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It could've been an ordinary death. I could've lived to be 80. Could've had great grand children and bragged about my days in the "Department", my acts of bravery. I know there wasn't much time and I seemed to be gradually drifting away into the darkness. For one last time I allowed myself to recall the events of the day.

It could've been just another ordinary day. But it wasn't. Instead of being woken up by the alarm from my bedside clock I woke up hearing the shrill noise of sirens and heart piercing screams at five in the morning. The smell of thick smoke assured my doubts. I got up from the bed with all energy I could muster and went towards the window to take a look. It was right across the road. The whole building was on fire. And I could've sworn that I saw a small girl trying to cover herself with her cardigan from the raging flames. It was on the floor opposite to mine. And for a moment we made eye contact. The plea she made with her sight touched a raw nerve. I couldn't stand there anymore. I put on my pants and ran out of my apartment as fast as I could. Shannon was standing in a corner of the kitchen, observing all this with utter indifference. I didn't permit myself to think about how less I did for my own daughter for a second.

It could've been an ordinary walk across the street. But it wasn't. As I crossed the street a fire fighter came up to me and blocked the way. "No way are you crossing this line fella. It's all being taken care of." I forgot to bring my badge. "There's a kid in there. Move." I spat at him loudly. "No can do, man. Why don't wait here? I'll see if there's anyone inside. Henry, we should do one last check. Raise the ladder." As he spoke his meaningless speech I heard a faint wail and I was quite sure the fireman heard it too. I shoved him aside and ran like hell into the building. Just as I was going in I saw David. He came out of the building and gently strode away. I stood there frozen. Before mixing with the crowd he gave me a glance, an expression of mock amazement on his face. It was motivation enough for me stop right there and run after him. I knew I could've caught him. But I stood there. Watching him walk away. Letting a murderer loose.

I could've walked into the building for an ordinary reason. This was different. There was another scream. This time it was loud and clear. I went in. I guess from here it seemed harder than it did before.

The staircase was crunching in flames. And the girl was on the 4th floor. I hesitated for a second and then gathered the courage and went up as fast as I could. I tripped twice but that was just the fun part. The place was literally falling apart. I dodged two flaming poles and evaded a third falling on me. When I reached the 4th floor I broke in and searched for the kid. When I found her I didn't waste a second and grabbed her and ran for the stairs. The girl was kicking and screaming for some reason. I cried out, "What?" when she punched me hard on the nose. She then pointed at the room to my left and I saw two other children lying limp on the floor. I was in such a hurry I didn't notice them before. I took the little girl on my back. She held on tightly with her arms around my neck. I took the other two kids in my arms and then made it for the stairs again.

The whole staircase was engulfed in flame by now. I ran. I jumped. I tripped down the stairway. But came to a sudden halt when I saw a large gap in front. I was somewhere between the 1st and 2nd floor. The chasm was approximately 6 ft. I knew I had to make it. I backed up carefully a few steps and then with a running start jumped. It was long. But definitely not long enough. My chin bumped right on the edge of the other end and I fell on my back on the staircase under. The little girl howled in pain and with a loud crack the staircase crashed down and everything underneath gave away. I made my best effort to get up from underneath the debris and run for it but my legs wouldn't let me. As I tried to clear away the debris two firemen came to help. One took away the children the other hoisted me out of the ruins.

Everything after that was so unclear. I couldn't comprehend anything. And a moment later I lost my consciousness.

He could've been an ordinary villain. But he wasn't. David Alford was a dangerous arsonist. Down with serious pyromania. I've been on his case for about five years now. And we've met before, face-to-face, once. And it was anything but pleasant. I saw four people turned into ashes right in front of me that day. Though his skills where primitive then he still managed to escape. But his trail was never cold. After that he killed twenty-six people in five incidents. And all this didn't come to me totally unexpected.Now that he's at large he will murder more innocents. And it's all my sin. For wanting to save three kids may've caused the death of a hundred, maybe thousands of innocent lives. And I don't know if those kids are even alive. And Shannon. What happened to her? Is she still okay?

So many questions unanswered. So many promises are broken. The death of many is too big a burden on me. Maybe it's simply easier to die than live on with this. Maybe I won't even die now. Maybe I'll just fall asleep or slip into a coma and when I wake up Shannon will be sitting by my side. And we'll talk about her performing in this year's talent show. We'll talk about her mom. How lovely she was. We'll waste away days just talking.It's all so dark now. Where'd the doctor go? Should I try and keep myself awake?

I opened my eyes to find everything about me embedded in flames. Am I in hell or did David come here to put me out of my misery?

By Knafice-Man
Note:This was good but far exceeded the word limit.


The world called her disabled. She was not given the opportunity to lead a proper, normal 'life'. In times of trouble & depression, she had none to turn to except - her beloved mother. Her mother was the only asset she had, her only treasure, her everything. She expressed her joy, grief, sorrow to that one person who loved her dearly & selflessly and fought to make her world better as she was a part of her - her own flesh & blood.

She was born with forty-seven chromosomes instead of forty-six. This one extra chromosome separated her from the rest of the world; a condition described in medical terms as Down's Syndrome. The distressed mother travelled far & wide to several specialists, hoping to find a cure but the critical condition in which her child is, had none. A fatherless child, she grew up under her mother's loving, protective shelter.

Her elder brother was married and lived abroad with his family, never bothering to know their condition. The younger brother, aged 25 was a law graduate until the 19th june, 2000. The brother was assassinated by professional killers two days before his marriage. His only fault was that he asked for his money back that he had lent to one of his so-called ' Friends '. Nine deadly bullets pierced his body & ripped his heart apart and he lay dead on the roadside. It was only when a neighbourhood boy informed the mother that they came to know of his unfortunate death.

Since then she has been living alone with her mother. Life meant little to her. All she cared about was her paintings and her passion for badminton. Colourful pictures stuck on the walls of her room expressed her dreams of living a happy, regular life. The paintings revealed hope and expectations of a better life. When she plays with the racket in her hand, she simply forgets about everything - her misery, her grief; she forgets about the rest of the world and the fact that she is not as same as the others. Her dedication & obsession towards the game enabled her to win the championship in special olympics organised for the handicapped.

I frequently wonder what will happen to this girl once her old mother passes away. She will have no one to confide in, no one to trust to. It will be impossible for her to confront another misfortune in her already miserable life. She is just too innocent to understand the tyranny of this ruthless world and corruption does not invade her pure mind. I genuinely wish to help her. But is sympathy the sole thing the world has to offer?

Note: The writer's name was missing from the article.

Book review

The Sacred Art of Stealing

First off, I'd like to start by thanking Tawsif for lending me this book. I know he'd have loved to review it, but considering how he ran off without sending us Sci-Zone, I think it's fitting punishment.

The Sacred Art of Stealing is basically what Maliha Bassam would call 'lad lit'. It's crime fiction, peppered liberally with crude humor and action, the likes of which you'll never find in an M & B.

The story revolves around a bank robbery that takes place in Glasgow in broad daylight, the modus operandi of which is described by the commentators as 'Dadaist'.

Dadaism, by the way, is a western European artistic and literary movement (1916-23) that sought the discovery of authentic reality through the abolition of traditional culture and aesthetic forms. You'll get to hear of that and a lot more about art throughout the course of this book.

Anyway, the scheming and the planning of this robbery and a few more heists that follow pretty much knocked the socks off the Kaante/Reservoir Dogs type of robberies. Somewhere along the line, Zal, the mastermind behind the robbery, and Angelique, the police officer on his case, discover a mutual attraction that puts a delicious spin on the plot. It's definitely a page-turner.

What makes this book special is the sheer intelligence and wit of the narrator.

The story is divided into several parts, each of which is narrated through the point of view of one of the characters, and the author, Christopher Brookmyre, shows a keen talent for empathy as he manages to think the way the characters do.

Although the book merits an 'R' rating for colourful language, if you can stomach a little Eminem talk and the Austin Powers type mindset of some of the characters, it's definitely not to be missed. Whether it's action you like, or suspense, or drama, or romance, or even sheer silly comedy, you'll get it all in The Sacred Art of Stealing, so be sure to give it a try.

By Sabrina F Ahmad


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