One Hundred and Sixty

As narrated by Rameez:

“THERE!!” I yell again, pointing. “DAD, GO!! THAT CAR!!”

Without hesitation, dad is once again moving, as quickly as he stopped.

All the tiredness and shock evaporates, leaving me wide awake and alert.

“Seat belt!!” commands dad, as he rapidly closes the gap between our car and the Merc.

I lean a little back, hastily pulling the seat belt across my chest.

My eyes never leaving the car in front of us, I try to buckle it into place.

“Dammit,” I mutter, unsuccessful.

Forcing my gaze away from the road for a second, I clip my seat belt into place, then lean forward in my seat again.

“There’s only one person,” I point out, squinting.

“And he knows we’re following,” I add a moment later, as the Merc suddenly picks up drastic speed.

“Go, go, go!!” I yell, my hands gripping the edge of my seat.

The X6’s powerful TwinPower turbo engine roars above the sound of the racing E-class Mercedes in front of us. Unleashing its concentrated power of 330 kW, the needle on the speedometer slowly inches closer to its top speed.

“HE’S GONNA TURN!!” I yell at the exact moment the Merc suddenly takes a turn at breakneck speed.

Yelling above the scream of the tires, I grab the handle on the inside of the door to keep myself from flying out of my seat as dad barely breaks before taking the turn.

Adrenaline coursing through my blood, my heart beating almost as fast as we’re going, I don’t let go of the door handle.

“He’s heading for the highway!” I yell as we drift around another turn, barely missing the side barrier.

“I know!” replies dad, his voice tight with concentration. “Don’t yell!”

Dad’s hands are clasped so tightly on the steering wheel, trying to control the magnificent power of the beautiful beast, that his knuckles have gone white.

A thrill rushes through me as we take another turn, the squealing tires now accompanied with the smell of burning rubber.

And then, we hit the highway.

Well lit and fairly quiet, this time, dad doesn’t hesitate in pushing the X6 to its limits.

But neither does the driver of the Merc.

Dad floors the accelerator and I hold on tightly to the door handle, despite the way it hurts my hand.

Couple seconds later, we’re right at his tail.

And then, finally we’re alongside him.

“Dad you have to get him to stop!” I say, unable to see anything through the illegally dark tint.

Dad scoffs, then laughs briefly.

I look at him, slightly surprised.

“Seriously Rameez?” he asks. “And how are we suppose to do that?”

“I don’t know. Can’t you run him off the road or something?” I ask, turning to look at the car beside again.

“Can’t,” comes dads curt reply. “Not at this speed. We’ll all die.”

We fall silent, just about managing to stay alongside the Merc.

“So now what?” I ask, my heart beat a little more controlled now.

“Call Sulaimaan. Tell him to come with back up,” replies dad.

But I barely hear him, the gears in my mind suddenly spinning with an idea.

‘Don’t be mad, Meez!’ warns a voice in my head.

‘It’s worth a shot,’ argues the other voice.

‘Don’t you dare, Meez!’ the first voice speaks again, dead serious.

‘Just do it,’ urges the second.

And so I do.

Hitting the button, I will the window to roll down faster, before dad realizes what I’m doing.

But he’s already guessed.

“RAMEEZ!!!” he shouts, turning to look at me and almost losing all control of the still speeding car under his control.

“STAY ALONGSIDE HIM!!” I yell back, ignoring his warning.

Standing slightly, I turn my body and reach out through my open window, praying desperately that his doors aren’t locked.

“RAMEEZ, DON’T!! GET DOWN!!” screams dad.

My fingers briefly touch the shining silver door handle of the Merc before the driver moves his vehicle away, out of reach.

My heart racing, blood pounding against my eardrums, I ignore the voice screeching in my head.

I lean further out the window and grab the Merc’s door handle.

Without thinking further, I pull with all my strength.

The door flies open and I’m sent sprawling back.

Dad screams as I knock into his arm, snatching his control on the raging X6.

Hooters blare but the loud sounds seem soft and distant compared to my thumping heart.

Fighting to gain control again, dad yanks the wheel to the right, hard.

Much too hard.

The whole world spins and I close my eyes, screaming.

A moment later, my whole body is jerked forward, then, too quickly, to the side.

Lifting my hands in front of my face, I scream again.

Pain shoots through my shoulder as it slams into the door.

“RAMEEZ GET DOWN!!” I hear dad shout.

The sound of glass shattering follows and then the car comes to a dead stop.

Ignoring dad’s command I lift my head, slowly moving my arms away from my face.

I turn to dad, praying he’s okay.

But, before I can say anything, he shoves my head down roughly.

From the corner of my eye, I see him duck too.

And then, it’s raining glass.

I feel a sting of pain on my neck as a piece slices my skin.

My nose touching the leather seat, I feel a tight knot forming deep in my stomach as realization dawns.

This guy just killed a girl not too long ago.

And from the looks of it, he doesn’t mind writing two more names on the rest of his bullets.

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*****

Once again, ignoring the voice screaming in my head to think straight, I reach for the button to unlock the doors.

The adrenaline pumping through my veins overpowers the pain I should be feeling as I push the door open, jump out and run straight toward the guy.

My body collides into his sooner than I thought it would, and an audible oof sounds from him as he falls.

On top of him, I punch his face, trying to buy myself time to get the gun out of his hands.

But, he barely feels the punch it seems, because he sits up underneath me, throwing me off his chest.

Elbowing him in the stomach as he tries to get away from me, I grab onto his hand holding the gun, struggling to keep it pointing away from me.

Unsure where my sudden strength is coming from, I wrestle with the strong man.

“DAD!” I yell, wondering why he isn’t yet helping me.

My arm burns as my opponent twists it, forcing it behind my back at an odd angle.

He raises his gun.

Stretching my neck at an agonizing angle, I reach for his wrist….. with my mouth.

Biting hard, I release all my anger, pain, and grief through my teeth.

I hear him shriek loudly before his fingers uncurl, dropping the gun.

“DAD!!” I scream again, kicking the gun out of the killer’s reach with my foot.

Finally, he is there, casually picking up the gun and removing the chamber before tossing is over his shoulder.

I scream in pain as my opponent’s fist smashes into my jaw while twisting my arm tighter behind my back.

My vision blurs and my stomach churns as everything spins in front of me.

And finally, just as I think my arm is going to snap and my head is going to explode, someone pulls him away.

“Breathe!!” a voice shouts in front of my face.

I obey, wincing in the pain it causes.

I breathe deeply again before sitting up.

Sirens wail, getting closer by the second.

I look towards the road, which we are now a couple of meters away from, and see blue lights flashing.

Knowing the night is far from over, I push aside the pain, stand up, and head over to where a small crowd has gathered around my dad and the killer.

My mind discerns the fact that I somehow have still not registered his face at the exact moment my eyes connect with his.

I swear under my breath, my eyes widening in shock as my mind places his familiar face.

“No way, no way!” I mutter, moving closer.

“IT WASN’T ME!!” he’s yelling, trashing under dad and another person’s hold.

The police car stops, its siren still blaring deafeningly.

But somehow, I hear him above it.

“I SWEAR ON MY LIFE I DIDN’T KILL HER!! I WOULD NEVER HURT HER!!”

A cold feeling of despair washes through me as I shake my head, terrified at how abnormally loud he’s yelling.

“YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE ME!!”

“Stop screaming,” dad says, his voice calm, controlled.

“I DIDN’T KILL HER!! OH GOD, PLEASE, YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE ME!! IT WASN’T ME!!”

Everything about the way his pleading – almost as if to convince himself – contradicts his words.

“I know. I believe you,” replies dad.

He doesn’t.

But I do.

Of course he didn’t kill her.

After all, he is the only one who loved Lubna almost as much as Faizal did.

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Sneak Peek

Hey. Hi. Hello. Salaam. Bonjour. Salut. Ciao. Ahoj. Bog. Marhaba. Ola. 😀

Hope you guys are having a fantastic Friday! 

So because I’m so excited about tomorrow’s post (Thank you NWO68 and T! 😂❤) but I don’t want to put it up today, here’s a sneak peek. Enjoy! 🌸💕

Much Love,

Troubled Illusioner. ❤


“RAMEEZ GET DOWN!!” I hear dad shout.

The sound of glass shattering follows and then the car comes to a dead stop.

Ignoring dad’s command I lift my head, slowly moving my arms away from my face.

I turn to dad, praying he’s okay.

But, before I can say anything, he shoves my head down roughly.

From the corner of my eye, I see him duck too.

And then, it’s raining glass.

I feel a sting of pain on my neck as a piece slices my skin.

My nose touching the leather seat, I feel a tight knot forming deep in my stomach as realization dawns.

This guy just killed a girl not too long ago.

And from the looks of it, he doesn’t mind writing two more names on the rest of his bullets.

One Hundred and Fifty Nine

Hey. Hi. Hello. Salaam. Bonjour. Salut. Ciao. Ahoj. Bog. Marhaba. Ola. 😀

GUESS WHAT, GUESS WHAT?!?!

Today marks exactly two years of Troubled Illusions!!💃🎉🎈😀

JazakAllah, shukran, thank you, dankie, gracias, merci, vielen dank to each and every one of you who have made this journey such an awesome one. You have no idea how much your support means to me and I cannot aptly describe it to you but please always remember, that from the bottom of my heart, I truly appreciate it. ❤💙💚💛💜

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With that being said, here’s a post to celebrate! 🌸💕

I couldn’t seem to get the flow right in the first part of the post but I hope you’ll enjoy  it nonetheless. Bold writing is thoughts and parts in italics are the characters speaking in their heads. 

Much Love,

Troubled Illusioner. ❤


As narrated by Lubna:

“Well, your night is only starting!” Shiraz laughs cheekily, winking at us.

I feel my cheeks colour and glare at him.

Faizy grins, pulling me closer to his side.

He turns to look at me, his eyes shining.

My face heats up more and I duck my head shyly.

A second later though, a squeal of tires rings through the calm night, grabbing my attention.

I feel myself falling and then everything turns upside down.

The world is in black and white, moving slower than usual.

Silence falls for what seems like eternity and a prick of panic prods me, unsettling me.

Why is it so quiet?

‘Faizal??’

‘Shiraz??’

A moment later I hear Faizy’s voice and immediately I wish the silence had stayed instead.

Filled with heart-wrenching agony Faizal is screaming my name.

Why is he yelling?

‘Stop yelling love, what’s going on? I’m right here, ssshhh.’

Ignoring me he calls me again, a little softer this time.

‘What is it, love?’

And then, something touches my cheek.

Faizal’s hand.

I know his touch for I have memorized every inch of his skin.

He says my name again but this time I barely hear it.

It reaches my ears slow and dragged, a faint whisper as if he is far, far away.

Where is he going?? Why is he leaving me?? Why can’t I see him??

‘Faizy, love!’ I call, reaching for him.

But my hand refuses to obey my command and opening my eyes, heavy as lead, feels impossible.

‘Faizal!’ I call again, desperately this time.

He doesn’t answer, causing a wave of panic to wash over me, snatching away my breath.

God, what the hell is happening??

A burst of adrenaline accompanies the panic and a fleeting moment of energy enables me to open my eyes.

I almost laugh out aloud.

My brain doesn’t register the desperate look of panic and shock in Faizal’s eyes. It doesn’t question why everything it still in black and white. It doesn’t register the fact that he’s leaning over me. It doesn’t question why his lips are moving yet I can’t hear what he is saying.

It simply registers that he is there.

Faizal is right there, right in front of me, his eyes staring into mine.

‘You’re such an idiot,’ I say to myself. ‘He would never go anywhere without you. He would never leave you behind. Look, he’s right here.’

Using every ounce of my energy, I lift my hand to touch his face.

God… why… why am I… so… tired…

He takes my limp hand in his, squeezing it hopefully.

‘What’s going on?’ I try to ask, one more time, but I don’t know if her hears me or not.

Darkness pulls me into its embrace and my eyes flutter close.

And then…

nothing.

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Third person narrative:

Uncle Ismaeel swallows his mouthful of food before swiping his finger across his phone screen to answer his son’s call.

“Dad,” says Rameez, after replying his father’s greeting. “Please can you come to fetch me?”

Something about the tone in his son’s voice makes Uncle Ismaeel stand up immediately.

“Where are you?” he asks, reaching for his keys.

Rameez gives him the address before taking a deep breath and adding, “Could you bring the police and paramedics too, please.”

Briefly explaining to his wife, Aunty Aadila, the situation Uncle Ismaeel rushes out.

Buckling his seat belt into place, he floors the accelerater and puts his phone to his ear.

“911, what is your emergency?”

Speaking rapidly but clearly into the phone, Uncle Ismaeel explains what little he knows.

A long blast of a hooter screams as he skips a red robot, but he barely hears it.

Removing his phone from between his ear and shoulder, Uncle Ismaeel taps in another number.

“Ismaeel. Assalaamualaykum boss.”

“Wa’alaykum Salaam. Listen, I got a code red emergency which involves the little man.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Uncle Ismaeel states the address before cutting the call.

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As narrated by Uncle Ismaeel:

“What happened, Rameez?” I ask.

He looks at me blankly.

I shake his shoulder before repeating my question.

“Focus,” I say, gently but firmly. “I need to know what happened.”

“Someone shot her,” comes a voice from behind.

I glance up at all the fancy theme dressed youngsters.

“Nobody is allowed to leave,” comes a loud, stern command.

I breathe a sigh a relief.

“You’re here,” I say, turning around to shake Sulaimaan’s hand briefly.

“What the jeepers happened here?” he asks, looking around.

“Trying to figure that out myself,” I say, shrugging.

“Right. Listen here, buddies. No one is allowed to leave. I want you all to gather there,” instructs Sulaimaan, pointing to a spot away from the bleeding girl and safely away from the road. “Stay put. Am I clear?”

Some nod solemnly, while others begin walking to the instructed spot. The girls lean to the boys for support and robotically they do as they’re told.

“Aren’t you going to help her?” comes a choked voice.

I look at the speaker.

Her make up is smeared from crying and her eyes look terribly afraid.

“You’ll can help by following instructions,” Sulaimaan says, not answering her question straightforwardly.

Rameez speaks then, his voice an empty whisper.

“She’s dead. She can’t be helped.”

The only sound that can be heard is sobbing.

And sirens.

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*****

“The person who shot her is unknown. For all we know the subject might strike again. You need to move away from here,” Sulaimaan says kindly to the shell shocked young man.

Faizal, his name is, according to one of the fellows.

He doesn’t seem to hear.

A group of paramedics rush forward and Sulaimaan is left with no choice but to move the young man away himself.

“No heartbeat,” I mention as the paramedics crouch down.

One man looks up, a questioning frown showing that he is slightly annoyed at my remark.

“Doctor Ismaeel Varachia,” I say, notifying him who I am.

He nods in apology before concentrating back on his task.

“NO!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!” comes a yell, as they pick up the girl’s limp body.

I rush over to Sulaimaan where he struggles to suppress the trashing young man.

“NO!!” Faizal screams again, pushing Sulaimaan away with raging force.

Stumbling over his own feet, Faizal makes a dash for Lubna.

Sulaimaan grabs his collar firmly, tugging slightly.

Swearing, Faizal jabs his elbow backward, but Sulaimaan sees it coming.

Stepping backward to the side, he pulls at Faizal’s collar again, successfully dropping him this time.

“LEAVE HER ALONE!!!” Faizal screams as he falls.

In a flash Sulaimaan is on him, but against the young man’s blinding rage, he’s a moment too slow.

I pull his hands forcefully away from Sulaimaan’s throat, entrapping them strongly above his head.

“LEAVE ME ALONE!! I WILL F#%@&$* KILL YOU!!”

“Doc!!” I call to one of the staff, cupping my hand in front of my mouth.

“GET OFF ME!! I WILL KILL YOU, I SWEAR!! DON’T TOUCH HER YOU #@$%&^*!!!” he screams hoarsely, fighting against mine and Sulaimaan’s hold.

Two men hurry over to us.

“PTSD,” mutters the one as he holds down Faizal’s arm.

Expertly the other pushes a needle through his skin, holding it for a second before withdrawing.

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*****

“What about witnesses?” asks the slim police officer.

“Those kids over there,” replies Sulaimaan, indicating to the group of young adults.

“Don’t know if they’ll be very helpful though. They seem pretty perturbed,” I say.

“Usually there is someone who handles everything better than the others,” Sulaimaan says, looking at me.

“I work in the medical field, not the brave guys field,” I say, shrugging.

Sulaimaan grins a little.

I follow the three policemen, walking some space behind them so as not to get in their space.

We reach the group of youngsters and I see that some of them have fallen off to sleep, some are still crying, some are silent, and the rest are talking quietly to each other.

I spot my son sitting a little away from them all, his back against the wall, knees drawn to his chest.

His head is leaned back, gaze focused on the sky, a blank look on his face.

I watch him for a moment, knowing exactly what might be going through his mind, knowing how much harder this must be for him than the rest of the kids.

I walk up to him, slightly unsure as to what would be the best way to deal with the situation.

“Rameez,” I say.

He looks at me.

“Dad, please can we go home?” he pleads desperately.

I sigh inaudibly.

‘Sulaimaan is not going to be happy about this,’ admonishes a voice inside my head.

‘I’ll deal with him later,’ I reply to it silently.

“Come on,” I say, offering Rameez my hand.

He takes it, stands up and runs a hand through his hair tiredly.

Couple minutes later we’re in the car.

Strapping in my seat belt, I drive off.

Rameez doesn’t say a word at all. He simply stares out the window, dumb silent.

That’s why, when I take a turn and he yells out, abruptly breaking the silence, I startle considerably.

Slamming the breaks, my heart skips a beat.

“THERE!!” Rameez yells again, pointing. “DAD, GO!! THAT CAR!!”

Post Update

Hey. Hi. Hello. Salaam. Bonjour. Salut. Ciao. Ahoj. Bog. Marhaba. Ola. 😀

I’ve got some not so great news. But sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do and this is one of those times. So I’m just here to let you guys know that there won’t be any posts till I don’t know when (probably just for the next two weeks) because I need to study and meet my deadlines and goals for this year. I feel so bad to do this (honestly yall have no idea) but I’ve really got to. I hope you guys will understand and anticipate my return patiently. Please remember me and all those writing exams in your duaas.

Much Love,

Troubled Illusioner. ❤

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One Hundred and Fifty Eight

As narrated by Faizal:

“Someone’s very happy today,” I murmur, kissing her neck.

Lubna tries to hide her grin but fails terribly.

Letting go of her I shut the door and together we head upstairs to my bedroom.

“C’mon, spill it then!” I say, looking at her expectantly.

“No,” she giggles. “I’m not telling you just yet.”

“Why not?” I ask.

“It’s a surprise,” she replies.

“You know how I hate surprises,” I mumble, playing with her hair.

“Hmmm.. since when?” she asks mischievously. “I mean, your whole birthday party in two days is going to be a surprise.”

“When am I going to find out?” I ask, the curiosity killing me.

“On your birthday,” she replies, nuzzling her face into my chest. “No more questions now. Less talking more cuddling!”

“It better be a good surprise,” I say, tugging her closer to me.

“Oh it is, trust me,” she whispers, that contagious grin making its way onto her face again.

*****

They say that the soul cannot live without love.

That life without love is like a year without Summer, a tree without fruit, a bird without wings, a book without words. That life without love is no life at all.

It is like a colourless garden – life without love – where the roses are wilted and the flowers drooped. Where the grass begs for rains and the soil yearns to be tossed. Where the trees bear no sweet fruits and the birds sing no happy songs.

Without love the heart simply beats, a steady rhythm of a monotone thud. But with love, the heart is alive, racing at a thundering speed unbeatable.

Without love, man is a mere being, an empty vessel, a cold dead fire. But with love, man thrives, crossing boundaries unthinkable, achieving goals inconceivable and reaching heights improbable.

At each stage of life, this feeling of love is different yet entirely the same. And it is only a lucky few who experience it, through each stage, in every form.

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*****

Flashback:

Two year old Faizal waddles in his vest, press studs undone, out the door to where his father is loading his luggage into his matte black Range Rover.

“Where daddy go?” asks Faizal, his brand new Nintendo held securely in his chubby hand.

“Daddy go to Spain. Daddy bring Za loooot presents if Za be a good boy!”

“Yaaaayyyy! Presents!!” claps little Faizal. “Daddy bring Za presents!”

And sure enough, 2 weeks later, presents was what he got. Lots and lots of presents. The best, most unique available.

It wasn’t long thereafter that Faizal walked out of their massive mansion, a little steadier on his feet now, this time to see not only his father, but his mother too, off.

Once again, promised to be back soon with lots of presents, little Za waved happily as his parents drove off leaving him with the nanny.

But as he grew older, like all children, he grew smarter.

At 4 years he threw tantrums to go with his parents. In return he was given his favourite ice cream.

At 8 years he put on his unhappiest face as he watched his parents leave. In return he was given a brand new Ipod, despite already owning an uncountable amount.

At 12 years he hid cleverly behind the seat, only to be found before his parents even left. In return he was nonchalantly scolded and then given the keys to the bowling room his father had built on his request.

At 16 years he rebelled, anger behind his actions and bitterness in his words. In return he was promised a trip to Anfield as soon as his father got back. In addition, atop his silken pillowcase lay a box containing the just released iPhone 5.

And so the years passed with Faizal growing up being given everything he wanted, except that which he needed.

You see, money can’t buy you love.

Money can’t buy you a home cooked meal made with careful measurements of care and affection.

Money can’t buy you the feeling of security that comes with a mother’s gentle embrace and a father’s kind words of advice.

Money. can’t. buy. you. love.

And when you don’t have something, when you don’t have something you want, something that all your friends have, something that you get fleeting glimpses of but can’t quite grasp, best believe you’re going to look for it. You’re going to make it your mission to find it. You’re going to search high and low, with no guarantee that you’re looking in the right place…

It was at 19 that Faizal first saw Lubna.

Lubna – the girl who loved him so completely, that it almost made up for the years he’d lived without love.

Both of them coming from the same background, they clicked immediately. They didn’t just love each other. They understood each other.

Hesitant at first, unsure how to deal with this new, overwhelming feeling, Faizal trod carefully.

But when it overtook him completely, snatching his self control and making his heart feel like it would burst, he stopped looking elsewhere.

He stopped looking for he had found it.

In Lubna, Faizal had finally found love.

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*****

Present:

“Holy shit! It looks amazing!” I gasp in awe, looking around open-mouthed.

“Do you like it?” asks Lubna, grinning up at me.

“I love it! Thank you, gorgeous!” I say hugging her tightly.

“You’re welcome,” she replies happily, hugging me back.

I take a walk though the huge yard, Lubna tagging along, looking in admiration at all the little details.

When Lubna had requested that I allow her to plan my 21st birthday bash, I had immediately accepted.

She had somehow managed to not give away even the slightest hint despite me trying numerous times to get something out of her.

It was only this morning when she knocked on my door, an invite to my own party in hand, did I get my first clue.

“You planned a Harry Potter theme?!” I had yelled jubilantly.

“I did,” she replied, grabbing my hand. “Shall we go down and see?”

Bed hair and pj shorts, too eager to wait any longer, I had followed her down and outside to the yard.

“You even planned games according to the theme?! You’re a genius!”

Lubna laughs heartily and I turn to her with a smile.

“I love it!” I say, wrapping my arms around her waist. “Everything’s perfect.”

“Like me?” she asks, grinning cheekily.

“Just like you,” I reply before kissing her.

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As narrated by Rameez:

“Happy Birthday, boss,” I say, handing Faizy his gift.

“Thanks bro,” he replies. “Glad you came.”

I almost didn’t…

I wish I didn’t…

It had been a battle.

A battle against my nafs.

And I had struggled sorely, my mind and heart thrashing wildly against each other, fighting for dominance.

Before today, I had come far. I may have not reached the levels I had aspired to, and I may have slipped many a time too, but I was definitely not at square one anymore.

To a certain extent, there is now a sense of conscious within me, a soft voice that speaks up when sin calls ever so sweetly.

I’ve moved from nafs-ul-ammarah, the controlling nafs, the ruling nafs, the nafs that sins blatantly, remorselessly, over and over again with no amount of guilt, to nafs-ul-lawwamah. Nafs-ul-lawwamah, the nafs that initially feels simply a prick of guilt at doing sin, a prick that grows – that should grow – to a poke, then a prod, and eventually a push, an overwhelming sense of shame and embarrassment. This stage is the battle field. The hard ground. The real test that you must pass to reach the stage of nafs-ul-mutmainnah.

And I, am struggling.

The battle is too fierce.

My feet keep slipping and my shield has been knocked too many a time, offering me less and less protection.

The soldiers are too strong, the swords too sharp and the combat too forceful.

I am struggling.

Struggling to reach my spiritual goals, to stay on track, to stay focused.

Struggling to keep what should be on my mind, on my mind, and to let go of my past habits.

Struggling to stay consistent, to stay sincere.

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As Faizy’s best friend renders an eloquent and humorous speech, I barely hear him.

My eyes watch Faizy from behind, my mind travelling at a deathly speed, comparing myself to him, my life, to his.

My eyes follow his actions.. I watch as he laughs, as he frowns, as he hides his face in his hands, grinning.

I watch his arm coming around, pulling his girlfriend closer, gently squeezing her shoulder.

I watch her face turn, her cheeks tinge a soft shade of red, her smile reach her eyes.

I watch their lips touch briefly, their eyes shining into each others’.

And that’s when it clicks.

That is what he has and I don’t.

That is the missing puzzle piece.

Love.

That kind of love.

*****

The guests begin leaving and feeling a strange sense of weariness, I decide to head home too.

Going around I greet a couple guys and girls that I know and by then most of the crowd has left.

The remaining of us follow Faizy to the front terrace where I end up mingling a little longer.

The first time I see the black E-class Mercedes cruising past, I brush it off, continuing my conversation with the guy next to me.

But it triggers something within me… a sort of uneasy feeling.

And when it discreetly drives past the second time, my uneasiness grows ten fold.

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I look at it carefully this time.

The windows are tinted an illegal shade, making it impossible to see inside.

I glance around, trying to gauge if anybody else has noticed.

But deep in jovial chatter, the car manages to drive pass yet another time, unobserved.

My heart is thudding faster and my brain has set off alarm bells which now blare ceaselessly.

“Dude, you alright?” asks the guy next to me.

“That car…” I say urgently, my eyes scanning the road. “Something’s not right.”

“What car? Man, you partied too hard, bro,” he says, laughing. “Faizy must have -”

Oh god! Faizal! 

I look around wildly, trying to find him.

I spot him further in front, walking with his best friend to his left, his girlfriend to his right.

“I’ll be right back,” I mutter, rushing towards the trio a few paces ahead.

My timing isn’t right.

As for theirs, it’s perfect.

The car takes the bend at breakneck speed, tyres squealing as they try to grip the road.

The window is rolled down this time, but when they pause for a split second, directly alongside the trio, all I see is the barrel of steady-held pistol.

Everything slows down.

I open my mouth to scream, to warn the trio up ahead.

GET DOWN!!  

But no sound comes out.

It’s too late, anyway.

The car is already speeding off again, before it even really stopped.

I hear Faizal yell, an acidic throat-ripping yell, as he falls to his knees.

“Lubna!!” he screams. “LUBNA!!”

Overflowing with shock, his voice echoes in the night, slicing through my heart.

My body finally regains its senses.

I walk, unsure if I really am walking, forward.

But the moment she comes into full view, crimson blood seeping through her white silk dress, I stop.

My body freezes again, my mind taking me back to a forever haunting memory.

Flashback:

The man with the gun is Scar.

It happens too fast, there is no hesitation, giving me no time to look away.

One minute the victim is a man.

The next, he is a bleeding corpse.

As for me?

I am a robot, controlled by troubled illusions…

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