Your Eyes

By;

Syeda Waliya Zafar.
​I’ll see you again 

In my la la land

Your smile

And your eyes.

That is one place 

You’ll always be next to me

And I can hold on

To your shirtsleeve.

Mind games,

I’m damaged goods now,

Struggling not to drown

In our fights

And your eyes.

We said quite a lot,

Misreading things clear,

So lost in the moment, I fear

One of us is going to have to leave.

But just know that every night till death

I’ll think of the things you gave to me,

The secret smiles,

All those memories,

Of goodbyes

And your eyes.

So make sure that you

Take care of what I’m giving to you

A good heart,

That voice of yours,

An angel in disguise 

And

Your eyes.

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Responsibility

Once upon a time,
A little girl of twelve,
With no
book smarts,
Street smarts or life smarts,
Got handed a house key
Tied to a muted orange twine.

Poor she ,
A middle child,
Felt esteemed over her siblings,
She proudly held Responsibility.

And little did she know,
Of the jagged rocks ahead
That slashed her heart,
And she bled as it bled,
Tears over past decisions
And present aches.

Little did she foresee,
The weight of expectations,
The acts done but unpraised,
The vengeance of Responsibility.

Fours years of holding Responsibility,
And she wants to be a child again,
Wants to have things easy,
Were they EVER easy?
All she wants is to
Be looked after
And feel free again.

Halo

Written by;
Anousha Qureshi

PROLOGUE

The sun. You loved it when its rays would stir in a delicious warmth from inside you, as you’d let down your hair and bask in a few minutes of anbsolute, wintry bliss. You’d always preferred winters; and the early morning free blocks your college offered you were solely utilised for the purpose of rushing to the jagged, somewhat levelled football field concealed behind the Junior Section’s building, to enjoy the winter sun.

Today was no exception from the rest, since you had the first two blocks free as your timetable read. It was finals’ week and you sincerely wanted to mentally absorb the formulae list you had in your stiff, cold fingers. The assembly bell was dismissed and everyone dispered around the ground for last minute revisions and discussions. The only exception to the generally normal routine was, as you trudged your shivering frame to the field, was the eerie attention you felt on yourself. You’d sensed it since the assembly, but dismissed it as your senses becoming hazy after the all nighters you’d pulled for the exams. As your shoes crunched against the gravel paved sidewalk leading to the bleachers; you could feel the aura getting stronger, as though it was marking you as its next target. Why would your brain even think that way? You paused. And so did the mysterious entity. A subtle shiver creepes up your spine and it came as a hushed whisper to you, that you did not hear the being walk right up behind you. Your back was erect against what you felt would be its chest, but you felt nothing solid. Your eyes darted across the sparse chunk of grass beneath you and your breathing shallowed. It stood tall and dark against you, almost like a defined halo. You decided to turn, and in that moment your vision acknowledged the sunlight a bit too quickly and you could swear you saw a forlorn white smile flash across what must be the face of the entity before everything plunged into darkness.

You loved winters. Too bad it was the only season you’d experience now.

Rain…

Written by;
Syeda Waliya Zafar

Tearing across the pitch black night sky,the thunderbolts lit up the city after every few seconds,making me wonder if the gods above were at war with each other. What else could sound so dreary? Through the broken glass in my window, raindrops rushed in, bringing in the earthly fragrance of a typical rainy night with them.

In a town where rain had now become a daily ritual, it was surprising how the splattering and splashing of raindrops still laid everyone and everything on death’s scale, melodically playing its own music of beads of water pounding here and splashing there…Oh,it was all so breathtaking!

The street light fluctuated every now and then,casting angry shadows on the wall right outside my window, like glares showing its disapproval of wasting away yet another night letting the town blanket itself in the dull and never ending rain. Nothing seemed to be happy really,just helplessly, vulnerably waiting for daybreak…for a faint shadow of the sun…anything promising, anything warm. It was easy in the dead of night to differentiate between the musical notes nature played – a splash and a spatter,a clink and a thud, all in sync with the lightening slicing through the tar black sky -joy oh joy!

One could imagine the numbness of a cold night like this climbing up their spine,chilling them through and through,while the cold water seeped through the soles,unable to keep the monster of a rainy night from soaking every inch of their skin…such helpless weaklings nature makes out of men. Hour after hour of water pouring down endlessly, leaving a beautiful glow on the pavement and the trees, a never ending blanket of black covering the sky with no sign of colour as far as the eye could see. Bleak yet picturesque, the scene made me wonder,will the downpour ever stop? Will we ever see colours…again?

Bakra Eid

Happy Bakra Eid2

Written by: Fareeha Anwar

A sobbing Haider sat next to Dadi, on her bed, in a caramel brown kurta and off-white shalwar. His crystal blue eyes were soaked in tears, which were continuously trailing down his cheeks. This was nothing new for us. Every year Haider used to cry for his to-be sacrificed Papu, Dolly or Bunty; the silly names he gave to the animals. Dadi was fed up consoling him; the glimpse of irritation was the clear symbol.

Where on one hand Haider cried his heart out for the animals, Shehry on the other, was very enthusiastic for their slaughter. It was actually the thought of BBQ party that fascinated him. Bihari boti, Malai boti, Seekh kabab; all juicy and tender. He smiled with great relish.

When getting ready for the day, I spotted Abbu, Uncle Wasay and Shehry with a middle age man, who wore a stained white shirt and a dhoti, from my room’s window. Betel juice dripped from his lips. He was probably the butcher. Along with his team of four other guys, he successfully tripped the mad goat over to make it lie flat on the ground. Quickly he handed a big knife to Abbu and Uncle Wasay who returned it back after saying their prayers. With a loud shout of ‘ALLAH O AKHBAR’ the knife was cut through Haider’s Bunty like a credit card being swiped. A pool of red liquid oozed out from the goats’s body spreading like spilled wine. The sight of the palpitating animal and blood made me nauseous therefore, I moved away.

Once ready in my dazzling eid dress, I flew downstairs to see a little Haider standing near the door of Dadi’s room, wailing and moaning when Shehry brought in the large meaty pieces of his beloved Bunty who had been chopped of brutally. My confused mother danced frantically between the kitchen and Dadi’s room to comfort Haider on one side and to look after the incoming meat on the other. Soon our neat and tidy kitchen resembled to a butcher shop; counters covered with heaped bowls of meats and blood drops all around the kitchen flooring. The ‘Thak! Thak!’ from the butcher outside also added in the disgust to the scene. It was for the first and last time that I entered the kitchen today, only to help Ammi with the breakfast and then to gulp it down.  Later, I locked up in my room to prevent myself from any further horrible views.

Written by: Urwa Akmal

A large crowd gathered around the whit magnificent cow. Ammar was amazed by its size but didn’t show any signs of excitement; the dull bored expression seemed to have carved on his face, his arms folded, not expecting anything special this time around either.

“No matter how big they get, they all die in the same old boring way.”

“Oh no, this cow is said to be a feisty one,” Omer said with excitement, eyes fixed on the cow.

“We’ll see.”

The three filthy men, tattered clothes covered in blood who were preparing were now closing in on the restless cow. Two of them carrying thick ropes. They paused for a while, then leaped towards it simultaneously. The one that reached for the rear legs wasn’t so successful in tying them, rather he fought the legs till the cow grunted and landed a kick straight on his temple. The eyes of the crowd widened as the man lifted off the ground and collided with the wall behind him, his eyes barely open. Blood trickled down his forehead.

The crowd started screaming and hooting. A grim smirk appeared on Ammar’s face, he was starting to enjoy this.

It was not long before the rampaging cow struck another man with its horns causing him to fall, then trampled over him ruthlessly. Injured, he somehow managed to crawl out.

The crowd went mad. All the elderly people rushed and grabbed the cow firm. Even though it managed to shake some people off, they still ended up pinning it to the ground. The one last man who was left stepped close, holding a large blade, he mumbled something and swiftly sliced the throat. Blood sprayed all over the man, the cow erupted, bouncing and kicking out of control. The people let go thinking it was over but were astonished and horrified to see the cow jump up and gallop along the street, head hanging, blood spraying. Its white body stained in blotches of red. It didn’t run too far before it slowed down and fell with a thud. That was it.

Ammar’s face was lit with amusement, everyone stared at him as he laughed madly and walked away with Omer.

“A feisty one indeed!”

Written by: Aliya Arif Bawany

I hear the clank of metallic knives striking against each other, the butcher ready for action. Stepping down the stairs, I watch my father wearing a prayer cap moving towards the exit of the house. My brother drags a goat by the flap of its ear shoving its back to encourage it to move forward.

The hair on my arm stand upright when I observe the sinless face of the animal and glistening blade of the knife. Knowing that the emotion of letting go the living creature I adored and fed is supposed to be tantamount to sacrificing your kin, I pat and lean my head on the goat’s body for a while. Pronouncing the words “God is Great,” the butcher swiftly passes the sharp knife over the animal’s neck after I withdraw so that the excruciating pain lasts only for a fraction of a second.
A gigantic cow is chased by an angry adult as if he was thrown from its back into a mud puddle. He waves his hand, presses the other one to his chest, pauses, draws in breath and stares forward as if to say, “I am going to get you even if it is the last thing I do!” A mob with matching zeal blocks the way for the cow from the opposite side whirling ropes in the air, aiming to tie its legs. They fasten the cow’s feet, it falls on its body and the men surround it with cheers of victory and “Whoo hoo!”
In the meanwhile, I hear the “Katakat” of the butcher chopping meat on a wooden slab, his murky shirt stained with blood splats. The stone on the forefinger of his occupied hand shimmers. Maybe it was bought from a street vendor for fashion or because it is a lucky charm helping him fulfill multiple meat orders.
My father gestures to direct the butcher to produce the choicest meat pieces and finest cuts. The place reeks of unclean animal hide and urine at a distance, an emetic for me. The crimson pool of liquid emerging from the lifeless head lying on the ground darkens and dries. I feel woozy at the sight of blood. My stomach rumbles and growls partly because I have not had breakfast yet.
Rubbing my right temple once I proceed towards my house walking on the tips of my toes. Covering my nose with the palm of my left hand, time and again to keep away the stench, I inhale the scent of dried henna patterned on my hand.
Grimacing at any sight of animals squirming before being slaughtered or any piles of snot green exposed intestines, I begin to trip. I clap my hand on a nearby pillar for support and watch broken pieces of purple glass bangles strew on the floor beneath.
Written by: Rebal Khan
On my birthday last year, uncle Shahid showed me his seven month old lamb. It was an adorable little fellow, carpeted with fluffy white wool, hopping around uncle , restless as a puppy. Since uncle had decided to move to the southern lowlands. He  allowed me to keep it if i promised to care for it.
I belong to a poor family of terrace farmers and we grow grains like rice and maize to make ends meet. Since i was only seven by then, my parents didn’t force me to work but gave the lamb in my tutelage. As the lamb resembled fluffy cumulus clouds, i decided to name it Badal.
With a flute in my right hand and a stick in the other, i would lead Badal towards the local meadow. At times I would watch him until my thoughts were lost in the enchanting world of white snow capped peaks in the background. I would lay my head on Badal’s comfotable wool and look at the azure sky as clouds like tufts of cotton hovered in tranquility above. We drank from clear streams and discovered new hideouts every day. He always listened whenever l played magic from my flute, his large black eyes fixed towards me.
“Tomorrow is Eid-ul-Azha and we will sacrifice Badal, this time”. M father warned me with an adamant look on his face. My jaw dropped as l realized that Eid was so near now. Eid had always been my favourite for two reasons. One , that l got money from father to buy sweets. Secondly we sacrificed an animal and so could enjoy its meat , a commodity seldom available in our house. My eyes filled with tears, not because of joy but due to immense sorrow as i realzed what fate had in store for Badal. I rushed towards the kitchen and wrapped my arms around mom and whimpered.
“Please…… buy another animal instead of Badal . “
“this year’s harvest has been poor, you know we can’t afford another creature,” she said while patting me on the back, pulling me closer to her body.
I slowly crept into the dark shed near our house at night , using a torch to illuminate my path. Wind whistled around me , chilling my bones. The planks reeked of rotten wood and creaked on each step. Suddenly my hand touched a soft cushion of wool and i realized that it was Badal fast asleep.All the memories I shared with Badal flashed before me now and tears blurred my vision.
” You will be free but…. don’t forget me , okay?” I sobbed while removing Badal’s tether and then returned home.
“Baa,Baaaa!”
The sound of Badal’s bleating woke me . Unlike every Eid day, I didn’t greet my parents or ask for money, instead I rushed outside , cleared my sleepy eyes and was awestruck. Badal hadn’t run away as i expected and was now dodging my father and the butcher , who were trying to corner it. Badal ran everywhere, continuously bleating , asking for my assistance.
I couldn’t help but cry at being unable to help a friend but suddenly something froze my blood. The butcher pounced on Badal like a cheetah hunting a gazelle but landed back on the ground. Badal also darted away into the air but now there was no ground beneath him.

Predator and Prey

105_PredatorPrey_Pic

Writen by: Imbesat Zaigham Meer

The lioness hid between the tall grass and weeds, waiting, watching. The soft sandy fur that stretched over its lean muscles was perfectly camouflaged in the sun burnt grass, just a shadow in the sun. The wildebeests roaming nearby did not notice the sharp keen eyes that watched their each move.

She watched the big wildebeests patiently, as they nimbly nibbled at the chewy grass or stood with their neck raised in a royal pose, completely oblivious to the threat that hid in the shadows of the dying weeds waiting for a chance to lunge. She was aware of their heavy heartbeats and the crunch of their hooves, and could hear the splash of their tongues lapping up the water in the creek. She could especially smell the warm, rich tangy scent of the wildebeests.

One of the male wildebeest had walked over to the far side of the creek, away from his companions. Seeing a chance to attack, the lioness quietly inched closer into the grass near the fern fringed edge of the trees, which separated it from its herd.

Her body shifted into a low crouch. Surprise was a crucial element to the hunt, especially with a prey twice her size. The wildebeest would not know what hit him until long after the life had been drained from its neck. Instinctively, her eyes zeroed in on the male’s neck where the hot blood pulsed

The wildebeest was without a care in the world, as it finished drinking and lazily moved back to his herd.

The lioness noted the distance, only ten yards – two or three bounds- between it and its prey. Her muscles coiled in preparation for the kill, her tail twitching spasmodically; and just as the wildebeest passed in front of the trees, the lioness sprang at him.

Mid jump, her lips pulled back to expose her sharp canine teeth. Her raking claws sank into the wildebeests’ shoulders and throat, as hers teeth unerringly sought his throat. The wildebeest, startled by the sudden onslaught tried to escape it by breaking into a run, bucking and jolting, trying to rid itself of the sudden mass leaching at its neck.

The lioness’ jaw locked easily over the precise point where the heart beat thrummed strongest, a feral snarl ripped through its throat, just as her teeth ripped through the wildebeest’s throat. The teeth were steel razors as they tore through the dry fur and fat until they had completely sunk into the flesh.

The wildebeest struggled some more, but feebly like it knew the end was near, and its screams choked off with a gurgle, just as the lion hooked its claws into his snout. The wildebeest slowed in his run, staggering slightly until suddenly he crashed into the ground, raising a cloud of dust of dust in his wake. His eyes rolled back in their socket, his legs gave occasional spastic twitches as the lioness finished her kill.

The wildebeest was finished before the lioness.

Written by: Afsah Hasan

Amelia stood outside the most feared house on St. James’ street: number twenty three. She was an intrepid girl, and when nobody dared to walk past it after six o’clock, she stood with her arms akimbo, observing the dilapidated, fungus stained walls for good fifteen minutes. When challenged. She had laughed in the face of apparent danger, and agreed to run up to the second floor and wave at her friends. She tied her shoelaces and walked up to the house with as casual a gait as she could muster: she knew that her friends watching her thought with conviction that she was imperiling her soul.

What she did not know was that there was someone else, also watching her. From one of the upper casements on the right, Edith smiled at the little figure entering the house and her greyish-silver eyes sparkled with mischief. She had been waiting for a long, long time. Edith stood at the head of the stairs, looking down at Amelia’s upturned face, knowing herself to be invisible. She played with the idea of vigorously shaking the stairs so she would fall over the banister, from the twenty-second step to the rotten, mahogany floor; she would break her neck at least, but no. that’s not much fun. She let Amelia walk through her before being struck with the perfect idea: the deer’s head on the wall. It was a cruel trick and her favourite too.

The buck’s face was rather small for those branching antlers, Amelia thought. She touched them and was surprised by their sharpness when she got pricked. Maybe they had been shaped carefully. She stepped away from the stag’s head hanging on the wall and was making her way down the corridor when she heard a loud “thud”. She immediately spun around: the deer’s head lay on the floor. With her heart pounding in her chest, for a moment she was inexplicably afraid of going near it. She had not recovered from this when, suddenly she heard a crash: she turned around to see that the antique mirror had shattered into pieces.

Ah, now she looks scared, Edith thought with pleasure and laughed – and when she saw Amelia look around in wide-eyed horror to detect the source of the evil sound, she laughed even louder. But her mirth vanished when she saw Amelia run to the stairs. She lifted a finger to make her float up and was angered to see the stubborn girl hold on to the handrail, screaming to be spared. Too late.

Feeling that the tight grip on her waist and ankles had abruptly loosened, Amelia slowly crawled away from the stairs. She got up but her knees were shaking. Looking down at the broken mirror, she felt something hovering behind her. Daringly, she turned. Her tearful eyes met the menacing eyes of the stag for a second before the sharp antlers pierced into her. And before she had even registered what had happened, she collapsed lifeless on the floor.

Game over. Edith swirled above Amelia lying dead in puddle of her own blood and flew up to her bedroom again.

“Ha! Another win.”

Written by: Fareeha Anwar

Upon lifting up her eyes, she saw the tower clock striking 3; the middle of the midnight. Darkness lingered over the city. Bordom spilled around the studio room. After reading last few messages, she quickly wrapped up the show, collected her belongings from the table and left for home. The unusually cold wind welcomed her on this lonely street of Old Saddar. Though she was habitual of the late night journeys, there was something peculiar about this night. The silence and the uncanny calmness whispered of uncertainty.

He had been waiting down her studio for an hour now. There! Finally, she came out. Alone. The sinister grin appeared and disappeared from his face as soon as he began the chase.

While crossing the market area, she stopped. Her instincts tingled. Was she being followed? A shiver ran down her spine. Before she could turn, he immediately hid himself behind the wall of some building.

Clenching the dupatta tight between her sweaty palms, she hesitantly swung her neck to the right and peeked through the corner of her eye. The night was getting heavier. Upon deciding to change her route, she took her short but quick steps towards the main road. Chhinnn! A sound touched her ears like that of the colliding beds. With her heartbeat mounting, she raised her speed too.

As he emerged from the side of the wall to continue, to his dismay the girl had disappeared. Furiously, he looked around. Where did she go? It was the final chance to get her, he thought.

After hastening up for about 15 minutes or so, she had the glimpse of the deserted main road, gloomy under the rays a single street light glowing at a far end. Just when she crossed the narrow alley, something sharp struck pass through her back. With a jolt and hiss that escaped from the lips, she stopped. Her eyes popped out of horror. Slowly she turned around, stationary to her place, to get a glance of her pursuer. With the stained dagger in one hand and a keychain in other, he stood there with the glint of victory and flicker of revenge in his eyes.

The Birthday Party

The Birthday Party

Written by: Imbesat Zaigham Meer

Holding birthday parties is Zaid’s favorite hobby, and somehow every year, he manipulates me into saying yes. This year he didn’t fight fair (when does he ever?).  He brought it up in front of Hasan and he got all excited and then I just couldn’t bear to say no. At first I was reluctant but now I’m perfectly content by it, excited even.

I descend the stairs, excited, exuberant and expectant. As soon as I reach the bottom, I am hit by the smell of meatballs, biryani, air freshener and different perfumes. The room is toasty warm, like bed early in the morning, inviting and irresistible.

The chandelier attracts my attention immediately. It is glistening; the diamond-like crystals throwing out a spectrum of color that catches my eye. It gives a bright golden glow to the rest of the room, so the white surfaces seem to generate a golden hue. There are twirling ribbons that hang from the roof.

The walls are covered in sparkling silver glitter, family frames recently polished so you can see your reflection in the glass pane covering the photograph. There are garlands of mistletoes, flowers, and Royal purple ribbons intricately woven, hanging from the roof, spinning from their invisible threads, giving out a delicious smell of ivy. Mithu, the macaw Zaid gifted me at my birthday before last, is sitting in one of these garlands surveying the scene below, squawking occasionally.

 I wander into the dining table. Kashmiri dove-white linen is draped over the large oak table, with food placed over it like a rainbow shell. I gently trail my finger over the crisp new linen, which is smooth but firm, as I move past the exquisite dishes.  There are chips and dips, BLTs, salads made out of every kind of vegetable Zaid could find at Imtiaz Superstore, including something called a Rutabaga. There’s coke, Pepsi, lassi, Kashmiri tea, lemonade, mango milkshake, apple juice, coffee and tea. Zaid has placed his famous marble cake, a swirl of pinks, browns and whites, smack in the centre. He has placed rings of various flavors of cupcakes around this: chocolate, vanilla, peach, red velvet, ginger and honey. Scattered over the table are flowers cut out of carrots and radishes.

In the Library, I see the squirming litter of children who have played and run around, eaten too much high-sugar party food, and are now cranky with sleep and energy.  Piled up on the sofa nearest to the fireplace, they are surrounded with silver wrappers of chocolate Kisses littered around them, twinkling in the warm glow like fairy dust. There are half-drunk glasses of lemonade now diluted with melted ice cubes, resting on the reading table. Hafsa bibi will not pleased about the blood red grape juice spilled over the cream carpet, but oh so well. The carpet needs replacing anyway.

In the living room I smile to see the small but determined group of people trying to dance, in a variety of unlikely ways to “Piazza, The Newyorker”. Fatima is being spun around by Aunt Laraib, her legs dangling in the air. She is missing one ballet flat, I notice. Uncle Mustafa is doing the robot, making creaking sounds to match his movements, Amal is twirling around the room with her eyes closed, Mujtaba and Intekhab are doing the bhangra, while Nathaline and Chris slow dance, swaying to the beat.

I walk into the odd group of dancers, with my heart thrumming like a singing bird, and all these people form a circle around me, including me, accepting me into their awkwardness. Once again I am overwhelmed by Birthday wishes and compliments.

Over Mujtaba’s shoulder I see Zaid, who parts the people and offers me his hand. I accept, and he pulls me away from the others, and starts to gently spin me around until I’m so dizzy with happiness that I stumble. Immediately, he wraps his arms around me, pressing his lips to my earlobe “Happy Birthday, darling!”


Written by: Afsah Hasan

Richard buried his face deeper into his pillow in an attempt to block out the noise of excited preparation downstairs: the clink-clank of cutlery; hi shrieking cousins being ordered to sit quietly in one room; his mother scolding everyone for being too loud; giggle and curse – they were trying too hard to make this a surprise.

He groaned when he heard footsteps approaching his bedroom. He contemplated jumping out of the window. The door creaked open and Aunt Caroline’s head peeped in.

“Richie? You’re not sleeping, are you?”

The idea of feinting sleep was tempting but Richard knew it was useless.

“No. What is it?”

“Oh great! See Richie, I’ve lost my glasses. Can you come downstairs and help me look for them?”

“Sure.”

And thus, he declared the ordeal open.

Wearing his grey sweat pants a withered black tee shirt, he showed his face downstairs with his hands rolled into tight fists in his pockets; his mouth twisted into a scowl.

His entire family was here. They shouted a “surprise Richie” and clapped and cheered for him. Somebody had put on the clichéd happy birthday song on the music player. They had gathered around the dining table which had his chocolate cake on it and chairs placed on either side with red and blue balloons tied on them.

Richard took two steps forward when suddenly a hideous clown jumped in front of him and blew a loud, shrill horn in his face. His face was painted white with his nose and mouth a bright red and perfect circles on each cheek. His rough wig was the colour of Calpol 6+ cough syrup. His clothes were striped with silver, blue, white and green.

The clown and his mother – each holding one of his hands – propelled him towards the cake. As he blew his fifteen little candles, he was assaulted with snow sprays and party poppers. His head was covered with white foam – it went in his ears, under his shirt and even burned his eyes. Its sickening smell made him want to regurgitate on the floor.

Nobody understood how embarrassing this party was – he was fifteen and they were still treating him like a child! Other kids at school got cellphones or a new room! And here he was getting the most childish party ever!

In the midst of his jovial family members, he swallowed hard in his anger. Any attempt to smile resulted in a grimace. When he cut the cake, he imagined ruthlessly murdering each and every one of them.

Just when he thought “nothing could be worse” his mother happily announced that it was time for the next surprise in the garden. His cousins headed for the door with alacrity. Richard followed behind with slow, hesitant steps.

As he stood at the door, his jaw dropped and his eyes opened wide with shock. The “surprise” hung from one of the lower branches of the apple tree. It was bright orange and brown and resembled a cat: A piñata.

His eyes blazed with fury. Are they serious? Are they joking? Hot tears of disappointment and frustration stung his eyes. He was handed a baseball bat, and he ran to the piñata and struck it as hard as he could. It burst open to release a shower of candies but it was still hanging. He hit the branch; he struck the piñata till it fell open on the grass and even then he did not stop hitting it. He hated his family for being so stupid and embarrassing. He took out his anger for his family at the pitiful piñata.

That soothed him a little. So the rest of the party was spent with detachment. Dancing with his aunties was just useless spinning. The pizza was just bread and cheese in his mouth. Whatever money he received was stuffed into his pockets without being count.

When everyone had left, he sat, exhausted, on the stairs and looked around at the remains of the worst party ever. His father came home, also weary from a bad and tiresome day at work. And the condition of his house did nothing to improve his mood.

He looked up at his son and said, “Happy birthday, how old are you now? Five or six? Seven? At least TRY to grow up!”


Written by: Mahnoor Arif

“Happy Birthday Ali” it reads on a banner in the shape of a wave , attached to the sides are  two orange clown-fish with big bambi-esque eyes and a twinkling smile.

The pool is filled with bouncing and gurgling children bobbing  up and down like buoys , their tiny hands splashing chlorinated water on my manicured lawn.
A brown haired boy with unruly curls and wide laughing eyes  crashes into me and hugs my leg.
”Come on the water slide with me” he pleads ”Please Baba! Please!”
Giving him a tight-lipped smile I shake my head and push him towards his mother.
I survey my house and see a chaotic bunch of little six year olds running around in bright neon coloured costumes , shrieks and hysterical laughter emit from every corner and the smell of baked cookies wafts around. A little girl wearing bubble gum pink costume cries , streams of tears pour down her chubby cheeks while runny snot makes its way to her lips ; shaped in an O , grimacing at the sight I hastily make my way inside the house. Stopping mid-way I stare in shock at the orange puddle in front of me , an orange ice-lolly melts peacefully on the white marbled floor , its toxic colour  seeping in the flooring ; leaving an unsightly tangerine mark behind.
A large crash echoes throughout the house and my eyes dart towards the drawing room.
Standing on the red plush arm-chair , a little boy smiles sheepishly at me , shards of lacquered cream enamel  lay scattered on the floor like a broken string of pearls. I pick a piece of it and feel it around , the fine lines on it shows the centuries it spent. Its sharpest point pricks my thumb and a pool of deep red appears ; it is maroon and glossy in the middle and almost cherry-like around the edges.
”Shhh , shh, its okay , its okay” a mother tells the child. Angrily I brush past them and enter the kitchen , there are fluorescent coloured buntings mangled together , lying on a heap on the white tiled floor , bulbous sized clown-fish floats in the air and the smell of chocolate and helium permeate the air around.
On the sooty black marble top lies a bag of chocolate chip cookies sitting invitingly , looking so warm and delectable. My stomach grumbles at the sight and in response my hands reach for the cookies , but I force them to settle on the bottle of diet coke ; its colour a murky black with brown froth appearing on the surface.
Sloshing it around my mouth I taste  fizz and a sweet tastelessness , I force a gulp down my throat.
In the background I can hear Macarena and laughter coming from the outside ; I feel the onset of a headache coming.
The granite coloured fridge with its sleek edges stands erect as i drag open the fridge door towards me. Furtively I look around me one last time before settling my gaze on the contents of the fridge.
A bowl of salad rests on the top shelf and I hastily avert my eyes from the offending object and look instead at the big chocolate cake covered in blue icing with two orange clown-fish drawn on top. Surreptitiously I dip my fingers into the sides and pop a morsel of it in my mouth ; making me crave for more.
”Haan Sarah , i’ll just get the cake , you bring the kids towards the table.”I hear my wife  in the background. A small yelp escapes her lips as she finds me on the floor ravenously gorging on the supposed Birthday cake , my mouth covered in brown streaks , I dive my hands in the moist cake and swallow large hunks of rich , satisfying chocolate.

Written by: Urwa Akmal

Looking at myself in the mirror, I slide my arm into the grey sleeve of my dull uniform. Its colour goes perfectly with the expression on my face. Getting ready for school is always such a pain. I drag myself to the kitchen, slouch into a chair and stuff my mouth with the usual egg and French toast. Gulping it down with a glass of milk in one go, I hop off to put the weight of books on my shoulder. Just before reaching my room I can hear giggling from my younger sisters’ room, I think she’s talking to my brother. I press my ear against the wooden door to eaves drop. I can’t make out much but I hear something about a surprise party. I pull back and give a thought to it, a few seconds later, after analyzing all aspects, I realize it’s my birthday today. My family’s throwing a surprise party for me? A big wide smile masks my dull face. I grab my bag and stroll off to school.

I don’t have many friends in school, except a few, but unfortunately even they don’t seem to remember. Or heck, even know about my birthday, and I don’t bother telling them either. I’m too excited about knowing about my surprise party. An eagerness grows as the day continues. The knowledge of knowing what they think I don’t know fill me with excitement. For the first time, my birthday might not be rotting with boredom.

The school day passes and I find myself leaving the school bus and walking toward the shiny elevator of my apartment building. I step in and push the silver button. A glowing red 13 appears on it. I glance up to see the numbers increasing, each increase corresponding with my excitement and heartbeat. Slowly rising till I hear the soft “ting” sound indicating the arrival of my destination.

I step out and walk towards the brown polished door with a golden doorknob. I step on the mat which once said “Welcome” but now only says “We-me”. My hand reaches out to rest on the cold smooth doorknob, clenching it now. They must be all waiting inside, hiding in places. I picture the house from the entrance and imagine all the hiding spots, imagine all the people hiding in those spots. I feel my cheeks lifting on both sides, my heart racing, a mischievous feeling growing inside.

I twist the doorknob and hear the satisfying click sound. I push it softly and it croaks open. The lights all switched off, all I can see is the golden tint behind the curtains, nothing else. I wait for the lights to flick on and a blaring “SURPRISE!” sound to spread throughout the whole floor. I wait five seconds, ten seconds, then take a few steps and reach my hand towards the switch suspiciously

I flick it on and the lounge is illuminated immediately. The colour red tints the whole place. The first thing I see is the limbless body of my beloved brother hanging by the head from the motionless fan, blood leaking from all four sides of his body making a red pond on the marble floor. My dad, beheaded, sitting on his usual chair, laid back, facing the blank television. His clothes darker at spots than others, I recognize him by his favorite coat which was now stained in red. My sister lay on the glass dining table, peacefully resting, hands on her chest, carefully dissected from the stomach. Blood trickling down both sides of the table onto the chairs, soaking the cushions.

But my mother is nowhere to be seen. I freeze, my whole body trembling, aching to let out a scream but terror blocks it. I take a few steps forward till I’m in line with the corridor to my left and my eye catches a figure deep down walking towards me. “Mom,” I gasp. She slowly emerges, head cocked to one side, huge devilish grin on her face, blood splattered all over it. She held a large blade in her right hand and held tip with two fingers of the other. Coming closer, glaring at me dead straight in the eyes she snarled,

“Surprise, happy birthday son.”