Flash Fiction- What is normal?

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He didn’t have the most normal reaction one expected at the loss of a parent. There were no tears, there was no grief. If I were to identify with the one emotion that he displayed it could perhaps be cataloged as relief. The kind of relief one experiences when a great and terrible burden has been lifted.

Then again, he wasn’t the most normal person, how many people you know would list a bullet proof jacket as their ideal gift? Sameer was, for lack of a better word, unique. We first met as toddlers in the playgroup in our neighbourhood.  All the other children would be kicking and screaming all over the place (yours truly included) he would just sit down in a corner with six blocks of “1,2,3” and ABC. He would build two perfect towers one- one for the alphabet and one for numbers, both towers would be perfectly straight with one plastic cube perfectly placed on top of the other. After admiring his work for a minute of two, he would bring the tower down and start the whole process again.

I had never seen him smile.

Sameer lived at home with his parents, his uncle and his uncle’s wife his father’s only brother. Growing up, we were not financially comfortable, our living quarters were cramped and the occasional meal would be skipped but the sense of community made life a lot more easier. There was a principal of fairness instilled in us from the very first day of education. Whatever we brought from home would be pooled in to one huge communal meal. Sameer never brought any lunch throughout our schooling life. Sometimes, I gave him my lunches so that he could share it with the class as his. That’s how our friendship started.

Sameer always had a methodical approach to every thing he ever did, be it stacking blocks as a toddler or tackling any task. I remember when we were in 8th grade, someone donated a bunch of computers to our school, some 5 or 6 monitors were dumped in a large crate and all the wires, keyboards and mouses had been shoved in another box.

The computer systems donated were ancient, dusty, huge and heavy. They had been in a corner of a warehouse gathering dust for god knows how long. Just opening the flap of the box released a puff of dust in our faces. The students of the 8th grade had been instructed to assist the teachers in assembling the computer systems. No one in our school knew anything about computers, but Sameer volunteered to assemble them. Sameer and I stayed back after school to assemble our school’s computer lab which was basically made up of five broken tables pushed together a long extension board which Sameer fashioned from loose sockets, switches and floor boards. He worked very methodically but there was a touch of elegance to his work which made it seem like an artist was working.

After 5 hours of tedious labour, we finally managed to turn on the computers, I think it was in that time that our friendship bond really strengthened. That day we opened up to each other about our dreams. We asked each other what we wanted from our lives. I said that I wanted money, success, comfort and luxury, Sameer on the other hand after some hesitation muttered- “Peace”.

After that I found out that his father was an addict and use to regularly beat up his mother, Sameer had never told me this, the one thing that his father had taught him was never to air his dirty laundry in public. Every new bruise was explained as the result of a “fall”

One day he “fell” so hard that his arm was broken and his mother had also “fallen” with him which resulted in her breaking her ribs. People had asked her what happened and she just brushed it off like her son and said that she had fallen.

Now what I’m about to say next is just speculation based on the facts that I pieced together.

After the aforementioned fall where Sameer and his mother got injured, he complained to me about too many rats in his house. I suggested he get some rat poison from the hardware store around the corner. At the store, Sameer discussed his rat problem and asked for some potent rat poison. When the shopkeeper asked him how much he needed, Sameer replied “Enough to kill a rat no matter how big the bastard is” We took the poison to his house and grinded the small squares into fine white powder and placed it on his center table. We clearly labelled it “Rat Poison”.

I greeted Sameer’s father who only responded with a dazed look. He noticed Sameer standing next to me and asked him “Sameer when will you teach me how to read?”

Sameer did not respond and left the room, beckoning me to follow him.

A few days later, I saw a lot of people gathered around Sameer’s house, an ambulance was parked outside his house. His uncle and aunt were arguing with Sameer’s mother about something.
“But don’t you want to know how he died?” Sameer’s uncle angrily inquired, his aunt was bobbing her head in agreement with her husband.
“We all know how he died,” Sameer’s mother began “Why spend money finding out what we already know?”
“Don’t you owe it to him to find out?” Sameer’s aunt protested
“No.” Sameer’s mother’s eyes flashed dangerously signalling the end of the matter.
I had joined the crowd who were now enjoying watching the drama unfold
An acquaintance in the crowd whispered that Sameer’s father passed away from a drug overdose in the morning. Sameer spotted me in the crowd and beckoned me inside the house.
“Help me tidy up, we’ll be having a lot of visitors soon” he requested picking up shards of glass with his hands. I spotted a small translucent bag sealed lying on top of the sideboard with the sofa. Sameer picked up a similar bag from the center table marked “RAT POISON”, resealed it and placed in his pocket.
“At least the rat problem’s solved”

Flash fiction- I lost it

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I thought that had I lost it. I could feel my pulse quickening, a bulging vein in my forehead threatened to pop.

A bead of perspiration trickled down to the bridge of my nose. A great rage started to rise within me, I had stayed silent for far too long.

They say that there is agony and then there is ecstasy, the former has accompanied me on my travails for as long as I can remember, I don’t believe that I have been fortunate enough to meet the latter.

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Flash fiction- it had happened again

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It had happened again! How could I have been so stupid?  I had sworn never to do it again. Worse, I had been caught doing it. They say there are low moments of your life- when you are so humiliated that you wish that the ground opens up and swallows you whole. I had been caught, and even more embarrassing was the fact that I was topless and my companion was standing in the corner of the room sobbing.

I guess I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.

I walked into the medical store and slyly slid over a piece of paper to the person at the counter. The shopkeeper was an old acquaintance who gave me a questioning look as if to ask “what the hell?”. I just urged him on with a nod to comply with my request and said” put it in a brown paper bag, don’t want anybody to see it” The shopkeeper gave me a conspirational nod and put the package in a plain brown paper bag and slid it towards me. I hastily shoved the package in my jacket and made my way briskly to my motorbike. I drove back to my house stopping to pick up my companion on the way.

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I snuck back into my house and checked to see if the coast was clear. Package in hand, I beckoned my companion as I sprinted up the stairs to my room and locked it after she was inside. I drew the curtains to shield the activity in the room from the outside world.

“Hurry!” she said as I opened the package

“Take off your shirt or it will stain!” I nodded and took my shirt off.

“Hurry someone might come soon. Open it! Open it!” she demanded

“Ok ok!” I replied as I took the package out of the brown paper bag.

As I was opening the package someone started banging on the bedroom door.

“Crap! Someone’s here! what do we do?” she asked panicking

“Stay quiet!” I hissed at her

“Open the door! Why is it locked?”

I signalled my companion to stay quiet

“I know you’re in there, I saw your bike outside.” I heard the jingling of keys and the sound of a key being put into the lock. I looked on as my companion scurried to the corner of the room, quietly sobbing, looking for an exit where there wasn’t one.

I grasped the package tightly looking for a place to stash it. Unfortunately, in times of panic rarely do you get a moment of clarity, and I ended up stuffing the package in the shirt that I had taken off.

There was a moment of silence before the voice outside the door said “Fine, if you are not opening the door, I will”

There was click of the lock and the door swung open letting in a rush of daylight which temporarily stung my eyes. My companion stood silently in the corner of the room sobbing.

My brother walked in the room and looked around briefly before he grabbed my shirt which was now stained as the contents of the package had melted. He extracted the package from the shirt, a few drops dropped on the floor.

“how could you let him do this?” he asked my companion

She gave a sheepish smile as she showed him the chocolate I bribed my sister with.

“You are diabetic, you can’t run around doing this anymore!” he yelled at me as he left the room, throwing the ice cream into the dustbin. I stared longingly as the package contents melted into a small puddle at the bottom of the bin.

“Next time don’t take off the shirt!” my sister remarked as she left the room munching away on the chocolate.

Flash fiction- The challenge

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Combing his fingers through his hair, he took a deep breath- staring anxiously at the opaque cylindrical bottle in front of him.
Everyone was looking at him expectantly, he smiled nervously at the girl next to him. She was beaming at him, the grin splitting her face in half,but the eyes were expressionless, betraying her indifference to him.
He threw a questioning look at the great man standing in front of him. The great man paused before giving him an encouraging smile and a nod to carry on.
He took a deep breath and lifted the bottle to his lips as the great man urged him on. People started chanting his name, some cheering and all of them applauding him in the catchy rhythm that made one want to shake a leg.
The pungent liquid flowed over the tip of his tongue filling his nostrils and making him gag as he gulped the dark fluid. He forced himself to down the whole bottle in one go. Though it took him only a minute, it felt hours as after each gulp, he had to pause drinking for a moment to accommodate the gust of gas exiting his mouth after every few seconds tipping the fluid from his mouth onto his shirt.
Meanwhile the chanting of and clapping of the audience increased in volume and speed as the contents of the bottle decreased.
He fell to his knees after emptying the bottle amidst cheers, panting as if he had run a marathon. As he struggled to catch his breath on his haunches, he saw the fake smile lady beckoning him towards his prize.
The great man clapped him on the back triggering a burp from him as he
declared his accomplishments to the audience.
The fake smile lady stood with his prize as the audience listened enamored by the great man’s charm and showmanship.”-for completing the challenge of finishing a litre of the gasiest soft drink in a minute – Ahmed has won a brand new 800cc Car!”
The fake smile lady opened the car door for him as Ahmed sat in the driver’s seat of now hiscar.
The great man leaned in the driver’s window and asked”Ahmed bhai, is there anything else that your heart desires?”
Ahmed hesitated before saying- “Fahad bhai- if I could get mobile phone to go with the car…. That would be great.”
The great man gave a big booming laugh as he gestured his assistant to bring him a mobile phone.

Flash fiction- Horror stories

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I can feel it. It gets closer and closer all the time. The stench fills up my nostrils and churns my insides.
I can feel it breathing right in my ear growling and snarling at each person that passed by.
No one seemed to notice the grotesque figure perched on my left shoulder. Then again, no one really got close because I don’t let them. Because if they do- they’ll see where my demons hide.
I can’t control them- they create urges in me that won’t let me rest unless they are satisfied. Sometimes it would just be some specific food- like moldy bread, rotten stuff to feed rotten souls, or I guess they got a kick out of me expelling fluids from either side of my body. Other times it would be toying with someone’s life. I don’t think they have made me kill someone yet, but there are some unexplained gaps in my memory.

No need to say goodbye- flash fiction

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“How much could it hurt? A few moments of pain and then what?”

“Depends on what you believe. If you’ve been a good person then those moments of pain will be all that you feel. If not then those few excruciating moments will be the least of your worries.”

“Why?”

“An eternity of suffering awaits you. They say the real journey starts afterwards, this was but a little stop before your final destination.”

“What’s the other belief?”

“The other belief is that there is nothing afterwards, so a few moments of pain will be all you feel. You will fade into nothing- it is an escape route.”

“I want an escape how do I get it?”She asked anxiously

“Look for an opportunity” He replied, beginning to caress the beads in his rosary. His eyes were focused on the ground,
“Until then my child,” He glanced up making eye contact with the veiled lady for the first time during their meeting. “Have patience” he advised giving her a sympathetic smile. His kind black eyes again focused on the ground as he started meditating again indicating that their meeting had ended.

She got up and thanked the “Pir” (Holy Man) for his counsel and left the little room. She quietly and swiftly made her way back to her house, grateful for the veil on her face to avoid recognition from any acquaintance in this neighborhood filled with residents bearing questionable morals.

Maria entered her house from the back door, as quietly as possible to avoid getting caught by her paranoid husband.

She was virtually a prisoner at her house. She took off her veil as she stood in front of the mirror, something which she seldom did these days. Hazel eyes stared back at her as she stroked her cheeks lightly, it was exactly as the nurse in the burn ward had predicted. The burns had healed, but the scars remained.

She hated her reflection now, her beautiful face, her pride, was now horribly disfigured and the reason she decided to wear the veil outdoors.

Her husband had thrown acid on her face a few months before when he saw that she laughed at her neighbor’s son for making a funny remark about her husband. What started as a harmless joke quickly escalated into a shouting match. In a fit of rage, her husband got the bottle of acid from under the sink, opened the cap and grabbed her by the arm.
“Laugh one more time! I dare you!” He snarled at her.
Scared, she could not muster any response just a broken, throaty and sobbing apology, as she felt the first sting of the liquid pierce through the flesh on her face leaving her writhing in agony.

It was a full two hours before she got medical help. After this incident she started covering her face citing religious reasons- a white lie she told to avoid uncomfortable discussions.
The bottle of acid was still there, half empty, under the sink.
It was after the incident that someone referred her to the Pir. His suggestions didn’t make much of a difference to her life, but she did breathe a little easier being able to discuss with someone the issues bothering her with a degree of comfort without being judged.

That night, she was going to take an opportunity, her patience was wearing thin. She needed to get out.
She was very polite to him that night- extra attentive to his needs. She also made him a cup of tea before sleeping, something she hadn’t done since the acid incident. After he fell asleep, she got the bottle of acid from underneath the sink and dribbled some on his slippers. She then left to pack her things, which didn’t take very long give the limited number of worldly possessions her husband had allowed her to own. She then stood by her husband’s head and emptied the acid bottles content on his face and torso. The silent night was pierced by a blood curdling scream as her husband awoke to the agonizing sensation of stinging flesh. The scream intensified after he stepped in to his damp slippers.
She watched in silence the pandemonium unfolding in front of her- her husband sprinting blindly in the house trying to soothe his burning flesh. She called an ambulance and slipped out of the house. At 3 in the morning, she watched from a far as an ambulance finally picked up her wailing husband as the ambulance passed by her, she wondered if she should do something. She started to move in the direction of the ambulance and then stopped. There was no need to say good bye she thought as she walk into the graying skies.

Flash Fiction-The curious case of the mineral water

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An acquaintance of mine told me the story of how the mind can influence the body
Here’s the story:
My father’s brother came to Pakistan from America after a gap of 11 years. My uncle was a serious victim of germophobia and thought that the boiled water here was dirty. Consequently, he had an upset stomach drinking the ‘dirty’ boiled water. In order to salvage his brother’s stomach, my father bought a gallon of some mineral water and all was well. In those days mineral water had been newly launched in the market and was considered a luxury, so understandably the rest of the family questioned the logic behind the expense for such a luxury.

One fine day, as we were sitting for lunch, my uncle mentioned to my father that he was out of mineral water and needed some more. My father had just started his meal and was really angry at the timing of my uncle’s request. In his haste to get back to lunch, he did not go to the bottle wala and buy a new gallon, instead he filled the gallon with tap water and just shut the door loudly to ensure that my uncle heard him coming back. He tipped the contents of the gallon into a bottle and brought it to the table. My uncle was satisfied that he was having ‘mineral’ water and spent the rest of his trip drinking what was in fact, tap water. There were no further bouts of repeated trips to the bathroom and my uncle returned to America with a healthy stomach.

As you can see mineral water is just an illusion for fooling the elite class of Pakistan, for people coming from abroad doctors recommend double-boiled water and urge the visitors to avoid to drink mineral water.
I mean we don’t know how they get the water, it could be sewage treated water for all we know. To further demonstrate my point, i want the readers to watch the  Tuxedo opening scene the film starring Jackie Chan.

Mineral Water

Mineral Water