Oct 11, 2011

Jack And The Beanstalk

By Asma Afzal

Jack crouches in the oven and looks through a tiny crack at the action going on in the kitchen. It is a routine he is accustomed to, one he has observed enough in the past few weeks to know by heart. His heart beats fast and his palms are sweaty. Beads of sweat make their way down his forehead. He is ready.

He was seven years old and his mother was tucking him in at night. He can, even today, recall the safety he felt, and the contentment in his family of two. It was then that she first told him the story of his father. She sat by his bedside, her face only illuminated by the soft, muted light of the candle. She told him the story of a murder, a murder performed in cold blood. The murder of her husband, his father, at the hands of a giant from another world. A world she had once belonged to, but was exiled from. She talked in low, bitter tones; passing on the hatred she had nursed for so long on to the unsuspecting heart of an innocent seven year old.
It is one of the most vivid memories he possesses.

"Fee fi fo fum! I smell the blood of an English man!
Be he alive or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread!" , exclaims a loud, terrible voice.
Jack rolls his eyes. He is used to this by now. The giant is mentally retarded. The once feared Stephan Hayden has lost the proper functioning of his brain to some terrible disease.

Jack wonders why that does not affect him. How far gone am I, he thinks to himself, that the suffering this man has already gone through is not enough to quench my blood lust?

As he crouches there in that position, he wonders if his mother is to blame for all of it. Would he be there had she not convinced him that this world existed? Would he be there had his heart not been made ice cold with hatred at the tender age of 7?

It was his eighteenth birthday as he walked to the market with the cow. It was their last valuable possession, and times had been difficult. It was along that road that he met a man, a man who promised him magic seeds in exchange for the cow. Jack knew, instinctively, that these were the seeds which would lead him to his destiny. He made the exchange. That was the beginning.

"There now, there!", the wife says reassuringly. "There's no one there. Hush, and eat your food." She sets a plate in front of the giant.

As Jack watches this exchange, he takes a minute to reflect on his accomplishments. The first time he came here, his offence was simple; thievery. He stole money from the house's safe. It wasn't much, but there had been something satisfying in taking away his enemy's possessions from right under his nose.

The second one, the one he perhaps relished the most, was the betrayal he dealt the giant's daughter. He acted like a trusting friend, and earned her confidence. Despite his small size, despite the fact that he was obviously not from her world, she treated him like an equal, a friend. And now he was about to use all of that against her.

It wasn't always easy, he thinks to himself now, to listen to the ramblings of sixteen year old girl. It required patience, but I have succeeded, haven't I?

They were in her room. She was crying as she told him about her father's disease. She talked about how hard it was to take care of him; the medicines, the injections and the amount of patience needed for it. She detailed how painful it was, while Jack made mental notes; separating the information that might come in handy from that which was useless. It was during one of those sessions that Jack discovered how he would perform his final act; the step to make his enemy meet his end.

Ironic, Jack reflects clinically. That it is his daughter who shows me how to end him; his own flesh and blood who gives me enough information on how I can end her own father's life. I would never have understood it without her.

For it has to be done, Jack acknowledges. There is nothing else, no other deed he can commit, which will satisfy the raging beast within him. The giant's family must suffer like he and his mother suffered. A life for a life.
Yes, there is no other way, he tells himself.

It is time. As the wife exits the kitchen, Jack leaves the safety of the oven to make his move. He climbs up the side, and hurries to the bottle of medicine sitting on the counter, next to the teacup. He is not worried about the giant seeing him; he knows it will not happen. The giant has problems of his own.

His heart beats fast and his body is hyped with the adrenaline that pumps through his veins as he adds the powdered medicine to the cup. The wife will not check, she never does when she adds the tea for her husband. Stupid, Jack thinks smugly, remorselessly. Careless.

It is so simple. So painfully simple; over dosage. If given additional medicine to his already high dosage, the giant will fall into a deep a deep and endless slumber. One from which it is impossible to return.

Jack doesn't leave yet. He continues to watch, waiting in the safety of the oven. He will watch till the absolute end. He will experience the satisfaction, the sense of victory that he has so dearly longed for. He has finally put an end to the man who took his father's life.


Zubair Bashir said...

i wrote Jack and the Beanstalk as well. When compared there is such a stark contrast.
Really like the part of adding the fact that the giant is suffering from a mental illness. Alzheimer maybe?

Areeba Jibril said...

It's awesome :)

Reja Younis said...

I just read this again and wow. I still love it :) The flashbacks are so cool.

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