Microfiction and Poetry by Alaka Rajan Skinner

             By Alaka Rajan Skinner

It is just past midnight. Her eyes are half-closed, drowsy with pain and exhaustion as she awaits the final slumber from which she cannot be disturbed. She stands unsteadily on the stone-cold floor, in her own waste. She stands because she must - because her cell is so very small. With barely any strength left, her legs buckle under her, again and again, but there is not enough space to bend them.

These days she wishes she had never been born, never had a child. Only one of her babies is still alive and though she can see him, she cannot comfort him. She looks at him now, lying on the concrete blood-spattered floor, wounded and weak with hunger and fear. At first, she had heard his heart-rending cries, the sound reverberating throughout the walls, mingling with the shrieks of the others to create a harrowing cacophony. But his cries are less frequent now and she knows, with the certainty born of experience, that he too will die. That all she can do is watch.

The nighttime silence is broken only by the occasional haunting whimper and moan, the hooting of an owl, the chirping of crickets. But then she hears it. The unexpected rumbling that snaps her out of her semi-conscious state! It is a sound she has come to dread, for it is inevitably a precursor to death. But what could they be doing here at this hour?

The vehicle slows, then stops. The sliver of headlights appears momentarily under the door before all is dark again, but she can make out some shapes. She hears soft footsteps, then whispering. Her ears perk up - she is alert now. The footsteps come closer. And closer. She can see their silhouettes at the window now. One of them is jiggling the window lock - they are breaking in! But why? Breaking out she can understand, but why would anyone want to break into this hell? The driver slows down as he nears the cluster of buildings. Turning off the headlights that would betray their presence, he turns to the co-conspirators in his pick-up truck.

“Are you ready?” “Yes!” they hiss in unison as they jump out, putting on their night-vision goggles and running quietly towards the stone building. The stench hits them hard, as do the wretched cries and moans. They work in near silence. One of them remains outside - she is to be the lookout. The other works on the window latch. With a sudden click, it opens, and they clamber in. The floor is filthy with grime, urine and bloodstains. They hear the plaintive whimper before they see the tiny baby, its leg cut and bleeding. The woman picks it up.

She cries out instinctively, in anguish and fear. Where are they taking her baby? Surely, he is not old enough to be of any use to them! Then she hears a voice, “Quick, here’s the mother!” A man approaches her cage, whispering soothing words. It is then that she realizes that these people are different from the ones she has known all her life. Now there are two of them, carrying her! It is not easy, and they struggle, but she is lighter than she should be as she has hardly eaten since she lost her babies.

And suddenly she is in the back of the pick-up truck, lying on a bed of straw with her baby boy! Can it really be that they are free and together at last? As the truck drives off, her little one squeals softly, nuzzling his pink snout against his mother’s soft belly, seeking comfort and milk.

By Alaka Rajan Skinner

So we all sit,
In a prison of our own making
Wondering what went wrong,
Wondering how it could have happened -
To US!
While the uncaged parakeet flies past,
With eyes that speak volumes,
Not mocking, but pitying…
Forgetting, forgiving
Our past transgressions.
Bringing us the moments of joy…
…that we withheld.
But unlike us, they are not alone -
The land, water and air
We fought to own
Are theirs to roam!
The tables have turned -
From hunter to hunted.
From master to servant.
Who is vulnerable now?
We are trapped, we mourn.
Tagged and tracked
Who can live like this?
We ask, looking at the wild boars
Without a trace of irony,
Forgetting their clipped cousins in pens.
We languish within,
Gazing longingly without,
At the endless expanse  
Of pristine blue skies and seas,
At the sprawling wildflowers and trees…
Forgetting how they had waned
in our shadow.
And when we are released,
Even just for a moment,
We rush for solace
To the pockets of forests that remain,
P e p p e r e d across the island -
first halved,
then quartered…
Nature heals! we say, gasping greedily,
Forgetting that heal herself first she must.
For it is as if Nature, Having finally resolved to purge itself -
Of US!
Is rising, reviving
As if the rest of creation,
Finally fatigued by the wayward child, has cried:

AlakaRajan Skinner is a vegan Asian writer, educator and coach. She writes about what matters to her, including animals and the natural world, empathy and diversity. Alaka grew up in Iran and has lived in India, the US and Singapore. She writes fiction and non-fiction, prose and poetry for adults and children. Her published works include articles for print and online publications, short stories and children’s stories. Her children’s book about sustainability entitled Are You Listening? has been featured by BBC radio, Greenpeace Storytelling and at the Asian Festival of Children's Content. A lifelong learner, Alaka has a PhD in Strategy and Organizational Behaviour (NTU), an MBA (Cornell) and a Masters in HR Management (Rutgers).

Copyright©2023 by Alaka Rajan Skinner. All Rights Reserved.