Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one-hundred and twenty-ninth piece in this series. This week’s is a 450-worder by retired advertising copywriter and freelance writer Rohini Sunderam. This story will be podcasted in episode 39 (with two other stories and some 6-worders) on Sunday 27th April.
Threading a needle
Secreted from the underbelly of the moth caterpillar called Bombyx mori, it sat in suspension for thirty-five days, a single filament one and half a kilometre long. The cocoon was plunged into a hot bath to loosen the glue that held the threads together. Then it was cooled so that this thread could be unravelled. The caterpillar died in the process. That fine single strand of silk, for which a life was sacrificed, then joined three other martyrs to form a thread of one of the finest, most prized fibres in the world.
It shone in the light with a gentle glow, blushing as each of its minute three-sided faces caught a sunbeam that exposed its lissom length and supple sinews. It glowed as a moonbeam caressed its tresses. And it stretched in pleasure almost to its tensile limit pleased at its own resilience as one of the strongest natural filaments in the world. Its pride was short-lived.
Before it could revel in its own existence, the thread was trapped. Caught and wound into a skein. Then, enslaved in a ring, the yarn was packed off to a fabled land, Turkey. Here in the dyer’s harem the skein lost the innocent cream of its youth and was plunged into an indigo dye.
The indigo whispered its own sad story of capture, beatings and torture. The two strangers in a strange land wept and embraced each other. As their tears mingled the indigo imbued the silk with the softest, most beautiful hue of sorrow – blue; the kind that shines bravely in the sun and glistens pensively in the moonlight.
Today, a three denier thread of that silk waits suspended, rigid with fear, as a lady’s fingers clutch its neck and aim to push it into the oval eye of a sharp metal spike. At the last moment the thread flinches and dodges the eye of the needle.
The lady looks at the thread, then gently slides it over her tongue. The wet muscular rough appendage arouses an old memory – the glue that once held each strand tight and safe in that cocoon of the Bombyx mori caterpillar so long ago. The recollection makes all three deniers cling to each other now stiff with anticipation as they fly through the eye of the needle. It is threaded.
And the slavery of the silk is complete as the metal spike pulls all three strands together through the squared fabric to form a blue daisy in the lady’s embroidery. The silk sighs as it succumbs to its eternal punishment, forever bent, never free to flow and dance in the light again except in minute parts of its length as it weeps across the tapestry.
I asked Rohini what prompted this piece and she said…
This was another exercise through the Bahrain Writers’ Circle – Creative Writers’ Workshop. Back then we had a different format: we’d do exercises and were then given homework to share at the next session.
I remember it was given to us by Shauna Nearing Loej when, as a group, we were mendicants going from one refuge to another. At the time we were kindly granted a spot in a bookshop in Adliya. Shauna gave us a choice of subjects to write on. As usual I, ever the ‘teacher’s pet’, had done my assignment – the above post. It was an inspired piece although written frantically the night before we were due to meet. The atmosphere was perfect: dim lights, leather sofas and a slight chill in the air. I intoned my piece and at the time felt my voice sounded almost sepulchral, later I was told I sounded poetic! Anyway, this was met with such enthusiasm that I sent it to the Flaneur, where it still resides as a story under the same title! I’m hoping it’s okay to publish it here after almost two years. And I hope you will enjoy it.
It was beautifully-crafted. Thank you, Rohini.
Rohini Sunderam is a retired advertising copywriter and freelance writer who dabbles in prose and poetry. It was in university that Rohini Sunderam realised she had started a life-long romance with words. She’d flirted with them as a child having once written a dramatic piece for her brother and sister, to whom she would tell fanciful tales, in order to pass away the long hot summer afternoons, in New Delhi, India while their parents were asleep.
The affair with words and imagining led Rohini to her line of work and she became an advertising copywriter. A trade she still plies after more than 30 years. In the course of her work she has written ad copy – for films, radio, and print- in India, Bahrain and Canada. She has also written two books as commissioned assignments, her articles have appeared in The Statesman, Calcutta, India; The Globe & Mail, Canada and The Halifax Chronicle Herald, Nova Scotia, Canada. Under the pen name Zohra Saeed, Rohini is the author of Desert Flower a romantic story set in Bahrain in the 1930s and published by Red Rose Publishing. Her stories, articles and poetry have also appeared in the following online publications: The Flaneur, Sketchbook and Lucid Rhythms (poetry); a poem was selected in an international competition and appeared in Poetry Rivals’ 2012 Collection; Published by Remus House UK. Rohini has participated in the Colours of Life poetry festival in Bahrain 2012, 2013 and is scheduled to do so again in 2014. She has a blog: FictionPals which she wishes she was more active than it currently is. Rohini Sunderam is a member of the Bahrain Writers’ Society.
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