[Destiny] Chapter 30: Urdu With Claws

~~~

The upper deck was freezing, sub-Moodysson with

nothing to see except bearded Moroccan men, life rings, the ship guidelines and a huge wispy cloud of lilac mist particles coating the sky to the left, the same purple shit Joanna had talked about in the cabin, most likely harmless and naturally occurring in the area, though, from the deck angle, it did look more than a little insidious, a sapient mist beast encroaching on its sedate, nothing-bad-at-night ferry prey

and when it hit, driving them all into sexual frenzy

fucking plus threats of it

perhaps inter-dimensional death doors, new forms of cabinet, mist aesthetics

yet

for now, thank gods

it was keeping its distance

hanging back.

Maybe it also feared Moroccan men?

Sila laughed to himself, stubbed out an imaginary cigarette then crossed the deck and went back inside. Or attempted to. The door seemed to be locked from the other side, the handle stiff and implacable.

‘Fucking boat mechanics,’ he muttered, putting his shoulder against it, and

without notice creak or alarm

fell ahead at light speed

tripped on the lower door wedge, prepped for severe head trauma when he hit the bottom of the metal steps then

in a reversal of death physics

got yanked back hard at the last second.

‘An impressive move,’ said an accented voice attached to a Pakistani-looking guy whose brown irises stared directly into his own, bobbing gently on anime-white sclera.

Not Amir

same hair but

facially different, eyes different

wouldn’t take all the blanket

not him

not Amir

‘The door…’ Sila stammered, figuratively dusting himself down via convulsive blinks, then peering over the railing to see how far the steps went down.

‘Wouldn’t have killed you necessarily,’ said the Pakistani man, following his line of sight.

‘You were on the other side…trying to open it?’

‘Briefly.’

‘And then let go?’

The man who wasn’t Amir, who didn’t look a thing like him, looked ten times better in fact, like he’d just walked out of a lagoon that was in truth the mask for a hidden lab under the waves

dipped his head, perhaps attempting a smile.

Sila hadn’t noticed, but their hands were on the sleeves of each other’s jackets, though the man was bolder, his fingers sliding along to the cold skin of his wrist and stroking.

‘You’re not Moroccan…’

‘Very perceptive.’

‘Pakistani?’

His fingers progressed onto Sila’s hand, sliding through the gaps and tightening. ‘It is noisy on this deck. How about we go somewhere a little more secluded, to talk?’

Not Amir, definitely not Amir, more of an Innsbruck vibe, the nights before the doppelganger, wretched and

god, okay

your fucking cabin

green cream, slurred Slovene, slurred Urdu, dick in full and bareback, or another option, I jump on you right here and drill you up against that fire alarm you beautiful-eyed, Urdu-speaking

Sila pulled his hand back, glancing at the steps leading down and away from this chaos

chaos that was lodged in his brain and would just follow him down

chaos that had been switched on by this

Kurzsan in a Pakistani skin suit

this clone

soft-voiced, assertive, quiet-cabin possessing

no one would ever know they’d fucked

guy with

‘I sense you want to talk to me,’ said the man, leaning into Sila’s neck and pressing lips against his stubble, his left hand running up his thigh.

‘What…’

‘Nothing is fast when time declines to compete. If that’s what you’re concerned about.’

‘I don’t-…

‘Or is it someone else?’

Sila closed his eyes and mouthed the words back to himself, is it someone else, letting the Pakistani siren curve his lips round and

there was no fog horn or sudden shout

only the image of an empty rack in a back-lit dungeon, waiting for him to

The words played again, pinned to the man’s voice.

Is it someone else?

Is it?

Is it someone who’s been hiding all this time, that yellow-eyed demon wretch, coming here, pretending to open a stubborn door and

‘Not interested,’ said Sila, breaking free, his sweaty hand hovering near yet another copy of the ship guidelines on the nearby wall.

The Pakistani male model dropped back and dipped his head again, possibly a polite bow, muttering to himself in what had to be Urdu.

‘It appears I have misjudged,’ he stated calmly, straightening his jacket then pushing open the now amenable door and disappearing onto the outside deck.

Re-absorbed into the purple, Sila thought, slowly drawing his hand back from the ship guidelines and wiping it on his King Matjaž hoodie. Sucked into the black hole void of Innsbruck, that fucking castle bathing hole, where you belong.

Or not.

The door closed, finishing with a mocking creak.

No, probably not.

Just a fast-moving Pakistani guy, aware of his looks. Hoping to fuck. No, going to fuck.

Someone else.

He closed his eyes, then opened them again fast as two Moroccan men came up two steps at a time.

‘Careful with the door,’ he said in English, ignoring their bemused faces and heading down the metal staircase that had lured him to his death

aiming for somewhere quiet

serene

where he could blot out the continual green cream ads and cosy bed shots of his dick halfway inside that Pakistani god mouth that were coasting didactic around his head,

his ID, his soul

his neck

all of it.

~~~

One deck down, past the staff recrimination room, past the not yet sunk certificates, was the largest of the ferry’s three cafeterias.

Quickly finding a seat, Sila opened his Romanian dictionary, sat back and stretched his legs out under the table. There was a group of bare feet guys playing cards on the table next to him, shouting every time they put down a card, which helped him dilute the Pakistani encounter pretty fast, yet

the shouting continued

even past the fuck thought elimination point

so he counted five minutes, told himself they were just loud, don’t be racist like the cabin dweller, then got up and moved to the opposite side of the cafeteria.

It was noisy there too, but not to the same degree, and it had a vacant table with a window view, purple glow above, dark surface of the sea below. He kicked away a cigarette butt on the floor and sat down, resuming his study of the Romanian dictionary.

It wasn’t easy

Not just the vocab, but the background audio dynamics, the complete lack of group filter from any of them.

One table in particular was noisier than the others, six men shouting, not laughing, one of them standing and jabbing down at another.

Fuck, was this real, were they not friends?

Why was he sticking his finger in the guy’s face?

Using his dictionary as cover, Sila looked at the guy, studied him and decided he was a cunt.

Then looked at the other guy, the one being jabbed and decided he was also a cunt, a smug cunt, and if they didn’t both stop shouting, he’d get up and drag them upstairs by the hair, pitch them over the side of the ship and not tell a soul, not even Joanna

fucking noisy cunts

it’s not your fucking living room

go read a book or punch a wall, grope yourself in the nightclub

just go, leave

and

as soon as he started thinking it, reality altered itself, the jabbing guy shouting one last time then grudgingly shaking the hand of the smug guy and

the six of them went back to their card game

leaving Sila staring at page 24 of his dictionary

embarrassed, annoyed

and weirdly determined to read that Turkish book of short stories he’d bought in Budapest last year.

~~~

After half an hour of repeating camping vocab in Romanian and blocking out renewed din from the six tenors, Sila rotated his chair and tried the window.

The sea was visible but only just as the purple mist he’d seen earlier had descended and was now sticking to the surface like his mum to the washing machine. Yet, at the same time, it wasn’t attacking the windows or the upper deck

opting for a sandwich effect instead

mist above and below

ferry in the middle, oblivious.

Wah, it really was purple, to an impossible level.

Where was it coming from?

Space?

The Kuiper Belt?

There was no one around to answer the question, no one he wanted to ask either, so he turned again, back to the main floor.

Their arrival had obviously gone unnoticed, but there was a man and, presumably, his wife sitting on the carpet by the vending machines, with their baby in the dad’s arms. A young teen was looming over them, talking loudly in Arabic and trying to pull on the man’s sleeve.

Sila didn’t understand the words, but he could guess what the boy wanted, to go above deck or to the nightclub or somewhere else that needed his dad’s cash, but the dad resisted and took back his sleeve, though, to his credit, he didn’t scream at him.

Ten minutes later, the boy got tired of ranting and walked off.

As he reached the doorway back to the cabins, an Indian woman in a scarf wrapped around both head and neck came the other way, either the fifth woman on the whole boat or one of the earlier ones Joanna had tagged. Probably a fifth as she was so striking that Joanna would’ve called her out. Unless Asian women didn’t think women like this were striking?

It was possible, he’d heard from Chit Yu at Uni that some Chinese people had a specific slur for Indians, but

then again

not that possible as this woman wasn’t just striking, she was alluring, magnetic, perhaps Pakistani not Indian, definitely not white, and as she sat down on the table next to Sila and unravelled her scarf, he could see that she wasn’t worried at all about being on a boat full of men as the cropped red dress she had on wasn’t excessively tight and every time she leaned forward the five guys on the table behind leaned forward in unison.

Before long one of them thought enough of himself to stand up and go over and ask her something in Arabic, which she let drift past with the ventilated air, then something in another language, maybe Spanish

actually the first one could have been Spanish

or Urdu or Hindi or

some other language Sila didn’t know cos he couldn’t recognise any of the sounds, he just knew it wasn’t English or Slovene and it didn’t matter as her tone was sharp and the man’s reaction was to scuff the back of the chair and walk back to his game of cards.

Was that Uno they were playing?

Or Monopoly Deal?

It wasn’t clear and, really, he didn’t care. What he wanted to do was look at one of the only five women on the whole ship. Who didn’t live in a castle. Or act as a vassal for yellow-eyed fiends. Or tell him they couldn’t go to Egypt together as people might see. Or call him ho mo liu all the time. Take him up hills at midnight and

He looked down at the Romanian dictionary, flicking through the R words and occasionally looking up at the wall beside the Indian or Pakistani woman, to see what she was doing, and the third time he did it, he coughed, realising the ship guidelines were pinned up there too.

Gods, was it wallpaper? Had Joanna come here and put them up?

Didn’t matter, cos out of the side of his eye he could see that the woman was looking at him, no, staring directly at him, like Serbian women did.

He quickly went back to the Romanian dictionary, telling himself she was looking at the window behind his head, not him

even though there were other windows

three of them closer to her table

but

rabat, răbdare, rac, răceală, rachetă, rachiu

a dozen more r words then another glance.

There was a pocket book in her hand now, no title, no picture, and her eyes were fixed to it.

And then, suddenly, they weren’t.

The window

Behind my head.

The ship’s guidelines to the left.

No one fucks strangers on overnight ferries

She’s too pretty

An Israeli tycoon back in their VIP cabin, waiting for her to come back with the wine.

Standing up without bending forward, the woman glided slowly over to his table, utilising the same maybe a smile that Amir used to do as she draped her curtain-sized green scarf over the back of the spare seat.

Then pulled it out a few inches and sat down.

Sila opened his mouth to say, sure, it’s okay, no one’s sitting there, but

he couldn’t

cos it might cut the thread leading to her cabin

so he picked up his Romanian dictionary instead, pretended to read page 247 three times, and acted surprised when the woman leaned forward, put her ringless hand on his forearm and said in a light accent, ‘… … … … … … … … … … … … … …’

‘Sorry?’

She shifted to the cover of the dictionary. ‘You do not speak this language?’

‘Me? No, not really. A little.’ He flashed the inside pages, random r words. ‘Still learning.’

Nodding, she moved her fingers further up his forearm, eyes locked to his own. ‘I admire people who learn languages.’

‘Me too.’

The stroking ceased.

‘I mean, I admire people who can become fluent…who really try hard.’

‘Dictionaries can only get you so far,’ she replied, leaning back and taking one end of the scarf from the seat.

‘Yeah, just supplementing…supplementary. If I knew any Romanians, I’d speak it, but…not many around.’ He paused, permitting a hundredth of a second scene of himself under the table, head between her thighs. ‘I noticed you were reading a book too…but no cover or title.’

She held the scarf up to her eyes, concealing one of them. Then took out the title-less book from somewhere lower down and placed it on the table. ‘Mythology. From my native country.’

‘Ah, that’s weird, I have some too. Italian, the last one, Slavic myths too. Is that one Urdu? Hindi? Actually, where are you from?’

‘You appear heightened?’

‘Err…yes, I suppose. If you mean excited?’

‘It is an attractive trait. Passion for a topic, and other cultures.’

‘I travel a lot. Never been to India though…or Pakistan.’

Her fingers dropped to the mythology book, running a line down the spine. ‘Quetta.’

‘Sorry?’

‘It is my home. You should add it to your travel list. And perhaps an Urdu teacher too.’

‘Urdu…that’s your native language?’

‘In fact, I possess some experience in that area. Assuming you are not intimidated by non-European languages?’

‘No, anything is okay. I learnt some Japanese before…’ Joanna flickered ethereal in his head, more duvet than human, calling him ho mo liu. ‘A little Cantonese too.’

‘Urdu is a different beast…more poetic, sensual…’ she said, her fingers moving back to the scarf, folding it against itself.

‘Yeah, all those squiggly lines…’

‘…intimate.’

‘…I always wanted to learn what they meant, how to read them. Maybe after Romanian, I can give it a crack. Go to Quitta and look you up. If that’s where you still live?’

‘… … … … … … …’

‘Sorry?’

‘The future, to me, is a moment from now.’

‘Ah. Sounds like a proverb.’

She sat forward, contracting the whole room, the whole ferry. Her lips did more than smile, they promised. The scarf snaked upwards around her neck, mesmeric, pulled by soft, dark fingers with green painted nails. ‘There are fourteen more hours before the boat docks in Barcelona.’

‘Quite long…’

‘We could speak a lot of Urdu during that time.’

‘Yeah. Me saying what a lot.’

Some muttering in Urdu or Hindi, a tightening of the scarf, a glance at the steps leading above deck. ‘I’m offering you conversation.’

‘Sorry, I didn’t-…’ Sila stretched his hand across the table, stopping an inch from her mythology book then pulling back and performing an odd scratching motion of the surface plastic. ‘I thought you were making a joke.’

‘Do you wish to practise my Urdu, with me?’

‘I do, but…I won’t be able to say much. The what thing wasn’t that inaccurate.’

She looked around at the other tables, half the men quickly going back to their cards, the other half staring right back at her. ‘It is noisy here. My cabin is not.’

‘Your cabin?’

‘It is deluxe class, very quiet. Perfect for Urdu practice. Shall we go?’

‘You mean…what? To your cabin?’

‘There is no need to sweat,’ she said, letting go of his arm and standing up, ‘I will not force myself on you.’

‘Just…the two of us?’

‘Follow if you like. Stay here if you don’t. Cabin 47 if you are undecided.’

‘No, I want to, it’s just-…I don’t know if…’

Before Sila could fully flesh out his Hamlet impression, the woman had already gone, past the men at the neighbouring table, past a man on the floor, dropping her mythology book at his feet and allowing him to pick it back up, then on towards the corridor that Sila knew ran through to the entertainment room which ran to the stairs that ran down to the cabins that would inexorably run to her deluxe room and her empty bed.

When she was almost out of sight, she stopped and looked back at Sila, not giving any gestures, just staring. Or glaring. It was hard to know the difference when there was no smile.

Follow, you fool

you fucking idiot

get inside her

say it’s too good in Urdu

tell her about the cabinets

the green knife

your mission

cling to her fucking tits

Sila feigned interest in the wall again, attempting to read a few of the ship guidelines, and when he looked back she was still there, staring/glaring at him and

even though he hadn’t taken any of the grey stuff

it felt like something similar was happening in the time-space vortex surrounded this ferry, the vortex somewhere between Genoa and Barcelona, the vortex that was making him pick up his dictionary and stand up and follow her through the entertainment room, past other transfixed men, down the stairs and along the corridor, right and then left and then right again until he was ten feet behind her and she was standing, half her body visible, in what he presumed was the doorway to her cabin and this time there were no ship guidelines to stare at, only this hypnotic weird-looking woman with a hopefully euphemistic scarf who had realised that every other guy on this boat was a pervert except him

cos he was a monk

a pervert monk who pretended to read ship guidelines so he could look down some Pakistani woman’s shirt

a fucking pervert who hadn’t been with anyone since

since

her

the Chinese blank, the murderer, the sulk

but that wasn’t anything

it didn’t even happen, not as long as happening meant he had to be mentally conscious of what was going on and physically able to record the process of hand moving from A to B and

it didn’t happen if he couldn’t remember it all, only the after part, maybe a phantom playback of the last few strokes, maybe her teeth on his dick, but that wasn’t conclusive as it was dream-like, phantom and

she’d never told him what happened before that, how they’d ended up locked together, in the same bed, him saying they should’ve done that weeks ago, her saying nothing,

maybe cos she didn’t know either.

Does she make noises when she washes her hands?

Does she sleep long at night?

God, that guy, the interrogator, he was probably in there now, asking her those same questions, maybe worse, maybe a lot worse

shouldn’t he be there?

The guy could be anyone, a pervert like the others

why not?

He never even said what he did, what he was doing for work in Barcelona and

he could be in the cabin, right now

could’ve waited till I’d gone, thought Sila, and then crept back in and

Before he could sketch out the scene, the vortex that had dragged him to the Pakistani woman’s cabin was pulling him backwards in short steps, left round a corner and right, and left again, up the stairs and then right back down when he realised he was also staying in the cabins, not the deck area, and, finally, on towards his own room.

As he left the Pakistani woman’s corridor, he was replaced almost immediately by the teen who’d been hassling his father earlier, the thirteen-year old who’d seen her scarf act, her cropped red top and gone immediately to the ship toilets for his third ever wank.

That boy was now following her, the woman who was at least five inches taller than him, into her room, sitting on the edge of her bed as she unpeeled her endless green scarf, her cropped red top, her skirt, her bra and

her lilac knickers.

Leaning forward, she pushed him down with one finger until his head was on the pillow then whispered in his ear,

‘… … … … … … … …’

The boy didn’t understand, but he was too excited to ask her to repeat herself so he just lay back and let her put her right hand over his eyes, slouching back into his private cinema, picturing the Indian porno he’d watched two days before

unaware of the words being spoken

the claw extending

the Pakistani woman’s lilac eyes staring down at his not yet fully developed chest and

one specific nail

tracing an outline of the heart.

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