- 09 Feb - 15 Feb, 2019
The Final Victim
- 28 Oct - 03 Nov, 2017
A dark-skinned 18-year-old girl was standing with the left side of her face covered in blood and eyes filled with tears. She was looking at him and said, “You are responsible for this!”
“No! That’s not true,” he defended himself.
Next moment, he was running towards darkness and was crying out loud for help until he reached a spot where there was a door ahead of him, which he opened.
Outside, he could see two parents weeping desperately while sitting on the floor. Looking at them, he whispered to himself, This is not my fault, I take no responsibility.
He shut the door and turned around. There was darkness in the room.
“I died because of you,” he heard the girl’s voice.
“I haven’t killed anyone!” he screamed, getting irritated.
Then he saw light coming through the window from a distance. He ran towards the window to escape and attempted to climb outside, but before he could do that he saw her face again. This time the blood was on right side of her face.
“Why Yousuf?” she asked, “Why would you do that?”
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he answered helplessly.
“Because of you, several people are crying today. An old mother has lost her sanity. A loving father has lost hope. And it’s all because of you.”
He remained silent. He tried to speak but had no voice left and was almost lost lost his vision.
“You deserve to be punished Yousuf,” she spoke.
He couldn’t talk to her and couldn’t see her.
“It hurts too much,” she continued, “love is agony. The reason you’re still living with yourself is because you are so cold that you do not have affectionate feelings for anyone.”
He could not speak or see but his hands were still functioning, so he climbed over the window to go outside. But unfortunately, he fell down several feet as if there was no ground underneath him.
Yousuf Arain woke up from his nightmare. His forehead was full of sweat, so he immediately pulled down the blanket and stood up to switch on the lights and check what time it was. It was half past three. He went towards his study table, picked up the air conditioner remote and switched it on.
Yousuf was feeling very uneasy at the moment, constantly wiping sweat off his face.
I can’t help it, he uttered thinking about his dream.
To distract himself, he walked towards the window, held aside the curtain, looked down at the cars and said to himself, There are always cars on Karachi’s roads.
He walked back inside his room, picked up his cell phone from the study table and texted his friend Mikhail. Then he sat back on the bed to enjoy a show on TV.
However, the voice from his dream echoed in his mind.
“Because of you, several people are crying today.”
No! he yelled.
Feeling a bit ridiculous, he looked back at the TV and changed the channel he was watching.
“You deserve to be punished Yousuf,” he heard the voice again.
He closed his eyes with deep disappointment, switched off the television and sadly uttered, “Saba… I’m so sorry. It’s not my fault. Please don’t come in my dreams.”
He stood up and then continued, “I can only pray for you. But I cannot take any responsibility.”
He then looked in the mirror and said to himself, I can look at myself. I am not guilty… because I’m not a criminal.
While saying this, tears started to roll out of his eyes. He smiled and looked at himself fighting his guilt but it was getting difficult.
“Oh God!” he sighed turning away his face. “Please help me!”
The following morning, Mikhail Shafiq, a 24-year-old guy was driving and going to meet someone as usual. He turned on the radio to listen to news, which always intrigued him.
An hour later, he was at a restaurant having breakfast with his girlfriend Zarish. Zarish Zia was a pretty girl and loyal to her boyfriend. The two of them had been in a relationship for more than three years.
“The current semester has been quite difficult for me,” Zarish spoke.
“I understand,” he responded while eating.
“My cousin Ziad has been very problematic. For everyone.”
“But he has dropped the semester, right?”
They ate for a while. Mikhail took out his cell phone and went through it. He checked the message box and saw Yousuf’s text message. He got a little surprised and said, “Yousuf… he texted me at 03:35 a.m. last night”
“Is everything ok with him?” Zarish asked with concern.
“I hope so,” Mikhail responded.
“You should ask him.”
“I will, later on,” he said, keeping his cell phone aside.
“You know, I like his determination,” Zarish told Mikhail.
“Yes, I admire, that too but he’s wasting himself.”
“You mean for Neha?” she said, as though asking for a clarification.
“Yes, don’t you see? He’s obsessed with her. He loves her so much that his entire life depends on being with her.”
“What about Saba?” she asked getting concerned. “Do you think he has overcome her?”
“There’s nothing to overcome about her. Because he doesn’t admit that he is responsible for what happened. He’s not willing to face the truth.”
“It’s been two years since that incident. I don’t know if he’s still troubled with her thoughts.”
“That’s not the issue Zarish. The real problem is Neha. He is devoting himself to her quite more than he should. He is blinded by love.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll talk to him about it.”
“There’s no point of it,” he continued, “I’ve already tried.”
They had breakfast and left after a while.
Two days later on a Monday, the three friends Yousuf, Mikhail and Zarish were walking towards their classroom. Professor Haseeb was looking at them from a distance. One of his female students asked him, “Why are you looking at them like this?”
“I don’t know… as if you admire them.”
“Oh yes, I do admire them. These three are the most intellectual students of the campus, according to me.”
“Intellectual?” she reconfirmed.
“It’s being in a group that makes them intellectual. I mean there are several students of mine who are admirable but they are individuals, not in groups. These three Yousuf, Zarish and Mikhail have a great unity since the past three years.”
“Unity? Well, that’s hard to find these days.”
“This guy Mikhail, he is smart and aggressive. I have talked to him many times and see uniqueness in him. However, he is known in the campus for his aggressiveness, gets angry at times and then becomes destructive.”
“And his girlfriend Zarish,” Professor Haseeb continued, “she’s very intelligent. She scores highest marks in the class. Her mind is quite sharp.”
“And what about the third one?”
“Ah! Yousuf,” he said changing his tone, “he’s the most interesting one – determined but weak.”
“What I like about him is that when he wants to achieve something, he doesn’t let anything get in his way. He is good at achieving his goals. He is extremely determined but I’ve seen that he is emotionally weak. There’s something about his past that has been bothering him for long. When it comes to people or friends, he gets weak and helpless.”
“Impressive,” she commented.
“I’ve been studying psychology for years and my judgment for others is usually correct.”
During recess, the three friends were at the cafeteria. They were seated on a table for four. Zarish was going through her cell phone while the boys were having coffee.
“So when are we planning for the movie?” Mikhail asked.
“I don’t think I can come,” Yousuf said with hands on his head, as if he was trying to get rid of his headache.
“Come on, you can. You can bring Neha along.”
Yousuf remained silent. Zarish looked at Yousuf and asked, “Are you ok? You were feeling the same earlier.”
“I haven’t slept for two days.”
“Two days, why?” Mikhail asked surprisingly.
“I’m having bad dreams,” he replied with his eyes closed.
Mikhail’s cell phone beeped. It was a text message. He checked his phone while Zarish and Yousuf were talking. As Yousuf looked at Mikhail momentarily, he saw Mikhail’s face expressions changing. He was getting really worried and confused after reading his text message.
“What is it Mikhail?” Yousuf asked him.
He didn’t respond and got serious.
“Is everything ok?” Zarish asked looking at him.
“Yahya…” he uttered, “he has sent me this strange message.”
“What is it?” Yousuf asked, getting curious.
“You were a good friend Mikhail,” Mikhail read the text message before them, “you won’t see me again… good bye forever!”
Yousuf got a little surprised and asked, “Is he dying?”
“That’s what it looks like” Mikhail spoke, “I think he’s committing suicide.”
Zarish and Yousuf got quite worried.
“Wait…” Zarish spoke, recalling something, “is Yahya the guy you meet occasionally at the library?”
“Yes,” Mikhail answered.
“Wait,” Yousuf cleared his mind, “is he a student of this university?”
“Yes!” Mikhail said standing up. “Come on Yousuf, lets go.”
“To his house, I need to see what’s happening?”
“Why don’t you just call him?”
“I am,” Mikhail showed him his cell phone, “he’s not answering.”
“Keep trying,” Zarish suggested, “he’ll answer it.”
“I can’t risk this,” Mikhail held his bike’s keys, “I have to see what’s going on. Come on Yousuf, lets go”
Yousuf stood up after him and they left.
Minutes later, Mikhail was riding his bike and Yousuf was seated right behind him. Mikhail was driving quite fast, as he didn’t want to be late. He was actually very concerned regarding his friend.
Later, as they finally reached Yahya’s house, they parked the bike outside his building and ran upstairs. They were running really fast until they saw a crowd. It was a crowd of neighbours around the apartment.
Yousuf stood behind them on the stairs, but Mikhail made his way and forcefully entered inside. At the entrance door of Yahya’s house, a dead body was lying. Mikhail looked carefully at the face of that person and it was his friend Yahya. He felt devastated looking at this.
Yousuf, who was standing away from the crowd, asked one of the neighbours who was passing by, “What happened?”
“The boy just committed suicide by suffocating himself with smoke.”
“Suffocating? Was he alone?”
“Where are his parents?” Yousuf asked in a depressive tone.
“They are outside at the moment, but they’ve been informed. They will be here any minute.”
Among the crowd, several people were crying. Mikhail was also weeping silently looking at his friend’s dead body. One of the neighbours, who happened to be a doctor, was holding the dead body’s head in his lap. Mikhail couldn’t help seeing this, so he stood up and left the spot. He started descending down the stairs, Yousuf followed him.
A minute later, as the two of them were standing downstairs next to the bike, Mikhail cried, “I can’t believe this.”
“I know, it’s upsetting,” Yousuf tried to comfort his friend.
“We spoke last month.”
“At the campus?” Yousuf asked.
“Yes… and he was absolutely fine.”
“Well, something must have happened.”
Mikhail felt really disappointed and after a the two of them left for their university.
One week later
The friends were back together. At the cafeteria, Yousuf and Zarish were making plans while Mikhail was having his coffee.
“So we’ll reach here at seven, right?” Zarish asked Yousuf.
“A little earlier than that. Because at seven the event will start.”
“You know, I’ve been really waiting for this Basant Festival,” said Zarish.
“Me too,” Yousuf reacted.
While they were talking, they saw that Mikhail was just having his drink and wasn’t interested in anything they were discussing.
“Aren’t you excited, my dear?” Zarish asked him.
“Yeah,” he spoke very casually.
“What are you planning to wear tomorrow?” Yousuf tried to talk to him.
“Haven’t decided yet,” he answered, looking least bothered.
“Ok,” Yousuf said standing up, and left to get water for himself.
In the meantime, Zarish looked at Mikhail and said, “Mikhail, it’s been a week and I haven’t seen you smiling. I know what happened was disastrous but you should move on. You are not responsible for Yahya’s death.”
“Probably,” he answered changing his sitting position, and continued, “I’m fine, I’m over him.”
“That’s good. Now help us with tomorrow’s plans.”
“Sure,” he smiled.
Next evening, there was a Basant Festival at their campus. Everyone was dressed in shalwar kameez. There were several stalls and a loud music system.
The kite department was at the main garden where a lot of people were gathered.
Mikhail and Zarish were already there. They were waiting for Yousuf who hadn’t shown up yet. Professor Haseeb had been watching Mikhail and Zarish constantly.
A moment later, Yousuf came along with a beautiful girl of his age.
Zarish and Mikhail looked at them. She asked him, “Who is this girl with him?”
“Oh yeah… she’s looking really beautiful today.”
“I didn’t know that people from outside the campus can come and join the festival.”
Yousuf and Neha came by and they all greeted each other nicely. After they were done with the greetings, the four of them walked towards the music hall.
For a while inside the hall, Yousuf and Neha enjoyed the music and sang along. Zarish and Mikhail were at a different corner.
Few minutes later, Yousuf walked around to find Mikhail. As he found him standing alone, he said,
“Let’s stay close and together. It’s too crowded.”
“Where’s Neha?” Mikhail asked, as he noticed she was not with Yousuf.
Yousuf turned back to see and then looked around getting panicked. He had lost Neha.
“Oh my God!” he uttered losing self control, “where is she? She was just here with me right now.”
Mikhail observed his behaviour.
“Neha!” Yousuf called out in distress, “where are you?”
Mikhail held Yousuf’s upper arms and said, “Yousuf relax! She must be around. Just call her.”
Agitated, Yousuf took out his cell phone and dialled her number. Meanwhile, he was constantly moving to and fro. Mikhail could see the helplessness in him.
Yousuf was still making the call when he heard Neha’s voice from behind, “Yousuf!”
He turned around and felt so relieved after seeing her. However, Mikhail didn’t like his friend’s unhealthy attitude.
The three of them were standing together until they heard a woman’s cry, “Help!”
The music stopped and everyone seemed shaken after hearing that painful and miserable scream.
to be continued...