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mehreen ahmed

Queensland writer, Mehreen Ahmed has been publishing since 1987. A featured author for Story Institute, she has published The Blotted Line, a collection of short stories. More recently, Snapshots, a book of travels was published initially by PostScript Editions, UK. This was followed by a dream allegory, written in stream of consciousness style called Moirae, also published by PostScript Editions, UK. A later edition of the book was published on CreateSpace. So far, she has co-authored two books - Magical Golden Egg and Write to Remember. Jacaranda Blues is her debut novella. To learn more about Mehreen Ahmed, please visit amazon.com/author/amazon.com.mehreenahmed

MOIRAE

Following the stream of consciousness technique and embedded in dream allegory, Moirae depicts human predicament exploring notions of fate and religion. Taken from a fantasy land on a planet with two moons, called the Lost Winds, this story is about human oppression under a tyrannical regime which calls itself democratic. Much like our planet earth, people flee to seek protection in a place called Draviland, a long way away from the Lost Winds. Dramas pertaining to such human conditions often appear in the main character's lucid dreams and knitted in pink honeycomb pattern. This metaphor is used to construe self organized behavior among men, herding as they try to escape from persecution.

 

Chapter One / RED TEMPEST

Chapter Two / ASH WOODLANDS

Chapter Three / Black Streams

Very well We could have had a good life in Shingdi living off the land We had even planned a home Children would have grown up by now I wail sitting by the Murma river but your baby is gone Tahu You could have woken me up when cocks crowed at dawn We could have had tea and molasses together under the shack of a house You wanted to return to the wifebashingthief of a husband of yours It was but a hornets nest a far cry from Shingdi A paradise a dream which would never have materialised By far it could have been the most beautiful life Why could we not have tea at dawn with molasses Tahu you should have had that bastard beaten to death your husband Oh your husband lay under those blistering rubbles there There should be money to day Snatched someone elses land Wife bashing husband of yours murderer of your child You ate the best dinner tonight  Tahu should we take a walk along the Murma You saw him You saw your child Its face resurfaced on the water He called you Oh how hungry he must be by now You should go to your baby He loved the river Murma Dont hold me back now How you cried out Tahu Doctors pills Why could we not go back to city together By now we could have had a new life just you and me Me I am still pretty I could get married again have children in Shingdi Isnt that the place where our hearts were set Our homes That was the place where we should have been We could have been here if it had not been for that man who robbed you Your child Tahu Money So much Money you gave that bastard Everything you ever earned and this was how he treated you Should we have some tea on the bank of the Murma Your tiny baby was hungry Tahu you heard cries of hunger pain That bastard wanted you to give him all Tipped em out like beans out of bean pods How much was enough Enough was enough no more no less Shingdi was the place to be Tahu where ripe juicy mangoes grew in abundance Our life was like one short summers day Life Sweet Why would I die I didnt want to die I found work Told you so Work Divorce that bastard Oh here it comes again the baby cried straight out of the river Murma You saw it Tahu not just once but many times Pretty ladies in Grosnii were having tea and coffee in Coffee Place Expensive cars in the city Shingdi by far was the best Tahu Riders were perhaps waking up in Botany Bay Clocks struck eight o clock in the morning Oh my God my brother had just missed his appointment with his lawyer He must learn Kroll language fast Go to house of God Be a good boy Coping in the city was hard for me Soon I realized that this was not my place Pillage in the next suburb claimed lives of many Botany Bay was where riders lived off the coast of the Panuma Island Terrible how killing mugging bloody spillage were now all a part of our normal life Tahu What a joke peace had become Joke People have forgotten about peace They craved for peace No Then why were people leaving in droves if they did not crave peace Tahu Could you give me one good reason why Pontu and my brother could not have stayed here in the village Shingdi would have been the right place Not Botany Bay Madura Island what did it matter Well now Pontu woke up in his bed in Madura Island Someone was shot here tonight at the boot camp The media everybody anybody even the high counsellor himself could not help him Only 23 years old The boy died He died Guards killed him Unarmed No place to hide here Bad thing A bullet pierced through him blood thick red Young Pillage Plunder in the boot camp Madura Island boot camp was where Pontu was hiding under the bed now Afraid The rough seas Mundip Alleged murder of Miahs nephew to be precise now he hid under the bed in Madura Island boot camp Well now he was in the grips of fear with 40 other riders were detained hiding under the bed Brother in Botany Bay walked the street on his way to  house of God Tahu did you have plans What plans did you have if any at all How many times a day did you pray Five times or not even once Tahu but I am done Done I have nothing to lose Clothes were everywhere all over the floor He had better choose something to wear Black Suits were on the bed on the floor Tahu I told you I put them back in the wardrobe The master of the house could not decide what he wanted to wear tonight His daughter perished in a car crash in Londau He and his wife must put flowers on her grave The streets of Londau seemed all the same to them as they walked with flowers in their hands By Jove they must be lost among all those in black coats Cold Londau was cold Tahu That was what they told me then

“Poor Tom’s a-cold,” cried one character in Shakespeare’s King Lear, across Trafalgar Square past the double-decker red bus.

a bouquet of flowers Red Roses wilted at the altar of the daughters grave Leaves flew dry in the cold draft Soup was for dinner tonight in Madura Island boot camp Pontu sat down to dinner But he craved fish and green hot chillies and coriander Maa That was Pontus mother Tahu Pontu told his maa I dont eat that stuff no more I wished No maa No dont you cry again Something good will happen soon Okay I will try and make a life for meself here I will go to Botany Bay I must learn Kroll Learn it Go to Kroll classes Pontu said to the guards in Madura Island Run run away Run as far as you can run up and down the curve of the world Run his maa said but Tahu Pontu was exhausted by now He was back to the finish line where he had started No way out He could run no more There was no way out of this God forsaken place The Madura Island boot camp

Pontu continued to be trained here in the Madura Island boot camp waiting for order, waiting for Godo as it were. This order would release him. Uncertainty loomed large. He lied following the Transporter’s advice. They told him, he must suppress the murder allegation or else he would be in danger of being deported. He said he came because of crop failure every year in the Lost Winds. There was no food. The moment he said this, his case was knocked back. He should have spoken the truth. That would have been in his best interest. That was what causing the delay. Pontu was confused.

Surely, there was more to life than this. An afterlife was perhaps better than this tedium. There was a sense of freedom in that. Was God, watching over them? No, there was none; nothing; living creatures had been dumped into a hot cauldron, called the earth which was just like the boot camp itself and that was it. It ended here with no exits. In this infinite cycle of life, after death, one became dust or ash in an urn and that was the final destination. That ultimate infinity, was found in this metamorphosis. No sweet angels sang in heavens above for the hapless souls. What lies? The notions of heaven and hell, purgatory, sin and redemption were the biggest lies that there ever were.

I did not yet finish knitting my pink sweater in honeycomb pattern My husband would have loved it He would have worn it It would have been finished by now No it was still going Continued Tahu I wouldn’t know when this knitting would stop Down by the river Murma the raindrops descended in frightening density The river swelled too Far too much water in its belly The small boat struggled to keep up in the storm Tahu I went to the knitting store to buy loads of pink yarn Who made a mistake Did you just push me Tahu I laughed that day heavy with storm A man had looked at me and had given me a peck on the cheek Dont The Mohammadans the guardians of the Mahammadan faith would have sent a stern message Under the guava tree on the open bank of the Murma river we two would have dated Dream of Shingdi was a dream of a lifetime He had said No I dont like you I love you Your red bangles your pretty garb your little painted feet How I want to marry you You had said What at 15 I could have eloped I married too soon 16 Oh for Gods sake dont take this dream away Let me dream At the grave yard in Londau the rich girls mother wept for the loss The father wept too for the loss But little did they know that their girl was not faithful to her husband The one that had given her jewellery and expensive clothes I wept for your loss too This husband took all your stuff and beat you You woke up and walked Clothes in disarray It fell off your shoulders asked me for tea No amount of tea made you feel better this morning You looked around your shack in the slum Husband was away for now The cup of tea needed more sugar How was I going to cope with this grief Groggy I felt really groggy my eyes squinted and swollen as I looked around your shack A bed was made on the plank Pills on the tilted table with a broken leg The table was covered with an old dated yellow tinged newspaper Tea needed more sugar you put two pills in your mouth and swallowed them with the Tea Water gushed out from a broken pipe flooding the alley of the slum from an unknown source Sleep walked down the alley I needed to arrange my clothes What a beautiful winter morning You were 18 on your way to work packed a lunch of fish fries on rice On the other side of the Garment factory not far Friends were here Waited for you You walked up the road together and entered the building Five long hours in the factory sewing clothes for the big brand companies No more You languished Tahu Could you feed the baby Baby had gone to a much better place now You cried Oh Boundless Tears Not dried up yet It never would

                                                “O that this too too sullied flesh...”

Do you want to eat something I shall leave the city soon go away from this awful place Property prices were good in the city Well not anymore Not at all What was keeping you Tahu I was awakened this morning by a horrible scream I saw it It was not a dream No Tahu It was not Turn on the lights Please Let there be some light Lights More lights Oh this was such a dark place a dungeon By now Pontu went to bed Tahu thinking when he might be released from the boot camp in Madura Island The day went quite well Some progress was made Talks with officers here in their stark offices Across the table questions were shot that Pontu had no answers for How did he get here Why had he come What route did he take Pontu you needed to lie Pontu was sweating under that shirt He lied Telling a lie or misleading an officer was an offence Pontu could not hear them properly He lied He escaped because he was poor who rode the Red Sea for repeated droughts and pestilence Not quite though he wanted to live a life that he couldnt in the village You stupid fool why did you lie so Tell them the truth Tell them what really happened that your life fell apart No the Transporters in Mundip said this place was only for Hingyans not for us Lie Pontu Lie Dont lie lying will not get you anywhere But Pontu didnt want to be in Madura This was a creepy place Pontu cried Dont worry maa I should be able to send you money soon No need to pay off the Transporter He nearly got caught in Mundip but he lived in the forest for seven long days and night One day he came out and saw a man in police clothes He bribed him heavily Next he was sitting in this room with five other riders from God knows where Tahu he must be on that boat That boat Blue Moon meant freedom He thought he was free Tahu He felt he soared like a falcon Oh but it was not where he was supposed to be He was not quite there yet But the Transporters lied They took the money and they said they were on their way to freedom to Draviland But no It was hard much harder than he thought Tahu 16 months still in Boot camp Still at Madura Pontu sat in his room in the village He should have been employed by now Something He was engaged to something allright Only the gym and Kroll classes and military training It was such a beautiful bright summer morning Oriental Magpie Robins flew high up in the sky with not a shred of cloud anywhere Larks and Mynastogether huddled on that Banana leaves there Hugging a toy house with arms around it A boy came running from behind asking Pontu to flee Yes he must run away through the narrow passage by the Mohammadan house of God Miah must back off Someone else killed his nephew not Pontu That fateful night the nephew slept peacefully in his room A terrified shriek sliced through the night All night birds were awakened In shock By now neighbours were already in Miahs house

No, oh No, this has not been mete out with poetic justice, the chorus of Aeschylus would have cried out in horror.

What a terrible sin A sin was about to be occurred Murdered Butchered was Miahs nephew Very well then lets go after Pontu the child of innocence who slept away in another house One who knew nothing

Disease, death and suffering broke out in the village, flowing like the black river of        pestilence. Horror! What utter horror! Shocking!

Police were pitiless Tahu Pontus little house was full of people in uniform Pontu was gone Sheer pandemonium Pontus mother cried out Pael cried too So did the father Pael must still be quite unsettled although Pontu has reached safely to Madura Island Money had been paid Not so fast Pontu was apprehended by the police in the city for the murder Threats and violence in the boot camp was where

“Light thickens.”

fights broke out Pontu could not escape from this mandatory training He was able to bribe his way through so far Now he was wedged here for 16 months He could very well have a good life here eating drinking and sleeping Hingyans off the south seas themselves had been threatened all their lives in their Southern Kingdoms Perhaps on their way to the neighbouring country as well Those who could not access education or medical facilities in their own country of birth The three year old boy who was left behind when his parents fled to safety In fear and panic the little boy cried his lungs out Another man in that chaotic wave of human exodus picked him up Tahu he was not the brother that I thought he was although he was brought up as one Tahu he was well loved by father who found the earthling by the sea when he went fishing one day By Jove he was famished by then Well his chest was heaving from fear Yet once again father picked him up and brought him to our house where he grew up Mother and father gave him sustenance Jesuit priests sat with this adult orphan at Botany Bay house of God reading the great Jesuit Book of faith and educating him Nuns and priestesses have possibly given him shelter now that all his Mohammadan friends have deserted him for becoming a Jesuit Another life carved out for this boy in another world And in this other world woe was the nickname of todays people fleeing all kinds of persecution Luckily though when father found him alone Tahu weeping by the sea he was barely three years of age Under the street lamp at Botany Bay clandestine activities were registered by guards Working at a much lower rate here Exploitation No permits to work My brother told  father and mother Tahu People were picked up from the boat Blue Moon by guards Ended up in another world where they had not intended to be

Dob In. Dob them in, the chorus of Sophocles of Oedipus Rex might have said. I say, don’t dob them in. The crown is in the gutter, Let them pick it up. If they don’t someone else would. That is the only way the less fortunate survive. What would you have done?

Romeo Romeo oh where were you now Wailing would not bring my Romeo back My beloved husband Caught in an act of negligent secret dealing by the river Murma My Romeo was arrested by the regime Dont lie If you were caught lying would lead to terrible punishment was the repeated message from the authorities Tahu but Pontu said No no I no lie no lying never no I in no trouble before No Kroll Sorry Poor soul was thrown back in the boot camp for lying Permits cancelled for lying Terrible punishments loomed

   Stop. Did the British not lie in India? Did they not say that they had come with a trade       offer, when they had actually come to colonise? Lies in the newspeak of 1984      were the greatest lies of all. Free. Did this word ‘free’ have ambiguous meanings?
Did it mean freedom? No, it only meant if the dog was free of lice. Political freedom, a dirty word in Crimethink, meant something else. Why was this word even there then in newspeak dictionary? If it did not mean what ‘freedom’ was supposed to have meant. What deception! What treachery!

Who didnt lie Tahu You braided my hair in the slum It laid heavily on my backbone with a tail at the end You took out a white and a blue pill out of the jar and popped them into your mouth Then I poured meself a glass of water from the black shiny pitcher placed in the corner of the fungus smeared floor Pontu was happy At least he was alive within these walls of the boot camp for Pontu would have been in jail and hanged by now in his homeland What was the use of fretting He felt less Anxious and could see lights at the end of the tunnel Something new happened Pontu would be given a chance to reapply to the authorities to allow him to stay in Draviland Tahu when he clearly thought he would not He was denied Mission unsuccessful Terrified He hid He hid under that bed Frightful night Men being killed by guards in the Madura Island he did not think even for once that he would live but he lived guards got him out The waves on the ocean flowed in a direction he had not understood which pathway to take My thoughts flowed unhindered unimpeded The mind could go wherever Do whatever In a moment I was in the Lost Winds now eating fish Next I was on the street of the city puking into a storm water drain The newborn looked at Pontu and smiled again Curlews unfettered cries brought him back to the boot camp  His life was uncertain and so was his pathway If this was not how else could he have escaped Lucky that Pontu didnt die like the other rider Shot as he tried to save himself What an irony Riders came here to escape persecution but died in the hands of their saviour Oh what woeful fate His life Tahu There were always celebrations in Shingdi the land of plenty Generosity poured out of peoples hearts here Warmth and affection No affliction A big feast a great harvest Beggars sat in a row in front of a big house that belonged to another wealthy farmer Rich in every aspect this farmer fed the poor of Shingdi out of the generosity A big cow had been slaughtered last night Cooked in a huge big Cauldron with massive serves of rice caked on each tin plate and a glass of water on the side of the sitting mats on the floor Oh how good it tasted Gravy beef piping red hot on hot hot rice cakes. The poor of Shingdi celebrated life Prayed for the rich so they would go to heaven after death Eating was happiness The poor was believed to be much closer to God than the rich While the high counsellor deliberated over a decision Brother read the Jesuit Book of faith A ticket to freedom That was what he thought at least By the Mohammadan house of God you saw me walk A dirt path Suddenly a pair of strong hands held me tightly Oh A love smile appeared on those lips of mine These were the bygone days Spots of time spent with my Romeo Look what I bought he had said What did you buy I looked up with a glint in my eyes A pair of red bangles Was this what you were doing as I waited for you in our spot

The mind was a powerful apparatus, after all.

I wished to see him and there he was with a gift in his hand I didnt think I was going to see you today No Well here I was had been to the fair Oh lucky you You could have taken me along I could have but I wanted it to be a surprise What innocent days were those Tahu carefree and pure Pure it hurt so much oh those awful moments on the streets Under the lamp post in the city Those men took what I valued most I lost it to the rapists and everyone who had me at night on the streets I cried Tahu Needed to see mother too Soon This big house was stifling It smelled of death Sweet smell of death Diamond girl buried in Londau Lonesome in this big house Would the religious leaders in the village ever forgive me Would I not ever be forgiven My Romeo could have taken me away from this woe but he told me it was not meant to be over the phone And that this was a regrettable mistake Awful Awful He would have to own up to me one day He cut my life too short Rain was starting beautifully over the horizon A storm was coming in soon Tahu The dog cried in despair A stray dog He had no shelter Do you have shelter Where would I have gone in this rain if I had not been hired in this house Tahu This house It was a lucky house I think it was a safe house The lightening had just crossed the sky Reflection on the mirror told me I stood in front of it Showed a beautiful young girl of 16 already burdened with pressures of life Huge black rings around the eyes Eye bags Why were people afraid of death It came naturally to everyone Why did people feel sad when others died They would join them soon anyway Oh Look at that sporadic lightening speared through the starless sky of pitch darkness I am not afraid Not quite All those little boys came out of the Mohammadan house of God after the noon worship They went running around the house of God playing hide and seek They hid from one and another

In this great cycle of life and death, one needed to hide. Hide from authorities. They would never make anyone rich but entrap, ensnare, and enslave one in the codes of religion. Hide, hide away. Spiritualism was different. It meant freedom from codes and practices that Abstraction was infinite. How could we communicate with Him? This Almighty of Great Nothingness? How could we make Him change the course of action already set in motion? Parameters of these immutable laws were pre-set. These were but the forces of nature, the powers of the laws of physics operating in an infinite continuum of time eluding us of the very existence of God. There are no anti-matters yet that can break these parameters.

Good Karma always did not lead to good consequences, just as a good book always didn’t come in the lime light of rave reviews. Such were the paradoxes of this life.

You were pregnant again Tahu Not with a love child but out of necessity For this was the only way you said you could be cured of your affliction No This child was not to happen Born still in your womb the Confidante called Pontu at the boot camp How well was his sleep How well did he eat and cope with life here But it was not working maa Pontu said He knew maa was sick he knew he could not provide for her Pael told me She told me every conversation she ever had with Pontu He was in trouble again The high counsellor deliberated He was picked up by authorities from the seas and brought here for training Hopelessness and optimism could not go hand in hand the Confidante tried to cheer him up He complied by saying he was okay He followed all the rules Going to gym classes to learn Kroll language played Do Do Hah ate and slept well He told maa that he never told them that he had been on the receiving end of bad behaviour from other riders They too were languishing here for days on We were all in the same boat struggling with the unfavourable waves of our times Maa he said that he had only just asked a mate how he was doing In a twisted reply he told him how did he think he was doing His mother was dying Shingdi had produced bumper crops this summer Harvest was really good Orchards were laden with mellow fruits the air was infused with smells of pineapples, guavas and pomegranates Ah that heavenly taste of ripened mango Oozing juices dripping over the hands of the little boys licking them over with tongues hanging out Ah I wish Shingdi really existed

Bittersweet. Milton wrote the magnificent Paradise Lost. Would there not be another Milton or a Shakespeare or James Joyce for the world to stoop before? Their enduring contributions, there was hardly a poet who had been loved so much, or an artist of this age. Perhaps, it was the entire unromantic society of today that was at fault. One that had failed to produce poets like Auden who would write those unforgettable words, ‘the stars are not wanted now pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.’ Regrettably, moirae of human race was seamlessly knitted into bullets, bayonets and canons; plight and intrigue. Today’s world produced literature that only reflected this dismal set-up.

What circumstances created riders that they were shunned? Only that they were but a product of a corrupt society. These boys, the riders didn’t belong in the boot camp at Madura Island, but in a free world, a make belief world perhaps, called Shingdi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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