It was a Saturday, a very cool Saturday.
Qamber is enthralling in the winters. The mornings mesmerize me when the calmness of it fuses with the fog and cool air. The sun begging the darkness to go away, the sound of the wind which I hear with all my senses and the aroma of hot tea in my grandmother’s kitchen make me want to diffuse in the morning charm and be a part of it. Qamber is one of the towns in Qamber-Shahdadkot district with almost four hundred thousand people near the city of Larkana. The streets are filled with silence and slumber at the dawn. I had seen few people, mostly old in the mosque at Fajr prayers whenever my bed had not firmly caught me during the last month. My business was in Larkana, conducting financial audit of a national bank. On weekends I leave my team staying at the hotel to enjoy Saturdays and Sundays with my grandparents in Qamber. It is a drive of around forty minutes. My grandfather insisted that he sends me a car to pick me since the road joining Larkana and Qamber is not nearer to safe. I have heard many instances of robberies, kidnapping and even murders. But the facts had not actually created many fears in me, and so I was always considering it worthwhile to use the van that runs along the route. But I had to lie to my grandparents that I had an official vehicle for travelling. The way is mostly farms all along with a village at about half the distance. We had always stopped at that village for tea and pakoras when all of us family members travelled together in school vacations. It was a solitary road all the way and traffic moved in both directions at high speeds. Some branches turned left or right to other villages kilometres away from the main road. Those faraway lights of the villages at night used to haunt me when I was a kid. Faraway things have always haunted me. I like nearness. That fear of mine is so childish. Sometimes I have unfathomable fears and sometimes hopes, the mere thought of which enraptures me. I remember dreaming about a faraway planet inhabited by us, the humans but on the verge of destruction. We were being evacuated in some sort of space-ships. The last space-ship left without some of us including me and never came back. The hopelessness was even more than the joy I had found on realizing it was a dream. Those faraway lights made me an object of despair. The vast emptiness of farms before them made those lights unreal. They didn’t exist I had imagined as a kid. If you travelled that road at night you will see them after every few kilometres. Hopelessness is even more terrifying then the death it self. Perhaps it is a virtual death of an entity innate in a human heart and an element of his soul. Nearness, be it in time or space made me less fearful and still does. Some fears never leave you. They flow in your veins with the blood, even after their birth-time , the childhood has vanished and the most euphoric situations or the most intense discipline of your thoughts or the most logical of science’s theories do not help you live alone from them. The fear of unknown continues to exist. Besides, what have I seen in this great planet earth? What have I experienced so far? Have I known those treacherous paths of mountains which leave thousands of adventurers trying to cross them dead? Have I seen those particles of sand which are heated by the mightiest power of sun in the colossal vastness and loneliness of the deserts? Do I even have imagined the experiences of those whale-hunters of nineteenth century? People who haven’t seen anything deserve the fear. Not the time but the adventure of life separates you from your fears. Caught in the battlefield of such thoughts I realized we had touched the outer most area of the town and just passed the first two hotels inside the town gate. Now it is important that I tell you about how the hotels in Qamber look like. They are basically dhaabas. The hotels in outer side of the town are large with many seats inside the main building with a not-so-large television in the centre for viewing the most famous Indian movies. Outside there are benches placed for people to enjoy the bonfire kind of arrangement in winters.People sit in their own groups of two,three. Most of the people ride motorcycles and there are only few gas stations. The main part of the town itself is very congested and extremely busy at daytime. The hotels in the main town are small and very hot in summers. But one thing is common, be it summer or winter or outer or inner hotels, the delicious tea. The van dropped me at the stop and I started walking towards my grandparents house.
The Saturday morning I woke up at half past four. I was amazed at my ability to wake up early whenever in Qamber. Grandmother and grandfather were still asleep. I came out of the room on the first floor. It was my uncle’s room and he was out of town on business. I went straight to the roof and lied down on the bed placed there for it was used in summers by my uncle. The sight of the sky, the diamond studded black cloth, was unbelievably beautiful. The stars were so many and so close. It was perfection. That was what God has spoken of in Quran. My sight travelled millions of miles and came back without even a hint of an error in the master crafting of the roof of earth. As moments built on moments I remained oblivious to the cold wind blowing the very soul of my body and my jacket was no more effective.
As I stood up, I heard a noise of brick falling on the ground. I turned back and froze, froze to half death.
A black and red cloud of dust was forming in the middle of the space. It gradually took a shape, a shape of a human body, a woman. Slowly the cloud of dust grew towards the ground and in form of a robe. Then the cloud grew upwards to about the height of six feet and took form of waist then chest and shoulders and a head full of hairs which were waist long. I could not see the face. It was hidden. I felt like I was wearing no clothes. I was ice cold. I could not move my eyelid while the cloud took various shapes. Now it was a complete woman in a red and black robe with whitest hands I have ever seen. No more skin was visible. My eyes saw what I had never dreamt of in my wildest dreams. Closing my eyes was beyond my power. In fact, any signalling of my neurons, any movement of my parts, any flow of blood , any beat of my heart was beyond my power. The blood had stopped. It was motionless state of inscrutable fear. It was a foreboding of death. The cloud of dust in the shape of a woman diffused in the thin air and re-emerged as was in its original shape. I saw it turning into an axe. It diffused again. Some ten thousand pins were being inserted into my body and then plucked out forcefully. The cloud was still there, now in the shape of a man , very short man wearing a pirate’s hat and carrying a sword. But again there was no face, just the body. I was estranged at myself for still breathing. With the man diffusing in the wind, my consciousness gave up and i fell on the ground and the stars were at the iris of my eyes……
That was a fear of things nearer than those faraway lights which had never made me lose my power to blink.