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Battlewords by Rida Jaleel

Photo by Nate Neelson

“Where do we get good battle swords around here?” I ask, my voice cryptic, calm, without a hint of a tear. “Battle swords?” She looks up from her seat in the subway. “Why do you need battle swords, love, when there are no battles to fight?” I looked up again, a little unsure, a little scared of what was really right. “Where are the wounds and the catastrophes? Where is the blood and the casualties?” I looked at the streak of blood trickling down her forehead, voice withering, a shiver in my knees. “It’s for you.” I whispered, but my words twirled like winter wisp and flew out the window. “For me?” She laughed, eyes glistening, not realising that I’d seen the bloody molar, lying low. “But I’m perfectly alright. Why do I need battle swords?” She laughed, swiping a calloused hand against blood-matted hair. I didn’t want to hear that laughter anymore, I didn’t want to hear the soft silk in her voice tear. “Where is the war?” She asked again, like a lone man standing amidst the Black Plague and asking me, “Death? I don’t see it.” “It’s for you.” The thundering subway stole my words again. Her throat closed, her eyebrows knit. She was trying to detect if I could hear the clatter of steel inside her brain, thoughts screaming their war cries before clashing against the walls of her cranium. I closed my eyes, pretending to not hear the squelch of blood of her fears and as for the walls of anxiety mounting, I pretend to not see them. “I’m okay.” She laughed again, her eyes acquiring a sheen of gleam. “I’m okay.” She said again, reeling their thoughts back into their ream. I smiled. I wasn’t winning this row. I pretended to agree, nodded, the shiver in my knees only deciding to grow. I slipped my hands inside my backpack, and took out my pen knife, Slipped it into her palm instead. This life was a strife. Which supermarket sells battle swords at this hour? What can you say when your head is at war? This night seems incessant, you can’t fight no more, but if you ever need a pen-knife wielding ally, you know I won’t be far.

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