I like reading and writing short stories. Here are a couple that I wrote back in 1998 for a course I took in Creative Writing during my undergrad. When I write something new, I'll add it to this page.
Millions of children around the world believe in Santa Claus, hundreds of adults claim to have been abducted by aliens and many are ready to swear they’ve seen the Loch Ness monster. I never hesitate to be cynical and sarcastic about such things: they’re all crap. Don't get me wrong, though, I am an open minded person, but things like this are of no use to a thirty year old bachelor who does accounts for a living. In fact, I'm not sure how useful they are to little children, either. I am sometimes nauseated by the way my brothers and sisters allow their children to be deceived by all this talk of fairy stories. Goblins, elves and golliwogs; talking animals, witches and tooth fairies...all crap.
If you've already made up your mind about me, you'll imagine me as a bored, stuffy, Scrooge-ish guy whose height of excitement is playing golf. That's not exactly true. I have led a happy and secure life, yes, but not a boring one. I like my life, even though nothing out of the ordinary has ever happened to me. I am an accountant, after all. Life has always been not too hot and not too cold. It’s always been "just right". That is, until the day my cat started talking to me.
I have owned Mano for about three years now. She was a little kitten when I got her - a fluffy fur-ball who grew up to be a beautiful cat who gave birth to three beautiful kittens just over a month ago. Today I caught her reading Treasure Island to two of them, that too in an American accent! Words fail me now as they failed me then...I was stunned. I forced myself to shut my mouth, blink and gulp a few times. Mano was sitting on my desk with Dinky and Plinky snuggled up beside her and she was reading from the book lying open halfway through.
She looked up at me almost sheepishly and smiled her cat smile. "So now you know," she said, "may I finish this chapter before you begin 'interrogating' me? We’ve reached a very crucial part, and these two are really excited." Two tiny pairs of eyes looked up at me beseechingly. I nodded, looking really stupid I’m sure, shocked to the very core of my existence. I still couldn’t speak. I turned around, walked out of the study and into the lounge, sat down on a sofa (almost missing it) and fell into a dead faint.
I woke up some time later, with Mano in my lap.
"So where do you want me to begin?" she asked.
Of Trains and Chains
“So you think this will really work.” It was a statement, not a question. I was hoping that maybe he’d think twice, realize how absurd the whole thing was, and we’d go back and do it my way. But no: Adil is stubborn, Adil is stupid, Adil is headstrong and, moreover, Adil is fat. Okay, so he’s not all that bad and he has managed to get us out of situations far worse that this…but he is fat. I had to hand it to him, though, this was by far the craziest idea he’d had in a long time. And then hand it to him, I did: I slapped him.
See, we had escaped from prison the day before and the only thing that was keeping us from going our separate ways was that we actually, physically couldn’t: we were handcuffed together. Adil then had this apparent stroke-of-genius idea that, if we could somehow lay the chain over the railway tracks, it would get cut when the train passed over it. And, once we were on our own, getting home and removing the manacle would be a piece of cake. After my initial misgivings, and the fact that the last time we’d had our handcuffs picked, the locksmith had squealed on us, I reluctantly followed my current partner in crime over to the train tracks to try out his idea.
Half an hour later we were crouched under the rails, balanced precariously on the banks of the River Jhelum, waiting for the train to come by. Now Adil really is fat, and crouching under the rails with a fat person’s arm pulling your hand closer to the rails is not my idea of, how can I put this...fun? Nonetheless I went along with it and sure enough, ten minutes later the rails started humming with the Tezgam on its way (an hour late, naturally). Believe me when I say that you can feel the train before you can see it or even hear it…but that you have to be very close to the rails to do that. And we were very, very close. As the vibrations got louder I promptly relieved myself in my pants, which is not very characteristic of my bank robber personality, but then each man has his limits and I think I had reached mine. It was then that I slapped him. He looked at me with a hurt expression on his generally wild-eyed face.
“Er,” I stammered, “are you sure this will work? I mean, will the wheels really be able to cut the chain?” I think my voice must have been trembling.
“Of course I’m sure, dumbass! You think I’d risk my life in something I wasn’t sure about?”
I wanted to say ‘yes’ but I controlled the urge. “So...er, then we’re safe here?” I still wasn’t quite convinced by his arguments and I had to be sure so I pressed on, “I mean above the rails is okay, but under the rails...isn’t there some high speed pressure or something that could kill us?”
“Look Ameel,” he began, though I think I was beginning to irritate him now and that slap hadn’t helped my case either, “I know this is going to work. In fact, it’s actually been done before!” That sounded a little too positive coming from him. I guess he must have been a little nervous too. I looked him straight in the eye, skeptically.
“Well,” he admitted, “it’s been done before in a movie.”
I tried to stay calm. “So we’re sitting under the rail, doing something you saw in a movie?”
“And a cartoon,” he added.
“And a cartoon!” I was shouting now, “only stunt men, animators, or madmen would do something like this and we sure as hell aren’t stunt men, nor do we make cartoons, so what does that make us then? Are you insane or are you just trying to get us killed?”
Before he replied, the train let out a loud screech and it occurred to me that we had been hearing the chugging and feeling its vibrations for quite a while now. And it was getting closer. Quickly.
I started to panic. I must have been pulling my arm down instinctively because Adil yanked it back up. I don’t remember too much, and I don’t really want to either, because I sort of lost it then. I pulled at the chain, swore at everyone, screamed and begged for mercy; I was completely out of control. Fortunately, I was slapped really hard and almost lost my balance, but Adil held on to me and the train kept coming closer and closer; and closer.
“Adil.” I was trying desperately to sound calm and serious now but, by this time, we had to shout to be heard anyway and that seemed to mask the hysterical edge to my voice. “Adil listen, we have about a minute left, let me climb back out and we can go to a locksmith and get the handcuffs opened. This time we’ll make sure he’s okay with it – we’ll even threaten his family like you wanted to last time! – and then, and then things will be all right, right? Okay? Yeah?”
“Okay? You mean we can really go now?” I couldn’t believe he’d actually listened to me!
“Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Just keep in mind that, by the time your feet make it out of the rails, they’ll fall right back in on their own because the train will already be halfway across this point by then and your body will probably be in many pieces. Six, at least.”
“Oh.” I was still recovering when I looked up and there it was: the light that would start my trip down the tunnel with the light at the end as well. I can’t recall exactly what happened while the train was going over us: I just remember the dust flying, the wind blowing in my face, my screaming, and the train’s roar. But then it was gone almost as fast as it had come, even though it took a while for the dust to settle and the world to sound relatively quieter. It was only when Adil put his hand on my shoulder that I stopped screaming and shaking. I was crying freely now, and in the split second that it took me to realize that we were now free, I had fallen the twenty feet into the Jhelum river below.