“The Intruder’s Body,” a short story by Ayesha Liaqat (grade 12)

I moved into this apartment a week ago. I am still trying to get accustomed to it. The wide tall windows, the low ceilings, the compact rooms and balcony gardens add a hint of Parisian glamour to the interior. 21 rue de Saulles is a splendid location. This is quite different from my old house in Istanbul. It was rather a country chalet. Everything lay afar there but it pleased me. I was quite satisfied to have my own plot of land. The chalet was not immense with very many rooms but rather spacious and cozy. I had designed it myself. On all four sides of the chalet lay gardens, each decorated with a different type of flower. The rose garden lay behind the chalet. White roses formed the border; yellow roses formed the outline of the maze, which, as it grew more and more complex, changed its colours based on the scale: yellow was followed by orange, orange by red and red by crimson red. The crimson red roses surrounded the fountain which gushed forth water now and again to nourish its companions, the roses. This garden I dedicated to my mother.

The garden in front of the chalet had a cobblestone pathway bordered by an alternating pattern of delphiniums and gladioli; an ivy arch sheltered the entrance. The garden proper was rather simple: plain grass grounds with flowerbeds of gardenia. This garden I dedicated to my father.

The garden on the right had a central pond full of water lilies. On the right side of the pond was a towering willow from which hung a swing and on the left was a wooden bench surrounded by ferns. This garden I dedicated to my grandmother.

The garden on the left was the closest to my heart. It housed a bandstand in the centre, encircled by deep green bushes at the base against the backdrop of magnolia trees. The pathway to the centre of the garden was aligned with jasmines accompanied by hanging lanterns. This garden I dedicated to my Beloved.

I always lived alone. I don’t recall ever noticing my solitude for I had already surrounded myself with memories held closest to my heart. People always posed a problem for me. In their presence, there was much tension; in their absence, much depression. Social and moral etiquettes teach us to let some thoughts repose in the depths of our hearts. It becomes difficult, however, to suppress sentiments which affect one so profoundly. You, gentle reader, are welcomed to refute the statement I am about to make for you and I see through different eyes. There are always aspects of each human being which appeal to us; regardless of how stupendous and magnificent their personality may be, we always find flaws here and there. Human nature is composed of imperfections, whether we consider the judge or the judged. Since memories are the only immutable and permanent aspects of human beings, it is best to capture them in a physical form lest they fade away.

It was a chilly evening; I lit up the fire and sat down to sip my jasmine tea.  Night began to spread its sheets over the firmament; soon the moon showed its face in all its beauty, accompanied by her procession of stars. There was no source of light in the room save the flickering fire, which cast shadows onto the wall, and the gentle moonlight. I recalled Halloween evenings from my childhood. I never understood the logic behind forcefully scaring oneself.  Like on Christmas day, grandma recounted her own horror stories on Halloween. Her best one was called “The Intruder’s Body.”

There is an Intruder inhabiting Jane’s room. He reposes during the day and ambles at night. He feeds off of books: the complexity of the work determines the increase in his size. In the beginning, he poses no threat but as he reads, his stature and mental capacity increase, allowing him to reach and understand more books rather easily. And thus in a couple of weeks’ time, the Intruder becomes a grown man. Now, he believes himself to be the rightful owner of the room (and the house) and begins to seek revenge for the injustice towards him.

The fire went out and I laid myself in the couch. Suddenly, door knob turned and I heard footsteps fading in the direction of my room. I trembled from fear and spent the night at the kitchen table. While I had lost my sleep, I enumerated the strange occurrences on which I had turned a blind eye over the past couple of weeks. I recalled a day from last week when I noticed the bizarre order of Professor Moucheboume’s books in the book rack; magazines were lying on the floor in the living room; my essays were out of their folder on the kitchen table…

For once grandma’s memories were uncomforting. I was unable to block out her story. The Intruder came out one night and with anger flaring in his eyes rampaged through Jane’s house. When Jane returned home from the market, she found a crowd surrounding her house. Jane’s friends were happy to find her unharmed but the mystery remained: what was happening inside in such an inhumane manner? The noises came to an abrupt end and the crowd dispersed. Jane felt relieved and the valiant woman that she was, she entered the house. From that moment on, her whereabouts became an enigma.

The more thought I gave to the story, the more terrified I grew. Keeping my wits about me, I packed my possessions in the morning and boarded the train to Strasbourg. Oftentimes thoughts and imagination run too free for reality.

After having spent a week with my siblings, I returned to 21 rue de Saulles. While still on the street, I heard the pandemonium. Curious to finally solve Jane’s mystery, I entered the apartment. Seated on the sofa was an unusual man: a top hat over his voluminous curls, a Dali moustache, and a pince-nez.

I intended to converse with him and inquire about his presence; however, he lacked the interest. “Young Lady, from generations have we inhabited 21 rue de Saulles. Without further ado, instantly part from here lest my anger should boil up once more and end your life,” bellowed the Intruder. I had no such intentions. I remarked, “Sir, if you will, allow me to provide my explanation: I pay the rent, I do the dishes, I sweep the floor, I organize the books (which you, now I figure, have been disarraying), and I just came from a long journey! Have some humanity.”

The Intruder reddened and reached for his top hat; having placed it on his knee, he reached for his pocket from which he took out a shiny boning knife and turned it in his hands. With great difficulty I swallowed my saliva and trembled from fear. The Intruder stood up and approached me with his knife held out towards me. I leaned in to embrace him, placed my hand over his and turned the direction of the knife. Minutes later, he fell unconscious to the ground. Whatever followed, my eyes were unable to believe. Instead of blood gushing forth, his body parts detached and shrunk tenfold the size. Soon, a procession followed: the eyes led the nose, the ear, the cheeks, and the lips out the window; the next procession was led by the hallux toe and the index finger which led the arms and the legs; finally, the back and the skeleton dragged themselves out the window. This was the Intruder whom Jane had failed to annihilate. He was now gone. The satisfaction and pride which filled me were beyond description.

I went into kitchen and began to bake kugelhopf to commemorate the death of my childhood friend: the Intruder. His mystery had finally been unveiled.

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