Introducing our new columnist

Introducing new talent

The International would like to introduce our latest columnist and winner of two Young Muslim Writers Awards 2015 for Prose Short Stories and Poetry; Safeerah Mughal.


  • By Safeerah Mughal

The Unfinished Painting

The soft pillows offered little comfort as Pari sat on the cool roof. Or maybe it did. She couldn’t tell. She sipped the sparkling rose’ and welcomed the spreading calm as it coursed through her. The sky looked happy, you could see the faint blush that had crept up on the Moon’s cheeks. An abandoned palette and some brushes sat by her side, her only companions for the night. So nestled against the pillows and tiles and the stars, she set about painting in a kiss and stolen whispers snatched from the Wind. Soon a quiet, lulling melody filled the sky, as she started talking to the lovers above her, telling them about a young boy with eyes like snowfall and hair the color of the ocean at night. Pari would sit with her paints and wait patiently for him to come and they would ride the roofs during the night.

They were dining with the stars when shadows descended upon them. Brandishing ornate jeweled daggers, in an enchanting movement. Arash quickly pushed Pari behind him and murmured vain attempts at reassurance. The shadowy figures roared with laughter while advancing, then pounced. There was a quick flash of silver and sing of steel in the humid air and then silence. It hung heavy and accompanied the soft thumps of fists meeting flesh as bodies were roughly dragged away. The sky was left to look on an empty roof and splatters of blood that cruelly mimicked Pari’s own art.

Arash leaned against the cold wall, with tears like snowflakes sliding down his face.  His heart ached and he longed for the familiar brush of Pari painting his pain away as she had done for all these years. She was the one, who would sit silently beside him and grasp his hand when he had shouted unforgivable things at her, she rekindled his dying flame. There were so many unsaid words between them, so many memories they were yet to make…

He had let her down.

Arash numbly wiped his tears at the sound of footsteps, it was the tall mercenary. He only smiled, his black eyes like glittering asps.
Arash’s blood froze as the mercenary neared.  He slowly drew his dagger, the rubies embedded in the hilt glinting dangerously, silver flashed before him… the chain fell to the floor.  Arash hoped he couldn’t see the redness of his eyes or notice his flushed cheeks, then his father clasped him on the back;
“Well done my boy, well done.” he sung in a voice full of admiration and pride. He pressed his thumb to his son’s eye and smiled at the teardrop that fell.
“Quite the actor…” and then left his son standing there, trembling.
Arash stared blankly at the banquet before him, thrown in his honor. The double doors opened and the guards were dragging Pari, Arash swore turning to his father, but he only laughed. Pari was thrown at his feet and silent tears were sliding down her face. Her shoulders were slumped and she looked bruised by Death’s hands. He silently begged her to look up, praying that she would see beneath his façade.

Pari, exhausted, lifted her head one last time, only to meet the gaze of a boy she thought she had lost. This couldn’t be real, she had to be dreaming.

The crowd started stomping its feet and roared with vicious strength. Arash silently begged her to understand, he didn’t know this was going to happen, his father promised that Pari wouldn’t be hurt; his head became a quagmire. His father threw the dagger, fast as the asp engraved onto his skin, he caught it just in time.
“Now, my son will deliver reckoning, go Arash and bring me her head” he crooned. Arash writhed as if he were buried under an ocean, his heart faltered, missing a beat. His brain sluggishly willed him to turn the dagger towards his pitiless father, but his actions betrayed him. He started walking towards her, and the crowd roared louder.

Arash felt his soul slip away from him in loathing, felt his heart frantically pleading against his ribcage, but he had to; if he didn’t, there were many here who would gladly do it and hurt her in ways unimaginable. He had to, he had to, didn’t she understand? He knew with absolute certainty that, this was all a game to his father and it would never end…
Tears ran freely now, and sobs racked his body, but his hand was steady as he drew the dagger.

Pari had seas streaming down her face, a mask of pain and disbelief, she stared at the boy with hair the color of the ocean at night and met his gaze, there was a silent snowfall in his eyes that fell over the grave of their time together.
She stared into his eyes for the final time and Arash felt himself fracture, as he hugged her close, and plunged the blade into soft flesh driving it up to her heart.

They fell together.

Their tears and blood mingling, and they stayed like that, until their breath left them- a broken heap of bodies on the floor.
The sky and moon came, weeping, painting in the blood a tale of love and friendship and death.
A palette of memories, fleeting on the frozen ice of their time together, golden hues that spoke of them painting the sky and moon, of Pari sneaking behind Arash- smudging paint over his face, of Arash gazing in awe as Pari played a stunning melody on the canvas, lying together mapping roads to the stars, whispering of the future, racing through the streets, licking sticky fingers, and swinging from the old willow tree, jumping into the lake at night with the fireflies…

Of the ballad of their time together that would be sung with deep gravelly voices and liquor filled nostrils for the ages to come.