Spotlight: Sana Munir

The Serpent and the Tree


The Aleph Review’s December 2020 ‘Spotlight’ series begins with a one-act play by Sana Munir. The play is a dialogue between Satan and a Djinn that the former is convincing to entice mankind.


One Act Play | Three Scenes


SCENE ONE


Satan: Penitence! The ignominy mocks at me. It ignites the whitest of fires that burns me, singed as I am with capitulation. Ah, the scalding agony of disgrace!


Djinn: Sire, potent is the fire that thou art! What métier has fire over thine indispensable countenance?


Satan: Disdainful slave, thee! Scorn be thine! Sarcasm gushes forth that impertinent foul mouth, does it now?


[spits fires]


Djinn: Mercy!


[the spit causes a hole in Djinn’s being]


Satan: I am not just fire, insolent, impertinent subordinate. The pits of hell-fire burn inside my stomach, the molten lava from the innards of the mounts that separate heaven from hell, are fluff before my knuckles!


Djinn: You are right, Sire.


[scoffs inaudibly]


Satan: Hypocrite! I like thee.


[thunders with laughter]


Djinn: The slave ponders upon a query….


[bows]


Satan: Ask.


[flourishes his cloak, and sits on throne]


Djinn: What maims the good Sire?


Satan: Man.


[grunts]


Djinn: Man? That clay thing?


Satan: [rises from the throne, stomps arrogantly, spits fire]


Djinn: [cowers]


Satan: That clay thing! That hollow structure of sounding clay!


Djinn: How did it irk the good Sire? Allow me to put it down to place.


Satan: Mock me, does your impudent tongue?


[flies to Djinn and throttles it]


Djinn: [Splutters]


Satan: Shall I not noose thine neck with this audacious tongue of thine and drag thee over splinters of white fire? Speak not very well now, can thou, slave?


Djinn: [falls to the ground, pleads]


Satan: Very well.


[walks to the throne]


Djinn: Forgive me, O deity. I never forgot my place. This tongue is slippery and has a mind of its own! Angers it thee, shall I keep it under lock if thou say?


[falls on Satan’s feet]


Satan: [rests his feet on Djinn’s head]


Djinn: My Sire, should this head be beaten to pulp to provide a softer cushion to thy heels!


Satan: [groans]


Djinn: Would that this spine be broken, so Sire could stretch his feet on a pillow satin-like, smoother than the belly of the floating duck and softer than the fur of the reddest fox!


Satan: Enough!

[kicks the Djinn away]


Djinn: [rolls, falls to the side, tries to get up, stumbles, falls and rises]


Satan: What slave shall thou be when the act is that of buffoonery? I asked for an army of the wretched and instead got jesters! How shall I, the mighty, then, defeat, annihilate the preposterous goof they call Man, and claim back what is mine!


Djinn: The slave pines, my Sire, it pines, to serve.


Satan: Useless, thy talk as thy being. Should thou not be melted, and thrust back to the corner of hell from where thine useless self rose as a splinter?


Djinn: Sire!


[gurgles and implores]


Satan: I honed thee with hypocrisy and thou hath cultivated a lasso for a tongue as oily as the sticky pus from the one that hath borne the lash of mine abode. Would that I trusted more of thy clan, for errands that I can plan yet alas, not execute.


Djinn: Humility does not suit the great Sire…


[Djinn scratches his head]


Satan: Humility? HUMILITY, eh? It is not humility, O chattering twat! ‘Tis chains that bind me! The Almighty, the Merciful, the Benevolent, threw me out of that garden of wonders! Threw me out, do you hear?!


Djinn: Ah! It pains me to hear that.


Satan: [Flies to Djinn]


When this unfortunate pair of eyes was set upon that creature, ‘twas hollow, as hollow as the insides of the tree that dies and yet stands with an empty casing of the bark.


Djinn: Did the inquisitive Sire clang it, with the knuckles of his hands?


Satan: [grins]


Far better! From his nostrils did I enter and from the anus did I that mug of sand.


Djinn: Clay…


[Satan glares at Djinn for the correction]


Djinn: Finish me, Sire. What good is this physique if it assists not him who nurtures its being. Alas! If that Man made of sounding clay is not what I can tame and damn, what good am I? Would that I were a splinter in the mound of ash and then shall I have felt glorious more than I do now. Ah, the pain!


Satan: O, shut up!


Djinn: [sobs]


Satan: Go, then. Go into the Eden of trees and fruits and exquisite birds that sing sweet songs. Go! Scamper! To the gardens of Paradise, on the tier that shall not reject you and find Man and his partner…


Djinn: They gave him a partner?


[eyes widen with interest]


Satan: YES!


[his being goes up in flames]


Djinn: Mercy!


Satan: [throttles the Djinn, and talks through his teeth]


In the garden of the lowest tier, shall thou find the Tree Of Life. On its twines thou shalt find the Fruit Of Knowledge. Make use of thy cunning disposition, thy vile proposition and make him eat the Fruit of the tree that he is forbidden to eat from.


Djinn: Would any other fruit not do?


Satan: [roars in anguish]


‘Tis the fruit I told thine pesky ears already! What shalt I say to the Omnipotent? The Almighty, who granted me, despite my misfortunate legacy, the permission, to glide through Man’s veins like blood. I shall put Man’s loyalty and sincerity to test. I!


[laughs loudly]


Djinn: But they threw you out, Sire.


Satan: [Slaps Djinn]


Djinn: [Cries]


Satan: Respect thine commander, lest I muzzle your spark to that of a dying matchstick!


Djinn: Just the dreadful tongue, Master. The tongue that knows not its corner, sloshes around places it must not dwell in. I forget my place, Sire. Pardon it, lest you desire the slave to cut it off and feed thy mighty flames, closer to thine feet, with it.


Satan: [rolls eyes] Not very pointless a suggestion, actually.


Djinn: But I am a fool.


[gulps]


Satan: Your wicked loyalty is a quality, but the sniggering tongue is a bane. We must rid of it.


Djinn: [hides his horror, feigns composure]


Of course, my hyperbole is a doing of the wretched tongue, Sire. Of course the flames of my master’s being deserve much better to lap up on than this vile thing. I shall tie it in a knot, for you, Sire.


[attempts to tie tongue in a knot]


Satan: [stares at Djinn] Turn!


Djinn: Sire?


Satan: Turn, now, insolent fool!


Djinn: [turns into serpent, with a tongue that hangs out]


Satan: Ah, much better.


[slinks into throne, and giggles triumphantly, snaps fingers and sips on a cocktail of snake venoms]


Djinn: [desperately glides, coils before Satan and bows head to plead]


Satan: Away with you! Come back, when you have fulfilled the command. Shoo!



SCENE TWO


Djinn: [twirled around a branch on the Tree Of Life, sings]


Pleasures, sweet in nature,

Temptations, Delirious, So delectable:

Forbidden fruits from the stealthy twigs.

Slurp; salivate and yet seek more.

Delicious goods of the salacious kind

Let sweetness drip off the lips

Saunter over, hither, from thither and

Slurp; salivate and yet seek more.

Ssssss. Sssssss. Ssssss. Ssssss.


[Sounds of crunching, twice.]


Schlangen by Albertus Seba (ca. 1735)

SCENE THREE


Satan: Rejoice! [Roars with thunderous laughter]

Rejoice!


Djinn: [coils before his master, its head dances to the thumping sounds]


Satan: Beat the ground, stamp on it, bring the volcanic molasses of the deeper innards of Hell come to the surface and lick at our feet. Stamp harder, and come hither, O favourite one!


[wears Djinn as a necklace around his neck]


It begins! The battleground is even now, so let molten fire strike between the two banished foes. O dedicated ones, run through their veins like blood and whisper, whisper, whisper.

Bring out the hisses and subdue thine fires. He is weak, that Man.


[multiple sounds of booing from Satan’s armies]


Manipulate, for his whims are frivolous, so make it thy weapon. Corrupt him, for his needs are flimsy, so brandish thy sword of cunning. Weaken, for his faith is dwindling by the moment. Seep inside the heart and turn out the lights therein, but beware! ‘Tis the heart where the Nur resides so slither, don’t stomp. Slither and slide, slowly make your space and lull his beat to a melody akin to your kind.


A silent war, this be. And one gild in golden promises, of pleasure, peace and happiness. Sneak while he suckles on assurances aplenty: sneak and stealthily claim for yourself all that is glorious and everlasting inside of him.


O Man, thy hollow self shall shrink before thy mighty foe.


[Curtain falls]



Sana Munir has authored two books of fiction, The Satanist: A Novel (2015) and Unfettered Wings: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Women (2018). She has also co-edited the anthology, The Stained Glass Window (2020), which is a collection of short stories from various academics, authors, journalists, TV celebrities and maiden writers, about the ongoing pandemic in Pakistan. Unfettered Wings is part of curriculum at COMSATS and UMT for students of English literature and academic papers have been written on her book in India and in Pakistan. Sana’s short form fiction has recently appeared in The Aleph Review, Vol. 4 (2020) and The Bridge, an anthology featuring academics. She writes regularly for The News on Sunday and for Urdu News. She is working on a novel currently.


About the artwork: Schlangen (Snakes) is an illustration from a famous 18th-century work of reference, edited by Albertus Seba, a Dutch pharmacist and collector of zoological and other natural subjects.


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