By Thiyam Ningol, Dr. Nalini, Africa
Helen looked at the pictures with horror. She could not believe it. She felt fainting, dizzy and nauseated. Rushed to the toilet sink and vomited. All her energy was drained. She sat down on the toilet floor and cried like a little baby. She cursed her late husband, her late mother in law. She even cursed God for allowing it to happen to her. She could no longer sit; she rolled on the floor and continued sobbing. All of a sudden she stopped, something occurred in her mind. She stood up. Tied her hair which had been flying naughtily around her face. Wiped all the tears. Washed her face and came back to the living room again, very poised, ready to crack the jigsaw puzzle.
To her own surprise, she was very calm and confident. She collected all the pictures, spread them on the table. Pulled the chair and sat down. She started looking at the pictures and analyzing the meaning of the pictures one by one.
Mercy became a widow when she was only 22 years old. She herself was an orphan. She met her late husband in a camping trip. The orphanage where Mercy grew up, organized a fund raising camp. They were provided with police protection. Her late husband was one of the police constables who were on duty at the campsite.
Their friendship grew and eventually they got married.
Mercy had the happiest days of her life with her husband. That was the time when she had somebody to love her, only her, take care of her, and fondle her. At last she found somebody whom she could call as her relative.
After two years of marriage, she gave birth to a handsome baby boy. They named him Martin. They were very happy; they considered themselves to be blessed by God. But their happiness did not last long.
One day when her husband was on duty, they had an encounter with a gang of armed robbers. Her husband died in the encounter as a hero; got himself killed while trying to protect the victims and his colleagues. He was buried with honour and Mercy was provided with supporting pension, life long, unless she gets remarried again.
After the death of her husband, Mercy was left only with her 2 years old son. She was afraid of loosing him too. She did not allow her son to be lost from her sight even for a moment. She spent sleepless nights watching her son sleeping. She slept with him on the same bed.
Martin grew up knowing his mother as the only woman in his life and he, as the only man for his mother. He was very protective of her. He would not allow anybody to raise a finger on her. Sometimes he would become very jealous when he saw her mother with another man.
When Martin was about 8 years old, Mercy had an admirer. They had met several times but not really involving seriously. Martin hated him with all his heart. The man tried to be kind and concern to Martin. But he knew the hurdle would be tougher than it looked, stronger than he thought.
One day they were traveling to a village to meet his relatives. They got a lift from his friend, a lorry driver, carrying building materials. When they reached the outskirts of the city, the traffic thinned considerably and the lorry picked up speed. It was moving at about 80 km/hr. There was not much of a space to sit comfortably in the lorry. So they were sitting on the iron railings. When Mercy and the man were engaged in talking, all of a sudden Martin stood up and pushed the man. He lost balance and fell off the lorry. Mercy clearly saw what happened. She screamed in horror. The driver heard and stopped the lorry. When the driver came to enquire about the noise, Martin quietly told the driver that the man was sitting on the edge and fell down. He pointed his hand towards the crumpled body lying about 50 meters behind from the vehicle.
Around the crumpled body, there was a pool of blood and the skull was cracked wide. Through the open skull, brain particles mixed with blood was oozing out. Mercy cried hysterically, screaming, banging. But Martin was very calm. He tried to console his mother but Mercy went wild. She was not talking any word understandable, only babbling. Passing by vehicles stopped and helped to get police to the scene. The only witness giving statement was Martin, a minor. Mercy was still in shock. She simply stared at the surroundings, unable to speak a word. When the police read out Martins statement and asked Mercy whether anything to be added, she simply shook her head. The police interpreted as Mercy saying “no addition”, but Martin knew his mother was shaking her head denying the statement. They did not even know the name of the relative whom they were supposedly visiting. Mercy was classified as just a casual friend of the deceased.
The case was closed as a road motor accident and the driver was fined for carrying passengers in a lorry.
Martin was not bothered with the incident. But Mercy was affected very much. She was frightened of her son. She could not talk about it to anybody. The guilty conscious tormented her day and night. She became very aloof and could not think straight. Slowly, her son became the commander, she had to follow whatever Martin said.
Martin was a sportive boy. In the school, he took active part in all the athletic activities. He was ruthless to his rivals. But it was considered normal in the field of competition. He was not particularly interested in any subject of the studies. He was a student who needed a push, passed exams with low marks.
He had not shown any interest in girls, his age mates of opposite sex. Mercy considered that as a relief. They still shared the same bedroom. Martin loved his mother to dress smart and look presentable. He usually selected the type of cloths for his mother. He was very proud to talk about his mother to his friends. Everybody adored the way he loved his mother.
He completed A level successfully. He was selected to go for teachers training course. But he wanted either to be in the police force or army. With his late father’s good service records, he got the job in the police force easily.
He did very well in the training. While he was in the field training, he requested his friends to take care of his mother. After the training, he was posted to a remote village. Mercy had to go with his son to stay in the village. Change of the environment made Mercy to be able to forget the pass.
As Martin grew older, he looked more and more like his father in appearance. She felt good to look at her son. It brought her back the memories of her only happy days of her life. She started feeling relaxed now that her son was grown up, healthy with a secured job.
After 2 years, Martin was transferred to a township with promotion. Mercy liked the life in the township. She had made new friends with the local womenfolk. She and her son discussed about the possibilities of settling down in the township. She was 46 years old and Martin 24 yrs. They managed to acquire a small area of land, big enough for a small family. They both worked hard physically to build a house.
They bought cement bags and with their own hands started making brick blocks. It was taking time but worthwhile. As Martin had to work in day time, they could start making the bricks only in the late evenings. It took them the whole month to prepare the bricks. The neighbours envied the efforts of the mother and son. They were exemplary in the township.
Within six months, they finished building their house, small but comfortable. Mercy had the joy of her life- to have a house of their own. She used her little handicraft skill she learnt while she was in the orphanage. She decorated her house with her taste. In the little space left outside, she made a kitchen garden, enough for her to be kept occupied.
Mercy was 48yrs old, but for her age she looked very attractive. She could pass easily for late thirties. Her small body remained slim even after menopause. With life running smoothly, she even looked younger than 3 years ago.
As they were settled, Mercy thought it was time for her son to get married and have a family. One day, casually she mentioned about it to Martin. He did not answer her. Mercy did not like to push him but whenever chance came, she mentioned about it. She even told her son if he had any particular girl in mind, he should arrange for going ahead. Martin bluntly told his mother that if she was really interested for him to get married, he would do so for her sake, but he was not interested in women.
Mercy had been talking with her friends about girls who would be prospective bride for her son. They found several girls. Every time Mercy mentioned about the girls, Martin told Mercy to select her choice. At the end Mercy settled for a primary school teacher. She was not very pretty but she had good manners and was polite. When they sent the proposal, it was accepted warmly by the parents of the girl. The girl needed more time but the parents pressurized her and she too agreed at the end.
Martin refused to go and get acquainted with the girl but agreed for the marriage.
The marriage ceremony was done at a small scale but in the traditional way. Everything went smoothly.
Slowly Mercy started noticing strange behaviour from her son. When he came back from the office, after duties, he did not go to his wife; he preferred hanging around with the mother. He started behaving like a child, very jealous and obsessed with the mother.
Helen, Martin’s wife did not complain but Mercy noticed the gloomy look on her face.
Somewhere at the back of her mind, the forgotten memories of the lorry accident was beginning to trouble her. She tried not to think about. That was a different situation. It was a man coming to take her out from her son. This was a lady, that too not a stranger but his wife. She had come to stay with them, not to take out anybody.
Day by day her fear was coming stronger and stronger. Martin would not like to see his mother laughing and enjoying with Helen. He would go into tantrums.
Helen found Martin abnormal from the very first day of their marriage. Three months have passed since the marriage; he had not even sat down alone with Helen leave aside sleeping with her. He spent awake most of the nights working with papers from a metallic small box which he kept well protected. He ordered Helen not to touch it; she was informed that inside, there were very sensitive government files.
Sometimes, in the middle of the night, Helen heard the door being open and Martin walking outside restlessly. She did not envy policeman’s life from the beginning. After seeing Martin torturing himself late at nights, she swore to herself she would not allow her children to become policemen. She corrected herself “if at all we would have any children”. She wanted to give Martin enough time to finish with his sensitive government papers and slowly she would win him, would make him one of the luckiest husbands. She controlled her own desire, with difficulty.
Mercy had enquired several times from Helen whether everything was ok. Helen lied. She respected her mother in law very much.
Seeing the unhealthy situation, Mercy thought it would be wise to leave the newly married couple for few days alone. She accepted the invitation from her friend to assist her in arranging the marriage ceremony of her son in another region. They would be gone for about a week.
First she discussed about it with her daughter in law. She would be the one to take care of the household duties in her absence. She waited before telling to Martin.
It was about 10 in the late evening. Mercy had already gone to sleep. Helen casually mentioned to Martin about their discussion with her mother in law.
Martin reacted wildly.
-Why did she tell you, why not to me?
Helen regretted. She requested Martin to leave the discussion till the next day morning. She went to sleep leaving Martin alone with his sensitive government papers even though she noticed that Martin had not yet opened the metallic box on that day.
After some time, the sound coming from Mercy’s room woke her up. She was wide awake. She tried to listen. They were arguing about something. Martin was talking loud with angry voices. Mercy was pleading about something.
Helen was in a dilemma-whether to go and ask if any help needed or pretend to be sleeping. She toiled for few minutes in bed. At the end, she got enough disturbance and decided to get up and knock Mercy’s door. Martin heard the knock and shouted back to her; ordered her to go and sleep. Her mother in law did not say anything. She came back to her room and jumped to the bed and ignored the disturbance.
After Helen interrupted, Mercy thought Martin would go out and close the chapter there for that day. But Martin continued demanding an explanation why she wanted to go away from him. Martin did not buy the story of helping in the arrangement of her friend’s son’s marriage.
Mercy made a mistake. Out of anger she asked Martin what right he had to refuse her from going anywhere she liked. That angered Martin further. The devilish nature of Martin came out in the open. He caught hold of his mother by the shoulder and shook her vigorously “You are mine, mine only”.
Mercy was dumbfounded by her son’s behaviour. She tried to free herself. But in comparison to the devil, her strength was negligible. Mercy could not utter a word. Tears started flowing like a rivulet. The frightened look on her face scared the devil himself. He made her sit on the bed, cupped her face by the chin and grinned at her
-You see mother! You are the most beautiful thing I have. Since my childhood I have done nothing but admiring you. I will not tolerate anybody taking you away from me. You are mine. I have always been with you. I know you very well. I like every part of your body. You belong to me. You forced me to marry Helen. But I have not touched her. If she wants, let her go away. I want to be with you only. Today we will get married, ok mother? Go and wear your marriage gown, the one you kept it all these years. Come on, let me help you…… Stand up! I say stand up. Don’t make me angry. Today I am going to be a very happy man.
Mercy then realized where she went wrong. When Martin was still young, she used to change her cloths in front of him without bother. On several occasions she had noticed Martin’s eyes fixed on her body. To her, Martin was always a small boy, mummy’s baby.
She had kept him very close to her. She was overprotective of him. He was the only relative left on this earth for her. She was afraid of loosing him.
Now it was too late. She realized; she had made her son a maniac. The irreversible damage has been done. Her days were over. She had made up her mind.
She stood up as demanded by her son, pulled out the gown from the cupboard, and wore it like in dreams. She stopped protesting. Surrendered completely. The last moments of her life, she wanted to end it quickly.
They got married quietly. Whatever she was told to do, she obeyed.
She waited for him to leave the room. The night was never ending. She had not closed her eyes for a wink even. Silently she prayed. Asked God to forgive her for the sin she had committed; requested her husband to give her few more minutes before she joined him eternally. She was afraid of moving. She might wake Martin up and no one could predict what step again he might take. She was lying still and stiff, praying.
Slowly the night was approaching to an end. The roosters started roosting, chirping of early birds started. Her prayers have been heard. She continued praying. When she turned to change her position on the bed, Martin felt the movement and woke up with a jolt. He looked in his watch and saw the time. Without a word he wore his cloths and dashed out of the room.
Mercy had been waiting for this moment. She didn’t have time to change her cloths; she was still wearing the marriage gown. Quickly she pulled out the bed sheet. Climbed on the chair, tied one end of the sheet on the ceiling fan and the other end around her neck and kicked away the chair.
She got liberated from the possession by the devil.
Martin went to the sofa to lie down. He could not sleep any more. He played back the happenings in his mind in slow motion. He stood up and started pacing up and down in the living room. Helen felt the strangeness and woke up. She found her husband very restless, pacing in the room. She greeted him and without waiting for an answer, went to start preparing the routine morning choir. She lighted the kerosene stove and put water for tea. Through the corner of her eye, she stole few glances towards her husband. She thought it must be the effects of the last night’s commotion. Decided not to ask anything.
Martin felt far remorse but there was some trace of satisfaction as well. One time or the other that had to happen, he consoled himself. He thought he would apologize to his mother in the evening when he comes back from work.
Both, Martin and Helen were ready for taking breakfast. Helen called out Mercy to join them for breakfast but no answer came. She repeated two three times- no answer. She was about to get up from the chair when Martin pushed her down and said he would go to check. After few seconds, Helen heard Martin screaming. She rushed to Mercy’s room and there she saw Mercy hanging on the ceiling fan with the white bed sheet around her neck, the white marriage gown fluttering with the wind. While she was still confused and looking at Mercy, she did not notice Martin leaving the place.
Moments after she heard the loud “bang” coming from their bedroom. She shouted
“What it is it” and rushed to their room. There she found Martin fallen on the floor, blood flowing from the right side of his head, with the smoking pistol in his right hand. Mercy screamed and screamed hysterically, frantically jumping and beating her head and chest.
The neighbours heard her screams. From all directions people rushed to their house and everybody saw what Helen saw.
Some gasped, some screamed, some were trying to calm down the crowd. One man took control, he pulled out Helen from inside the house, chased away everybody outside and told to stay away till police came. He told Helen not to talk to anybody but wait for the police. Helen was still hysteric, some women supported her and took to the neighbouring house. There she fainted.
The funeral ceremonies were over. The gossip in the township had died down. Relatives had returned back to their places. Helen was given company by her mother, staying with her.
Police had completed taking statements from Helen. They had given her the date to come and collect some personnel belongings of her late husband from his office.
Helen was wondering whether to mention about the sensitive documents or not to the police. But as they did not ask about it, she decided to keep her husband’s secrets intact.
One night while her mother had already gone to sleep, Helen was correcting the examination papers of her students, she thought about the sensitive papers. She thought even if she checked the papers, nobody would know she was the one who opened it. Many things in the house had been misplaced, some got lost during the days when they were having all the visitors. She was not even sure in which corner, the metallic box was pushed. There were not many corners to look for and the object was not a small one, difficult to find. So she decided to inspect before it was too late. She left the students’ examination papers and started searching for the box. She found it in the kitchen shelf.
She wiped off the dust, put it on the table. Took a long breath. Took the bunch of keys out and started trying to open it. The first two keys did not work. The third key flipped and the lock opened, the contents of the box revealed.
Most of the photos had the body of young females, paper clips from the magazines and journals. In all the photos, Martin had removed the original faces of the pictures and patched with his mother’s photos. There were many nude pictures, some with animalistic poses, true horrific pictures.
After getting refreshed, she sat down and started recollecting the happenings of that particular day. The pieces of the puzzle were starting to fit in the exact places.
The pictures were the proof that Martin was a very sick man. He had been imagining all these years about his mother in the form of his wife. He had been having mental sex with his mother. That was why he had never even touched her, his wife. Mercy was his wife, not mother, according to the pictures.
Helen knew then why the commotion of that day, why Mercy was wearing the marriage gown, why she committed suicide. She felt sorry for her mother in law. She then collected all the pictures neatly and stacked them in an envelope, put it back in the box, and locked it securely.
It was already 2 AM in the morning. No slightest sign of sleepiness. She was not feeling tired either. As Martin had called it “sensitive papers”, Helen realized how sensitive it was in the real sense. She would not like to discuss about those photos with her mother, she would not understand and would not contribute any constructive ideas. She would prefer her elder sister but her husband was another nuisance to the family. Once he takes some alcohol, he would become completely out of control.
Helen decided to wait and watch.
The police department promised her to help in legalizing the property she inherited as the widow of her late husband. If everything was going to happen as she was promised, then the photos would disappear without traces from the surface of earth, Helen vowed. .
She yawned twice, thrice. At last she realized she was feeling sleepy. Instead of disturbing her mother’s calm sleep, she walked to the sofa, stretched herself and within minutes felt asleep, the sweetest sleep since she got married.
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