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Visitors from outer space? Not welcome!

I peeked through the transparent plexiglass of my spaceship as I adjusted my laser search light. It was a bright starry night; perfect for star gazing. I had decided that I would move on to new territory that night on the blue marble Bangladesh. All the times earthlings have managed to spot us or things that they thought looked like UFOs, the earthlings were mainly from the Americas and from some places in Europe. Well, now it was time for some Bangladeshis to spot me.

Allowing earthlings to see us Martians once in a while was a fun sport for me and my relatives. The hype that is created after every sighting is sort of an ego boost for us. As I hovered over the 7th most populated country on Earth, I wondered where exactly I was. I turned to my alien version of Google Universe and saw that I somewhere over a place called Gazipur, Bangladesh. But as I slowly started descending, the air around me seemed to get murkier. Was it just me or had fluffy white clouds been replaced by dark, smoky puffs? Some smoke had escaped into my airtight spaceship and I, being very sensitive, started to cough uncontrollably. I managed to notice several long chimneys from what I presumed were factories; all puffing away the same black noxious smoke. Definitely not a good place to land.

After skimming the skies of the capital city for a while, where I supposed that I would be most likely to be seen, I was forced to come to the conclusion that pretty much none of Dhaka's skies were pollution or smoke free. No wonder no one had ever noticed other spaceships in the sky!

After this disappointing setback, I decided to go out on a limb and actually land. That would turn heads now wouldn't it?

I skimmed the ground below, noticing that my Google universe said that I was currently over Mokbazaar. I could hardly believe my eyes. From where I was, there didn't seem to be Any free space available at all! Every mode of transport and all types of people seemed to be crammed into a single space. Thinking that maybe I was over one of those places in the city which always seemed to be congested I tried checking out other areas in hopes of finding a suitable, wide area to land. And guess what I found? Nothing! Zero! Zilch!

How could Dhaka be that crowded? It seemed to me that you couldn't set a foot anywhere without it being spit on or being run over by a rickshaw.

Finally, in desperation I decided to roam over an area called Dhanmondi pretty late in the evening, when I thought that maybe it might be a bit deserted and a few stray Dhakaiites could see me. Imagine my delight when I found myself over what I think was a lake, and the stars right then decided to shine their brightest. I turned on my own powerful search lights so that no one could miss me in the sky. After a few minutes of hovering here and there above the lake, I couldn't detect any sort of commotion that usually follows a UFO sighting. Knowing that I had definitely seen people milling around on the ground, I took a peek.

What was that there? Was that a person's head or two…? And why weren't they looking up at all? Looking around at all the other people present I noticed that they were all coupled and… And Then I realized where I had arrived… at a first class scene of PDA (Public Display of Affection). The chances of anyone looking up now when they were so busy was one in a million. Great.

Disheartened by all my futile attempts at getting the Bangladeshis to notice me, I just gave up. I'll just stick to North America next time…maybe even sign a Hollywood deal over there.

By Nisma Elias


Loomers and Bloopers

A dark shadow loomed over me. I felt it; uneasily. I was supposed to go out of the cottage in the afternoon, and explore the beautiful surroundings black clouds that hung in the noon sky seemed intent on not letting me. I sighed as I paced around the room in my best casual clothes.

Suddenly, I felt a darker shadow loom over me. This time, I didn't just feel it. It spoke to me in a very unnatural voice I suppose that was natural since it was unnatural itself that probably came to me traveling through numerous dimensions of space, time, probability, such and forth. So, I thought nothing of the queerness of the voice of this darker cloud. However, we digress. The voice said, “I am a very peculiar voice traveling through multiple dimensions and I have come to say that I am the very dark cloud looming over you. Be warned. For today, I shall loom over you.”

I thought on it for a while and I asked the darker shadow, “Is my fate sealed?”

“Er, um…” The darker shadow appeared to be puzzled, although, in reality it had no definite shape, but it did indeed become puzzled. “What do you mean?”

I was confused too. “Aren't you the evil voice that comes to the unfortunate protagonist of some sort of fairy tale and says that his fate is sealed, me being the unfortunate protagonist, and that nothing myself or any other person does would be able to change? Aren't you the voice that would be the bringer of my doom?” I finished accusingly with a finger pointing at where the voice might be.

It coughed.

Embarrassed, I turned around and pointed again, “Sorry. You know how it is.”

“Yes, it's alright. Go on.”
“No, I was finished.”

“Oh, right.” It cleared its throat, “Ahem…” And said in a deep voice, “My dear mortal, I am nothing of the sort. You cannot begin to comprehend what a Darker Cloud is. However, know this: I do not lie. Nor do I say the truth. That's possibly a paradox.” It cleared its throat again, “Anyway. I do not know how I came to be here.”

I was a bit disappointed. “So, nothing remotely bad will happen? My fate is not sealed? I am not going to die a gruesome and horrible death? I won't turn to the Dark Side? Are you saying that I, The Ignoramus, will not be told that my Fate is Sealed?” I was, perhaps, exaggerating. I was a bit angry too. All those times I read in books: Dark clouds loom, hero is condemned to horrors, hero escapes those horrors, meets a fair princess, lives a happy life ever after, not necessary with the fair princess. And, here I was wanting those but condemned to nothing.

“I am sorry, my lad. Nothing of the sort.” He seemed sympathetic, “However, if you are that intent on being told that your Fate is Sealed, I'd be glad to say it. It wouldn't be any trouble.” It seemed to smile.

I brightened up a bit, “Really? That'd be just great. You're a nice old chap, yeah? A cup of tea?”

“Oh, no. I don't indulge in mortal desires. I only loom and travel through multiple strange dimensions”

“Aah… That's nice. So, Seal my Fate.” I welcomed Fate with open arms.

“Alright. Here goes. Great Fool, Ignoramus of all Ignoramuses, I condemn you to a horrible fate. Your Fate is Sealed, Ignoramus. You shall have a most gruesome and terrible end, today. You cannot escape your destiny.”

I smirked and said, “Hah. We'll see, Evil… er, I mean Darker Cloud. We'll see who has the last laugh.” I sat down on my couch and whispered again, “We'll see…”

The Darker Cloud stared a while and after what seemed like an eternity asked, “I've thought this over for an eternity, but I cannot fathom the answer what are you doing?”

I smirked again, “You said I couldn't escape my horrible fate.” I whispered a laugh and said, “We'll see who escapes what.”

The Darker Cloud pondered for another eternity, “This shall be most interesting- A mortal fighting against destiny. Your usual story but I like it.” Smiling, it waited there patiently and unboringly.

Minutes passed, then seconds, more minutes and more seconds before turning to hours while I, Ignoramus, sat there patiently, defying destiny. Finally, it was night and the Darker Cloud suddenly rose, “That's it, then.”

“Huh? What?” I was nearly falling asleep from boredom. “What do you mean, 'That's it then'?”

“First, tell me what you were supposed to do by sitting there all day.”

“Huh. Oh. Since my fate is sealed There is nothing I can do to prevent it, according to tons of stories. So, I figured if I did nothing at all, I'd defy destiny.”

The Darker Cloud looked at everything from my point of view and then from his. “Aah…” It sighed, “Well, mortal. It seems like all other stories you couldn't defy your fate. You had planned to have a nice day. Look at flowers, plants and enjoy all wonders of nature immensely. I guess, what I am trying to say is painfully clear. Anyways, I have to head off now. So, Ta Ta…“

“Noooooooooooooooooooooooo…”

There was a plop, and he was gone. Another plop as a voice came to my head, “I think today, people generally say to other people, 'All fools' day.' Bye!”

“Noooooooooooooooooooooooo…”

I then realized that I truly am an ignorant dolt; I decided to go mad and pick pink flowers for the rest of my life.

By SS Emil


Book review

Good Omens

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Together. I broke out into a cold sweat of anticipation as I gazed reverentially at the book cover. The very idea was mind-boggling, and yet, there it was, some 380 pages worth of macabre mirth lying in my hands.

Terry Pratchett, the brains behind the Discworld, has re-invented, as I've repeated ad nauseum in my recent reviews. Neil Gaiman, perhaps best known for his Sandman comics, specialises in fiction of the macabre kind. To bring their very different styles together in a single body of work would be a very interesting literary adventure, to say the least.

Good Omens is a loose parody of the 1976 film The Omen, as well as other books and films of that genre. The premises of the book are the same: Apocalypse draws near, and the forces of Heaven and Hell are all gearing up for that one last, decisive battle. As decreed by various prophecies over the ages, the fight starts after the birth of the Antichrist, and this means au revoir to Earth and humanity. Enter our two unlikely protagonists, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, who have grown to like the planet they've inhabited for so many centuries now. In true Tango and Cash style, the two reluctant collaborators defy their superiors to try thwarting the inevitable. While they're losing feathers trying to figure out how to do this, unbeknownst to them, the baby swap that was supposed to have taken place at a certain Satanist hospital went wrong, and the Antichrist is actually growing up in a normal English household as a normal young boy named Adam Young. Adding to the confusion and hilarity are various other subplots, like that of the witch Anathema Device and the witch-finder Newton Pulsifer. It's a breathless countdown till the very end.

The chemistry between the two authors is so strong, and their ideas meld so perfectly together, it's hard to say which author wrote what. Gaiman gives Pratchett's hilarious ramblings a structure and shape, while Pratchett's signature brand of humour lightens up the atmosphere, while maintaining the tension and suspense. When harangued by readers to shed light on their modus operandi, Gaiman explained their working pattern. We were both living in England when we wrote it. At an educated guess, although neither of us ever counted, Terry probably wrote around 60,000 "raw" and I wrote 45,000 "raw" words of Good Omens, with, on the whole, Terry taking more of the plot with Adam and the Them in, and me doing more of the stuff that was slightly more tangential to the story, except that broke down pretty quickly and when we got towards the end we swapped characters so that we'd both written everyone by the time it was done, but then we also rewrote and footnoted each others bits as we went along, and rolled up our sleeves to take the first draft to the second (quite a lot of words), and by the end of it, neither of us was entirely certain who had written what. It was indeed plotted in long daily phone calls, and we would post floppy disks (and this was back in 1988 when floppy disks really were pretty darn floppy) back and forth."

The result of all this hard work is a captivating story that manages to amuse and shock at the same time. The two authors both use sarcasm to criticise human foibles, and it is interesting to see how they've shown the relativity of 'good' and 'evil'.

Those hoping to see further such collaborations are in for a huge disappointment, considering Gaiman moved to the US, and plans for the sequel were axed. There was also supposed to be a film based on the book, starring Johnny Depp and Robin Williams, but as of now, there's no telling when that project might see the light. Now, a little bird tells me that the British Council library has a comprehensive collection of Pratchett books, so if you don't find this title at Nilkhet, that's one place to go looking.

By Sabrina F Ahmad
sabera.jade@gmail.com


 
 

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