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This week we give you a collection of old beta writer entries, which didn't quite make it, but we liked them anyway. The story in the middle is last week's selected entry. It had a haunting, dark ambience which made it an interesting read. Next week we have 'Paintball' as our topic. All submissions need to be sent in to ds.risingstars@gmail.com by Sunday noon. Word limit: 350-500 words. Good luck.

Bangladeshi Bus Ride

By Antara Raisa Khan

“Shyamoli! Shyamoli!”
Bang! Bang! Bang!

“Come on, it's here,” Ramisa tugged on Jessica's arm to get her attention. Jessica looked at the towering machine that paused before them, a loud grumbling sound coming off it. She sighed, only because Ramisa wants me to.

A throng of people ran forward at the call. The conductor stood aside as people poured in, pushing each other aside. Her friend, too, had managed to squeeze in but Jessica, new to this bus phenomenon - heck new to Bangladesh - struggled to get in; but to no avail, the others were just too pushy to make way for her.

What is this place, can't they just form a line, she thought to herself and had nearly given up when an abrupt jerk on her arm pulled her in.

She stumbled forward, “Hey!” and glared at the objectionable person. The conductor, about twenty-one, clad in a ridiculous pink shirt which was unbuttoned further than it should be and pants which threatened to fall off any moment, glared back at her.

Frowning, she averted her eyes, looking for Ramisa who seemed impossible to spot with the standing horde blocking her view. So instead she searched for a free seat, which was also, conveniently, nowhere to be found. She could still hear the conductor muttering gibberish. Too bad I don't understand their language, she mused. She would have slipped then, but for the seat handle that she managed to grasp as the bus came back to life with a wild roar and lurched ahead.

It wasn't long before the conductor came to sight yet again. Then the rumble of the bus gears and peaceful chatter broke up as shouting erupted. Jessica looked back curiously, to see what was happening. Nothing like this ever occurred in America. A beefy man rose from his seat, easily towering over the poor conductor who either didn't notice or pretended not to notice the height difference.

As the scene unfolded before her eyes, Jessica wondered what the dispute was about. The yelling continued on either side for a short while and the other people on the bus joined in favour of the gentleman.

If this was America..., she never got to finish her thought as a loud crack echoed. The conductor was thrown aside by the force of the slap. His hands came up to cover the red, stinging cheek as he stared the raging gentleman with deep abhorrence clear in his eyes.

“Kamal!” the driver's voice echoed through the silent bus. Spitting out blood, the conductor disappeared from Jessica's sight, into the crowd.

The next few minutes were strewn with people hurrying forward to calm the gentleman.

“Shymaoli!” came the conductor's gruff voice as the bus came to a halt.

This was her stop. Jessica hurried forward clumsily, pushing through the horde. She was then yanked by her arm yet again and pushed off the bus. Unable to balance herself, she tripped and fell on the road.

By the time she got up with the help of her friend, the bus was long gone, speeding through the city. Jessica looked at Ramisa who somehow had managed to land gracefully on her own feet and said, “Never again. Never, I swear.”

Ramisa just smiled, “Oh, he was just trying to help.”

Jessica's incredulous voice sounded eerily high-pitched in the cool night air, “Help? Help! What the hell? I nearly broke my neck.”

People resumed staring.

Little Me

By Fairooz Rafia

I was huge. Everyone thought every single thing about me was gigantic. My ears, my feet, my teeth, my mouth and my trunk. Yes, I am an elephant. The world around me was so small. But still I was little around human beings.

I had a happy life with my mum, dad, brothers, sisters and friends. We lived freely in the jungle. Running and playing with no worries. Until one day, I went to drink water a little far from my family. The view was very nice. It wasn't long till I fell asleep. I was dreaming about my family. I love them so much. Everything was perfect until I opened my eyes. I was in a very congested place. I couldn't stand or move. The trees around me were replaced by metal walls.

Only later I understood that this wasn't my jungle. This was a different place with different rules. “Hey! Give the big, fat elephant a bath. We need to take him to the show.” a man said to a boy. I panicked. I shouted and called for help but there was no reply. I couldn't find any of my family members. I was alone. I tried to push the metal walls but they wouldn't open. I started to cry.

Suddenly the gate opened. I was in the dark for too long and the light which entered through the small space hurt my eyes. I started to panic more. Two men came with a long stick. They were beating it on the floor. They wanted me to come outside. I rushed outside pushing them from my way. Three more men came with a net. I screamed but I knew that would be useless. “I think it is mad.” I knew I wasn't mad. They were mad. I could understand them but they couldn't understand me or simply ignored my pleas. I wondered how it would be if we took them to our jungle just for pleasure? Even if we had the ability to do that we wouldn't, never, ever - the possibility was just to alien to us. But to think that was useless. I was still a captive, away from home, from family. I was huge but in front of them all I could say was, little me.

Forest on the other side

By Tanzia Tasnim Usha

"Is he still going there frequently?" the doctor asked my mother. I was pretending to be asleep and heard their full conversation. "No, but I think he goes there still. He is really happy"

"And that is it you fear the most?" the doctor asked in disclosure.

"Doctor, normally an eight year old child won't be able to forget something very precious to him within two days. This is scaring me. I am concerned."

"Your son is very strong. This might look very surprising but it depends on how strong his mentality is. Well, it is getting late and I should be going. Take care of your son."

"Thank you, doctor." After the doctor left, my mother came into my room, let out a huge sigh and then kissed my forehead. I was desperately waiting for my mother to go to sleep and I would be able to go into the forest. Again. I didn't know why my mother always wanted to stop me from going to the forest. I loved the forest very much, but of course for a reason. I liked every inch of the forest that revolved around my house.

I tip toed to the main door and slowly but carefully unlocked it. I went outside. I was happy, Really, really happy. I didn't know why but the sounds of the forest and its smell were very refreshing. I loved the way the trees stood from the ground. Even in the night the forest was very bright and lively. That was one of the reasons why I loved the forest. It was never scary. Not to mention that it was beautiful.

I used to hate forests. I always heard that it was scary and that danger lies in every step.

But this forest was peaceful. No, the forest was made of peace. I looked every where and then my heart came to a stop. There it was - dark and miserable cave in a serene forest. I looked back but instead of the forest it was a dead end a cliff of a big mountain. I peeped down to take a look. The forest was way down and if a jumped, I was sure to be dead.

The man came again. This time he had a machete in his hand. I gasped at the dreadful sight. He ran to me and took me by his hands and with looked at me with those dirty and scary red eyes and said to me with an evil smile "Gotcha". I woke up with a scream. This was the tenth time I was having this same bizarre dream. My mother came running to me and asked "What happened dear? What did you see?" I looked outside my window and said "The forest on the other side."


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