Mehak Daleh lives and works out of Chandigarh. She started working on ‘Roses’ on a cold December day in 2012, giving in to an image of little girls walking to a graveyard which had been stuck in her head for months. This image became the centre around which the manuscript grew. Mehak relishes dark folklore and mythology along with contemporary fiction. Her stories, born where the everyday meets the extraordinary, are usually set in the hills where she grew up, and where she developed a penchant for the mysterious and macabre.
And the Roses Bled is her debut novel, and she is currently working on her subsequent manuscripts. Below you can read an excerpt from her book, And The Roses Bled.
AND THE ROSES BLED (Book Excerpt) by Mehak Daleh
We went on like that for a few more minutes when I began to feel the colour of light change around me, as if I were watching everything through a sepia-tinted filter. I looked at the other three, but they were busy with their chatter. They didn’t seem to notice. Their voices were becoming distant, as if I was slowly entering some soundproofed area. The air began to get cold and the little hair on the back of my neck stood to attention. I swear I saw my breath fog the air around me. It was cold. I quietly looked around myself; nothing. As I walked a little away from my friends, their chitter-chatter became mute, unblocking my senses. I scanned the area around me again.
Then I saw it. I was now near the thicket of pines and chestnuts that made a rough boundary around the graveyard. The trees started approximately ten metres from where I stood. There, I saw a girl slowly come out from behind a tree trunk.
Her drenched dark hair was hanging limply around her tiny brown face—just like I had seen Nina’s. But this wasn’t Nina—not that I could clearly make out any features, but instinctively I knew it wasn’t her. She looked vaguely familiar, but she wasn’t my sister. That dark fluid was dripping from her hair onto her shoulders, one of which was at an odd angle, as if it was dislocated. I wondered if it was water or something else. I couldn’t make out.
“Blood!” a whisper rose up in my mind like mist from a river.
She wore a tattered blue school tunic that came up to her scraped knees. The flesh of those knees looked really raw. There were dark brown stains on what was left of the dress. A tear in the fabric showed a part of her thigh. A small chunk of flesh was missing from it. She wore only one grimy black shoe. She stared at me for what felt like eternity, and then took two steps forward and just stood there.
I watched her eyes change. Even from that distance, I saw it as if we were nose to nose. Her pupils expanded abnormally, eating away the brown irises and the white of the eye, till everything was black and hollow. I felt I could see into her brains, right to the back of her skull, through those freaky black holes. Only, there was no end to it, there was no back of the skull. What I saw in there can only be described as an endless, dimly lit corridor to nowhere, lined with doors inaccessible to me—doors that held her memories safe, locked up in their chambers to gather dust while everything else that was ‘her’ decayed. That passage went on and on and on, till the person walking through it went insane.
I was shivering; my flesh erupted in goosebumps. I had a strong feeling my bladder was going to let go. Thankfully, it held and the feeling passed. My classmates wouldn’t have let me live through it if that had happened.
Clap! Clap! Two sharp noises made me snap out of what most people would call a hallucination.
It wasn’t that, I assure you. I tried to convince myself it was a waking dream, tried to reason that since I was particularly sensitive to death since a very early age, perhaps my overactive mind had conjured up things in tandem with what had become my nature. But I know better. I saw the girl.