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Risk factor:Creed

Have I ever kept a secret? That's a fair question. Life is but a playground of secrets to me. As months pass, leaves wither, the day grows longer, I fight an endless battle against time, to rescue and preserve what may actually be termed as "secrets." It is just a word, but what lies within the word is as hollow and as dark, as a cave with a million dead corpses. Keeping "secrets" is not an option for me. It is a priority. If you were a spy, and you lived in the year 2172, you would feel the same way.

My instructions from my supervisor when I joined the agency were:

"Steal data, use extreme caution, shoot first and ask questions later, make sure you're not followed and never reveal anything. Don't trust anybody and never seem too obvious. Life first and save later. Never get carried away by your emotions, draw a sharp line between life and death, and never ever think you've won, until you've seen your opponent fall."

I've abided by these rules for the past nine years. Life for me is just a clock ticking away, reducing my strengths and exposing my weaknesses. In a business of tough competitors, one must endure to push himself towards the limits, and sometimes… beyond it.

I work for the Secret Service. The pay is lousy and the missions are obtuse, but I still do what I do. Why? Many people in my position would be reluctant to answer that question. What would you do if told you, that, that information is classified? You'd probably hate me and extinguish your relationship with me. But I won't do that, because, after losing nine years of my life, I realize the anguish of losing loved ones. "Secrets" have always been the prime reason for which I have lost my friends….

It started in sixth grade, when Justin Clausen insisted that I reveal whatever Jason Downing had told me the day before. I had promised Jason that his "secret" was safe with me and that no one in the whole wide world would know about it. I promised that the information would never escape me, even if someone stuck a loaded revolver in my belly. I didn't reveal a word, and I lost Justin Clausen's friendship in the process.

If the good and the bad of my job are measured, I'm pretty sure the losses would weigh out the gains by a great measure. I've had to kill countless, blackmail numerous, and injure hundreds. I've had to fight for a cause which has no real appeal to me. Terrorism is a word. It's just a nine syllable word, which is common in the briefing room at ISA Headquarters. It is common for me to chase vigilantes and extremists. It is everyday business for me to get shot at by people whom I have nothing against. It is terrible. But it's my job.

I'm 29, single and working for The International Security Agency. My parents were killed by a gang of activists about ten years ago. I've been burning with revenge ever since, until, last year when I found the gang, in the city which was once known as Las Vegas. I followed their activities for five months before finally making my move. I killed them. I killed them all. No one stopped me. No one opposed me. I'm an ISA agent. The Law is in my hands, and Justice is, what I say it is. I have the power, and the responsibility. But I don't want it. Not anymore.

It was about three months ago that I was called upon by "The Lord," the ruler of our great nation, and an active figure in World events. Most people worshipped him as a god and followed every syllable he spoke, as if it were the words of the Korean or the Bible. I respected him for his great leadership capabilities and his courage. He was one, and he could not be opposed. Not even a shadow could speak against him without getting shot. He was a tyrant, and I only respected him, or pretended to, to stay alive.

He made me kill my best friend to prove my loyalty towards him. I hate him. Alex was my best friend, and my partner in the ISA. He was a brilliant officer, a loving husband, and an excellent father. With his wife, Linda and his six year old daughter Cynthia, he was probably the happiest man on the planet. They're family was perfect in everyway. That was three months ago.

Today, Linda is a 31 year old widow, and Cynthia is a child without a father. All because of me! I deserve to die, but if I'm going down, I'm taking the man who made me do it, with me. If I'm going to hell, I'm certainly making sure that he follows the same route. I whish; may Satan himself carve his sinful designs on the tyrant's bare chest and incinerate his heart with the blazing fires of hell.

In a city ruled by fear, it would be a mammoth task to even get close to the man, but I'm a secret agent and nothing is impossible for me. I'm up for the challenge.

"The Lord" has made the city his, and has carved out a set of rules which every citizen has to abide by. "The Lord's Commandments," as he terms them is a set of the most meaningless and most cruel array of injustices anyone has ever heard of. It ammihilates emotions, extinguishes equity, and encourages oppression. In his view: Anyone who is "Colored" cannot use any sort of public transport. "Colored" people cannot work in offices owned by ashed people. They are not allowed to eat or drink anything made or produced by the ashen. Colored vigilantes should be shot on site and their corpses should be burnt right there, whatever be their crime. Anyone who opposes the 'Lord' should be annihilated from the face of the Earth. No one is allowed to follow any sort of religion except for the one specified by the "Lord" himself. Books, movies, documents, architecture, memorials, whatever is even remotely close to being associated with religion should be destroyed. An obedient Nation is a happy Nation. His nation is God's Nation. -- That's what the "lord" said, in his most recent speech, at the Glass House.

In a world where even Macbeth, the father of all tyrants, fell to the valiant sword, hope still lives of the tyrant falling, to the courage and virtue, of a pure soul.

The rebellion has already started. Religious men from all over the country has arrived to rid our great nation of the tyrant. Battles have been fought. Children have been orphaned. Morality has been abolished. Innocents have given their lives, sacrificed their loved ones; for what, you might ask. The answer is quite simple: For Humanity, For Sanity, For freedom, and For Justice. I stand by those who have the willingness to fight for our rights, who will sacrifice themselves for the good of the nation and who will charge ahead to unmask the evil dictator and overthrow him.

I'm "the eye-in-the-sky" for this operation. No one knows my involvement. Secrecy is a must, concerning this matter. Secrecy is what keeps me alive in the vicious reality that surrounds me. To the ISA, I am as ill-informed about the rebellion as any other in the facility. To "The Lord," I'm as innocent as a priest. To the rebels, I'm nothing less than a glimmer of hop.

It's time I left, for the rebels are impatient. I've kept them waiting long enough to attend to your needs. The information I provided you with is as deadly as a rattlesnake and should be handled with great care, for my life depends on it. If tomorrow is to come, today has to be won. So keep my secret and pray to the Lord -- the real Lord the One, the Only True God -- who is everywhere and yet nowhere. May God bless you all and may He let me see the tyrant fall.

By Mehzeb Rahman Chowdhury

Rendezvous with pristine nature

Silence. Complete silence. Only the thumping of my heart could be heard…The deep forest lured me into oblivion. Oblivious I was, of the violence and artificiality, dust, dug up and canal looking roads, which have become inseparable parts of our city life.

All of a sudden, a train came and shattered the silence with its strident noise.

I was in Lawachara Forest 8 km off from Shreemangal; literally speaking, away from any human habitat. This is perhaps one of the last remaining patches of pristine forest in Bangladesh. It was possible for the forest to survive, because it is far from the developers' grasp. On the way to Lawachara, some places look dark, even in broad daylight because of the dense forest. One
somehow feels scared on way.

Lawachara forest is verdant with trees and bursting with wildlife. Recently it has been declared a National Park by our Government. Over there, Nature is still virgin. A train track runs through the heart of the forest. Lawachara forest is home to the Chloroform tree, only of its kind in Asia. It is a popular myth that, that many years ago, upon approaching the tree people used to faint. Keeping that in mind I approached the tree but nothing happened to me!

Amidst the vast expanse of trees, there are also some medicinal varieties like haritaki (terminalia chebula), neem (azadirachta indica), arjun (termnialia arjuna), and bohera (terminalia belerica). There are also rubber plants (hevea bugsilensis) and different varieties of flowering plants. I was happy to see our Ministers and Officials have planted some medicinal plants at the guest house premise, including the latest one by the Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forest. I earnestly wish they take care of forests in a much better way so that rampant desforestation comes to a halt, once and for all.

Lawachara is the habitat of rich wildlife: colourful birds, bats, deer monkeys, bears and jackals. Once we reached there before sunset, the wonder I was awed with was that monkeys were jumping from one tree to another. Can modern life, with all its amenities be compared to such a simple, but exotic spectacle? We were fortunate enough to have seen jackals, birds and monkeys during our Nature Walk in the early hours of the morning.

The Forest Department Guest House, where we stayed
the night, is a bungalow on a hill, tucked away in the deep forest. During our stay, it rained incessantly. Sitting in the verandah, I was engrossed with the beauty of silence. I dispensed the notion of getting wet in the rain, because of my mother's reluctance. I was dwelling in another world, in a world of fantasies free of bitter reality. I surged into my most profound thoughts. It was yet another sensation.

Surmising that one night in Lawachara is not enough, I
intend to visit it again.

Like Lawachara, Bangladesh have abundant resources and many beautiful places but they lie in desuetude. Although I have lived in the USA for the greater part of my life, I think Bangladesh is more beautiful. I had the privilege of visiting Cox'' Bazar, Rangamati, Mineymukh, Shreemangal, Sylhet and I can only say, these places are unique. For example, Mineymukh, a five hour boat ride from Rangamati, is another exotic place. Bangladesh is fortunate to have the world's longest natural beach. I have had the opportunity to visit many beaches in the USA, but they are mostly reclaimed land and artificially nourished. Cox's Bazar, in its natural state is much more beautiful than any other beach in the world. With proper care, commitment and nurturing, it can be transformed into a tourist splendour. The tea gardens in Shreemangal are another piece of Nature worth visiting. But many people have not yet disinterred these places.

So there is huge potential for development of tourism. I think our Government should promote the tourism sector where I believe lies a refulgent future for our country.

Again I must say, in beautiful places like Lawachara, people can interact with Nature and vanquish the meanness of city life, avarice, hostility and all other ill feelings, which stymie good spirit. The visit definitely enhanced my aesthetic sense.

The extant beauty of Bangladesh is ineffable!

By Farhana R. Khan





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