Hassan held out his cellphone and played the clip— it was exactly as he described. The destruction that Ali had witnessed was not only isolated in his hometown. In New York, skyscrapers burned. In Singapore, civilians dove into the waters to avoid the onslaught of crashing vehicles. And in Sydney, planes collided in the sky sending shrapnel into the streets below.
Ali was at a loss for words. What he witnessed was something he never believed could be possible. It was horrifying enough to imagine that war had come to Kashmir. But that it was worldwide? Ali felt sweat forming at the back of his neck. He was uncertain of what to do or where to take his family.
But there was still the burning question: who? Who was responsible for the attacks? He couldn’t believe that any one country could be responsible for the devastation. After all, the entire world was affected. Judging by the amount of damage as well, something truly sinister was at play.
Before Ali had a chance to ask Hassan how he was able to get a signal, Mehwish rushed for the TV. She needed to confirm that the images online were truthful. She didn’t want to believe that the entire world was in ruins. She wanted to hope it was all a sick joke.
When she turned on the TV, however, everyone was shocked by the headline— Alien Invasion.
It was as if the room was spinning. No one wanted to believe their ears or eyes. It seemed so impossible. But the evidence was too great to deny. The images from Hassan’s cellphone were playing again on the TV. This time, there was even more footage and even more cities being destroyed.
Amsterdam was on fire. The landmarks of Paris were obliterated into fragments. And Seoul had almost all been leveled. Nowhere was safe. As Ali looked at his family, he held them tightly. It was as Hassan said. It truly was of no use. Islamabad was in just as much turmoil as anywhere else.
On the news, the general of Pakistan’s army stood at a podium. His microphone cut in and out as he spoke, but one could truly hear the hopelessness in his voice. He was deadpan. His tone may have remained calm, but there was hesitation. He needed to remain strong. Though, it was unknown whether strength alone would be enough.
“From what we’ve gathered, this is a highly intelligent race. They’ve planned this down to the very second. They knew where our militaries were stationed. Not just here in Pakistan— they knew how to locate all of humanity’s armies. And they triggered our weapons against each other.”
Hearing that, it all began to make sense to Ali. There had been so much tension with India and he didn’t understand. After the war had passed, he had hoped that his home could finally remain at peace. Though, he certainly didn’t guess that aliens would have been the cause.
The general continued, “We thought India was attacking. We were mobilizing and preparing ourselves for a counter-attack… and that’s when we were caught off-guard. All of our weapon systems were hijacked. And we know it wasn’t only us. All units and all weapons everywhere in the world— they’ve all been taken over.”
“So now…” the TV anchor was teary-eyed, “Do you think we’re all alone? We have no help? No hope? No defense? The aliens… who are they and what do they want?”
“If I had any guess it’s that their only purpose is to destroy humanity. This is a complete take-over. We have no idea how many there are, but they have the capability to hijack all of our machinery. Entire hospitals are under their control. We have people without food, water, and shelter…”
The anchor was quiet, “By this rate… we’ll be finished. What… what is the military’s plan?”
Averting his eyes, the general said, “Accept God. We have no one to help us. We have no backup plans. Stay inside your homes. Stay silent. Ration all food and avoid traveling.”
What Ali heard was hard to swallow. Even the general of their army was of the mindset that all was lost. “No. It can’t be real. There has to be something. There has to be a way.” Looking at the faces of his friends and family, everyone was overwhelmed by shock and grief.
Fariha’s lip trembled. Ali tried to comfort her before she screamed, “Where’s Hiba!?”
The adults shot up to their feet. They had been mesmerized by the news for so long that they didn’t realize that one of the children had fled. Immediately, Ali rushed to the window in hopes of spotting the young girl before she had gone too far. He was able to see her… but he also saw something far more menacing.
Hiba stood in the middle of the road reaching her arms out towards a tiny dog. Though far more disheveled with tattered fur and bloodshot eyes, Ali recognized the dog as Tommy. He, like the dogs from the road earlier, had a deadened gaze on his face and drool spilling off of his loose tongue.
Seeing the small dog rear up as if he were ready to lunge, Ali rushed outside. Hassan followed alongside him, shouting it hopes that the dog would flee and leave Hiba alone. To Ali’s surprise, Saleem came barreling behind them. His movements were erratic as always, but Ali hoped that, too, would convince Tommy to run.
Swooping down from the sky, a hawk reached his talons towards Tommy. Hiba gasped and dove away as the bird flew between them. Frightened by Tommy’s snarling growl, the hawk flapped his wings and flew off towards the towering trees of the forest. The dog followed the bird inside the dark brush. And young Hiba chased after her dear family pet.
“Hiba! Wait!” Ali called. But it was too late.
The young girl was already lost inside the forest. There was no choice. The three men followed after her, worrying about what dangers lurked in the darkness. If a pack of what appeared to be a thousand dogs were running loose in Kashmir, Ali didn’t want any of them to be caught up in the wrong part of town.
Hiba, though, was only frightened for her dog. She couldn’t understand all that was happening. All she knew that was Tommy was unwell and she wanted to help him. But what she found in the forest wasn’t only Tommy. She spotted a pack of five angry dogs snarling and dripping blood from their mouths.
It was the hawk’s last day taking flight. The rabid dogs tore the animal feather from bone. Little remained by the time each of them sank in their fangs. And Hiba was frightened.
As the young girl watched the gruesome scene, she felt something wrap around her cheek. She wished to squeal, but she felt something covering her mouth. Gripping on it, she felt warm skin and five digits— a hand. Hiba was relieved as she looked up and saw Ali.
Motioning for her to remain silent, the two slowly backed away from the dogs. Behind him, Ali noticed Hassan and Saleem running through the forest. Ali raised his hand and motioned for both of them to be silent. Hassan got the message right away and slowed his pace. But Saleem continued to barrel forward.
Lunging for the young worker, Ali grabbed him by the collar and pointed towards the dogs. The sight of five sets of bloodstained teeth was all it took for the man’s skin to turn yellow and for him to halt in his tracks. They were all gathered, but they needed to leave.
Signally to everyone, Ali led the way for everyone to exit the forest. They were lucky to go unnoticed by the dogs. Fixated on their prey, the dogs paid no mind to the four as they slowly backed out of the forest. Ali’s beating heart calmed. It seemed that finally, everything would work itself out. And then he heard the sound.
Ali looked down. During his days in the army, he had become all too familiar with the short cylindrical object. He knew the dangers of setting foot on undeveloped land. And he remembered how he would always tell his friends and family to look down as they took a step. But in a panic, he failed to heed his own advice and he had stepped on a landmine.
Time was limited. Ali knew that the moment he released his foot, the mine would explode. He remained silent and still. Ali knew what would happen. He knew it was too late to save himself. But at the very least, he hoped he’d be able to save Hiba and his friends.
Ali made eye contact with Hassan. Seeing his friend’s calm yet foreboding face, the long-haired man was startled. He looked down and spotted the cause for such a blank-eyed stare— the mine. Hassan, too, knew what fate was inevitable.
Hassan tried to approach Ali. As much as he knew what was about to unfold, he refused to accept the death of his best friend. But the moment he attempted to run towards Ali, the calm man raised a hand forward. He knew what it meant: Stop.
In a soft voice, Ali spoke, “I love my wife and kids. I love them more than anything. Hassan. You must take care of them. Help them reach their grandparents in America. There has to be somewhere that’s still safe.”
Ali handed Hiba off to Hassan and the two men nodded. Neither wanted such events to be true, but they knew what had to be done in the situation. As Hassan carried Hiba away, she sobbed. And that was the final sound that alerted the rabid dogs. They spotted the group and rushed after them.
“Hassan! Run!” Ali screamed.
Saleem stumbled through the trees, trying to keep up as Hassan lead the way out of the forest. But even as his sole focus was on keeping the young child safe, he couldn’t help but turn his head back to view the scene taking place. He wanted to believe there was still hope for his friend.
The five dogs lunged for Ali. Their fangs were barred and their clawed paws outstretched. But instead of fear on his face, Ali had found peace. The thought of death left him with emptiness. But he knew that he was allowing his dear friends to escape. If he could have any death, it was his hope that it would save the lives of others.
Ali released his foot from the mine. The spark he saw was the very last light before he closed his eyes. As the dogs lunged for him, they were blown away by a terrible force. They whimpered and wailed as the explosion shot them into the air and sent them into the bushes and trees.
Hassan couldn’t breathe. His chest was seizing. As much as he wished to continue on, he couldn’t keep running without knowing the state of his dear friend. The outcome was inevitable. But Hassan couldn’t accept it as truth. He couldn’t let the man who saved his own life die right in front of him.
Handing Hiba off to Saleem, Hassan returned to the source of the blast. He released a quiet wail as he saw him— Ali was lying on the ground charred. The image was burned into his mind. It pained him for his last memory of his friend to be in such a gruesome death.
But before Hassan turned, he saw movement. Ali, against all odds, raised one arm in the air. He was far from well. His skin was bleeding and burned. And it appeared as if his other limbs were broken by the way they jutted out of place. But still, the man tried to carry on.
It was at that moment that Hassan froze. In his mind, there was a chance. This was a sign. If Ali was still alive, it meant that God was watching over him. That was the only way Hassan could fathom how Ali was able to survive such a devastating blow.
He ran to his friend and scooped him onto his shoulders. Ali, against all odds, had lived. Hassan believed that he had a second chance to protect his best friend. And he intended to do everything in his power to make that a reality.
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.