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.”

Nervous Student

Written by: Imbesat Z. Meer

Inshirah watched as twice Mustafa passed by his chair (which were designated by role number) and had to finally ask the bored invigilator for assistance. She winced as he then tripped his way into the chair and quickly righted himself, yelping in pain when he banged his knee against the mucus-coloured table.

She could see him swallowing thickly, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down, as he alternated between scratching the green table top, tapping his black crescent nails against the hard surface, and wiping his hands on his scruffy pants. Green veins were popping out over pale sweaty skin.

With twenty minutes still left before the start of the paper, Inshirah was getting very irritated with Mustafa’s constant fidgeting. He could hardly sit still. You’d think someone had put itching powder in his underwear. He tapped his feet against the leg of his chair and the click as he bit his nails to the quick, was like a nail being hammered into her brain. Tick, tick, tick. She winced each time she heard the snap.

She was not the only one who was annoyed by Mustafa’s pre-exam jitters. Her exasperation at his annoying actions had given her a headache. His leg was almost a blur as it vibrated in time with his nails tapping against the table, as his eyes darted about the room and he tugged at his askew tie.

With five minutes left till 9, everyone was openly glaring at Mustafa including the not-so-bored-now-as-he-was-angry invigilator, because Mustafa had taken to smacking and licking his lips. He’d lick them, and then smack them, and then grind his teeth, all the while clicking tapping his nails aginst the table top and kicking his table leg. Lick, smack, grrrrrinnddd, click click, tap tap, and repeat.

When the clock struck 9, Inshirah was least surprised that Mustafa made a strangled gurgle right before he slithered like boneless mass onto the floor, a limp body passed out due to stress.

She was Beautiful

Written by: Nikita Fernandes

She walked through the hallway her ombre colored hair caught almost everyone’s attention. It lay back in bouncy thick curls from her delicate ears and fell loosely over her shoulders. Her eyes were a piercing sharp shade of brown framed by long landes and eyebrows perfects arched. Her nose was upright and her lips; the red of blood. Her skin was the color of freshly roasted almonds she had a soft face with rounded cheek bones and a few freckles on either side which looked like peaches and cream when she blushed, she bit back a breathtaking simile – she was beautiful.
She wore a simple pearly white lace dress with a gold braided belt buckled round the waist. She held a brightly colored diary whose rims were studded with beads and small diamond shaped mirrors; in her arms and held on to it as if her entire world was within those pages. She looked around nervously in search of her of that unknown lady who had handed her that diary and disappeared into the midst. She had to return it.

Sunset

Write two contrasting pieces (300 – 450 words each) describing a sunset. The first piece should be from the perspective of someone joyful, the second from someone who is depressed. Focus on color and sound in your writing.

Sunset picture

Sunset

Writer: Afsah Hassan

The (sad) sunset

 The mighty Sun has been abandoned up there in the blue firmament. The clear sky regresses and scarlet clouds rage forwards and surround the Sun from all sides. The sky is his kingdom and he must strive to save it, but every arrow of sunlight is engulfed by the disloyal clouds: earlier these same clouds had parted submissively to make way for the grand Sun to shine, and now they indulge in bear-faced treason and feel no shame.

Slowly, the darkness begins to wipe out the light: the gold from the gleaming waters is looted; the sparkling waves lie dying as their diamonds are snatched away by the conquering shadows. The water gradually turns into darker hues of blue. Imprisoned in the darkness, the frustrated waves pound hard against the rocks, like fresh inmates hit their fists against the walls of their cell. The thundering splashes of the sea sound like woebegone cries. The half concealed sea shells stand out like grey tombstones in an empty cemetery.

I get off my horse and face the sea, even though it is an effort to stand as my knees shake with weakness but I want to feel the cool wind on my face one last time. So I raise my face and close my eyes against the breeze. The roaring wind comes and knocks me down to my knees; another waft tosses my jeweled turban off my head (- what earlier would have been a crown). I lay on the warm shore like the other insignificant grains of sand. Tears stream down my inclined face; the brackish moisture of the air mingles with my salty tears. I taste them both.

The waves come and gnaw at my velvet cloak and with every receding wave I feel the ocean wants to pull me in.

The sunset before me is a reflection of my life: the dull sea is my kingdom – conquered and robbed of its aquamarine glamour. And the sun is a representation of me: betrayed.

The waves keep coming back to call me; they tug at my cloak and at my feet to persuade me to succumb to their welcoming ripples.

And like the drowning Sun, I give in as well. And the like the sea which lets the obsidian of the night eclipse it, I let the waves sway over me, wrap me like a blanket so I can become one with them.

The (happy) sunset

The cool wind caressed my face and played hide-and-seek with my dark curls. I could almost see the wind blowing: like men on horseback, travelling thousands of miles, it came bearing gifts of rusty, autumn leaves and brackish sand, only for its new king.

   The sea was sprayed with the golden dust and the ripples resembled glistening, turquoise jewels with tints of gold and silver. The translucent waves came forward and gently kissed my feet I could see my feet through the water as I t washed over them. Little elated crystals of sea water danced on my face as the waves crashed against the rocks. I smiled at the tainted white seashells which surfaced for a glimpse of their new king.

   The spirited waves encouraged me to revel in the warm water. My feet sank deeper into the velvet dirt with every step I took further into the inviting ripples. I paused and looked at the undulating sea of gold before me.

   The sky had streaks of honey, fiery orange and bright, pomegranate red with blots of crimson behind which the Sun blushed. The view was captivating: the colours did not blend into each other; rather they dwelled united on one canvas. Each colour was different and distinguished, stitched by subtle threads of golden light. A patchwork. A warm quilt for a cold evening.

   The gleaming waves swaying at my feet were soothing. The refreshing wind reached in and cleansed me so every fibre of my being vibrated with the rhythm of my blissful heart. A seagull, silhouetted against the maroon sky, soared high above the sea. I spread my wings and took in a deep breath of freedom, and of victory.

   Waves of exuberance and ripples of peace washed over me. I watched the Sun appear from behind its scarlet veil to welcome me. And in that moment I knew that I had reached my destiny: this land which I loved, and which loved me back so dearly, was indeed my home.

 Written by: Mahnoor Arif

The (sad) sunset

The wind waspishly whips my hair against my face while my shadow stretches long and lonely along the cemented rooftop of the twenty story building.

An angry red blush spreads across the sky while the sun mercilessly beats down on the maze of the concrete jungle.
Car exhaust fumes make their way in like an unwelcome guest as sweat trickles down my forehead and sticks strands of hair and grime along my face.
The tepid tea next to me shows the sun glowering angrily across its surface. The people beneath me resemble ants intent on rushing back to their colonies . Metal of parked cars glint underneath the sun as the blare of honks greets my ears.
The sky is now a putrid wound with the sun , festering as the puss , smack in the middle. The sky is maroon riddled with orange and carries welts of deep purple towards the ends.
Hot winds blow at my face , lethargically playing with the ends of my kurta.
Slowly the sun sinks into the mesh of gray worn out buildings, with the sky now a deep lavender with slight gashes of red on the horizon.
Buildings stand erect; wearing their shabby gray outfits and their gloomy dark shadows mixing in with the traffic.
Now in its final stages , the sun is like a bulb on low voltage , its rays across the sky getting lighter and lighter , drowning themselves behind the concrete jungles of Saddar.
A brilliant ink blue; the sky is in its full glory just like the traffic beneath it, stuck bumper to bumper, each car horn blaring a different tune.
Above, the sky is in a state of tranquility unlike the world below.
The (happy) sunset
The sun , like a firefly , illuminates the sky. Children loiter behind their parents – bare foot ; their footsteps imprinted on the chocolate covered beach. They squeal as they watch a horse sprint by in the distance , its white mane a stark contrast against the vivid saffron colored sky.

The traffic of SeaView  can be heard in the background , a distinct wail of a toddler and voices of vendors calling out to their customers , can all be heard.
The entire SeaView beach is enveloped in a warm glow , the remaining few rays of sunlight dance on the surface of rippling tides like dusted gold.
A sense of pleasantness is felt in this atmosphere as cool winds come rushing by , bringing with them a musty salt-encrusted smell associated with this beach for so long.
Crimson hued the sky is patterned with blotches of citrus orange , while the sun slowly but surely melts into the background  like an ice-cream on a hot sunny day.
Slivers of lemon streak across the sky , engulfing the entire beach in a dusky orange.
A wave laps away at my feet and brings with it an uprooted sea-weed. Goose bumps cover my entire body as I manically kick it off my feet.
From the pit of my stomach the squeamish feeling disappears as I look back up to the sky. Head-first the sun seems to dive into the waters with only lingering lights left behind.
Violets and mauve conquer the sky drenching the sea below in an inky blue.
I look around and see that the beach is now almost deserted , the golden glow which once covered the beach is now replaced by milky streams of moonlight.
Written by: Imbesat Z. Meer

The (sad) sunset

On my last day at our beach house, now soon to be only his, I stand at the brink of the porch and stare out at the vast horizon, that bleeds with colour just as my heart bleeds with sorrow.

The clouds of the oncoming storm are the same colour as the bruises he has littered across my ivory skin, a parting gift. Behind the aubergine clouds, I can see bloody streaks of crimson red, like the fiery flames of Hell. Merging with it is the pink and greys of withered dying blossoms, just like the ones in his garden, which like me, bared the wrath of the harsh winter and him.

The stormy clouds reflect in the inner turmoil of my heart, and hint at the angry storm about to break out. I can smell the slight moisture in the air that seems to press down on me, trying to suffocate me as he does.

The sun glares at me accusingly, painful to look at, but harder to ignore. A large fearsome carnivorous flower, it starts to sink into the raging sea, only to get devoured instead of devouring. It’s fading rays still so vibrant seem to melt into the water, mixing like dyes, adding tinges of yellow and the red of the pan he spits out, merging into the vast sea, that is the same colour as the mould gathering on the cheese in his fridge.

The sea shifts, rises, curls unceasingly. Its white waves whip the silent beige in frenzy, taking away parts of it, only to spit them back later.

With a deep breath, I turn away from it, away from the huge tangerine bleeding as it hangs in the bloodshot sky, away from the violet plum coloured sea, away from the angry clouds that frame it all, and away from all that brings me despair.

The (happy) sunset

Right before the guests were to arrive she went to her favorite part on the cliff that overlooked the beach. The scene was picturesque enough to belong on the back of a post card.

The sky, a whirlwind of colors, looked like a master piece spray painted by a graffiti artist. The streaks of color blazed such that the view reminded her of the marble cake her sister had baked just for her.

The brilliant shades that dappled the sky resembled the fruit salad she had helped make, the yellow of ripe papaya, the golden brown of mustard, the blood red of overripe tangerines, the flesh of strawberries, the skin of apples, plums and grapes that glittered like jewels and the dusky light indigo of blueberries.

The brilliant red streak that ripped through the violet sky reminded her of the ruby red pomegranates she had picked specially for the celebration.

The sun was like a burning phoenix, that reminded her of a line from her favorite poem Pied Beauty, “ Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings” sinking into the ashy sea only to rise again tomorrow.

Where the sun sank into the sea, the sky was magenta with flecks of fading light, the color of post-it notes.

The water moved gently in ripples that caressed each other lovingly in the halcyon sea. The water was the color of her over washed jeans that are desperately in need of replacement.

The summer sunset was different shades of love and smiles. It was the colour of blood pulsating through her infatuated heart.

With a thousand megawatt smile, she took in the giant tangerine hanging in the sky, the fluffy soft cotton candy clouds the colour of blooming blossoms, and the blueberry sea underneath. A gift from Mother Nature, just for her.