Short Story: The Daughter that Bleeds by Shweta Taneja


 

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

“Brother, you’re the man of the hour!” Sardar Singh whacked Asim on his shoulder, making him stagger and cough. “What luck, yaar. Seven daughters I’ve had, seven expensive bitches. My Lalli is one fertile mare but no, not even one has taken on her and shed a drop of blood, but you, bull’s eye with the first one, eh? You lucky rogue!” Sardar winked. Asim looked around suspiciously, desperately hoping no one had heard. Just when his luck had turned he managed to bump into the biggest gossip from his district.

“How did you—” Asim stopped himself. He took out his neatly folded, embroidered handkerchief and wiped off his sweaty brow, fingering his hair back into their gelled shape and inching away from his boisterous districter. “Look, not here, please.”

Sardar pulled Asim in a corner, taking them out of the gurgling sea of humanity that lined up to enter the fertility market.

“You’re a real hidden beast!” Sardar’s whisper carried loudly into his ear. Asim was a short, petite man with a small pointy beard to hide his rather unremarkable chin, where Sardar was a giant; tall and broad and fat with a flowing salt-and-pepper beard. “Frankly, when you got married to that Alia, I thought, what a waste of a perfect breed. She is a winner alright, everyone knew her. Every woman in her family had given birth to bleeding girls. And you, when was the last time you remember bloodshed in your family, eh?” Sardar elbowed Asim in his ribcage, aking him cringe. “But you, you proved to be a wolf in a sheep’s hide eh? How many girls do you have now?”

“Four,” he answered, rubbing his bruised rib.

“Twelve years and four girls already? And all of them younger than the bleeder? How old is she? The daughter that bleeds?”

“Eleven.”

“Bleeding at eleven? Well, well, well. Are you trying Fertible—”

“I would never!”Asim’s lips twisted in disgust.

“Are you taking that potion from Hanif Hakeem, then? Tell us too yaara, for we would want to know the secret. Our Lalli still has a few years of bleeding left in her. We can try to wet our barren lands too.”

“Sardar!”

“Listen, brother,” Sardar placed his arm around Asim’s shoulders, his brows wet with sweat. “As you know my son, Karkat, is ready for a bleeder. Now we district brothers have an understanding between us, don’t we? You don’t want your daughter to go to a stranger’s house where Alia might not be able to see her anymore, now, do you? Or who knows what kind of perverted customs other districters have? If it’s someone from district four they might even—”

Asim clenched the handle of his precious coolbox and bit back a scathing retort. Everyone in the district knew Sardar’s simple son. He had been peddling his male firstborn in this market for months to get a bleeder. Who in their right mind would part with a bleeder daughter, that too a virgin, for that idiot? Asim had high hopes for his Gaia. He wanted her to have as many children as she possibly could. He needed a fertile breeder for her. Not Sardar’s son who didn’t look like he had any sperm in his loins or matter in his brain.

“Look, I have to go. I have an auction slot—” said Asim, hoping Sardar would get the hint.

 

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