Oct 31, 2011

Prisoner Of War

By Fizza Ali

My story…is the story of a useless old man who wasted his youth in pointless suffering. Good enough?


Oh, details, of course.

So… I was a soldier, a common sipahi, sent into Indian territory along with a few others, to harass the Indian Army. On one of the missions in the dense jungle, I got separated from my team.

In a war, your priority is not your comrade, it’s your country. Just your country. So my comrades left without me.

I’m told they came back with reinforcements to search for me, but by that time, I was in an Indian jail, kept there unofficially, with not even word of my imprisonment or even my existence sent back home.

I was a common soldier, unable to help them in any way. So they tortured me to vent their frustration. And the torture…you cannot imagine. Just because I was a Pakistani.

They plucked my nails out with a pair of tongs. One by one. Slowly. Painfully. I was whipped, needles were stuck into my flesh, my bare arms burnt with lighted cigarette. And I bore it all. All in the name of my country, my nation.

For more than forty years I bore all that torture, “Pakistan Zindabad” being the only words on my lips, the only thought in my head. And now I’ve come back to my Pakistan, only to see your generation’s indifference.

A young captain, before embracing Shahadat only recently, said, “I am going to die for a nation whose heroes are those that shine on cellular screens and in playgrounds, not the soldiers who sacrifice their youthful lives for their country, silently and voluntarily.”

I salute him.

The Hotel

By Afnan Imran.

Q. Write the opening chapter of a novel called "The Hotel". Introduce the reader to three different characters who do not know each other as yet, but will do so later. In your writing you should try and establish differences between them and possible reasons why they might meet.

The demon craved release.

The fact did not come as a surprise the man as his beady black eyes gazed, transfixed at the beautiful, young woman getting out of the red SUV. The demon had hidden inside him for two years, but now it seemed impossible to contain it. His sweaty palms clenched, yearning to feel the veins of a long, supple neck beneath them. Anxiety made his skin crawl and his lungs were burned with the need to scream. Was he losing his mind? No, no. He would handle it. He knew how to control the beast. One perfect strike was all it took to calm it down.

He licked his lips in anticipation as he watched the tall, slender woman walk by him. The scent of gardenia wafted through the air, making his nostrils flare. He grinned, watching her enter the building. Her thick, dark hair, pulled back in a pony-tail swayed with every step. His gaze swept down to her long, luscious legs accentuated by black stilettos. She would do.

He was a good man. He did not prey on innocents. It was entirely her fault that she tempted the demon. It would have to be perfect. No one should suspect him. This called for a few rehearsals before the main event.


Danielle Smith forced a smile on her face as she got out of her car. She just hated first days. She sighed, knowing that nothing could delay the upcoming torment. She had a new job to begin. She looked up at the grey, stone building of the Harrison Hotel, its tallest point seeming to touch the wind-chapped face of the New York sky . She shuddered and hoped to God that she never had reason to be up there. She handed her keys to the valet and started towards the revolving glass doors. She absently nodded to the two doormen outside as the scent of leather assailed her senses. She shivered, but it was not from the cool air-conditioning. The nape of her neck tingled as though burned. She felt as if she was being watched. But there was no one in particular concentrating on her. everyone seemed busy in their own buzz of activity.

Don't be foolish, Dani,

she thought, shrugging off her hesitation. It was now or never. She went to the reception at the south-end of the lobby, her eyes taking in her surroundings all the while. The hotel seemed to cater mostly to the upper-crust society. That was the only possible conclusion for a lobby full of gentlemen and ladies in elegant suits at eight a.m., either juggling files or sipping coffee. She nervously smoothed a hand down her own brand new suit. She hoped the grey suit and the black stilettos served their purpose of making her look older. It was galling when people thought her younger than her twenty-three years because of her annoyingly wide, blue eyes.

"Hi, I'm Danielle Smith. I'm Mr. Harrison's new assistant." she said to the pleasant-looking receptionist.

"Of course, he's been waiting for you," she replied smiling. "May i see some ID, please?"

Dani handed over her driver's license, glancing at the middle-aged woman's name-plate. Megan.

"Well, that all seems fine. The offices are on the fourth floor which can only be accessed by this key. " She handed back Dani's license along with a coded key-card. Sensing her discomfort, Megan asked, "First job?"

At Dani's nod, she made a soothing sound in her throat. "Don't worry, dear. Mr. Harrison is a kind employer."

There it was again. That sense of being scrutinized. Dani's hand reached up to scratch the itch at the back of her neck. This new job was getting on her nerves. The sooner this first day ended, the better.

Forcing another smile as she thanked the receptionist and began walking across the white, marbled floor, towards the elevator alcove. She very much doubted that Hayden Harrison was a kind man. In fact, the big, burly man portrayed in yesterday's newspaper hadn't even seemed civilised enough to be sitting behind a desk, let alone kind!

Well, here goes, she thought as she punched the number four inside the spacious elevator. The huge glass chandelier disappeared along with the leather upholstered sofas in the lobby as the metal doors closed.


She was late on her first day. That did not bode well for her punctuality. It was already five after eight. Hayden Peter Harrison fiddled with his pen as he awaited the presence of his new secretary, a dark frown marring his chiseled features. He knew he should not have let HR convince him to hire a fresh graduate. She would be unreliable as was the habit of youth. However, he had needed a young, unattached assistant who would be able to frequently travel across the States with him to monitor his scattered chain of hotels.

His fingers raked through his black hair in an impatient gesture and his sea-green eyes narrowed with irritation. The golden pen in his other hand rapped a constant rhythm against the wooden surface of his cluttered desk. He was just about to pick up his phone to ask the receptionist to call Ms. Smith when a knock sounded on his door.

"Come in," he called.

V Files: Chapter 9 - Ashes To Ashes

By Sama Khwaja

‘So that’s what I was? What I am?’ Destiny thought bitterly, her heart sinking fast to the pit of her stomach. She sighed and gazed out at the sprawling city of Torch from the church rooftop she was currently perched on.

She felt sick. Sick of all these horrible truths popping out of nowhere and sick of how those truths were messing with her head.

‘I’m not really human, am I?’ she realized miserably as she glanced at her hands. ‘Was I ever human? Or was I always an experiment?’

She clenched her hands into tight, angry fists. She hated this. But more than anything, she hated Alicia Crescent for doing this to her.

She wrapped her arms around her legs and buried her face in them, letting her hair sway forward to shut her off from the world. She wanted to forget everything: her name, her rank, Vice, River…

She quickly wiped out the image of River. She wanted to hit herself for coming here. This would be the first place River would come to look for her. Face it. She wanted him to find her. She was pathetic. She just couldn’t let go of him even though it would hurt them both.

‘Can I love someone one day, Ms. Crescent?’

The glowing field sways about her hypnotically. Destiny clutches her ball with pudgy fingers and gazes curiously at a tearful Alicia Crescent. Behind Destiny stands a figure swathed in dark shadows. The only thing visible about him are his piercing ice blue eyes that seem to be boring a hole into Alicia with their gaze.

‘No,’ Alicia chokes out in fright.

‘I…can’t?’ Destiny asks, hurt.

‘No, I mean,’ Alicia wipes away her tears and bends down to cradle Destiny’s face in her hands. She smiles affectionately at the innocent toddler. ‘Of course you can, honey. You can love anybody you want. Just make sure they love you back. Nothing is more special than having someone love you back.’




Destiny feels a sharp pinch at the nape of her neck. Like a mosquito bite. Her vision gets blurry. Alicia pulls away, tears refilling her eyes and some sort of sharp needle in her hand.

‘I’m so sorry.’

Destiny gasped and jolted out of the daydream. Though she wished she hadn’t. Her skin prickled as she saw she was surrounded by creeping and crawling GroundUnders in all directions. She held her breath as they staggered closer, their wheezing breathing heavy in the air.

‘Where is he? When is he? What is he?’ they whispered incessantly, their crimson eyes glittering menacingly.

Destiny hugged herself even tighter as though even their breath could harm her. One of them reached out to touch her but she scooted away. She literally felt the decay of their hands on her skin. It burned her.

‘We need him,’ one hissed close to her ear. ‘Bring him to us. It’s your destiny.’

Something snapped inside her and ignited a wild fire. Her eyes blazed.

‘Get away from me!’ she growled, venom dripping from each word. Without warning, she struck out a hand to grab one and flung him clean off the roof. The sudden violent action made the others snarl and move in for the kill but she was ready. Vice hadn’t trained her for nothing.

‘Don’t aim to destroy. Your purpose is to survive.’

As William’s advice echoed in her head, she breathed deeply to control the adrenaline coursing excitedly in her veins as she parried and attacked effortlessly. It was natural to fight when one felt that high but true strength was controlling that and using it wisely in order to emerge victorious.

As a GroundUnder leapt at her, she nimbly hopped onto its face and used it to propel herself out of the circle of attacking monsters. As soon as she was clear, she broke into a run, not stopping until she reached the front of the roof where a giant golden cross was mounted to face Torch.

While she recollected herself, her mind buzzed with possible escape routes. She needed to get out fast before those creatures overwhelmed her. Sure she was a strong fighter but not even she could fight off such a large number of GroundUnders.

That’s when she caught sight of a motorcycle approaching the church. Her eyes widened. It was River.

She forgot all about wishing he wouldn’t come looking for her. Right now, she was glad to have an escape route, even if it was him.

‘HEY!’ she shouted and waved frantically. Somehow, her voice carried down and he glanced up. She couldn’t discern his expression from this height but she knew he was shocked to find her there. That’s when he saw the broken body of a GroundUnder she had previously cast to the ground and he understood.

Whirring his bike up on its hind wheel, he burst into the church to make his way up to the roof as quickly as possible. Destiny didn’t bother trying to wonder how he was going to do it. If she could get up here without a ladder than he could surely bring his bike up if he wanted. She just hoped he’d hurry.

Suddenly, she felt something grab her forearm and yank her back. She choked back a gasp as she came face to face with a horrendous depiction of a rotting human face. Those demonic crimson eyes were like pits of hellfire. She actually felt like they were burning her up from the inside. She tried to look away but she couldn’t.

‘You will bring him to us,’ the monster whispered through a gash on that so-called face. ‘Because you can.’

Destiny could feel something burning inside her but she realized it wasn’t due to those fiery eyes piercing her with their gaze. It was something deep inside her, a power thrashing against some kind of cage. Even her eyes were stinging due to the heat within her.

Everything seemed to slow down; her breathing, her movements, her heartbeat. Even her vision was blurring due to a bright, white hot light creeping in from a corner. She felt like she no longer belonged to her body. Her hair, her ears, her clothes…she couldn’t feel anything anymore. Like she had gone numb.

This new feeling made her sensations tingle. It was amazing. But there was something…something holding her back. Like this wasn’t all this sensation could make her feel.

‘I have to let it out,’ she realized. The GroundUnder’s face had completely faded into the white light.

‘Didn’t I tell you,’ she heard herself snap angrily. ‘To get away from me?!’

And then, she dropped the barriers.

V Files: Chapter 8 - Mystery Unveiled.

By Sama Khwaja.

The minute those words escaped her lips, an electric jolt shot through her body, sending her thoughts awry as if on rewind. Images of her younger self flashed across her mind along with glimpses of Alicia Crescent and Samuel Templeton. The very process sensitized her nerves painfully and she staggered backwards while clutching her head.

‘Dee, what’s wrong?’ River said in alarm when he saw her pained expression.

‘I don’t know,’ she gasped as the pain slowly ebbed away to be replaced with confusion. What had just happened anyway?

The walkie-talkie on River’s belt suddenly crackled to life.

‘River?’ Adriana’s voice rang out in the desolate church. ‘River, where are you? I don’t care if you’re ignoring us but get back to HQ! Rhett’s orders! We’ve finally figured out what the GroundUnders are after! We’re in Omega!’

As trained soldiers, they packed their feelings away and focused on the fulfilling the given command. Upon entering Omega, the inhabitants gazed suspiciously at the two. Keido, who was positioned behind the enormous computer, smirked at Destiny.

‘What you got, Keido?’ Destiny asked, ignoring everyone’s stare.

‘Rhett, isn’t there something you would like to say?’ William put in, giving him a sideways glance. Rhett’s face colored slightly but he cleared his throat and gave Destiny his usual stern and cold expression.

‘The file you brought us,’ he uttered impassively. ‘Turned out to be exactly what we needed to piece the puzzle together.’

‘You should be glad I insisted on studying it, Rhett,’ Keido said casually as he opened a file on the screen. Rhett gave him a murderous glare. The file he had opened unfolded to reveal window upon window of information stamped with ‘FAIL’ in bold, red capital letters. Destiny raised an eyebrow. Why was Alicia so persistent on this experiment when she failed every time she tried? The windows suddenly disintegrated to make space for the image of a dark silhouetted lean creature with bat-like wings. The image shifted to one side as information wrote itself beside it.

‘Ew! What is THAT!?’ Chi cried out and wrinkled her nose.

‘Alicia labeled it as ‘Mage’,’ Keido informed.

‘Mage…’ Destiny murmured and a familiar tingling returned to her skull. Something was trying to surface in her mind but it was like she was pushing it down while simultaneously trying to wrench it free.

‘Mage was a segment of Hova,’ Keido read off the screen. ‘Which the scientists had obtained when they severed off a piece from her. It mutated into Mage, a life-form more powerful, more destructive and definitely more unstable than Hova.’

Tito grunted while Gear whistled low.

‘Because of its unstable nature,’ Keido continued. ‘It couldn’t be exposed to the Earth’s environment without causing a nuclear explosion. But if encased in a unit that can withstand Earth conditions, Mage would be invincible.’

‘Is that what the experiments were for?’ Adriana said in a hushed tone. ‘They used…’

‘At least thirteen humans died while the others went insane,’ Keido said gravely, his frame rigged. ‘And I’m not even counting the animals used. But here’s the worst news: they finally succeeded in sealing Mage. It was Alicia Crescent and Samuel Templeton who did the honours.’

At that moment, something shattered inside Destiny. Her eyes widened in realization as she covered her mouth to stop herself from vomiting. The experiments. All those bloody experiments were…


She looked up to see a concerned River reaching out to place a hand on her shoulder. She flinched and jumped back to step on Adriana’s foot.

‘OW! DESTINY!’ she howled and clutched her foot. Everyone looked at them distractedly.

‘Yo, Dee, you okay?’ Tito queried.

‘I…I can’t breathe…need air,’ Desinty managed to stammer as she scrambled out of the room.

‘Probably weirded out by this stuff. I know I would be,’ Chi said knowingly.

Frustrated Clown.

By Shumaila Abbasi.

If you're here to convince me into going back, it's not going to work. I quit! I'm never going back to being a clown again. I've had it. I know we have had this conversation before, but this time I am serious. And yes, a clown can be serious.

Enough is enough. People treat me like I have no feelings, like I'm made of stone. A woman hit me with her purse today when I went to cheer her daughter. How was I supposed to know that little devil was scared of clowns? I was just doing my job! Trying to "turn her frown upside down." Isn't that what we live for? And that's how we are treated.

Do they think I enjoy all of this? Acting silly, getting hit in the face with a pie, wearing over-sized shoes? No, I don't.This humiliation is torture. Sometimes I feel like I am a woman with so much makeup on my face! I can't take this anymore. This is ridiculous. What am I saying? A clown has to be ridiculous.

I wanted to be a stand up comedian. Now that's a job. You get respect, decent pay and beautiful women laugh at your jokes. But no, my jokes aren't funny enough for that. That's why I am stuck being a clown at a circus, where the only woman who'd give me her time of the day is the bearded lady.

I know I have nowhere else to go, you don't have to remind me. I have bills and rents to pay. What am I going to do if I quit? There is no escape. I have to tolerate all of this.

You go sit in the car, I will get my wig.

Oct 22, 2011

People Of The Sea

By Reja Tahir

Q. In 350 words create an atmosphere of horror, mystery or suspense.

The sky seemed to be dappled in rays of Orange,Yellow and Pink. Birds were flying in flocks to their homes,their dark colours standing in stark contrast against the sunset. The sun,which looked like a flaming orb of Orange seemed to be in the process of being engulfed by the sea. The waves crashed constantly on the rocks,leaving behind a fine mist in the air which felt like heaven on one's skin. The crash of the waves, roar of the wind and the strumming of the acoustic guitar by a solitary figure in the distance provided the perfect soundtrack to her breathtaking and unreal surroundings.

Though her skin glittered with mud, her sneakers were grey brown instead of their usual blue and her hair was tousled by the wind,she was content to sit there for hours. People did not usually get it but she felt complete at the beach, she felt like she belonged with this magnificent stretch of water. She took a deep breath and inhaled in the salty smell of the sea and the delicious aroma of roasting corn which came from the nearby vendor. The day was slowly dying and streetlights were switched on, wrapping the sea and its people in a comfortable orange glow. It was slowly turning chilly as it was a mid November night. She shuddered and wrapped her shawl tightly around her. To her side lay a sketch pad,a notebook and an ipod.These items were necessary for her every trip to the beach but she hardly got to use them as she was too entranced by the beauty of the sea.

All of this made a strangely beautiful picture. Though she frowned to no end in her daily routine, happiness surged through her as she sat there gazing out to the noisy darkness of the sea. It would be perfect if the missing piece would come by and complete this beautiful and unreal picture, she thought,smiling to herself as if she had a secret. Soon enough he came and sat next to her on the jutting rock, singing a perfectly pitched version of Bon Jovi's "I'll be there for you," and just like that, life was radiant.

Oct 20, 2011

Everything That Clatters Is Not Bone

By Ilsa Rashid

Q. In 350 words create an atmosphere of horror, mystery or suspense.

What is more painful? Extreme noise or excruciating silence; or the bite of a snake; or the cracking of a rib? Or, perhaps, being helpless, alone and, yet, alive.

The crunch of every leaf under my feet sent an echo that only I could hear before it, too, drowned into the night like my unheard screams. I was out of strength, hope, adrenaline and water. But something kept me trudging through that place where I wouldn’t send Isabella to; or maybe I would.

The dense air that enveloped me reeked of rotting moss and flesh- human flesh- and it pushed at my bleak chest, suffocating me with every passing minute…

The icy breeze, that I would have loved while on my terrace at home, felt like knives against my cheeks, freezing my jaws. However, it seemed a little more welcoming than the howling of seemingly hungry hounds, whose howl made my throat drier than it already was.

The vast landscape was nothing but loose, eroded earth; the only adornment being scattered mounds of earth and shrub that dotted the area. The only piece of greenery other than the moss covering scattered bits of bone was a huge Banyan. In the eerie moonlight, it caste a shadow four times its own radius. Its trunk was green with decay and branches, spread out like a witch’s skinny arms. The gigantic figure leaned threateningly over me, leaning to a side. Its steel-like roots snaked in and out of the ground and stretched as far as the thick canopy did. Vines that came all the way to the ground hung like ropes that could come into life and strangle you to an agonizing death. A strange- almost supernatural- mist swirled in its boundary. With its distinct hue, it was almost enchanting.

An owl, as golden as my hair, was perched upon a piece of pale bone about ten yards from me. Its eyes, milky white, shone in the moonlight. Its claws were tight around the round, sculpted bone. The obvious realization came to me a little late. I stepped back with my eyes still on the skull and tripped on another. I cringed in horror and took refuge on a mound of mud similar to the dozens of others around. Ofcourse, mine had a different name. It was called Katherine McAfee, 1972.


By Sana Noor

Q. In 350 words create an atmosphere of horror, mystery or suspense.

A distinct odour of cigarettes and liquor wafted into my nose and for a second I held onto my breath. The stench had already found its way into my lungs and my eyes watered from all the smoke that lingered in the air. This place was new.

I coughed my way through the alien place. My hands were spread out before me and felt their way through the black abyss. Something was wrong. I knew as much that I had never been here before but at the same time it was familiar. My breathing became laboured as I frantically searched for a way out. But I needed to stay calm because a panic attack would do me no good here.

Suddenly everything cleared and I found myself among tombstones. The full moon, all its craters clearly visible, was the only source of light. But I did not need the moon or any source of light, for that matter, here. I knew the place like the back of my hand. I had been coming here ever since her death.

The air was strangely chilly. A gust of wind was blowing against me, as if to push me closer to my destination. I protectively wrapped my arms around me and trudged along with my head down. Each tombstone had its own story to tell, but I was not interested. She needed me, I could feel it.

A putrid stench reached my nose and mixed with the faintest smell of alcohol and cigarettes made me want to vomit. That was her identification. She was here.

She stood in a blood red dress that contrasted with her pale skin. Her eyes were bloodshot with violet rings under them and her hair was matted against her forehead. She had several burn marks on her fingers from all the smoking she had done. She raised her hands towards me, beckoning me forward for a hug. She felt cold and I involuntarily shivered. “Help me, baby.” She whispered in my ear. Her voice raspy.

I woke up with a start. “Mom.” I whispered to myself.

The Wedding.

By Areeba Jibril

Q. In 350 words create an atmosphere of horror, mystery or suspense.

Faint, yellow lights hanging on a string seemed to be the only thing attempting to pierce the darkness enveloping the wedding hall. Drooping, crimson roses were stuck here and there, their crushed petals scattered across the floor. The instrumental version of “my heart will go on,” played faintly in the background.

Guests milled about cheerfully chatting away, as if unaware their every words were to lead to someone else’s misery. The men wore dark suits with bold ties, while their counterparts were dressed in gaudy shalwar kameez, with colors so bright they seemed to be battling against each other as they desperately vied for attention.

The women seemed to be weighted down by gold, their jewelry rather than gravity keeping them from floating away. Their faces were covered in layers of white powder, with red spots on their cheeks. Painfully loud colors were painted on their eye lids, matching those of their clothes.

An accidental look in the mirror of my compact dressing room, only added to my disgust. Tonight I represented everything that I hated. My mother entered the room, indicating with her eyes that I should follow her. I turned away from the white curtains that had allowed me to stay an observer to my inevitable doom.

Taking tentative steps, I tried navigating the plush carpet in my four inch heels. A cry of pain escaped my lips, as I stumbled and fell, the fancy turquoise beadwork of my blood-red wedding dress digging into my skin. My mother grabbed my arms, and carefully tried to pull me up as I stared at an orange stain on the carpet, silently resistant.

I felt a few more hands on my skin, before I could be pulled up to my feet. Even as I was swung through the air, I refused to remove my gaze from the stain. A five star hotel with a suite that had a flaw, an imperfection. I had to be tugged along, as I didn’t want to move forward.

I took a deep, shuddering breath as I reached the entrance of the wedding hall, my groom taking his place next to me. I could feel every eye in the hall on me, as I kept mine fixed on the floor. This was it, I thought, My new beginning. There was no escape now.

Oct 19, 2011

Mini Saga Winners - 2011

A MINI SAGA is a short story in 50 words. It takes great skill with words to keep to this word limit and to use irony and suggestion to say without saying. The following sagas won the competition held among the A1 Language students. Kudos and congratulations to them!

By Zoha Jabbar.

She was seventeen when she first entered his classroom. He was thirty-two. It was wrong, yes; but oh, how the sunlight framed her. They were spellbound. He was fired, she was disowned, but it didn't matter. They wed on her eighteenth birthday, and how the sunlight framed their intertwined forms.

The Survivor
By Shumaila Abbasi

"I am sorry to say that you have cancer and only six months left to live."
The words of the doctor shocked Anne. She could not believe what she had heard.
Three years later, Anne told her inspiring story of survival to a number of cancer patients.

By Junaina Junaid

Something tastes peculiar in my mouth. Grime? Soil, maybe? I need some water..

As i head down the stairs, my attention is diverted by the reflections in the mirror at the landing.

Everythings reflected. Except for me..

"Bilal!" I cry out to my husband as he walks straight through me...

Ashes To Ashes

By Farwa Haider

Dust and grime covered every inch of the house's interior.The floor-boards creaked. The rats scurried by.

Were they the only inhabitants? That is what Cassie wanted to know.

Nothing unusual was sensed.

Three hours later, Cassie muttered "No ghosts here".

A voice whispered "Don't be too sure".

Oct 16, 2011

The Conversion

By Afnan Imran

Standing in a dark alley, Antoine watched the proceedings outside an abandoned, grey building. He swallowed nervously, a long, purple reaching out to scratch his crooked nose. He bit his lip with his sharp teeth as he watched the purple figures in front of the building feast on human flesh and blood. He pressed his hand to his mouth to prevent the nausea roiling in his stomach from bursting forth. He could not believe that he had, once not long ago, been part of these gruesome acts.

He could still remember the day that had changed him forever. It had been a long and satisfying day for his kind, one where they had plundered the nearby human village.

"Lock up the prisoners, Antoine. We will feast on them after all has been settled with the elders." Jean Claude, his brother had instructed.

"What about their young?" Antoine inquired.

"Keep them for now. We'll set them free after a bit of fun." Jean Claude said with a hair-raising grin.

Shivers ran down Antoine's spine, but he shrugged off the sense of foreboding and did as he had been instructed.

He led the prisoners into the dark, foul-smelling chambers underneath their lair with the help of his fellow guards. The screamig and sobbing of the helpless humans excited him. He felt sorry for their young who would grow up without family. However, that was not his concern, he knew. This was a ritual as old as time itself. The Gorgons, Antoine's people could only survive on flesh and blood. Human flesh was just another delicacy that had become an integral part of their lives.

The humans were locked inside the chambers in groups of ten. This way it became easier for every Gorgon to eat his fill without fighting over a tastier piece of flesh. Fights were common over who would get a more appetizing meal and who would not. It was easier to just leave the quantity of the meal on chance.

Antoine ran a finger down the face of a whimpering woman. Such delicate skin it was! So soft! He wished that she would come in his portion. He licked his lips as he beheld the cowering woman in front of him. Her amber eyes were wide with fear and her teeth chattered as shivers of fear racked her spine. This was the beauty of France! Not only were the humans good to taste, but they also looked fresh and appetizing.

Suddenly, Antoine heard a commotion behind him. he turned around to see two Gorgons trying to restrain a deranged human. The man, it seemed, was keen to protect his child, a little girl, from their clutches.

Antoine was offended. They did not hurt children. He headed toward them, and caught sight of his own fang-like, yellow teeth bared in anger and his black eyes shooting sparks of fury in a mirror. He stopped. He realised what th humans must be thinking. After all, they did intend harm to humans. He looked back at the monster in the mirror with regret. He never thought of his deeds as cruel; it was just a way of life.

He was startled from his thoughts with a chillig scream that rang out as his brother, Jean Claude grabbed the child from its father. Without hesitation, he brought his teeth to its delicate throat and struck.

Time slowed down as Antoine cried out in disgust, watching the blood gush from the child's throat. Nausea attacked him as his brother proceeded to tear off the head and feat on the child.

Antoine had launched himself at his brother, knocking him down. He had then run out of the building, ignoring the astonished calls of his family.

Now, it seemed that they were no different than before as screams tore the silent night. Antoine glanced down at his fine clothes and polished boots. He thought of his house in Paris. He ached for his family and knew thatthey would never accept the gentle soul he had become. His vegan diet would be reprehensible for them.

His heart heavy, Antoine turned around and headed home. He knew he would return next year as had become his habit for the past five years after his conversion.

Jack And The Beanstalk

By Zubair Bashir

There, underneath the dead tree –which had shed its leaves to welcome Autumn- stood a skinny, young boy; wearing a rusty brown, spacious, sleeveless patched shirt which drooped over his shoulders all the way to his knees. His half torn blue pants had holes in several places –definitely not the fashion of the time. That boy was none other than the quiet and traumatized Jack, who lived in the prosperous city of Athens. He suffered from a terrible fate which brings him to this very moment which may be the turning point in his life.

His father had abandoned his mother, who was forced to raise her child all on her own with minimal income. She made use of all opportunities to earn some extra money so that her child would not have to spend the night on an empty stomach, then it did not matter whether it was cleaning a house or spending a day at the brothel. She vowed to protect her child and she did just that. However; Jack was ostracized from society because soon the news had spread that Jack’s mother was nothing more than a mere, prostitute; and the damage was done. This news devastated Jack who then decided to spend the gloomy evening under the tree.

As he recollected his thoughts an old man walked along, eager to inquire the reason behind Jack’s gloom. “My child your face, it is like a book”, he stated.

“What do mean sir?” asked Jack in a soft, slightly shaky yet humble tone.
“Something seems to be troubling you. Would like to share the cause of your distress?”
“Is that a pun sir, because I am in no mood to be ridiculed and isolated anymore!” Jack stated in a firmer manner.
“Not at all, in fact to prove the sincerity of my question I gift you these beans. Do not take them to be random jelly beans just because they are multi-coloured boy”, the old man said with some wisdom in his voice “plant them next to the almighty Mount Olympus as an offering to your lords and maybe they might change your fate once and for all”, the old man walked away leaving Jack on his own, so that he may dwell with his thoughts.
“What the heck, I have nothing to lose”, and with that Jack made his way towards Olympus. He planted the beans, watered them and made his way home which coincidentally was not that far a walk.

Jack forcefully spent another sleepless night but the obedient child did not complain but rather respected his mother’s sacrifices. In the night he felt a strong tremor which wakes him from his sleep. He tip toed outside to investigate and was blankly staring at the huge beanstalk that had grown, whirling around Olympus. All of a sudden he could see see two horses galloping towards him. They were by no means normal but rather huge in size and elegant with dark thick hair. They were none other than Balius and Xanthus. Jack found a note attached to their mane which contained the following message:


He followed the instructions and clumsily mounted Balius and with a roaring neigh-which seemed to disturb no one else- they are off like lightning. They galloped on the beanstalk which took Jack high above the clouds where he could see Centaurs grazing the fields on the flat plains of Olympus which are not visible from ground level. Then there stood a huge statue of the Minotaur right outside an opening which probably lead to the Cretan Labyrinth. The horses do not stop till they reached The Arena. After dropping Jack they immediately dispersed. The Arena floor was glistening with the turquoise coloured marble. There stood numerous, huge, tall, white pillars which were supporting a glass dome above. On the dome was a detailed painting of a muscular man, with a long beard; wearing a white robe and was assisted by the lightning in his hand. The poor boy was still trying to recollect all that has taken place, when a soft yet strong voice surrounded The Arena.

“Young Jacques, welcome. Welcome to the Realm of the Lords”. A graceful lady walked down the stairs and made her way towards Jack. She wore a shiny white robe with borders made of gold. In one hand she held a spear made of white marble. Her blonde hair neatly tied up and revealed as she took of her metal helmet which was immediately carried away by a Laelap, which had escorted her.
“A-a-are you Athene?” Jack whispered in awe.
“Yes I am and I have called you here for a reason. I have for long monitored your mother’s wretched life and I do pity her. I am aware of a man’s selfish desires and of the hardships you have faced, that too without complain. As a reward I shall grant you and your mother a more prosperous life”, and with that the Laelap returned with a sack in his mouth and brought a small herd of sheep with him. “This is your gift. Appreciate it, and be loyal to your gods”.

With that statement Balius returned to The Arena. “Take him back Balius”. Jack is not slow and again mounted Balius who with powerful stride took Jack back to the Earthly realm. As soon as he reached he decided to go back to sleep after the exhausting and confusing events of the night. He got up to the braying of sheep and looked outside the window to find the entire herd. He took a step back causing the sack to topple and reveal its contents, which were pure gold. The event was far from a figment of the boy’s imagination.

Oct 13, 2011

The Confession

By Zoha Jabbar

Adam stared out the window. Through the grimy glass and the heavy iron bars, he saw the sky. How glorious the sky was, Adam missed it. He missed lifting his face up to the sunlight. He had not seen the outside world for a month. He was not allowed to leave his maximum security cell, with its claustrophobic walls, naked light bulb and the pungent stench of urine.

He heard Mr. Dawood clear his throat behind him, and Adam knew that the lawyer was impatient to begin, but he didn't care. He was still drinking in the sight of the rust-coloured sky.

"Adam, you only have an hour, if you don't talk to me now, you'll have to wait till next week." Dawood spoke softly, his tone was that of a man trying to be stern, but failing miserably.
"All I do is wait, Mr. Lawyer. A week more can't make it any worse than it already is." Adam responded calmly. So calmly, in fact, that Dawood broke into a nervous sweat.

"Adam, please. We're running out of time," he croaked.

Adam whirled around, his eyes flashing the way a knife does, in the sunlight.

"You wanna talk? Alright, let's talk, but you won't like what I've got to say, lawyer-man.," with this said, he grew visibly calmer.

"It was her birthday. We had gone to the theatre, her favourite musical was playing, see. We had been returning when it happened. She said to me, 'it was so nice of you to take me out, Adam,' and I couldn't say anything. Not one word, because all I do was stare at her. She was breathtakingly beautiful. Aphrodite herself. And the way the moonlight fell on her, my God! So, I stopped at the side of the road, near that abandoned restaurant, and asked if she wanted to go inside.
'It's locked, Adi. how will we get in?' she asked me. See, she consented to go in, and everyone knows what happens when a man takes a woman to an abandoned building. Consented. It wasn't rape. I'm an honest man.

"So anyway, we went in, and after we were done, I placed my hands around her fragile white neck, and crushed it. She couldn't scream, I was gripping her windpipe, see. And I watched her struggle, and waited for that peace to grip her face and body. That's all I wanted, peace for her. It helps me see that I'll find peace someday. I watched her.

"And I had continued watching, until she had gone limp in my arms. I left then, and turned myself in. I'm an honest man."

Adam finished his story, and earnestly looked into Dawood's wide eyes.

"Adam... I can't lie on the stand in court." Dawood said slowly.

"I know, lawyer, I know. And that's why I said you won't like it. I'm gonna plead 'guilty', see? And then I'm gonna ask for the death penalty. So you, Mr. Bigshot Lawyer Man, won't be able to keep your pristine reputation. But me? I'll get my peace."

Adam's eyes were perfectly calm as he said this, his passive face contrasting sharply with the lawyer's profusely sweating form. Adam smiled, a smile so beautifully composed, so charming that it raised the hair on Dawood's neck and arms.

"Yes, peace. And judging by your eyes, my friend, you could do with some peace too. I could help, after all, I helped her, didn't I?" Adam returned to the window and looked at the sky. How glorious the sky was.

Sleeping Beauty

By Nayab Tufail

The heavy clouds collided violently with each other as though the gods were at war in heavens. Chilled rain poured fresh from the welkins, so sleek and slithery that it was almost painful to see it pelt out of the clouds, like the eventual descent of the gods’ wrath. The queen was oscillating between life and death, her traumatic shrieks were echoing in the valleys. The labour was tremendously agonizing, she was praying for an escapade, even death would be a delight. Thunder clapped, a monstrous lightning struck, cries of a baby were heard…

With the loss of a devoted wife the king gained a daughter. The baby girl was left alone, locked up in the dark nursery and her howls were ignored. Meanwhile the wet mud was dug out and the queen was placed in her eternal resting place. The next morning the king unlocked the nursery and peeked inside the cradle. The princess was pale, with sickly eyes and chestnut hair. There was a peculiar charm in her countenance, the king almost abruptly named her Aurora (bright glow) to dismiss all images of darkness and devilry associated with her. Aurora grew up to be a troubled beauty, there seemed to be a demon governing her being. Very often her eyes looked like a beast was glaring through them, she fell into occasional epileptic fits and was loathed for her stubborn nature. At fifteen Aurora found little to amuse her and often went around exploring the palace in her usual witless manner until one day she came across her mother's enchanting jewels. With lack of interest, Aurora pulled the golden necklace over her head. The necklace was elegant, with a pendant of the finest gold in the kingdom. I t hung to her bony neck and looked ugly. Disappointed, Aurora fastened the necklace tighter to her grim neck, until the necklace started to suffocate her. Her face turned feeble and ghastly as she collapsed into the nearest bed, she tried to move but her strength seemed to fail her as she descended in a deep slumber. It was assumed that she would eventually wake up. The king patiently waited by her side everyday and gradually the time came when the sleeping princess was looked upon once in months, once in years.

A century elapsed. Over the passage of time the king and the kingdom perished and a dense forest blanketed the castle. Aurora lay there just as she had a hundred years ago with the necklace choking her neck. Her pointed bones protruded out of her thin skin as though they would tear through it any minute. She resembled a skeleton, with a layer of skin looking like a corpse. Her chestnut hair had turned silver, like electric wires hanging from her head and her mouth was open exposing her decaying purple tongue. The veins on her hands stood up like small fat snakes, and looked as if they would explode any second. The full moon blazed in the sky, there was something very eerie about the night, a mystifying glow in the celestial body. That night marked the end of a century. Aurora lay frozen in the chamber until suddenly her wrinkled eyes flew open. Her soul felt heavy .A storm brewed inside her. What had been clinging stubbornly to her soul all these years now struggled to depart. Aurora let out a high pitched shriek, her voice creaked. Whatever it was that had devoured her being all these years now seemed to escape. She jerked up and sat upright in the bed as a crunching sound rose from her backbone. The doomed necklace still pinched what was left of her neck. Emptied of strength, Aurora sat there, waiting for her end to come.........

Oct 11, 2011

The Gifts Of Wali Dad

By Fizza Ali

In a mud hut on the outskirts of the village called Kahror Pakka lived an old Faqir named Wali Dad. Every day he was visited by dozens of villagers seeking advice on all sorts of problems. He refused to accept any money from them, so they occasionally brought him presents.

One evening Wali Dad received a poetry book with a cover of solid gold.

“What will I do with this finery?” he said to himself. “I have all I need.”

He thought for some time and came up with an idea.

The next evening, when his visitors were leaving, he called aside one of them: a merchant.

“You go all over the country,” Wali Dad said. “Tell me, who is the noblest lady in the country?”

“Without doubt,” the merchant replied, “it is Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, the Minister for Information. I often visit her mahal, just an hour’s journey from here.”

“Do me a kindness,” said Wali Dad. “The next time you visit her mahal, give her this book, with my compliments.”

The merchant looked astonished. Who had ever heard of a Faqir sending a present to a lady? However, he agreed.

When the merchant went to visit the infamous Minister, he presented to her the gift from Wali Dad.

“Is the gold real?” she inquired, closely examining the cover of the golden book.

The merchant nodded.

Dr. Firdous called for a servant and whispered in his ear.

“I too have a gift for your friend,” she announced with all the authority of a Minister for Information of PPP. “Wait in the lobby for a few seconds.”

After three long hours of his patience being tested, the merchant was handed a package and allowed to leave.

He returned home and brought the package to Wali Dad. The old Faqir was surprised to see the same poetry book as the one he had sent, albeit with a cover of silver.

“What will I do with this wealth?” he said to himself.

He thought for a moment and then asked the merchant, “Who is the most beautiful lady in the country?”

“Without doubt,” the merchant replied, “it is Kashmala Tariq, the MNA. I visit her fortress often, just an hour’s journey from here.”

“Do me a kindness,” Wali Dad said. “The next time you happen to pass that way, give her this present, with my compliments.”

Once again, the merchant was astonished. Two ladies at once! But he consented.

When the merchant visited the fortress, he presented to the MNA Wali Dad’s gift.

“Has your baba jee never heard of gemstones?” she inquired, running her fingers through her long hair.

The merchant shook his head.

She rolled her eyes, called for a servant, handed him the book and ordered him to “return the favour.”

The merchant was politely asked to wait in the lobby for a few minutes. An hour later, he left with a package for the old man.

“This is growing worse!” Wali Dad declared. “I beg you, brother, take the package to the lady doctor.”

The merchant was amused.

When he visited the castle again, the Minister inquired, “Are those gemstones real?”

The merchant nodded.

“Wait in the lobby.”

When the merchant returned to Wali Dad, the Faqir groaned, “Give this to the beautiful lady.”

The merchant departed, now getting annoyed.

“Doesn’t your baba jee know that I’m allergic to bronze!” the MNA jumped from her seat, sneezing. This man…I must know what he wants with me. Even with my beautiful hair, I’m no Rapunzel!”

Escorted by the rusty Suzuki Mehran of the poor merchant, MNA Kashmala Tariq set out with her contingent of bodyguards on a mission to “disappoint the baba jee.”

As her troops neared the battlefield, the commander shouted, “I sense movement! Double strength! Fast approaching!”

“Oh is this the end?” the damsel in distress said in a nasal voice. “I must brush my hair!”

Both parties halted in front of the Faqir’s open door, face to face with each other.

“Kashmala…” the doctor hissed.

“Firdous…” a plucked eyebrow rose.


“You know what this means,” both eyebrows quivered.


An ugly version of a war cry escaped a pretty mouth as noble hands tore at silky hair.

Wali Dad closed the door and slowly walked to his dari.

“Women,” he sighed.