Tongi by Mehreen Ahmed It was a glass room, Tongi. Literally, a room which was made of glass built on stilts in the far shade of a village pond. The pond's algae reflected its green on its glass walls. On rainy days, slanting rains fell on it and left its droplets to slide down the glass. Tongi ghor, or Tongi room, as it was often called was also a lover's den. Under a waxing moon, love glided here in the moon's full view—light streaming through the glass. Only an insider was privy to its magic—only they could feel its real throbbing, transforming romantics into yearning hearts—enchanting and transcending any barriers—a safe house for the insiders. This place knew no shame. Where love was not berated for breaking taboos. Its rhythms, a heartfelt, meant only for love—to hear and understand. Tongi was an insider’s bubble. As soon as lovers came out of the room, the full moon packed itself away under a river cloud and the bubble of enchantment broke. Social antipathy was let loose on them—off-limit to the socialites—this bubble belonged only to the insiders of the Tongi room. Nacre An irritant entered the body, Queen Nacre secreted aragonite and conchiolin in her castle's bedchamber of the deep seas which the Queen produced as a protective shield against invaders, she gave birth to the Mother-of Pearls and embedded it on its lucent pods within its hard shells, a defence mechanism, an impregnable wall, not understanding though, that this prized possession, was also the much-coveted object for the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts--the rulers on the land, who would go to any lengths to extract it by violating Nacre's fragile shells— the Trojan wall would fall at their feet, to bejewel an already existing ornamental neck of the Queen, more pearls for the Hatter's jewel in the crown, the Mother-of-Pearl the most precious survival mechanism taken and crushed for their pleasure, paradoxically an existential crisis, a double-edged sword—the very wall of protection was also Queen Nacre's nemesis, for her oyster subjects cried a rising death toll in the Garden of Pearls, however, who could not even conch, a sound off to the mermaids of the far seas whose aid of ancient callings could have frustrated the Queen of Heart's sea soldiers -- raiders of the Oyster Kingdom had this wayward annihilation on their conscious, but, one pearl made its way back to Queen Nacre's court and told her a story of obsession that a Queen on the land dissolved one of them, pearls, mixed it in wine or vinegar and drank it to impress her King--beautiful but idiosyncratic, thought Queen Nacre in a moment of truth. Space People stared opened-eyed at me, brazenly walked across to my table as I had my morning coffee, coming, up close and personal almost choking my breathing space, however, I didn’t move an inch, they didn’t either, as they wanted my table, finding tables was rare here at this time, my gut feeling— they were not only after the tables.