Jan 21, 2012

A Bittersweet Tradion

By Afnan Imran
Bittersweet memories assailed me as I saw the dish laden with fiery orange and yellow rice. The golden brown mutton bong, also known as the danda, glistened with ghee in the midst of this small mountain, reminding me of a long ago Eid. Aged nine, I had been inconsolable when I had realized that my pet of two months was no more than a sacrifice. I had been carried away by my father, kicking and screaming when my brother had committed the unforgivable deed of slaughtering Mr. Goat. I had sobbed uncontrollably in my father’s arms when I saw the splatters of crimson on the front of my brother’s white kurta. My family feasted on danda biryani that day as was tradition in my family on Eid. The memory made bile rise in my throat as if I had just accidentally eaten the caustic cloves that peppered the rice.
However, the heady, pungent aroma of garam masala refused to let me dwell on bitter memories. It reminded me of my grandmother on Eid, adding saffron to the pot. The cardamom that I was sure was underneath the rice reminded me of my protests when she had opened the jar of cardamoms. It always spoiled biryani for me. It was like a nasty surprise just waiting to assault you at the right moment. I hate it when I pop a spoonful of spicy rice and accidentally bite into an annoying cardamom.
The scatter of quartered potatoes was my favorite part. Some shone a mouth-watering, light golden while some had been stained with orange food color. My teeth slid through each bite of those potatoes like a knife running through butter. They would have that inexplicable comfort that potatoes tend to have no matter what age you are.
The savory food beckoned to me like a mother calling her child home and I decided to dig in.

Jan 11, 2012

The Wedding

By Lynette Rodrigues

Write a contrasting descriptive piece (between 300-450words each) about a wedding. One of them is about an enjoyable experience; the other is about an experience which is not enjoyable. In your writing, you should bring out clear contrast in setting and atmosphere.

Enjoyable Wedding Experience:

“From this moment as long as I live, I will love you....From this moment on,” sings the girl in the floral blue dress. Her melodious voice fills the hall as the bride and bridegroom dance to their first dance in the new chapter of their life. Colorful stripped paper and sequence burst out in delight above them from the bride and bridegrooms statue. The paper twirls in the air as though dancing to the energy in the candle light room.
As the little girl watches, her eyes sparkle at the scene in front of her. The music puts her in a trance, swaying her body, making her feet tap to its beat. The good cheer in the room unconsciously draws a smile on her cherubic face as she runs towards the crowd to get a closer look at the bride.
The bride twirls across the wooden dance floor, her groom always there to catch her. Her delicate, hearty laughter adds to the fairytale of the scene. She looks at her husband, their eyes meeting in laughter. Nothing else seems to matter; not the silk wedding gown whose trail is sweeping the floor, nor the sprig of flowers that seems to jump on her simply designed hair as she glides across the floor.
As the dancing comes to an end, the crowd, intoxicated with merriment, moves towards the round tables to sit. Each table is covered with a cloth matching that of the chairs with it. Broad purple ribbons too can be seen tied on the chairs which add that sense of celebration that is seen at weddings.
Even the little girl seems to find decorations to her liking. Purple balloons decorate the Greek style pillars of the room. They frolick with the slight breeze that enters the hall, upon the arrival of a new guest. The bride picks out a balloon from the pillar and gives the girl with a smile before her husband and she move towards each table to welcome their guests.

Experience which was not enjoyable:

The jarring music floods the room where the bride and bridegroom sit. Her eyes burn as the overwhelming lights hit them. Red lights, orange lights, green lights, they all cover the room in an almost menacing manner, like that of a dictator ready to ruin one’s life.
As the bride sits, she tries to let her eyes become accustomed to the light. Her head sways due to the heavy jewelry that adorns her delicate, slim, fragile body because of the wedding. She tries to smile but she is unable to because of all the makeup that shrouds her.
The guests pay no attention to the red beauty sitting in silence. They are more interested in a dance being performed by the grooms sister and friends.

“WOHOOO!” they scream, their voice being drowned by the blaring dance music.

Some children are seen running around, jumping, kicking, “Thud!” a plate falls from a child’s hand, but no one notices. The child quietly kicks it under the table and skips away.
She waits, as she cannot move around freely, for someone to come and talk to her. It is her day after all, IS it NOT? But no one comes. She contents herself with looking at her guests rushing towards the bouquet. Plates are piled up, rice topped with curry, topped with salad and shami kababs, topped with pudding. They wallop it down, like hunters after a week’s failed hunt. They gossip in loud voices about what is wrong with the wedding, about the lack of heavy embroidery on her scarlet red gown, about the lack of variety of food.

She looks at them with eyes glistening. The garish dressed clothes that scream out their pompous nature, the fashionable outfits that do not care about personal comfort, the lips that do not care about people’s feelings.
She tries to move, but alas, she is unable to. It is her day. Her prison.

Jan 10, 2012

The Insignificance of Time

By Zoha Jabbar

Inspired by Siegfried Sassoon's poem, "Attack"

Remnants of the soldier's earthly tenure;
battle scars and blood-stains.
Crimson gashes contrast sharply 
with the pale flesh of the corpse.
Wide eyes that see nothing,
Mouth still forming those shouts of warning
his lips had strained to utter.

Silence now prevails,
punctuated only by the soft ticking of a wristwatch.
Ridiculous, isn't it, that time ticks by on his wrists?
Time, it is of no consequence anymore.
Time ticks by no longer for the soldier,
his time on earth has ended.

He is merely carrion,
Food for the circling vultures.
The vestiges of his life lay in the field,
In pools of scarlet,
Staining the purple petals of the Asters
that surround his body.


By Zoha Jabbar

These angels have broken halos
and blood-shot eyes.
Faces pale, skins taut across their bones.
Their wings, once mighty,
Now broken and frayed.
They've lost the will to fly.
The golden throne rusts,
Breaking down piece by piece.
The cloud disperses,
I'm falling from Heaven.

Jan 8, 2012

Pinjra Gali

By Ilsa Rashid

The crater at the mouth of "Pinjra Gali" -- the lane of Empress Market that sold nothing but cages--didn't bother Aslam anymore. He was used to the bump that welcomed him to work every morning. He would carefully drive his Honda 70 over the bump and snake his way past wooden cages that shopkeepers displayed outside their tiny shops. The tyres of his bike would paint a trail of water all the way to his shop after running over the spillage from Mubeen bhai's leaking water cooler. He'd wave to Saleem Bhai, nod to Bashir Bhai and toss a candy to Farooq, more commonly known as Pappu. The ten year old would catch the piece of candy and follow Aslam to his shop.

Even after twenty years of being built, Pinjra Gali was exactly the same. Narrow, smelly and crammed with cages, Pinjra gali was one of the few places in Karachi that flaunted the best tea-- not cages. Like the Qissa Khawani Bazar in Peshawer and Anarkali in Lahore, Pinjra Gali was a miniature example of a historic site known less for what it sold and more for its tea, cheap fly-infested food and story tellers. 

Aslam, like everyday, raised the shutter of his shop, muttered a prayer under his breath and then stepped into his shop. He picked up an old rag and wiped the layer of dust off his hand-made masterpieces. Aslam turned to the wall opposite the entrance that was adorned with a single frame. Even after five years, the sight of his parents caused a momentary stillness around him as if the earth stopped spinning and time had paused long enough for him to travel back to that night and return to Pinjra gali.

Jan 5, 2012

V Files: Chapter 16 - Epilogue

By Sama Khwaja

‘Stop it, River! I can get about myself just fine!’

River gently parted from her and gave her a concerned look.

‘You dare treat me like a weakling again I swear you won’t live for your next mission!’ Destiny grumbled.
He didn’t smile but simply cocked his head to one side as if scrutinizing her. After all, she had been confined to the ICU for the last three days because she had gone into a coma since the lab incident. And even though River had insisted she skip out on this meeting, she had stubbornly refused to listen. She had to attend. Rhett was coming and she had to know his verdict on this entire mess. Even if she’d want to kill him for it. Well, at 
least she’d have an alibi now.

‘You know no matter how hard I try,’ River said quietly and gazed at the floor, ‘I can never get that image of your lifeless body out of my head.’

‘River, I’m not dead. Look,’ she sighed and tapped his chest with her finger so he looked at her. She forced a smile. ‘I’m alive and here.’

‘Yes, but for how long? You’ve changed. You’re the not the same anymore. And I keep thinking that one day…you’ll disappear without a trace.’

Destiny didn’t answer this time. What could she say? That River knew her too well for his own good?

‘We better go in,’ she managed to utter. As soon as Zeta’s doors slid open, Destiny was ambushed by an enthusiastic Chi.

‘DEE!’ she squealed as she choked Destiny with her hug. ‘We missed you! I thought you were dead! You looked like a zombie at the ward! I-!’

‘Oi! Chi! You’re really gonna kill her with yer hug if ya don’t leggo!’ Gear drawled from his corner.

‘Good to see you, Little Dipper!’ Tito boomed as he clapped her on the back, almost sending her tumbling to the ground.

‘Nice seeing you too, Tito!’ Destiny winced as she straightened out. ‘Where’re Rhett and Keido?’

‘Did someone miss me too much?’ Keido teased as he strolled in with Rhett.

‘You wish.’

‘Awww, that hurt, Dee!’


He rolled his eyes at her. She smirked. It felt good to be back. Rhett cleared his throat.

‘Considering the event conducted by our own special squad,’ he started austerely, eying Destiny, ‘without 
even informing us, certain rules need to be established to prevent any further damage. Keido?’

‘’Kay, rule no. 1, you guys,’ Keido began and stuck out his index finger, ‘silent as the grave about this. If word gets out, we might lose our allies. No. 2, about the October files; get ready with your marshmallows 
‘cause we’re having a bonfire tonight! No. 3-!’

‘Whoa, wait!’ Destiny interrupted and glared at Rhett. ‘What, we’re going to pretend that this never happened?’

‘You should be the last person to complain, Destiny,’ Rhett answered coolly. ‘I’m just making sure history doesn’t repeat itself. If our enemies realize that there is another way to manipulate Hova’s powers then Healex is doomed. My job is to cripple them. So please refrain from telling me how to carry out my duty when you clearly don’t know how to do yours.’ He nodded at Keido. ‘Continue.’

Destiny slipped out silently, fuming. She wasn’t going to stick around to hear the rest of that nonsense.

‘It’s my duty! I know how to do it so well!’ Destiny said mockingly in a high-pitched voice as she hotwired a sleek blue Aprilia motorcycle. ‘Who does he think he is? I can fry him alive if I wanted to!’

‘Well, I hope that’s just a wish and not a promise, Destiny.’

She almost knocked the motorcycle over in surprise.

‘Jeez, Will! Can you be a little less sneaky!?’ she snapped and returned to fiddling with the wires.

‘Can you really control those powers?’ he asked quietly as he glided closer.

The bike purred to life. She clambered on before looking at William and raised a clenched fist. It suddenly burst into white flames that licked her skin but didn’t burn her.

‘It’s scary,’ she admitted as she admired the flames, ‘to have such power. I thought I’d have more problems because it had been dormant for so long. But I can control it a little. Though with Rhett’s attitude, I won’t be able to master it as long as I’m here.’

The flames winked out of existence as she settled her hands on the handlebars.

‘Is that why you’re leaving?’

‘I’m a danger here, Will. You heard Rhett. If our enemies find out about me, they’ll destroy Vice. It’s best if I just disappear.’ She lowered her head. ‘You were there when…when Keido told me what else were in the October files, right?’

‘Once Mage settles in a body there is no way of extracting him. Any method will lead to death for the receiver,’ William recited. Destiny’s hands tightened on the handles.

‘If they find out how close I am to all of you, they’ll use you to get to me.’ She whirred up the engine. ‘This is for the best, Will.’

‘I just wish…I could have been a better brother to you,’ he said quietly and almost, morosely. ‘If I hadn’t been so focused on protecting you from the truth maybe we could have avoided all of this. I had put so many lives at risk because of this secret. I just-!’

‘God, Will, no need to get so dramatic!’ She grinned broadly at him. ‘You did the best you could. It’s how you click. You keep thinking but never doing. I keep doing and never thinking. So even if you had told me the truth, we couldn’t avoid the inevitable. I’d still be getting on a bike and busting out of here.’

He finally managed a small smile and crossed his arms.

‘Where are you planning to go?’ he asked.

‘North. I dunno. I’m thinking of finding a quiet place to stay incognito.’

‘Do you want me to tell River anything?’

‘No more lies. Just tell him the truth. And if he wants to find me he’s more than welcome.’


‘You don’t need an invitation, Will. We’re blood.’

He shook his head at her as she turned the bike towards the exit. Then he frowned.

‘Isn’t that Rhett’s?’ he queried and raised an eyebrow at the bike.

‘Why, so it is! Fancy my luck, huh?’

‘Take care, Destiny,’ he chuckled.

‘You too, Will. And you haven’t put our lives at risk. You’ve made them worth the risk.’

With a final nod and a flourish of his cape, William began to walk away from her. She gazed at his back for a minute before revving the bike and, lurching the bike on its front wheel, sped out of the garage.

Time for this caged bird to finally spread her wings out and fly.   

V Files: Chapter 15 - Birch Forest

By Sama Khwaja

‘Where am I?’ Destiny voiced aloud. Her voice echoed all around her. 

She wasn’t sure if she was on earth, heaven or hell. It seemed to be nighttime here because the moon was round and bright right above her in the pitch black sky. There weren’t even any stars out. The only living things she could see for miles around were luminescent, leafless, silver birch trees. Even the ground was drained of color. It was like she was living in a black and white world.

She shivered. What was the noise in the background? It was like a strange buzzing which was rather irksome. She needed to get out. But out of where?

‘Where do you think you are?’ came a cheerful voice from behind her. Destiny instinctively reached for her pistols but realized that her holsters were missing. That’s when it hit her how familiar the voice was.
Heart beating painfully, she turned around as she prayed that she wasn’t dreaming. She almost choked on her tears at the sight before her.

‘Alicia?’ she whispered. Alicia smiled morosely.

‘Yes, I suppose that’s my name, isn’t it?’ she sighed and glanced off in the distance. ‘Oh well, it’s useless now. I can’t ever leave this place.’

She looked just the Alicia from Destiny’s dreams; petite, young, and stunning.

Destiny suddenly realized that she was moving away now. She scrambled forward.

‘Wait! Alicia! Are we…are we dead?’ she gasped she tried to keep up.

‘Dead? Of course not! Don’t be silly!’ Alicia laughed as she swung from one trunk to change direction. 
‘Don’t you feel alive? As long as you can feel, you’re not really dead! At least, not yet.’ She smiled ruefully at Destiny. ‘I don’t know about myself, really. I forgot my name when I came here. Once you can’t remember your name, you’re stuck here. You can’t move forward or go back. You’re here until you fade away.’

She brushed past Destiny to another tree and turned right from there. 

‘Wait! Alicia!’ she cried out as Alicia weaved through the birch trees. ‘Ms. Crescent! Mom!’

That word stopped Alicia in her tracks, allowing to Destiny to finally catch up with her.

‘There’s so much I want to ask you. So much I want to know,’ Destiny gasped. This all felt so surreal. Maybe it was because she was seeing Alicia in a different light. She was no longer just a scientist. She was her-

‘Aren’t the answers to those questions so very simple?’ Alicia said kindly as she patted Destiny’s cheek.

‘No! They’re not!’ Destiny said desperately. ‘Why me? Why did Shears have to pick me? Why did Dr. Temp- why did dad take me away after all his hard work? Why-?’

‘Because we love you, Destiny,’ Alicia sighed and cupped Destiny’s cheek gently. ‘Shears knew about Samuel’s mutated genes which is why he wanted to use you. But Samuel couldn’t bear to give him our child. Shears didn’t understand. He couldn’t. It could only destroy him.’

‘Shears...oh my God, Shears!’ Destiny suddenly looked about wildly, half expecting the villain to pop out of nowhere. ‘What happened to him?!’

‘It could only destroy him,’ Alicia repeated listlessly. She gave Destiny a grave look. ‘You need to hurry. Before it’s too late. Just like it was too late for me.’

And she was gone. Destiny’s mind throbbed. This was all too much. She was stuck in this strange in-between world and the only way to get out was to remember her name. But every time she tried to, it seemed to elude her. Like it was on the tip of her tongue but the minute she realized that it would vanish. To add to her frustration there was that constant buzzing that just wouldn’t go away.

‘Shut up!’ she hissed at it and glared at the black sky. ‘I can’t remember my name if that idiotic noise keeps blaring through my head!’

Fear suddenly gripped her. What if she couldn’t remember her name? She’d be stuck here forever until she was gone, like a whispering in the wind.


Her eyes widened as she realized what the buzzing in her head was. It was voice! Voices murmuring from somewhere. Earth? She wasn’t sure.

She squeezed her eyes shut and concentrated. Shapes and lines shifted across her mind until they began to form a face. The face had soft caramel hair and worried eyes that looked like windows to the sea. His lips (it was a he, she was sure of it) were repeating one word over and over again. She frowned. What was he saying? She concentrated on his lips, moving her own to mimic him. Panic and anticipation kept slowing her down. Every second that passed felt like an hour and made her slip further into despair. Was she fading away already?

‘Des…nee…’ she mumbled, her brow furrowing even more. ‘Des…nee…Des…Des...’

Realization hit her like an ocean wave as her eyes flew open.

‘Destiny!’ she yelled at the sky at the top of her lungs. ‘My name is Destiny, you hear me?! DESTINY!’

A gust of wind almost knocked her off her feet as she went flying into a tree. Catching her breath, she shakily looked behind her to see a door in the middle of the birch forest.

‘That’s the way home, isn’t it?’ came an elegant voice behind her. Her eyes widened.

‘William?’ she blurted out as she turned around to find the source.

‘Close,’ Samuel Templeton said with a smile. ‘How is he?’

‘Worst brother ever,’ Destiny answered, trying to stay calm but she felt her voice cracking from emotion.

‘He never had a way with children,’ Alicia teased as she came from behind Samuel and linked hands with him. He smiled affectionately at her as she returned the look. Destiny felt like her heart would burst. She stretched out a hand towards them.

‘Come with me?’ she pleaded.

‘It’s too late for us,’ Samuel said softly, his eyes reflecting sadness. ‘We’re just glad you can escape.’

Destiny nodded in understanding but wished she could act like a child and beg her parents to come back with her. But she did the next best thing. She rushed forward and hugged Samuel fiercely. He froze for a minute before he wrapped his arms around her lovingly.

‘I never got to thank you for saving me, dad,’ she murmured, reveling the word on her tongue. He patted her head.

‘You should get going,’ he whispered, his voice sounding watery too. She sniffed loudly and, after hugging 
Alicia just as passionately, parted from them. She paused with her hand on the doorknob.

‘Funny,’ she murmured and gave them a watery smile now. ‘I’m losing you again but it doesn’t hurt this time. Is that a bad thing?’

‘Well, it doesn’t feel bad, does it?’ Alicia replied as she rested her head on Samuel’s shoulder. ‘You haven’t lost us, dear, you’ve found us.’

Tears now flowed freely down Destiny’s face.

‘I guess I can say, ‘see you folks around’,’ she mumbled, her heart lighter as she opened the door to reveal nothingness. She stepped in.

‘And thank you,’ she whispered before the door shut behind her.

V Files: Chapter 14 - Give Up, Give In Or Give It Your All

By Sama Khwaja


Are there gunshots in heaven? Or maybe she was in hell. Destiny forced her eyes open and blanched.

‘William!’ she exclaimed in surprise. William hurtled through the mass of GroundUnders with River close at his heels slicing at the deformed army.

She watched as he tried to land on a blow on Shears with the butt of his gun but the sinister man held him off with his newly grown strong limbs. She flinched when she felt someone dragging her out of her circular prison. The symbols on her arms slid off her skin like ashes, leaving behind their blackened imprints.

‘Dee, move!’ River urged her as he pulled her towards the ladder. He pulled out a blade from a sheath parallel to his shin, stuck it in the ground and twisted the handle. A stream of electric currents shot out to clear all the GroundUnders in their path. Unfortunately, Shears noticed what was happening around him.

‘How?’ he roared, as he glanced suspiciously at River. His figure emanated so much energy William was thrown off his feet. ‘No! The transfer is not complete! I want ALL the power!’

His hair was now an ash blonde shade and he was standing up from his wheelchair, his body wholesome once more. Extending one hand in the direction of the ladder, he released a ball of electric blue energy which buried the exit in rubble and earth.

‘Behind the canister!’ William ordered as he grabbed Destiny from under her arm and dragged her to safety.
She felt drained and useless. This was all her fault. If she hadn’t been so curious to uncover her past; if she’d only listened to River and taken backup or something. And now William was involved. This just couldn’t get any worse.

‘River, you need to get Destiny out of here!’ William grunted as he fired at Shears once more with Kane, his silver Walker Colt.

‘Our only exit is blocked, William!’ River argued.

‘Use your blade to clear a path! I’ll hold Shears off!’

Destiny snapped out of her stunned silence.

‘No!’ she said fiercely and looked William right in the eye. ‘I’m not running away like a coward! This is my fight, William!’

‘Destiny, this is no time to remember your pride,’ William replied in a strained voice as he loaded Kane.

‘You can’t hold him off yourself, William, he’s too strong now! You need us! So stop bossing me around and let me-!’

‘Damn it, Destiny, let me do my job as your brother and get you to safety before you get killed!’

It was like the explosions in the background had been switched to mute. The glass canister was shattered, forcing the trio to seek shelter behind the controls now. But even as they switched shelters, Destiny couldn’t take her eyes off William.

‘You knew,’ she finally managed to utter. ‘All this time, you knew who I was. And you never felt the need to tell me? You never had the FREAKING GUTS TO TELL ME?!’

‘Destiny, calm down,’ William exclaimed as he ducked to avoid a burning shard of metal.

‘CALM DOWN?!’ she roared and yanked at his shirt to force him to look at her. He didn’t even flinch. 
‘Why, William? Why didn’t you tell me who I was?’

‘I thought you’d be better off not knowing,’ he answered bluntly, not even batting an eye. Her own narrowed in anger.

‘Oh yeah, this is so much better!’ she snapped as Shears launched a hunk of metal at them this time. They quickly rolled out of the way to the next set of controls.

‘I want my powers, Destiny!’ Shears shrieked gleefully, his power so immense it was ripping the 
GroundUnders to shreds. ‘And I want them NOW!’

‘Hate to break up the family reunion but we have a situation here!’ River snapped.

Destiny glanced briefly at the power hungry Shears before her eyes slid back to William. However, the anger melted away when she finally got a good look at William.

For the first time ever, Destiny saw how tired William looked. Was it because of all the responsibilities he was forced to shoulder? She wondered, if she knew who she was, what would she have done? Would she have been happy? Or would she have gone insane? Perhaps these very thoughts had plagued William when he found out who she was and he did the best he could to save her. Everything he had done, up until now, had been for her wellbeing.

‘Will, any ideas?’ River yelled as he snapped his two swords together to make one. Silently, Destiny stood up while drawing out her two pistols.

‘Well, what would you do if you got a villain, weapons, and the fear of dying?’ she heard herself utter. She cocked her guns ready. ‘You fight.’

Without hesitation, she bounded out of their hiding place while turning sideways to fire her guns at Shears.
‘I have to do this just right,’ she thought firmly as Shears shot a wad of energy at her. ‘No second thoughts now.’

She dodged the shot and landed on one knee. When she looked up her eyes widened as a slab of glass came flying at her. Suddenly, a sheet of metal slid in front of her, deflecting the danger.

‘What’re you planning, Dee?’ River grunted as he supported the metal shield to protect both of them from the raining wreckage.

‘What makes you think I’m planning something?’ she retorted and leaned out from under the shield to shoot at Shears. He deflected the shots.

‘You’ve got that look.’

‘What look?’


She stood up so that she was standing between River and the shield. She gave him a sad smile.

‘I’ll miss you, River,’ she said softly and kissed him quickly on the lips. He stared at her, stunned. Before he could react, she was gone and barreling towards Shears.

‘William!’ he choked out. The red-eyed man hurled forward to block Destiny’s path but she sidestepped him. He looked at her in surprise. She just grinned and gave him a salute as she rolled backwards right back into the circle which had previously been her prison. The circle began to glow again and the symbols slowly danced in front of her once more.

‘You want all the power, huh, Shears?’ she hollered at the greedy man as he eyed her warily. ‘Well, let’s see if you can handle all of it!’

The same gut-wrenching feeling she had felt at Bianca’s church overwhelmed her as her sight began to blur. She heard screams of pain but it seemed to be coming from somewhere else other than from her own mouth. She also thought she heard someone screaming her name but she wasn’t sure who it was.

The pain seemed to be ebbing away now. For some odd reason, she felt relaxed. Maybe she’d finally let go of everything. Maybe she was finally free.

She smiled.


V Files: Chapter 13 - So Is Reconciliaton

By Sama Khwaja

‘You’re the one,’ Destiny murmured in shock. ‘The one with those eyes…’

The creature’s smile widened wickedly.

‘So you do remember me!’ he said gleefully, raising his stubby arms. ‘Well, this saves me the trouble of explaining! Come, come, I have a job for you! You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to finally get my hands on you!’

Destiny staggered back as he wheeled closer.

‘What do you mean you have a ‘job’ for me?’ she said sharply, her heart thrumming loudly against her ribcage. The man’s eyes narrowed.

‘Why, Destiny,’ he said softly. She shivered at his tone. ‘You have something that belongs to me and I’m just going to take it back now.’

Her eyes widened and she clutched her shirt right over her heart.

‘You mean…’

‘Do you know you are what you are because of me?’ he continued delicately. His wheelchair seemed to be moving towards her of its own accord as the rest of the GroundUnders surrounded them. ‘That it was I who had forced Alicia to experiment on you? I had threatened to kill you if she didn’t? Oh, she cried. She cried a lot. But it was worth it. I mean, look at you! I had feared that your body might have disintegrated and all my hard work had been for nothing! But you have turned out so healthy and strong! As might have Mage as he matured with your body!’

He giggled maniacally. Destiny wrinkled her nose in disgust and jumped to one side as a GroundUnder moved too close to her for her liking.

‘You’re sick,’ she sneered at him. ‘How could you do that to a mother and force her to experiment on her own child? You’re twisted; you’re heartless; you’re abominable!’

‘Ah, the price to pay for power,’ the man sighed. ‘I’m used to the ridicule; Shears Bucan was the butt of every joke at the Hova Project! But then I discovered Mage and realized the power I could wield once I owned it! But who should I use as my lab rats? And then along came little Destiny. You’re genes sparked my interest. Especially from your father’s side.’

‘My father? Who was he? Tell me!’ Destiny lurched forward but the GroundUnders moved to block her path. There were too many. She couldn’t fight them all off.

‘Patience, little Destiny!’ Shears trilled and waved his stub of an arm at her. ‘I haven’t finished my story! Now where was I? Oh yes, your genes! Very interesting! I just knew you would be able to contain Mage! 

You couldn’t imagine my joy when the experiment was a success! But then…that dratted Samuel Templeton whisked you away and hid you from me! I was furious when I found out! But he paid. Oh, he paid dearly with his life. As did Alicia.’

Destiny’s heart plummeted and she tried not to collapse on her knees. A GroundUnder pushed her and she recoiled.

‘You’re a monster,’ she hissed.

‘But at least I finally got what I wanted,’ Shears murmured. ‘I knew if I was patient enough, that I would find you. I was an outcast at the Project for my failure. So I hid out here, keeping myself alive on these rejuvenating serums Alicia had made in case your body disfigured. Though I forgot that there were…side effects.’

He glanced down at his deformed body and sighed gravely. Then he smirked at Destiny.

‘When I saw your name on Healex’s wanted list I thought I was dreaming!’ he crowed and came forward until his chair was situated right in the middle of a weirdly marked circle on the floor. ‘I kept trying to lure you here by having my GroundUnders cause havoc at the government. They always knew where you were. Like they could smell you out. Must be the Hova blood in them.

‘Oh, by the way, dear, you are standing in a circle yourself which the GroundUnders had so graciously guided you to. The markings seem alien, don’t they? They’re from the Hova’s ship and are just the right formula for this final experiment. They react the minute they make contact with Hova. We had to remove them before we could extract Hova from her ship.’

‘What the-!?’ Destiny yelped as the circle suddenly glowed an eerie green while the patterns burned ebony black. Her legs felt like jelly as she tried to escape but green crackles of electricity shocked her back into her circular prison.

‘What are you trying to do?’ Destiny screamed over the sizzling electricity which seemed to be all she could hear. ‘Mage is inside me! You’re-!’

‘Mage was raw power when he was extracted from Hova,’ Shears said calmly, his voice growing stronger and deeper. ‘He needed to be encased in order to mature. Once that’s done, his power is up for grabs. The casualties of extracting that power were all recorded in the October files but since those aren’t available, we’ll just have to make do.’

He grinned maliciously as the patterns on the floor began to peel away and attach themselves to Destiny’s skin, burning her and making her hiss in pain.

‘Though I do remember Alicia telling me that death is one casualty,’ he said nonchalantly. Destiny could feel her vision blurring. ‘But it isn’t going to be me. So I suppose this is goodbye, little Destiny. Say hello to your family for me. I’m sure they’re dying to see you again.’

V Files: Chapter 12 - Remembrance Is A Pity

By Sama Khwaja

Is it even possible? It can’t be! What kind of mother would do that to her own child?!
The paper in Destiny’s hand fluttered to the floor. She glanced at her trembling hands.
What kind of mother…
This couldn’t be true. A piece of paper didn’t prove anything. She needed more answers to this messed up mystery that’s claiming to be her past. And there was only one place left where she could find answers now.
‘We need to go back?’ she said firmly and turned towards the exit.
‘Back where?’ River queried as he caught up.
‘Alicia’s lab.’
‘Dee, there’s nothing there now. It’s gone, remember?’
‘There might still be something there! A lab! There’s a hidden lab under that summerhouse! We need to find it. I need to find it! It’s-!’
‘Will you stop and breathe for a second!?’ He grabbed her by the shoulders and stopped her. ‘Dee, this is all happening too fast. You need to slow down and think. Tell William, tell Rhett, tell somebody. You can’t take on all of this yourself! It’s too much!’
‘Since when did you care so much?’ she snorted and wrenched away. Their eyes met.
‘Since I joined Vice, Dee,’ he said curtly. ‘We’re a team and we look out for each other and I’m not going to let you throw your life away right now! This could get dangerous!’
‘Yes, I know. Which is why I don’t want to get anyone involved! This is my past, River, so it’s my problem! I’m going to get to the bottom of this and if you want to get dragged along be my guest! I’m not going to be responsible if you get hurt!’
‘I’m more scared you won’t be able to protect yourself,’ River muttered as the two left Omicron. She just glared at him and refused to utter a word as they reached the blackened remains of the summerhouse. They found the abyss quite quickly and made their way down to it. Destiny went first.
She walked down the lane to the glass canister and placed a hand on it. The glass felt nice and cool against her skin and she could see her own reflection. She looked gaunt and exhausted. She tried to smile. Today had been quite a long and eventful day. No wonder she looked drained.
Suddenly, her reflection twisted into a scared Alicia. Destiny jumped back in shock.
‘I’m so sorry,’ she whispered and quickly disappeared. Bewildered, Destiny whipped around to see River descending from the ladder.
‘River!’ she cried out but before she could get anything out, a sudden explosion on the side cut her off. Smoke and rubble blocked River from her view and the impact sent her sprawling on the floor. Grunting, she forced herself up, praying that River was alright, and stopped in her tracks when she saw hundreds of glowing red eyes peering out of the smoke at her.
‘I wouldn’t do that Destiny,’ came a chilling voice from the fog. Her eyes flicked over the smoke. That wasn’t a GroundUnder talking.
‘Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten about me, Destiny,’ the voice laughed. ‘After all, we go way back.’
She could see those deformed creatures limping out of the fog now. One of them, however, was pushing a wheelchair forward, like a king being led to his coronation. Perched in the wheelchair was a something just as disfigured as the GroundUnders. The only difference was that this one had a shock of salt and pepper hair and familiar piercing cerulean eyes.
Destiny’s eyes widened in shock.
‘It’s you,’ she whispered in horror.

The Cage

By Reja Younis

I was petrified. My mind went blank, my hand froze and my palms grew sweaty. My stomach, full from pancakes Mother had forced down my throat, was now performing 360-degree summersaults and flips. I felt an overwhelming wave of nausea as I gripped my chest to keep from kneeling over. Cold chills ran down my spine and my mouth was dry. Absolutely parched.

Where was my water bottle? I reached down to grab the clear bottle and I held it up in the light to observe. There were a few sips left. It would have to do. I fumbled with the blue cap, my fingers wet with perspiration. It wouldn’t open – the cap was air locked. I twisted and pulled with all my might until it popped off and flew to the far end of the room. The invigilator robotically pacing down the rows gave me a taunting look and curled her lips up to reveal filthy, yellow teeth. Our eyes locked for a nanosecond. Her gaze was menacing, evil and a solemn word flashed into my mind… death.

I shrunk back in my cold, unwelcoming seat and looked around. Everyone was maniacally flipping pages back and forth with a crazed look in their eyes. They looked hypnotized and entranced. I could hear the sound of pens and pencils scribbling furiously. I cringed and took a long swig from my water bottle. It glided into my mouth soothingly and an aura of tranquility overwhelmed me. Then I was out of water. I placed the water bottle back on the floor with a soft thud. 

The silence could kill. With over forty rows of students, not a single sound escaped anyone’s mouth. I wanted to scream and climb on the top of a chair and shout, “ Get me out of here! I don’t know anything!”

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock… the clock’s sound seemed to boom in my ears. I cupped my ears to block the sound, but it still penetrated through. I looked at the students one by one then. There was the girl sitting in front of me, destined by God to receive a distinction. She had not looked up once, not to look at the clock, nor to take a drink of water. She fiercely scrutinized her paper; it looked perfect by what I could make out. She furrowed her brows and frowned. I let out a long, frustrated sigh. Another invigilator stopped to look at me. This one had sharp, cheetah-like eyes that were tawny and speckled, masked by a shield of copper and wire. His broad nose crinkled in disgust as he continued his march – his black shoes clicking across the floor.
I glanced at the boy sitting next to me. He was finished, wearing a smug expression on his face, his countenance dripping with pride and confidence.
I felt the walls start closing in all of a sudden. Nausea overwhelmed me again as I decided to have another go at the question paper. When I picked up my blue pen, however, it slipped out of my grasp and clattered onto the floor noisily, I reached over to pick it up and began reading the question paper again. It was hopeless. There were still thirty minutes to go and I was imprisoned in the examination hall. I nervously looked at the invigilators sitting at the front desk. They were busy as well – it was as if they were also attempting the Biology paper.
What had they said in the beginning about emergency exits? I could not remember; but I was certain that I was going to throw up if I did not get out of this cage. I looked up at the melancholy blue lights and then over at the vile clock. I began to feel extremely dizzy as if I had just exited an amusement park ride. My Biology teacher’s sinister voice kept repeating in my head, “ You will fail! You will fail! You will fail!”
“No, no, no” I croaked desperately to my self. I put my head down on the desk. It was hard and grey. Sweat was dripping down my forehead, my right leg vibrated uncontrollably. I glared at the floor – it was mainly a dark grey with patches of white and title of red. The red looked like blood to me. What would Mom do if I failed Biology? Would she murder me? Would my blood splatter onto our pristine, marble floor?
I shook my head convulsively and rocked back and forth. My insides were turning and grinding.
“Five minutes” the invigilator declared. I let out a small yelp and fell back in my chair again. A tear escaped my eye and I jerkily brushed it off. I took in a long breath and smelled fresh, new papers and an antiseptic odour burned my nostrils till I shuddered.  
The cage was no longer a nightmare. It was a reality. I wondered if I would make it out alive. 

You Are In Hell.

By Junaina Naveed

You open your eyes. You blink. You close your eyes tightly for a moment, and then you open them again. You see, nothing. You try to raise your arm, but you can’t. You try to lift your leg, but you can’t. Gravity overpowers every bit of strength in you. Or perhaps, it’s something else taking control of your body. Your body, but not your mind. No. It wants you to feel everything. Or at least, have you believe that you feel everything.. 
You want to scream. But your jaw remains idle. Your heart palpitates. 
Black. Everything is pitch black.. Until in front of your eyes, streaks of bright white start to appear. You cannot look away. You are paralyzed as the streaks start elongating and weaving themselves into a web. Abruptly, you are lifted up off your feet and thrown into the web. The white streaks start to warp themselves around every inch of your naked flesh, tighter and tighter. They pierce your flesh, gradually cutting all the way through your mass to your veins, till they feel bone.
You want to scream. But no, you cannot. 
Red. The white is now stained by a single drop of red. The tiny red dot, starts to expand before your eyes. It expands just like the blood on his shirt when you brutally stabbed him.. Suddenly, all you see is red. It takes over the white and surrounds you. It enters you like thick smoke and grasps onto every organ inside you. Chokes it. Suffocates it.. You fall, and you keep falling. The pressure by the fall, whips your face and your body. Whips it harsher than the belt you beat your child with.. You fall into water. Or is it water? It is blue as midnight. But it is dense. Thick and gooey. You sink through it to its depths. And you lie at the very depth, carrying the weight of the entire sludge upon you. 
Green. You see two small beads of vivid green in the distance, making there way towards you. They edge closer and closer.. Eyes. They are eyes that belong to a face. A face carved with perfection. Carrying luscious lips. You see curves, decked in purple satin. You see flesh. A walking form of lust, now inches towards you. You welcome it, as it caresses your face tenderly. Hands travel down your neck and your chest. They stop. They slice your flesh with their long nails and tear it open. They pull out bit by bit. And then relish it. The creature breaks off each of your bones. One by one. And chews on them. Its face contorts into the face of the woman you raped.. And the next. And the next. And the next.. Its face is a blur. 
You want to scream. But no. No, you cannot.   
Yellow. All of a sudden, nothing but bright yellow. You try to focus. You look carefully. There are mirrors all around you. The mirrors are what reflect the yellow.. The wrench of burnt flesh starts to encompass you. You look around you, into the mirrors once again. You, are on fire. Every part of your body, is in flames. The intensity of the heat sinks in. 
You want to scream. No. You cannot.
The fire extinguishes. Leaving a gray silhouette of your body, that you stare at in the mirror.. Ice. Your insides turn to ice. The delicate kind, that breaks easily. Every muscle, every nerve, slowly freezes. In pathetic attempt, you try to flex your frozen muscles, even though you know you cannot. And you crumble. The gray figure of frozen ash that stood before you in the mirror, crumbles to the ground. Each grain, each molecule, separates itself from the others. Separating you. Separating your mind, into millions of independent existences. Each existence, now feels each and every atoms worth of torment, separately.
You want to scream? 
You are in hell.