Archive for October, 2015

In the time of intuitions, thoughts prevail over the matter of being while finality rests with one

and only divine power. Jazla was a girl of streets of violence. She was the girl who dreamed to

be the bride of a rich man.

“It is almost end of grain and no omelet could be made as a vehicle of soldiers who were on their

‘peace-round’ last day crushed the only hen we had, which egg would be quite enough for us.”

Little Jazla was sleeping; whereas her mother Mariyam was thinking, sitting before the stove in

the room. “Our daytime thoughts become our midnight dreams and our midnight dreams become

our day time experiences.” She thought.

Jazla woke up suddenly and looked around. A small, feeble candle was lightening its

surroundings and was about to end. Mariyam, two weeks ago brought a few small candles on her

birthday. She also brought two pastries which she joined together and it became a handsome

cake. Jazla was fond of celebrating her birthday and used to remind her mother a week before the

birthday. Her father, Siraj Ahmed used to bring gifts for jazla. This birthday celebration was

different as Siraj was not with them. Both Jazla and Mariyam were missing him and were

shedding tears while recollecting the beautiful memories. She took jazla into her arms. It was a

birthday celebration under the shadow of tears. Our smiles do not always contain happiness and

joyous moments while we smile and laugh in the moments of happiness.

Jazla was looking at the candle consistently. The “tik-tik” of wall clock was louder than the scale

which she used to hit on the floor while doing her homework. “I will go to the supermarket

tomorrow to buy some bread and boiled potatoes to make our meal possible.” She thought. Her

hen was crushed by the soldiers when they were on their peace-round. Jazla had a narrow escape

and could only hear a laughter when she fell down. Her mother ran towards and took her inside

and loved her to wipe out her tears. She had a bad experience last day.

In the streets of violence, love comes from the heavens but is snatched by the brutal forces of

human hands. The streets of violence are the markets of cruelty where there is all day dealing

with cries, smiles in cries and uncertain knockings with uncertain consequences. These are the

places where there is a departure of arrivals and the arrival of departures. She slept under the

shadow of thoughts.

“Jazi! Wake up… wake up my princess… look I have made a better breakfast this morning.”

Mariyam called Jazla. She woke up and got ready for breakfast. “Mama!… what have you taken

at breakfast?” Jazla asked her mother. “I made two breads and ate one when you were sleeping.”

She replied with a smile. Jazla knew that grain was not enough for two breads and could make

only one which she was eating that moment. She could not eat more. Her eyes were wet with

tears. Mariyam took her into her arms and Jazla felt a terrible comfort that moment.

Our lies are sacred when they bring a special love that we already know to have but it gives a

terrible comfort to our souls. Our tears are sacred when they spread a feeling of love. Sacred

tears create oneness.

Her school was closed because of the war and everybody was limited to home these days. Siraj

Ahmed was a hard working man and used to work in a workshop far from his home. He was a

loving person and life had some meaning for him. He was always ready to help others, even if he

himself was in trouble. One day he was coming back to home when he came across a fatal

incident. He was shot dead two miles away from his hometown. Jazla was ten years old when

Siraj Ahmed died. She used to raise hands in prayers when she saw her father praying to God.

Jazla used to repeat the words of her father, “My Lord! The creator of universe! Save us from

war, save our lives from brutal forces, save our children from their cruelties.” At that time she

only knew about war but she was not aware of losing her father.

Today, after eight long years Jazla was getting ready for her engagement with a young

feudal lord. “Our feudal lords are good enough to live in peace while the poor suffer from the

horrible realities of brutality.” She thought. Mariyam often used to think that Jazla dreamed of

getting married to a rich person. She also used to tell her stories about kings and queens to make

her happy under the shadow of tears. When Mariyam was breathing her last, she asked Jazla to

remember her whenever she would go to parties and in the joyous moments as she had also been

a dreamer of these moments which her daughter was going to have.

Sitting in the groom’s vehicle Jazla murmured with tearful eyes “Mama, I would never forget

you, you are the one who gave me love. I hate the moment when I could not go out to buy

medicine, for you forbade me to go outside as my life was in danger”. One had to go when two

were in danger.

Jazla met the young feudal lord in a wedding ceremony where she went with a lady who took

care of her after her mother’s departure to heaven. Young feudal lord went against his family

norms and married Jazla, daughter of Siraj Ahmed. Our love comes from those ways we never

have expected. She never expected these moments rather she dreamed to be the bride of a rich

man.

The vehicle moved and went on a new way, a new journey…

Our life consists of many phases, one after another. Life is not a bed of roses at all, rather

it is a garden of thorns. People say, ‘where there are flowers, there are thorns’ yet life contains

such phases where there are only thorns and where there bloom flowers.

Adeel Bin Javaid For Beyond Sanity Publishing

When I started this platform, I never thought I would be able to help as many people as I have in less than a year. I started Beyond Sanity Publishing to help, guide and promote writers from Pakistan and from around the globe.

I am very proud of what I have accomplished.

Today, Beyond Sanity Publishing has launched it’s first publication, “The Youth Of Pakistan” by Hafiza Noor.ul. Ain. She is an emerging writer from Pakistan this book is her debut book.

“The Youth Of Pakistan” circles around the social, Political, Religious and Economical issues and practices in Pakistan. It focuses on the positive aspects new ways to look at Pakistan.

This book, represents the youth of Pakistan and their power to change the society of this country. Beyond Sanity Publishing will be giving 10 Ebooks and 5 signed paperback copies in return for a review and recommendation. Interested readers and writers should contact: irumzahraofficial@gmail.com

Here is the Link to buy ‘The Youth Of Pakistan’ By Hafiza Noor.ul. Ain on Amazon:

The Youth Of Pakistan

Here is where you can buy it on Kindle:

Get The Youth Of Pakistan On Kindle

image

I

‘You remind me of an art form I saw a few years ago.’

‘What was it about?’

‘It was about an old passenger walking in the middle of the forest. He would start singing random words and throw stones at the trees after every 5 to 10 seconds. The way he walked, it seemed as if the air around him carried him and the earth below him held him straight. He was walking on the support of the air and the earth while the fire and water within him moved in their places. All these elements. All his being. Sang the words eternity longs to hear. “Hello death, I welcome you in my kingdom. Life is my home. What would you like to have? I have all 4 elements in me.”

#TheAirWithinUs , #invictus
Copyright @Irum Zahra 2015

It does not hurt any more. Sitting in my home, rocking my chair I feel nostalgic. The past still haunts … no matter how busy I make myself, how much I try to run away from it but my every move is rendered futile by the #memories. Funny, isn’t it that you put everything at stake for a person who you have known for just few months, how you just try to win his attention, make some place for you in his heart, try to be the reason of his smile, how you just miss your classes just to be with him, how you risk your grades just to treasure some memories, how you deny everyone for him, how anxiously you keep looking at your cell phone, hoping to see the words ‘My Love Calling’. How hurriedly you pounce at your mobile when the screen flickers “New Text message”. How you lay awake all night dreaming with open eyes and hoping for a brighter future, How you wake up at 3am just to drop a text to him ‘Good Morning, May Your Day be Filled With Smiles’ while your day starts and ends in ruins, in pains, in tears! How you stare at the empty walls with your red insomniac eyes, how you get lost in your thoughts sitting idle, how your heart quenches when you see a happy couple stroll by you, how every raindrop falling on your earth makes your hear quiver, how every ray of sunshine falling on the unpaved paths reminds you of those walks, how you saw your friend being stolen right in front of your eyes, how a third person came in between and everything changed …

All the love was bled in the sands of time, it kept dripping without me knowing, the pure vessel lost it’s transparency and it was the first crack which was the most difficult to handle, rest were like aftershocks, which just stabbed the heart and drained all emotions out of it, it felt like as if my soul is demented, I lost the meaning of life, the reason to live, the reason to smile, for me it was like such a huge trauma that made me more sensitive than ever, every action of his affected me, pierced me, hurt me and infact to be very precise killed me.

In this mad pursuit of so called love I was martyred million times a day. This torture went on for six months and in the end my soul died. I bid farewell to each and everything associated with him and locked all the memories in the darkest core of my heart and threw the keys in a deep abyss of oblivion, in a portal so vast that it is never to be found again. It’s inception, a dream within a dream but I left everything there … just like that!

You never care about addicts unless and until you become one, you never care about beggars unless and until you have been one, you never care about anyone unless and until you have walked a mile in their shoes once and I hereby testify that yes I was an addict, an addict of love who couldn’t live a day without talking to his beloved friend. Yes I was a beggar, a beggar of care and affection who asked nothing except the purity of attention. Yes I was him, I felt, experienced, judged, cared and love him more than myself. But alas …

You never know how it feels like depriving an addict from his drugs for six months and locking him all alone in this world with no one to hold his hand, no one to share his sorrows, no one to quench his thirst. I became wild, I became restless, I became something I never imagined. The thirst, lust, hunger and anger drove me to insanity. But the best thing about life is that it goes on, despite of all this, I found love in a hopeless place, I found solace in the arms of a women who always loved me and no matter how much I hated her, she loved me back! I screamed at her, I yelled at her, I hurt her but there she was, smiling and embracing me in her lap and I forgot everything! There I realized that love is priceless, you don’t have to run for it, you don’t have to crave for it, you don’t have to say it to someone that you love them, you just don’t have to do anything at all.

All you need to do is to relax and realize that how lucky you are! How blessed you are, how fortunate you are than those who lack it. That day that women taught me that. We didn’t spoke a single word, the tears from both sides said it all and it was utterly a scene worth seeing and a tale worth telling! Though the world has forgotten it and has mutilated the essence of that heavenly relation but today I owe my every breath to that woman, she is the reason I am in this world, she is the reason I am alive, she is the reason I am breathing, I am the reason of her smile, we play, we talk, we smile, we fight, we laugh and the world stands and stare.

Yes, it’s the same world which made me suffer million times, the same cruel world which played with my feelings, the same world but now I am wise for I have I have found my true love. My last love, my only Love and that Divine Love is called Mother’s Love.

Dated: 1st August 2013

S. Ommer Amer For Beyond Sanity Publishing

I interviewed many people from Pakistan to encourage Entrepreneurship, Literature and Art. Starting from today, I’ll be posting interviews every week. If you know someone who has done exceptional work in Pakistan or in any country and deserves to be noticed, Please email at irumzahraofficial@gmail.com and we will get back to you.

Here we go, First interview is of Sana Khalid, a renowned Pakistani Business woman. I have known her for over 3 years and The projects she has done and the work she is doing is beyond exceptional. Here is what she had to say:

So tell me,

  • How would you define ‘Minerva’?

Minerva is a social enterprise that offers a flexible, creative community space for learning, networking and entertainment.

  • How big is your team?

The only permanent member of my team is me. All other team members come for a 4-month period during which I train them, groom them and then let them find their way up the professional ladder.

  • When you started your journey, did you expect Minerva to come this far?

I actually expected a much different outcome but Minerva has evolved in more ways than I could imagine. The direction I had planned at the start was much different so it is hard to really quantify. If I was to be brutally honest with myself, I expected much better.

  • Which was more rewarding: making your startup a success, or being able to continue keeping it successful?

The entire journey is equally rewarding – one’s business venture is like their baby, every little step counts.

  • And how much did your family contributed in this time?

I think I can attribute more than half the success to my family without a shred of doubt – they have contributed in every way possible – they’ve pulled me up every time I fell; never for a minute have they doubted me even when I wasn’t doing very well and I can never repay them back for all the support. And when I talk about family, I am not just talking about my siblings and biological parents but my husband and in-laws too. Can’t thank God enough for blessing me with the most amazing people.

  • How do you conquer those moments of doubt that so often stifle or trip or stop so many entrepreneurs with great ideas…what pushes you through?

I believe no success comes easy and so I’ve had my ups and downs. There have definitely been times when I’ve wanted to move back to Dubai and never come back but my biggest strength, which frankly comes naturally to me without any effort, is my ability to find opportunity and hope in the bleakest of times. It probably also has to do with how I was raised. I have always come out much stronger and do much better after my lowest dips.

  • Can you list some of the most exceptional things Minerva has done?

Minerva has hosted thousands of individuals in these 4 years. It has helped some become excellent photographers. Others associated with Minerva led on to running successful ventures of their own. Most significantly, Minerva has shaped a community of very strong, creative professionals and entrepreneurs who have the potential to be future leaders and impact makers.

  • If you could time travel back to day one of your startup and have 15 minutes with your former self to communicate any lessons you’ve acquired with the intention of saving yourself mistakes and heart ache, what would you tell yourself?

It would have to be two things:

  1. Learning to network and build relationships even before launching
  2. Spending money more wisely
  • Other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?I would love to answer that once I reach my definition of success. But if an answer is truly necessary at this point, I think it is probably the decision to keeping the venture small and personal despite options for funding. The family-like feel has always made us a lot of people’s first choice.
  • What was unexpected?

Oh Lord – everything. A lot of good things; a lot of bad things came unexpectedly. Friends backed out on commitments, opportunities popped out of nowhere. Expectations from the market turned out completely untrue.

  • Which opportunities should you have followed; what pitfalls would you have avoided?

I don’t think there is any – or I probably didn’t know an opportunity existed. Because when there is an opportunity, I don’t let it go as long as it is in compliance with my underlying philosophy, values and vision.

  • Which organizations are inspiring to you?

It may come as a surprise but I avoid reading too much about what other people or organisations are doing. So while a brief idea of the market is definitely important, I feel too much information limits one’s imagination and makes it difficult to think beyond. It also influences your timelines, speed, thought process. So, I take my inspiration from problems around me instead because if a problem persists, a solution must exist too.

  • What projects does Minerva have for this year?

Lots of them but I’d like to talk about projects only once they have materialized.

  • Are you satisfied with what you’ve accomplished so far?

Not at all. Definitely not.

  • Where do you see Minerva in the next 3 years?

Changing and touching far more lives than it has in the past 4 years.

  • If you could meet one entrepreneur from the whole world, who would it be and why?

Com Mirza – From a lemonade stand to a billionaire – he must be doing something right.

  • How much has Minerva changed you?

Oh man, it has changed me in more ways than I thought anything could. It has definitely taught me patience, particularly in terms of dealing with people, accepting their ideas and beliefs.

It has also made me fully accept competition. I am a very competitive person and for very long I have hated competition. Now, I take it as a given. I have come to accept that if I fail or if someone does better, I can’t blame anyone but myself and must work to improve.

  • What message would you like to give to the future entrepreneurs?

Most entrepreneurs feel very passionately about their product, service or venture. This passion soon turns into an obsession and we so closely attach ourselves to it that it clouds our judgement. A better approach is to attach yourself to the problem you are solving or the people your product or service is solving a problem for, rather than the solution you have in mind.

  • Please list Minerva’s social media links.

www.facebook.com/minervites

www.minervites.org

www.twitter.com/minervites

Here are a few events and workshops  Minerva Organized. You can see the rest of the details from their Facebook Page given below.

Google developers meeting

Google developers meeting

Filmmaking workshop

Filmmaking workshop

ludo Tournament

ludo Tournament

visit to oldage home

Visit to oldage home

wordpress 101

wordpress 101

Thank you! Sana For this lovely chance.

Sana Khalid For Beyond Sanity Publishing

What is time? It can be considered a great many things. It can be an object you hold in your hand, like a fob watch. Or someone’s life, usually someone close to you. One thing is certain. It is never-ending. Time does not discriminate, nor does it change. Time never stops.

            I am in the hospital. Not in a bed, but looking down at one. There is an elderly man lying there, covered up to his shoulders in a thick sheet. He means a lot to me. I take his hand gingerly, noticing the dark veins as they contrast with the chalky, pale hue of his skin. His color is whiter than it should be. I fear that one wrong touch of his cold hand could break one of the bones, so I set his hand slowly back down beside him. He is becoming weaker.

            On the bedside table is an antique brass pocket watch. It isn’t open, but I know the little hands inside are telling the exact time, pointing to each Roman numeral in a most precise manner. Intricate leaf designs curl around the outside covering. The finish on the lid’s hinges is fading, but on the inside it still tells the time perfectly. This is grandfather’s watch. I don’t know much about it, except that it still works, even after centuries of use. He says he doesn’t remember how he got it, only that it was a long time ago. Suddenly, he stirs. It’s as if he feels my presence and there is something important to be told. Those foggy, ancient eyes open up and become young when he sees me. His voice is raspy and weak. “Is that you, Ben?”

            “Yeah, Gramps. It’s just me.”

            “Just you? If I wasn’t attached to an IV and all these other contraptions I’d be hugging you right now, Benny boy.”

            That puts a grin on my face. Grandpa always knew how to cheer me up. Still does, even in his hospital bed. There is something about the way he calls me Benny Boy. Even when a man is in his twenties, he can’t escape those childish nicknames his family gives him. But I don’t really mind, even now. Grandpa starts to ask a question. “You’re here. But where’s your father?” He eagerly awaits the answer, fishing for information about his loved ones. That was gramps. Always putting others first. “So? Where’d he go?”

            “He, uh…”  I start to say. “Dad’s not here yet. He’s still at work.”

            Grandpa seems disappointed. I don’t blame him. After all, Dad is never really there when you need him most. That’s a job only for Mom. But Grandpa looks to the pocket watch. Even the simple act of turning his head seems like an effort. “I wanted to give him something,” he says.

            “Well, I’m sure he’ll get here soon,” I lie.

            “No, Ben.” Grandpa starts coughing loudly. He clutches at his sides, trying to make it stop. The coughing fit seems as if it will never end. But when it finally subsides, he continues, “He’s not here so I’m going to give it to you. I think you would have gotten it eventually.” He looks to the pocket watch again. “Can you bring it to me?”

            I am confused. Why would he want the watch? But I bring it to him just the same. He turns it over in his hands for a few seconds, drinking in the sight of the beautiful brass finish on the lid. “I got this a long time ago,” he says slowly. “For as long as I can remember, it has never stopped working. Never even had to wind it up,” he remarks with a grin. “But it gets me through everything. All I know is that it’s old like me, and it changed hands through many generations. I got it from my father, I guess. And he got it from my grandfather. But I think he found it somewhere else. I can’t remember…” He trails off and closes his eyes.

            “I thought you never remembered where you found it,” I say, wondering if Grandpa is really beginning to forget everything he once knew.

            “No,” he says. “I told you that to make the story more interesting.”

            I smile and wait for him to continue. He doesn’t. “Will you tell me the real story?”

            “You already know bits and pieces,” Grandpa says. “The only reason the bullies never bothered me was because I had that watch. In the schoolyard, I never got into many fights. But I won my first one pretty quickly. And that was in my pocket,” he says, peering at it from beneath his drowsy eyelids. “Remember the war stories? Maybe your father told you some others.”

            “Yeah,” I say. “But you told me most of them.”

            “There is one I haven’t told you.”

            Grandpa starts coughing again, this time shaking the entire bed.

            “Are you ok?” I rush to the edge of the bed because it is closer to him. But he stops coughing. Within the next minute, his pocket watch is shoved into my hands.

            “It is yours now,” he says in a weaker tone than before. “It brings good luck.”

            “But Gramps, you never believed in luck,” I say. He had always been the realistic one.

            “I have for a long time,” he insists. “It started during the war when I was in Japan. You remember a few of those stories, don’t you Ben?” Grandpa starts to cough again, but he doesn’t go into one of his horrible fits. He is calm in a matter of seconds. He continues, “One of them was right in front of me with his sword drawn. You heard me talk about katanas, right?”

            I know he is talking about the samurai swords that Japanese soldiers used in the war. I hear these types of stories from Grandpa quite often. But I have a feeling that this one will be different.

            Grandpa lifts up one of his fingers and points. “That watch saved me. You see, there were bullets flying over our heads, and we had to stay low to the ground. It was so hot over there that we didn’t mind lying on our stomachs in the mud. But I was young and stupid. I started to charge at one of them. His sword was drawn, but I had my gun ready. The next thing I know, there’s something falling out of my pocket. I look down and it’s the watch.” Grandpa sighs, as if he is scolding himself for something he did wrong. “I let it fall right into the mud, so naturally I tried to pick it up. I stooped down. Just as I did, a bullet whizzed over my head and hit the Japanese soldier instead.” He is silent for a minute. But then he continues, “It was terrible. But I’m alive now because of that stupid watch. If I had put a chain on it like I should have, it would never have fallen out of my pocket. And I’d be dead right now,” he adds.

            “How come you never told me that before?” I ask.

            “I’m not sure,” he says. “Maybe I just knew it wasn’t the right time yet. Besides, that wasn’t the only time it brought me luck. Your grandmother only started talking to me because she saw it on me one day. There she was, in that little old diner down the street. I still remember what she was wearing. I told her she looked like the tablecloth because her dress was red and white, like those checkerboard table coverings.” Grandpa starts chuckling. “Boy, she was offended after that! It took her a few days before she’d talk to me again.”

            I start to laugh with Grandpa, too. It seems that I always take his stories for granted. I shouldn’t, because these are the best stories. My father doesn’t tell me stories like this. Now we don’t even see each other much. I remember what it was like when I was still in school. It was silent each day when I came home. Our rapport consisted of small talk. The how are you’s and one word answers played like a broken record in my head. We didn’t really talk about much. I’d come home and go to my room to do homework while he’d sit at the table reading a newspaper. His eye would be pressed to the magnifying glass, eagerly awaiting the next word on the page. I don’t understand how the politics and problems of the world fascinate him. Sometimes it seems like that is all he sees. After all, he never sees me.

            My thoughts are interrupted by the door opening. We both look to see who it is. It’s my dad. He looks exhausted and worn out. “I came as soon as I could.  There was so much traffic,” he says between deep breaths. I can tell he ran up the stairs. Dad’s dark hair is sticking up at odd ends and his face is white, making him look like he hasn’t slept in a while.

            “So you didn’t have a meeting after?” I ask.

            “I skipped the meeting, of course,” he answers. “My father is in the hospital. I’m sure they will understand.”

            I am astonished. My dad, who never seems to care about anything but his job and his newspaper, is here at the hospital. He is actually making an effort.

            I realize that time is forgiving.

            Grandpa suddenly gets a very strange look in his eyes. He was never one for goodbyes, after all. I start to remember little things. Like the times I had been at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for lunch. Grandma would make us a meatloaf or lasagna, or whatever she felt like making that day. She would set the plate in front of Grandpa, who would complain that it wasn’t his favorite. He’d tease her and ask why she never makes steak anymore. Then she’d smile and tell him to shut up and eat it because everyone knew he would like it anyway. Grandpa would then dig in, clean his whole plate, and pat his belly, telling her she should make it more often. Everyone would laugh, including my father, who seldom showed much emotion.

            I am still in the hospital. Not in a bed, but looking down at one. My grandfather is not moving, and there are nurses and doctors all around him. They tell me that I should leave, but I’m not really hearing them. I’m hearing the sound of Grandpa’s voice and the high-pitched ticking of the pocket watch as I listen and hold it up to my ear. Suddenly, the ticking stops.

            It is now seven days after Grandpa left. Things aren’t the same. It is like he’s taken a long vacation and he won’t be back for a very long time. He doesn’t come over for dinner twice a week anymore. Grandma can’t scold him about making a mess at the table. And what I miss most of all is hearing his stories about how times have changed. I used to take them for granted, but now I wish they would come back to meet me like an old friend. Mom says she misses him too.

            I know that Grandpa taught me many things. He taught me how to swim and how to fish. He even helped teach me how to ride a bike. But now, I realize, he is teaching me something else. Time stops for no one. The watch stopped, but grandfather didn’t. This I will never forget.

            I never found the secret of the watch. All I know is that the morning after Grandpa died, the watch started its ticking again. It was completely silent in my room, and as I awoke from a deep slumber, I heard it. I threw off the heavy covers and jumped out of bed. Once at my desk, I gently picked up the watch, staring at the intricate designs as if they were puzzle pieces. The ticking continued as I glanced down and pressed open the lid. The tiny hands were slowly moving around the clock face. I could see that the watch was alive again. A thin smile stretched across my face immediately as I remembered Grandpa.

            Everything stops living if it lives enough. This I know. But time is different. What is time?

            It can be considered a great many things. It can be an object you hold in your hand, like a fob watch. Or someone’s life, like my grandfather. But one thing is certain. It is never-ending. Time does not discriminate, nor does it change. Time is forgiving, and time never stops.

                                                    Jennifer Christensen For Beyond Sanity Publishing        

labyrinth

“She’s up” I heard a girl say. It was dark and what I could make of my surroundings was merely alternatives shades of the darkness. I could hear people. A whole crowd. Through my blurry vision I could barely make out the silhouettes of the people around me. I tried to get up. Pain started from my stomach and shot through my body as I did. Of course. I was hit last time I was here. Here was the strange place I could only visit in my dreams. I still had no idea where or what this place was. All I knew was that the effects of what happened to me here, stayed with me when I woke up back in the real world. It was all so confusing.

“Morning wee princess. Napped well?” Said the badass guy. The person who had hit me.

“YOU” I said standing up in anger, forgetting all about the pain in my stomach. “Who do you think you are? You think you can go around punching anyone you like?” I strode in his direction, fists clenched and ready to punch.

“Calm down hot-head.” He said coolly. “First off, nobody asked you to jump in and play hero-“

“But you were beating the sh-“

“I’m not done talking.” came an irritated reply.

I bit my lower lip to stop myself from screaming at this guy. I started to say something but he began again.

“Secondly, Ali and I have our matters settled.” He grabbed the guy who was beaten by his hand and pulled him forward. “Also, I would like to sincerely apologize for literally blowing your stomach off.” He cackled at his own joke, a few others from the crowd joining him. Ali smiled too. I narrowed my eyes at him. He mouthed “thanks” and smiled again. Only this time I could see his teeth. Even in the darkness. White. Straight. Perfect for a toothpaste commercial. I rolled my eyes at him.

“I don’t care. I just wanna get out of this freaking Vagueland.”

“Oh so you gave this old place a name. Nice” I heard Mr.Badass say as I stormed off, unable to stand this guy for another minute. I needed answers. Answers that maybe didn’t even exist. As I was moping, I noticed a willowy shadow beside me. I wouldn’t care to see who it was if he hadn’t tripped over a stone and almost fallen down. I stopped.

“Why are you following me?” I spat.

“Following you? Don’t flatter yourself…” he said with a pause like he wanted to know my name.

I muttered, “Amal.” I had no idea what on earth made me say that. But I felt stupid after doing it.

“Hi Amal. I’m Hadi” he said.

“We’re not here to socialize.” I said in a cold tone.

“Well then what exactly are we here for Miss Know-It-All?” he said in a mocking voice.

“Uhh. I don’t know. Why are we here? ” I asked.

“I don’t know” he shrugged.

“Why are you so calm? Do you have any idea what is waiting for us in the dark? And why is this happening to us? “

He didn’t answer for a while.

“No.” he stated finally. “But mystery is what keeps us alive. Most of the times when we have nothing to hold on to, we live only by the hope of what’s coming next. ” This was the most serious I’d seen him so far.

“I can’t even tell whether it’s real or not.” I said more to myself than to him.

“Everything that happens is real. It doesn’t matter if it’s your imagination or a dream or even a manipulated dream. It happens for a reason. It is related to you and only you. You might not know the reason now but sooner or later you will.”

“What are you? A writer? Or a philosopher?” I sneered. “Oh, forget it.” I looked around.

Houses. Abandoned houses. The paint on the walls had flaked off ages ago. The grass was so dark as if it had never been green. The sky darkened even more over the spooky houses. I walked towards the nearest one. It’s windows were smashed. Shards of glass lay near it. Some looked like pointy icicles, still attached. Touching the window pane made me shiver. I could hear Hadi approaching me. Leaves made a cracking sound with each step he took. Ignoring him, I tried to look in to the house through the smashed window. Just as I was trying to peek in, a fragment of glass slashed my cheek.

“Ouch” I backed away, wincing.

“You okay, princess?” Hadi asked, worry somehow lacing his distant tone.

“Yeah I just-” I stopped in mid-sentence. I couldn’t blink.

Eyes. Dark. Bloodshot. Glistening. Staring right at me from the broken window.

I screamed as loud as I could. Opening my eyes, I found myself screaming in my bed. A rush of adrenaline flew through me. Just a dream, again, I reminded myself. I lay there for a while, waiting for myself to calm down. I looked at the door of my room. It was closed and no one was there. I rushed towards the bathroom to get ready. Images from my dream kept flashing through my mind. I looked up to see my reflection in the mirror. I caught a sight of a small cut on my cheek. Tears of confusion started running down my cheeks. I washed my face and recollected myself.

As I opened the door of my room, I heard mum calling my name. She was right outside, telling me to hurry up. I closed the door of the bathroom quickly. I didn’t want her to see the cut on my cheek. I grabbed a towel.

“Good morning, mom! ” I chirped, hiding the cut with the towel. I even added a smile. It felt good to smile after crying. It was like a metaphorical bandage on a bruise.

“I’ll be downstairs in 5 minutes.” I told her.

She went downstairs. I closed the door. I sat on the dressing chair. Wondering how should I hide the cut. It was small but noticeable. And, to my surprise, still fresh. Like I’d just got it. My head hurt thinking about it. Why is this happening? The first person who came in my mind was Hadi. I wanted to tell him about this. He is probably not even real. But he knows about this. He saw this. Maybe together we could figure out something, I shrugged at my own thoughts. I hid the cut with concealer. I put my long black hair into a ponytail. I noticed bags under my eyes. I clearly hadn’t been getting enough sleep. But no one could tell. I looked alright. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just a dream. I left my room and went downstairs for breakfast. Mum was preparing our lunches. Adan and Hassan, doing what they do best. Arguing with each other. This time over the remote. I actually like their cute little arguments. Adan wanted to watch cartoon network and Hassan, a football match. Mum turned off the t.v. switch and grounded them. They were prohibited to watch t.v. for the next three days. “Ouch. How will you two survive now?” I cackled. And it was followed by further hassling, which didn’t end all along the drive to school. Mum was in a bad mood. I hadn’t noticed before because I was too preoccupied by Vagueland and the cut. This is the real world. I reminded myself.

“What happened Mom? You look a little down today.” I asked her.

“I’m fine. Just a little worn out.” She replied in an easing tone.

“Where’s dad? I didn’t see him yesterday.”

“He got home late. You were asleep.”

“Oh.”

We reached school. I made a mental note to ask what was bothering her on our way back home so that Adan and Hassan would not be there.

My clique called out my name loud enough to make people think they’re crazy. I smiled vitally and headed towards them. We did our daily ritual – the group hug. Since I was late. As usual. The assembly had already started. We kept on exchanging our little inside jokes by glances throughout the assembly.

Then came the worst part of the day. Going to the class. One class after another consecutively. Fifth class was Chemistry. Boring enough to make me sleep, unintentionally. The worst part I couldn’t talk to my friends. So instead I was trying my best not to fall asleep. “Hey, dreamy-head”, whispered Zilay,  a short girl with medium length dark brown hair. “Dream-y” it felt like someone just put me in a tub of ice-cold water. That word scared me so much that it seemed like it was prohibited for me. Who knew a word could prove so vital? The whole thing played inside my head, like a horror movie. I controlled my urge to scream at the flashback of those glistening eyes, with an amount of difficulty even I didn’t know myself. I buried my head in my arms and rested it on the arm of the chair. I didn’t want to close my eyes. I’m not even sure if I ever will want to sleep now.

“What happened to you? Are you not feeling well?” Zilay inquired.

“Yeah. I just have a slight headache.” I told her and sat up.

“We could go to the infirmary if you want. You don’t look alright.” She said.

“I’m perfectly fine. Really” I reassured her.

“Look at your face. Whatever dumbass, at least we can get outta here.”

She took my hand, told the teacher I was sick and we left the class. It felt incredibly uplifting.

I reached back home. I had plenty of homework. I didn’t even play badminton with Haania. I got done with everything at 10:00 but I didn’t want to sleep. Even the idea of closing my eyes scared the living daylights out of me. So instead I started reading “An Abundance of Katherines” and refrained myself from looking at the time. I’m not going to sleep tonight, I reminded myself.

“You don’t remember what happened, what you remember becomes what happened”.

This had me wondering about what happened last night. Or maybe didn’t really happen but what I remember happened. I loved John Green but at that moment I didn’t appreciate him much for reminding me of that vicious dream I never wanted to remember.

It was almost 12 when sleep started to actually get to my head. It was a weird feeling that I got. I told myself again and again “Don’t sleep. Whatever happens, don’t let your eyes get closed.” But then, something changed all of a sudden. The idea of sleep began to sound so welcoming. Like a trap. Like someone was luring me to sleep. I had all the power but I felt myself giving in. I could actually do something but I didn’t. I can’t say I was getting forced into it because I was doing nothing to go against it, to resist it. Whatever it was. I let it take control and then my eyelids began to droop as I embraced slumber.

I opened my eyes and a scream came out, piercing my throat. Bloodshot, murderous, dark eyes. Staring right at me.

Saja Ali and Zoha Hidayat For Beyond Sanity Publishing