity of expensive foreign chocolates and delicious light-snacks in a vain attempt to bribe his way to her forgiveness. She snickered at how he naively believed that expensive gifts were the solution to all his problems.
As Khrystina washed her hands, she gazed at her reflection in the shimmering bathroom mirror. From the reflective pool, a beautiful 24-year old Ukranian stared back at her. Streams of tears dissolved lines of black eyeliner into a dark smear across her bony cheeks. The reddish-black imprint of Adeel’s fist stained the facial area underneath her brilliant turquoise left-eye. A thick crimson brook drooled out of the bruise. She pulled herself closer to the mirror. Her luscious pink lips- torn and bleeding. She felt a deep sense of pity and compassion for the figure staring back at her. The woman on the other side of the mirror looked at her pleadingly as if to ask, “How many more beatings am I still condemned to? When will the beatings stop?” Khrystina thought to herself, ‘As long as I am still with him, probably never.’ This sudden realisation rose out of the mirror like a daunting spectre.
She asked herself, “Why don’t you leave him then?”
Khrystina closed her eyes, and her mind time-travelled through the stream of her memories.
Five years ago. Paris. At the tender age of nineteen, in the City of Love, she had unearthed one of Egypt’s most magnificent contributions to Human Civilization: Adeel Ibrahim Farooq Hassan Gamal, the Jewel of the Nile. Eight-thousand years of Egyptian civilization had led to this- and it was worth the wait. Pure Pulchritude. Adjacent to a giant glass pyramid, by the banks of a long queue waiting to flood into the Louvre Museum, Fate had placed two lonely strangers in the night next to each other. Paris and Helen. Adam and Eve. Coffee Beans and Milk.
“Something in your eyes was so inviting,
Something in your smile was so exciting,
Something in my heart told me I must have you…”
Once their eyes met, conversation had flowed so naturally. An entire evening was spent in the admiration of some of Mankind’s most exquisite artistic brainchildren. Just the two of them, ravishing each other’s company.
No contact information was shared. And for a year and a half, Khrystina found her heart frozen in a time-loop of that evening. For a year and a half, she had languished in the fear of never being able to ever see him again. But then it happened.
London. Orchestrated by Fate, or perhaps the random nature of sheer coincidences, or perhaps both, the duo ran into each other on the streets of London. No words were exchanged. Just a passionate kiss, and Khrystina’s hand holding his, shepherding him towards her apartment. An evening which exceeded her imagination’s expectation. Eight months down the line, they had gotten married. But the beatings, violent manifestations of his wrath, didn’t first materialise until one-and-a-half years after their wedding.
Khrystina opened her eyes. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She couldn’t leave him. The pain of not being with him would be far more unbearable than all the beatings that she had endured combined. But she couldn’t continue tolerating his beatings either. Something had to change. And something would.
For the forty two months that they had been together, they had been each other’s diaries. They had shared everything with each other. But there was one thing that Khrystina had never told Adeel. She had a secret. A secret so strange, so fascinating, and so bewildering that nobody would believe her. A secret that had been handed down to her by her grandmother, who had worked in a top-secret Soviet research project. But now that secret would come out in the open. It would be wielded as a weapon of deterrence against the object of her obsession and of her affection, the Jewel of the Nile. It would be wielded as a weapon to compel her tormentor, Adeel Ibrahim Farooq Hassan Gamal, to change his ways.
Khrystina mumbled to herself, “Am I taking this too far?”
The Great Florentine statesman Machiavelli had once said that, “It is better to be feared than loved.” But fear is a great aphrodisiac. She would be both feared and loved.
Khrystina looked at her reflection, and said, “This is my last ditch attempt to fix something that I value a lot. So I’ll give this my 100%. If this doesn’t work… well…”
As the white maple door swung open, Khrystina emerged as a changed woman. She was no longer going to tolerate her husband’s abusive behavior in the hopes that he would eventually change. She was going to compel him to change.
Khrystina rummaged through the compartments of her jewelry box until she found what she was looking for: two unique rings. Both of them were golden and adorned with precious stones. While one of the rings housed the miniature statue of a chinese Jade dragon, the other one housed the miniature statue of a Carnelian ant. She had never used the power of her Secret before, but that didn’t stop her from devising a cunning plan for its administration.
‘Ryazhenka’, she thought to herself.
She twisted the miniscule Carnelian ant statue and pulled it out of the ring. A tiny pipette, filled to the brim with a mysterious red substance, dangled from the ant’s thorax.
An hour later, Adeel returned home. He stood outside the door for a full five minutes. His guilt barred him from entering his house. “Thou shalt not pass!”, it seemed to say. After much deliberation and effort, Adeel turned the door knob and entered his living room.
“Khrystina!”, he called.
With a large bag filled to the brim with goodies on either side, he slowly made his way into the kitchen. His gorgeous blonde wife was sitting on the dining table in the company of two glasses. One of them was filled to the brim with a thick white liquid, the other was empty but its base had a mysterious red tint.
He fumbled, “Khrystina, I am sorry.”
She looked at him and said nothing. He dropped the bags at the door of the kitchen. He walked slowly towards her. She did not react. He dropped to his knee, grabbed her hands, and kissed them. His gaze rose upwards towards her face. It was empty, void of all emotion. So he kissed her hands a couple times more. But her face was still expressionless, and appeared to be set in stone. He rose up and let his hands run along the bruise underneath her left eye and along her torn, bleeding lip. He kissed her forehead. But it was as if his wife was carved out of marble: her posture and expressions unchanging.
“What are you drinking?”, he asked in a desperate bid to break the silence.
“Don’t you recognise it? Ryazhenka. Your favourite Ukranian beverage.”
“That sounds lovely. Could you give me some?”
“It’s in a jug in the fridge.”
Khrystina raised her glass to her lips and chugged it in a matter of seconds.
She said, “This is delicious. I think I might go for a second round. Would you be kind enough to pour me some more?”
“It would be my pleasure.”
Adeel retrieved a transparent jug from his refrigerator and filled the two glasses which were on the dining table.
Raising his glass, Adeel exclaimed, “Cheers.” He was hoping to clink his glass against that of his wife, as was customary. But she seemed uninterested. He slowly withdrew his glass away from her, and towards his mouth. As he downed the Ukranian beverage, he heard her ask, “So what did you get to bribe me this time?”
He smiled at her. Something was not right. He felt a bit dizzy.
He managed to say, “Guess!”
“Why don’t you show me?”, she responded.
A tingling sensation swept across his body, and he blacked out.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
Adeel woke up in a dark, slippery cave. The air around him reeked of sweat.
“Am I dreaming?”, Adeel asked out loud.
“Where am I?”
In the distance, he could see an opening from which light flooded into the cave.
Slowly, he made his way towards the opening.
He asked out loud, “Have I been drugged?”
Adeel was the size of an ant, and the entire expanse of the Kitchen spanned out in front of him. The wall in front of him seemed like it was miles away. Adeel slowly raised his head upwards. The ceiling was so far away that it felt like it was the sky itself. He turned around and looked at the cave from which he had emerged. It was a fold in the sleeve of his city-block sized T-shirt.
A feminine voice boomed, “It took you long enough.”
He turned around to see a behemoth of a beast rushing towards him. A giant foot slammed into the ground around him, and Adeel found himself saved only by the gap between the big toe and the second toe.
“You always did love my feet, Adeel. Why are you so afraid of them now?”
The owner of the leg turned the foot around and raised the big toe right above him. It slowly descended until it touched the tip of his head. The SUV-sized toe paused briefly before slowly continuing to exert pressure on him. Adeel, fearing that he might be crushed if he continued standing, fell to his feet and tried to crawl away. But the big-toe descended, and pinned his back against the ground.
Khrystina bent down and plucked her tiny husband. She dropped him into the expanse of her other palm and raised it to her face.
“My, my. I had no idea that it would make you so small. How does it feel to be so helpless?”
The beautiful, battered giant face in front of him was as tall as a four-storey building.
“Khrystina, I cannot believe this. What sorcery is this? Is this witchcraft?”
His wife threw her head back and laughed like a maniac.
She snorted, “Witchcraft?! WITCHCRAFT?!”
He raised his hands upwards and declared, “God is with me. I won’t be intimidated by black magic.”
She pursed her torn lips and blew a gust of Ryazhenka-scented air at him. Adeel fell, his back collapsed onto her palm.
She laughed menacingly.
“Witchcraft? You flatter me husband dearest. Now, back to my question. How does it feel to be so helpless?”
Adeel stuttered, “Why are you doing this?”
“Why, to punish you of course!” She smiled at him evilly.
A pink beast, the size of a great white shark, lunged at him from between her lips. It jabbed at him briefly before hastily withdrawing back into her mouth.
She threw her head back and laughed evilly.
“Ooh… all this power is really getting to me, Adeel. Now I understand how you must feel when I am so helpless and powerless in front of you.”
Adeel stuttered, “Khrystina... Khrystina you are scaring me.”
“Good. You should be scared. Now you know how you made me feel all this time.”
She flashed her sparkling white teeth at him.
She added, “Now when I said earlier that I did all of this to punish you, I was joking. I just want to talk. It is much less intimidating this way, you know.”
“And I also want to have fun. You see Adeel… all this power, it really turns me on. Plus there’s all this tension between us that we need to diffuse before we start talking. So why don’t we have some fun first, get relaxed a little bit, and then we can start talking.”
Adeel asked quietly, “What do you have in mind?”
“Something which kills two birds with one stone.”