Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home


Under the moonlight

Here are more things between heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophies, Horatio.'

‘And what's that supposed to mean?'

'That there are things about me that you don't know yet, Miss Sila Tuliany,' Nemo said enigmatically, taking a bite out of his Double Cheese Burger XXL. They were both sitting in a Burger King not far from their school. It was quite late; they had been busy rehearsing for the school play.

'You tried to kill me, that's all I know,' she said, quivering with mock anger.

'You forget the part about you and your sweetheart Patrick ganging up on me. Besides, killing you would be doing the world a special favour,' he said grinning. She threw her napkin at him.

They were talking about a small incident that took place during the Drama class. They were doing Hamlet. The teacher had given them the plastic swords they would be wearing. Patrick, who was playing Laertes, and Sila, who was playing Horatio [they were rather short on male actors], were having a swordfight, with Nemo in the sidelines, dressed as Hamlet in a stupid medieval costume, egging them on and offering a poke or two of his own at both. In the end, they got irritated, united, and proceeded to attack him instead. Nemo, with reflexes born from his frequent swordfights with his little sister, deftly fought two at once long enough for the teacher to bark “stop fooling around like two year olds”.

'What are you thinking about? Has Patrick popped the question yet?' Nemo enquired slyly after they had been quiet for a while.

'Oh, shut up,' she snapped, but blushing all the same. She reached for her cocktail. Now, you don't get cocktails at Burger Kings in Sweden, and the girl at the counter had
been quite surprised first time he asked for a cocktail.

'I'm sorry, but we don't serve alcohol here,' she had said, looking him over, clearing trying to get an idea of his age.

'Oh, no,' he had laughed, 'it's not a cocktail as in hard-drinks cocktail. I just want Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta mixed together.'

Sila had also tried it with some apprehension and after the first sip, she had become a cocktail fan too, though she liked a little more Sprite in her cocktail while he liked more Fanta. The counter-girl had gotten used to these two friends. All they needed to do nowadays was to say “the usual” like they were a couple of usual customers at a bar.

They came out of the Burger King place and bought a couple of ice creams, not the three-scoop ones, but literally ice cream. The sweet vanilla cream melted in your mouth and the chocolate sprinkles added that extra flavour to take you to heaven. As a matter of fact, it was on Nemo's wish list to get an endless supply of this ice cream in case he managed heaven when he died, the possibility of which, he admitted, was bleak.

He looked sideways at Sila, enjoying the ice cream. The streetlights were not working and they were walking by the primary school. There was something odd about a row of streetlights not working, but Nemo didn't really give it second thought. It was full moon and the dark playground with it's shadows looked like a mysterious enchantress. Whether it was the surrounding, or the light, or the fact that her silhouette was framed against the large football field and the forest on the other side; she looked like an angel from some other world. Her hair fell to her shoulder blades, curled into waves at the end and glinting slightly in the moonlight. He caught the soft smell of her hair as they walked side by side, despite the overwhelming smell of vanilla. What was it, Garnier? He could half see her face. An ordinary teenage girl, some would say. But sometimes, ordinary becomes extraordinary. Close, so close, but still so far. Would he ever get any closer? She looked at him, her light brown eyes indistinguishable in the dark. 'What?' she said, puzzled.

'Nothing, nothing,' Nemo said, snapping back out of his thoughts, 'just wondering what a nice couple you and
Patrick will make.'

'You're unbelievable, you are,' she said shaking her head.
Suddenly, out of the darkness loomed up two tall figures. Nemo halted and held out an arm to stop Sila. It was, after all, late and he had grown up in a city like Dhaka.

'What's wrong?' Sila asked, slightly alarmed, looking at the towering figures.

But Nemo didn't answer. He saw something glint in the hand of the smaller of the two figures and his worst fears were confirmed.

'RUN!' he shouted, taking Sila's hand and bolting in the opposite direction. That knife was a foot long. He didn't want to face that. The reason the streetlight weren't working suddenly dawned on him. Of course, there were muggers in Sweden as well, but that wasn't it. If it was just a question of money for drugs, he would have gladly given up his cell phone and what little money he had. Life was more important than money. But it wouldn't be only about money for long. The playground was quite dark and Sila was a beautiful young girl. Conscience was not something that existed in the dictionary of people who were “high”. But they were not running fast enough. The two muggers were catching up.

'Run, Sila. Don't stop. Go get help,' he panted in her ears. There was no going back now. He had really aggravated them.

'No!' she protested. 'Do as I say,' Nemo said, 'you've got to get out of here.' He pushed her on and turned around.

He felt like wetting himself from fear. This was all wrong. This wasn't happening, not in a city like Stockholm, in a country like Sweden. But he turned around all the same. There were very few people in this world for whom he would have turned around. Every part of his brain wanted to bail; this was stupid, this was suicide. But some part of him knew he had to get her out of here. Nothing mattered more to him than her safety at this point.

'You son of a ,' with a cry and a curse, the bigger guy rushed at him like a truck, his shoulder leaned forward like a battering ram. Nemo dodged to his right and stuck his leg out. The guy fell sprawled on his face. The knife-guy charged in and took a massive swipe with the knife that would have disemboweled him had he not jumped back. It still took a part of his jacket though. But the charge carried him too far and he lost his balance. Nemo kicked the arm holding the knife and it soared away. The other guy had gotten up. Nemo turned around but the guy picked him up and threw him like a rag doll. He flew backwards and landed on his back on the knife-guy who was trying to get up. He heard, or maybe felt, a cracking noise. The knife-guy stopped moving. The other man was on top of
him in seconds.

Punches were raining down upon him and after a few hits, Nemo couldn't feel his face anymore. Someone shouted and tried to push the guy off him. Sila had thrown all her weight against the man who outweighed her nearly four times. He brushed her off like she was a cat. She fell a few feet away. Nemo tried to get up in this momentary pause, but the huge man put his weight on him and grabbed his throat, choking him. His Adam's apple was being crushed, he couldn't breathe. His lungs were working furiously but there was no air going in. Air, air! He needed to breathe.

'You thought you'd get smart with me, dint’cha, you little piece of shit!' the man said, panting with the effort of holding him down, 'Run now, smartass. I'll kill ya, you filthy snot rag.' His eyes were fogging over. Even while he was struggling, his brain registered dimly how weird this was. He was dying in a country far from his own, choked to death by a mugger whose face he couldn't see properly, under the full moon and it all seemed unreal, as if he was dreaming, or seeing someone else being choked in the moonlight. The fight was leaving him. He was slowly accepting his fate, when the hands suddenly went limp. The little of the face of the man he could see registered not fury, but shock. Then he fell sideways. Sila was standing behind him. The knife was sticking out the back of the choker. Nemo slowly got up. The knife-guy was lying nearby, apparently unconscious, oozing a lot of blood from him head.

Sila was sobbing hysterically now. She clutched to him as if her life depended on it. She buried her face in his chest and he pulled her away from the sight of the choker with the knife behind his back.

'It's alright, Sila. It'll be ok. I'm here. Don't worry,' The surrealism was still there. He was holding Sila in his arms under the moonlight with the background of sirens in the distance.

By Estel


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2006 The Daily Star