This happens to be one of the many Musings of this spectacled mind. Much like a game we used to play in school where one would start telling a story, stop at whichever point they’d like, only for the next person to continue, and another, and another until the story reached its conclusion.
The same idea is implemented here, only in a chapter format each from different participants. The end result comes together as this short story.
We hope this fun project of ours finds and holds your interest.
Fatima Ummu Taofeeq
The Mahogany Tree
Written by: Azra Rahman
Taimur ran down the long staircase to the parking lot. He spotted his car easily amidst a collage of vehicles. His memory wasn’t excellent which was one of the reasons why he had been through so much for the past two years.
Sometimes he wondered how had he, a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth, had been able to bear such excruciating two years of torture. Almost instinctively, he turned around to face the looming courthouse behind him. A symbol of all his misery. He was halfway on the staircase. A small laugh escaped his lips. Maybe…just maybe…this whole ordeal was also halfway through. Had Mama and Baba heard him say it out loud, they would have playfully called him ‘Too dramatic…!’
But there was no one around him. Or with him. A constant companion with him was the realization that he had forever been singled out as a loner in this crowd of people scrambling up and down the staircase. Some faces creased with worry. Some, hopeful with anticipation. Some, relieved. And yet some, jubilant. Disliking the expressions of those joyful ones, Taimur turned around to continue his way to his car when his phone went off. Saqib’s name flashed on the screen.
The line exploded with an angry voice before he had even concluded his greetings.
“Where the hell did you disappear? I told you to wait for me…I told you we had to discuss other aspects of the case. My goodness Taimur! Why don’t you ever listen to me at once…? It is so frustrating for me as your lawyer…”
“Saqib.” The quiet in Taimur’s voice paused Saqib at the other end. “Can you not be my lawyer and be my friend again? For now?”
Saqib sighed at the other end. Taimur knew he must be chewing his tongue in annoyance to not scream at him. He also knew that Saqib was perhaps the only person left who cared about him. Cared about his well-being. His safety. His happiness without wanting anything from him. In all sense of the world, Saqib was the only person he could call family.
“Fine.” Saqib’s voice finally concluded. “I won’t talk about the case today. But tomorrow, you are coming over to my house. Mom has been really worried for you Taimur…Dad too. You haven’t visited them since…Taimur please…they are worried for you man! They love you as they love me. Like their own son.”
“Saqib…you know I can’t face them now. Not until…”
“Not until the court announces its decision. Yes, you have told me that countless times. And I have told you that it wasn’t your fault! Which is why I am representing you. Do you think I would have done it had you been guilty?”
Taimur lifted his face towards the sky, closing his eyes and inhaling deeply the stench of humans around him, the freshness of air above him, and his own fear emanating putrid from his thoughts. He mumbled, wishing the words would come true.
“I need to know I am innocent too.”
Saqib sighed in resignation at the other end. “Fine. I’ll be at your place tomorrow evening at 6:30. Don’t make dinner. I’ll get something.”
The line went dead. In their 25 years of friendship, not once had Saqib ever ended a call with a goodbye or salam. Taimur smiled at the screen. Amidst the ever changing life, unpredictable events, at least his friend remained unchanged.
Now jogging, Taimur made his way to his car. He got in and locked the door, giving himself a moment to relocate his thoughts. What was he running from?
His mind had kept chanting these two phrases the whole time he sat in the courtroom. These reminders were painful. He wanted to throw up. Today’s date twisted a knife in his guts. The date and the tree were synonymous. Try as he might, he couldn’t separate the two. They stood like markers of the tragedy that would unfold in his life. Ever since then he had avoided both: acknowledging the date and never taking the route which would go past that huge mahogany tree. A myriad of emotions overwhelmed him. Agony, pain, pleasure, happiness, rage, loss, love and hatred. Unknowingly, tears and laughter both burst out. He let his emotions be released, raw as they were. A passerby looked at him curiously, then alarmingly and finally sped off in shock. Taimur realized he must have been looking like a maniac. Or at the very least, like someone who was off the hinges. But he didn’t care. He needed this release.
And he needed to do something else too.
To visit that tree. To quench the dread that cropped up every time he thought about it. To squish the nightmares that have haunted him every night since. To finally start a journey back to himself. And to forgive himself, he needed to go.
He needed to see that Mahogany tree.
That was where it had all begun.
About the author: Azra Rahman is a homemaker, mom, blogger and now a published author of poems and short stories. Apart from writing, spending time with her family, cooking and pouring adequate amount of sarcasm into her writings, she also spends time on making animated stories for her Instagram. Other than these, she can sometimes be found sipping a cup of chai, engrossed in observing and taking inspiration from life outside her living room window.
Blog/s: Musings of a spectacled mind
Facebook: Azra Rahman
Written by: Fatima Ummu Taofeeq
The thought of the date and the mahogany tree overwhelmed Taimur as he could no longer control his emotions.
It had all began two years ago when he strolled to a tree farm for sightseeing. This particular tree caught his attention as he wondered the greatness of the Almighty whose is the best of creation.
“How beautiful this place is!” He thought. “Nature is indeed marvelous and Allah is so great and perfect in creation” He added.
Few minutes later as he went about his sighting and wondering, a group of corps hooped around his back and arrested him. He realized that he has been sightseeing in a private tree farm owned by an influential politician of the state.
Taimur was confused and shocked at the same time. He could not understand what his offense was. He was forced before the famous politician’s and who questioned him:
“Where did you keep the briefcase?” He asked.
“I do not understand you sir…” Taimur responded confusedly, fearfully eyeing the faces present in the well-furnished sitting room.
“The camera captured you.” Mr. Williams (politician) said.
“I am deadly confused sir. What is going on here?”. Taimur asked again.
“Who is this?” Mr Williams shown him the captured image. Taimur became furious even more. He was wearing the same clothes with the captured person holding a briefcase as he placed his back on that same particular tree Taimur placed his while he was sightseeing. The person that was captured had his back to the camera, so he couldn’t see his face but he was same height with him, which made him double furious. Taimur could not say a word. He was just shivering like someone who has a high fever. “Until you return my briefcase containing my one hundred million dollars and a series of important documents, only then you can be set free. So, talk to your lawyer.”Mr. Williams finalized. That was how Saqib who was his friend and lawyer, got involved.
Taimur could not forget that date and that particular tree which was the mahogany tree. In fact, he could not help it. Since then, he had been thinking.
Why did he go to that tree farm for a sighting?
Why did he choose that particular tree?
What was so special about that tree?
He has to go back there and find out as the case continues in the courthouse. Really, he has to go find out that special thing in that mahogany tree.
About the author: Fatima Ummu Taofeeq is a wife, mother, writer, teacher, student, a lover of inspiring write-ups and she hope to Inspire. She is a Nigerian. She’d loved writing since her childhood and has written many unpiblished Islamic fiction stories.
Facebook: Fatima Ummu Taofeeq
Written by: Nahin Sani
As Taimur hastily sped his car through the road leading to the dreaded mahogany tree, his negative thoughts didn’t rest in spinning like a tornado in his mind, one thought after another taking the limelight; the incident at the tree, his lawyer and friend supporting him the whole way yet considering the possibility that he could be testing his limits, the indecisive outcome of the court proceedings that would release his verdict on……the second anniversary of the encounter with the politician, which had gotten him arrested and changed his life for the worst. This was one of the most important events of his life.
Yet he couldn’t remember how he got there.
He remembered well what had taken place there but for what reason he decided to go to a private property, he was unable to recall. Taimur had experienced memory lapses on certain occasions; missing work deadlines, forgetting the date of his parents’ anniversary, leaving the house while forgetting he left the stove on. They were infrequent but occurred coincidentally at significant moments in his life that especially required his complete attention, and try as he might, he couldn’t retrieve that information. Saqib pleaded this aspect in court but because they occurred so rarely, Taimur wasn’t qualified as a patient of any memory loss disorder.
Alas, the court proceedings. Two years of an unbearable ordeal. His lawyers fought hard for him for a good number of months however the evidence was piled up against him and with every new trial, some new accusation or evidence popped up. Mr. William’s lawyers were as powerful as the politician himself, so powerful that his lawyers eventually left or Taimur forced them to abandon his case. As time went on, Taimur began to lose hope and began believing that if the stakes all appeared to be against him, why deny the possibility that he had stolen that briefcase? As the outcome of his case worsened, so did his sleep pattern, having nightmares and barely an hour’s sleep every night. However, six months ago, Saqib took the initiative of becoming his lawyer and didn’t rest a day until he could save Taimur from life imprisonment; an endeavor which Taimur felt was only delaying the inevitable.
“I could’ve had motive, then.” He thought, having been fired from his high post job as a reporter a week before the incident. He had struggled a lot during that time and earned from what minimum wage paying jobs could offer, not wanting to face his parents with the portrayal of a failure of a son. Perhaps that incident could’ve been related to some way he was trying to improve his financial situation? He couldn’t say. Why would he have strolled so far away from his home to this place, to this tree?
As he came closer to the place he dreaded, he thought about his nightmares. They were often different but all of them had a few things in common; the tall mahogany tree set aflame, a garden of beautiful flowers, auburn hair and a section of an off-white cloth with black patches. As soon as he ruminated on his nightmares, he felt a stabbing pain on his chest. He started trembling and shaking and he felt palpitations. He tried to calm himself by taking deep breaths but instead of it helping his anxiety attack, he felt like he was beginning to choke.
“Calm down. You’ve been trying to go there for a long time. Don’t stop me now.” Taimur consoled himself.
His anxiety chose to ignore him and he continued to feel panic.
“Don’t control me. Let me go. Let me finish these nightmares once and for all. Let me seek justice for myself. Set me free. Set me free!!” he exclaimed, just before a group of children were crossing the road. Amidst the blurriness of his tears, he saw them a mile away and at that instant, pushed the brakes with all his might and steered his car firmly to the left. The car skidded hard across the road sideways, staining the road with black lines, as it approached the children. They screamed at the top of their lungs as the car came closer and closer. The car skidded and slowed down just a few inches from the children.
As he recovered from his shock and regained his composure, he rubbed his eyes and stepped out of his car, heading towards the children. The children were clutching each other and crying immensely. Taimur gave a quick look at the children before asking.
“Are you alright……………”
“How dare you?! Have you no sense in driving full speed while there are children on the road?” a woman came running towards them and spoke to Taimur furiously.
“I am terribly sorry, Madam! I slowed down my car as soon as I saw them.” Taimur trembled, trying to remove any more burdens on his conscience.
“You better be happy they don’t have a scratch on them otherwise I’d make sure to send you to jail, you irresponsible excuse of a man!” the woman exclaimed.
“Madam, I would never wish to…………………” Taimur suddenly stopped speaking as his eyes set upon the mahogany tree. He had reached his destination.
The woman stared at him blankly before giving him a hard slap on his cheek and escorting her children away.
Taimur quietly went into his car, took out his backpack and made a beeline towards the tree, not caring for the fact that his car was blocking half the road.
As he approached the tree, its details became clearer. It was a mahogany tree, the tallest one in the area. Its thick trunk shot firmly out of the ground, caressed by labyrinthine grooves. Its thin branches diverged from the trunk, densely decorated with emerald-colored leaves. Surrounding the tree was a magnificent garden with had the elegance of every possible colored flower the mind could imagine arranged like a beautiful mosaic.
It took a couple of minutes for him to realize that he was standing right below the tree. There were no guards visible nearby so Taimur needed to be quick.
“Ya Allah, two years ago I came upon this tree. After so long, this is still a magnificent tree that represents the beauty You have created in this world. However, why did such beauty cause me so much pain in my life?”
“I was struggling as it is……..” Taimur paused as he sniffled, feeling his throat close a bit as tears streamed down his cheeks. “And in spite of all that pain, I found a few moments of solace by admiring every detail of the beauty of this tree and at that very moment, my life turned to ashes. Now this very tree haunts my sleep and is the source of my nightmares. I see this tree everyday as a reminder of a terrible crime I am responsible for. A crime I accept yet I cannot admit 100% of because my stupid memory will not allow it! I’m suffering and my life is in ruins. Mr. Williams is too strong and him and this tree has caused me more misery than even losing my job.”
“Ya Allah, forgive me for this and protect me from the trouble that may follow, because I’ve fought and I’ve failed. However, I will not fail this time. Do not try and stop me.”
After Taimur finished speaking, he unzipped his bag and took out an oil can and a box of matches. This was it, no turning back. With the mahogany tree set aflame, he’d be free of his shackles and have justice the best way he thought it would be served; his way.
As Taimur was preoccupied with the tree, some miles away, a Corolla was parked on the side of the road in which sat a young lady with auburn hair, dark complexion wearing a long formal off-white gown with black embroidery. She had her gaze fixed on Taimur so strong like a predator locked on a prey. She had been there the whole time observing Taimur’s behavior.
“There you are, at last.” the mysterious woman said to herself, a cheesy smile spreading gradually across her face.
Without losing her gaze, she reached her right hand into her purse and picked out her phone, dialed a few buttons and put the phone against her right ear. The first tone of the call barely started before it clicked, indicating someone on the other side had answered her call.
“I’ve found him. He’s finally alone…………………….Yes, Sir.”
She ended her call, threw her phone in her purse as she quickly opened the door and started heading for the mahogany tree, her gaze still unbroken.
About the author: Nahin Sani/Andale Seaworne is a 22-year-old, Muslim, Pakistani navigating through life, sharing knowledge and opinion related to different topics in life from basic moral values with relevance to Islamic teachings to traveling, books, food, personal experiences, observations, interpretations, and anything that comes to her mind. She started her blog in order to express her love for Allah and His Teachings, to express that which she couldn’t express openly, and to find comfort in knowing she’s not alone in the struggle for Jannah and being a better Muslim everyday. She’s an MBBS student currently in her 3rd year living in Islamabad.
Blog: Andale Seaworne
Instagram: Andale Seaworne
Pinterest: Andale Seaworne I Blogger
Written by: Sumaira Asif
As she was about to approach the mysterious Mahogany Tree, her focus suddenly shifted entirely from Taimur to the Tree. She was looking at the majestic Tree in such amaze and wonder as if she had seen such a Tree for the first time. There was something about it that made it look so alien to her. If this wasn’t the case, why in the world would a ‘Tree’ carry such an immense power to shift the women’s focus from her purpose in its entirety from Taimur? She was there near the tree for a purpose. Not just the tree, but Taimur. Taimur, alone. This was all that we could figure out from her answer to that phone call made to someone who had sent the woman to spot Taimur, alone. But why? Why did they want Taimur to be alone? Near the same tree where the incident unfolded years ago, whose consequences were still bravely fought by Taimur. Perhaps, the woman was just responsible to keep an eye on Taimur. It looked like she was doing only what she had been told, out of mere loyalty.
As soon as Taimur was about to light the match stick to set the tree on fire, he heard the footsteps of the woman coming behind him. Out of sheer fear, he turned back to see who it was. To his shock, he found her to be the same woman he had seen the other day. He tried his best to push his memory back and forth to remember exactly when and where he had seen her. But all in vain, he still couldn’t recognize her. The woman too looked at him in a way that one could fathom it wasn’t the first time she had seen him. They looked at each other with hundreds of questions gushing forth each of their minds to which they had no answer. The question of where he had seen her last still outweighed the others for Taimur and the woman was perhaps trying to consider every possible thing that Taimur must have done which landed him in a situation as dangerous as this. Only she knew what was going to happen with Taimur in the next few moments.
Someone had to break the awkward silence between them. Taimur with his feeble voice said:
“Who are you? And why are you here?”
His questions hinted at his nervousness to the woman. The woman could figure out that he was scared of her being present there near the tree with him in a dire situation of utter helplessness. After a lot of reasoning, the woman decided to console him but as soon as she could say something to him, there was a depressing loud noise of siren of several vehicles jamming one by one on the road that made it to the land near the tree. They were surely not the police cars but cars with sirens that were driven hastily in a haphazard manner.
Written by: Seshat Shah
There was nowhere to escape. Taimur felt the slamming of car doors, heard the unmistakable sound of hard shoes crunching over gravel, and the heavy breathing of men quickly approaching. He dared not look in their direction, instead he turned towards the horizon. The clouds stretched across the sky and glowed golden and purple as the sun began to set behind them.
And there was the tree, disrupting the view-its branches creating shadows on the ground where he stood. The woman raised her right hand and the chaos behind him paused. She held it there, and he knew this gesture was an act of mercy. He knew he would not set his eyes on this landscape again. Though it was kind, her intercession would not save him. Nor could his parent’s wealth, or Saqib’s adeptness in the courtroom. He imagined him tomorrow-setting a table for dinner, pacing with his phone in hand, waiting on a text or call that would never come.
He let a tear fall as he imagined his parents being brought to this very place, being shown the tree and the unspeakable secret that loomed around it. His shoulders began to shake as he saw his mother lingering in this place long after his father dragging himself to the car-waiting however long it would take for a mother to free her feet from the last place her child stood. Her child. Taimur could never remember being one past his teen years, his life’s frustration, but now the memories flowed like the tears falling down his cheeks.
There was his mother’s hands stirring cake batter and turning towards him with the spoon inviting him for a lick. And there was his tree house that his father constructed in the largest tree in their sprawling backyard. The intricacy and exactness of its design drew people from the entire neighborhood, and even further to stare in awe. It seemed the whole town of Morgan came to admire it. It was marvelous, a treehouse unlike any other, a replica of his family’s enormous home. Taimur now remembered the tree that cradled it, the deep brown of its thick branches, and how the threads of bark felt against his hands as he climbed up and out of sight. Now he could imagine his room, and the hallway that led to it and all of the portraits that stared back at him as he rushed through it, down the staircase, and out of the door before the perpetual silence of the house engulfed him. This was the tree that held his entire childhood. This tree, identical to the tree that held his gaze now.
His first heartbreak was spent there-tearfully tucked away until the tremors of grief gave way to laughter as he watched a squirrel couple take turns chasing one another, darting from branch to branch, up and down the trunk for hours. He climbed that tree carefully at least a dozen times with trophies from his glorious time on the soccer field until the rooms of his tree house resembled a shrine. On a stormy night, Taimur dared himself to brave blasts of lightning and roaring thunder from his tree home. He climbed down at sunrise, forever altered by the ordeal. Indestructible and fearless.
That feeling merged his past with the present and Taimur felt less and less afraid. Innocence had been Taimur’s single obsession for the past two years, but this surge of memory and the heaviness of what was now evident to him, gave way to a new focus. He knew being declared innocent in the court would not grant it. What Taimur needed most now was to be set free. Real Freedom.
He turned towards the men, the woman’s hand fell to her side, and he walked towards them, leaving the tree behind him. “Thank You”, he whispered to her. She nodded and looked back at the tree before they all made their way to the parked cars.
Absent from the men was any aggression or brusqueness. One of them placed his one hand on top of Taimur’s head, and with the other he pressed his shoulder to place him in the backseat of the car. “I will take him, he needs to…”, the woman leaned closer to one of the men to explain, but was interrupted by the man who steered Taimur into the car. “Say no more”.
Taimur would explain to her how he arrived at the Mahogany tree. His memories were full and pulsing and needed to be released. Wherever she was taking him, he prayed the distance would grant him enough time for deliverance.
That tree, it was hardly visible to me that night until the sound of someone grunting drew me to it. I saw the man with the briefcase there. He held it in his right hand, and a shovel in his left. I thought that odd, to have both in hand, but it was as if he was too afraid to put either down.
The woman adjusted the rearview mirror to look at Taimur as he spoke.
I hid and watched him tuck the briefcase under his arm and dig the shovel into the ground, tossing rocks and dirt behind him until an entire hour passed. I knew this because my phone buzzed and I had to quickly silence it. 9:40 PM. It was my mother calling
It was 10:30 when he finished. I remember because I heard my phone buzz again as it died. He placed the briefcase in the hole, then he picked up three smooth rocks and placed them carefully to mark the spot.
Did you plan to dig it up Taimur?
No, I don’t know….really. I had no plans that night, just to find a quiet place to see the moon and go home.
I wanted to get up and leave, but only after getting a better look at the rocks and the tree, so I hung around until I saw him turn and walk away. That’s when the other one approached. I saw the shovel being raised, and it being brought down over the man’s head. I couldn’t just sit there and watch. I mean, I had to do something, right? I rushed over and grabbed the shovel. We fell to the ground, both of us, landing on the man. There was blood on my shirt, and I placed one hand on that tree and pulled myself up. There was no time to clean the blood from the bark. No time to think. I grabbed the shovel and pointed the handle towards the man so he would back off. But he charged.
His voice began to shake.
They rode for miles in silence-The revelation filling the car with a stifling grief. She rolled the windows down and let the coolness of the air blow over them. She understood what Taimur had done, with the men’s bodies, but what of the briefcase? She visited that place where the man intended to bury the briefcase, the place that became his grave instead. She pressed her boots into the ground on many occasions, trying to understand what led to the deaths of these two men. She once stared up at the Mahogany tree as it held onto the ground where the men were buried. and in her desperation, asked it for answers.
She would wait until he could continue. If he would continue, but he was silent, his body leaning over in complete exhaustion and relief. He was breathing fully now.
It was the air, how it whipped their hair around and pulled the papers from her carseat up and out of the windows. The evidence against Taimur that she held onto for the past two years, now littered that country road. They both watched as they flittered hopelessly around the car, and then to the pavement and out of sight. She tossed the remaining papers and a thick folder from the window, then the phone that she knew would ring soon. On the other end would be a voice violently demanding to know where she had taken Taimur. But she would never hear it, that too was lost to the wind.
Taimur leaned forward and gestured for the woman to roll the windows so that she could hear him.
“Do you know how to get to Morgan?”
She thought he slept, but Taimur watched her adjust her posture several times within the last hour. On a normal day, on a drive shared between friends, he would have offered to help her drive. With each stretch and repositioning of her back, he ached with the desire to do just that, but she was no friend, and the windows in the front were untinted. She was armed. When she pulled over and removed the siren from the roof of the car, he noticed the shape of a handgun at her waist. Unaware that her wallet slipped into the seat when she stood, she took a moment to stretch her legs-enough time for Taimur to snatch it and tuck it between his legs. His fate was bound in that black leather and as soon as she took off, he opened it and removed the only card that it held. She turned the radio on and found a station playing a dramatic concerto.
Mona Green Special Security. #809 was printed neatly in the center, on the back a small chip and a phone number.
And just as he was about to place it back into the wallet, she shut the radio off and fixed her gaze directly on his eyes in the rearview mirror.
“Did you find out what you needed to know?”
Taimur nearly choked on his own words. “If you haven’t noticed, I quit”
He could finally speak, “Quit?”
“The man who owned the money that you stole, I was hired by him.”
“To bring me to him.”
“Indeed. I messed up a while ago, so don’t sweat it. I lied about a failed mission. I may as well keep up the routine.” She said with a wild smile that showed all of her teeth.
Taimur laughed for the first time in months.
“I won’t ask you about the money, I figure you will remember where it is once you hear of my plan. It will be necessary.”
She spoke so matter of factly, that he knew that she had been watching him, studying him. but for how long he could not know.
“That was you, watching from a parked car in front of my house wasn’t it ?”
She turned to show him her entire face and it began to materialize in his memory. Now he saw her face in the courthouse, and the parking lot of a drugstore.
The ‘Welcome to Morgan’ sign appeared as they rolled by and took the first exit off of the highway.
Taimur couldn’t forget these streets. They passed his high school, and there was the soccer field, though it was much larger and greener now. He directed her until they pulled on a side street next to a peeling white fence. Three chimneys sat atop the roof of this massive brick house. The bushes were overgrown as well as the grass, a zoo of squirrels zipping through the overgrowth and birds of all sizes and colors pecking the dirt for worms.
The woman followed Taimur’s gaze. They seemed larger than before as he gazed at a tree that looked exactly like the mahogany tree whose shade they both stood beneath hours ago. This tree held a house, unlike any tree house she had ever seen. It made the tree itself seem a home, a place to fold yourself into and hide from the world. She knew now why he needed to return to this abandoned estate.
As she followed him up the tree, she knew that when they came down they would know exactly where they would go. Taimur trusted that it would. This was a tree like the other, it held secrets and kept them hidden until you were brave enough to conquer it.
About the author: Shaheda “Seshat” Richardson is Poetry Editor, an avid reader, and an advocate for literacy in her community. She currently publishes her work on her blog ‘Reading The Diaspora’ and is currently working on a book of poetry, short stories, and a novel.
Blog: Reading The Diaspora