Take 4 parts physics, 2 parts marketing, 16 parts music, 11 parts writing, and what do you get? A whole lot of parts would be one answer. Omer Wahaj is an amalgamation of all these and more: an independent journalist/writer and a part-time musician currently living in Toronto. He has written several short stories and is currently working on a few humorous/satirical novels. Omer occasionally DJs and has produced an eclectic mix of music in various genres of electronica. He also enjoys being an illeist. Follow Omer on Twitter @omerwahaj
From Pulp to Postmodern: Unfolding and Beyond
Todæg, ure Fæder gyltendum urum, costnunge us urne gedæghwamlican. Hé swang his píl and ábéatan us, calic of coltemære in brád.
He turned us into steres, our fader, we his yong sons, him leading us through sties of shadow. H’was nat lowely, curteis, nor servysable but had greet strenghte. Somtyme he’d make songes and syng them in hoote nyghts, somtyme namoore.
“Father,” said I humbly, doting on him the day I turned twenty. “I do beseech thee. Fare us well, for t’was a wretched curse, that lecherous disease that doth murdered thy fair maiden, my mother. Ne’er have thee wherefore been so full of wine that yonder doth overfloweth. Doth shalt not dare to carouse with thine neighbor, so please pray pardon thy son oft on the morrow, as thy presence becomes unbearable.”
“Dear sir,” he said to me. “I acknowledge what you have said to me, having read your words in the multitude of letters since yore that lie before me. Hereby you have made it clear by your intimations as to how you regard me. Before today, I had thought of you as my favourite son, the sole possessor of all my fortune. I never suspected that you would deem me so devoid of being properly proud of you, my son. Perchance you’ve determined to revoke your respect for my actions. I hope it was with full deliberation and not in precipitate haste. I shall oblige completely, my son, and shall henceforth live with the knowledge that you have expelled me forever. Farewell.”
His words rained acid upon my heart and tears welled up in my eyes. “Father,” I began, but he stopped me with a single motion of his hand. He turned his gaze so that I could not see him cry. I turned mine to save him from seeing the regret on my face. My chest deflated, a burden like no other attached itself to my shoulders. As I walked out of the house my father had banished me from, I thought of the days I had spent growing up in this very house. Laughter from my childhood echoed from my old bedroom, turning into wistful sobs as it reached the large hall. Memories of my mother lying on a hospital bed in the guest room coughing up her cancer followed me out of the house. Damn you, father, I cried in my heart. Why did you have to become this way? Why couldn’t you love me more, like any father would a son? I will learn to survive, but will I ever learn to love?
Kilo, my faithful Labrador, stopped me in the driveway. “Where are you off to?” he asked me, his tail wagging excitedly behind him. I told him what had happened. He began to tell me a story. There was once a monkey who went to the land of the wolves. The monkey was afraid that the wolves might hurt him, but he soon found out that the wolves did not really care enough about the monkey and mostly ignored him. The monkey was relieved and this gave him a lot of confidence, after which he visited many other lands, including those of the rats, the dogs, the foxes and the horses. The monkey began enjoying meeting all these new animals, but he was always afraid, probably because he kept dreaming about being a newt, or maybe a caterpillar. Or was it a butterfly? Kilo wasn’t sure. The monkey eventually had to come back to his own land, which made him both happy and sad. Happy because he was back where he belonged and sad because he wanted so many things that other animals had in their lands. The moral of Kilo’s story was that everyone had to come home in the end and live with his or her memories so it was better to bring back good ones. Perhaps Kilo was wishing that I wouldn’t go and stay. Perhaps he hoped I’d be back soon. I secretly wanted to believe that too.
By the time I reached the bus station, it was dark. The air was still and damp, static electricity buzzing that raised the hair on the back of my neck. As I stood in the glass cubicle, lightning cracked its whip in front of me, the thunder following a few seconds later. It was, after all, going to be a dimly lit and tempestuous night. Fog had descended on the road by the time the bus arrived, squeaking and clattering ominously through the haze. The door opened and I stepped inside. The driver was wearing a long-sleeved jacket with its collar tucked up over his neck and a large cap that covered most of his face. I didn’t have the exact change for the fare and told him as much. He turned to look at me, spreading his long, spindly, bony fingers with his palm up, gesturing me to give him the money. Upon seeing his strange hands, my gaze automatically went to his face. His eyes were smoldering pieces of red coal and his face was all bones, no skin. His lipless mouth broke into a smile, bearing his crooked teeth with large gaps in some places. A cockroach skirted out of this lipless cavity and quickly went inside one of his nostrils. I put the money in his outstretched hand and without waiting for him to hand me the change, quickly stepped up the bus. A few other odd passengers were scattered over the seats in the bus. I avoided their stares and took a seat in a corner at the back. A couple sat in the seat across from mine on the other side of the aisle. Light from the passing lampposts flickered on the couple’s faces and I saw that the woman held an infant in her arms. The baby would break out in sporadic bursts of crying when the man would try to take it away from the woman. “It is not time yet,” she repeated continuously, refusing to hand the baby to the man, her sharp fingernails scraping over the baby’s neck. A few minutes before my stop, I was startled by a shrill, screeching scream of the baby, which was suddenly cut short and followed by a gurgling and gasping noise that reminded me of carotid Bakr-Eid mornings. I glanced over at the family a little while later, as I was walking up to the front of the bus to get off. In the pale light, I saw the baby lying in their arms, white and deathly still; the lips of the couple were red, with blood dripping down their chins.
It was dawn by the time I reached the hotel in the city. The receptionist was quite normal-looking, that is if orange hair, lip piercings, a tattoo on half the face, black eyeliner several inches thick and layered equally deep under the eyes, and eyelashes poking out like freshly laid grass through a pile of manure could be considered normal. “Care to fill this out, sir?” he asked me and handed me a form that was not much of a form but a hefty stack of thick yellow pages stuck to a clipboard. “I’m here to get a room, not to apply for a job at NASA,” I told him. He informed me that this was their standard form and I had to fill it in completely, in triplet, sign it, get it notarized, have the information verified by the Ministry of Local Affairs, attach my background check corroborated by the police – who had to issue a certificate stating that I hadn’t committed any kind of a crime – and the anti-terrorist outfit – who must ascertain that I was not a terrorist – and finally, have a medical examiner attest that I was in sound health, both in body and mind. I left the hotel and took up a room at a luxurious rest house nearby that was reserved for high ranking government officials only; it was easier to fake being an influential minister than fill out the form. As I unpacked my bag, I thought of a theory which states that if you keep talking to a piece of furniture, say, a chair, for a certain number of times, say n, the chair will, in due course, talk back to you. The only catch was that this will always occur at your (n+1)th try. I once tried to ask an armoire the secret of the universe 41 times; it never replied, but I know it’d have spilled the beans had I made the 42nd attempt.
The city was full of strange creatures. I went to a nearby restaurant for some breakfast where fairies, or perhaps they were pixies, flew about, their delicate rainbow-tinted wings buzzing as they took orders from customers. A strange soothing music was coming out from one of the corners but there were no speakers or jukebox anywhere. It sounded like Handel’s Water Music but I was sure it wasn’t. Sounds of nature – birds tweeting, insects humming and leaves rustling – supplemented by an ethereal flute transported one sitting in the restaurant to a vast meadow, with lush grass as far as the eyes could see. Unicorns played with mermaids at the edge of the deep green sea, centaurs chased the nymphs in the woodlands, and gnomes tended the flowers. The fauns – of course, it was the fauns playing the mesmerizing music. In these fantastic surroundings, the breakfast of lembas and Turkish delights served with a thousand-year old mead was heavenly.
As I walked out of the restaurant, a heavy-set man wearing a yellow trench coat and fedora hat came at me like a plowing tractor in a cornfield. “You new in town?” he asked, flicking his cigarette with his left hand. “No, been here a while,” I lied. I didn’t trust him. He didn’t look the trustworthy sort. “Whatever,” he said. “Here, take this. I don’t have much time. Be at this address at exactly 9pm tonight.” He thrust a small black diary in my hand and hurried off looking around furtively like a zebra making sure it was not being watched by lions. Back at my lodge, I opened the diary. It was hollow and the pages inside had been cut out to make space for something octagonal, perhaps a small ring case. The socket was empty but there was an address scribbled at the bottom – 745 Sherok Lane. I did not like this, not one bit. Whatever the game was, I did not want to get involved. I hated playing games anyway. I put the diary down and spent the day unpacking and organizing the room. I tried to put the strange man and his mysterious diary out of my mind. I decided food would help so I ordered pizza at around 6 pm. It was delicious. By 8:30, I was out in the street, walking towards the dangerous underbelly of the city. I had no choice. I had to see this through.
They told me that people didn’t mind brain surgery. I never believed that. The 12-foot bronze and copper trees would never allow it. My grandmother had turned into one of those copper trees. She began to take roots one day while putting up her laundry to dry in the cellar, far from the furnace. She remained there for the next many years, until we finally decided to move from that house. I later found out that they destroyed it to make space for a new dolphin sanctuary. The dolphins never really liked it there so they all left a few months later. Not to outer space, as some would have you believe. No, they just went closer to the ocean so as to be near their beloved king and queen. Royalty is not always about waves and frolicking. Sometimes they have to take time to remember what is not their own; things that can only be described as abstract. Anger, love, pining, death, these are all metaphysical constructs that do not reside in any physical dimensions. Your mind holds the key but the locks have been lost since the beginning of time.
I looked at my watch. It was exactly 9 pm. I was standing at the designated place when I heard a strange hum. It seemed to be coming from all directions at once. A beam of light shone down on me like a spotlight on top of the stage. At first I thought it was a helicopter but helicopters wouldn’t move like that, without any rotors, air or noise. The light continued to increase in intensity, until I felt like my head was going to explode with all that light entering my eyes. Just as I felt like I was going to die, I found myself teleported in a small, dimly lit place. As my eyes began to adjust to the dark, I saw strange knobs, dials and screens that blipped, blooped, and flickered in the background. Most of the equipment was labeled in a strange language that I couldn’t read. It felt like I was on some kind of a plane, but none of the words made any sense. It was not like any other script I had ever seen before and looked rather like something a child might have squiggled. Suddenly, two pairs of eyes appeared in the darkness and looked straight down at me. I cringed when I saw that both the eyes were attached to the same head, which resembled a large, elongated gray egg. If it was a face, I could not see any nose, mouth, or ears. Bony protrusions, most likely arms, protruded from the side of the egg. I wasn’t able to count them all, but there must have been at least ten on each side. Each of the long spindly “arms” ended in a different looking “hand.” One ended in a scalpel-like appendage, one had three prongs, a pincher was attached to another and scissor-like tools could be seen at the end of one of them. “Relax,” a voice said in my head. “We are not going to hurt you. We are the Sois Erm E race from the other side of your galaxy. We come in peace. You don’t need to take us to your leader. Don’t worry. It will all be over soon.” I closed my eyes and tried to scream but no voice escaped my throat. I don’t know what happened next, but I must have passed out in fear and pain.
The next morning, I packed my bags again and took the bus back to my town. Life at home might be hard, but I was not ready to face the real world yet.