Nov 30, 2011

The Taste of War

By Khurram Ali

The thick tomato sauce as red as cherry spills over the knobby elbow macaroni. Coats them like the white patches on the mountain peaks. The puddle of crow black soya sauce on the layers of dry pasta slowly seeps deep through the narrow depressions. A few pinches of lemon pepper seasoning hails. Beat down the battle-ground like the arrows from the crossbows of the opposition.

The peas camouflage themselves with stains of war in a musty green colour like earthy emerald stones. The chopped pieces of potato lay as spectators, or rather obstacles in the midst of confusion. The perfect blend of spices and cloves with freshly cooked shreds of beef serve as fortifications. The steamy mist engulfs the landscape like the fumes of battle; the haze obstructs your view.

The threat still lurks as you invade the territory with a piece of chromed cutlery. Destruction strikes and you pick your first prey. As you lift it the tantalizing aroma sneaks up; takes you by surprise and throws you back. It reminds you of your home, the dinner table; the whole family for once in a blue moon enjoying the same voluptuous meal.

You smile and take a mouthful. The softness of the starchy macaroni, as smooth as velvet and you feel a loss of control as it slips out of your grasp. Oh, the crunchiness of the crispy peas, full of comfort. And you definitely yearn for more as they adhere to the mouth like gooey caramel. You indulge yourself with the slices of potato as fluffy as pillows.

It’s near the finish line, your taste buds sense something acrid, tart – fine powder corroding through your tongue like acid. Ooh, the bittersweet delight that carries you away. Your eyes gleam with excitement. And with eagerness you’re ready to launch your second attack.


By Sana Noor


The sun rises with a yawn, taking laboured steps towards the sky. The clouds start to dissolve and disperse to make way for their king. She can not help but admire the beauty of the beginning of a new day.

The sun shines in its eternal glory, like an angel rising towards the heavens encompassed by a fiery red halo. A yellow brick road reflects on the serene ripples of the ocean and she can not help but wonder if she will be taking that same road when she dies. Will her body float down the road and reach the kingdom of the sun? Will she sleep in the sun’s warm bed? Or will her body drown with the weight of her worries into the nothingness of the inky blue depths below?

The night sky has yet to completely disappear and it reflects in her mood. The grey clouds tinged with pink represent the sorrows of her life and it seems as if they promise to stick around, waiting for the descent of the king in slumber, to attack again.

She wants to hit ‘pause’ for a minute so that she can enjoy the picturesque beauty of the sun one last time before she goes through with her plan. But it’s almost like the sun is winking at her, gesturing her, daring her to go through with the plan. Like it already knows the outcome.

The ocean appears to be on fire, much like her emotions. Only there is less anger and more sorrow and guilt. And instead of emitting warmth, the air around continues to remain cold. If only she could forget and he could forgive.

She shuffles the pills in her hand, standing an edge away from the cliff end. Then he shows up. The pills fall and drown under the toxic blue hue of the water and she runs to take her place in his arms. The sun smiles down on them, encompassing them in its warm tangerine glow.


Ali digs his hands into the sand and relishes in the cool feeling. He sits near the shore so that the water laps at his feet and he has a clear view of nature’s phenomenon.

Everything is quiet. Not a single sound as the golden orb shows its crown. The whole ordeal is like the birth of a baby. People hold their breath in the anticipation and when that beautiful perfect child comes into the world, their faces glow with happiness. Much is the case with the sunrise.

Ali watches on in amazement. This is his routine for everyday. Auburn tinges appear everywhere in the sky and black nothingness of the night disperses in fear. Flecks of pink can be seen on the clouds, as they blush in the presence of the majestic ball of life.

The blazing star pushes back the darkness of night to the western horizon, painting the sky with pinks and purples and blues, shedding the land of its two-dimensional grayscale cloak.

A sigh escapes him and he cannot avert his eyes from the sight before him. It is the lion of the sky, its mane in the shades of golden yellow that halo the sun. The otherwise rough sea too cannot help but calm down. Its ripples reflecting the radiant smile of the sun. Staring would only slip one into oblivion.

The horizon is encompassed by the never ending glow of the sun and almost appears to be on fire. As the sun rises it twinkles and winks, unabashed by its nakedness. It basks in the glory of all who look at it in admiration and awe, but flares in anger when they shun him out of their lives when he slightly raises the temperature during the day.

Birdsong erupts in a dizzying daze, nature's personal alarm clock. The sunrise is a very intimate thing. One you cannot share with everyone.

A Nostalgia Called Pakoras

By Sana Noor.

When it rains, all is well. The aroma of water and grass after a dry spell wafts in the cool air and instantly makes you sigh. You walk out in the garden while the world around bathes under the natural shower. You open your mouth and drink the sweet nectar of heaven. Even the world slows down and pauses to admire the beauty, even if they silently curse the rain from within. All you can do is let your hair down. For Karachi is not known for its frequent rains.

Only when you walk in shivering and wet, do you notice the pakoras waiting for you. There is a slight sizzle to them and their glistening bodies, drowned in oil, lie under the fluorescent light lit above. The scent of mint and yoghurt are ever present because you know that pakoras without chutney are incomplete.

You run to grab a golden jewel before they all finish. Dunked in the chutney you pop the first one in your mouth and relish in the taste. Your eyes close and a dreamy look crosses your face. Then you remember to chew.





The cumin tastes nutty and earthy with a pungent smell, which makes you salivate further. The potato and onion churn around in your mouth and the gram flour accentuates the savory taste. But, there is a familiar zest to it. And you immediately know what it is. Nani. Her hands are magic when it comes to pakoras and you can very well taste her love in them.


Rainy days at your grandmother’s house are treasured memories. The pakoras may be bittersweet but the only missing ingredient is your grandmother and those rainy days that greet in numbers so small. Once in a blue moon.

Nov 28, 2011

The Taste Of Home

By Zoha Jabbar

During the Partition of the Subcontinent, my mother's parents migrated from Jetpur and Dhoraji, while my father's parents emigrated from Bantva and Kutiyana. Upon first hearing this, I asked my grandfather what I was, and where my roots lay. He thought for a long time, trying to simplify Pakistan's ethnic history for an eight year old. Finally, he led me to the kitchen and handed me a plate of steaming Nihari. "This," he said, "this is what you are!" He looked proud of himself as I eyed him skeptically.

Since then, I have associated Nihari with the taste of Pakistan. A rich stew, with smooth curry and shanks of beef. This one dish is a delicious blend of all the spices which smell of home. A single bite of naan-bread soaked in Nihari can transport one to the royal kitchens of the Nawab of Lucknow.

The zesty stew sings of monsoon skies and mango trees as it boasts an impressive mix of piquant garlic, fiery chillies and prickly cloves. It speaks of Winter dawns, with the feel of chapped lips and warm socks, on a rooftop with plates of Nihari served in metal trays of boiling water to keep it warm. The hot fragrance of cinnamon and ginger enveloped us as it hovered in the dense Winter fog.

It reminds me of my grandmother's kitchen, redolent with the refreshing aromas of cumin and aniseed. She would smile at me from behind the stove, covered in flour.

It is the hands of generations of subcontinental women as they sprinkled coriander leaves. It is the dupattas they used to wipe flour off their arms.It is the ardent prayers said over a spread dastarkhwan. It is the kites flown by boys in Basant. It is the brightness of glass bangles on Eid. It is the henna that meant the boys had to feed the girls on the night of the moon-sighting.

It is home.

Nov 27, 2011


By Reja Younis

Q. Write a description of a sunset/sunrise from the perspective of a character who is happy.

Anticipation bubbles in my stomach, eager to feel the salt-water breeze that would soothe my jangled nerves. I am entirely consumed with excitement. My toes dig into the warm, sparkly golden sand. Each grain is beautiful, like precious gems adorning my feet. I slowly tread across the beach, watching others giddily scamper towards the water.

I lick my strawberry ice cream cone and notice a magnificent sunset occurring over the water, far off in the horizon. The ocean glimmers as still as a mirror, reflecting the sun’s rays. I race towards the shore and plop down with my feet dipped in the caressing, foamy waves. The water is crystal clear and the air as soft as milk.

Lilac and rosy picks tumble across the horizon and mesh together masterfully. I gaze at the cascade of colours highlighting the sky. The sun seems to smile as it descends lower into the water. I graciously smile back and bathe in its final moments of lingering light.

My heart feels jubilant and fuzzy. I want to sing, splash in the waves, climb on top of the setting sun and announce, “Saad has asked me to marry him today! And I said YES!” I chuckle softly at the visual I imagine and sigh peacefully.

I finish my ice cream cone and watch as deeper colours transcend the sky—bold shades of burgundy and violet. I feel passion surge through me and I hypnotically stare at the sky. An aura of security and tranquility washes over me with every wave that crashes ashore. I rhythmically swing back and forth to the gentle lullaby of the sea and take a deep breath.

“The best day of my life is about to end,” I think, as the sun winks one last time and plunges into the depth of the world—leaving us in the darkness. But even in the dark, my dreams soar and my hopes glow bright. With Saad by my side, my world will be illuminated forever. He is my sun that never sets.

Q. Write a description of a sunset/sunrise from the perspective of a character who is sad.

“No, please no. Don’t leave me in the darkness here alone,” I silently whispered to the sun that was setting and dissolving into the horizon. My heart was weighed down, buried under gravel and trampled. I gazed at the ocean waves as they mechanically washed ashore. It was a bitterly cold evening and the beach was deserted.

I clenched the coarse sand and it pricked me like a thousand tiny thorns, but I did not let go. I wanted to physically feel the pain that was withering me away. I slowly released the sand, relishing the agony and the blood droplets trickling down my palms.

My gaze shifted to the streaks of fiery orange and deep purple lining the sky. It reminded me of a portrait, painted for someone beautiful and loveable.

Tears flooded my eyes as I looked at the ocean through blurry vision. I dreamed of jumping into the water and forever becoming a part of the ocean blue. It looked inviting now, compelling almost… “No,” I said to myself and wrapped my arms around my legs, “No more suicide attempts.”

The sky was a deep red now, with tinges of violet as the sun was further down. I put my head back and let out a slow, agonizing moan. Deep red. I could feel my life flashing before my eyes. The deep red I wore on my wedding day, those red roses Saad bought for me on our first anniversary, his red, angry face when we would fight.

Sunlight reflected off of the water and made it glisten with a blinding glare. That’s what I was now, blind without Saad by my side. I realized then that our separation was inevitable, just like the sun that sets every evening, whether or not we want it to.

“I hate you!” I suddenly whispered ferociously as my voice returned with growing strength, “I hate you!”

I did not know then if it was Saad I was angry at or the departing sun, but my sorrow was controlling me. I picked up a few pebbles and hurled them towards the sun. They landed in the water and created a slight ripple. Soon I could not stop throwing stones.

Suddenly, I tripped and landed face-first into the water and tasted the salty sea, felt the stinging burn, and sensed myself and my tears get lost in the darkness of the icy waves. The sun had set.

Knor Noodles

By Asma Afzal

Q: Describe a food and the memories associated with it.

Long, cozy, never-ending nights. Sneaking out of our rooms quietly into the kitchen, because if Yasmin Mami woke up, all of us would get into serious trouble. These are the flashes of brilliant memory that appear before my eyes as soon as I so much as SMELL Knor noodles.
Ah, the smell! Whether it's the spicy, zesty aroma of the "Chatpatta" noodles, or the somewhat salty smell of the chicken noodles, it transports me to my uncle's house and lazy summers spent with my cousins playing dark room, corner corner and kedi kedi (prisoner: basically involves throwing a cushion at each other. The person who catches it makes the one throwing it his prisoner.). It reminds me of our group of six; me, Beea, Wajiha, Hassan, Furqan and Uzair bhai, and the nights we spent awake. A whiff of that redolent, savory smell, and I am ten again, fighting over who gets to eat the last pack. I am sitting back in the hot kitchen at 2 a.m in the morning, watching Beea and Uzair bhai cook for us. It was only sensible that they did it; aged twelve and thirteen respectively, they were much better equipped at handling it - plus the rest of us didn't particularly want to do the work.
One whiff, and I can almost hear the hum of the pink panther tune, interrupted by giggles and laughter as we snuck back into our rooms, each with our own separate bowl. My mouth waters, before I even take a bite, at that peppery smell. The first bite...yum! The way the succulent, juicy noodles (long because we never broke them into half) snake their way into my mouth. That first burst of flavour; a mix of red chilli and black pepper and fiery orange paprika.

I remember the euphoria of having successfully gotten a snack without waking anyone up. The talks that we had as we gobbled down those divine noodles, about everything that was important in the world; "Shh Koi Hai", and cricket and what we were going to do the next day.

It's surprising to jolt back to the present, and find the sweet taste of nostalgia mixed with the spice of the noodles. A honeyed taste, that requires only a whiff.

Nov 23, 2011


By Nimrah Nadeem

The boy crouches in the dark of the giant’s broom cupboard, waiting with bated breath. The pins and needles in his cramped legs grow almost unbearable, and he longs to change his position. His heart feels like it’s beating a tattoo against his ribcage. He feels a ripple of panic as the giant’s voice booms, heavy with suspicion. He shrinks further into the shadows, grateful that his face is smeared with dirt.

She winks at her husband and points and the broom cupboard discreetly.

“How big is this one?” he mouths.

She shows him with her thumb and forefinger. He can hear the boy’s heart thudding violently, and his mouth twists into a slow, cruel smile.

“Fee, fie, fo, fum…” he begins, grinning at his wife, who shakes her head in mock disapproval.


By Farwa Haider

Q. Write a description of a sunset/sunrise from the perspective of a character who is sad.

The sun is sinking the same way my heart did when I realised she wasn't coming. It almost looks like it's being swallowed by the iron-grey water. I laugh sardonically as I imagine a giant hand stirring this sea with a dirty, used paint-brush.

I hate the sand on this beach. Like the sea, it's an ugly dark-grey colour and is the kind that sticks to everything no matter how hard one tries to remove it. Well, I couldn't care less what it'll do to my shoes.

I was supposed to meet her on this beach two hours ago. Instead of hearing her footsteps on the pavement, all I heard were the piercing cries of the gulls and the thunderous sound of the sea.

The sea itself looks heavy with human misery. It takes so many lives, causes such a lot of pain. No wonder the colour is so disgusting. The decomposition of all the bodies lost to it must have caused the colour to change. That explains the smell too- it is also putrid.

The sky is a suffocating blue. Just looking at it makes it harder to breathe. Ironically, the dusty clouds of brown, ash-grey and white make me want to sneeze.

Sneezing- such a simple, ordinary thing to do now that I've been rejected. Nothing will ever be normal again.

The clouds actually make me wonder whether a flock of birds got lost up there whilst migrating. The absurdities one comes up with in times of grief!

The horizon is the sickly colour of sulphur and the sun itself looks like a giant light bulb with an orange-coloured, bland lampshade. The light it casts around the burnt clouds surrounding it makes them look like an inferno. However, if one leans forward and squints just a little, then it appears to be a barren desert landscape, just like my heart is now.

The light bulb burns a path of light across the uneven surface of the sea. I know it's for me. I know what to do.

Q. Describe the same scene from the perspective of a happy character.

I say good morning to my baby son as he stirs in my arms. He has woken up just as the sun has risen over what I like to call 'the rim' of the huge tea-cup we call the world. He seems bewildered by the spectacle. He's going to be looking at it for quite a a while so I make him wear the tiny sunglasses we got for him before we set sail.

In all my years I have never seen such a spectacular sunrise, let alone at sea. The sea itself is calm and placid. Its effect is similar too. It looks like a vast indigo-coloured velvet shawl, much like the one my wife wore the day I first saw her. If one looks closely then one can see the warm, subtle reflection of pink and orange in the water.

The sky! It bears a stark resemblance to the murals in the Sistine Chapel. That Michelangelo truly was brilliant to paint such an almost-accurate image of this sky.

Up high, it looks like the cobalt blue is fading away to make room for baby blue. I know the colour because my desperate-for-a-grandson mother knitted a woollen blanket of that shade. Speaking of babies, there are adorable flecks of baby pink in the wisps of clouds. They remind me of cotton and cake icing.

Cakes! Two hundred days till my son gets his first. Parents always speak of how their proudest days are when their children graduate or get married. I don't want to think that I have to wait years for my proudest days to arrive. Every day that my bundle of joy breathes, blinks and smiles is my proudest. And I'll be over the moon on his birthdays.

Speaking of moon, the silver white sickle is slowly fading into the blue around it.

Interestingly, like the sea the clouds are perfectly still. That's comforting because clouds sailing by always remind me that I have to be somewhere. Presently, I'm happy where I am, with my son whose adorable yawns are becoming more frequent, I guess the hum from the engines is making him sleepy.

The clouds near the sun are dark chocolate-coloured, and with their golden lining one wonders whether there's really Heaven behind them.

The sun itself looks like a glowing orange ball, making the horizon saffron-orange. Its halo looks as if from a dream.

I glance down at my son. He is fast asleep, his little chest rising and falling as peacefully as the waves of the sea.


By Aiman Fajr

Q. Write a description of a sunset/sunrise from the perspective of a character who is sad.

The depth of that ocean is taking you in with it. So much darkness within, so many creatures unknown. That ocean will eat you up just like a giant monster; it will fill your lungs with its poison till you won’t be able to breathe. The only source of warmth there is that ball of fire, is going away, is going down. The monster is engulfing it slowly. And in no time what you will be left with is just darkness and and gloom. No sunshine for you, no warmth. It will just be a dark, empty world. Those clouds, all illuminated, seem to laugh at you. At your loss and pain. They turn all kinds of shades, from that irritating orange to an illuminated dark one to just clear blues. They confuse you, they play with your mind. One time the sun is staring directly at you, its light almost blinding you and the next it’s gone. At least you had someone before but now you’re left all alone with nothing but the dark skies above and the deep blue ocean below. Those dark puffed up clouds give you a sinking feeling, of loss and doom. You feel trapped by the scene, you want to get out but it won’t let you. But there is a hope. In those clear blue skies above. Yes they too will soon be gone but they will leave you with a hope, something to look forward to the next day. Yes, after every storm comes a rainbow and my rainbow will come someday soon too.


By Afnan Imran

Q. Write a description of a sunset/sunrise from the perspective of a character who is sad.

There it was. The golden stairway to heaven that appeared to mock me. It glistened across the surface of the rippling blue sea, just out of reach. It provoked me to reach out, but managed to slip away from my grasp each time. The furrowed brow of the skyline burned a fiery orange like the fires of hell where it met the desolate face of the sea. The sky itself seemed to be at war, half of it a deep sky-blue while the rest of it was darkened to a bruised purple. The clouds appeared to act as barriers between these two formidable forces. They clung to each other in clusters of pale azure. In the midst of these two armies, lost souls bled, staining the sky crimson.

The sun glared at me as if demanding repentance for all that had gone wrong in the night. The glaring light blinded me. It greeted me derisively as the sun seemed to rise higher and higher from the depths of the mystical blue sea. The sky was ablaze, as if lit by the wrath of hell’s fury. It glowered at me like a demon, hungry for my soul. I thought the sun truly sadistic as it taunted me, making me painfully aware of the loneliness that surrounded me. The vast waters, as glacial as ice, reminded me of myself. They were as devoid of the warmth of the sun as I was of companionship, only a narrow strip remained in good graces with the sun. The sun reminded me of my husband, able to give happiness and warmth one moment, but could cause grief and destruction in the next.

The fireball of the sun splashed random colors into the sky: a hint of annoyingly bright pink and a splash of yellow that marred the perfection of the two warring powers. Its arrogance knew no bounds as if it acknowledged that the habitants of earth depended upon it for survival, not unlike my husband who believed that he was the axis of my world. The sun itself wore a layer of protective armor around it, but seemed to strip me of all hope, all happiness as the day began with abundant sorrows and threats for more to come.

Q. Describe the same scene from the perspective of a happy character.

Bruised purple met light blue in a battle of wills as old as time itself. The victor cheered jubilantly as darkness was vanquished by the glimmering light of the sun. A pristine sky-blue seemed to take over the indigo night sky. It exploded over the entire sky like a fresh burst of hope. The small splatters of crimson light from the sun made me feel full of life, vitality oozing from every pore of my body. In the background, I was aware of a candy-corn orange in the horizon. Warmth emanated from it, wrapping me in its embrace as the sun broke free of the east, to smile down upon the world. The saintly white clouds were like a mother protecting its child, the sky from sorrows and distress.

Diamonds glistened in the sea of sapphire. The golden stairway to paradise, shimmering across the blue sea, beckoned to me. It was right there; ready to take me to the heavens. This staircase was surrounded by a faint red hue, reminding me of a red carpet laid out in welcome. Surely, it was a shadow of the wings of an unseen angel smiling down at me. The sea stroked the shore. I felt as if I were floating on those rippling sea waves.

The sun, wearing its halo, enthralled me. It bade me a joyful greeting, as enthusiastic as a friend meeting another after months, perhaps even years. The glow emanating from the sun reminded me of my own happiness with the world, with myself. I closed my eyes for a second to savour the warmth that caressed my skin. A scatter of baby pink framed the horizon, reminding me of a smooth satin, soft to the touch. I yearned to reach out and just grab hold of it, just like I had learned to grasp all the happy moments in life. I admired God’s painting as I smiled up at the benefactor of warmth, feeling fortunate to be a spectator to such beauty and splendor. A new day had begun full of fresh hope and joy and the promise of something more.

The Birth Of A New Day

By Zoha Jabbar

Rivulets of gold run through onyx sky at the first light of day. The sun rises, a magnificent orb of light, forming a halo over the vast ocean. The distant waves rise to welcome a new day, a fresh beginning. The warm sand is soft beneath my feet and I breathe in the sea-scented air which gently caresses my face.

Like brushstrokes on a giant canvas, streaks of beautiful colours appear in the sky as the sun climbs upwards. Tea-pink gives way to amber and topaz, which soon turns to a saffron shaded glow, reflected in the clear water below.

I lean back on my elbows and allow the rich light to wash over me, filling me with joy. Is there a better way to start the day? Can morning time get any more wonderful?

There is little in this world more awe-inspiring than a sunrise over the open water. It is no wonder that the Ancient Greeks spoke of the fire chariot being drawn across the sky. The horizon is a gorgeous sight; Gaea rising up to meet Helios, her lover, and they are locked in an eternal embrace that stretches to as far as the eye can see.

The sea reflects God's masterpiece in the sky, magnifying it, doubling its beauty.Shimmering iridescence adds to the magnificence of the moment, as though the ocean and sky were trying to outdo each other.

I close my eyes and raise my arms heavenwards, and all of time appears to stand still, bathing me in the radiance of the new day. I am a part of Creation, a part of Nature. I belong here, I know I have a place in the grand scheme of things. I'm ready to embrace the world, one breathtaking moment at a time.

Nov 19, 2011

V Files: Chapter 11 - A Scavenging We Will Go

By Sama Khwaja

Destiny woke with a gasp followed by a shuddering sob as she sat ramrod straight. She covered her mouth with her hand, hoping she wouldn’t throw up.

She could still it. Those tentacles reaching out to trap her so that she would cease to exist. She could feel her lungs being constricted; her body going numb; that horrible, horrible laugh ringing in her ears.

‘Dee? You alright?’ murmured a familiar voice. She looked up and saw concerned sea green eyes watching her intently.

‘River?’ she muttered, confused. She reached out to grab his scarlet jacket. Was he real? ‘River, is that you? Are you really here? You’re not…you’re not…’

‘I’m not what?’ he asked in alarm. He stared at Destiny in surprise. ‘Of course, I’m here, Dee! What happened? What happened on the roof? Destiny?’

Destiny groaned as her head began to spin. She released River to cradle her head, rocking back and forth to still the shifting colors across her vision. What had happened on the roof? Why couldn’t she remem-

Her eyes widened as memories of burning and a scintillating white flitted across her mind. She glanced about quickly and realized she was no longer on the roof. She was on the ground beside the Church.

‘River, what happened on the roof?’ she suddenly demanded as she whipped her head to stare intensely at him. He quirked an eyebrow.

‘Considering I’m asking you the same thing, you think I know?’ he pointed out.

She groaned in frustration. This wasn’t helping! Everything was so confusing and she needed answers! Just what had occurred a mere few minutes ago on the roof might be a clue to this complex puzzle!

‘The reason I want to know is,’ River began slowly as he stared up peculiarly at the roof. ‘When I reached, I was blinded by this bright, white light. And when it cleared…’

He gave Destiny a hesitant look. Like he didn’t know whether he should continue or not.

‘Out with it, River, this is a matter of life and-!’ she began to snap.

‘I saw burning bodies,’ he cut in. His eyes never left Destiny’s; even when hers widened in horror. ‘Just…a lot of…corpses…being burned alive. And they were screaming.’

Destiny shuddered involuntarily again. This all just didn’t make any sense. Why was this happening to her now? Was this Mage? And if so, would it consume her completely so that she would no longer be Destiny but a weapon of destruction? She needed answers. And she needed them now.


‘I need to go,’ Destiny remarked flatly and stood up. She spotted her bike and made her way towards it. Suddenly, River moved in to block her.

‘Destiny, what’s going on?’ he asked quietly and crossed his arms. He wasn’t budging. She scowled at him.

‘Move, River!’ she said sharply. ‘I don’t have time to explain things!’

‘I just saw you surrounded by a sea of screaming and burning GroundUnders,’ River stated curtly. ‘Until you clear things with me, I’m not letting you go anywhere.’

Her scowl deepened. He wanted to know the truth? Fine, she’ll give him the truth!

‘You want to know what’s going on, River?’ she snapped angrily at him. ‘Alright, I’ll tell you! You know all those inhuman experiments Alicia was doing? And then the one which was successful?? Well, you’re looking at it! I’m living proof of her success! Right this very minute, residing in me, is the offspring of Hova! Mage itself in the flesh!’

With every sentence she uttered, his eyes widened in disbelief. His mouth parted but no sound came out. His hands slumped to his sides like he had no control over his body. She continued to glare angrily at him. She could feel her eyes burning but this time, it was due to tears threatening to spill.

He was probably going to turn her in to Vice and they’d wish to experiment on her. Something to poke and prod at and make sense out of. That wasn’t the life she wanted. She somehow escaped it years ago and she wanted to keep it that way. What she wanted now was answers and she wasn’t going to get it stuck in a test tube in a laboratory.

Then, River did the most incredulous thing. He smiled lightly at her. Now it was her turn to stare in disbelief at him.

‘What are you smiling about?’ she blurted out angrily. Was he making fun of her?

‘Well,’ he mused. ‘You finally let me in, Dee.’

She stood still, stunned by his words. Of all the things he had deciphered from what she’d said, that’s what he…

‘You’re such an idiot!’ she snapped and pushed him aside to reach her motorcycle.

He chuckled as he hopped onto his own and whirred it life along with hers. She didn’t stop him from following her to Vice and into Omicron, Vice’s enormous database hall which contained practically every bit of data one can think of. He knew everything now and there was no stopping him from sticking by her side to the bitter end. That’s just how River was.

‘Have you found it?’ she called out as she ruffled through files in an aisle ahead of him. Omicron was basically a huge maze of shelves upon shelves of stored data. They decided to stick close by to prevent the other getting lost.

‘Nothing ye-found it!’

Destiny raced to his side, her own heart running its own race. The information from Alicia’s drawer had been organized into a steel tray, making sifting through it really easy.

‘Should we take all of it?’ River suggested. Destiny nodded. She pulled the steel tray out of its place. There was a work cubicle nearby with a computer set up and everything. They could work there.

As she whirled around to stroll towards it, a CD accidently slipped off to clatter loudly to the floor. The impact caused the top to break off. Destiny groaned. If Rhett wasn’t angry before, he’d be furious now!

River picked it up the pieces and frowned.

‘It’s empty,’ he murmured and flipped it around.

‘The disk probably popped out too,’ Destiny exclaimed as she placed the tray carefully on the floor to get down on her knees and search for the supposedly lost disk.

‘I didn’t see any-hey!’ he pulled out a folded piece of paper wedged behind the CD’s cover. His jaw dropped when he unfolded the paper and glanced at it.

‘Dee, it’s a birth certificate,’ he said softly. ‘With your name on it.’

In the blink of an eye, Destiny snatched the paper from him, her eyes scanning it wildly. There was her name. But no surname. Well, was she really expecting one? Her heart raced as her eyes landed on line claiming who her parents were.

She brought the paper closer, her stomach suddenly twisting. No, no, it can’t be.

‘Destiny? Dee, what’s wrong? What does it say?’ River demanded, his heart palpitating.

‘River, it can’t be. I mean, how can I…who…’ she stuttered as her hands shook uncontrollably. She swallowed as she looked morbidly at River. ‘River, it says Alicia Crescent is my mother.’

Nov 14, 2011

Lé Chocolat

By QuratulAin Rashid

Q: Compare a person to an item of food. (150 words)

Like a piece of cake, she sits at the edge of a counter of a bar, waiting to be devoured.

Her hair is long and curly, like the ruffles of dark chocolate on a moist and melt-in-your-mouth, slender slice of cake. With her dark and delicate fingers, she slowly mixes her drink. Her gold bracelet gleams like gems of hazelnut praline on a dark surface.

Shes crosses her silky smooth legs and pulls down her little black dress. He looks at her from the corner of his eyes. There is a roughness about her, a bitterness.

"Can I help you?" she asks him.

There is a sweetness in her voice, a layer of light chocolate cake as the base for a decent layer of rich chocolate mousse.

He looks into her eyes, and smiles.

V Files: Chapter 10 - The Office

By Sama Khwaja


Nothing but endless black as far as Destiny could see.

She stretched her hands out, hoping to grasp something. To her surprise, her hand touched something cold. Her anxiety level dropped as she wrapped a hand around the object and realized it was a doorknob. Out of curiosity, she turned it.

A silhouette of a door flickered into view as she pushed the door open to reveal…

…Alicia Crescent’s office.

Her heart raced as she stepped in. She remembered this place. Just by looking at it clicked some old memory hidden deep in the recesses of her brain. It wasn’t part of the laboratory summerhouse. It was part of her mansion. And it was…the one room she remembered quite, quite vividly.

The wooden floor gleamed newly, a geometrical patterned carpet laid right in the middle of it. Bookcases covered two walls stacked to the top with thick novels. At the head of the office was Alicia’s mahogany desk complete with its swivel chair behind it. Just like it always was.

Except there was somebody there.

A distinct humming was audible from the swivel chair that’s back was turned to her. It made her skin crawl. There was something wrong about the way the chair’s occupant was humming. It almost sounded sinister.

Destiny knew she should leave. She could smell the danger in the air. She took a step back. And that’s when the chair suddenly turned around. Destiny bit her tongue to hold back a scream.

It was the man with the terrifying blue eyes. She could see him clearly now but she didn’t think that was a good thing. He looked more terrifying with a properly defined face. His thundercloud hair was everywhere and his eyes almost looked worse than before.

She gasped when he rose out of the chair. His body began to distort and look molten like he was morphing. Now, he looked like Alicia. And then, he was himself again. Then, Alicia. He kept changing every second but his piercing eyes never changed and continued to stare menacingly at her. ‘It’ spread its arms out to her.

‘Come to us,’ it hissed as if a hundred people were talking simultaneously. But Destiny was already sprinting back to the open door, back into the black. At least it was better than watching that thing.

Suddenly, Destiny jerked back. She stopped in her tracks before she could trip and glanced down in alarm. To her horror, a thick tentacle of smoking black material wrapped firmly around her boot. She looked to the source of this repulsive tentacle and her eyes landed on a sinisterly laughing man/Alica. She’d tried not to manic before, thinking that escape was at least possible. But now, she felt there was nothing stopping her from acting pathetic and begging for her life.

‘Let me go!’ she screamed at the monster and tugged frantically to pull away. It just laughed harder.

‘But we need you!’ it said gleefully and out of nowhere, more tentacles thrust out from behind it to wrap around Destiny’s waist, her wrists and her legs.

Her struggles were getting more useless. The more she pushed forward, the further she was pulled back. The door kept on getting further out of her reach. This was truly a lost battle she was fighting.

Then, all of a sudden, the door slammed shut.



By Najia Navaid

Q. Describe a person in terms of food and also include an appropriate simile.

Honey loves to cook. It is not so much the pleasure of eating as it is whipping up a new concoction from the most surprising ingredients. How do you do it? her friends ask, as she serves them slices of her famous sponge cake in which are embedded cumin-sized pieces of orange rind which leave a bittersweet taste in the mouth that lingers for hours. Honey's candy floss hair rests on her shoulders and her sausage-like fingers are curled around the handle of her rolling pin. At the praise, her heart swells, like the bread in the oven, and her caramel eyes sparkle. Her apron spell out 'kiss the cook' and is tied around her dumpling-like body: soft and round. Her complexion is creamy and her cheeks look as if they have been dabbed with cherry sauce. The kitchen smells like vanilla and sugar and so does she. And her friends know that when they leave, they will feel like turkeys on Thanksgiving - stuffed.


By Lynette Rodrigues

Q. A setting that creates a sense of claustrophobia.

Panting Lynette stopped almost unable to breathe. A fog descended on her mind, rendering her unable to see. She anxiously scrutinized the place she was standing in but an empty blot of colour hit her eyes. The tunnel she had entered was never-ending going on and on and on in its garish oppressive paint. She crawled on her hands and feet grazing them in her febrile desire to find a way out.

Her team-mates had noticed her panicked disposition. The beads of sweat trickling down her
forehead. They said nothing but moved on, past her, to victory. She was surrounded by smooth, thick, windowless walls that caved in on her. The stench of the damp tunnel overwhelmed her nostrils. Her lips pressed together unconsciously licking the sour lemon balm. Voices from her mind reverberated in the tunnel with their shrill desperate chants of Help me! Save Me!

But all the response she got was the heavy thudding of her heart.

Nov 6, 2011

Lockwood House

By Naveen Qazi

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

Withered autumn leaves crunched under my boots as I walked. The muted glow of moon lit the gravel road in front.

I look at the encouraging faces behind and my eye lids drop, blocking the view of the tatter-stone building for a second. With my heart pleading to God for a safe return, I enter - dusty door creaking, welcoming my arrival.

The interior was bleak, with warm suspended air that engulfed me. An odd stench entered my nostrils, and clouded my brain. The roof of the sullen living room was covered with the criss-cross of the spider ‘s webs and an antiquate fan supported by a thread like wire. The voices outside the house faded to black.

The walls of the room were painted in the darkest shade of grey, chipped in various – artistic patches. Room’s furniture was stacked in a corner, veiled by white stained sheets. The large portrait of a woman, fearlessly patting the back of lion was on the main wall, facing the front door. Her pale crimson Victorian dress reached till her toes. But her scrawny neck and pair of skeleton hands poked out as if fighting to not drown in the weight of the dress. The pained look in her eyes caused a curled shiver through the hair on the back of my neck.

The wind against the bulky granite walls shutters the window, causing my heart to lurch. Through the dusty window all I see is a sea of nothingness, surround in complete blackness. Reluctantly, I walk forward; the wood flooring creaking under my every step. A filth-covered door next to the sofa, open on its own – breathing sound echoes through the empty Lockwood house. Suddenly, a puff of breath at the back of my neck causes my hand to reach up to my eyes as if to hide from the unknown.

My mouth turns dry, face the color of death, and my body cringing in terror, just as a piercing glow appears in the doorway.

A glow in shape of a man.

The Hotel

By Shumaila Abbasi

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.

“Ma’am, are you ready to order?’ the smiling waiter asked Jane.

“No, I am waiting for someone” she replied. The waiter walked away, looking annoyed.

Jane crossed her legs and then uncrossed them. After each passing minute she glanced at her watch, as she waited impatiently for her date at Sunset hotel’s restaurant. She was not early but was exactly on time. She had always been punctual.

“I knew this was a bad idea,” she said to herself as the sudden fear of being stood up enveloped her.

What was I thinking agreeing to a blind date? She thought. It was so unlike her to be on a date with someone she did not even know. But she was desperate. She would have done anything to escape the constant criticism of her friends.

Her friends had told her that she worked too hard. They feared that if it continued in the same direction, she would live a long, miserable, lonely life.

“Miserable life, yeah right!” grunted Jane under her breath. “I would have my money to keep me company.”

She felt uneasy when the waiter who had asked her for her order ten minutes ago, looked at her as he passed by her table once more.

What a waste it had been! She had put on a black, strapless dress with her lustrous hair tied in a tight bun. She had, unwillingly, on the insistence of her friends applied thick layer of make up on her face. Although her friends had praised by saying she looked gorgeous, but according to her she resembled a clown.

“God! I wish that man would stop staring!” she muttered angrily as she saw a man with his fixed on her.


Victor nibbled at the corner of the garlic bread, the only thing he was able to afford among the pricey dishes in the menu. His eyes moved around the restaurant. There was a wonderful aroma of freshly baked potatoes. Delightfully subtle music was being played, however, which was barely audible due to the clacker of plates, spoons and glass brought by the waiter. A wave of nostalgia hit him as he saw the happy couples holding hands and smiling at each other.

He looked at his reflection in the glass. Age had been to show its effects, he realized as he ran his bony fingers on the wrinkle around his eyes. He was upset that his youthful spirit was trapped in a mortal shell. He sighed at the sight of the increasing amount of gray strands on his head.

As he looked around he was shocked to see a young woman sitting alone on another table. She resembled his wife, who had passed away five years ago, remarkably.

How can this be possible? Victor thought.

“Could she be a relative?” he whispered to himself.

His wife, Mary, had been abandoned at birth. She never knew her family, nor did Victor.

Amazed by the striking resemblance, Victor continued to stare at her, even though judging by her expression, he knew she was irritated by it.

He wanted to talk to her, hoping that she might have answers to the mystery of his wife’s murder that had taken place at the Sunste hotel, five years ago.


Meanwhile, in Room 506 at the same hotel, Edward was getting ready for his blind date. As he stood in front of the mirror buttoning his shirt, the crisp grey coat lay on the untidy bed. It was beside a briefcase that had a job-rejection letter, bank warnings, two cigarette packs and a shaving cream. On the bed-side table, there were empty tea-cups and a broken lamp sprawled on the floor. The room smelled of rotten apples.

Edward flashed a perfect smile at his reflection as he thought about his date. His friend had said that she was a rich business woman and had described her as workaholic. He had been pleased to hear that as according to him such women were easiest to fool. He was a professional when it came to charming such types. He used his personality and quick wit to trap them in his web of affection. Since, these women did not date quite often there wasn’t much competition to be intimidated with.

“If everything goes perfect tonight, I have a good chance of becoming rich,” his coffee-brown eyes sparkled. “Oh! I am late!” he said as checked the clock. “Oh, no worries, I’ll just say I was taking care of my mom. Works every time!” he grinned to himself.

He sprayed perfume, looked at himself in the mirror one last time and said “Looking good!” and chuckled to himself as he left the room.

Nov 2, 2011

The Hotel

By Fizza Ali

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.

“She shot me, she shot me, bang, bang! She shot me!” the black iPhone 3G rang. “She shot me, she shot me, bang, bang! She shot me!”

The blonde man glanced at his heavy Gucci. 00:00, the watch showed.

“H’lo,” he spoke into the phone.

“When?” he suddenly froze, eyes narrowed.

“Well,” he said after a moment’s pause, “that should be easy.”

He disconnected the call, replaced the phone on the table and fumbled with the television remote control as he dropped onto the sofa. A news anchor roared as the television turned on. The man winced, quickly hitting the mute button. The room was quiet again.

“All o’ ‘em should be made t’ shut the hell up like that,” he grumbled, reclining on the sofa.

He closed his eyes and smiled to himself.

“Yer ugly ship is goin’ down, Amy, this ugly ship ya dumped me for.” He chuckled. “Dumb Pakis.”

With a slight smirk on his face, he slipped into sleep.


A six-year-old sat up in bed.

“M-Mummy,” he whispered, lightly touching the shoulder of the sleeping woman next to him.

“What’s the matter, honey?” she asked, now wide awake and concern clear in her voice.

“I’m s-scared,” the boy stammered. “The man in the room b-below ours w-was sh-sh-shouting.”

“Is that all?” she laughed. “He’s an American; they shout, they’re noisy. You don’t have to be afraid of them, honey. We’re safe.”

“But w-what if he sh-sh-sh-shoots us?” the boy’s eyes widened with fear.

His mother wrapped him in a tight hug.

“Nobody can shoot good boys. Allah protects good boys. And, my baby,” she paused to look at him, “people are not allowed to bring guns into hotels.”

“S-so he won’t sh-shoot us?”

“You prayed before going to bed, didn’t you?”

The boy nodded slowly, as if it was a painful effort. His mother’s smile faltered for a split second.

“Then Allah will protect you,” she beamed at him.

“I asked Allah to protect you too,” he said, with all the innocence of his childhood.

“Then we’re both protected,” his mother whispered, hugging him again. “Now sleep. We have to go to the doctor in the morning.”

They snuggled under the covers again, the woman wrapping her arms protectively around the small, vulnerable form of her only child.



“When will I g-go to s-school?”

The woman blinked in the darkness.

“When you grow up.” She ran a hand through his soft hair. “Now close your eyes and dream about fairies.”

The boy obliged. Very soon, he let out a soft snore.

She smiled and kissed his forehead.

Keep him safe, she prayed.


The last time he had been to that room, his life had changed. And now, two long years later, he stood in the same room, waiting for orders that would change his life again.

The room was just as it had been two years ago when he was a scared boy: white-washed, with bare walls, a small, yellow fan hanging by the ceiling, and a dark dari in the middle of the floor. The elderly of the camp, the authority, sat on the dari, peacefully counting their blessings on their rosaries, their eyes fixed on the weapon slung on his shoulder.

The young boy, a well-built seventeen-year-old, placed his rifle on the dari, at the elders’ feet, and stepped back.

“You have been trained well,” one of the elders said.

The boy glared at him. “Well”? he thought. He should retire.

“You are one of our most valuable assets,” the old man continued, slowly.

I’m the best there is! So hard for him to even admit that.

“For that very reason, we have assigned to you a very important task.”

Now we’re talking.

“It is an enormous task, filled with dangers and great risks.”

Bring it on!

“We believe you’re ready for it.”

You bet I am!

“It is a spy mission. We have tracked some American activity that the government is aware of but does not act upon, for obvious reasons. So it falls upon us to deal with these kafirs and expel them from our pure land. For that, we need information on exactly what activity is taking place in darkness to be able to do something about it. And there will be a slave girl under your command. Use her however you want to; she has some skills, but she is disposable.”

The boy rolled his eyes.

“Any questions?” the old man asked, distracting himself from the sight of the formidable rifle lying near his feet.

“Location?” the boy’s voice rang out in the room for the first time since he had been recruited.

“Yes, I almost forgot about that.”

I blame your age.

“Marriott Hotel, Islamabad.”