Note: I wrote this story in two hours as an entry for LUMS Young Writers Workshop 2012 but couldn’t make it to the final 8. After refining the story a bit, I am publishing it here on my blog.
Sound of running footsteps filled the corridor as the bell started ringing. Ahmed managed to rush into the class and jumped onto his seat before the final ring. He took a sigh of relief. Finally he made it to the class before the teacher and that’s a rare achievement for him. With a toothy grin he showed double thumbs-up to the whole class, practically dancing on his seat. Some laughed, some ignored, Ayesha giggled and Fari gave him a congratulatory pat on his back.
The celebration was short lived as the sound of resounding footsteps, like a giant walking the earth, clamped their mouths shut and glued them to their seats. The door opened and the teacher entered. She was so big that if she sat upon Titans, they couldn’t to do a thing about it. Her smile was ghastly and today it was particularly smug. She lumbered to the front of the class and slammed a pile of papers on the desk, announcing with a delight that the assignments were graded.
As usual, Ahmed failed and so did half the class. The teacher announced that those who failed will do a new assignment right now on the topic “My English Teacher” and she gave Ahmed a predatory look.
“What are we going to do?” Ayesha whispered.
“I don’t know” Ahmed whispered back.
“Why do you fail? You’re good at English” Fari inquired.
“I know stories, and that is not what she wants” Ahmed said.
“We’re dead” Fari moaned.
Ahmed looked at the blank page in front of him and lethargically wrote “My English Teacher” at the top. He gazed to his left and saw Ayesha scribbling away. He gazed to the right and saw Fari concentrating hard in designing the heading, his tongue between his teeth.
It’s hopeless, he thought and began writing. He had no clue what to write about the giant of a teacher who relished in failing and punishing students. No good words came to his mind that’s for sure. He kept on thinking what good to say and failing that, he started thinking what he really thought about his teacher. Now that generated quite some creative ideas and he felt delighted.
After what seemed like a long time, he was suddenly jolted to reality by the sound of gasp and turned his face left. Ayesha was looking at his paper with a horrified expression. Confused, he looked down and nearly yelped. He had doodled Angry Birds without realizing what he was doing and the big black one was particularly visible from the whole lot, looking meaner with a spitting image of the teacher.
Pencil slipped from his hand and clattered noisily on the floor. The teacher slowly turned, like an angry bull searching for the red flag, and her eyes soon rested on Ahmed. He hastily picked it up, gave her his best smile and ducked his head as if writing with his utmost concentration. Slowly, ever so slowly, her eyes moved away from him and he took a sigh of relief. Both Ayesha and Fari kept their faces down and concentrated on their work. Ahmed knew he was heading for the trouble and it was best they stay out of it, at least this time.
Glumly he looked at his doodle and began to imagine all the punishments his teacher would hand to him, a big ghastly smile on her face.
“Hey kid, why the sad face?”
Startled, he looked around. All the students were busy and the teacher was reading something. There was no one else in the room.
“Down here, genius”
He looked down and stared. The Angry Birds, all of them, were moving on the page. Hopping on their tiny little feet and flapping their wings, they were jumping around as if testing their bodies. The big black one was looking directly at him though.
“Calm down kid, I am not going to bite you” the bird said, its beak moving with every word. Ahmed quickly looked around. No one had noticed that pictures he had drawn were talking to him.
“Hey, where’s our launcher and where are the pigs? I want the eggs back” the yellow bird chirped, looking around angrily.
“Me too, I want to demolish those egg-stealers” the red one added
“And I want to break some glass” little blue one said with glee.
“Are you guys real?” Ahmed whispered
“As real as you can get” said the big black bird. “Why are you so troubled?”
“Me? Ah, well … I don’t know. I wasn’t suppose to draw you guys”
“Huh? You slow in the head or something?” The yellow bird eyed him suspiciously. “We don’t like those who mess with us”
“I am not messing with anyone, I swear” Ahmed whispered back, sweat glistening on his head. His hands felt clammy and he was sure the teacher will arrive any minute now to twist his ear and make him stand in the naughty corner.
“Then tell us, why are you so sad?” the big bird asked again.
Ahmed looked around. No one noticed this exchange so far. He pressed his face close to the paper and told the birds his assignment in a whisper.
“To tell you the truth I real want to get out of here or else I am done for” he said in the end.
“Raise the platform, I want to see this mean boss of yours” the red bird chirped. Ahmed slowly raised the page, the birds jumping up and down to catch glimpse of the teacher.
“She’s not much different from our enemies. What say you and I beat them up?” the big black bird said.
“How?” Ahmed asked
“Draw us a launcher and we’ll show you”
Quickly, Ahmed drew their launcher with some interesting additions that birds asked him. When he was done, the small blue bird whooped like a drunkard, jumped onto the launcher and was catapulted out of the page with a WWWHHHEEEEEEEEE. Soon after that the red and yellow birds launched themselves into the air with a glee and they zoomed out of the page.
Ahmed’s eyes were round as tea cups by the time it was the big black bird’s turn. Instead of launching itself, it turned towards him and asked “Are you ready?”
“What do you mean?”
Suddenly a black wing burst out of the paper, wrapped itself around Ahmed’s shoulders and pulled him down into the page. Colors bloomed and he found himself in a meadow with the black bird holding him tightly. The bird effortlessly put him on its top and jumped into the air onto the launcher. The ominous sound announced the strain of the rubber as it took the weight of the bird to its maximum elasticity and in sudden rush both Ahmed and the big black bird were launched into the sky.
Trees quickly fell away and dwindled behind. The rush of air was pulling at his skin and it was difficult to see but the rush of excitement had him screaming alongside the bird who was still WWHHHHEEEEEing. Up and up they went with the ground looking like a big, colorful cardboard game. The air grew even more cold and pleasant and soon they entered clouds. The clouds were like thick, wet fog that felt really cold but it was still nothing compared to the excitement Ahmed felt. Riding in the air without anything to cover the awesome atmosphere and doing that on a bird that can’t fly and specialized in blowing up, this was turning into a fairytale adventure.
Soon they broke through the clouds and came above them, the sun shining so bright that it was impossible to look at it directly. Beneath them, as long as Ahmed could see, there was a whole floor of white clouds. He felt like stepping down and running on top of the clouds just to see how soft they felt. They were soon joined by the other birds with red and blue ones still WWWHHHHEEEEEing and yellow bird whizzing around them like an F16 fighter jet.
They heard a very familiar snigger from below.
“There they are” the red bird dived and vanished into the clouds. After sometime they heard the unmistakable sound of clashing through wood. The snigger was still there.
“My turn” the blue bird said and with a distinctive pop it split into three identical birds and vanished into the clouds. The sound of breaking glass reached all the way up there, followed by more snigger.
“I am going to pound them to dust” the yellow bird dived and with a distinctive pop, it zoomed like a bullet through the clouds. The clash through wood, shattering of glass and yelp of pigs proved the deadly aim of the angry bird.
“Time to blow up” the big black bird said and whistled shrilly. They began to descent, entered the cold clouds and began to gather speed.
“Uh, Mr. Bird, are you sure you want to do this?” Ahmed asked, feeling the cold and the growing fear for the first time.
“Don’t worry kid, it’s just a big bang. Everything will be alright” the bird said and continued whistling.
They descended towards the land at an alarming rate and Ahmed saw the broken down structure with green beings dotted here and there. The fall got faster and faster, the whistle shriller and now even Ahmed was screaming his heart out as land came rapidly up to meet them.
Just as he thought he was about to die, a blur came out of nowhere, grabbed Ahmed by the collar and yanked him off the birds back. The big black bird smashed into structure with a gleeful expression and moments later a big boom shattered everything. Ahmed was sure he actually saw a couple of green pigs flying before venturing out of his vision.
“These birds and their vengeance, I wonder if I should drag them for Anger Management” said the person in a deep, pleasant voice. “At least they know when to call for help”
“You can fly? Are you Superman?” Ahmed shouted over the rush of wind, twisting around to see his savior’s face. The blue dress, sound of a cape flying in the air and powerful grip had already given it away but seeing the strong face and the unmistakable old-school hairstyle had his mouth hanging open.
“The one and only” Superman chuckled. “Now get ready, we’ll be there soon.”
“Where are we going?” Ahmed asked.
Superman lowered his head close to Ahmed’s ear and said “The adventure of a lifetime”
They soon came upon a brilliantly colored village and landed lightly on an empty space near its boundary. Ahmed quickly turned to see his savior and was amazed to see Superman in all his glory. The height, muscles, the strength radiating from his personality … it was all greater than he had every imaginged. Before he could say anything, the door to the gates opened and people started streaming out towards them. Ahmed looked at them, turned around and then suddenly snapped his head back towards the gate, his mouth hanging open.
They were dwarfs, dozens of them. Leading them was Gimli, his beard blowing back and his axe gleaming wickedly. If that wasn’t enough, the walls of the village were full of Elves standing regally in silken dresses and gleaming armor.
“There you are laddie, what took you so long to get here?” Gimli roared in delight upon reaching him.
“Who me?” Ahmed asked, still couldn’t believe he was now surrounded by Dwarfs.
“Who else, you beardless pup? Let’s go grab an axe, a flagon of ale and kill some Orcs” Gimli roared and the Dwarfs around shouted in agreement, pounding their weapons on the shield.
“He’s too young to drink alcohol Gimli, don’t ruin his youth” Superman said in disapproving tone.
“And so tells me one who wears red underclothes on his armor” Gimli said slyly, a roar of laughter following his comments. “Now why don’t you be a good boy and drag yourself to the other side of the town”.
“Remind me to ask Tolkien what he was thinking when he wrote you” Superman said, shaking his head and jumped in the air.
“Introduce me to the artist who designed your clothes, I just want to hug him in pure delight” Gimli called back, laughing at his own jest along with others.
“C’mon laddie, we got a war to fight” said one of the Dwarfs as he pushed Ahmed towards the gate.
“War? What war? Who are we fighting?” Ahmed asked, trying not to stumble. They entered the village and it was full of people and creatures he couldn’t believe he will ever see. The unicorns were grazing on patches of grass, a group of Griffons flew past with riders on their backs. Ahmed was sure he saw a man hanging in the air using a web protruding from his hands.
Right in front of him, however, were dozens of blue creatures led by a white bearded leader. The Smurfs saw him and as one rushed towards, humming a tune in unison.
“A smurfin welcome to our world-“ Papa Smurf began
“Not today you moon gazers” Gimli said as he steered Ahmed away. He quickly pushed him through another path and soon they were out of sight. “That’s one glum lot, singin jus one song all the time and even that says nothin about ale”.
“Not a good thing to do, ruining his innocence with the talk of ale.” Said a figure as it blocked their path. They had to look up and Ahmed’s eyes were hurting with the blinding white light.
“I am a Dwarf, what else would you expect Gandalf” Gimli said, giggling drunkenly.
“I will take him from here onwards, thank you Gimli Son of Gloin” Gandalf said as he gently grabbed Ahmed by the shoulders and whistled. A white horse answered by strolling into the view and stopped near Gandalf, gently nudging the wizard’s shoulder with his nose. Gandalf helped Ahmed onto its back and climbed behind him.
“Don’t worry young warrior. We will keep you safe” He said gently.
“You are Gandalf the Grey? From Lord of the Rings?” Ahmed asked dreamily.
“I am Gandalf the White.” Gandalf said with a knowing smile. The sheer height and charisma of the wizard left Ahmed in awe. He never came across anyone so strong yet gentle. He was already dazzled by being pulled inside a paper by none other than pictures of birds he drew. Now he was repeatedly meeting figures that were superheroes or cartoon characters or characters from storybooks. They appear to be all going for a war and he was to be part of it.
“What war is it? Why are we fighting Gandalf?” Ahmed asked.
“The shadow is growing and we are here to stop it, young warrior. You are our salvation, just like the ring-bearer” Gandalf said.
“But how can I help? I am just a kid” Ahmed said.
“You will figure it out, I am sure” Gandalf said gently.
“And I am going to be your special escort … BELIEVE IT!” a young boy with shockingly yellow hair and large, smug grin said from near his left knee.
“Now now don’t startle the young warrior, we have a lot of work to do. But before that, let’s do some research.” Said the big man beside the boy with red samurai-type armor and long white hair; his eyes tracking movement of a woman with transparent, glass slippers.
“If you stop drooling and calling it research, maybe you can help me train for once” Naruto screamed at his sensei.
“Am I dreaming? How can you be here?” Ahmed said, completely surprised by their appearance.
“Well I’m here to fight and teach the bad guys a lesson, and don’t you doubt it a bit. I am going to pulverize them” Naruto said, cracking his knuckles with a big smile and suddenly dashed through the crowd.
“Wait, where are you going? You are the escort, not the offense” Jiraya shouted after him. Shaking his head, he turned towards Gandalf and said “I’ll find him and catch up with you” and dashed after Naruto.
“Let us be on our way, the armies are marching” said a figure on a big warhorse, wearing a color-shifting cloak. He was accompanied by short woman with ageless face, riding a white mare equally regal.
“Well met, Al-Lan Mandragoran and Moirane Sedai” Gandalf intoned.
“First it was Lord of the Rings and now Wheel of Time? This war really seems to be a bad one” Ahmed wondered aloud.
“The Wheel weaves as the wheel wills” Moirane said and kicked her mare forward. Lan bowed his head slightly and followed her, Gandalf trailing them.
In a short time they were joined by countless other, riders and as well as walkers as they reached the other side of the village. He saw Iron Man zooming in the sky and big figure of Hulk smashing the ground using a tree like a club. Prince Charming was riding with his retinue and Wolverine was walking with Professor Xavier some distance away.
“If I see anyone from Twilight I am going to throw up” Ahmed said to himself.
“That’s not a very kind thought you have” said a sparkling figure that suddenly appeared at their right. Edward Cullen looked at him with bright red eyes, then vanished in an instant. Ahmed smacked at his head.
“What else remains now, Harry Potter?”
As soon as they neared the boundary, a figure detached itself from the crowd and approached them. He stopped a few steps away and saluted smartly. Gandalf acknowledged him with a slight dip of his head.
“Captain Genoes Paran, at your service Master Ahmed and Master Gandalf” the man intoned.
“Well met captain” Gandalf responded.
“Well met Captain Paran” Ahmed replied excitedly, waving his hand. With a smile, Captain Paran waved back and approached the horse.
“How is situation Captain? Are our forced ready?” Gandalf asked.
“We are ready as we can be” Captain Paran said. “All pieces are in place, we are just waiting for the signal.”
“Can you please summarize the strategy for us?” Gandalf inquired.
“At once, Master Gandalf” Captain Paran said and came closer to the horse. “We have a few thousand Elvish archers and five hundred Two Rivers men with their Two-Rivers longbows. They are our primary defense line in case the enemy comes too close. Our horse warriors are numerous with five battalions of Saldean horsemen, twelve battalions of Rohirrim and seven battalions of D’Hara horse warriors; a grand total of twenty-four thousand riders to trample the enemy and provide quick relief anywhere on the battlefield.
The frontline soldiers include three thousand fighters from Grand Ninja Alliance, five thousand Shienarans, five thousand Malazans from 9th Squad under Sergeant Whiskeyjack and two thousand Bridgeburners under Fist Dujeck-Onearm, fifteen thousand Andoran soldiers, five thousand soldiers from Gondor, ten thousand Marat warriors from Gargant and Herdbane clans and a few thousand auxiliary units. All fighters are divided into units and have extensive fighting experience. They will not break ranks. Hercules will lead the army, and since we have the advantage of height, the first strike will be ours” Captain Paran ended with a smile. Ahmed’s head was hurting listening to all those numbers.
“Impressive, Captain Paran. What is the situation of our aerial force?”
“It has been difficult but we finally managed to develop a strategy. Anomandar Rake and his Tistii Endii will provide aerial support from their Moon Spawn base” Captain Paran pointed towards a hovering, giant sphere in the sky, “their soletaken forms are powerful to drive any aerial enemy away. We will soon be joined by Dragon Riders from the west. Superman and Iron Man are our powerhouses and we have several specialized aerial units to back them, including fighter jets.”
“What about magic? Won’t you use that?” Ahmed asked excitedly.
“We will, Master Ahmed” Captain Paran said with a smile, “We have three hundred Aes Sedia and Asha’man as frontline force, they will be our main strength in the fight. They will be supported by Alerans with various crafting, Tistii Edur and mages from the Magicians Guild. There are several special units hidden, particularly X-Men, that will only be revealed when needed. If all fails, we still have the bridgeburners. They may not be magicians but their Moranth monition can be equally deadly.”
“And if even they fail?”
“Then we will paint our enemy green and leave them to the mercy of Angry Birds” Captain Paran replied. Ahmed snorted while Gandalf let out a booming laughter. It took the wizard some moments to get hold of himself and became sober again, but a glint of laughter remained in his eyes.
“It looks like we have sound army and in capable hands. I leave you to it, Captain Paran” Gandalf said and nudged the horse. Captain Paran saluted and stepped back. They were traveling again towards the fateful war.
Soon they crossed the boundary and now massed at the crest of a rise. Below them, there was a whole sea of creatures shouting, hissing and roaring murderously.
“And so we meet the enemy” Gandalf said.
A horn sounded somewhere ahead and shining figure came out in front of army of heroes. In unison the shout of “Son of Zeus” began chanting and Hercules raises his hand for all to see. He suddenly lowers his fist towards the enemy and as one everyone around Ahmed shout war cries, descending upon the enemy like angry sea. Ahmed was screaming as well, more out of fear than anything else.
Before the front rank clashed with the enemy, the sky darkens and dark voice began to whisper everywhere around him.
A loud thunder sounded that shook Ahmed up and the whole earth began to rumble.
All of a sudden pain blooms at the back of his head and Ahmed bolts up, to find himself back in class and the teacher looming over him.
She had seen the doodle and was now eyeing him dangerously. The whole class was quite as death. Ahmed blinked. He simply had no idea what to do or say. It was all a dream and while he dreamed it, the class continued and now he had no work to show.
Soon he found himself standing in the naughty corner, looking at the wall and telling himself how stupid he was.
A slither caught his attention as he saw a lizard move, slowly downwards and stopped close to his face. Ahmed hastily tried to move away but an angry growl from teacher kept him in his place.
The lizard came even close and suddenly it’s one eye turned towards him.
“You scared kid?” A voice said.
Ahmed stared at the creature.
“Just because you are stranded here like a chained puppy, that doesn’t mean your world ends. You can create your own world, wherever and whenever you want.” Said the voice.
“Really? How” Ahmed whispered back.
“Like this” said the voice and the lizard began to waver. Ahmed’s feet left the ground and he found himself once again sitting with Gandalf as the sea of warriors rode down and clashed with the first rank of orcs, this time Ahmed wearing his own gleaming armor and a shining sword in his hand.
Ayesha looked up to see Ahmed and found him staring at the wall with a gleeful expression, and wondered what was making him so happy. Fari saw the same thing and had no idea what fairytale his friend was living through. They both bent down to their work and left Ahmed to his story.