The Final Conquest

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Perched on my favorite rocking chair in the wooden porch of my small house, I was swaying back and forth. A backward stroke of the chair, and dark shadows engulfed my charcoal skin. The magic of physical laws brought it back to its initial position and sparkling sunshine made my face glisten. Darkness after light… Light after darkness…

I closed my eyes to relish my victory. Years of protests, neck-breaking efforts, and innumerable insults had borne fruit. We were free at last. Screens of every gadget I owned were live with a single news.

“The feminist movement has destroyed misogyny once and for all. The last group resisting the change surrendered yesterday night after a heated debate between the two leading parties ended unanimously in the favor of women.”

It was a bittersweet moment for me as a thousand disturbing images flashed across my eyes.

Beautiful feminine features made hideous by the pettiness of male ego. Uncountable pregnancies aborted forcefully and an even greater number of forced pregnancies. People tearing one girl’s scarf and forcing it on another. Glass ceiling, domestic abuse, honor killings, acid throwing, marital rape, sexist comments, and varying shades of sexual harassment. I had seen it all, experienced it all, and fought it all.

It was now a decade ago when one of my male colleagues had said it in defense of his gender but the low blow still stung me. We were having our usual lunch break discussions about the increased surfacing of rape case. He said, “If somebody has a key and they find a keyhole, they insert it in there. That is natural.”

I’d wanted to smack his deplorable face but I acted exactly how my gender did when angered and triggered; calmly but sarcastically. “That means if I find a bat somewhere, I can hit your balls real hard with it because you know it’d be very natural too,” was my tart retort.

Looking back at it, I was burning with anger at the audacity of that piece of sh** when a small crowd disturbed my solitude by blocking the sun. There were other lights though — flashes and cameras. “Ma’am we want to interview you.” Journalists! I thought.

“Go ahead!” I relented.

“Do you think men are your enemy?” asked a kind looking bespectacled man. His glasses were slipping down his nose after every other second.

“No!” I declared, “My biggest supporter throughout the movement had been a man. In fact, it was his brilliant idea that proved to be the stepping stone of our success.”

“Do you mind sharing that secret with us?” he asked visibly thrilled at the opportunity of asking me questions and even more so at getting prompt responses.

“I would love to,” I replied, “It’s not a secret, really. Do you know how the biggest reform came when men began supporting our cause and safeguarding our rights?” I saw him nodding vehemently, which was a dangerous risk, considering the condition of his horn-rimmed glasses.

“The man I am referring to had advised me to teach the womenfolk to raise feminist sons and that I believe did the trick. The opposing party called us whores and the poor men who stood for us were called impotent or gay. My great mentor used to say gays and impotent men are much better humans than these pathetic excuses of men who lack even basic decency I’d chop off my dick any day if it made me such an arrogant bastard.”

“You talk about your mentor a lot. Why didn’t you ever reveal his identity?” It was a different journalist this time.

“I didn’t want him to get hurt,” was my curt reply.

“Does him being a man bother you ever?” asked the guy with the slippery glasses. Good question, I thought. Something bothered me about my mentor but his gender was not it.

“No!” I replied, “Feminists believe in equality and not female Supremacy. We advocate humanity.”

They wanted to ask more questions, but I had had enough and thus excused myself. I retreated inside my home. I needed to talk to my mentor.

“Why am I a man?” He asked me.

“You know why,” I said evasively.

“No, I don’t,” he said, “Is it because the world wouldn’t listen to a woman?”

“No, not the world! The women wouldn’t have listened to another woman,” I admitted reluctantly.

“So you created a visage of a man who ‘helped’ you?” He said in a fake deep voice.

I nodded and said “The world had ingrained women to listen to men for so long. Therefore, I used our psychology to bring us some happiness. I could have saved them from men but how was I to protect them from themselves?” My eyes brimmed.

“It’s all right! You did great,” My reflection told me in a voice that was a distasteful mockery of Liam Neeson.

I smiled at it. No longer was he a figment of female imagination — a man who understood.

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Originally published on Medium

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In Context

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“A little context goes a long way.”

_ J. M. Barrie,

The Founder of Secret Literary Society (SLitS).

Written on the pale wall, the slogan greeted her on the first day of her job. She was standing in a dimly lit, narrow reception area. It was desperately in want of a receptionist as there were no visible directions about where she was supposed to go. She gathered her teal patterned muffler and covered her face as a protective response against her nerves, which were threatening to overcome her resolve for a yearning for the signature hustle and bustle of a London evening filled her. But there was only the mild noise filtering from the bar above to keep her company. Previous day’s events ran before her eyes like that of a play she had watched repeatedly.

She was clutching a letter in her hands that congratulated her on securing a position. A position which she had never applied for. But it incited her interest many degrees more than the prospect of engaging with an unknown family and educating their children. A tedious but also the only other means of earning for her. Curiosity coupled with the greed of being called the 1st woman to be selected for the work of such a unique nature motivated her. She looked at the letter again for reassurance. .

The SLitS Headquarters,

October 16th, 18____,

Ms. ______,

As per our previous correspondence, we offer you the said position. Consider this letter your official appointment. Please take note that you, under no circumstances, are to show this to anyone. If you want to decline, then burn the letters and speak no word about them. However, if you were to accept, then we request your presence at The SLitS Headquarter (basement of The 1888 Bar) today at sharp 20:00.

May the Power of Words shine over you!

Director,

Secret Literary Society.

(SLitS).

She ventured forward and after a few minutes located a spiral staircase leading deep into the building.


 

A year later

She was standing in the lavish garden of a grand mansion that she was to enter in due course. The paper in her gloved hands read,

“Story-telling is not mere escapism. It is more real than reality; truer than the truth.”

Chilling air cut through despite her heavy corset, abundantly ruffled bustle skirt, and a copious amount of hosiery. Her ample bosom peeked out of the sensuous V-neck of her bodice, which was tighter than the pursed lips of her mother, when she lost her temper. A Gainsborough hat covered her curls, except for a few strands that were let loose purposefully. While her figure was plump in all the right places, her face — if not flattered with hair — heavily inclined towards corpulence.

She looked about her anxiously. It had taken her more than the standard 3 days to avail the invitation to this ball. She had almost lost hope, except in her line of work, one did not have the luxury of giving up. She sighed and threw back her shoulders before she entered the royal venue with a lady-like gait she had been practicing for a month.

Blood-red carpet covered the floor of the gigantic hall. Draping the 7 feet tall windows, the satin curtains in a shade of deep burgundy shielded the room from the gloomy weather outside. Within a few moments, she had detected her target and was moving towards him but was hindered by her hostess. As guided by her mentor at the SLitS headquarter, she fended off the emergency by cutting her off mid-dialogue without appearing curt or disregarding in the least.

She noticed that the night was advancing fast. Soon the mad chaos of colliding bodies in the jolly ritual called dance will ensue. It would be impossible to get hold of her target then. She decided that it was time to make her move. But —

“A woman of exceptional beauty in a room full of prospective grooms, interested not in even one of them only falls short in terms of suspicion to a handsome bachelor, with a large income and handsome disposition yet who was not pursued by a string of women,” said a velvety, almost intoxicating voice.

She stopped dead in her tracks. Her eyes closed in a gesture of frustration, not unlike someone who was caught in the midst of performing an illegal deed. With great difficulty, she brought herself to face the watchful eyes under the drooping upper lids of this man of extraordinary eminence.

He was towering her 5 ft. 4” figure by a good 8 inches. Devoid of his wide-brimmed hat, sporting a tuft of curled hair neatly separated in a straight middle parting, and dressed in a silk frock coat of indescribable brown hue, he looked a character from the 17th century.

“Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde,” she curtsied and offered him her hand.

His Grecian features transformed utterly as he boomed with laughter and kissed her outstretched hand.

“It is odd you presented your left … ” He lost consciousness mid-sentence. Her backup had caught him and transferred him into another room before he had completed his fall.

By the time, Wilde came to his senses, a crucial piece of information had been exchanged between the 9th Marquees of Queens-berry and a charming lady who was never again seen in the same circle. It was an information that could char the name of a certain Lord Alfred Douglas for debauchery of inconceivable nature.


 

May 25th, 1895

“A few years and his work would have bestowed upon him success and popularity,” she told a mysterious man in black, “Why did we do this to him?”

“I may not have foreseen the level of injustice they perpetrated on him,” said the man but without even a shred of remorse in his voice. “Nonetheless” he added, “Our actions have only made him immortal.”

“Because that is our job,” she retorted, “We kill wordsmiths to immortalize them.”

The man had had enough. “His work is larger than his life and our sins,” he told the girl he had recruited a few years ago, “Besides,” he said adjusting his bowler hat on his head, “He isn’t dead, yet.”


 

A strange woman visited the most controversial prisoner of his time. What a scandal! thought everyone at the prison.

The powers that be had wanted to keep the whole affair a secret; thus, it was on every tongue like the other secrets of the literary world. Why was every great writer afflicted with misfortune? Why was there always a back-story about the best of storytellers? These were more than mere coincidences. Spicing up the lives of great writers was the job for which our protagonist had been hired!

“Why have you come here, dear lady?” questioned a prisoner whose glory and dignity had been drowned in a gong that still echoed “Shame!” “Shame!”

A veil covered the face of the woman in black, but he knew who she was. He looked down at the gloved hand more lethal than the most venomous serpent living in the depths of the African jungles.

“Apologizing will not absolve me or undo my deed,” she said in a sepulchral tone, “I want you to remember who you are irrespective of what happens in this dreadful place.”

She offered him her hand again. This time it was the right one.


 

De Profundis,” wrote the queer prisoner on a sheet of paper that night.

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Originally Published on Medium 

“A Life of Pretense” 

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I laugh a lot. People take me for a jolly person. it is rather sad that 90% of my giggles are to please my fellows only. I do not restrict my insincere show of emotions to laughing. I have cried for others too. Some of my tears were genuine, others? not so much! If I ever disclosed which was which, I would risk my credibility as a human being.

Heck! I have even pretended faith. Not a long time ago, I had been into madrasas and Majalis. I had been a part of congregational prayers more often than I would like to admit; it was all action-no feeling. The one emotion, however, that I truly felt is agitation. When anxiety hit me, I was alive.

I have pretended to be alive for several years. One day, I decided I should be able to feign death. Thus, knowing it would end up in a failure, I ventured forward. I went to bed and slept. 16 hours later, I was disturbed and forced out of my bed. I couldn’t tell them I was dead for that would kill the purpose. I persuaded a doctor to admit me to a hospital, but they didn’t declare me dead either. I knew in my heart I was more dead than alive but it was easier to pose life than the demise.

Descartes said, “I think; therefore I am” so I stopped thinking, and that robbed me of my anxiety. Now, no part of me was alive, and they continued to believe in my existence!

My final thought, which is a proof I had lived once; why is the world so apt at calling your bluff of dying but not of living?

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You Write Poetry, you’d Understand

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In that one poem I wrote,
You were the first word.
That entered my mind.

It started with you.
My poem, my masterpiece.
And then, the emotion had to subside.

Still, I meant you,
throughout
But you didn’t rhyme.

I searched for a synonym.
But what I meant,
Only you could define.

I decided to stick with you.
Pronounce you to fit the lines.
Poetry doesn’t always rhyme.

Then, you conquered it all.
Every sonnet, each couplet!
You were all I could write.

You can’t create poetry
With one-word vocabulary.
But to me, you sufficed.

It made perfect sense to me.
Journals filled with “you, you, you”
I had probably lost my mind.

Alas! you were a fucking entendre.
The wretched day, you told me that,
You turned into my biggest plight.

No poems, anymore, I write.
You were my only muse.
I realized that one dreary night.

Random Thursday Thought

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I wish I was someone else… anybody’d do except this person that I am. I wish I could craft like some of my friends do. Beautiful gifts they create out of random, most useless stuff. All I have ever done is destroy everything. Or I could clean like a washing machine or perhaps like a vaccum cleaner but heck… I can’t even clean like humans do.
I want to cook too. Like a chef or even better… like my mom. Yet, eating is the only art I know.
I wish I was not so tired always. I wish all the fantasies I have of completing some amazing projects turn into a reality. Peeling off vegetables, changing sheets, taking care of house decor…
Why is it so hard to get out of the bed? Some days I’d like to metamorphose… like that Kafkan Gregor. Is there anyone out there who will silently put their foot on me and whistle a bit… to cover the sound of my shrieks ?

Good Night! Sleep Tight!

The advancing night was scary,

I dreaded sleep, not the nightmares really

Opening eyes to another hopeless day

Was the thought that terrified me!

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Image Source: Sadequain’s Original Work at Frere Hall, Karachi

 

 

 

Tea Strength, Birthdays, and other Depressions

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When I was a kid, my dear mother ensured I stayed away from tea. I guess, feeding milk to their children is an inherent trait in mammalian mothers, which does not go away even when the child’s suckling days are over. Like any other good mom, she force fed me a glass of milk. Being a thankless turd, what I had on my plate never satisfied me. I made faces. “It smells,” I used to complain.

Besides worrying about my health, my poor Mama cared for my happiness. Thus, she added flavor to my essential dose of lactose. Terms such as Ovaltine, Cocoa Milk, Milo, Chocolate and Vanilla Milk entered my vocabulary and the ingredients holding these names, my body. I surrendered to my dairy-laden fate but still coveted my mother’s chai.

Then I grew up a little, and she allowed me a few drops- the ones I got for dunking my rusks in her precious tea. These scarce droplets transformed into a Doodh Patti, which after passing through various dilutions turned into my first cup of a strong tea. I was 14.

It only got worse after that. With every passing birthday, the tea granules increased while the whitening agent decreased. The concentration was according to my energy requirements.

It continued that way until I hit the quarter-century plateau. After that all went downhill — three cups of strong tea a day reduced to two moderate ones. I was growing soft!

Tea, my magical potion, gave me strength. I needed the strength to fight off the obstacles that came in the way of my dreams but at 25, I found out I had none! When you lose your aspirations, the extra stimulation doesn’t do you much good. It only fuels your depression.

There was no point in consuming an exuberant amount of tea, only to lay awake at night, resting against a pillow made from the wool of anxiety, under the blanket of melancholy. As a kid, I watched a lot of Popeye-The Sailor Man. It made me wonder had Olive died, would he still eat his Spinach to defeat Brutus. I don’t think he would and I am Popeye with no Olive in my life. Brutus hit me and I couldn’t care less.

Today is May 8th, my birthday. A long time ago, this day used to awaken dancing butterflies in my stomach. Now, the butterflies are dying so silently that I don’t even feel the urge to mourn for them. I’d rather drink my diluted tea. It won’t stimulate; just sustain. Indifference has prevailed!

Tell me a Story…

Hello peeps!

Now as my ‘about section’ will tell you, I am crazy for stories. I read them, write them, adore them, inhale them, exhale them… you get the idea! For me life was going this way until kismet decided to do me a favor, which given my history doesn’t happen too often, and I met this awesome woman, Midu Hadi, who shared my passion for stories.

Long story  short (see what I did there =P), we became friends. One thing led to another and now we are here to further our dreams that every story-enthusiast will share with us.

How?

The aim is to tell a story! This is as simple and as complicated as that. However, there are no rules. It can be prose, poem, art work, or anything. As long as it tells a story, it floats our boats. This makes it that easy and that hard. Okay, I should stop doing that. Here is the deal:

We will be sharing a story, every week with our lovely friends here but with a twist. I will give you a link of her story before sharing mine!

Read what Midu has to say

And then perhaps find out what happens…

When a Heart Fails

Once I had a brain,

With various thoughtful trains.

It housed a guy called Cerebrum,

Who was aplenty quarrelsome.

He was a big shot

And had important jobs.

Thanks to him,

The sounds made sense

The colors felt dense.

I talked, and could interpret

Without a lot of fret.

He also had a Maiden

Whom he called Cerebellum,

Who was the Master of pose!

Made my movements flow!

There were some other players too

Who mostly connected these two.

They also had in their control

All my actions I couldn’t patrol.

In short, they all performed!

Then I met your wretched form!

Kaboom! It was the big bang!

All over again but nothing had formed…

The house in my head was now a broken home.

It was an empty dome.

The gray matter

Turned into gooey batter.

And it leaked out as poison

At the slightest provocation!

I thought I’d die of this depression

Instead, I met a myocardial infarction!

P.S: Don’t forget to share what you think about it.

 

Why So Serious?

“Hi, doctor!” Jaz greeted Dr. Domestica. A poker face stared at him as she lowered her veil.

Duzan Domestica, however, had been too long in this line of business to miss why this green-skinned, strange looking girl was there in his clinic. Despite her emotionless face and heavy makeup, her smile lines were more than visible. Fanning out at the corner of her eyes were several small wrinkles resembling a cat’s whiskers or a crow’s feet. Then there were the horrible concaves bracketing her thick lips, almost conquering her nasolabial region. Duzan focused hard on her left cheek but was not sure what to make of it. He reflected for a while. Then, “Smile,” he sighed and issued the one command that only he could give without risking his life.

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As if waiting to do so all her life, Jaz gave him the brightest of smiles he had ever received. It indicated that she was in her happy place and probably knew that it was the last time she would be there because her smile was a classic clichéd one. The one that came straight from the heart or could illuminate the darkest of the hours, you know the magical one!

Duzan shook his head in despair. It was there alright — deep enough to house a million of microscopic entities or a very tiny grain — depending on which you are more likely to carry. She had the cursed symbol that alone could have destroyed her forever. She had a dimple!

“Is it that bad?” asked Jaz. Her eyes were moist because there was a lot of smoke in the dingy clinic of the damned doctor. Duzan, however, misinterpreted it to be tears of sadness.

He took a step backward from her and barked, “Hold the waterworks, please. I hate emotions. I will fix this for you but you must never do it again.”

“Do what?” asked Jaz, “The S-word?”

“Smile, laugh, giggle, snicker… nothing!” he told her, “Or else…”

“You are giving me the last stage treatment, huh?”

“I have to,” he said, “orders are orders.”


A few hours later Jaz emerged from “Domestica Cosmetica.” She was the same woman who had entered the loathsome glass building with only one exception — her face was now completely devoid of any line.

With Zac gone, she did not have any reason to smile anymore. Zac would probably be under some kind of genetic experiment at the moment that the West is notorious for, she thought, meanwhile I am stuck in the pathetic East aka the rat hole where women can’t smile.

“Women do not smile like we do,” A man on a large screen which were very common throughout the country was saying, “Their smile is a weapon more lethal than the most dangerous bomb you and I could ever invent.”

“What b*******!” Jaz checked herself just in time. She was about to scoff.

“Therefore, we suggest that all the women should pay a visit to Domestica Cosmetica and be free from the wretched signs once and for all,” the screen man concluded with a smile.

“And become a ticking time bomb the moment they dare to stretch their lips only a centimeter wider from their natural position,” Jaz muttered to herself.

She was very upset now. She missed her childhood, where all the sci-fi villainy belonged to her imagination and her mother played the role of an evil person by imposing certain rules. This real-life nefariousness was taking a toll on her nerves.

“If it got really difficult,” she told herself, “I will just laugh my worries out.”


Originally published on Medium

Read more about the siblings:

Their childhood — The Midday Adventures of Zac and Jaz

What happened to Zac — SPPRIG Testing Laboratory

SPPRIG Testing Laboratory

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“Natural selection,” the voice said, “is obsolete now.”

Zac was struggling to focus on the words that were resonating all around him. Despite having memorized them by heart, he had to listen to them daily because according to ADLTHood 101, he had yet to internalize the concept.

“After extensive research, it has been concluded that Nature has turned too soft in deciding what to keep and what to discard,” the words continued. “Therefore, We had to intervene.”

Zac had no idea who these We were. Neither any of his acquaintance knew. The only thing they were aware of was that We were important and right. There was no question about that. Zac was too much of a conformist to question who’s, how’s, and what’s of the system. He was not a rebel, at least not until he had met Aby!

“By our method, only the best will be allowed in this world,” the metallic voice summarized. “Misery will be eradicated, once and for all.” Zac had once again missed the point and he knew that We would know. He will have to attend this session again tomorrow. He was not worried about it because he had just spotted Aby and judging by the sheepish look on her face, she will be attending the class too. He waved at her and she smiled.

“May you see the birth of supreme race,” he greeted her.

“And you,” she replied.

“Today?” he asked her in an undertone.

“Too dangerous,” was her reply. Before he could completely wear his disappointed look, she added, “but I want to.”

This made him happy but in an attempt to show it, he ended up with a comical expression on his face that was a mixture of happiness and disappointment. Aby couldn’t help but laugh. Zac was born with a genetic defect that slowed down his gestures. Therefore, he was often caught between two emotions that resulted in a confusing look on his face. Aby thought it was cute. On the other hand, Zac found it even cuter that instead of inheriting her mother’s dominant gene, the love of his life had her father’s recessive ones. She was bald. This made her unique because according to what science he knew, this was a sex-linked gene. Yet, he had never set eyes upon a woman more womanly than Aby!

They both knew they were not supposed to be like that. We had told them often enough about their defects but failed to instill a feeling of regret in them. It was mainly because the whole world was like that. Everyone had their own set of deficiencies. Since they had never seen for real what Wedescribed to be the perfect human being, except as models in labs, on technological devices, and as monumental structures on every street, they thought it was just an impossibility and an exaggeration.

“Meet me behind the great statue,” he told her. “The one at the end of your street.”

She blinked and was gone.


“You are beautiful.” He was drawing intricate patterns on her hairless head with a SpecPo, which was a pointer with fluorescent ink in several shades. He was holding a mirror in his free hand to let her see his art.

This is beautiful,” she almost screamed examining the now-finished mandala of vibrant colors on her head. It was the latest fashion trend and Zac did the best replicas of the designs she pointed out to him, from the international magazines.

“Shhh!” he warned her. She suppressed her giggles and clicked his photo from her DigCam.

“No way,” he almost yelled looking at the photo. “Is this the expression you will draw? It is ugly!”

“Fuck off!” she said. “This is such a singular expression. I have never witnessed you being scared, amused, and turned on, simultaneously.” His eyes twinkled and she busied herself in drawing magic on a paper pad. He produced an electronic cigarette from his pocket. They puffed on, taking turns.

“Zac,” she said after a few minutes. “If we got caught, horrible events will ensue.”

“How about we register for a compatibility test?” he suggested.

“I don’t know, Zac. There had been zero cases of love marriage in the previous centuries of which we have any record,” she was unsure. “Rom/Jul were the last ones to think about the L-word and you know how We had staged a series of evil stratagems leading to programmed deaths.”

“This is why I propose to follow the rules,” he tried to convince her.

In order to ensure that children with only the best genetic makeup were born, We used compatibility testing called SPPRIG. It stood for sex, philosophy, psychology, religion, intellect, and genetics — the characteristics that were evaluated in this test. It was based on the latest scientific research and was supposed to generate the ideal results. Data of thousands of people reached them and they ran a set of tests on it. There conducted interviews, blood testing, psychological checkup, and medical examinations. Only after that, were two people allowed to copulate.

“I am positive that our SPPRIG will be acceptable,” said Zac, hopefully.

“You do realize that so far, none of the marriages arranged by We have succeeded in terms of love,” she said.

“Look, they are not interested in love, I agree. But if our SPPRIG score is convincing, they might let us do it,” he told her. “Our sexes are different for the starters,” he joked. She rolled her eyes at him.

“Philosophy and religion are not an issue either,” he counted on his fingers. “You know our family backgrounds, schooling, and beliefs are similar”

“Hey, you missed the psychology P,” she intervened. “Also, what about intellect and genetics. There is no way to estimate those parameters on our own.”

“I ran a few tests on my tech toys using our data,” he told her. “The results were promising.” Zac hesitated and then added, “I have a friend in the SPPRIG headquarters. He will make sure our tests come out alright.”

For the first time during this conversation, she looked hopeful. “What is his id?” she asked.

“Pac. The one with two pair of hands,” he said. “Let’s do this!”

She nodded.


“Bos”, said Pac, “These two are a perfect match.”

The one called Bos smiled. He took the application form from Pac and stamped it.

“Denied?” asked Pac, shocked.

“My dear Pac,” said Bos mockingly, “do you really believe that SPPRIG is about compatibility?”

“Then?” inquired Pac.

“It is for controlling their willpower”, came the reply as Bos’ characteristic multiple laughter sounds rang out in the walls of the SPPRIG Testing Laboratory.

Originally published on Medium