Red Light

By Novid Shaid, 2011

Wa kulla shayin hammana yahuna bismika Ya Azeem

Red light, in a traffic jam. A swirling, rich, lollipopish red. Good enough to bite a chunk out of, not red like blood, but sweet red. The red light shone in front of him, in a tiny revolving ball, which seemed to be growing at a gradual pace. First the size of a pea, now grown to a draught piece, spinning and circling before him, as he sat, twiddling his thumbs under the steering wheel, in this sweltering day, with no end to the relentless congestion and blistering heat.

Belligerent heavy metal choruses blared out of a neighbouring car, with an imminent ruckus simmering between the metal fan and a suited official man parked opposite. Babies, screaming for comfort in UFO-like travel contraptions with hundreds of buttons, wriggled and writhed, with their mothers intermittently clipping and unclipping them out of their vehicles and rehydrating them.  And while the discordant medley of car horns consumed the smog-filled air, the rising anger of the motorists was brimming on violence and it seemed the whole earth was blanketed in row upon row of cars inhabited by mankind.

And the red light kept spinning. Now the size of a football before him and so luscious looking, that he couldn’t bear it much longer, for he had to take a bite out of it. He felt like a little boy at a fair, greedily peering at the sticky toffee apples, desperate for a taste. The urge to reach out and pluck the red ball out of the air was intolerable. As he sat there, alone in his car, trapped in traffic on his way home, he suddenly starting feeling powerful urges.

The red light, ball, sphere, whatever it was drew out every vestige of desire. He took hold of his seat. Surges of desire, wild passionate desire seemed to ring through him. He had to have a bite. He blushed. All the women he had longingly gazed at that day suddenly popped in and out of his head. Nervously looking around, he tried to work out whether anyone else was taking note of his odd behaviour. It seemed as if some of the female motorists were looking in his direction with a hint of a smile. Shuddering he felt something else. Hunger, the raw desire to take a relishing bite out of this red ball of light was almost overpowering. His thoughts suddenly centred on his wish that day to ignore his diet and relish a large doner kebab for his supper. He suddenly noticed in his rear view mirror a motorist taking an almighty bite out of a sandwich, crunching through satisfyingly. Then he started seeing red around him, as anger roused his veins, sending his heart into a frenzy. His despicable boss appeared before him and clouds of bitterness swirled around him, as his wishes from the past, of bad karma and divine punishment on his unforgiving bullish boss arose, like a dictaphone, playing back his own thoughts. Now he noticed that the two motorists nearby were about to jump out of their cars and lunge towards each other. The red light spun rapidly, growing, now like a beach ball, nearly touching his nose and the windscreen in front of him. Greed raced through him. It must be his to keep. No one else could have any of it. The ball was his and not to share. He thought of his deep seated desires to be wealthy and have enough money so he didn’t have to work anymore.

The ball was invading his space at such a rate now that it seemed as if a thick red airbag had inflated and expanded in the driver’s area. He wondered why on earth no one else had taken any note of the utterly singular sight forming in his car. But to his amazement, no other motorist took any notice. He was now worried. Was he ill? Was he suffering from heat stroke? Depression even? He had been quite highly strung of late he rationalized, and perhaps he needed to take some time off to recuperate. Fear began to take control. He would get sacked. Lose his property. Go on income support. His family would be disgusted by him. But the red light grew and grew, a juicy ball of bubble gum, being blown by some unknown entity, filling up his space, attracting his subliminal feelings like a magnet catching iron-filing.

Amazingly, although the red light had blown up right into his face, he hadn’t, as of yet, taken a bite out of it. He hadn’t even touched it, though the sensation to touch it was astounding. Something was holding him back. It was an echo, a vibration, quietly chiming deep inside, slowly travelling and making its way to the surface of his mind. It caught his attention. He listened. The echo grew louder, ever so slightly. First like a barely audible drop of water falling in a sink downstairs while you’re asleep. Then a louder drop, clearer, discernable. It was a word, a word he had said many times before. A word he had forgotten. Now the echo was distinct. Not a word, but a name. The name of someone close. He used to repeat this name, many, many times a day, but somehow faltered and slipped away from its remembrance. The name. He heard it as clear as day now and knew exactly who it was. First he mouthed the name under his breath. As he did, the red ball suddenly filled with a deeper more passionate colour of red. All his previous feelings merged into a mock opera, playing around, forming within the swirling patterns of the ball. He gasped. But desperately mustered some strength, and now, as loud as he could, he emitted the name. The name of his only love, his true love, the love that flowed through the very universe.  Suddenly, the ball burst, rocking his ears with a deafening explosion, innards of his conscience flying around him and landing on his head, lap and face.

He looked around him. The two fighting motorists had stopped and were staring at him for a moment, as if spellbound. The babies and their mothers leaned forwards, gazing at him thoughtfully. Moments passed. Then they looked away, as if they had forgotten they had ever looked at him.

But the man now sat there, with the endless traffic and the horrible heat. Winds of unseen grace rushing through him. He sat, looking around him at the world. He was back where he belonged. He was free.

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About Novid Shaid

I am a Muslim writer and English teacher. I have written poetry, short stories, a play, and I am currently working on a novella. My subject matter and themes are related to Islam, Sufism, politics and also my job as a secondary school teacher. My work is copyrighted and any works published here may not used or copied without my prior consent. You can contact me via the "Contact Me" page, if you wish to use any these writings. I am keen to gain the notice of publishers and if any are interested in my writings, please contact me via the "Contact Me" page. Was salaam, Peace

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