Women's Fiction



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Although the Arabic world is as diverse as any other region, customs and traditions endure. Injustices continue. And then there is Laila. Trapped in a marriage to a man she finds physically revolting, Laila begins to realize secret truths about her sexuality, about her very identity as a modern Jordanian woman. “Good” Arab women may have occasional lurid fantasies about dominating men in bed… but Laila actually finds the strength to do it. And when she dies suddenly in an encounter with a lover, the stakes for the survivors become a matter of life and death. In Laila, Fadi Zaghmout gives voice to the Arab woman to put men in her society on trial.


Fate surpassed all expectations it might have had of its own arbitrariness the night I departed this world. It came out of the blue as Tariq and I indulgently messed about in my bedroom. Suddenly and unexpectedly, it came, the way it had twenty-eight years ago on the long-awaited night of my birth, the night my mother’s abdomen convulsed with labor, announcing my arrival to the world.

My mother’s screams as she tensed her thigh muscles and pushed me out were echoed years later by Tariq’s moans and groans as he tensed his thigh muscles while I slipped in and out of him the very second I died.

I was about to climax, mounting him from behind, a dildo strapped to my crotch. He lay naked on his stomach, his hands and feet tied with ropes to the four bedposts. I grabbed his soft hair as I inserted the dildo into him, drunk on a feminine power so absolute, establishing my irrevocable domination of him. Like my mother in labor on my aunt’s wedding night, Tariq’s screams echoed in the room. His ecstatic groans were a mixture of his delicious pain and our erotic thrill. And just like my mother, Tariq was captive to the pain of a single act which completely changed his life in a way he never expected.

Two moments marked my beginning and my end: the first, my birth, a turning point in my mother’s life. The second, my departure, a defining and unforgettable moment poised to haunt Tariq for the rest of his life. In the first, my screams filled the room as I gasped for my first breath of air. In the second, echoes of my hysterical laughter reverberated across the room as I saw the confusion on Tariq’s petrified face when had realized that my limp body, slumped on his bare back, was not merely out of exhaustion after my surging climax. Tariq realized that my body, drained as it was of the life that had coursed through its veins until then, would never stir again.




Whenever I pictured death, my mind never moved past the moment my soul left my body. I often wished my soul would be gently withdrawn, taking me with it like an old woman drifting to eternal sleep on her own bed, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. Yet, I could never shake the feeling that I would most certainly die in a horrible car crash caused by my own reckless driving. 

                 Except that death had a different plan for me. It didn’t come the way I had pictured and expected. Fate had dictated that the manner of my death would exceed all my expectations. Death opted for a sudden, horrifying end, imbued with a peculiar flavor. Had I been the one writing my own mortifying end, I wouldn’t have been able to envision it the way it actually unraveled, nor would I have been able to predict the chain of events which ultimately followed. Had I known that the dead lingered to watch life unfold on earth after they drew their last breath, I wouldn’t have chosen to leave at that particular moment. I would have clung to life and tried to change its course.

I had always loved to hum celebrated verses, lines from poems capturing the treacherous nature of human relationships. But I never anticipated that those same words would accompany me the moment I stopped existing. Neither did I imagine feeling my mouth repeat them while my tongue lay still, motionless, as my soul, light as an exhale, was yanked out of my body and left to levitate and hover around the room. I watched Tariq tear my body up after he tore himself free from the binding ropes and pushed me off him. I watched him check my pulse. Watched him realize I was gone for good.

Up against the ceiling, I hummed seductively the way I did in the past to tantalize Tariq when we role played during sex. 

‘Don’t bemoan the treachery of time,

Dogs have often danced on the cadavers of lions.

Their dance doesn’t make them superior to their masters,

Lions will always be lions. Dogs just dogs.’


                 I tried to convey these lines to him, repeating them over and over again like a desperate incantation, hoping he would hear me. I was suddenly overcome by fear: what if there was hope, a slim chance of me returning to my body, a chance which Tariq was now busy decimating, leaving me shackled in this space?

                 I wanted to bounce on him, ride his soul the way I had ridden his body earlier, but I soon discovered that having left my body did not necessarily entail acquiring the power to transmigrate to the bodies of others.                  A strange conviction swept over me at the same time, a certainty that what was done was done. All that was left for me now was to watch the story unfold after my death, just as I had watched it and experienced it while I was alive.

Still, I carried on screaming into the void, hoping Tariq might somehow hear me. ‘What are you doing? You maniac! What the hell are you doing?’ My screams fell on deaf ears. I changed my tone. It became softer. Calmer. I hoped that a gentler vocal pitch would succeed to infiltrate the air enveloping both my soul and his body. ‘Tariq, honey, why don’t you take a deep breath and think this over? You’re going to get in some serious trouble for this.’ But he didn’t respond. He left me feeling helpless, gutted, completely powerless, trying to locate my own hands to slap my face in disbelief at the atrocity of what was happening in front of me.

I fell quiet for a moment, but I couldn’t remain silent seeing how he was dismembering my body. I tried to appeal to him.

‘Why are you doing this?’

‘Are you scared?’

‘Have you lost your mind?’

‘Why are you being a jerk?’

‘You idiot!’

Unaware of my pleading, Tariq carried on with what he was doing with the same surgical precision he used to slice open the chests of his patients. 

‘You damned fool!' I cried. In silence, I watched as he went about dismembering my body. I watched and tried to make sense of the plan he had hatched to get out of this mess. First, he severed my arms and my legs from my torso. Then he bundled my upper limbs separately from my lower limbs before tying them with the same ropes I had used on him earlier. He searched for large trash bags and found some in the kitchen. After draining the blood out of my dismembered parts, he wiped them down and dried them before stashing them inside trash bags. He finished by mopping the room, giving the tiles a good scrub, and finally sterilizing the floor with Dettol.

‘You’re such a coward,’ I berated him when he was done. ‘Are you proud yourself? Has your fear blinded you to this degree?’

But I stopped when I saw him collapse on the floor next to the trash bag containing my body parts. He might have collapsed out of exhaustion or fear. Or it might have been grief or remorse which finally made him crumble down and fall on his knees next to my body, sobbing.

‘You’re crying too? A big man like you crying?’

I was about to continue scolding him, but his agony and his tears transformed the anger consuming me to a feeling of guilt and responsibility. Wasn’t I the one who betrayed him, leaving him in this unenviable situation? What else was he supposed to do? Leave my corpse where it was and flee the scene? Or pick his cell phone, call the police, and try to explain to them what happened, hoping against hope that they would believe him, only to bear the brunt of the scandal and the ensuing social consequences? Or should he have acted like an idiot and attempted to hide the body and flee as though nothing had happened?

Tariq was a smart man, but he chose to act stupidly. His actions confused me. I had no idea how to help him clamber out of the mess I had caused. Had he lost the ability to make sound decisions after I made him used to relying on me in every aspect of his life?

‘Come on. Get up now. That’s enough. This is not the time to cry,’ I commanded him, trying to take control of the situation. This time, I felt him responding to me, as though what happened hadn’t changed the nature of our relationship or affected my ability to control him as I wish. I watched him stand up and pick up the black garbage bags and head to the front door to leave, so I shouted, ‘No! Not that way. Use the back door!’

It seemed that he heard me. He stopped a few feet away from the main door, turned around and left through the back door.


About the author

Fadi Zaghmout is a Jordanian Author. He holds an MA in Creative Writing and Critical Thinking from Sussex University in the UK. Passionate about social justice, he started writing on his blog in 2006, hoping to spread awareness about issues of gender equality, body rights and sexual freedoms. view profile

Published on October 20, 2020

Published by Signal 8 Press

40000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Women's Fiction

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