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This week we have another Betawriters Bonanza with the entries of this month that were very good but didn't make the final cut. We also have the best of this week's topic - Night of the Boogie Woogie - which was interpreted with a musical theme by most entries, but this one took a different look at it and had potential for development. For next week our topic is “Descent of Light”. Submissions need to be sent to ds.risingstars@gmail.com by Sunday noon. Word limit: 350-500 words. Good luck.

Night of the Boogie Woogie

By Wasique Hasan

The hybrid carrions called out in a melancholy tone, as if rejoicing that the night would be long. Their change was enough to beautify their voices. I shifted my position on the hood of my Asfertal. This reliable vehicle was one of my oldest friends, and it had saved my arse in battles more than once. The cylindrical vehicle groaned in protest as I shifted my position, the shadows playing across the old thing. When I was comfortably seated I allowed my gaze to wander. In the distance, the reactor gently hummed, producing the energy for the base. It produced the faint light which made it possible to walk in the small, isolated outpost.

All of a sudden, the sweet scent of mashed elderberries made their way to my nostrils. As I tried to locate the source of the scent, the holder of the sweet fruits presented himself by the smoky tinge of cigar. Everyone smoked, but I was revolted by the very scent. Thankfully, Crocky - it was him with the elderberries - was my best bro and he always smoked it when I wasn't around. “Want some?” he teased. Elderberries were one of the rarest delicacies in the land. Even the Colonel had it on the rarest occasions in the tiniest proportions. And here we were, two Sergeant Majors with a whole plate of them. With a barely audible reply, I snatched a piece off the pile, and gently plopped it into my mouth. He followed suit. My mouth exploded in flavours, the sweet elixir washing the taste of all those tough rations right out of my mouth. But before I had time to ask him where he found them, the sounds of rifles in the distance brought us back to reality. I stuffed the berries into the cooler in the Asfertal, and simultaneously he snatched a sniper rifle and an assault railgun for us. I quickly ran to the nearest makeshift tent and brought two low power battlesuits. In the distance I saw some of the other soldiers, fully equipped, running towards us since I had one of the best vehicles in camp. Equipping as quickly as I could, I got in the driver's seat as the others strapped themselves into the light scouting vehicle. All the while the sounds of a slow-moving horde grew louder and louder. Changing my mind, I shoved someone else to the driver's seat while I cocked the sniper rifle and did recon What I saw terrified me to my very core.

A huge horde of about 100 mutants were steadily progressing towards our base. They would smell us soon and when they did, god save us, because they were fast when they smelt food. No way we could get back to the main-base fast enough. Only option was to hold our ground and make sure fewer of these creatures made it past us across the border. We had to slow them down to gain more time. We reached the recon towers and blocked the stairs. While we opened fire, Crocky set up an improvised explosive. Being captured was not an option. Scorched Earth. I took a deep breath and steeled my self. And I thought to myself, it's a wonderful world.


Crunchy

By Simra Ahmed

"I'm hungry” she announced.

He looked at her, wearily. What was this now? A new trial? Ever since they had gotten married she had been testing him in different ways and at the most surprising of times. “There must be something in the fridge?” he asked slowly. Was this the right thing to say?

“There's nothing in the fridge that I would like to eat.”

He thought she sounded rather snobbish and her tone gave him no clue as to whether she was in high spirits or was irritated.

“Then what would you like to eat, dear?”
“Something…” she contemplated “Something… crunchy”
This was definitely one of her crazy tests.
“Err… like bread? You want me to make you a sandwich? I - ”
“Not crunchy enough.” She said quickly, cutting him off.

'Do something!' his mind screamed 'Or else she'll fry you inside out like a dead prawn'

“Oh okay. Do you want me to buy you a packet of crisps then?”

She stared at him as if he was the dumbest person on earth. Oh how he detested that look. That look of pity and that unmistakable gloat that seemed to say, 'You're lucky that you have me even though I deserve better.'

“Oh, you can't be serious” she whined “those things will make me horribly fat. Besides you can't expect me to satisfy my hunger with it.”

He liked to imagine her being fat. It made him chuckle. He knew he was being mean but he couldn't help it. She fed these thoughts like fuel feeds a fire.

“Yes… right. So what would you like to eat?”
“I told you. Something crunchy.”
His hand was itching to strangle her but he held it back.
“Okay, how about we go out to dinner”

No reply. Now this might seem disheartening to some but to him it was kind of a silent victory. It meant she wasn't displeased.

He took her to the finest restaurant around. However, any hope of approval was in vain.

“What would you like, sir?”
He waited for her to speak up but she kept looking at him for an answer.
Damn.
Giving a quick glance at the menu he said, “Erm…”

He looked at her but all he could see was bright red lipstick lifting at its corners slightly and the slender raise of an eyebrow.

Little by little, he turned to face the waiter, “Do you have anything - how do you say it - crunchy?”

“Crunchy, sir?” the waiter seemed perplexed.

She laughed a little laugh. “Oh, ignore my husband. Why don't you bring us a chicken burger with fries and coke.”

Damn. Damn her.

He knew she was enjoying his discomfort deep within. Making him seem like a fool while she put on that innocent façade.

“Why couldn't you have ordered earlier when I was waiting for you to say something?”

“How was I to know you'd make us both look stupid?” she answered.

He cringed inside.

When the food arrived he sighed with relief. Maybe she'll leave him alone now. Maybe she'll stop throwing him unnerving complications everyday.

One bite. Two bites. “Mmm. Yes. Now this is crunchy. Just the way I like it” she said

“I wonder what they put inside. Maybe you can make one for me some day… just like this one?”

Sure.

Saying this she opened up her burger to study its contents…
And let out a piercing scream.

Every pair of eyes in the room turned to gape at her. She stood up aghast; her own eyes wide open in fright… maybe shock.

As the burger fell from her hands, he glimpsed a dark, small, roundish thing nestled between the pieces of tomato and radishes.

It was only when the burger hit the ground did he realise what it was.

Suddenly the whole place was a chaos. People started talking in hushed tones. Children sneaked forward to take a look at the forbidden burger. A few people pushed away their plates clearly disturbed by the whole scenario. The poor waiter kept babbling apologies one after another. A few unsympathetic ladies got up to console the unlucky victim who stood there, looking probably for the first time miserable and pathetic.

Only he was smiling.
Finally.


Volunteer

By Nadira Tasnim

I shivered as the cool breeze blew through my bones. Birds flew above my head, chattering as if telling me, 'Where were you? We missed you.' Something was different. The breeze. The birds. The chattering. What was different? What was it that brought a huge change to the place but made the place look unchanged?

Thinking of all these I reached home. Mother ran to me and hugged me. She asked me a thousand questions about my health, my food, my life in the city. I was so hungry after the bus ride I asked for food instead of answering her questions.

She brought my food. I was so glad to return home after two long years, so glad to eat food made by my mother, I forgot to ask her about the change. I had left the town two years earlier for higher studies in the city. When I returned to town it did not have the appearance that it had when I left. The change - so big that you know there's a change, so subtle that you don't know what change.

After eating the food I went out. I planned to meet all my friends I had missed so much. On my way to my friend's house I saw some strangers. They must have arrived after I left. They were laughing about something. I overheard them. Yes. They were laughing at someone. Someone whom they called 'the useless cleaner'.

Useless cleaner? Who was that? When I reached my friend, after hundred greetings, I asked him about 'the useless cleaner'. He burst into a sudden explosion of laughter as soon as he heard those two words. Between his laughter, from the words he pronounced, I figured out the cleaner was somewhat a foolish little girl.

The way my friend laughed I dared not ask him anything else about the cleaner in case he exploded.

On my way home, I saw a girl about eight with a paper bag in her hand, searching for something here and there. I waited to see what she was trying to find. She picked up an empty pack of juice and dropped it on the bag she was carrying. She looked around again and picked up some more pieces of junk.

I realised she was the one named 'the useless cleaner' by the townspeople. I didn't know why everyone called her useless. All I knew was that although everyone made fun of her I admired her a lot and named her 'volunteer' as she was the one who brought the huge, yet unnoticeable change to the town.



 

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