Tuesday, August 28, 2012


A Short Story by Ehtisham Rizvi 

“This is bad.” The blood dripping from his brow had somehow found its way to his mouth. The cold night air was penetrating through his skin, chilling his very bones. He had already lost both his shoes, his clothes were torn, and he was pretty sure his feet were bleeding profusely, leaving a crimson trail on the rocky road behind him.

If his pursuers had been ordinary human beings, the bloody trail would have led them straight to him. Yet he wished they had been human. If they had been ordinary humans he would have stood a chance, a minor chance, but a chance none the less. He envied those pursued by humans. “This is bad.” The thought kept crawling back into his mind. 
He knew they had his scent, his sweat, his blood, they could smell it miles away, and they were on his trail.

The messenger had news to deliver. Important news. The fate of a whole regime depended on it. The insurgents could not afford for him to deliver the scroll. He could not afford to fail. The queen had written the message in her own blood, and had trusted him to deliver it to the garrison.

He had barely escaped the skirmish outside the castle, and was on his way to the garrison when the insurgents intercepted him. He fought as well as he could, he fought as well as anyone could in his predicament, but they just kept coming at him. He managed to kill most of them, and then ran for it. His horse had already been mauled by the hairy beasts during the fight, but the garrison wasn’t far away, “I can make it in an hour,” he had initially thought.

His armor was weighing him down, so he had to remove most of it. The chainmail which saved his life on numerous occasions now seemed like a burden that would ultimately be his undoing. Yet he kept running. The sun was about to rise, and he could see the well-lit towers of the garrison from the distance. The sight gave him hope, he was about to make it, he was about to save the Queendom, but something halted him in his tracks.

The rocky road leading to the garrison was blocked by insurgents. They had not seen him yet, it was a miracle they had not smelled him, they were too busy sinking their teeth in the dead corpses of the patrol guards. There were five of them, and there was no way around them.

“I would sneak up to them. They are busy eating, I will get the one closest to me, and then, and then…” He played many scenarios in his mind, none of them ended up with him being victorious over five crossbreeds. “If I only had a bow and arrow” he could have shot the scroll in the direction of the gate, someone would have surely found it.

He knew that while he was standing there indecisively, the crossbreeds on his trail were getting closer. He started sneaking up to the beasts who were still feasting on the corpses. With clenched jaws and tightened grip on the hilt of his sword; he tried to breathe quietly, afraid that the beasts would hear him. He knew they would smell him before they would hear him, but some things he had no control over, and those things he never worried about.

He was true in judging their sense of smell. The crossbreeds attacked him before he could sneak anywhere near them. He had his sword, they had their claws, and teeth, and horns. He was one, they were five. He was a knight of Placentia, they were Myali’s twisted experiment. He had faith on his side, they had hunger. He had the goddess looking over him, and they served the god of all gods.

The battle was as bloody as there is blood in one human and five crossbreeds. He lost a few fingers and an ear, but the crossbreeds lost their heads. He overcame them, but he lost everything he had in him to do so. There was no way he could walk to the garrison now. The sun had already risen half way through, and he could see the drawbridge being lowered over the moat.

“Praise the goddess, praise the queen.” He forgot all about the pain in his wide open wounds pushing him towards the darkness. The lowering of the drawbridge meant only one thing. The garrison had sent someone to check on the night patrols. “The scroll would make it to its intended destination, the Queendom will survive.” His last thought set his mind at peace.

“He killed five of them, unbelievable!” The general was in awe. The sun had risen, and the general stood over the knight’s dead body, surrounded by those of the crossbreeds. The scroll, written in Silvia’s blood, has reached the hands it was meant for.

“Send a message to Myali.” The general ordered one of his subordinates. “Tell him, the queen had a daughter. She hid her away in a secret chamber and dressed her as a commoner. Her very existence was undisclosed till now.” He smirked.

“Tell him, the throne of Placentia has an heiress. His animals may have killed the queen, but there is another to take her place.” His voice grew cold. “This scroll contains directions to the chamber.” He handed the scroll to the subordinate. “Tell him to find the girl and finish the job.”

“And what about the knight?” The subordinate inquired about the dead knight.

“Leave him for the crossbreeds.”

Sunday, August 12, 2012



A Short Story by Ehtisham Rizvi

All the members of the council had gathered; the topic in question was Curiosity, NASA’s recent attempt to explore Mars.

“I think we all know why we are here, so why don’t we start the discussion!” The relatively young but charismatic member spoke in his signature style. He was probably the youngest among them, but represented a great and powerful nation.

“What is your opinion on Curiosity? Do you think the people deserve to know?” One of the council members asked him. They were all going to have a vote at the end of the discussion, but the young leader’s opinion could swing many votes either way.

“I believe it is time the people learn the truth.” He spoke casually. The others waited for him to justify his opinion but he looked to them to continue the discussion. He knew his nation was the strongest. He did not need to justify his opinions. He could very well be the emperor of the world. Yet he could not make this decision alone.

“The people are not ready. If news gets out that we are not alone in the universe; it would be chaos. People will start to question everything; religion, the meaning of life, how we govern them.” This leader represented another great nation.

“They will want us to establish contact.” The leader of the largest population in the world interjected, “And we all know how that goes. First contact, then travel, then trade, and finally war. We all know human history.” Many of the people agreed with that opinion.

“One day, the people will find out” the young leader spoke again, “It’s only a matter of time. An age will come when people will travel freely from one planet to another. Why delay the inevitable? We have an amazing opportunity in our hands.”

“We have an opportunity to save our people from war.” The leader of the largest population was not convinced, “We need to handle it the way our ancestors handled it in ancient times.”

“The literature about ancient times is filled with contradictions, so let’s not use it as a guideline.” This leader was shorter than others, but his nation was the most technologically advanced nation in the world.

“And I suppose using the sacred text as a guideline is out of the question?” this leader represented a nation known for its religiosity. His comment inspired many smiles among the council. To him and his people, the answer to every problem in the world could be found in the sacred text. Others couldn’t care less about his opinion. The importance of the strategic location of his land was the only reason he was a member of the council.

“Not everyone follows your religion; you need to keep that in mind.” The young leader gave him a friendly reminder.

“I say we do not tell our people yet. Let us send some of our representatives to their planet, as spies of course, and let us wait for their reports.” This leader had a heavy accent. He was probably the oldest person in the room and represented a nation that was once almighty.

“We have reports that their world, not unlike ours is haunted by war at the moment. There is a financial crisis in most parts, in some parts there is plague and famine. We could trade with them, establish economic relations. There are most certainly natural resources over there that we can use.” The young leader was insistent.

“It all comes down to natural resources with you, doesn't it?” The religious man could not hide his resentment. The most powerful nation was the largest consumer of natural resources, and the natural reserves of the world were depleting quicker than they liked.

“You have no problem selling them to me.” The young leader retorted, the religious man had no answer, but the two stared at each other with clenched jaws.

“I think we are getting off topic here” The short leader tried to calm things down.

“There has been enough discussion, let’s start the voting.” The leader of the largest population added.

“So we all agree we have three options.” The young leader was quick to switch back to his usual calm demeanor. “We tell the people there is life on the other planet and establish contact. We send spies and wait for a suitable time to establish contact. Or we take the usual measures to ensure there is no contact and no news.”

Virtual screens appeared before each leader. The screens contained all three options. Each leader reached out and touched the option he/she favored. The result was 80% in favor of not making any contact, and not telling the people about life on the other planet. The leaders who had not participated in the decision turned out to be the majority.

The young leader was clearly disappointed by the results. “Okay then, we feed them the usual pictures of deserts and rocks.” He sighed, “Just for the record, I still believe we are missing out on an exciting opportunity.” The other members were already on their way home, some had already reached their countries.

In an underground lab in a desert, Curiosity laid disassembled. The scientists and engineers in the lab had all gathered in a large room, looking at a large screen excitedly. “What do you think they will decide?” One asked the other, the young leader’s face appeared on screen before the other could answer. “Send them the usual pictures” he said in a disappointed yet authoritative tone.

The excitement in the room died with that order and the people started getting back to work. The one who had asked the question earlier went to his work station, and transmitted few pictures through a device that had been salvaged from the rover.

Back at the NASA headquarters, an excited group of people received the pictures with glee, not knowing that the leaders of Mars wanted nothing to do with Earth.