The Wrong Crowd

July 7, 2011
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Hussein Ali woke up that morning with an unexplainable feeling. “I feel like something is going to happen,” he said, glancing towards his wife, Naila, who was across the room, getting ready for the day. She smiled and did not respond. Hussein knew very well that mentioning pessimistic feelings in front of Naila was a bad idea. She was a superstitious woman, and believed that speaking of the worst caused it to happen. He was sure however, that Naila was feeling the same way as he was.

Hussein’s life had completely changed during the past three weeks. He was walking down the streets of Karachi at noon one day and saw a group of a few unusual looking men riding on motorcycles. Hussein’s past knowledge and experience let him know that these were the wrong kind of guys. Their clothes were all black, walked as if they were a brotherhood, and had this chilling gist to them. He knew he had to run away from them the second he saw them. “Do not do anything. Don’t smile, don’t make eye contact, don’t greet them,” he said to himself. He turned into the nearest alley to escape them. Wrong decision.

The motorcyclists turned into the alley just like him. Hussein started walking faster. He wanted to go far away. He did not want to build acquaintance with such people. So he sighed of relief when he saw that the alley had ended and there was a door he could enter to escape. The motorcyclists certainly will not try entering the door, he thought. Wrong again.

When Hussein reached the door, it was jammed and he couldn’t get through. The motorcyclists saw him facing the problem, and they stopped!

“Salam, brother,” said one man, before climbing off his bike, “need a hand there?” Hussein was stuck, and he had no choice. He refused apologetically, saying that he would be able to handle the situation. The gang was determined however, and insisted on giving a hand, which is exactly what they did. And within the time that they figured out how to open the door, the inquiring man got to know everything about Hussein; who he was, where he lived, where he worked, how many kids he had, and everything else. It was the official definition of being stuck!

Hussein was scared out of his mind and remained careful for the next few days. A week passed until he could feel the first feeling of relief when he realized that they had not yet shown up at his doorstep. One Tuesday night though during the next week, he was at the drugstore when one of the men reappeared. Fear rushed through Hussein’s body when the man came and talked to him as if he was one of the people of the group. When the conversation ended, the man gave a deep look and said, “Gulshan, block 1. I want to see you there, tomorrow night,” and he walked away. Hussein could not breathe! He ran home, locked the door, made sure the kids were asleep, and then poured his heart out to Naila. He told her everything; how the men found him, what dangers an acquaintance with them entailed, and what they could possibly do. Talking to Naila was just so easy for him. He could tell her anything and she would understand. That was what he loved about her.

The night that passed was a long one. Hussein thought about his poor friend, Ahmed, who became associated with these kind of people. One night he disappeared, and still, no one knows what happened to him. And then of course, there was Haroon who told them he did not want to be one of them. The gang kidnapped his son.

Hussein had no choice. He had a wife he loved, and three children. He had to live for them. He had to be well for them. He could not get in the bad books of these gangsters. So he went, all the way to Gulshan, and found the guys just at the beginning of block 1. They all met with Hussein like a group of old buddies, and that killed him internally. For a while, everyone just chatted, but then the real deal began.

“So Hussein,” one said, “We’ve heard you work for J&B Pharmacy. Good for you that we have found something that might just interest us,” and the man from the gang winked. Hussein knew they wanted an illegal drug, and he was proved right when they voiced their demand. Hussein had been working as one of the senior pharmacists for the past five years and had access to what they wanted. In the past, several people had asked him to supply them with cocaine, marijuana and others. He would refuse immediately. This situation was completely different though, and to make it worse for him, right after telling him all that, they turned on their motorcycles, and drove away. Hussein wanted to cry. And that’s exactly what he did. All his life, he was against this kind of stuff, and here he was, a husband and a father, stuck in a situation where he was being asked to go against all his morals. He decided though, that he would face whatever he had to. He wasn’t going to give in to such forces of evil. Hussein mentally prepared during the few days he had to become adamant in defending himself.

The morning when he woke up and told his wife that he felt something was to happen, was the same day the gangsters expected him to supply them with what they wanted. He had a plan. He was going to hide in his parents abandoned old home for the night and would not go to Gulshan where the gangsters would be waiting for him.

When the clock struck six pm, he left his workplace and grabbed a bus to the house, and left his own car at the office, wanting to deceive the men. The ride to his old home was not too long, and after getting off at the right stop, he walked quickly through the dark, shaded alleys to the house. When he reached the old residence, he felt a bit relieved, but he was still uncertain. He prayed his daily invocation, and then finally got to look around. The house was extremely dusty and it was hard to walk around since most of the lights were not working. On top of that, with all the pressure Hussein felt, it was hard for him to be alone in a big house. Everything he saw inside was dark, old and depressing and made him think about possible circumstances. Hussein became as scared as could be. He tried to divert his mind. He thought about his kids, their beautiful smiles and the lovely moments he had spent with them. He could not leave out Naila from his thoughts either. His heart pinged thinking of her and all he wanted to do was go home and talk to her and their children.

Time passed by, and it was finally 11 a.m., the time the gangsters were expecting him. The hour that passed by till midnight was the hardest hour of Hussein’s life. Every minute that passed by was hard for him. He thought the gangsters would break a window, jump into his hiding place, and finish him right there. Or even worse, he was afraid that they would harm Naila and the kids. He was scared to call his wife, scared that the guys might track him down. Even the softest of sounds made him jump. The moving tree leaves, hooting owls and the ticking sound of the clock created more suspense and tension.

It was 1 a.m. There was no sign of movement in the neighborhood by that time. He wanted to go home and be with his family. He waited for another hour, and made an emotional prayer to God. He prayed to keep him safe, he spoke of all his sins and asked for a new life. He cried. “Oh God, if you save me tonight, I will submit my life to you. I promise.” Hussein finished his prayer, wiped his tear and started to walk out, with Naila and the kids in mind. It was calm. No one was around. “Relief,” he said to himself. His prayers had been answered. He was safe.

Or so he thought.

“Bang!” A trigger was pulled.

Naila woke up in the morning by a loud banging on the door. “It must be Hussein.” She smiled.

Opening her door, she found there to be no one but a huge duffel bag. On the top there was a note. “Sorry, we just had to!” it said. The color drained off of Naila’s face, as she unzipped the duffel bag to see her beloved husband, drenched in blood, completely still. Naila fell to the floor. She drenched herself in tears for Hussein. And she drenched herself in his blood, just to reincarnate him in some impossible way.

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This article has 7 comments. Post your own now!

TheSilverLaurel said...
Jul. 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm
this is great, the ending was unexpected, but could have been written better. my only criticism! keep up the great work!
xelawriter97 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 21, 2011 at 7:46 pm
This was pretty good!!! The ending was intense!! Only critic - you used the word "drenched" a lot in the last paragraph. I know you might have been trying to make it more suspenseful by using the same word - I do that too - but it takes away from the story (I've come to learn) and the flow of the sentences. Otherwise... great job! :-)
emanmkhan said...
Jul. 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm
Excellent work! I also love the setting: Karachi, Pakistan (my mom was born there). The imagery was so vivid and the intense emotions rang vibrantly throughout this piece. Five stars for you!
Delictious said...
Jul. 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm
I thought it was very well written. The ending was chilling, I mean who has too be sick enough to leave a note saying that they just had too! That reminds me of a girl in high school who gets caught sneaking out, "We just had too!" With a grin on her face. Not someone who just killed a man....

Very nice though, I liked it :D
WritingSpasms said...
Jul. 17, 2011 at 7:29 pm
This is really good and really intense. I liked it! Keep on writing :)
CarrieAnn13 said...
Jul. 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm
Excellent work!  It was emotionally powerful and well-written. :)
Tooba said...
Jul. 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm
Powerful read. 
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