Ibrahim Waheed “Kalaavehi”

Even though no one admitted they acknowledged presence of the assorted devin that prowled the silent square of public land, waiting for a wayward human being to cross their paths at night, the good folks of Nikafushi island just did not have any need to be in the neighborhood of the cemetery after the muezzin announced the sunset prayers from the mosque in the center of the island. Of course, in this modern day and age, no one believed in the Kaddevi, Buddevi or the Mulhadevi. Still, the reality was that no one walked into the cemetery at night.

Stories, told from time immemorial to little children who expressed a certain reluctance to sit down and read the Quran between sunset and the Isha prayers, mentioned young men who had strayed into the cemetery, were bewitched by the devin and taken away by the denizens of the other world. Whether the adults actually believed these stories themselves is a point open to conjecture; suffice it to say that they themselves had been children, reluctant to sit down and read or otherwise, in their time. The reality was that no one dared to walk into the cemetery at night.

Azim was from Male’ and just did not know that no one walked into the cemetery at night until after he had done it two nights in a row. So when his host and friend Zahir discovered this and mentioned this to him, Azim had a hearty laugh. He knew that what Zahir really did not want was for his friend to make friends with any of the local girls and, probably, cause any unnecessary trouble. So Azim promised his friend that he would not walk into the cemetery at night.

But he did walk past the cemetery at noon. And that was when he saw the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his life.

She sat there on the grass beside a fresh grave, smoothing the white sand on it and chanting something under her breath. Azim stood staring at her for some time and then plucked up enough courage to jump over the low wall that ran around the cemetery and go to her. As Azim approached her, the hum of the chant increased in volume. Assuming it to be a prayer of sorts, he kept quiet till the girl felt his presence, stopped her chanting, and looked up at him.

In that instant, Azim knew that this was the girl for him. Something in her eyes told him secrets that he had never known before. History as old as Adam and Eve furled and unfurled itself before his eyes long before they exchanged a word. Promises were made, offers acknowledged and exchanged, just with a glance. It felt as if they had known each other for centuries, almost as if their union had been preordained long before they had been an idea in their parents’ minds. Saying hello was just a formality — almost like a formal agreement sealing fate itself.

Azim did not tell his friend Zahir about Kamana, his new girlfriend. He did not tell anyone. He did not want to create any trouble for anybody. Instead, he met her furtively, always at noon, when she went to the cemetery to ‘tend to the graves of old friends’ as she told him. As the magnetism between the young couple grew into inseparability, a rumor that the young man from Male’ had started visiting the cemetery at noon started the doing the rounds. That was when Kamana asked Zahir to come and visit her at night, right after the Isha prayers.

On that fateful night, when Zahir set out to meet Kamana, there was a slight chill in the air. Soon afterwards, a light drizzle began to fall and when Zahir reached the cemetery, he was shivering. However, the sight of a bright red Maldivian Dhivehi libaas dress right in the middle of the cemetery warmed his heart. He walked quickly towards it, oblivious to the silence and the low mist that appeared to lie low on the ground.

As Zahir reached Kamana, she turned around and smiled at him. That was when Zahir noticed that her teeth gleamed sharp and strong in the moonlight that had come out of an overcast sky. For the first time in his life, Zahir noticed that she had pointed ears. A pin-sharp light burned red and bright through the slit-like pupil in each eye. The smile grew into a sharp, inhuman laugh as icicles of fear speared through Zahir’s heart.

Meanwhile, shivering under an umbrella, waiting for Zahir to come to her, Kamana stood just outside the cemetery, ready to take him to meet her parents who lived in a house nearby. She saw Zahir walk into the cemetery from the far end and into the thick mist that had appeared right over the freshest graves. And when Zahir did not come through after more than ten minutes, a cold fear gripped her heart. A warning from her childhood echoed in her ears: No one walked into the cemetery at night!

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