It felt like his greatest nightmare had come true. The peaceful life that he had always promised his family had been threatened. Running to his SUV, he wanted to hope that panic hadn’t sent his neighborhood into an uproar. He needed to hear Mehwish’s voice. He wanted to know that she was safe.
Taking his phone in hand, Ali called his wife. He knew she had to have heard the news already— he assumed every TV and radio station in Kashmir was filled with the news. But he wanted to speak with Mehwish directly in hopes that they could coordinate a plan out of the city.
Hearing static on his cellphone’s receiver, Ali’s heart sank. He checked his phone and saw that there was no signal available. No calls or messages could go through. His eyes watched the sky. He feared that the signals were being jammed. “Are we already under attack?”
He ran from the parking lot back into the factory. There was a chance that the landlines were still working. And if that were the case, he needed to have another chance to hear from his family and know they weren’t caught up in any danger. He felt sweat building on his palms by the time he reached his office.
The receiver slipped from Ali’s hands as he dialed his wife’s number. Hearing the ringing sound alleviated some of his worries, but it wasn’t until he heard his wife’s voice that he was able to breathe easily. She was frantic when she picked up the phone, but Ali knew he needed to stay calm to ease her mind.
“Everything will be okay,” Ali said, “I’ll pick up Rabia from school. I need you to pack up everything we’ll need— food, clothing, water… as soon as I’m home, we’ll leave Kashmir together.”
She was holding back tears. Ali could tell by the way her voice was strained. He knew she had to be frightened. He, too, was frightened. But he trusted she was strong. He knew she would be able to handle everything back at home. But Ali still feared what was happening at Rabia’s school.
Seeing the dark and empty factory spelled out the situation everyone faced. The normal life that everyone knew was over. Darkness had swept over the city of Kashmir and there was no telling when, or even if, everything would be the same again.
The moment Ali entered his vehicle, he shifted gears and sped out of the empty lot. Seeing not one car left helped ease his thoughts of anyone being left behind. And when he got on the main road, it was deserted save for piles of snow and withered branches. For that reason, though, Ali felt uneasy.
There was complete silence. On his car’s radio, there was only static. Whether the stations themselves were off the air or if it was caused by something else, Ali couldn’t be certain. As each snowflake fell, he believed his eyes were playing tricks on him— he was seeing images out of the corner of his eye.
Ali shook his head. He knew his state of mind left him with racing thoughts. But he had to assure himself that there was no danger. “We still have time. We can still make it to the city.” He looked into his rear-view mirror. There was a shadow behind him. As much as Ali wanted to assume it was a fallen branch, the ominous sight came from inside the car.
In a panic, Ali slammed on his breaks and skidded onto the side of the road. It was unmistakable. He saw something move in his back seat. He knew his car was empty earlier. There was nothing that could have fallen. Trying to remain logical, he tried to think of a cause, but his mind was blank. All he could think of was fleeing from whatever was inside his car.
As his feet crunched into the snow, Ali tried to collect himself. “What am I doing!? I need to get to Rabia!” Whatever it was that he saw, Ali knew that it couldn’t stand in the way of him protecting his family. He slowly stepped his way towards the back seat window, trying to peek at what was hidden inside.
Growing closer, he saw a darkened silhouette. Two legs and two arms— it was a person that was inside his SUV. Under other circumstances, he would be frightened. But noticing the clothing of the person in question, Ali put two and two together of who it was.
“Saleem!? What are you doing!? Come. Get in the front seat.”
The young worker was quiet as he complied with the orders. The situation wasn’t ideal, but Ali refused to leave anyone behind given everything that was happening. He may have been a liar, but no one deserved to be alone and scared. Ali sped away, hoping that everyone in his neighborhood would be safe.
In the empty factory parking lot, a single silver sedan sped towards the front doors of the offices. The driver exited the vehicle, brushing his long hair out of his face. His purple eyes were bulging as he pounded on the door, calling out for someone to answer. Hassan desperately sought his friend.
Without a key to enter the factory, he was left banging on the glass, peering inside the windows, and checking the sheds in the back. When he spotted the loading bay at been left open, Hassan rushed inside and called out Ali’s name. But despite a lingering echo, he was met with silence.
The interior of the factory was dark. The machines had stopped working and even as he had witnessed from the parking lot outside, no one was left in the factory. While part of him was relieved, another part of him was fearful of the uncertainty. He had no way of knowing what became of his dear friend.
Hassan sped back to his car, skidding on ice. “I have to reach him… I have to reach him before…” He pressed his key into the ignition and sped off onto the road. There was so much he wished he had said to Ali sooner. And given the circumstances, he feared he would never be able to.
Qalandar, Earth Needed A Superhero. © Copyright 2019 by Fraz Ahmed. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Disclaimer : –
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.