Ibn ḏahabiyy šams
Figured I'd go ahead and add more explicit trigger warnings to this, as it is a heavy topic and just saying 'mature themes', I feel, doesn't do it proper justice. I don't know if the "Sexual Content" tag applies here as nothing sexual is described in any sort of explicit sense, but I added it just to be safe.
Trigger Warning: Anxiety/Panic Attack; PTSD; Sexual Assault/Rape Trauma mentioned; Domestic Abuse
As the hospital doors slid open Masahir reflexively held her hand up, shielding her eyes from the bright sunlight. With a gentle tug Ra pulled her along, murmuring that soon they’d be home and she could relax. It was only when her mom abruptly stopped with a sharp, hissing gasp that Masa dropped her hand from her face.
Immediately her eyes smarted, causing her to squint and blink the blurry tears away, “Mom what’s-” her voice faltered as she adjusted to the light, greens and blues coming into focus as trees and broad leafed plants. The wind from a grey churning sea whipped her dark hair into a messy ruffle as she gaped, wide-eyed, at the alien landscape.
This was not Nippur.
~ * * * ~
She’d made her mom double and triple check every nook and cranny of the hotel room before allowing her to leave. The loneliness ate away at her though, and as strong as she tried to be she paced. She found herself wandering around the room anxiously, trying to find something, anything, to busy herself with, to take her mind off of the constant whining keen.
Eventually she settled on distracting herself with makeup. It had always consumed her before, hours spent in front of the vanity readying her appearance for the public eye. It was soothing and quiet- fun, even, to play with the brushes and shades, painting her face up to look beautiful. It was sure to calm her down at least a little bit.
She sat on the lid of the toilet, pulling a flat iron over her wind blown hair while she waited for her mascara and sharp black eyeliner to finish drying. Anything to get rid of the frizz the humid air caused would gain her praises at this point. She wasn’t used to dealing with salty ocean air, it’d made her nose scrunch up. While she had found the gulls cute at first, soon she was hurling foreign insults at the arrogant birds for snatching at her bag of crisps.
This place was so weird. She’d never seen so much green and blue stacked into a single place. Apparently this entire city was perched precariously atop a floating island. The residents didn’t seem to like talking about the churning ocean beneath their feet, either, it seemed. They sneered and batted their hands as if swatting even the notion of it out of the air, asking why they’d ever need anything from that place when their island was the most advanced area of all.
In the neighboring room a TV clicked on, the mumble of voices and sounds faint through the walls. If she listened closely enough she could catch little snippets that sounded like lines from a daytime soap opera. It must’ve been nearing a seasonal finale, as the ambiance grew with overblown, dramatic lines on betrayal and romance lost. She gave a soft snort at the melodrama and plucked her hairspray off the counter, spritzing it over her mane just the same as another other day spent getting done up. This time was different, however.
Her throat tightened up and her mouth went dry as the alcoholic scent wafted through the air. Her stomach twisted in on itself and took her breath away. In nothing more than an instant she was pulled back into that dreadful night again.
Deep red shadows stretched back across the room, pinned into strange shapes by the ring of lights crowning the vanity mirror. The handle of her dressing room door clicked shut- piercing and sharp, the snap of the lock sliding into place fell on her senses like a guillotine.
Plit- plit- plit- plit-
Streaks of black mascara swirled around the sink drain. She gripped the edge of the sink until her knuckles turned white. Ragged sooty lines crawled their way down her discolored skin, feeding the dark little vortex of the drain.
Plit- plit- plit-
Her gown peeled off her shoulders, sliding down her form like a layer of slick wet skin. She fought to push it over her hips.
She sucked a breath in sharply.
A sand colored, furry hand reached around and gripped her throat, his words fanned across her neck and slithered into her ear like a poison. Her legs were still caught in the snare of her dress when he forced her down.
She could still feel his hands clasped around her throat, crushing her windpipe. Furiously she dug at her nails, trying to get his fur and skin out from under them, and when that failed the diva raked at her neck and arms. She crawled out from her skin and wanted to rip it all off. Everywhere he touched was filthee, degraded, unpure- she couldn’t bare the weight of the sensation.
Her heart raced, slamming against her ribs, it felt like it was climbing into her throat. As she threw her head back she caught a glimpse of her face in the mirror- hideous and stained by his affections, his imperfections reflected back onto her, into her, like a wicked cancer.
He pulled her apart at the seams and smashed her back together out of order. He tore at the fabric of her being and ripped her security away like a thug. He poured his disgust into her and smothered her cries, smashing glass perfume bottles across her face to silence her. Like a brute he twisted her arms behind her and slammed her into the wall.
She would like it, he promised as black spots danced across her vision, she just had to stop fighting. It was her fault for not listening to his venomous desires. After all, in his arrogance he knew it was his right to do this to her. They could’ve been happy together if she’d stayed with him, she was horrible for leaving him over his abuses. Couldn’t she just see that he cared? He screamed at her swollen purple face, demanding to know why she didn’t love him like he loved her as blood ran from her busted lip.
She wilted, sinking to the floor, her petals broken, beaten and bruised. Within her he had planted a twisted seed that sprung sour into the bitter fruits of fear. Her heart would mend in time, but it would mend crooked and scabbed. Her soul was bound, warped from the abuses he thrust upon her and stitched back together with haphazard and shambling well-wishing.
She pulled her bare knees up against her chest and curled into a ball on the floor of the shower stall, wrapping her arms around herself. It was a hollow comfort as even here, in this strange new world, she gasped for breath.
The brunette let out a raspy, quiet laugh as she turned the water on as high and hot as possible. It didn’t matter. None of it mattered. She let the shower soak her, but it didn’t matter; how hard she scrubbed at herself would make no difference either. Steam clouded the opaque glass door and the overhead stream bordered on scalding her, yet she couldn’t bring herself to notice. In vain she wrenched the shower knobs, it wasn’t hot enough. It would never be hot enough to wash herself clean of his scent, it lingered everywhere on her, straight down to her very bones.
She pushed her face into the water as a long lamenting wail ripped out of her throat, unrestrained and wild. Racking sobs cut her howling pain into pieces, draining the breath from her until she was left gasping. Her entire body shivered despite the burning water, and she folded in on herself further, twining her fingers through her matted wet hair as she rocked back and forth.
Maybe if she cried for long enough the pain would pour from her mouth and eyes, maybe it would sink out of her core from between her legs. Maybe, maybe if she screamed for just long enough it would crawl out of her and she could forget everything. Perhaps the blood washing off her arms from wickedly desperate claw marks could mean something if the agony wasn’t limitless.
Her mind raced, clocking twelve thousand miles per minute. She felt disgusted and repulsed, violated and broken beyond repair. Could her life ever be normal again after he chewed her up and spat her out? Would the bruises ever really fade? She was certain that others would look at her and know and see how pathetic and weak she really was. They would hate her for it, they would pity her and mock and leer when her back was turned. Did you see that woman in the store today? How miserable, right? Whoa, what happened to her last night? Given up without a fight? Maybe she shouldn’t have pushed his buttons. In time she’ll learn to fall into place, like a good girl. Guess he just had a temper. Boys hit girls because they like them, it means he likes you.
Imaginary faces curled into jester grins, the dirge bells pitch shifted into their coy questions and concerns. Their pity was a disease, it wrapped itself around her and turned her to a leper. Forever she’d carry the bandages, shuffling towards a dull, liar’s light.
The bathroom door swung open and the shower door was slammed to the side. A furry little set of hands reached out and gripped the girl’s shoulders firmly.
“DON’T TOUCH ME!!”
For the first time in her entire life, Masahir screamed at her mother; it was an unbridled and feral sound that tore out of her as she jerked away from the contact and threw herself back to the wall. Her face was twisted, her eyes wide and dazed- locked on something far away.
Absolutely stunned by her reaction, Ra staggered backwards and caught herself against the counter, just a moment more and she would’ve been struck across the face with a fist. In an instant the surprise was gone, replaced by a violent snarl, “child! Masahir, you-!! You will listen to Ra’tima-dro!”
Khajiiti woman reached in and cut the shower off, her movements sharp and aggressive as she wrestled the girl from the shower and bundled her up in towels and robes. “This girl will listen to her mother, she will listen, and she will know well. That furless bastard will never reach you here- Masahir stop! Fighting! Uugh!”
She got her daughter to shakily stumble from the shower to the floor of the bathroom, and set to drying her off as best she could. As the small feline gave deep breathes, she calmed down a bit and began to hum softly. It was by no means a ballad of any sort, but her scratchy cooing filled the room with a gentle lullaby, sang in the distant language of her own homeland. It rose and fell with the rust of grief and ached from the core of her being.
Tears beaded at the edges of her icey blue eyes, she tried to blink them away but they fell to the towel across her lap as if to spite her attempt at staying strong. She twisted the cloth in her hands and sniffled softly, her throat burned but she couldn’t tell if it was from the tears or the fact that she hadn’t sang in years.
Her melody, in the depths of its despair, started to change- a glimmer of hope as the notes and words from a familiar song melded into it and carried it upwards. Masa wasn’t sure at first, everything still felt heavy and cloudy, her body tense and tired... but... She was certain she recognized it. The memories felt so far away, like someone else entirely had experienced them, all that time ago in the Nippurian ruins.
Weakly she lifted her head and gazed at her mom, the older woman’s dark lips were pulled thin and crinkled down at the edges. The song came to an end with a single lingering, strained note and with a pained whisper Ra spoke.
“This one... is sorry she could not protect you.” She grimaced, unable to met her daughter’s dark eyes. No matter how much time passed, she would still be that scrawny little orphan girl to her. She pinched her eyes shut, her sinuses stung with the threat of more tears if she wasn’t careful in her composure.
Her jaw clenched and unclenched several times before she found her ability to talk once more. “This one... Ra’tima-dro made sure to take care of that snake, she promises that he will not hurt you anymore.” Her chest heaved with a shuddering exhale.
Her blue eyes shot open as Masahir took her hand and held it softly, stroking the back of it with her thumb. Masa’s mouth pulled into a tiny, worn smile and the silence lingered for a moment before she began.
“I love you Mom.” Her voice was faint and fragile, it teetered on the brink of agony and resolve. The grey feline sighed, her shoulders slumping a bit as she finally relaxed.
“Come,” Ra beckoned as she stood, offering her daughter a hand, “you need your rest. Let your mother fix you something warm and sweet, no?”