Short Sories

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Storm

Published February 12, 2015 by sidmary

THERE

On that hot summer’s day, the woman was was dragged out of her house. The area was deserted but for this group of people- and it was day. It was so hot, one could barely stand being out in the sun- and it was desolate.

The woman had a baby in her arms to whom she clung as if her life depended on it. A look of naked terror and horror adorned her face- and yet she was brave.

They led her to the center of the wide lane beyond the house where the ground was coarse and burning under her feet. Dust and sand settled on it for there was no wind.

They took the baby from her, and she tried to hold on, pleading and screaming. The baby was crying too now- writhing- extending his arms towards his mother, and bawling in the fierce grip of the men. His face was soaked, and her tears fell readily to the ground. One wondered why leaves did not sprout where they fell- but tears are salty…

They held her by the arms and pulled her away, and it took three men to do so. She looked at the angel’s face, then looked away. She looked up at the sun which glared down upon her without mercy, and she looked at the sky which was blazing white, and hurting her eyes. She then looked to the horizon, where far beyond the line of her vision, there were other people and other children.

She then looked at the ground and fell on her knees, covering her baby in his royal mantle from heaven by her body.

Somewhere afar, seas, and crimson blood, and rain and love and pain washed ashore in wild, furious and passionate waves that reached deep into the earth and high up to the heavens. The sun suddenly dimmed, as if a switch had been turned off, and the waves slowly receded, losing their tumult in their mournful sorrow.

HERE

“How very tragic,” said Saima, scanning the newspaper at the breakfast table and simultaneously dipping a piece of toast in her tea.

“What darling?” her husband looked up distractedly, sounding vaguely concerned.

NOW

Saima went to the office after sending her children to school. She had a long wearisome day, and came home late in the afternoon when her children were quietly playing in the playroom, attended by their nurse.

She washed up and fell into bed, thoroughly exhausted, for a long nap.

As she slept, dark clouds gathered on the horizon far far away.

Occasionally, a passerby would stop and look up towards it, a frown creasing his brow, before he would busy himself again. A few television channels and even news-reporters did a short report on the weather condition, assuring the people that there was nothing to worry about. Some of the newspapers too published a short column on the conditions the next day. When Saima saw them at the breakfast table, she said again: “How very tragic!” and her looked up, a frown creasing his brow, vaguely concerned.

LATER

The storm brewed and brewed, and the clouds darkened, and no one knew how, but suddenly they were upon the city, darkening everything.

It was not a storm- it was apocalypse.

The sky tore apart in flashes of bright, white light, and the sky fell onto the earth- but it was crying from more than anger- it was crying from hurt too…and it was as if it was not the sky pouring down, but the sea- and yet, leaves did not sprout, because it was the city, and all the paths were graveled.

The wind howled in every ear, and they all heard- probably for the first time ever. People came out of their homes, and for the first time, they saw too.

Saima gathered her children in her arms, and ran towards the closest, widest expanse of plain land: the mosque. There were already so many people there, one could almost be sure it was apocalypse.

She looked about her, the terror in her heart peeping at the world from behind her eyes. These ran now over many words plastered on the walls. Disjointed words leapt into her visions- words that said “faith” and “brothers” and “body” and “pain”1. Words that said “haraj’ and “bloodshed” and “bloodshed”2.

She closed her eyes, but the mist gathered and her face was wet. The ground shook beneath her feet and she held her children to herself in a vice-like grip. Her eyes were still closed and her children held onto her in terror.

The sky still raged, the wind still howled, and the ground still shook. They reminded one of the seas, and crimson blood, and rain and love and pain, all washed ashore in angry tumult…

–Sidra Maryam

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Forever is a Lie

Published October 8, 2013 by sidmary

( I wrote this for an exam for descriptive writing. so the following tends more towards description that narration. The reader is most welcome to attach to it any story that his/ her mind may fancy 🙂 )

“Forever is a Lie,” they say, but it depends mostly on intention. I look around at the lonely, desolate expanse around me. It is bare and brown as far as the eye can see; varying shades of brown: a dusty brown at the ground; a slightly darker, watered brown near my feet…The occasional color is in the delicately placed flowers in the position afore mentioned- and a dulling, browning green on the few trees scattered here and there. Even the walls of this wide enclosure are brown, and color lives primarily on the sky which, too, now its losing its azure to a stormy gray.

There are mounds here. Human sized, horizontal mounds rising gently from the ground and falling back onto it symmetrically. Occasionally, the eye spots a mound smaller than the rest, and the lonely heart spins another grieving story over my own.

A browned, autumn leaf is blown gently to my feet by a highly compassionate, or else greatly sadistic wind. It is hard these days to figure out who is sincere and who makes fun of you- but this leaf reminds me that I have to leave. So I do.

They buried him here last month. My son- who promised that lively summer day that he will stay by me forever. He must have believed, as conventional, that parents die before the offspring- but again: ‘Forever is a lie.’

I am a few feet now from the most beloved mound of earth, but I can not see it except for a blur of brown topped with white, red and green. The leaf chases me with an urgency- the wind is perhaps my friend, after all.

So I carefully maneuver round the other such stories- all colored the same brown now. I step out of the enclosure into an impatiently waiting, black Corolla, and fall limp on the passenger seat. My walking stick rests idly and upright next to the perfect smoothness of the dashboard. Everything here in fact is smooth: the driver’s face, my wife’s expression, the cover of the seats, the rolled up windows- the only exception being my rough, shattered heart…

The road is smooth too, and following it, we head out of the city which I promised my son I would never leave. I promised I would stay here forever, and yet I leave here forever, because forever is a lie.

The graying clouds gather overhead at last. I can not hear them past the closed windows, but I can see them- and they gather, not stormily, intimidatingly, or frighteningly, but gloomily. And I can hear them now, pelting raindrops on the windshield, and the roof, and somewhere deep down, on my broken self…

In this tumultuous monotony, I leave…

–Sidra Maryam

White Noise -3

Published July 5, 2012 by sidmary

He was on foot. He had gone to the park two blocks away for his regular evening walk and had just met a long lost friend. They had forgotten the time as they talked. The friend finally departed with a promise to come for dinner the next week. He remembered that he still had one lap to do, and resumed it. Half way through it, he heard three distant, distinct gunshots. The park was almost empty. Then his wife’s messages began coming: one after another.

He glanced quickly around him, and keeping to the border of the park, moved out. The streets were empty and an eerie silence reined them. He took the shortest path home, keeping in shadows as much as he could.

As he passed near the shops, he saw a man lying on the middle of the road, looking up at him helplessly. He quickly averted his face, adrenaline rushing in his veins.

‘The gun-men must be somewhere near.’

As he closed into his street, he heard two more gunshots. He hurried his step. When he finally entered his threshold, he closed the door softly behind him. Anxiety was still coursing in his veins and his face was flushed. Aneeta was in the entrance hall, her face panicked.

As he entered his bedroom, more shots were heard in succession. Now there were other noises too. Aneeta entered after him:

“What is the noise, Baba?” He turned around.

“Shut the door, sweet.” She closed it.

“What is happening, Baba?” He turned his back to her again.

“Close the window, sweet.” She followed.

“But the noise is deafening, Baba!” He lowered on his bed.

“Pull the curtains, sweet.” She adhered.

“The noise is going to kill me, Baba!” He lay down.

“Cover your ears, sweet.” She looked up helplessly.

“What if they kill me, Baba?” He closed his eyes.

“Go to sleep, sweet.” She was sobbing quietly as she exited.

                        x——————————————————–x

Mama and Baba took me to a doctor today. There was a big big room where many people sat. I could see my face on the floor. No one spoke over there. They just sat and looked. I don’t know what they looked at.

It was so hushed: I wanted to run and touch all the blue tiles but was afraid of doing it. Mama just tapped her heels on the floor: tic tic tuc.

The clock hand came to three twice on my Mickey Mouse watch before the doctor called up. I didn’t want to go to him. I wanted to go home.

He asked me strange questions, and looked at me with big, empty eyes. Then a girl in white came and took me away. I waited outside. Mama and Baba came and no one spoke. In the car, I sang ‘The wheels of the bus.’ I asked Mama to sing with me; she did not. I was annoyed, so I sang at the top of my voice all the way.

Now Mama does not smile. No one smiles, no one laughs. It is sick! I sing. I sing all day; I sing the same rhyme over and over again and no one stops me. Not even Bhayi, who hates it. The vacations have started:

“The wheels of the bus go round and round;

The babies in the bus go ‘Uayn Uayn Uayn;’

             The mothers in the bus go ‘Hush Hush Hush;’

The people in the bus go up and down…”

It has started to get boring.

                        x——————————————————–x

The day she died was another silent day. The heat had been oppressive. She was playing in the garden with other children from the neighborhood. They had brought in their toys. Ali had brought a brand new toy gun; a very expensive one that his father had bought at a mall. It gave her the creeps, but she did not say anything.

Soon, it was the center of attention. They began “role-playing” with it. Ali pointed it on Shaheer’s forehead, and he pretended to fall.

She felt her body going numb. Then everything blacked out. She did not know when she was screaming, or when she was falling.

It was a hot afternoon; not even the birds chirped.

The doctors said she was normal. She probably had a shock and her nerves were too weak to support her.

The children were too afraid to speak. Their mothers kept them home.

Hamza chose the line for her tombstone. It said “When angels tread on Earth, they can’t bear it for long.”

                        x——————————————————–x

Ten years later, when even her parents and brother had forgotten to visit her, a young man came and brought roses for two tombstones: hers and his father’s.

THE END

White Noise -2

Published July 2, 2012 by sidmary

They pulled up at the red signal. A car stopped to their left. They could only see the man, though there was a woman next to him too.

Two men came with guns in their hand, their faces covered. They pulled up the tinted windows, and looked in front of them, immobile. They came to the car next to them. Voices could be heard; then a gunshot.

Aneeta looked up, her eyes wide with wild fear and vulnerability. As the bloodcurdling screams of the woman hit their ears, she began screaming too. Hysteria.

The lights on the signal turned green. They moved forward, his mother trying to calm her down.

                        x——————————————————–x

The next day was Saturday. On Monday, Hamza did not come to school. He phoned him. The incident was more than he could contain. He told him everything he had seen. Then asked him why he had been absent.

“It was my father.” The phone went dead.

                        x——————————————————–x

His parents were separated. Somehow, after five years, they had made up. HE lived with his mother. It was the day they were meeting; they had been going out for dinner. He had remained home.

Everything that happened; everything that was bad; every “just one of so many:” it was always others. Wasn’t it? Just one in hundreds, thousands, and millions- it was never supposed to be him! Then why?

He knew why: his father always kept a gun with him; yet he had not used it this once. He was not going to let such a day come to him. He never would be confounded.

                        x——————————————————–x

“Give me the ball, Aneeta.”

“No, I will not; and you can’t take it from me.”

“Oh yes I will,’ He said as he lunged towards her. She dodged and he fell on his face. He got up and lunged again; fell again. He grimaced as the other children jeered and clapped.

“You are going to pay for it,” He scowled.

“Ahan? What are you going to do, really?” She jeered, encouraged by the clapping.

“Oh, I will get my father to blow up your house. He is in a high office, you see? So he can do it.” He made an evil face.

She froze. The ball dropped from her hand. She started screaming. By the time the teachers came, she was hysterical. Her parents were called. She was sent home early, still screaming.

                        x——————————————————–x

Dear Diary,

I am so worried about my little angel! Things have not been the same since the day we witnessed the accident. I had kept her face down, my hand on her neck; yet in that moment of weakness when my grip lightened, she saw it. I am sure she did! I am sure she saw the blood too.

She has nightmares too. Not a day in the past month have I not woken up at night by her screaming. She does not seem to remember in the morning. Every time, her eyes are glazed and she mutters strange, undecipherable things wildly. Then she begins to shout them, her arms flailing; and then, as if exhausted, she falls into bed again. Next minute, she is snoring.

The first day it happened, Atiq and I stood at opposite ends of her bed. When I looked up, I saw disorderly trepidation on his face. I am sure it reflected mine. We took an appointment the very next day from a psychiatrist at Liaqat National. It is scheduled for the day after tomorrow. I dread it, but I can’t wait for it either. We went to the park last week and Aneeta began raving about peeking eyes in the bushes. We hurried her home; she was panting all the while; we put her to bed.

We don’t watch news in front of her anymore now. Not with the ever disturbed conditions of the city, and the other time she got distraught about it.

I wish God would erase two days from my life: the Friday a month back, and the day after tomorrow!

The school still has not told us anything about what happened the day we brought her back early.

I am so apprehensive about everything now! God bless!

Saeeda

p.s. The accident we saw that day; the man was Hamza’s father. We went in a shock when Asfand told us. We went to pay our condolences that Tuesday. His mother was in a state: I did not know that they were making up. Asfand settled after a week. I hope Hamza and his mother are okay now.

                        x——————————————————–x

White Noise -1

Published June 29, 2012 by sidmary

(White Noise-

  • Noise containing many frequencies with equal intensities.
  • Such noise as used to mask other noises: “a white-noise machine”. — Wikipedia. Dictionary.com )

“What is the noise, Baba?”

“Shut the door, sweet.”

“What is happening, Baba?”

“Pull the curtains, sweet.”

“But the noise is deafening, Baba!”

“Pull the curtains, sweet.”

“The noise is going to kill me, Baba!”

“Cover your ears, sweet.”

“What if they kill me, Baba?”

“Go to sleep, sweet.”

x——————————————————–x

He was trying to study; he couldn’t. There was just too much distraction: inside, outside; he was unable to concentrate.

The day’s events were revolving in his mind: another fight. He sighed. His ever short-tempered best friend never seemed to get enough of those quarrels these days. This time it was at the water cooler. One of the junior boys had been drinking water. His friend came and apparently told him a huge big joke. All the water sprayed out of his mouth.

His name was Hamza. He turned around, his face livid. What followed was a blur. Loudly uttered, hot words were lost in the action. He tried to stop him, but to no avail. In just five minutes, a crowd had formed, hooting and screaming. A few brave people had tried to intervene; he pushed them aside from his friend. The junior was lying on the floor, curled up, face contorted in pain. He clutched his stomach and his nose bled.

Hamza was standing aside: face haggard and breathing ragged. He made him sit down and brought him a glass of water. He jerked it harshly away with a wave of his hand.

The head teacher came round, a baton in her hand. She puffed and her face was red.

The junior was escorted to the nurse. Hamza was suspended for a week. He got away with a detention.

He sighed again.

His sister entered the room. He searched her face for tell-tale signs of disturbance. She showed none. All sympathies aside, she now seemed intent on disturbing him. Squatting in front of him, a glint in her eyes, she began his most hated nursery rhyme in a high pitched squeal:

“The wheels of the bus go round and round,

Round and round,

Round and round…”

He felt a surge of anger. “Shut up!” “SHUT UP!” he shouted.

She began louder:

“Round and round, round and round,

All through the town.”

He made as if to stand up. She squealed as she carried her wobbly legs out of the room. He bent over his math again.

When his teacher checked his journal the next day, she accidentally opened the last page as she hastened to close it. It was filled with the words of a nursery rhyme she vaguely remembered, written over and over again.

She shook her head in disbelief and despair, and marked the page with a huge big question mark.

x——————————————————–x

–Sidra Maryam

Rain

Published June 8, 2012 by sidmary
Rain in Muzahimiyah, Saudi Arabia

Rain in Muzahimiyah, Saudi Arabia (Photo credit: Bakar_88)

Life was never always a dump. It used to be a merry-go-round. And no; it was not a mere childhood, dreamlike perception of things- life really was good. My childish sight saw our cottage a Hansel and Gretel house where mama made the cliched “delicious food.”

All six of our family lived on the farm. There used to be fights and squabbles, but they just added music to our lives. It was soon after that harsh music began to play- very harsh music…

There was a lot of  rain that year and the crops subsequently were badly affected. The water table had risen, and great patches of soil were left saline and uncultivated. There was anxiety everywhere. The crop yield went down; the stress levels went up. Brother came home staggering one day with his nose bleeding. Father scolded him hard. Voices were raised and a few things were smashed. I hid in my room and listened; I did not interfere with the elders. Outside it rained.

Mama scolded us all the time, and even vented her anger on Baby Maya who could not even speak! She only cried harder. I kept away Mama. She did not make all the variety of food that she used to. Brother began staying at home, shouting on everyone. Then Father was kicked out of the farm by the owner, and he too began staying back home. Father and Brother never made out well, and when Brother started keeping out all day, Father sure had a lot to say about it. It rained all the time.

The other day, the sun never did rise. It was dark and gloomy all day. Father went out for some talk with other people. Brother was somewhere out there too: he only ever came  back to sleep those days. My elder sister had to return some clothes she had sewn urgently. She went out. It was nightfall when she returned. She was almost faint and two men escorted her. They said something about injury and the canal. She did not say anything. They had found her there. It had been raining again.

Two weeks later we were all packing and moving out. I asked Mama “Where?”

She said: “Where God takes us.” I kept out of everyone’s way…

It was another gloomy day on which we headed towards Karachi. No one came to wish us away. I had to leave all my toys and friends. I cried, but no one listened. I cried like the sky that cried all the time.

Karachi was a big city, yet there was no place: neither to settle, nor in the hearts.  We settled under a fly over bridge with three other very rude families. Sister and Mama were always afraid to out, but they had to. I wandered everywhere. The food was always as bad as bad could ever be, and the water tasted queer.

Then Baby Maya died. Someone said it was cholera that came from water. I was afraid to drink water now. Mama did not talk to anyone. She did not work either. She just sat and stared. Father becomes very angry with her. He hits her and shouts at her. I hide till its over. Sister lies on the ground all day, her wide eyes always open. When she goes out, she staggers and children throw sharp, slippery stones at her. She screams and keeps screaming till someone brings her back.

Brother left. He went somewhere, and when Mama talks, she says he won’t return.

It does not rain here, but when it does, I hide behind the tent and watch with helpless, furious eyes. I hate him. I hate the Rain. When he first came, he brought catastrophe to our lives- catastrophe that changed our lives forever. Now it clears the roads for us, gives us fresh water and reduces the noise trying to reciprocate our patience; trying to apologize- but I won’t forgive him. Not ever…

The Final Race

Published December 19, 2011 by sidmary

She was my best friend, and we enjoyed a lot. We played and we raced. Yes raced. We raced in everything. We raced when we ran. We raced while eating, and we raced in marks. But I always won.

I sometimes gloated at my quick-wittedness, and she would smile; in fact, we would both smile. But now we do not: It happened last summer. She won the ultimate race to the final destiny. I wished I was with her. How could it be that she raced ahead and if not ahead of her, I did not match her every step? But then, we were miles away from each other; in two different cities, when the earthquake struck, and took her away with it.

She won the final race, and left me behind. But this time, only she smiled. I did not. I could not accept one defeat, where she had smiled at many.

 

Sidra Maryam

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