The last strike

Short story

 

The executioner Masroor was no longer pleased with what he has committed; the red color of blood began to deprive him of his sleep. The pleading looks he saw in the eyes of the women he killed began to haunt him and dig deep groves in the memory of his bloodied nights. He became ill-tempered, and sleep has departed him forever. Finally he made ​​his decision. He will disobey the king and resign from his job to climb the walls of the tale, declaring his revolt against its rule.  Thus he went away without a bag of provisions, armed with wrath against the role he was destined to play, to break the determinism of the end and head back towards the beginning of the tale.

Only the beginning could give him another choice to change the course of his life. He May chose to become a sailor who charms the daughter of the king of the seas, or a shepherd, who makes lilies dance to the music of his flute, or a fisherman who finds a magical ring insind the belly of a fish. He found nothing in his long career as an executioner throughout the book of the “One Thousand and One Nights” but blood and hatred and the smell of death and the glances of contempt that told him that the very bread he ate was soaked with blood. Well, maybe all of those who hated him were right. He has grown up in the house of the king, where he was taught by his father, the senior executioner, how to cut throats from an early age, beginning with that pigeon he loved so much as a little boy. But what virtue can be attributed to an executioner whose sole existence depends on killing people to satisfy the whims of a crazy monarch? Maybe he should become a doctor to atone for the sins he committed being the performing hand of death and begin saving lives.

Climbing the lines one by one, on his way to the beginning of the tale, he stumbled on an exclamation mark that almost had him killed. At this moment, when he was about to lose his life and move to the other side, where man leaves his body and stand on the balcony of heavens with a disoriented mind, he suddenly realized the value of living. He understood that lives of the women he killed for no reason but being beautiful were more valuable than the whims of his king; how could the freaky whims of a touchy king be hardly as valuable as the precious lives of all those women, beautiful or not?

After days of walking alone, Masroor got tired and decided to sleep a siesta in a nearby inn. But the angry innkeeper attacked him as soon as he saw him. The beautiful daughter of the innkeeper happened to be one of the king’s brides, who had been killed by Msroor, the executioner.

The executioner trembled in fear for the first time in his life. No wonder he felt scared as it was the first time he swabbed places with his victims. The angry innkeeper drew out a knife that shone with a sharp glint on the walls of the inn. Masroor, who had left his gilded sword behind to avoid being accused of stealing it and ran away to escape the wrath of the king for disobeying orders, was now standing unarmed in front of the angry innkeeper. At length, he found himself with no choice but to escape from the inn and the angry innkeeper.

In order to avoid such clumsy and dangerous situations, Masroor decided to move around in disguise. He shaved off his black beard, trimmed his mustache and put on smart clothes, and thus changed his appearance completely. He looked completely different than before, to the extent that he gasped in disbelief at his reflection in the mirror, thinking himself to be someone else he almost wanted to smack on the face. He smiled to himself as he realized that the man smiling back at him in the mirror was nobody but Masroor himself. But he was not completely the same old Masroor the executioner, as this new person, who has resigned from his old profession as the king’s private executioner, shared a mole on the cheek with the old Masroor.

Masroor strongly denied – even to himself –  that he had fallen in love with Scheherazade. She was very much unlike the other brides whom he had killed under orders from the king. One day, he happened to be listening to her relating one of her first tales to the king and he felt the vibrations of her soft voice touch the fabric of his soul. The tones of her voice were going up and down at the difficult turns of the tale, smooth and soft when she talked about love, moaning and sad at partings and deaths. The voice of Scheherazade occupied him and he could not bear with the idea that one day he must raise his sword to cut off the head of his beloved when the king no longer needed her. How could he dare to look at those lovely features that were deeply imprinted on his amorous memory that made him dreaming constantly of her being with him on the shores of an impossible dream?

Anyway, though he was an executioner, deep down he was nothing but a man like any other man, with a heart that could fall in love, though its owner was an slayer who was supposed to be a callous personality with dry features. He did not know he had a loving heart until Scheherazade became the king Sharayar’s wife and began telling him her first tales. When she started talking about love to the king, something in Masroor’s chest woke up and he realized that he had a heart, and that this heart had to impose its will on him whether he liked it or not. From that day on, Masroor was keen on eavesdropping on the tales Scheherazade told to her husband, the king Shahrayar. Nobody knew or cared about the snooping of Masroor, who was not concerned about the tales themselves, but about the one who told the tales, about her voice that used to carry him on the wings of a cloud to a paradise he never believed existed before. He began asking himself: “If love was this sweet and beautiful, why on earth my lord would insist on killing it?” However, he never found a satisfactory answer to his question.

When Scheherazade approached the end of the thousandth night Masroor felt very afraid. What if his lord told him to kill her? How can he raise the sword and bring it swiftly down on her soft neck? How can he kill his sweetheart? How can he give death to the one who gave him life and feelings he never believed in before, because he used to believe himself to be some sort of a senseless creature with no feelings at all.

Masroor continued walking along the lines of the tales, and when he encountered a question mark he did not know how to turn around it, therefore he was delayed for many days. Then he was messed up with by a full stop and felt completely exhausted. The comma, however, was more lenient with him and showed him the right way to carry on his quest for the beginning of the tale. The comma knew about his story, and wished him a happy ending worthy of his loving heart, believing that one has the right to make mistakes, and also the right to correct them. The comma was telling the other punctuation marks: if we banish every wrongdoer and cast him away and out of the lines of the tale, the text will lose its coherence and its meaning, the beautiful details will be gone, the full stop and the comma will be useless and probably only exclamation and question marks will remain operational.

When Masroor has finally arrived at the beginning of the tale, he realized that his master was only a man in pain because of infidelity. When he tried to erase that ugly incident from the memory of the king, he was stopped by the tale that prevented him from tampering with her text, accusing him of harassment. Masroor retreated hastily, fearing that another executioner would be called in to behead him. Who could stand in the face of the tale that is more cunning than all women?

Masroor apologized to the tale, and gently asked her to change his role in the story. He told her he was unable to kill Scheherazade because he was in love with her but wanted her to live happily with her husband. He told her that he personally was unable to have Scheherezade, because he was nothing but a runaway executioner who decided to give up his job. Deep inside himself, Masroor knew that Scheherazade might have fallen in love with the king from the first night of their marriage. However, what he was concerned with was the idea that the king might eventually kill her, as he did with the other brides, because he was afraid of infidelity and would never bear with another betrayal and might kill all the women of the city even the newborns. In any case, one cannot predict what is going on inside the mind of a despotic ruler with absolute power and no one to stand up against.

The tale understood Masroor’s argument and felt sorry for him. She decided to give him another chance to walk around freely throughout the realm of the story, provided that he should keep his mouth shut and not interfere with the course of events he might find himself entangled with, until a suitable job was found for him.

Masroor was pleased with this opportunity, and decided to use it the best way he could. He should consider all options, and choose what suits him best and as he was walking in the market, thinking about what to do, he heard Scheherazade calling for help. He run towards the direction where the screams were coming from and found Scheherazade was being dragged from her hair by another executioner, who was wielding the same gilded sword Masroor had left behind when he escaped. The new executioner was trying to behead Scheherazade. Masroor rushed to rescue his beloved from an imminent execution and taking the sword from the new executioner he killed him with it and saved the poor queen from a certain death. Scheherazade quickly rose to her feet, and hid herself behind the robe of her savior, not knowing he was the former runaway executioner who was supposed to kill her in the end. Seeing this, the tale chuckled loudly and said: “See, Masroor, you are nothing but an executioner who knows nothing but beheading”

 “No, Madame, I can do something else other than beheading. Can’t you see that I’ve just saved dear Scheherazade from a certain death and brought her back her freedom? You have no other executioners left up your sleeve after I have done in your last one… now you have to sort out things in the coming nights without killing. How are you going to do that, madam?” The tale lowered her head, unable to give an answer to Masroor’s questions. Meanwhile Scheherazade was still holding the robes of her savior, feeling very happy she found at last her noble knight.

 

 

By: Lubna Yasin

Translated by: The translation department of Nanar