His body was charred. He no longer had any sensation in his limbs. His vision and hearing— they were both gone. But Ali’s mind was still working. While he couldn’t comprehend the outside world, his thoughts kept going back to his days in the army. It was so long ago and yet… the devastation felt so familiar.
The war between Pakistan and India was a brutal one. Missiles landed into civilian villages, slaughtering all who inhabited them. No one was spared. The soldiers watched as their friends and loved ones were slaughtered alongside them. And they could only think of revenge.
Ali remembered the bunker. He and his squad pushed up towards the outer wall. When gunfire was exchanged, neither side was spared. Soldier’s from Ali’s own squad dropped beside him. And on India’s side, there were few who remained standing. It was a complete bloodbath.
Fires raged on, burning the corpses that lay out in front of the bunker. And amongst the smoke and screaming, Ali heard a faint voice sobbing. At first, he believed the voice belonged to a child. But as he moved closer, he noticed that it was a young Indian soldier.
The young man crawled out from the pile of corpses. Tears and blood stained his cheeks. He lifted both of his hands and held them into the air. Ali’s eyes locked onto the soldier. He couldn’t have been much older than eighteen. And from the way he shook, this was his first time experiencing death.
“Please. I swear to God I’ve never fired a shot. I just joined the army… it’s barely been a month. If you let me go… I’ll- I’ll run away. I’ll leave the army. Please! Look at my hands. I have no weapon!”
“Shut up!” the commanding officer screamed as he kicked the boy to the ground, “Ali. Kill him.”
Ali froze. Seeing the young man in front of him— the young boy —he couldn’t accept any more death. Standing before a fellow human and watching him sob and beg, Ali refused to continue the cycle of hurt. But he knew, too, that his commanding officer didn’t allow for dissension.
The officer threw Ali a knife, “Be a soldier. Kill him.”
But Ali let the knife drop onto the ground. He refused to pick it up and take part in any more destruction. Between the young man’s strained cries and the commanding officer’s shouting, Ali couldn’t think. He struggled to breathe. He wanted the nightmare to be over.
“Kill him!” the voice rang in Ali’s head, “Kill him!”
And among the chaos, the young soldier lunged forward and reached for the knife. Ali was motionless. He watched as the boy pulled him down and sliced the blade into his chest. At that moment, despite the pain he felt, Ali couldn’t move. In the young man’s eyes, he saw fear instead of malice.
But the soldier paused. Blood dripped from his lips. The officer fired bullets into the boy, riddling his body full of holes. Ali watched as the scared soldier was reduced to a mangled corpse. And as the boy’s body collapsed, Ali knew then and there that he could no longer bear to be in the army.
When his commanding officer asked Ali if he was alright, he was at a loss for words. Covered in blood— not only just his own blood —Ali was sickened. He had known the horrors that came with war. But this was far too much.
He rose to his feet. As the commanding officer extended his hand, Ali slapped it away, “No more killing! No more war!”
His throat was raw as he screamed. He had enlisted to protect his country, but he learned that he was only participating in more hurt. Ali wanted his fellow soldiers to understand. He wanted to show everyone that their methods of war were only further denying any chance of peace. But instead, Ali was court-martialed.
A dim sound pulled Ali out of his dream. It was a voice. But it was one he didn’t recognize. A woman was speaking to him. She had a frail and raspy voice that was calming and motherly. Light gave way to darkness. Ali was able to see once more, but what he saw terrified him.
Beneath him was his body— it was charred beyond repair. His limbs were torn apart from his body. He had no eyes nor fingers and his blood flowed along the rock piles of the cave. Ali didn’t understand how he was seeing everything in front of him. He questioned if he was dead. And as he noticed the green light emanating around him, he believed he had become a spirit.
Hassan and Saleem ran from the cave as the green light chased them. He listened as the voice asked Hassan, “Are you sure?” incessantly. But he understood none of it. All he knew was that he was alone peering down at his own body. He believed everything was already over.
“You don’t want to fight, but the fight has now come to you,” said a deep voice, different from that of the old woman, “You don’t want to kill, but now you are the one dying.”
Ali searched for the source of the man’s voice but found nothing. Though, the voice was cheerful even in such trying times. Ali wanted to believe that the voice was there to help him. The sound continued, “This is not your fight. This is not the fight of your country. This is the fight of all of humanity. And if you want, you can save it. But whatever happens, will be the will of God.”
“If it is the will of God,” Ali was hesitant, “What difference does it make if I say ‘yes’ or ‘no’? If I try or if I don’t try, won’t fate happen as intended anyway?”
The voice replied, “That’s why God has given humanity a choice. Whatever you choose, you will be paving your own path. This is not an order. You can choose to ignore it. If not you, then there will be another. The responsibility is huge. It is the heaviest burden you will ever face, my son. But it is a choice you are given.”
As Ali tried to make sense of what the voice was saying, he felt pain. It wasn’t his own body that ached. He sensed the pain taking place outside the cave. Humans were dying. All of humanity bled and wept. And his own body was taking its final breaths.
“You only have a few more minutes.”
Ali looked down at his body. His breathing was strained. Death was inevitable. But he wondered about the choice the voice gave him. If he agreed, would he live? Would he be given a second chance to protect his family? That thought alone meant more to him than anything.
But from the way the voice talked, it was more than just his own family who needed to be protected. All of humanity was endangered. There were animals, fields of vibrant flowers, forests of trees— the beauty of all life was threatened by an unknown enemy.
He calmed his mind. He knew whatever he was getting himself into would be far beyond anything he ever knew. But the voice’s words haunted him. If he chose not to do it, would someone else be forced to carry the same burden? Ali didn’t wish for such weight to fall on anyone.
Ali’s answer was clear, “I’ll do it.”
Just as he spoke those words, the crystal’s green light became blinding. It wove into the air and cast kaleidoscopic images onto the cave wall. As the light entered Ali’s body, he felt warmth. He felt life once more. And beyond the ability to breathe, he felt energy surging from every part of himself.
Beside him, more of the green light collected to form the shape of a human body. Though, the figure was smaller in size. The form was that of an old man with a long white beard. On his head sat a tall cylindrical white hat. And his clothing— a long tunic and robe —was stark white and earthy green.
The old man whirled as Ali watched the spirit split in two. What began as two whirling figures multiplied into four and then sixteen. Soon, there were hundreds of green spirits dancing around his body. Ali knew the spirits reminded him of something. It was a word Hassan often spoke of— Darwaish.
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.