Sharing Falaka (novel)

Note: I first imagined the story to be starting somewhere in the mountains of northern Iran. But then I felt kind of overly responsible: What if what I describe has little to do with the actual Iran? In this forum, there are many real Iranians who could easily prove me wrong. This is why the story is set in some unknown country and even religious terms are not named, although the Oriental and thus probably Islamic nature of the whole is pretty obvious. The story starts with (yet) teenage characters, but it is not meant as any kind of CP. Anyway, if the admins deem anything unacceptable, I will remove it.

Chapter 1

I just happened to embark on the slippery path of sexual deviation at the tender age of fourteen. Back then, I was a typical shepherd from a mountain village... well, not quite. One thing about me was not really typical for our area – I was friends with a girl.

In our region, such friendships were not really encouraged. Any contacts with the opposite sex before marriage (beyond the silblings, of course) were considered undesirable and risky: what if the two become intimate with each other? Marriages were arranged by parents between young people who not necessarily ever had seen each other and before that, everybody tried to see to boys being friends with boys and girls being friends with girls. Not that the children never had tried to act otherwise – they did. But then both sides were told that friendships between girls and boys were morally disapprovable and not good for anything but trouble anyway – the genders were just too different. Questions about that, with or without arguments, did not find more satisfactory answers than ''it's just the way it is, period''. One thing about this strict, even despotic, way of life was an advantage for me: being a boy was a privilege. On the one hand, a boy was supposed to have a lot of strength and willpower and thus could be exposed to one or another ordeal a girl would have been spared. But on the other hand, he was prepared to be the one giving orders in the family, which led to obedience being taken somewhat less seriously. Thus, as a whole, boys were better off, but I did not really enjoy it. I just wanted to communicate with children in and outside of the family as an equal child and really hated the role of my sisters' strict boss I had to play since the age of five.

Things got better when I got some new responsibilities at the age of twelve. My big brother left for the next city to work and I now had to put the sheep out to the mountain pasture instead of him. Now I was no longer under control most of the time except in winter, when it rained down in the village and snowed in the mountains. Above there, I was only the boss of silly sheep who did not really care about acting against my will – they were just fine like that. Largely I could just think about whatever I wanted. This was where another young shepherd turned up: Jamilla. She was tall, almost as tall as me, physically strong, had a nice moderate corpulence and seemed to be some kind of eldest son to her parents – God was obviously not going to give them real sons. While I found the role of master in this system of family slavery to be a nuisance, she had essentially just been promoted – from total slave to somewhat lesser slave. Up there, we did not have to care about conventions we neither understood nor liked and quickly started to really talk, just as two human beings encountering each other. Soon we were just like two female best friends. There was only one thing I didn't manage: just to cry into her arms if I felt like, just as she did into mine. Our relationship was warm and heartfelt enough for her to have understood the former, too, but this ''men don't cry'' thing already had been hammered into my head too firmly. It had become almost as natural to me as the heascarf being an indispensable part of women's clothing was to her (we just did not have the chance to make different experiences back then).


We recognized this voice. It belonged to her grandfather, one of the elders and the priest of their village. I often saw this man at the bazaar in the next town and had heard a lot about him. He was a not exactly kind, grumbly old man who used his office of priest mainly to take out his bitterness. He needed all the sins he was supposed to fight just to have something to denounce in the most violent of non-substandard words. The man exercised his eloquence in blaming the city people for anything imaginable, only to brazenly encourage one of those very sins, namely arrogance, in his own flock. To him, we village people were the different, the better and righteous, God might help us. From all of the mountain paths, today he happened to choose ours suspecting the sheep he had lost somewhere in that direction. However, suddenly for himself, his priorities changed:

''Hassan?! What are you doing here?!'

''Err... shepherding?''

''This I see myself! Why are you with Jamilla?''

''We are friends.'' A typical case of ''if you don't know what to tell, just tell the truth.''.

''So! They are friends! I remember such a case, they were 'friends', too, until she got pregnant!...''-

''It's not our case! I swear to God we didn't anything like that!'' - Jamilla confirmed my words by a silent nod.

I hoped for the old man to be too superstitious to consider us capable of such a false oath. Whether Jamilla shared this hope, I do not know. However, it turned out not to be necessary – he did not suspect us of doing these very things.

''I see you didn't. It would have been easy to feel if you had. However, you were pretty sure to end up there one day... but rest assured, you won't! Follow me to the house of the village assembly – for falaka! Yes, with the flocks'' – the latter was his answer to our mutual silent question.

We were really scared. Of course, we knew what falaka was. It was not practiced as a domestic punishment in either of our families – it was just easier to give the child a quick spanking than to take the trouble preparing this ritual. Neither did I remember any such ritual in the house of our village assembly – we did not have such outstanding troublemakers. I did not really have to care about the old man's vicious hints about ''what will your father say when he learns about it''. By the next possible moment for that, other gossip and nasty things people told about each other would have long since overshadowed this incident. Jamilla had few to fear as well – she thought her parents would consider the impending punishment enough. But the reputation of the falaka process itself was horrible. They said that the pain of spanking was nothing compared to it, that in the cities people get sentenced to that for actual law violations, that the police there even uses falaka as a torture...

We only had to hope that in our case things will not be quite as bad as they were portrayed – after all, this was just a disciplinary action, not a judicial punishment. On our way to the place of punishment, we supported each othe as well as we could; the old man did not comment. In the house of the village assembly, in front of all of the elder men of that village, we had to lie down on our backs to have our feet – always bare in the mild to hot seasons – put in the special sling for falaka. The latter was fastened to a stick and tightened around it by the two helpers supposed to hold it, one at either end. The floor was covered with straw. Without talking we just joined hands under the straw, invisible for the others, to meet the ordeal together as tender friends – I think you could call it so.

''Today, you're only receiving twenty-five strokes, not even very hard'', said our main torturer. ''Consider this getting away easily. But remember, if you are ever seen together again, today's beating is nothing compared to the one I will give you!''

We tightened our mutual grip, preparing to meet the imminent chastisement. The old man took a swing with his stick and gave us the first stroke. We were pierced by sharp pain and could not help screaming, which came several more times, but somewhere around the fifth stroke the pain got easier to tolerate. Our nervous systems were now more accustomed to what was coming again and again. Now, we were moaning silently at the most, but there was another, a strange thing to it. As painful as the process was, I felt something vaguely pleasant and exciting about it – as absurd as it sounded. Anybody would have told me I was crazy if I said it, but it was true – I would have liked to repeat this experience.

''Well done! You're not crying during punishment!'' We felt that the grumbly old man really did feel some respect for this fact – he seemed to rarely see something like that. ''There is the stream!''

We understood the allusion. The hot water was supposed to soothe the pain so that we would be fully able to walk right away and remain fit for work. That evening, we went apart without saying a word: we had to pretend that the punishment had worked. But soon Jamilla came to our usual meeting point in the mountains again. I did not really doubt she would. The surprise was another thing.

''Hassan, I need to tell you something... nobody else will understand...''


''This recent pain... it was somehow pleasurable to me... I know it sounds crazy...''

I still don't know who was more amazed about our oddities coinciding this day – me or her.

''You're right, it sounds crazy, but I understand. It's the same with me.''

Jamilla just stood there for a minute, dumbfounded.

''Are you... er... serious?''

''Completely serious. Really, I would never have been able to make it up. How can pain be pleasurable? It's like snow being warm. But it is true. This particular pain did be pleasurable. And now I know the pleasure is somehow related to what he feared us to do.''

Jamilla just opened her mouth one more time.

''Now I'm really sure you're telling the truth. It's the same with me. I wonder if we have gone crazy...''

''Two people at a time?''

''Yes, you're right. Apart from that, I'm quite sure we're sane. But... this is just impossible...''

''You say it. Did you notice? This isn't the first time when something is impossible but true.''

My friend turned thoughtful – obviously about the same things as me. Indeed, the morals of our native places just declared many things impossible and inexistent that did exist and emerged through loopholes time and time again. And now something that we had considered logically impossible ourselves turned out to be reality.

''You know what? I think we should leave our villages. We have many open questions that will not be answered here. And if they become too many, we will eventually lose our minds indeed.''

What could I have objected? There was other life in the cities, a life more diverse and exciting, the people there knew more due to the education, college education in particular. There were also other chances and possibilities unimaginable in the village – the chance for a more prosperous life, for example... The other day, we were precisely not seen together. Two teenagers from two different villages had disappeared on the same day, having left for the nearest big city for work and future. They already had said goodbye to the doubtful ''future prospects'' of their former lives. And indeed – they were soon to learn that they were not the only people like that, that some people not only enjoy the same, but openly ask their partner to chastise them physically for this pleasure and are perfectly entitled to do so...

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