Short Story 2018 Longlist, Hamid Khan

Aahil

Lying hopelessly on the floor, Aahil speaks to the love of his life, Hibbah. He reveals the darkened corner of his heart, the ghastly feud between him and his half-brother, Rahman over their deceased parents’ will. Although his soul refuses to unveil his physical relations with Layla, with whom he had been spending nights. Hibbah, a devout Islamic, asks Aahil to pray as much as he can, and Aahil agrees, but he doesn’t pray like always. Despite his illegitimate relationship with Layla, Aahil truly loves Hibbah and dreams of a life with her. He has unwillingly divided his love and lust. Even though he meets Layla twice a month, Aahil always returns regretfully after an orgasmic evening, he wants to let go, but something inside him just doesn’t allow. Hence, the regret vanishes with a new morning sunrise. Hibbah, unaware of his shameful reluctance, always prays for his wellbeing. Aahil usually talks about his childhood memories, his desire to kiss Hibbah, and his grandmother who mysteriously disappeared one day. He loved his grandmother more than anyone. Now Hibbah means the universe to him.

One intimate evening, Aahil breaks down in front of Layla, and informs her about his relationship with Hibbah. In a state of complete devastation, Layla feels guilty of loving and allowing Aahil to exploit her emotionally, and physically. To save his own skin, Aahil urges Layla to stay away from him. He leaves her hostel room, and rushes back to his single room apartment where he finds Rahman accompanied by several other gentlemen. Rahman and Aahil get involved in a heated argument where both threaten to kill each other. The argument ends when Aahil gets punched in the face by Rahman’s friend. Frustrated of being physically wrecked, lying on the ground, Aahil yearns to be with Hibbah but somehow manages to awaken the devil inside, yet again. He hurriedly walks back to Layla’s hostel, apologizes, and follows the heinous ritual. 

Aahil returns back home and cries his heart out. He misses Hibbah’s presence and blames himself for cheating her since so long. He lies in his bed, uneasy, the devil inside is at ease. The next minute, Aahil decides to pray. He prays after a good long gap of 2 years. Sitting comfortably on the prayer mat, Aahil finds peace and forgiveness. He also finds consciousness, as he faintly remembers being followed by an old woman. 
The next morning, Hibbah is making tea for him. They both enjoy a subtle lazy Sunday. The way he makes her laugh, the things she does for him, makes Aahil realize her worth in his life. With tears in his eyes, he promises Hibbah to marry her very soon. He also vows to himself to never contact Layla and keep his dark side a secret. Days go by, Layla dejectedly waits for Aahil’s return, Rahman plans to do something horrific, Hibbah and Aahil celebrate the feeling of being in love. Aahil didn’t pray after that night, he still continues to disbelieve in the supreme power. 

It’s windy, and the night is pitch black. Aahil has a special surprise for Hibbah, he’s taking her out for dinner. Aahil wants to leave as early as possible, he’s restless and excited. He’s finally going to make a marriage proposal tonight. Hibbah, unaware of Aahil’s urgency, wishes to pray before leaving the house. Aahil has to wait for a few more minutes. Aahil is taking a sip of lemon juice and the doorbell rings. He walks toward the door with usual pace and opens it. He finds Rahman and Layla standing outside, until they push Aahil inside and loosely close the door. Layla is loudly blabbering about Aahil’s relationship with her, while Rahman and Aahil indulge themselves in a fist fight. Aahil manages to grab an iron rod and hits Rahman right on his head. Hibbah, doesn’t break her prayer despite of all the wicked disturbances. Rahman is almost dead as Aahil continues his assault. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a bullet shot is fired. There’s a deep pause. Aahil stares at Layla. Layla looks at the door.

Rahman is unconscious. Hibbah is lifelessly lying on the floor, bleeding from her head. With a hope that Hibbah’s alright, Aahil slips yet manages to rush towards her. He’s holding Hibbah in his arms, she’s dead. Aahil is in a state of shock, in disbelief. Until his eyes sight an old woman standing at the door, with a gun in her hand. The old woman struggles to walk inside. Without a second thought, he attacks the old lady with an iron rod and her reflexes fail to shoot him. He snatches the gun from her hand, and as he’s about to shoot, he sights the deep scar on her forehead. She’s the same woman who disappeared years ago, his grandmother. Rahman insanely laughs and reveals about the old lady being disowned by Aahil and Rahman’s father. While Aahil is shivering, trembling, and crying, Layla runs away. Rahman discloses the hatred of their grandmother towards Aahil and his family. She adopted Rahman when his parents died. Rahman’s terrible laughter is accompanied by his grandmother’s villainous chuckle, while Aahil is numb. He gazes at the cold corpse of Hibbah, the girl he loved. Within a blink of an eye, Aahil pulls the trigger and shoots them both. He falls on his knees, trying to move Hibbah, hoping for a response. Hibbah is gone. Aahil lies down in front of her. Her soulless eyes devoid of glimmer, her radiant face lacking the inevitable shine. Aahil loses himself in her eyes. He sees a bright day, a day which passed away few months ago. Aahil asks Hibbah to choose between him and God, and Hibbah refuses to answer.

Tears begin to flow from his eyes. He softly murmurs, ‘you could’ve moved, you should’ve moved, now you can’t move.’
Hibbah’s submission was to something supreme, to God. But there was a reason for her submission. Aahil was the sole reason.
Aahil lifts himself up, holds the gun in his hand. His eyes shut, he sees Hibbah. Her voice echoes in his mind.

‘The greatest gift of God isn’t me, but the life you’re living. If you can’t be thankful to him for what you have, then you shouldn’t complain about what you lose. But life should go on, and it’ll go on, with or without me.’

Aahil throws away the gun, and kisses Hibbah.

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