The Aftermath

Today is the day

I sigh, perhaps I am relieved?

I stare with bleary eyes

At the exam hall with the cracking plaster, standing stolidly.

I can visualize all the pictures of the toppers

That would appear in the posters after some days

Suddenly I can see the corpses of the failures swimming before my eyes

The foundations of this exam hall are firm upon these corpses,

These failures, lost in history.

I want to feel cheerful; I want to feel relieved

I want my heart to open up to the world

Is this the aftermath? Is this what I wanted after the exam?

Bent back, dark half-moons under my eyes, my brain heavy with the questions

I couldn’t answer in the exam

Breath hissing through my nostrils as I think of appropriate answers

When people ask me, with smiles that make me want to shrink back,

How was your paper?

I look up at the sky, my dreams now lost in its fold

My tears lost in the eager paper discussion going on outside the exam hall

My mind mechanically calculates and recalculates my marks

My body sinks into the rhythm of the routine

As I move with an artificial vigor and soon

I am an unknown me

I turn around, try to find myself but I am lost somewhere among the corpses

I want to feel anything at all- angry, relieved, sad, cheerful, worried;

But there is nothing

Except an empty heart.


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Maliha Iqbal
Maliha Iqbal is a student and writer based in Aligarh, India. Many of her short stories, write-ups, letters and poems have been published on platforms like Livewire (The Wire), Creativity Webzine, Countercurrents, Café Dissensus, Cerebration, Times of India and Borderless Journal. She can be reached at


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