Previously on Demonic Vows: Jawad, a Mottaqīn trainee, was out on an undertaking to exterminate a demon of hopelessness with his sister, Warisa, and a young schoolmate, Taban, when he impulsively ran after the Whisperer, in hopes of learning more about his dead mother. The Whisperer invited him for answers in the dead of the night and, abandoning all he knew was right, he decided to go and meet the Devil’s offspring…
Warisa couldn’t sleep.
And it wasn’t just today either. No. For as long as she remembered, the littlest of things would wake her up. Sometimes, it was a sleeping girl’s cough. Sometimes, she’d hear a couple down the street from her dorm window and toss and turn for ages until sleep would claim her again.
Tonight, it was thirst.
Her throat felt parched. Sleepily, she tossed the covers aside and reached for her bedside table. There was only a little of water in the glass jar, which she emptied in her tiny glass and gulped down.
It barely did anything to quench her thirst.
Sighing, she turned over in her bed. All around her, her dormmates were fast asleep, snoring softly.
Warisa tried to get back to sleep for a whole ten minutes before she realized that it’s not going to happen. Frustrated, she got up from her bed, yawning. Her white chador hung on the chador stand. Roughly wrapping a shawl around her head, she put it on and with the jug in one hand, left the dorms.
The whole academy was fast asleep, all the lights turned off and the curtains peeled back from the windows to let the glow of the moon illuminate the hallways. Warisa tiptoed down the halls, the stairs and into the extra kitchen. The main kitchen would be locked this deep in the night.
To her surprise, a dim yellow bulb was alight. On the table sat a boy, small and bony, with his tiny fingers wrapped around what appeared to be a cheeseburger. There was mustard all over his plump lips, and his wide, innocent eyes blinked when he saw Warisa.
“Taban?” Warisa whispered. “What are you doing?”
Taban hastily placed the burger on the table and attempted to clear the mustard with the back of his hand, only succeeding in spreading it further. “I was just…um, I needed…”
Warisa shook her head. “No, I mean – it’s alright. I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
He smiled sheepishly and picked up his burger again.
Yawning, Warisa reached for a spare cup on the cutlery rack and filled it up with clean water from the tap, then drank deeply. It was satisfying. She whispered a quick salaam to Imam Hussain (pbuh) and filled up the rest of the jug.
“You’re nice, you know.” Taban said suddenly. “I mean, you didn’t taunt me for eating in the middle of the night.”
Warisa chuckled. “Of course not. That’d be stupid and hurtful.”
“Your brother did, though.”
She paused. With a quick flick, she turned off the tap and faced Taban with a frown. “What do you mean?”
Taban looked shocked. “No, I mean, I didn’t mean to complain, it just blurted-“
“No, Taban, listen, Jawad said something to you? Like, right now?”
He nodded. “Um, yes. Minutes before you came in. Not somehing too harsh or anything, he just kind of called me a kid again,” He added hastily.
Warisa frowned deeper. Dread slithered in, but she tried to hold it at bay. “You don’t mean to say he was awake, do you?” She pronounced each word slowly, with pressure, as if that would make Taban say what she wanted to hear.
Taban looked a bit frightened. “H-He kind of was, actually.”
Warisa released a shaky breath. “Tell me he was in his pajamas. Tell me he was sleepy, he just came for water or something.”
Taban blinked. “No…”
“Ilaahi,” She gasped, throwing her hands up in frustration. “Taban. You still don’t understand, do you?” Warisa wanted to weep. “It’s after midnight. He’s gone to the Whisperer.”
The burger fell from his hands and onto the table with a depressing plop. He stood up immediately, face white, eyes wide. “I’ll…I’ll go check in the dormitories.”
She nodded. “Please.”
Warisa paced the small space of kitchen, a thousand thoughts warring in her head. Jawad wouldn’t lie to her, would he? He hadn’t in ages. She couldn’t remember the last time he did something she told him not to, or tried to cheat her. But she also remembered how impulsive and thoughtless he gets whenever the topic of Ma comes up. She remembered trying to soothe him for the loss for years after she was gone. She remembered him crying in the nights, and in the mornings, acting like everything was alright and he doesn’t have a care in the world.
Her suspicions got confirmed as Taban came back huffing with the news. “His bed’s empty. He’s gone.”
Point of View: Warisa
The cool, crisp night air pinched my cheeks as I walked ahead, teeth grinded and hands fisted. I had exchanged my white chador for a darker one, and it flapped freely in the heavy wind. The few trees lodged in the courtyards of the brick houses rustled wildly, and faraway, a dog gave a slow, moaning bark.
I tried to think of how many rules exactly I was breaking by being on the streets past midnight. A minor is not to be out after the curfew of eleven o’clock, unless on an undertaking. Rule one, broken. A minor is not to be out unsupervised after eleven o’clock if on an undertaking. Rule two, broken too. A minor, under any circumstances, is not to leave the institute perimeters after Maghrib without explicit permission from his or her Instructor. Rule three, broken without the slightest sound of crack produced.
At least Taban is safe, I tried to console myself, although I did ask him to lie.
Hopefully, it won’t come to that.
I reached the small park, once full of life, now abandoned and dark. The yellow street lights, around which swarms of moths hovered, barely kept the dark shadows of the high trees at bay. In such a deserted place, two figures were not hard to find.
They stood next to the children’s play area. The Whisperer, although still clad in his posh fineries, seemed several feet taller, towering over Jawad who stood small but firm, hands clenched at his sides. I shivered when I saw that he was wearing a full fighting gear.
Any person, whether minor or not, is not allowed to use the weapons or gear belonging to the academy when not on an assigned undertaking. Rule four, five and six, broken.
Before they could see her, she concealed herself behind a rather large willow tree, hiding in its shadows. For a minute, she could hear nothing but her own heartbeats and breathing, but then she heard the metallic clang as Jawad unsheathed a dagger.
The Whisperer’s laugh boomed in the air. “You’re forgetting, human. I am only semi-physical. You can see me because I wish for you to, or else you’d have been thrashing in the darkness like the pathetic clay-creature you are.”
And then, surprisingly, his face fell. “Ah, I apologize. And I wanted you to know that I truly am sorry for your loss.” His voice was soothing and itching at the same time, and I fought not to let it affect me. I could feel it trying to get in my brain and muddle my thoughts. I could just pray that Jawad would be more careful.
“You do not deserve this – and neither did you mother. To die in such a loveless condition…” He sighed, a sound full of pain. “A shame your kind can’t offer the bounties mine can.”
“And what would that be?” Jawad’s voice was firm, unaffected. I breathed in relief.
“Would you not like to live deliciously? With love? Comfort? The creamiest butter at your disposal, the finest of silk adorning you.” His voice had a musical quality in it, melodious and desirable. I felt wanting something, suddenly, a need, an overwhelming desire– “Astaghfirullah,” I brushed it away inwardly.
“Don’t fight it, boy. You do desire. To live freely, to have all that your mother was obtaining before your kind slaughtered her mercilessly. It is you. You can’t fight with your own self.”
Jawad’s voice was hoarse. “I will get all I desire and better in the afterlife.”
The Whisperer broke into a laugh, bending over. “Ah, let’s see where that sort of thinking takes you.” He wiped his eyes.
A long pause. Neither the Whisperer said anything, nor Jawad. All the three of us could hear what was the soft rustle of the leaves above and the wind. Just when I prepared myself to step out, Jawad spoke.
His voice was small, like a child’s, and wet. “Tell me about my mother.”
A flash of hurt attacked my heart. Is that my own brother? The one whom I keep scolding for being too cocky, too self-assured? Who roams on the planet as if he owns it? Tears burned in my eyes, but I force-blinked them back.
He could’ve told me he was suffering. He could have asked.
Don’t blame him, a voice chastised me. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s yours. You can order him around, but not notice when he’s hurting?
“Very well, I shall. Your mother… such a nice woman. Her only fault was to be born at the wrong place, among the wrong people, who only wanted to exploit her skills in the name of ‘right’. Tell me, boy. What is right?”
Jawad remained silent. He knows the answer, I thought. He had gone over it a thousand times. Among all the trainees of the academy, he was the most inquisitive when it came to theology. He’d ask and ask and ask, unafraid to speak his mind and doubts, even when his classmates blamed him for having such questions about the existence of Allah. ‘Having questions is not wrong,’ He’d say to them. ‘Keeping them in, not getting the answer – that’s what leads you to disbelief.’
The Whisperer seemed satisfied with his silence. “I will tell you a secret. Right doesn’t exist. It is a fantasy, a mere point of view. Depends on who’s telling the story. Your kind killed your beautiful, ambitious mother over a made-up fantasy.”
That stirred emotion in him. “She was a traitor, a betrayer –”
“And will you say she did it for someone other than you? She didn’t want you to grow up like she did. She wanted you to have what you want.”
“That’s just because of this stupid, corrupt world!” He exclaimed. “A person doesn’t get anything for speaking the truth but plenty for the wrong. She chose the wrong. And she must have learnt her lesson because,” He threw up his hands. “She killed herself.”
“Anyone would kill themselves if trapped in a cold and dark cell for ten years.”
“Not the strong ones. Not the ones who really believe. She should have resisted the demons you and your stupid kind sent her way. You led her to die, not my people! Now tell me, what exactly did you decieve her with?” Jawad was furious, his voice raised several octaves.
That seemed to touch a nerve, because the Whisperer’s calm and affectionate mask slipped away. He scowled, and when he spoke, it was an inhumane yap, “We are not responsible for Alisa’s death,” He growled. “We gave her a promise, a promise she could decline. Your Lord also gave her a promise, one she chose to leave. We failed to keep ours, but the point remains. She obeyed us over the Lord,” Spit flew from his mouth, orbs burning completely black as they hit the ground. “And got what she deserved. No one to blame but herself.”
Jawad took a few steps back, hands reaching his weapon’s belt.
The Whisperer raised his hand, teeth bared, and Jawad gasped. His knees buckled and he fell over as a swarm of Gunahs burst out from his skin, a hurricane of angry reds and slimy greens, and swaths and swaths of darkness enveloping his frame.
I sprinted out from beneath the tree, yelling, “Stop! We take refuge in Allah from the outcast Satan!”
The Whisperer whirled and, at the sight of her, snarled. “What a displeasure.”
“Leave us alone,” My voice trembled, but for once, I didn’t care about my posture or being strong outside. “Let my brother go. We take refuge in Allah – “
“Does Jawad?” He rasped, a throaty sound that itched my whole body.
I turned. Jawad was struggling, his figure barely visible beneath the horde of the demons, but he managed, “My… mother…” His eyes were wet, face red, but I could still see hope there.
“Jawad,” I spoke, my own eyes blurring with tears. “She’s gone, Jawad. She’s not coming back. She made her choice and we – “ I looked at the Whisperer. “We can make ours. Say it. Let’s go.”
Jawad trembled but did not speak.
“Please,” I was sobbing now. “I am sorry for being a terrible sister. I am sorry, so sorry. But there is nothing he can give you, Jawad. Please.”
Jawad looked down, and, after a moment, “Of course. I am not a fool.” He twitched as an anger Gunah made contact with him, fisting his hands to keep control. “I…I take refuge in Allah from the outcast Shaytaan.”
The Whisperer howled, and the Gunahs around him started to weaken. I grabbed three of my throwing knives and started to hurl them, each target met with a whoosh of dissipation, until Jawad was stable enough to start tearing away at them himself.
Behind us, the Whisperer’s face was contorted in rage and pain, and he limped back on his unstable feet a couple of steps. Parts of his perfect skin were melting, revealing a revolting hide beneath.
But then, suddenly, he straightened, his grand manner back in place. His skin started to mend itself and in minutes, he seemed perfectly fine. “Looks like your friend decided to join us.”
I spinned on my heel, and there he was, his small and bony figure trembling, but not with pain or fright. His eyes were wide and glinted a hint of madness as he raised a metal machete, pointed not at the Whisperer but Jawad himself. His voice was gruff, deep, unlike his. Not his. “Time to pay, you both.”
And then Taban hurled the machete at us.
To be continued…
Demonic Vows [Pt. 3] coming on June 29th, 2021 here, InshaAllah.
Featured Image via Unsplash.
Important note: Demonic Vows is purely a work of fiction. The characters, plot, storyline, events and everything else is a product of the author’s imaginations, and some aspects of the story might not be philosphically or theologically true. For accurate descriptions and information regarding the Unseen, please refer to Islamic scholarly works produced in this genre.
Masha Allah I was waiting for this!! Insha Allah in 1 more week we will enjoy PT 3 too 🙂