It was a fine evening, and the house appeared empty. Only four people were inside, four teenagers who were all busy in their own work. Zarine, who lived in the house, was in the kitchen, getting herself something to eat. Her cousins, Sara and Waleed, were in the living room. And Sara's twin brother, Salman, was messing about somewhere. All three were staying over at Zarine's house with their parents, for a wedding in their family. At that moment, however, all the parents, had gone out to visit some of their older relatives, and the kids had opted to stay at home.
In the living room, Waleed was watching television. Suddenly, the lights went out.
Well, it was hardly surprising. Living in Karachi, one got used to load-shedding. So, instead of getting angry, he merely leaned back and sighed.
"We have a UPS," Zarine said coming out from the kitchen. "But there's some problem with it. We'll have to go switch it on. It's in the garage."
"Ok, come on then," Waleed said, turning to go.
So they all trooped outside. It was a cloudy and windy night, and the garden seemed to be alive with twisting shadows. Waleed did not help matters by somehow tripping over a bike leaning against the wall, causing a loud crash that made all of them jump.
"Would you be a bit more careful," Salman muttered, as Waleed scrambled up sheepishly.
"Oh, let it be," Zarine said, opening the garage door. Everyone went inside, except for Sara, who did not like the dark, and preferred to stand out in the moonlit garden.
"What's wrong with this?" Salman asked.
"Some kind of a wiring problem," Zarine answered. "We have to turn it on and off manually, otherwise it doesn't store enough electricity or something. My dad told me, you press this…"
"AAAAAHHH!!" Sara screamed from outside. "Someone's on the roof!"
"What? What? Where?" Startled, everyone ran out, and looked up. There was nothing there.
"Sara, there's nothing," Zarine said, a hand on her chest.
"There was something there, I saw it!" Sara insisted.
"How could you have, it's a three-storey house, the roof is way up," Salman pointed out.
"What exactly did you see?" Waleed asked.
"I saw, like, a shadow," Sara said, slowly. "An outline, as if someone was moving."
Everyone looked up again. They didn't see anything.
"Well, Sara," Waleed said, slowly. "There really isn't anything there."
"Oh please, can you just stop this?" Salman demanded. "You're making me nervous." He strode back, and fiddled with the UPS angrily.
"Hey, be careful!" Waleed said, just as the little green light on the machine went on.
"The light's on inside," Zarine announced, looking in through the window.
"There," Salman said. "Come on now, lets go inside."
So they all went back inside. All four of them felt a little nervous. Once inside, Waleed locked up the front door, they all sat in the living room. Waleed and Salman started arguing about the movie Waleed had been seeing. Zarine who'd neither seen the movie nor even heard of it, grew bored eventually, and decided to listen to some music. She got up, saying:
"I'm going to get my headphones."
She went off upstairs to her bedroom. The other three were still busy in their discussion, when there was a wild shriek from upstairs, and the sound of something being knocked over.
"Zarine!" they all rushed out of the room and up the stairs. Zarine met them half-way down "Someone's up there!" she exclaimed. "I heard them banging around!"
"This is ridiculous," Waleed said.
"I am telling the truth!" Zarine insisted. "If you don't believe me, go up and see for yourself."
"Fine, we will," Salman said, starting to go up the stairs.
"Salman, for goo-" Walled was cut off as there came a banging sound from up the stairs. All four of them stopped arguing and looked up, wide-eyed.
"You believe me now?" Zarine whispered.
The banging came again, along with some muffled shouting.
"Thieves!" Waleed exclaimed.
"I knew there was something up there!" Sara wailed.
There was an extra loud bang. All four of them screamed, then ran downstairs into the living room. Waleed locked the door. "Call the police!" he said. With shaking hands Salman dialed the police number, while Zarine called her own mother.
Zarine's mother went nearly berserk with worry when told that there were thieves in the house. "Call the police! Leave the house! Stay there! I'm coming!" she told Zarine confusedly before ringing off. The policeman Salman got was more coherent, and told him to leave the house if possible, or get to a safe place, and stay there. "We're on our way," he told him.
"Guys, we should get out of here," Salman told them. Slowly and fearfully, they opened the door, and ran outside into the garden.
"Oh drat!" Zarine exclaimed, reaching the gate. "We keep this thing locked, and I've forgotten the key!"
"WHAT?" Salman yelled at her. "Are you crazy? How could you forget something like this?"
"Look, they've seen us!" Sara said, fearfully. They looked up and saw a figure on their roof.
"Hey, he looks… vaguely familiar," Waleed said.
"I… don't think it's a robber, guys," said Zarine. "After all, why would he scream? He should be quiet."
"If not a robber…," Salman said. He turned to Zarine and said: "Its Hassan!" Hassan was Zarine's older brother. "But how did he end up on the roof? I thought he was out with his friends for the night."
"ZARINE! WALEED!" the figure yelled. "Let me down!"
"Hey, that is Hassan!" Sara said. "What are you doing up there? Are you the one who's been making that racket this whole time?"
"I've been locked up here!" Hassan yelled back, defensively. "Let me down!"
Eagerly, the four of them raced up the stairs and let him out.
"You idiots!" Hassan said. "I've been yelling for goodness knows how long, didn't you hear me?"
"What are you doing here?" Salman asked. "Aren't you supposed to be out with your friends?"
"I did go out," said Hassan, looking annoyed. "But I came back early. We had a fight. There's normally a nice breeze upstairs, so I thought that I'd take a nap. When I woke up, I was locked out. I guess they locked the door because they didn't know I was there. I didn't exactly announce my presence."
"But we called the police!" Zarine exclaimed, as there was a screech of a police siren outside. All of them went to the door, and Salman opened it.
"Catch him!" About a million policemen leaped onto him.
"It's a kid!" said one police, letting go of the prone Salman.
"What's going on here?" one of them demanded.
"Er… it's a long story," Waleed said.
Hassan started to explain, but halfway through his explanation, a plain car pulled up and the children's parents jumped out.
"What happened?" Zarine's mother asked. "Did you catch the robbers? Are you kids alright?"
Hassan groaned and covered his face with his hands. Salman and Zarine grinned.
"There were no robbers, apparently," the police informed her. They turned back to the children again. "You all want to tell us what's going on?"
Hassan sighed and started explaining to them what had happened. The police was not very amused. They had come, hoping for an arrest, and all they had were a bunch of confused kids. After an hour of explanations, they left, complaining about irresponsible citizens and pranksters disturbing the hard working police force of the city and wasting their time.
The parents managed to control themselves till the police left. Then they burst forth.
"What were you idiots thinking?" Zarine's mother yelled. "Scaring us for nothing!"
"You couldn't have told us you'd come home!" Zarine's father shouted at Hassan. He cringed. "All this fuss for nothing."
They all headed inside. Their parents vented forth some more, and then finally headed upstairs to change. The five cousins sank down on the sofas.
"Well, that was a disaster," Waleed grumbled. Just then, the lights came back on.
"Well," said Zarine, smiling weakly. "Look on the bright side. At least we passed the time!"
The other four groaned. No matter how bored you got during loadshedding, running from imaginary thieves was not their idea of a fun way of passing the time.