Fire. Fire, smoke and ashes. Ashes. Mine and yours. Intermingling, flirting with the wind. The wind does what the warmth of life could never do: it renders us one.

As one, we fly away. To an unknown destination. I wish I had seen how futile it was for us to be apart when we were alive. Separated by dogmas, pedantic loyalties, parts of different solar systems. My star was never the same as yours. Had I met you then, had I known how similar these ashes would be, I would have gotten to know you, I would have loved you. I would have tried to reconcile my star with yours, my solar system with yours and we would have been inseparable.

But alas! What did I know? I wonder, as we fly away now, riding the wind without an idea of where you begin and I end. I wonder if they knew…Those who burnt me, who burnt you…

Did they know that our ashes would be so intimate, so close? It is a miracle. It has astounded us. What would they do if they realized that the fires they kindled with our bodies did nothing but erased the differences which we shared when we breathed? It seemed like such a big deal then. It seems, somehow important, albeit sinister that they had to use this body of mine as a fuel to keep the fire burning.

I wish someone could let them know that…no matter how many bodies they use as a fuel to keep their meager fires alive, to keep that pathetic warmth that offers no comfort, I wish they would know that ashes always look the same. And ashes are carried over by wind to lands far away. And ashes intermingle. So, after all, there really never was a difference.

My world would attempt to hold on to the remnants of its fire, and yours would do the same. But the fire will have no comfort. Because as it turns out, we, as ashes, love each other.


The Welcome Facades

That day, he could remember with a dazzling vividness. It had been etched across his memory, had been burnt into his mind, leaving the burns forever. He had been betrayed by no one other than his bosom friend. A friend he was, a friend who became his business partner. He had lost so much; including money but what pinched him like a half pricked thorn was something that made his eyes feel the discomfort that takes the shape of agony: the feeling of not being able to shed tears, of those tin globes not even being borne in the pregnant eyes. Eyes pregnant with tears but not enough for the tears to find their way out. Denial and a brutally bruised ego fought with each other over the possession of this pain and none emerged triumphant. Momentarily, one would overpower the other, dominating his very being and then that endless tug of war would begin again with him as the rope that was being tugged. The monetary loss cowered in a corner while all this took the center stage in his heart. He prayed. His nose touching the praying mat, his eyes sought relief that comes with tears. With all the earnestness that his heart could muster, it prayed to God.

“I wish I could see what people concealed behind the facades that they wear. Oh, Lord! I wish I could see them, not the subterfuges so stubbornly clinging to every face, camouflaging them forever.”

The tears came and brought no relief. He was nauseated by their existence, ashamed of their presence, a denier of their candidness. They mocked him. He hated them.

“It is unfair that you see everybody. You possess the Sight. But you leave your creation blinded. You know but you wouldn’t let anyone in on the secret!” was what he complained of at one point.

That night, before he slept, the wish to “see” everything, to know beforehand consumed him. It ran in his veins, taking possession of every agonized inch of his body and soul. The next morning dawned with a sting in the tail. Mechanically, he went through the rituals of bathroom, breakfast, locking the door and getting in the car. As he hit the accelerator, he noticed something that made him top in his tracks. Someone……or something made its way across the street. The creature had a long, protruding tongue, every inch of which was covered with angry, puss-filled blisters. To call this creature a human would be a slap in the face of mankind. But what else could it be? It walked on two legs and aside from the malformed tongue, it resembled a human. The tongue lolled out of the mouth like a dog’s, except for the fact that a dog’s hanging tongue would seem holy as compared to this gut-wrenching sight that presented him with itself. The sinister visage could not hold the organ within its limited confines, so it went down to the creature’s legs.

He tore his eyes away from the spectacle and hit the accelerator with as much force as he could muster. The car shot forwards and in a matter of seconds, he was out on the main highway. Once on the main road, he slowed down, took a deep breath and yelped. A hitchhiker was signaling him to stop. Even from a distance, he could see the man’s wicked, blood-shot eyes. They occupied almost all the space available on the person’s face, standing out. The eyeballs were mere slits. Scarlet slits that flashed when he looked around.

He speeded by, without even sparing another look towards the expectant hitchhiker. After the encounters, he never let his eyes so much as sway an inch from the road ahead, focusing on the signals and excluding everything else from his line of vision. He would brood over it when he reached the welcome confines of his office. But along the way, his eyes could not help but behold the phenomena. “People” with transparent chests that revealed everything that lay inside them. The hearts seemed to be scooped out of them. No hearts. And if he was fortunate enough to detect a pumping organ, all he could see was soot blackened, still entity that could not, under any circumstances, be called a heart. Still, the people walked, seemingly oblivious to each other’s flaws. It was as if he was the only being in this whodunit of a world that he had woken up to who could perceive these imperfections. But why did they not do so? Why did the inhabitants of this strange world not lay their eyes upon him as if he was an oddity? He certainly would be one to them. No slits for the eyes, no protruding tongue, no blackened heart. He passed along, passing by the beings with exposed brains. Worms feasted on the brain that was at the pinnacle of evolution: a human’s brain.

He reached his workplace. Running up the steps, he entered the building and through the vacant lobby, moved towards his office. He was late. Everyone was set to work, it seemed. Once in his office, he gulped down a glass of water waiting at his desktop. What was he supposed to do? What had happened? He knew he was not in the dream state where such sights are not considered abnormal. He tapped his clammy forehead with his fist. What to do?

The door flew open and his colleague entered, causing him to breathe a sigh of relief and gratefulness. He appeared normal, nothing out of the ordinary. His eyes feasted upon his colleague.

The colleague came closer and placed a sympathetic hand on his shoulder.

“I’m very sorry about your loss. The betrayal of a friend is the most pain inflicting.”

And he recoiled from the speaker in horror for as he had opened his mouth to speak, his tongue had darted out. It was forked in the middle like that of a snake and his words came out garbled, like a snake’s sinister hiss.

In a fit of madness, he got up from his chair and without a backward glance, ran outside to the car park. He started driving like a maniac with no inkling about his destination. Minutes later, he found himself at his own doorstep. He fumbled with the lock and the keys, made his way inside and dropped down on his bed. He sobbed, shaking uncontrollably. For the first time since he had woken up to this bewildering universe, he recalled his own words, his heart-wrenching prayers from last night.

“Let me see through the facades. You do. Why can’t I? Why should I endure the torture? Let me see.”

Let me see.

Now, he was being forced to see.

Sharp tongues that could not resist temptations, the humans who were no better than snakes, the land of the walking dead, dead hearts, deceased hearts and blackened hearts made up the world. And he was alone. Alone. A solitary beating heart. Red from the blood that it pumped. A solitary pair of eyes that looked around and found no beauty. A desolate brain that mourned the absence of any other like it. He cried with the tears that did not nauseate him like those the previous night had. They were justified. He was to be pitied. He did not detect the moment when sleep took him.

He was covered in sweat. He was fully clothed, in his formal office-wear and lying on his bed. He got up and made his way towards the dressing table. A minute later, a scream reverberated in the small house.

In the mirror, he saw his red eyes, his forked tongue and his see-through chest. No heart.

Devastating Shields

What does it take for a child to grow up? Not the physical growth that merely comprises of a passable height and bodily features, the growth that really matters. For a human to learn is for him to err. He learns when he makes mistakes, when life becomes his teacher. After facing hurt, disappointment, hopelessness and rejection is when he accepts himself. I’ll go as far as to say that it is only then, at the point where life shows that the kaleidoscope that he sees as life, unfurling before him, presenting him with a new breath taking design every other second is actually nothing but a deception and beyond every door, he will not seek anything until he seeks his Creator, his Lord; that is when he recognizes his lord. So, that sighting, that encounter results from tears, disappointment and a death. A death that comprises of a million deaths inside the being. The death of emotions, the death of expectations from the world, the death of all those temporary elations, those fake attempts at happiness, which can never go beyond mere pleasure. Never contentment, never an ecstasy. For the human to grow up, he has to be exposed to the turbulences that the storm of life brings. To lock him up in a basement would save his skin, but not his intellect, not his potential. And he would never grow up. You do not learn how to swim until you are nearly drowned….. What about the heart? If God lives in there, then there is no doubt that all our resentment, anger, frustration and bitterness does not take birth in this part of the human body. It is us who are pregnant with these overrated emotions and we give birth to them. It is our own nafs, this connection between the body and the soul that gets satisfied when we fail to get it to kneel in front of the soul, the heart and the Lord. What does it take for the heart to recognize the Creator’s presence? What does it take for the heart to grow up? I am pretty sure that locking the heart up within the walls that we build to “protect” is actually the very act that ruins it forever. It decays the heart. Piece by piece. It has to be out in the open. Fresh, doing what it does the best. Feeling. Being sensitive. Getting hurt. Beating and filling our own ears with its relentless beating. Do not lock it up so securely that its beating becomes inaudible to your own ears. The heart is meant to feel. And to feel is to feel all of it. Dejection along with mirth, sickness along with health, pain along with gain. And somewhere along the way, my friend, you are going to find out that there is not much difference between all of the above. They are twins. Similar, yet different, in the perfect harmony but each having its own choreographed steps, dancing their way into life. “Life” is as long as the heart “beats”. To “live” is as long as we can “feel” our pulse. A dead heart, a dead man. A deceased man, a dead pulse. A dead man, no feelings. It is how we define “emotions”. I have no idea why but mankind has lost the true essence of the word. It does not merely epitomize misery, heartache, failure, hatred and anger but it also exemplifies all that is sacred. Trust, trust in the Lord; joy, the joy of feeling His presence; success, the success that comes with our realization of His divine presence; love, the love that his Him and the beauty that is everywhere: in his creation, in the faces, in the words, in the pain, in the betrayal, in the hearts, in the mistakes, in the egos, in the self-deception, in the defense mechanisms, in the rare loyalty, in that one moment’s understanding, in those eyes, in those smiles, everywhere. So, does shutting the heart up do the trick? Sure, if you prefer to be a child rather than to grow up spiritually, to pass all those stages of growth, all those benchmarks, to Him, to Him.