Asma's last night at the hostel was also the last time she would check in with the real world. She'd been a crafter of stories ever since she was a little girl, studying cinema in her father's studio, writing abstruse prose, disconnecting herself from the pretentions of reality. Genius, it's said, needs infusions of madness to nourish itself. Those that retain a fleeting connection with the world they inhabit make a name for themselves through their fantastical unpatterned thoughts and designs. Those that let go of this connection are remanded to institutions. Asma was happy to be on the brink, happy to simply give shape to the eruption Krishno had scripted for later that night.
She could feel the romance in the air as she got dressed. Where it wisped in from, she couldn't tell. But then her notions of romance had gotten addled over the years, so perhaps what she felt today was just a heightened sensitivity to her immediacies, engendered by solitude and sharpened by the anxiety of what could go wrong that night...or possibly a wistfulness wrought on by the storm clouds that had gathered over London.
She forced a smile as she looked herself in the mirror - bedecked, jewelry resplendent, she looked every inch a cinema goddess. The earrings were a gift from Shahadat, and she'd stolen the necklace from her mother. They were essences, frozen in time, of her uncle's passion and her mother's sobriety - clasps to her old life. She undid these clasps every night when she made her way to yet another dimly lit street corner, but she decided to keep them on for this, her last night in London.
This tussle between passion and sobriety helped center Asma in the world she created around herself. It held her delicate life taut against the wind, steeling her. And she needed every last bit of these slender strengths to keep from flinching as she played out her part in Krishno's game.
She never analysed why she went along with Krishno, nor what power he held over her. She didn't care to know. He was a magician, she knew that. He created elaborate illusions that caused jaws to fall. She let herself be carried by him, by his performances. Sometimes they'd be mere ripples that floated her along from one night to the next. Other times, like she knew it'd be tonight, she gave in to the vicious riptide, to the aftershock that'd follow. She learnt to slide along with it, beginning the day Krishno told her about how he'd gotten that bomb smuggled onto The Queen Mary.
Asma's mind was pliable clay when she left Dhaka. Krishno played potter to shape it as he willed, after taking her home the night The Queen Mary sank. He lied to her shamelessly, until she became inured to his lying. She would know that his nature was to lie, but his every falsehood was designed to help Asma create an alternate reality for herself. Her uncle was a casualty, he explained. But these things happen. Asma's intelligence begged her to see through the smoke and mirrors, but it was a losing battle. When the illusions began to feel more real, more comfortable than the truth, she let herself get swept by them.