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The Burning Cheek Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Awais Aftab, Pakistan May 30, 2005
Child & Youth Rights   Short Stories


The slap hit his face like a hammer and he could feel himself being thrown back to the wall in slow motion due to the brute force of that heavy, callous hand. Tears inundated his eyes as he looked up timidly at his fuming father; this wasn’t his father: it was an animal. A beast, wild and untamed; a savage devoid of civilization; a brute lacking mercy and love; it could never be his father. His cheek was reddening and swelling up readily; it was as if the slapped-cheek was a piece of burning flesh. He could smell it rotting; he could sense its smoke stinging his eyes. He could experience that lancinating, caustic bruise.

But. There was more to come. The Brute picked him up violently, half ripping his collar and banging him against the wall. He screamed in pain but the Beast was deaf and merciless. A punch headed his way and hammered his head. His eyes puffed up and his vision was blurred. The strong, acrid smell of alcohol from the mouth of that Savage began to erode his consciousness. Before he passes out, he felt the impact of one more slap and the frothing voice cursing “Fuck you!” He was a flower withering; a plant wilting, a plant deprived of sunlight and soil, a plant whose leaves were being cut one by one…

When he opened his eyes, he was lying on the floor. He tried to move and the sudden sharp pain educed a cry out of his mouth. The house was quiet and peaceful; the Beast was not at home. Accumulating enough strength, he got up and looked around the place: it was a mess. The TV was smashed, plates shattered, pictures snatched and the wallpaper scratched. It was even worse than last time his father had had his spell. He cleared a drop of tear that had slipped down to his jowl. The beatings were getting harsher now. Every two three days his father came home drenched in alcohol and insane like a bull. He could stand it no longer, he decided. He’ll run away, somewhere where there won’t be that Beast around. He searched around for some money and found some notes in a closet. He immediately collected his meager belongings, and went out of the house. He looked about for any signs of his father and then broke into a run. He ran at his full speed, not caring for any person bumping into him. He ran to the bus station, boarded the first bus he saw, not caring for where it was going. As the bus moved out of the city limits, he said to himself, “Fuck you father!”

He grew up on streets like a scavenger. The public lamps were his lights and the blind alley his sleeping place. Over the years dirt and gravel had deposited on his face producing layers and layers of sediments; none could guess by looking at him that he had once been fair and handsome. He was a rogue now: an outcast, a vagabond. The little money he earned was through mugging and begging. He was a mere parasite now.

He was sitting in a corner when he saw a ball rolling up to him. Greedily, he picked it up; would get a cent or two for it. A small boy came up to him, “This is my ball.”

“Get lost, asshole!” and he slapped him. The boy ran away crying. A vague image studded his memory and he looked at the hand with which he had slapped. All the violence his father had poured into him was coming out; he was using the only language he had been taught; he was expressing himself by what he had seen the Beast do, and he had become a Savage himself: a prey as well as a predator, the victim and the victimizer. He was a part of the vicious cycle, transferring the violence he had learnt to others…

At night, he woke up screaming from his nightmares. He would feel the smoke and the sting of his burning cheek, the brutal slap would repeat itself again and again, with the intensity increasing each time. It haunted his mind and soul, reminding him of his past he was desperate to forget; it was an eternal punishment given by the Beast and it would never cease to haunt him…



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Writer Profile
Awais Aftab

Writing has been a passion, a love ever since I learned to write. For me, writing is a means of expression of 'secret tears and secret pleasures'. True writing comes from the heart and often it is the one to find you, not you the one to find it. Writing gives me power, the strength to carry on, the will to live and to live in a better way. It helps me find deeper meaning in the world around me and to understand myself much better. I can't survive without writing. For me, my writings are the whispers of life, in which the glory and sorrow of life echoes. For me, these are the glittering tears, whose every flash encompasses a thousand aspects of life. I believe that, 'I write; therefore I am.' However, true ease in writing comes from art, and I still have to learn a lot about that.
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