Category Archives: Literary Work

The Passenger

It felt as if the journey was never going to end. What a mistake he thought. He’d been on the road for more than seven hours. He concluded that it was a stupid decision to come off the motorway. The headlights of Zubair’s Audi A6 pierced a path into the black night. The shadows flickered against the treetops and at times they seemed to reach out to the car and it was starting to unnerve him. But there was something else. Something he had been trying to put off for the past hour. It was uncontrollably overwhelming. He had to use the toilet and all he could see in front of him was complete darkness. He tried to put his mind off it. “What a mistake!” he shouted. “What the hell were you thinking? Astaghfirullah! Astaghfirullah!”

The previous day was one that he would regret for a long time to come. It was possibly the worst day of his life. He’d spent the past few weeks talking to a sister whom he’d met on Facebook. It was all innocent banter at first. It all started when they were both tagged onto a really hilarious post. He commented, then she commented and that’s when they noticed each other. He was drawn to her stunning profile picture. He had become completely mesmerized. Anyway one thing led to another and before they had time to type lol, they were talking about marriage. What a facade. He knew he would never be able to handle the responsibility of marriage. He didn’t want to lose his lifestyle anyway, but he just couldn’t help himself from leading her on. She was drawn to him hook, line and sinker.  Eating out the palm of his hand. He didn’t know why he was doing it, but he knew exactly what he was doing. Lie after lie, he was building himself a lofty platform from which to hang himself.

So much for attending those fiq classes. Instead of benefitting from them, he used the knowledge as a tool to manipulate and destroy. What sister was going to be able to resist a good-looking, knowledgeable brother? He was arrogantly confident of his boyish good looks. His mother was always proud of her ‘dark, handsome, hazel eyed wonder’ as she often referred to him. He had worked hard to shred his childhood fat. His physique was the envy of his friends and colleagues. He was a modest 5’9” and his rich, deep tanned face was blemish free apart from a small pear-shaped birthmark under his chin which was conveniently covered up by his crisply shaped goatee beard. He always wore the finest designer clothing which was a hit with his admirers.That being said, this was the first time he’d ever done anything like this. He had shown off with his knowledge and looks many times and that felt empowering to him, but he had never gone this far.

They were having one of their many late night phone calls. She told him that she had always struggled with Arabic and memorizing the Qur’an. “I’ll come up and help you one day.” He suggested, waiting anxiously to hear how she would respond to his hidden advances. The excitement in her voice was obvious despite the fact that she was trying to appear calm. “In shaa Allah.” She replied in a muted voice. A few days later he was dressed in his trademark black designer jeans, dark grey asymmetric t shirt, stylishly covered up by an expensive biker styled jacket and was shooting up the motorway headed for the Northeast.

There were many signs along the way to deter Zubair from completing his sinful quest. A few miles into the journey he got a flat tyre. It took him more than twenty minutes to find the key to his locking wheel nuts. He should have taken that as a sign, but a man on such a mission cannot be easily deterred. A few hours into the journey whilst at a motorway services, he met a really nice brother who was looking for someone to pray with. His name was Ibraheem. They prayed and enjoyed a coffee together. Ibraheem asked him where he was off to and when he lied, he felt ashamed because he was in the presence of a true brother. He could have spent more time with him or simply turned the car around and headed back home, but his desires had by now taken control of him.

In the realm of halal and haram, there exists a threshold. On one side of this invisible divide lies a safe haven where one is protected, but the minute one steps over, coming back can be trickier than you think. He remembers crossing that threshold as he entered her home. He even paused and looked at her doorframe for some inexplicable reason.

Once inside, he felt nervous and aware of the environment he had entered into. He hadn’t really noticed her until she spoke. She wasn’t quite the same glowing beauty he was entranced by on Facebook and had a few extra pounds, which had been strategically hidden by the angles her profile pictures were taken from. All this being said, she was still pleasing to his eyes and what followed created a seal on the threshold.

In the aftermath, a blaming game ensued. She was distraught through guilt and became a completely different person. She accused him of taking advantage of a vulnerable sister. He of course defended himself but deep down he knew that a large portion of the blame belonged to him. He had to try to calm the situation but by this time she was beside herself with anxiety and fear. “What’s Allah going to do to me?” she kept asking him. He couldn’t respond. He was too ashamed and afraid, but his fear of the consequences in the likelihood that this might become public, greatly outweighed his fear of Allah. “I need to get advice.” She exclaimed. “No! You can’t do that.” he replied. He looked her squarely in the eyes and then his expression changed. She found it intimidating. “Think about what people are going to say about you. No one will marry you and you will be disgraced.” There was no mistaking what just happened. She was no fool. She knew she had just been threatened. “Please leave.” She responded, pointing to the front door. He couldn’t get out of the house fast enough.

It started to rain and the windows began to mist up. The urge to go to the toilet was becoming unbearable but he was still in the middle of nowhere. He was becoming frustrated. He wriggled about in his seat wrestling with the now uncontrollable urge. It was getting dangerously close to the point of no return. He could no longer avoid the inevitable. He was going to have to pull up somewhere and relieve himself. He spotted an obscure verge at the side of the road and yanked his steering wheel to the left braking hard. He bolted out of his seat and rushed to a nearby row of trees. A few seconds into his overwhelming relief, he realized just how isolated and black his surroundings were. He felt exposed and vulnerable. With his car behind him, all he could see was a thick blanket of darkness. It felt as if it was slowly drifting towards him. He strained his neck to try to look around in an attempt to be comforted by the reassuring headlights of his car, but he felt somewhat enveloped by the density of the night. In the darkness he could hear the wind dancing between the trees and hedges along with the occasional sound of twigs hitting the ground.

By now he was completely unnerved and tried to refocus his hearing to the comforting hum of his idling 2-litre engine. But then something happened that made him jump soiling himself in the process. He couldn’t be certain but he knew it couldn’t be anything else. There was nothing else out there that could sound like that. There was nothing else in the wild that could sound like the closing of a car door. Thinking he was about to have his car stolen he bolted towards it shouting and waving his arms frantically. As he neared the vehicle he could see that there was no one in the driver’s seat. He doubled over in sheer relief whilst trying to catch his breath. As he straightened up, his eye caught a slight movement. He struggled to focus and when he did, he was horrified to see what appeared to be a figure sitting in the front seat of his car. He was frozen with fear and his heart began to pound against his chest. He stood there motionless struggling for breath, transfixed by the black shape. He began to hyperventilate and a cold sweat trickled down his brow. He wondered if this was really happening. He had to do something so he mustered up the courage to make his move.

He moved gingerly towards the nearside of the car and shouted in a loud and aggressive voice. “Hey! What you doing in my car?” There was no response. “Get out of my car or I’m calling the police!” He reached in his pocket for his phone and quickly realized that he had left it in the console. There was still no response and the rain started to get heavier. He had to make a move. He grabbed the handle in an attempt to yank the door open but it was locked. “Get out of my car!” he commanded. When he looked up he found that there was nothing there. My eyes must be playing tricks on me he thought. The car interior was black and that combined with darkness, well one couldn’t be blamed for making such a simple mistake. Feeling relieved he made his way round to the driver’s side and opened the door. He noticed that the car’s interior light didn’t come on so he reached in and pressed the switch repeatedly to no avail. As he lowered his hand he felt a cold chill come over him. He turned his head and his heart jumped into his mouth. There, as real as he was, was a figure sitting in his car. He screamed and recoiled in terror, tripping over his feet and falling backwards on the ground. He sat there in sheer trepidation looking at what was without doubt the scariest thing he had ever seen his life.

“No, no this can’t be happening.” Zubair tried to convince himself that what he was seeing was some kind of illusion, a trick of the light, but it was there. Someone, something was sitting in his car. His head started pounding and his heart began to race. He felt he could have a heart attack at any moment. The rain now had control of the night and began beating down violently. Zubair’s eyes had acclimatized to the darkness and he was able to make out a slight rocking movement. Back and forth it rocked and then, in a wispy genderless voice, it spoke. “Drive – drive.” It screeched. Zubair was unsure of what it said and remained where he sat. “Drive – drive!” This time the voice was more assertive. “What the hell do you want?” Zubair screamed. The figure spoke again, but this time in a soothing female voice. “Can you drive please?” The sound resonated on the inside of his stomach and he suddenly felt inexplicably compelled to get into the car. He picked himself up off the wet floor and entered.

He now found himself trapped in a confined space with the object of his dread. He pressed himself against his door in an attempt to increase the gap between them. Trembling with anxiety he clenched the steering wheel and began muttering nervously under his breath. “Ya Allah! Ya Allah! What’s happening?” He put the car into gear and slowly pulled off, praying that he might encounter another vehicle along the way. The dense black night and the driving rain engulfed the road. Even with the high beams on Zubair struggled to negotiate the meandering road. There couldn’t have been a worse time to not be able to drive fast. He glanced over nervously trying to make out more of the features of the strange apparition. The only thing he knew for certain was that the acrid smell emanating from the other side of the car was deeply disturbing. It was a pungent smell that could only be described as that of a wet rotting corpse. He could see that the figure was dressed in black. Apart from the last time it spoke, he could not conclusively determine the gender of his unwanted guest. He couldn’t tell exactly what size it was but he guessed that it was fairly slim, as it did not encroach upon his space.

The moonlight began to flood through the gaps in the trees casting a ray, which created a backlight on the spectre. The partially illuminated frame was still swaying back and forth. Its hair was unkempt. Its gaze was planted firmly on the darkness through the window. Suddenly it stopped swaying and started whispering as though in a conversation with someone. “Look how the slave of Allah is more afraid of what lies in the dark than he is of his God.” An evil snigger ricocheted through the car’s interior. Zubair was reviled by this but remained silent wrestling with himself to find something to say. His mind had drawn a complete blank. He was still clearly in a state of shock and was unable to make sense of what was happening. The eerie figure whispered again and this time it was directed at him. “You fear me because you think you don’t know me. You are right to fear me because I am here because of you.” These words placed Zubair into a state of complete petrifaction. He trembled uncontrollably causing the car to swerve in and out of the lane. It continued: “You fear me but I am a woman. I know you like women.” Now for the first time, Zubair found his voice. The probing statements took him aback.

“Why do you speak as though you know me when we’ve never met?” he asked in a challenging tone. Once again the dark shape stopped rocking. This time it was evident that it was agitated. Its tone changed as it responded. “You say we’ve never met but you know me. You are very familiar with me.” Zubair turned to look at it straining his eyes to see whether it was the sister he was with earlier. Of course he knew this could never be. “No I’m sure I’ve never seen nor met you before because I’m sure I’d remember. So tell me who you are.” The temperature suddenly shot up considerably and the tension became unbearable. The figure started to jerk violently back and forth. “ You know what I am!” It screamed. Zubair knew and deep down he always knew. He couldn’t control himself and started to sob. He was unable to control his body and began shaking as if in a fit.

Zubair’s sweaty palms could barely grip the smooth leather bound steering wheel. It felt like his last night on earth had come. “You’re a Jinn!” he cried. “This can’t be real. You’re not supposed to do this.” The figure burst into a frenzy of ear piercing laughter, which sent needle like pains in his inner ear. “I am here for you.” It whispered. “I was sent for you. Your actions and my actions are the same.” Zubair froze in fear on hearing this. His mouth felt as though it was filled with sand. He remained silent at the wheel barely able to keep the car on course. The Jinn continued: “You do your evil deeds in private thinking that no one sees you but sometimes we are there watching, encouraging – enjoying.” It laughed again but this time under its breath in an evil whisper. Zubair’s gaze now remained fixed on the road ahead.

Every word uttered by the Jinn carved into his chest like a blunt scalpel. He found the courage to respond. “We make mistakes and we sin and Allah forgives” The creature paused for a second as if absorbed by Zubair’s comment. “Allah forgives? Not you. You went too far.” It repeated those words again more slowly and deliberate to drive its point home. Zubair felt as though all hope was lost. He was overtaken by a deep sense of regret and his faith was strengthened. He called upon his Lord with sincerity and resolve. “Oh Allah, please forgive me. I have wronged myself. Astaghfirullah.” The Jinn fell silent for the first time since its onslaught of terror began. Zubair began to weep but his tears were those of regret and not fear.

As the tears streamed down his face cleansing his blurry eyes, his attention was drawn to something he had not seen for what seemed a lifetime. He could see the light from an oncoming car in the distance. He quickly formulated a plan in his mind to use his car to block the road when the approaching car got close enough and to get help from the driver. Zubair waited until the car was about a quarter of a mile ahead and pulled his car to a halt in the centre of the road. He could sense the Jinn’s agitation. “Drive! Drive!” It commanded in a garbled demonic voice. Zubair ignored it and began praying in earnest for Allah’s protection. Throughout the entire journey the Jinn had never stopped looking out of the window. It began rocking violently, causing the car to spring on its chassis.

The light from the oncoming car slowly climbed from the road to the bonnet of the Audi. Zubair looked around at his tormentor as it began to let off an ear-piercing wail. The oncoming car flashed its headlights for Zubair to move from the center of the road, filling his car with light. What he saw caused him to scream out in terror. The creature was not looking out of the window at all. It was facing him the entire time. Its face was covered in long matted hair and a black fleshy mass protruded from where the nose should have been. It sounded like its mouth was at the back of its head which is why Zubair thought it was looking out of the window. A putrid hazy mist emanated from its body. Its large eyes sprang open emitting an intense red hue. It stopped rocking and lunged towards Zubair and with no chance of moving out of the way in time, he closed his eyes in hopeless anticipation. He felt a bolt of red-hot electricity entering his body. He cried out in pain and then blacked out.

A distant echo resonated inside Zubair’s head. It swirled through his mind like the wake from a passing boat crashing against the shore. From within the echo he could make out voices, one of which was very familiar and reassuring. He slowly opened his eyes acclimatizing to the bright lights that enveloped the room. A blurry figure stood over him and as he focused, he was relieved to find that it was his brother. “Noor?” he strained to confirm that his brother was real and not some insane illusion. His brother replied. “Yes it’s me bruv. What happened man? They told me they found you out in the stix, parked up in the middle of the road. You ok?” Zubair looked around and established that he was in hospital. “What happened to me?” he asked, concerned that he may have been involved in a collision with the other car. His concerned brother replied, “That’s exactly what I was going to ask you bruv. All they said was that you was found unconscious in your car. They’ve been running tests but haven’t found any anomalies.” Although afraid to ask, Zubair had to know if there were any other strange discoveries. “Was there anyone else there?” he asked gingerly. Noor looked at him confused by his question. “No only the other driver. Why, was you with anyone? They said the passenger door was open when they found you.” Zubair’s eyes fell into a 1000 yard stare. “No it was only me.” he replied praying that his words might somehow be true.

He discharged himself from hospital later that day. He had been unconscious for five hours. The consultants put it down to oxygen deprivation to the brain due to low blood pressure. His brother Noor had already arranged for his car to be recovered  back to his house. They got a minicab to his parent’s house where they spent the afternoon discussing the family’s medical history. There had only ever been one case of sudden unconsciousness in the family. Zubair’s mother recounted the period in her life where her uncle was said to have been beaten by a jinn. Noor bolted upright with interest. “What happened Umi?” he probed. Zubair, although completely uncomfortable with the topic was interested to find out whether there were any similarities between his case and his great uncle’s. His mother told the story of how he was travelling back from the city to the village where the family lived. He was found unconscious in his car with bruises all over his body. He never fully recovered and was diagnosed with brain damage. The police were involved but were unable to find his attacker, however the family all believed it was a vengeful jinn as he was not the best of characters. Zubair fought to stop his body from trembling. This story was too similar to his nightmarish experience for comfort. He’d heard enough as he knew his lonely flat was awaiting his return and would rather have something more pleasant to think about. “What’s for lunch Umi?” He knew his mother, just like any other, loved to see her children with full stomachs. She quickly dropped the subject and rushed into the kitchen to prepare her usual bountiful spread, leaving Noor feeling cheated of his bedtime story.

A navy blue Uber taxi pulled up outside a white stone block of serviced apartments within a modern riverside estate. Zubair stepped out onto the shiny white tarmac and entered the main entrance. He glanced round at his brother who had remained in the car as he was travelling on to his place. He offered Zubair a thumbs up of reassurance and then beckoned the driver to drive off. Zubair entered the lift and pressed the button for the fourth floor. He was exhausted from the events of the last twenty four hours. Bed was the thing he longed for more than anything else. He had a flashback of the hair raising spectacle from the night before causing him to drop his keys as he fiddled with them to open the door. He picked them up and looked around reassuring himself that he was alone. He entered his flat and stood with his back against the front door. His apartment was stylish and modern. He took pride in his achievement. His job as a high end web developer really paid well and he wasn’t afraid to show it. On the pearl white wall of his living room hung a sixty inch LCD smart TV, with a state of the art surround sound system nestled below it. The room was furnished with a lush white leather three piece suite which sat on a grey and white high piled rug. The centrepiece of the room was placed proudly on his marble and tinted glass coffee table. It was a modern art collectable gifted by a wealthy client. This was home and Zubair felt at ease here. He threw himself in his favourite chair grabbing the tv remote and began flicking through the channels in an attempt to find something that might take his mind off his horrific experience. It was at that point that he became suddenly aware that he hadn’t prayed since the day before. He felt that it was only right that he should get up and make the effort to fulfil his obligation, but he was exhausted and couldn’t be bothered. I’ll make it up later he thought and indulged himself by tuning into his favourite tv music channel. Before long he began to fall into a light sleep with the music becoming no more than a hollow whisper in the back of his mind.

As the music faded into silence, a noise caused Zubair to jump out of his sleep. He couldn’t be certain but he knew it couldn’t be anything else. He prayed he was hearing things, for there was nothing else that could sound like it, nothing else could sound like his front door closing. He had arrived at a level of fear never before encountered in his life. His mind was willing his body to move but his limbs were like lead weights. He was paralysed. “Who’s there?” he shouted, his voice shaken exposing his vulnerability. He strained to look across his dimly lit room, through the arched doorway which led to the reception. He wondered if his eyes might be deceiving him, for in the corridor by the front door was a wispy shadow. He was petrified and a cold sweat trickled down the side of his face. He began to shake with fear. He shouted out again, “who’s there? What are you doing in my flat?” A disturbing whisper ricocheted off the smooth white walls “I didn’t finish my ride.” Zubair began crying out in horror.

His nightmare had returned and deep down he was always expecting it to. His eyes were fixed on the shadow. He blinked and when they opened, it had advanced a metre into the room and took the form of the familiar shape that haunted his car. He blinked again and when his eyes opened the figure was even closer. He could now make out the grotesque features of the evil jinn as it grimaced with delight. “No! No! Please I’ll do anything” Zubair pleaded pitifully. “What do you want from me? What do you want?” The creature’s gaze was transfixed on Zubair’s eyes. He blinked and when he opened his eyes he howled like a lost child in the night as the jinn pounced on him. He felt a sharp piercing electrical current rush through his body. As he faded into unconsciousness he murmured for the last time “What do you want?” The creature was no longer in front of him but from within his head, He could hear the words that he heard the night before. “Drive, Drive.” A hysterical laughter crashed around in his head as he passed out. The jinn was now firmly fixed to him. It was a permanent passenger and Zubair’s life would never be the same.