‘The Stranger Who Helps’ by Khuldoon Khan

Standard

 

 

It was raining heavily in Islamabad, since it was the monsoon season. A Figure in black clothing stood out in the busy Markaz of Sector F-10 as people hurried along to shops and restaurants, hiding underneath umbrellas or their own jackets which stretched over their heads. The heavy downpour had been in the city for the past few days and didn’t seem to be stopping soon.

The Stranger just stood there, next to the DVD store, dripping wet. It seemed like he was waiting for something.

Or maybe he was waiting for someone.

If one were to look the Stranger in the eye, under his drawn hood, they would see just white, with no pupils. For you see, the Strange Man was not entirely human. In fact, he was old. Very old. He was probably the oldest person alive. A little rain was not something that fazed him, meaning he did not move. Not that anyone would really know about the Stranger. He was a Stranger after all.

At last, the Man saw his objective.

The objective was a young man, in his late twenties nearing his thirties, wearing a white Shalwaar Kameez and a black jacket, both of which were soaked. He was clean-shaven and had some handsome features that the harshness of the world had not worn out. He was stumbling through the rain, carefully shielding something under his shirt from the water. The Stranger followed.

It was not a long journey, as the man lived in the apartments next to the market, as houses had gotten much more expensive to build or buy in F Sectors in recent years. The man cursed, as a car splashed water on him as it passed by. He couldn’t let his latest work be ruined! It would finally be the end of all the ridicule he faced! The man hurried to cross the road, not noticing the Figure that followed. Sighing in relief, the man entered the building and into the elevator, taking him to the floor he lived on. He quickly got out of the elevator, hastily opened his rooms and stumbled in.

He took out the sheet of papers from under his shirt and smiled widely. He’d finally done it. He’d finally written his little project. It had been a while since he had had such inspiration. At least enough to write something concrete. He looked at the title.

GUINEA PIG DETECTIVE

Granted, it wasn’t the best title, or the best premise, but it was his story! He’d written it! He almost laughed out loud, before stopping himself. He might finally get published!

All thoughts stopped when he realized something. He hadn’t written an ending yet. Of course he hadn’t written an ending. It was the hardest part! And it had to be good! He sat down on his desk, slightly sobered from the excitement. He needed an ending!

Four hours went by in this difficulty. He wrote something, but realized that it wasn’t good enough. It needed to be a great ending! But he couldn’t come up with anything! He was starting to get depressed again. It had been this way for a long time. His family had told him time and time again to pursue something more practical, like engineering. But he wasn’t made for that, he had argued. He wanted to write. He wanted to create his own little world that he controlled and to create characters that he wanted to go on adventures! That hadn’t gone well with his family. So, he had become a writer for a local newspaper, making enough money to get by, but never really creating the story he wanted. He had tried of course! He had tried so much! But nothing had ever felt right to him. He always got bored with the story or couldn’t think of anything else to write.

As the man dwelled on his life, the Man stood outside. He knew what was going on in the writers head, for he could feel his discontent, hear his thoughts about his life and almost see the desire to be successful in his endeavor. He knew that if left alone, the Writer would eventually give up. That would not be allowed to happen. He looked at the door of the Writers apartment and, without bothering to knock, slipped in. He passed through the door like it was made of nothing. He had acquired some tricks over the past millennia.

The Writer crumpled up another piece of paper and threw it into the already full dustbin. He was swearing internally, holding his head in his hands and rocking his head back and forth. He couldn’t do it! He couldn’t end it!

“An ending eludes you”, said a voice from behind him.

The Writer fell off his chair in surprise. He turned around to look at the Man in Black behind him, wearing a hood that covered half his face in shadows. He couldn’t think clearly. Who was this man?

“W-who are you? H-how did you get in here?” the Writer exclaimed. He was shaking in fear. A Stranger was in his abode. Did he come to rob him! Did he come to kill him!

The Stranger was silent for a few seconds, as if pondering the question.

“I Help. And I merely entered your home by means that you could not understand”, he said plainly, not moving from the spot he had been for the past few seconds.

“I-I’m calling the police! Leave me alone you freak!” said the Writer. He was panicking. His phone had fallen on the ground and he scrambled to pick it up, hurriedly dialing the number for emergency help.

But his phone wasn’t working. He couldn’t get a signal. Stupid phone!

“Your ending”, the Stranger said, “It eludes you”.

The Writer stopped.

“What?”

The Stranger repeated the question. The Writer was bewildered. Did this Man break into his apartment just to tell him that! What kind of a shoddy robber was he?

“I am not a robber”

How did the Stranger know what he was thinking? What in God’s name was happening here! Taking a few seconds to compose himself, the Writer straightened. The Stranger still had not moved from his spot. The Writer decided to humor the Stranger, even though he did not know why he would entertain such a notion. The Stranger was a criminal! Why would the Writer stand there and humor him?

“Who are you?” the Writer repeated.

The Stranger tilted his head slightly to the side, regarding the Writer, even though the Stranger’s eyes remained hidden. Then he spoke.

“I have many names, across time. Some have called me a titan who gave man Fire. Others called me a saint who slew a dragon. Some even thought of me as a wandering mystic, ready to teach people my wisdom. I have lived for a long time. I come to those who need me. I have inspired humanity countless times, but never by pushing. I always nudged humanity in the right direction. I gave men the idea to strike two rocks together to create a spark. And man discovered Fire. And look where humanity is now. Space farers and manipulators of nature. That is who I am, Writer. And I knew you needed my help”.

The first thought that came to the Writer’s mind was that this man was insane. He talked of ludicrous things! He didn’t look a day over thirty! What nonsense was he listening to?

“Leave now mister, before I call the poli–“

“Your ending eludes you still,” the Stranger interjected.

The Writer stopped, the frustration finally reaching its breaking point. He couldn’t write and this lunatic kept on reminding him of that!

“YES! I CAN’T FIND AN ENDING! NOW LEAVE ME ALONE! I JUST WANT TO BE LEFT IN PEACE!”

The Stranger just stared at him, while the Writer sighed deeply. The anger was in full force.

“I always found a peaceful ending to be best in my travels. That’s serves as a nice ending I think”, the Stranger mused.

“I thought I told-“

“The ending eludes you because you elude yourself. You torture yourself. You think too much of what your family would think. Their judgment weighs you down. Why do you let it?”

The Writer was dumbstruck. This Man had the audacity to–

“I am merely pointing out that which you do not accept. You have the potential to become an amazing writer. Yet you hold yourself back with beliefs that you cannot achieve such a thing”.

The Writer didn’t know how this Stranger knew, but it was true. He always held back because of the expectations, or lack of thereof that his family held for him. He had always expected a dismal living as a man with a ‘non-practical’ job. But he had also kept himself there, fearing rejection and humiliation. He looked down at his page.

“A peaceful ending?” he asked. The Writer turned around and found that there was no one there. Maybe he was going a bit mad. Maybe the lack of sleep was making him hallucinate or something. A nice and peaceful ending was what he said. The Writer grabbed his pen.

And he wrote.

And this time, he didn’t crumple up the paper.

This time he continued to write.

Before long, he had finished writing and smiled.

Maybe he would get recognition, or maybe he wouldn’t. As long as someone read his book, he didn’t care. Maybe the Stranger was a sign? Maybe he was sent by a Higher Power? Or maybe he was just a hallucination? If so, it was one hallucination he would always be grateful for.

Who knows what the future holds?

The End

About froebelianwriters

I am an English Language teacher teaching O'Levels Edexcel and CIE A Levels at Froebel's International School, Islamabad. I am also working as a Subject Specialist Literacy consultant for the same school. Writing and reading has always been a passion and I try my utmost to instill these habits and hobbies in my students as well. I can be reached/contacted at fabbas227@hotmail.com or 03365287335 Happy reading!

Comments are closed.