Nov 4, 2012


By Shafae Saleem

Encounter with an alien, writen in ping-pong styled dialogue. 
“Houston, come in Houston. Damn, the links are down. At least the recorder is still working.”

“My dear fellow, would you by any chance happen to be one of those humans?”

“Oh my God! What the hell?!”

“Oh dear, it seems I may have frightened you. I must tell you that I have no intention of bringing harm to you. So please calm down.”

“Houston, this is Bird, I have encountered an extraterrestrial. He appears to have a scaly green octopus-like body and walks on eight tentacles-”

“Please! I prefer to refer to them as appendages.”


“I said, I prefer to call me legs, appendages. The word ‘tentacles’ just sounds so vulgar.


“And my head isn't naturally round; this is my helmet so that I can breathe on the deadly atmosphere of this red, dusty planet. I must say your suit looks quite primitive, oh dear I hope you aren’t going into shock.”

“Houston, I've made contact with an alien life form and it speaks English in a British accent. One small meeting for a man-”

“And one huge meeting for mankind. Ah what a clever reference, my lad! Quite clever indeed! Unfortunately I have been blocking all of your broadcasts. I’m so terribly sorry about that.”

“Hey, what are you doing? Hey! Get away from me!”

“I’m so very sorry about this, I really am but I can’t allow you to leave with memories of this encounter. Please! Quit squirming and look into this light. Ah, there we go! Now, you will go back to your spacecraft and you will not remember anything about me. Is that understood?”

“Yes sir!”

“Ah good, very good my boy. Now, off you go. I hope we meet again someday.”

Hair (Rapunzel)

By Fareeha Shah

A foul, menacing odor has filled the air, but you ignore it. You methodically, almost rhythmically run a brush through your heavy hair, hair that is the shade of a buttercup in the sunlight, hair that coils itself around your elbow in pleasure. The hair is alive; but of course you already know that. You never did before, though, Gothel made sure of that by keeping your head tightly bound in a blade-spiked helmet in case you tried to remove it.  That one fatal night though, when her cracked, wrinkled hands forgot to turn the lock that bound your head so tightly…

A slow, relishing smile spreads across your face at the memory of your inhumanly strong, golden hair wrapping itself around Gothel’s neck, until her face turned blue, until she stopped writhing like a worm on a hook.  The rush of endorphins through your veins wasn’t just because you were finally free. The power, the rush you got from killing her (so easy it was) as something you wanted to feel again. You put the brush down; your wrists have ugly grooves in them, ones that will remain permanent.  They still throb, and your silky hair soothingly wraps itself around them as if to comfort you. You remember your hair freeing you from the shackles that had bound them, effortlessly crushing them like weak twigs. You decide that you are ready to leave behind the tower once and for all.

You contemplate climbing down the shrubbery and vines, but your hair does the thinking for you. It wraps one end around your waist, and one firmly around the bannister of the balcony. You have gotten used to your hair thinking for itself surprisingly fast. It feels almost natural, you think, as you lower yourself down the brick tower. The stench of death, however, follows you down.  Your hair can smell it too, it seems. You can tell that it itches for another kill too. Your feet touch the ground.

It is like nothing you have ever felt before. You are used to the icy marble flooring within the tower, and have been for seventeen years now. This is completely new to you. The grass tickles your bare feet, the cool wind slips through your hair. You can hear the trickle of water nearby, and in the horizon, beyond the wildflower-covered meadow that you stand in, you see a stream. Gone is that feeling of suffocation, of confinement. You are completely free; you feel as liberated as the birds you can see in the sky.

What you do not know, however, is that with imprisonment comes a price. What you do not know is that in the very moment you killed Gothel, something within you, your sanity, snapped. You think that you have it all perfectly under control, but after seventeen years of being completely severed from human contact… how can you? You, however, are completely oblivious to all this as you wade through the shallow stream, gulping down water as if it is the elixir of life and emerge into a forest.

You gasp appreciatively as you take in the breathless majesty of the beauty around you. Emotions that you have never felt before start to rise up within you. This seems to agitate your hair, as if it wants to completely sever any humanity present within you. You look at the tall, green trees, but you see them as dark, menacing, looming, and even threatening.  The entangled mossy undergrowth and poison ivy intertwine with each other feel damp and spongy under your feet. It seems your hair has begun to affect how you think too.

There is a twitch amongst the leaves. You feel the entire forest go still when suddenly your hair lashes out, cutting as a whip, and returns holding a white, fluffy creature with long ears. You cannot place it, as you have only read one book in your entire life; a ridiculous tale about a prince and his grandeur. Your hair snaps the neck. You feel that rush in your stomach, the feeling of empowerment, of relief. But it isn’t as fierce as it was before. Frustrated, you stumble out of the forest into a whole other world.

This meadow is cleaner; it is fenced off. A man and a woman dressed in the most regal clothes imaginable sat sadly on a stone bench while a little boy played with a golden puppy. You recognize that boy as the prince; he wears the same clothes as the prince in your book, collecting dust somewhere in the tower.

What you do not know is that that man and woman are your parents. They have grieved your loss for seventeen years. Not a year goes by that they don’t light a candle for every year you aged on your birthday. This year, seventeen candles illuminated every household in the village. That little boy is your brother-it is after years of trying that your parents were finally able to have a child. After months of searching they found a dog with the exact shade of fur as your hair and gave it to him.

You are oblivious to all of this. All you see is the little boy, with the cornflower blue eyes, the fair hair. Your hair tells you to wait till the attention of his parents is diverted elsewhere before coming out of the shadows. They turn to the grazing horses. You walk towards him slowly, even deliberately until your hair can’t take it anymore. It reaches out (flies out, really) and grabs the boy. It enjoys squeezing the life out of him. Everything is quiet.

This time, the pleasure is even stronger than before. He was helpless. So helpless, and you had all the power. You are so engrossed in your ecstasy that you don’t notice the queen look up. You don’t hear her exclamation of surprise, her scream of terror. You don’t look up to see the horrified recognition in their faces. You only look up when you hear the deep, commanding voice that belongs to the king.


The Three Little Cannibals

By Ammara Mohsin

Chopper, the little pig, stood beside the large, boiling cauldron with a contented smile. Food, he thought as he rubbed his hand gently on his stomach. Finally, they would have a proper meal.

He turned around to face the brown, worn out table. On it lay the body of a fat lady, chopped into six distinct parts. He reached for the two legs first and lowered them gently into the pot. He did the same with the arms.

He started stirring the pot with a battered stick.

His younger brother, Grinder, stood near the kitchen door staring at the body with fixed, hungry eyes. His tongue was dangling from his mouth, dripping saliva.

“Quit staring and help me out with dinner!” Chopper hissed.

“This looks,” he licked his lips, “delicious!”

“Did you not hear me? Hunter’s gone to get more firewood. If this fat lady isn’t cooked by the time he gets back here, he’ll eat us instead!” Chopper snarled.

“Fine! What do you want me to do?”

“Chop off the ears and the nose from her face. And don’t forget the juicy tongue. We need more flavor.”

Grinder picked up the bloody axe from beneath the table and did as directed. He then swept them from the table and dropped them into the cauldron animatedly.

“Next, cut off her long hair. We’ll have salad today, too!” Chopper smiled a devil’s smile. “Oh, and I’ve prepared a dressing from her blood. It’s in the refrigerator. Pour it over the hair.”

Grinder’s face lit up as he set about the task. Suddenly, they heard a frantic knock on the door.

“About time!” Chopper said. “Go answer, Grinder.”

Grinder went to answer the door. He opened it to find his eldest brother, Hunter, panting. He hurried inside and closed the door with a loud thud.

“What’s the matter?” Chopper came out of the kitchen.

“The wolf!” Hunter exclaimed. “He’s coming after us with an entire army!”

“But how did he know?” Grinder piped in.

“The fat lady; her husband told them!” Hunter explained.

“The one who escaped?” Chopper asked, concerned.

“Yes, yes! Now hurry! We must run or we will be caught!” Hunter warned.

“But we haven’t even had dinner yet!” Grinder complained.

“You idiot! If you want to stay and get caught, be my guest! I’m out of here! Tat obstinate wolf officer has been after us for a year now! He’ll get the court to sentence us to death, or worse still, life imprisonment! We’ve killed a hundred people in the area!” Hunter shook Grinder’s shoulders hysterically. “Let’s go!”

As if on cue, the huge army of wolves outside the tiny cottage howled in unision. Their leader, Officer Burke yelled in a loud, clear voice. “You have been surrounded by my army from all four sides! I know you’re inside, the three filthy pigs! Do not attempt to escape, the arms of the law are very long. You will eventually be caught, and punished severely. Surrender yourselves!”

The three little pigs stood inside the house, frozen with fear.

“There has to be a way!” Grinder cried.

Hunter went toward the window. “They’re all over the place!”
Suddenly, they heard a loud bang on the door. And another. The three brothers stood petrified as the wolves continued to bang on the door, attempting to break it. The cottage door gave way in a few moments. The wolves barged inside the  house, guns at the ready.

Officer Burke stopped at the sight of the three pigs. He smiled cunningly and aimed his gun at them. “The three little cannibals! Finally caught! Did you think you could away with all the murders of those innocent people? Well, here you are! I will make sure you three rot in jail for the rest of your lives!” He spat on the floor. “Guards! Handcuff them and drag them to the police station. Let them taste justice for once!” He smirked.

The guards obliged, and started to drag the three by their feet. The last thing Grinder saw before being mercilessly dragged out was the large black cauldron, cooking the food which he would now never get to eat.


By Ammara Mohsin

Write two contrasting descriptive pieces (300-450 words each) about different shopping trips; one enjoyable, the other not so.

The narrow lanes of Meena Bazaar were jam-packed with people. Moving an inch without bumping into someone was a far out possibility. Also hindering movement was the fact that this place was dimly lit, with cheap, orange energy savers hanging from the ceilings. Except the ocean of heads, nothing was visible ahead. The local crowd, especially women clad in black abayas frantically hustled into and out of the shops, dragging their young ones by the hand. The little shoppers were running like penguins to keep up with their mothers, because of the quantity of shoppers thrust into their hands.

The shops were equally dreary. Tiny, claustrophobic rooms, also dimly lit, with one, poor fan desperately trying to battle the heat and a chart paper acting as a signboard. There were shops selling every commodity possible - from traditional jewellery and flat chappals, to cheap plastic crockery and equally cheap table cloths and mats.

As is this wasn’t enough to repel me, there was a repulsive, sweaty stench hanging around in the air, as if somebody had vomited all over the place.

My constant misery was increasing by the minute; because of all this and the constant, loud voices of the vendors trying to advertise their goods. The buyers were no less. They were roaring at the top of their lungs and bickering in attempts at bargaining.

I was exhausted. My stomach growled. Upon insisting, my mother pointed at a bun kebab vendor some distance away. I looked at him, each brain cell in disbelief. He was drenched in sweat, frying the kebabs on a dirty, greasy pan. Occasionally, he would wipe the sweat with his hands, and then use the very same pair of hands to assemble the bun kebab.

My appetite vanished in a flash, as I wondered how this trip could now not get any worse. Or maybe it could! I thought as the entire Bazaar suddenly drowned in darkness. There was a power breakdown! Great!


Sensing my presence, the automatic doors opened in welcome. I stepped inside, eager to escape Dubai’s scorching heat. A waft of cool air greeted me. The air conditioned interior of Emirates Mall was heaven to my sweaty shirt and damp hair.

I stood there, taking in the atmosphere. The gigantic, spacious Mall stretched as far as my eye could see. It looked like a King’s durbar, lighted by magnificent glass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling high above me.

In all directions, I could see expensive, designer wear shops lighted by vivid neon signboards. Not a single brand was missing! From glossy handbags to grand furniture, everything was available in a zillion colors and patterns. It was a shopper’s paradise!

What also caught my attention was the presence of people from all over the globe. People in saris, shorts, jeans, and shalwar kameez; and yet there was an easy intermingling of all nationalities.

I could hear a lively buzz – a kaleidoscope of sounds. People laughing and chatting, soft music playing, from advertisements playing on LCD screens, and the different variety of languages. It kept one hooked – made one feel alive.

Everything about this place was appealing. Even the smell. I could smell a fusion of fragrances; the candy-like smell of perfumes mixed with the rich smell of fried food combined with the smell of brand new things.

What allured me in particular was the smell of food. I made my way to the food court. I could only stand and stare at the entrance. My mouth was salivating at the sight of a hundred restaurants, selling all kinds of cuisines; ones that I knew about, and ones that I didn’t even know existed.

I bought a mouthwatering hamburger meal from Hardees', and sat on a comfortable sofa, folding my legs. I began devouring the food. It tasted delicious! I gobbled it up in five minutes! After all, I needed all the energy to explore the vast city I had just entered!