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.

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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

The lying lady- Flash fiction

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This is a translation of a short story that was written in Urdu.

The sun was at its hottest when he reached home from school. Upon entering the house, he felt his mother’s face light up at his sight. She smiled and said wash up and change your clothes, I will bring your lunch.
He changed his clothes, he wasn’t looking forward to lunch. Instead of the usual vegetables and lentils, a plate of his favorite dish was steaming on the table along with a bowl of dessert and juice.
He asked his mother if everything was alright? She said guests had come over today which is why she cooked so much. He asked his mother to eat with him. She said she already ate with the guests and was completely full.
“Eat up the food is getting cold.” His mother told him lovingly as she left for the kitchen to tidy up. He used to detest lunch everyday, but today his favorites were on the table and he quickly gobbled up his food.
He picked up his plates and went to the kitchen. Upon entering the kitchen he saw the lying lady sitting on the floor eating stale bread with water like a starving person.

Flash Fiction- I can’t read

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“So tell me about yourself”

“What do you want to know?”

“Anything,”  she smiled brushing a strand behind her ears “and everything!”

“Well, ” I cleared my throat “I was born and brought up here, my parents are also from here”

“This isn’t a job interview” She interjected

“Actually madam,” I replied “It is”

The lady who introduced herself as Maham picked up my CV for the umpteenth time, glanced at it again and said “Alright, what do you bring to the table”

“Well my CV is here so..”

“We both know that CVs do not truly project your complete image, so I ask again Mr. Anjum, what can you give to this organisation that the other five applicants for this job can’t?”

I was a little flustered, and getting annoyed. This question completely put me off. The interview had been highly unorthodox, she had almost completely ignored my CV, it was feeling more like an interrogation than a job interview. On top of that she was a really hard person to read, some interviewers put you at ease and others keep you on your toes; she was switching between the two modes very frequently, I didn’t know what to say. I had had enough,

“Madam my CV pretty much describes the person I am and what I bring to the table. I am a honest hard working person who hasn’t stolen anything in my life. I can’t understand what you are trying to ask, I came here for a job interview, but you make it feel like an interrogation. Thank you for your time!” I replied angrily as I got up to leave the room.

“Honesty! How refreshing Mr. Anjum, the other five people just put on fake smiles and made hollow promises,” Maham said as I reached the door.

I stopped at the door, still pissed at this lady who had given me a headache in just half an hour.

“The job is yours if you want it, any questions?”

Atleast it wasn’t all for nothing.

“Umm what kind of assistance will be required to provide?”

“Just routine secretarial work like handling correspondence with clients, filing and so on.”

“The ad said that  special secretarial duties would be required… what does that mean?” I asked bracing myself for the worst like carrying out personal errands for her.

“Well Mr. Anjum, ” She hesitated for the first time in our meeting.

“I can’t read.” She replied red faced

Sun in my eyes

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When I was younger, I had very weak eyes. No one in my family wore glasses. On top of that, my eyesight was constantly weakening. I had regressed from -4 to -10 in a span of 6 months. My birthday present when I turns six was a bottle of Vitamin C tablets. The odd thing was that I did not indulge in any activities that stressed my eyes. I did not even watch tv.
My parents were very worried as an optician had once told them that at the rate which my eye sight was deteriorating I could be legally blind by the age of 10. My parents tried everything to improve or at least stabilize my eyesight, but unfortunately could not do anything to arrest the slide.
We were not really well off, my father worked as a foreman in a factory, barely making ends meet. We were able to make ends meet only after my mother’s income, which she used just to pay the rent. After quick breakfast of tea and a small piece of flatbread, father left everyday at 7am to the bus stop with last night’s leftovers packed as his lunch. He came back around 9 at night, eat dinner and then chat with me for a while and then go to sleep.
One morning I was gently shaken awake, “let me sleep” I murmured groggily.
“There will be plenty of time for that later,” my father replied gently, wiping a wet wash cloth on my face. I got up and splashed some water on my face.
We walked to the top the hill near our house.
“What time is it?” I asked grumpily as we made our way up the hill in semi darkness.
“5,” my father replied cheerfully
“Hurry up, don’t drag your feet or you’ll miss it.”
“Miss what?” I asked yawning.
“The most beautiful sight in the world.”
We finally reached the top and we sat facing the city.
Even after more than 30 years I vividly remember all details of my first time on the top of the hill. An ancient truck was making its way into the city of Karachi. We were perched on two flat rocks my father and I, it was surprisingly cool to sit on. We sat there just watching the sun rise and just talking. My father never looked at me when we were talking, and he told me to look ahead after taking off my spectacles, which was odd, as I could only make out shapes without them, and watch the sun rise. He was right, it was a most magnificent sight, seeing night turn into day. However, not wearing glasses meant that I only got a blurred view of the magnificent sight in front of me. I stared in front chatting with my dad till I couldn’t see due to the sun in my eyes. Finally the heat and sun light became too much and I said “Can we go? I have sun in my eyes!”
My father smiled and asked” Tell me Asad, how can a twinkle of my eye get sun in their eyes?”
Not getting the joke I finally turned to face my dad and moaned”I don’t know Baba, just take me home!”
We made our way down the hill and came back every day for the next year. I began to look forward to these trips, making idle conversation with my dad. The calmest time of the day in a busy city like Karachi and the beautiful sight from the top of the hill. Everyday we went to the hill and just talked. Each day we only got up when I said that I have sun in my eyes. My vision began to gradually improve until after one year I didn’t need my glasses. That last day promised myself that today I won’t say that I have sun in my eyes. After watching the sun rise, my dad and I kept talking and he told me how a friend told him to try this sun rise treatment and how worried he was about my eyes. He kept talking and then stopped, “Asad, you’re not getting any sun in your eyes today?”

 

“How can I when I can’t see it?”

my father looked at me to see that I was facing the other way and laughed. He ruffled my hair and said”Fine, I will say it this time. Lets go, I have sun in my eyes!”

we got up and made our way back home.

Flash fiction- Horror Stories

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The nights were hot and sweaty, coupled with the long power outages are the constant puttering of generators in our street, it was a miracle of we got more than 3-4 hours of sleep. We spent long humid nights fanning ourselves to sleep with hand made fans or newspapers.
We had one fan made by our mother who had fashioned it by attaching buntings on an old lid. We lost it and forgot all about it.
On one such humid night at around 2 am, someone was banging on our door. It was the little boy across the street. “Excuse me uncle,” he “I want to ask why the lady who comes every night to fan me to sleep has not come tonight?”
“Sorry son,” I replied, “no lady lives here.”
“Yes she does,” argued the little boy,”She told me herself when she fanned me the first time. She also told me that she made this fan herself.”
He was holding a battered old lid with buntings attached on the sides. My mother has beeb dead for five years.

Jab She met Me

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The chocolate made an impression

The chocolate made an impression

It’s funny how you search for something for a long time, you don’t find it. The moment you stop looking-it finds you.
My friend and I were travelling by bus not too long ago, we boarded the bus and sat in our allocated seats, we were cracking jokes, which come to think of it, weren’t all that funny, but still we were laughing our heads off. In between the laughter and the fives, I saw her from the corner of my eyes boarding the bus. She had long black hair, brown eyes and an anxious look on her face as she located her seat. She had a window seat, when she sat down, she looked out the window and waved goodbye to her acquaintance who had come to see her off, she gave a small smile and then busied herself in making herself comfortable.
Now, I’m not one of those ‘taroo’ type guys who stares at girls wide eyed with a fully-focused-stare-at-them-till-they-are-in-my-sight type of guy; but she was someone who in my view; deserved a second glance and I must confess, I glanced at her more than twice.
As soon as she sat down, I nudged my friend and asked, “What do you think?”
My friend glanced at her once, shrugged and said “OK” I sat there a little puzzled by his reply.
There were four seats in a row in the bus separated by the aisle with two seats on either side. My friend was sitting on the window seat, I was sitting next to him, she sat as I mentioned above on the window seat and between us sat an old lady, who was busy chatting away on her cell phone informing whoever was on the other end in a rather loud manner conversing all the while in Punjabi that she had boarded the bus. I could see that the raven headed beauty (yes- these were my exact thoughts at that time, problems of being a romantic) was bothered by it.
So our journey began, with me slyly stealing glances at her, only to have my stares blocked many times by the fidgety old lady. She wouldn’t let me stare in peace. Instead of staring directly at her, I stared at her reflection in the windows on my side. My friend had settled down, ear phones in place, eyes closed, head bobbing rhythmically to some techno tune with crappy lyrics blissfully unaware at the stare-athon I had just begun. In hindsight, this was a master stroke, no chances of getting caught by the old lady or anyone else for that matter. I spent almost 2 hours like this staring and thinking of something to say to her. Should I say something smart? Should I be funny? Should I be myself? Should I keep it simple? and just say ‘hi’? Will that be sufficient?
As I was going through all the different scenarios in my head, funnily enough, none of them had a good ending for me, I heard loud laughter. I looked to see who was laughing, it was her, she had seen some funny commercial playing on the TV in the bus, found it funny, and now apparently, telling the whole bus she found it funny. My friend looked at her like any normal person would in that situation with an eyebrow raised and a ‘what-the-hell?’ expression on his face; he then rolled his eyes and muttered something about bad manners. I on the other hand, was intrigued and even more determined to make a lasting impression on her, in a good way.
Yes, you are right, I live a lot inside my head and tend to over analyse things; by the time I had decided my opening line- which was a food related query, the bus had stopped for a twenty minute break. As soon as I opened my mouth, she rushed outside the bus, leaving me thinking, am I that repulsive?
We (my friend and I) also got off the bus to stretch our legs, bought some chocolates: Bounty which forms a very critical part of the story and some other snacks for the remainder of our journey. When we sat down, I noted that a small victory had been achieved, the old lady had gotten off and the girl was now sitting with her back to the window and resting her legs on the empty seat. I was now gathering courage to talk to her. She had two cell phones on her lap fiddling with both of them to switch them on somehow and as luck would have it, they didn’t turn on. After a few minutes of trying, she gave up with an exasperated sigh, and that was my window of opportunity to make contact with her. (I have chosen these words, for me it a very alien experience)
Taking a deep breath, my heart started pounding very quickly, despite the air-conditioning of the bus; I could feel a thin sheen of sweat forming on my forehead as I turned towards her and open my mouth to speak. Before I could utter one syllable, she eyed my phone in my hand, clasped so very tightly, and asked me if she could borrow it to make a call. I remember nodding but not sure whether I said something or not. She took my phone called a couple of numbers and then left a text message with whoever it was she was trying to call. She returned my cell and that was that. Meanwhile, my friend was feeling up for a chat, but I was determined to talk to her. I politely asked her whether she was from the city we were going to, when she answered in affirmative; I then asked her the question that I had been thinking over and over to initiate conversation with her, were there any good places to eat?
Apparently she was a foodie, she burst into details about what to have and what not to have, all three of us exchanged names, education, a brief family history and a love for food. When the discussion of chocolate came up, I asked her whether she liked bounty, she replied yes, this is where I like to believe I made a lasting impression. I offered her our bounty (actually my friends, I had eaten mine), to which she so sweetly said that she never refused chocolate, I then asked for half the chocolate back, which she gave back. I popped that half in my mouth as my friend watched both bemused and a little annoyed at the stunt I had pulled with his chocolate. After this conversation flowed freely between us, jokes were shared, some life experiences in strange places. As our journey was coming to an end, she told us to call on the number that she had called, it was her brother’s number, and he would happily guide us during our stay in their city. I got off the bus looking for the cab we had booked, after which I wanted to say goodbye to her, unfortunately for me, she left after saying goodbye to my friend, while I was looking for the cab. On the ride to the hotel I was kicking myself for not asking for her number. I slept that night for the first time in my life thinking about a girl I had just met.
Early next morning the beeping of my phone woke me up. It was a WhatsApp message from an unknown number saying “Hi”, when the profile picture loaded; it was the girl from the bus. Miracles do happen.