The timing was so perfect one would assume it was intentional. The second I walked into Alphonse's workshop, I heard something like an engine backfiring and suddenly everything (me included) was engulfed in black smoke. Failure #138, I assumed.
As the smoke dissipated I found myself face-to-face with the grinning, soot-covered face of Alphonse Steinbach, 45 - a genius and certifiable nutcase: the typical combination. I shifted aside some documents, placed my briefcase on his table and drew myself a chair. Alphonse nodded and turned back to what I guessed was the cause of the explosion. It was a small, shiny (although it was pretty sooty now) engine chassis connected with a number of black, flexible pipes that vibrated slightly. The pipes were connected to a clear pump through which a dark, brown viscous liquid churned and flowed.
"Hey, that's the new model isn't it?" I asked him excitedly.
"Yup! The RP-SF18... the latest in primary thrust dynamics money can buy! And trust me, it cost me quite a bit, this thing!" Both his eyes were sparkling with absolute delight.
Ever since I could remember, Alphonse had been tinkering with machinery and you know what? He had a real talent for being able to take apart even the most complicated of mechanisms and put it back instantly, as good as new. He probably saved his family thousands of dollars in mechanical repairs since he could fix just about anything with wheels and screws. Although, for the Steinbachs, saving money was a matter of shame; they were one of the richest in the 12th Prefecture. When his father, a shipping magnate, passed away he had left his only son Alphonse about 4/5ths of the family fortune (which added up to a rather enormous amount). While his mother (also deceased) had constantly nagged him to run the family business, Alphonse decided to listen to his father's advice to follow his own dreams. Years later here was the heir to the Steinbach legacy, whiling away the hours (and the cash) by doing what he always loved: messing around with machines.
"So, do you think you got it this time?" I asked without being able to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.
He wheeled around and began:
"You still think I'm crazy, eh? Can't blame ya, either. To be honest, I have no idea. Everything's been done so far, I mean.
The body work, the modified fuel tank and I've readjusted the cockpit for those kinds of atmospheric conditions so many times; I could take this baby to outer space. But... the thrust engine can only do so much with the limited fuel supply. You know all this... I mean, it's what the... uh... hundredth time I told ya right? Anyhow, the thing is, this new gizmo: the RP-SF18 is designed to truly boost the performance of conventional thrust engines. This is the first consumer machine of its kind. I could have tried to wing some favours from the Air Force, but I guess for a normal guy buying an old F22, it was already overkill, eh? So this'll have to do. No more fusing stuff to make my own enhancer... this little thing does exactly what I want!" His eye had a glazed, faraway look to them but I knew what he was thinking.
Alphonse had one dream: to be able to fly as high as possible without going beyond into territory where you needed a space suit. He had spent his years in the Zentra Tech Institute accumulating as much knowledge as he could on flying beyond the conventional altitudes of consumer aircraft. He made many a contact while in the Air Force and everyone he met was infected by his manic energy and desire to carry out his dreams. When he left, they allowed him to purchase an old modified F22 so he could actually make his flights of fancy a reality. It had been a long, difficult road since he refused to take let anyone help with the finer points of his design and despite all his money, it wasn't exactly making development any faster. However, the guy refused to give up. His designs had failed miserably each time till now, but every time he had laughed it off and just begun from scratch. His desire to never give up was rather inspirational, but this habit of his had its gruesome sides as well.
I gulped and asked him about it finally, "Al… about your legs... I didn't ever consider asking you but…why don't you get cybernetic extensions? I mean that way… you could… you know… work more easily rather than rolling around in that wheelchair all day?"
Alphonse turned around again, his face covered with what looked like pity. "You don't get it do you? See, I've lived my entire life for all things made of metal and plastic. But, despite all that, I don't want to become a part of one, become a real machine that is. Whatever I do, however I do it, will be with these two hands made of flesh and blood. The same goes for these little guys…I'd rather use whatever god gave me." He ended by wriggling the two stumps which had once been his legs; they had been burnt and damaged beyond medical help during an explosion six years back. He turned his wheelchair around again.
I watched him go back to his work and as he turned his torch on I caught the light flash off the stencilled letters on my briefcase: 'Pathway to Heaven' Corp. My construction company's aim had been to build as high as possible so we could try to reach the home of the gods in the skies above. However for Alphonse, the goal was different: he was a maniac who desired to become a god and fly through the heavens themselves. I realised that one day our skyscrapers, no matter how well they were built, would crumble and fall diminishing the motto the company tried so hard to maintain. Alphonse, on the other hand might never reach the skies, but his desire to keep toiling away for his passion: that was something that would never falter and that in itself had a worth far beyond heavens themselves.
By Le Chupacabra
Eid, Puja, and Christmas
This year too, the festivities of Durgapuja arrived at our doorway accompanied by the vivacious exultations of the Eid season. This multifaceted mood of revelry will soon be followed by the sparkling joyousness of Christmas. Isn't it wonderful that our religious fiestas coincide with each other to produce an incessant sense of delight for all of us? Our society is fundamentally built upon the principles of fraternity and social harmony. I believe that as the members of a multicultural society we should always seek to respect and acknowledge each other's values and ways of life.
That's the most significant norm that everyone should try to uphold in a moderate community. Alternatively, at a broader level in an enlightened world, where numerous races dwell together, people from all groups should try to participate in one another's exuberances and plights in order to ignore the boundaries of isolationism. In this way, we can set up a world, which is characterized by constructive co-operation and correlative trusts.
Racialism and discriminations can evidently be toxic for any society. History shows that principles and ideologies, which encouraged racism, were uncompromisingly eliminated for the general welfare of all. For instance, we all know that the Anti-Semitism of the Nazis was one of the factors that led them to their disastrous downfall as the world condemned them for their unprecedented methods of brutality.
On the other hand, the secret behind the colossal prosperity of the United States lies within the values of broad-minded tolerance and ideals of cooperation that exist in its society.
As we know, USA has a highly multicultural society as its nationals include African-Americans, Indians, Asians, Chicanos, and other ethnic groups. As far as the standard of the communal coexistence is concerned, I should say that the Americans have reached the peak of accomplishment mainly due to the potency of the mutual collaboration and empathy that exist in their community.
Perhaps, it can be argued that our civilization is evolving in such a progressive way that it inevitably gratifies the essences of peaceful coexistence, and spontaneously exterminates any practice that endorses intolerance and racist inequality.
Examples can also be found in our own history. We usually shudder in horror when we recollect how the West Pakistanis and their 'East Pakistani' allies persecuted the Hindus and the other ethnic minorities of our country in 1971. It was not only political injustice but also racial discrimination that we fought against in that golden year. We emerged victorious to demonstrate that brutality could never prevail in a civilized world.
I think for the sake of our liberation war our community should signify the basic values of humanity and compassion, as it was established as an epitome of righteousness against all sorts of injustice, immorality and racial antagonism. Mutual co-operation and inter-relationships between the members of different creeds of a society are the key ingredients, which can undoubtedly build a dazzling prospect for each and every member of the nation.
It can be asserted with absolute certainty that if today I step forward to share someone's glees and sorrows, someday that very person will also be willing to stand by me in my need.
I wish a thrilling Puja, an ever-memorable Eid and an electrifying Christmas to everyone around the globe.
By KH. Asef Safa Kabir (Upal)
I see the sun burning in the horizon,
Slowly melting into the see.
The air smells so beautiful.
Wish you were here with me.
The stars will shine in no time,
Gazing down at me.
I'm slowly drifting in to the night.
I wish you were here with me.
This winter wouldn't be so cold
If you were by my side.
We could sing some song
And carry on
And dedicate them to the sky.
Without you it's so empty.
Frozen and cold.
The blaring silence is aching me.
I wish I could find some peace.
With all my heart I wish you were here,
Close to me.
I hate this melancholy.
Will you come back to me?
By Namida no Akimono
I'm sure this time
I won't make you cry
Don't fight your tears
Look into my eyes
I promise you I'll stay
With you forever more
Promise me you'll wait
Until I come back home
It's just another day
This is the life we chose
There is no other way
You must wait for me alone
Now step aside
It's about time
I must leave because
I need a chick to score.
By Puddle of Blood
Of Streetlights, Memories & Loss
My eyes forward seeking
That which my heart is missing.
My mind is a quarry,
Past, fast fading, will fade.
When future makes its way
Your memory will pale.
O Sweetness! What a memory,
Your voice like poetry,
Your eyes like a veil
Though meant to hide, do soon confide.
Fast legs approaching,
My eyes see what my heart seeks.
Lost in embrace;
Losing, lost, but never the taste.
You, now gone a month
And days, pass me by in
Uniform haste, my heart,
The seeker was tossed,
Through your parted fingers, now lost.
By Don Bradman