A Short Story by Ehtisham Rizvi
Art by Tehreem Naeem
Bang! Bang! Two gun shots - one targeting his face and the other his chest – that was all it took to kill him. He fell down and the killers got away. The shots had been fired from a white Toyota, which sped away once the target was eliminated.
It was just another Tuesday in the busy metropolitan. He was just another man standing at the bus stop waiting for his bus to arrive. Just another man trying to provide for his family in the failing economy. And suddenly he was no more.
The people at the bus stop gathered around him and someone called an ambulance. They used his cellphone to contact his friends and family, and took the body to the morgue. For some, his death was sad news. For others, the news made no difference.
Abdul had always wondered what happened after death. He read a lot about it in books and heard a lot from the neighborhood cleric, but he always liked to discover things on his own. Now that he had experienced death, he wondered what would happen next. He found the scene in front of him mesmerizing. They were putting his body on a stretcher, and he was standing just a few feet away watching his own carcass.
He wondered what would happen at work when they found the news. He wondered if they would stop working, give everyone the day off, and visit his house to give their condolences to his family. As soon as he thought about work he was transported there. The atmosphere seemed sad and he could spot a hint of tears in people’s eyes, but the machines were still on and the people were still going about their daily business. His chair was empty, but he knew there were plenty in line to take his place.
He expected to feel anger and frustration, but he felt nothing. He thought about his family. His parents and his siblings depended on him to pay the bills. Again, his thoughts served as a means of transportation and he found himself standing in the middle of his room – the room he shared with his brother.
He saw his brother sitting there in silence. There were no tears running down his cheeks but he was a picture of sorrow. Abdul could only wonder what psychological damage his death had done to his brother. He went to the other room where his mother had fainted, and his sister and a couple of neighbors were trying to bring her back to consciousness. In another room his father tried to appear strong in front of the relatives.
He wanted to reach out to his father, his mother, his sister, and his brother - but he could not. He wanted to tell them that he was okay, that he was in peace, and that they should try to move on with their lives. He wanted to tell them he loved them.
Pondering over things that were left unsaid and issues that were left unresolved, his thoughts wandered to the girl of his dreams. In life, he never told her how he felt. In death, he found himself gazing at her beautiful face, searching fruitlessly for any signs of emotion. Before he could try to get close to her, a voice interrupted him.
“It is time.” The strange voice came from behind him. He turned around and saw a large man standing there. He wondered if it was the angel of death. The man repeated himself as he walked towards him. Every step liberating him from his woes, every step bringing clarity. When he was alive, thousands of questions haunted his mind every day. Now that he was dead, the answers to those questions were pouring in out of nowhere. It was as if a barrier had been broken, and knowledge was now flooding his mind. He wondered if he would go to heaven or hell, or if there was a third option.
“It is time.” This time the voice wasn't so strange. It was his mother’s voice. “Get up and go to work. I don’t know why they put up with your absenteeism. If you don’t go today they will deduct a full day’s pay from your salary. Get up!” He tossed and turned and finally got up. Was that a dream? He wondered. It felt so real. He didn't have time for contemplation, the clock was ticking and he had to leave soon.
He skipped breakfast, changed into his work clothes and headed towards the bus stop. The bus was late today and the sun was in an unforgiving mood. The heat, the noise of traffic, the stink of sweat and garbage - everything was getting to him. As he stood there waiting for the bus, thinking about his dream, something caught his eye...a white Toyota was coming towards him.