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Somewhere in the distance the thunder roared. I could hear the thin branches of the tree outside scraping against my glass window. Flashes of lightning lit up my entire room for barely an instant, casting motionless shadows on the wall. I sat on bed, hugging my knee's, wondering what I was doing in my old house. The house that my family had abandoned years ago, right after my younger sister had mysteriously disappeared one evening.

“Ai Apu, can you come help me here in the kitchen? I knew I was never cut out for cooking,” a voice called out from downstairs. Who was that?

“A-a-a-yesha? Is that you?” I asked, my own voice trembling.
Instead of a reply, all I heard was a window shutter banging in the strong gusts of wind. Summing up every ounce of courage that I possibly could at that moment, I walked across the room, towards the staircase. The floorboards creaked under my weight and I could hear the water gushing out from the kitchen faucet. My eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness as I descended down the stairs. Next thing I knew, a pair of slender arms embraced me from behind.

“Apu!!” the person hugging me shrieked gleefully.
In slow motion, I turned around to see my younger sister's smiling face, inches away from mine. From what I could see in the semi-darkness, Ayesha's oval face was pale white, her eyes a light shade of grey. She looked like death herself. For a second I wanted to cry, I wanted to believe this was my sister, hug her and ask her so many questions. Where had she been all these years? But that's when my eyes fell on the deep slash in her lips. It was bleeding.

But I never got to finish my question.
“Apu help!” Ayesha screamed. In a blur, Ayesha was racing up the stairs, with me following her in suite.

“What is it Ayesha? Tell me!” I cried as we reached the rooftop. The billowing wind almost pushed me off-balance. What was wrong with her? Who was she running away from? For one last time, Ayesha looked back, her face a mask of complete terror.

“Noooo!!” I screamed as my sister stepped off into thin air, with nothing below her feet. By the time I reached the edge of the roof, Ayesha was already on the ground. I stared down at the motionless body in the pouring rain, trying to register what had just happened. What I saw next silenced my pounding heart, freezing the blood in my veins. Ayesha slowly got up and magically, her dislocated shoulder snapped back into place, her arms and legs twisted back to their normal position. She was standing now. Was she looking up at me? That couldn't be real. I blinked. She was gone!!!

“Alima wake up! The electricity's out and water is leaking in through the closed windows!” my mother screamed.

I woke up in alarm. My fuzzed up brain took time to take in my surroundings and put together the whole picture. That's when I realized that the old house…seeing Ayesha…it had all been a dream, or should I say a nightmare. Outside a fierce storm had broken and I could already see a puddle of water under my windowsill. The storm had to be a coincidence. Or was it? Had Ayesha somehow given me a message through the dream? Had she given me answers that I had been searching for all those years? If that was so, who had she been so afraid of? It couldn't have been someone in the family…right?

“Alima…you're not scared are you? The storm shouldn't last long,” my step-father said from the doorway, his face lit up by the lantern in his hand.

By Nayeema Reza

The cool, the crazy and the clueless
Lazy edition

The Unveiling

“This is a revolutionary new field weapon,' said Dr. Smith, positively bubbling with excitement as he walked around the podium where the laser pulse rifle prototype stood glinting in the metallic electric light of the military lab. 'In-built smart computer that can easily pick out targets and lock on; high energy laser pulses that can follow a target around corners once locked; laser beams powerful enough to blow a hole through a fighter jet 35000 feet up, not to mention melting barrels of tanks and disabling other such petty armoured vehicle. Powered by two nuclear powered batteries held in sealed vacuum casings, it can take practically anything you throw at it,' he pushed his glasses up along his sweaty nose and looked smugly at the assembled high ranking officials, 'Including missiles.'

'What are the risks of jamming and how long till the power supply runs out?' said a stern looking general with a graying moustache. Never happy, these guys, thought Smith, running a hand through his hair. A few strands came off. He was balding, and was slightly self-conscious about it.

'The power supply won't run out in your lifetime, General. Or even in your children's lifetime. It'll last a minimum of a century. They are practically miniature nuclear reactors. Don't worry,' he added, as he saw the crease form between the eyes of the general, 'the length for the cadmium rods have been calculated and it's perfectly safe from chain reaction. It's not really cadmium rod anymore though, more like wire. As for jamming,' Smith shrugged, 'there's nothing to jam. The computer, batteries and the laser source are all enclosed in heat resistant opaque crystal on three sides and heat conducting transparent crystal on the firing side. You can almost catch a glimpse of it if you peek in the barrel. And no, scratches are not a problem.'

Half of the officials nodded vaguely in understanding. Dr. Smith knew enough military men to know that mostly, they nod when they don't understand something completely. But that wasn't his problem. As long as some of the big fish got it, which they apparently did, it was fine. He turned to the podium, raised his arms to either side for dramatic effect and said, 'this, gentlemen, is the weapon of the coming cent - '

'A good weapon, no doubt, Doctor,' said a soft voice from behind as tutting noises and groans cut him off. He wheeled around. One by one the generals and officials hit the floor, various expressions of mingled pain, fear and bewilderment etched on their faces. The 10-man guard unit spread around the place in groups of twos looked wildly for the source of the silencer-fitted guns. Three groups realized too late it was members of their unit doing the shooting. The remaining four guards walked out of the lab and headed for the database.

The last general standing took out his pistol and coolly shot one of his still groaning colleagues in the head. He surveyed the scene through his very professional and very blue eyes…and caught Smith edging towards the prototype. 'No, Doctor,' the man leveled his pistol at Smith, 'allow me, please.' He moved towards the podium and took down the gun. He put his pistol back in his pocket and held the gun with a comfort bred in the life-long soldier. 'Good is an inadequate word. This is magnificent,' he said, running a hand lovingly along the barrel, his harsh face alive with something closely resembling glee.

'It appears, Doctor, that it is the destiny of great scientists to see their creations cause great destruction. Einstein lived to see the days when bombs fell in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But you have more in common with Archimedes, Doctor.

He saw the roman ships put aflame with those great mirrors of his. You shall have the same honour, Doctor.'

'Who are you? How did you get in here?' Smith said, licking his lips nervously. The man threw back his head and laughed mirthlessly. 'You think I'm an infiltrator? No, no, my dear Doctor, I'm just an employee of the best of jobs: money.' The guards came back into the lab. The man looked at them and they nodded and one of them passed him a CD.

'You know you'll never get away with this,' Smith said with a little more force. 'Oh, we will,' the man said confidently. 'We may not be scientists, but we're not total idiots. We have a copy of your design. All your scientists in the data room are dead. We have placed some strategic C4 explosives. All I'll need to do is “blow a hole” in the armoury and this place will go up in flames. And with this gun, I doubt any of your loyal guards will be able to stop us.' Smith suddenly felt weak. This was all probably a bad dream and he felt now would be an excellent time to wake up.

'Do you like Bugs Bunny, Doctor?' the man asked as he pushed the laser intensity lever to maximum. 'The mean, bald guy chasing the rabbit with a gun. Ever wondered what would happen if the rabbit had the gun?' His lips curled in a cruel smile, 'Shame your gun doesn't come with a user identifying lock.' Doctor John Smith's bladder went.
'Whassup, Doc!'

By Kazim Ibn Sadique


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