Crossing on A Thin Line

Crossing On A Thin Line

by Anuar Tahir

Chapter 5: Of Chances and Coincidences

Beads of sweat trickled down Arnold’s forehead. He gripped both of the armrest; squeezing the life out of it. He shifted his legs and stood up; he looked straight into his lecturer’s tired and bloodshot eyes.

Poor Mr Jenkins, I understand why he was late for class” Arnold thought to himself as he approached the wooden desk where Mr Jenkins sat.

Mr Jenkins averted his eyes away from Arnold’s gaze. He looked down on the pile of unmarked mid-term test papers and massaged his wrinkled temples.

I know this is sudden for you. Please take up this opportunity, there won’t be another chance for you or any other student for that matter” Mr Jenkins asserted.

Arnold placed both his hands on the desk; looking down on his lecturer. There were a few strands of white hair; he had been teaching in Dunston High for nearly two decades.

But Mr Jenkins, no matter what you do there is no other way you can change the way who I am!” Arnold raised his voice.

Mr Jenkins stopped massaging his temple. He stood up and looked into Arnold’s eyes again. He reached out his frail arms and placed them on Arnold’s shoulder to soothe his uncontrollable angst. Arnold jerked; he tried his best to calm down.

Arnold turned around; looking at the grand collection of books that surrounded him. He took small, courageous steps towards an old dusted leather book hidden amongst the vast array of books. He took the book out from the shelf.

Read it, it’s fine” Mr Jenkins said,

Arnold flipped open the dusty cover and came across a bookmarked page. He stood rigidly as he saw a note.

“You – Monday, November 29 1971

Dear Clare. 4 years and 361 days. Never has there been a day I stopped thinking about you.

I made the wrong decision and it was my fault to have left you hanging in the balance. I left you in pursuit of my dreams. Hope you are doing fine with your life. I am sorry I couldn’t meet you on Oct 15 back then. Hopefully, we will meet one another in 5 days after for so long.

Your Special Friend,

Jenkins

Mr Jenkins got up from his seat and stood beside Arnold; who was still staring at the note.

Look Arnold. In life, we have to make life-changing decisions. Whatever decision you make should be a culmination of the learning lessons of your past mistakes. There is no definite route for anyone. God knows. Choose wisely when he lay down that path to you” Mr Jenkins lectured.

Arnold placed the book back onto the shelf and returned to his seat. Mr Jenkins turned; his eyes gleaming with excitement and fear.

I have made my decision. I want to take up internship.” Arnold said in gusto

Good! your first day of work is tomorrow” Mr Jenkins said

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Arnold scavenged his old pine wardrobe; desperately trying to find the best office wear. He chugged away all his old clothes in a tiny corner of his wardrobe. He took out a plain white long-sleeved shirt and long slim fit jeans.

“Arnold! Shouldn’t you be in school now?” Zoey shouted from across the kitchen.

“Nope! I’ll be working as a responsible young adult. I’m on internship now!” Arnold shouted from his room

Zoey smirked. Arnold’s bravado speech didn’t convince his mother of his faux confidence.

His mother was serving up a platter of her famous old English flapjacks; crispy golden brown crust that goes well with any maple syrup.

He styled his long and messy hair with a few dabs of Vo5 wax and gave his best smile on the mirror placed in between two of his favourite posters; Muse and The Killers.

This will make a good impression on them, I hope.” Arnold reassured himself.

He looked on the face of his batman watch; it was 7.15. He quickly gathered his portfolio and accolades he received throughout the years in Dunston High and chugged it inside his black Bershka sling bag.

You don’t have to worry about any interviews or formal induction, they are ready to take you in” Arnold remembered what Mr Jenkins told him before he left the office yesterday.

Better to be safe than sorry eh? A couple of certificates aren’t that heavy after all” Arnold thought.

He grabbed a few quick bites of his mum’s flapjacks and drank a whole cup of hot chocolate milk his mother prepared for him.

Arnold took his house keys left house for his first day at work.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Arnold stood outside of “Searchbook” The grandeur of the tall 58-storey office building erected before him; shiny new panels of tinted black windows and fresh beige white coat of paint awed Arnold. He took a moment’s breath to face an exciting new future ahead of him.

He took a good look at himself, tilted up and down from head to toe; checking for every noticeable crease and stubborn stains visible to the naked eye. He loosened the suffocating grip of his Bershka sling bag.

He took light quick steps and entered the building.

Here goes nothing…” Arnold thought to himself.

A cold blast of air gave him the shivers. Everyone was wearing solemn business outfits. Arnold looked towards the centre of the lobby. An elaborate fountain spouted tall jets of water, reaching as high as 5th floor. The first 5 floors were designed like a rotunda. The general public had access to only the 5 floors.

“Searchbook” is a global phenomenon; it was the corporation that made the most popular social networking platform; bridging people from all walks of life.

Arnold saw Asian tourists taking photos by the railings overlooking the fountain.

Enough with all the sightseeing, let’s get started.” Arnold thought.

Arnold scanned around to get his way around the lobby. A lady receptionist motioned; she smiled and nodded to acknowledge Arnold’s first day at work.

Hi, my name is Eve. You must be Arnold from Dunston High, may I have a look at your identification card?” Eve asked.

Please proceed to level 11, creative engagement department. It is right beside the human resources department. Take this badge along with you at all times. Use it to access your level by tapping the card on the lift. Meet Mr Jenkins and Mr Anuar once you’ve reached.” Eve explained.

Arnold walked towards the lift lobby; a large sprawling hall of elevators with madmen rushing in and out of the lifts.

He entered an empty lift, took out the card and pressed on the button up to level 11. A classical Beethoven music played in the background and he hummed along to it.

The lift doors opened. A familiar face popped up in front of him.

Eynn?” Arnold questioned.

©Anuar Tahir. The story is the work of fiction. Any ideas and characters in the story are wholly owned by Anuar Tahir. Do not republish it under your name.

Download the PDF version hereNote: Right-click and “Save-target As” or “Save Link”


Crossing on a Thin Line

Crossing On A Thin Line

by Anuar Tahir

Chapter 4: Ordo ab chao(Out of chaos, order)

Lovebirds smooched and hug one another to warm themselves. The rain hadn’t stop Paper planes flew across Arnold’s face. He did not flinch in any way. He looked straight towards the lecture stage; patiently waiting for Mr Jenkins to arrive to steal the show. The constant chatter in the lecture theatre began to piss Arnold off.

“Fuck these animals, don’t they know how to shut the fuck up?” Arnold looked around to see the scurrying crowd around him.

The throng of latecomers made their way inside the huge well-lit lecture theatre. Soon, the blue coloured seats were filled with a sea of inconsiderate jocks who wore their proud red base with white lightning streaks school uniforms. Arnold inserted his earphone in his ears; which were lobed. He ignored the bustling world around him as he took out his wet collection of notes. He placed it neatly on his the elongated table.

A dark figure emerged from the entrance and it was the all-familiar white beard that caught everyone’s attention in the theatre. Arnold kept looking straight towards the lecture theatre.

Looks like someone came later than me” Arnold thought.

Mr Jenkins had his arms in akimbo. He then took out his laptop and started his slow and boring presentation. Everyone took out their notes and started to scribble illegibly. If it’s one thing that Dunston High is known for; it’s how fast the students need to cope in catching up with what their lecturer is talking about.

Arnold didn’t take out his pencil like all the other students.

“Programmed like a robot, is this what the school taught us to be? To listen to orders and act like a dog?” Arnold was in deep thought.

Arnold still had his earpiece on. He wasn’t listening to any of the important keywords Mr Jenkins spouted. He was listening to “The Modern Age” by the strokes. Arnold looked around the lecture theatre; looking at the grand architecture and design of the theatre. It was inspired by the classical and renaissance art. Elaborate frescos of men and woman clad in white robes holding hands with one another, walking towards the great beyond.

Arnold!” a commanding voice boomed throughout the silent theatre.

Everyone had their eyes on Arnold. He was still in his reverie; thinking about the insignificant idea of love and soul mates. He looked at Gina; his classmate who had black short-shoulder length hair. She sat right of his seat. She pointed to Arnold’s left, where Mr Jenkins stood.

Mr Jenkins pulled out the single cord from his earpiece. This time, Arnold flinched.

What the f..?” Arnold stopped short of his words.

Mr Jenkin’s famous akimbo scared the living daylights out of Arnold.

Follow me to my office, we need to talk” Mr Jenkins spoke in a deep serious tone.

Arnold hesitated. He took a big step forward as Mr Jenkins walked towards the exit door of the theatre. Mr Jenkins opened the door and both of them walked out of the theatre; leaving the rest of the students in a daze.

Mr Jenkins and Arnold entered the office. Pillars and mountains of books on philosophy, social sciences and anthropology caught Arnold’s attention. He darted his eyes from one corner of the room to the other end. He had not been into the room before. No one was permitted to enter his room unless he has his reasons.

Arnold knew too well what his lecturer is about to do; his famous boring lecture.

Arnold, take a seat. I know you have been lectured countless of times, you are the hardest student to handle by far. You have excellent grades and you can continue your studies to Oxford or even to Harvard with a flick of a finger…” He paused.

Mr Jenkins took a sip of water from his water bottle.

You are an amazing student in that aspect but you have to learn things no other student is able to experience in this school. I see you have the potential to be someone good or even bad in the future. You need to explore what kind of world is it out there. The world isn’t just about books, movies and documentaries. It is meant to be explored. You need to experience life, not learn about it.”

You are a complete mess; you don’t have any guidance and you think on your own. Ordo ab chao. Out of chaos, I will make order out of you. This brings me exciting news, I received news that you have been approved to be attached to “SearchBook” as an intern. There, you will know how to be a responsible adult. I have faith in you that you will do well in it. Your grades are sufficient to get you into a good university. Do not worry about that.

I want you to be more than who you can be; not just as an excellent student, but a good person as well” Mr Jenkins finally stopped.

What?” Arnold froze in his seat.

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©Anuar Tahir. The story is the work of fiction. Any ideas and characters in the story are wholly owned by Anuar Tahir. Do not republish it under your name.

Crossing On A Thin Line

Crossing On A Thin Line

by Anuar Tahir

Chapter 3: The Meeting of a Thousand Suns

Arnold stood precariously at the sheltered bus stop. He tapped his fingers on his batman watch as he stared towards the empty distance. The watch showed 7.45am. He looked out to Lemmings road and wished that the straight bus to his school will arrive soon. The blue file filled with his notes was bulging like slab of stones.

“Damn, this file is heavy. Why did i..”? Arnold cursed himself

He saw scores of married couples strolling happily to the nearby convenience store; 7-11.

“Why do people have to marry?” Arnold thought to himself.

Arnold averted his eyes away from the happy couple and stared at the dreaded alley way beside 7-11. He took a heavy breath in and hoped that he would just meet that mysterious petite girl once again.

“Where the fuck is the bus?” Arnold muttered to himself.

He twirled his beard desperately trying to think of a way to get to school as fast as he could. There were no taxis in sight; Lemmings road was a remote road. He thought of walking to school. Although he knew the fastest route to get to school, he had never walked to school before. Arnold made his decision and crossed the road.

Eynn walked slowly, taking a breather while the fresh breeze blew her silky smooth black-brownish hair all over her face. The billowing winds blew her bright yellow office dress. A dark veil of angry clouds encircled the shying sun.

It was about to rain.

Eynn unzipped her black Chanel bag and took out her bright pink polka-dotted umbrella. She was physically alone in the park with no one to accompany her. It started to drizzle. The first raindrops trickled down her smooth complexion. She let a few of the raindrops to drop on her hair before she opened her umbrella.

“Let’s walk ever slowly now. I’ve got 30 more minutes before work starts anyway” Eynn thought to herself.

Arnold rushed towards a nearby shelter to take out his umbrella. He was drenched in cold rainwater. He wiped the few beads of raindrops off his face. He contemplated on which route to take; he knew that the shortest route will be full of puddles and that would mess up his Suede shoes. He had no choice but to take the longer path to school.

Arnold picked up his pace to reach his destination. He had gotten out of Lemmings road and he was fast approaching Terry Lane.

“Old Terry Park” the sign read.

Arnold walked swiftly into the park. The leaves on the sturdy oak trees were swaying back and forth violently to the strong winds. In the distance, Arnold could see a petite lady picking up her pace as the leaves began to fall. Droplets of rainwater pelted like razor-pointed katanas landed hard on Arnold’s umbrella. He too picked up the pace to have a look at the lady.

“Why is that girl all alone here, I wonder who she is?” Arnold thought to himself.

A strong gust of wind blew Arnold off balance and he lost grip of his file. The notes weren’t attached to his file. It broke open and the notes on his file flew with the wind. Arnold fumbled; he threw his umbrella away and waved his arms aggressively in the air to retrieve his notes back. The notes flew past a row of daisies and into river Terry. He looked on as his notes drifted slowly away from him.

“Heck it, I’m never gonna get them back!” Arnold shouted in anguish.

Arnold turned his attention to the winding road in front of him. He dragged his feet and picked up his umbrella off the ground. Rainwater was dripping freely off his drenched shirt. He opened his umbrella and walked slowly to school. He looked around and saw no one in the park except for himself.

“She’s gone” Arnold muttered to himself.

Arnold walked out of the park. His school was in sight.

Download the PDF version hereNote: Right-click and “Save-target As” or “Save Link”

©Anuar Tahir. The story is the work of fiction. Any ideas and characters in the story are wholly owned by Anuar Tahir. Do not republish it under your name.

Crossing On A Thin Line

Crossing On A Thin Line

by Anuar Tahir

Chapter 2: The Calm Before the Storm

An invigorating aroma from a piping hot cup of steamed milk permeated Arnold’s lifeless and cold bachelor’s room. There were towering stacks of books; namely theoretical books such as “Take Command” by Kelly Perdew. His old brown journal and exercise books were strewn across the four corners of his messy room.

His mother; Zoey had reminded him umpteen times to get his act together by cleaning his room like a real man should. She stared at Arnold who had his laptop switched on the whole night. He had slept in front of his laptop as the words “Genesis” caught Zoey’s attention. She sighed heavily and left the room with the hot drink in his room.

“Always with his science and logic….he should wake up anytime now” Zoey thought to herself as she closed to door.

Dawn was approaching. It was still dark.

“Look I have to go now. Thank you Arnold” Eynn walked away from the alley in a hurry

“Wait! Can we meet aga..” Arnold let out a soft whisper as he felt something pull him away.

By now the torrential rain has stopped. The tattered-clothed beggars in the district hurriedly picked spots in the old Terry Park to receive sympathy from onlookers. The distinctive brown wooden benches, the old pine trees and the dazzling array of colorful daisies made it one of the best tourist hot spot in South Westminster.

Eynn sat down on a worn-out bench in her bright yellow office wear. She loved that spot; it was situated between two old pine trees and the daises were in full bloom most of the time. It was where her boyfriend proposed to her 4 years ago. Eynn was reading a book as she was patiently waiting for her boyfriend to meet and send her to work.

“Where is he now?” She looked at her watch and her phone vibrated in her black Chanel bag.

“Sorry darling, I cannot make it today. I have to attend a very important meeting in the morning. You go ahead first ok?” she scrolled the message down on her piano black iPhone4.

“Sure. I’ll go first then” She gave a fast reply to her boyfriend.

Eynn let out a disappointed sigh and placed her book inside her bag. It was not the first time her boyfriend did this to her.

“Might as well walk slowly then. I’m still early for work.” Eynn walked off slowly to admire the scenery. She plucked one pink daisy to cheer herself up.

The sun was up. It was morning.

Arnold was still asleep in his disorganized and messy room. His mum had left for work and the steamed milk was still hot.

“Can we meet again!?” Arnold stretched out his hand trying to reach Eynn. He felt something pulled him back from the reverie. He was dreaming.

“Oh crap!” Arnold shouted in angst.

The steamed milk had spilled all over his theoretical notes on “The Machiavellian Moment” The notes were important to him. He had been using the notes as references to write his thesis. Arnold had his eyes locked on his batman watch; it read 7.45am. He gathered all his notes and shut down his computer as fast as he could.

“I’m late! I’m sure this will be the last straw for me” Thoughts swirled in Arnold’s mind as he tried to dry his notes.

Arnold quickly grabbed his mum’s hairdryer to dry the notes clean. He placed the hairdryer adjacently to his notes; to dry it without his supervision. He took his towel and zoomed straight to the toilet. He had no time left to waste.

Arnold had forgotten to switch on his water heater. The cold water trickled down his small-framed body and he shivered violently. He can never take cold baths in the morning or else he’ll get a mild hyperthermia. He washed himself up and didn’t have the luxury to spend any more time longer in the bathroom. He took no longer than a minute to brush his teeth. It was a record for him. No less than ten minutes and he was done.

Arnold went back to his room to check on his notes.

“Great! At least I can continue using them. I’m sure go get an extra long lecture on being late by Mr Jenkins” Arnold saw an angry bearded man with his arms in akimbo looking down at him in his imagination.

Mr Jenkins was a respected lecturer in Dunston High. Arnold had no choice but to face the music sooner or later. He took his black sling bag and stuffed his laptop, notes and a Davidoff perfume in it. He took a good look of himself on the full-body mirror. He was ready for another day at school.

“First, it was that incident in the alley. Then there was the weird dream. Now I’m going to be grilled dead” Arnold thought of a million ways on how his lecturer will do to him later in school.

He drank whatever that’s left of the steamed milk, took the house keys along and left the house for school.

“Wish me luck!” Arnold wished himself to face a great day ahead of him.

©Anuar Tahir. The story is the work of fiction. Any ideas and characters in the story are wholly owned by Anuar Tahir. Do not republish it under your name.

Download the PDF version here. Remember to click “save as” or “save link as”

Crossing On A Thin Line

Crossing On A Thin Line

by Anuar Tahir

Chapter 1: Maelstrom

The south Westminster district was filled with a familiar cry of anguish. Beggars filled the streets. A scruffy-looking old man in his sixties with a tattered red and black blanket warmed his frail body. Beside him, a young girl in a grey worn-out sweater cuddled beside the old man. She wailed at the top of her small lungs as she shivered under the coldness of the night. The night was relentless. It was raining heavily.

Amongst the deafening thunders and cold shivers, a young man pondered about the meaning of life. Sitting on a desk chair with his ivory laptop on his desk, Arnold typed out a 2000-word long thesis. He had been writing it down for the past 3 days and the rain wasn’t helping him. He twirled his pen around and dropped it on the dark parquet flooring. As he tried to pick it up, he saw a crushed note below his desk.

He unfolded the note and read…

“From Jane.  I have fallen in love with you. Please give me a chance to be with you. I’d give you my life, my body, everything you wish dear”.

Arnold cringed and crushed the paper back to its original form. He hadn’t had the time to entertain measly distractions of life such as love.  He has vagaries of his own perception on subjects that touch matters of the heart.

The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love” Arnold thought to himself as he typed his thesis on “Genesis” furiously.

Arnold was given the task to write a thesis that encompassed what it was like being human. He was on a stumbling block; he cannot find a suitable argument to support an idea on love.

“It’s a logical fallacy” Arnold thought.

He tried to get the idea of out of his head and just focus on finishing his work. He had to hand in his thesis to his lecturer by school’s end this year.

“Remember, remember the 5th of November” he looked at his calendar intently.

He switched his gaze to his black batman watch; a treasured birthday gift that was given by his dad 10 years ago. “11.11pm” it showed.

“I am a man of reason; of logic and rationality. In order to succeed in life, I would need those principles. I don’t have to think of feeble things such as love, hope and fate. It is all bullshit” Arnold re-affirmed his views on life as he thought of his idol; Bruce Wayne/Batman. He was the fictional man who helped shaped Arnold be what he is now. __________________________________________________________________________________

Across Arnold’s block, a petite girl with a black-brownish hair walked out of a convenience stall. The rain continued to pour heavily. She took out her pink polka-dotted umbrella to shield herself from the rain. As she walked on the concrete pavement, she saw a young girl with and old man cuddling one another. Her heart sank. She approached the couple and handed two bars of chocolate Éclair to the young girl and the old man.

Unbeknownst to the petite girl, a hooded man with a knife in his hands crept up slowly to her. The young girl screamed loudly to warn the danger that loomed.

Arnold heard the scream and looked out of his window. He scanned around to pin-point the exact source of the scream. A few years in military school taught Arnold some basic survival instincts and he has developed a good sensory of perception of his surroundings. He saved his work and closed the lid on his laptop. He left his apartment and donned on his poncho.

The petite girl knew something terrible was about to happen. She turned behind and saw the man who could take her life away.

Arnold was drenched in cold rain as he ran blindly by instinct towards the source of the scream. As he approached a dark alley, he heard a muffled sound. He tried his best to remain silent. The old man and the young girl saw Arnold. The hooded man had his hand clasped on the petite girl’s mouth.

“Do not make any sound and I will spare you your life, just give me whatever you have in your bag” the hooded man spoke softly in the petite girl’s ears and licked it.

The petite girl flinched and tried to remove whatever she can find in her bag.  As she was rummaging her bag, a photo of her boyfriend dropped on the floor. All she could do now was to think of her boyfriend.

Arnold hid behind a big green trash box and devised a plan to save the girl. “I can use the stealth approach and take him out slowly but that would require co-operation of the young girl and the old man” Arnold thought to himself.

Arnold placed his fingers on his lips and winked to the couple. The couple nodded ever so slightly in unison to assure that they understood Arnold’s gesture.  Arnold had his hands ready for a counter-attack. All Arnold wanted to do now is to execute his plan. Any deviation and it’ll spell trouble. He knew all too well to stick to plans.

“Let’s do this” Arnold re-assured himself

Arnold position himself to execute a sweeping kick on the hooded man’s scrawny legs. He had his hands ready to grab the knife away from the assailant.

The petite girl tensed. She couldn’t take it anymore.

Arnold did a sweeping kick across the assailant’s legs and grabbed the weapon as fast as he could.

“You son of a bitch! What the hell are you doing?”The assailant shouted.

“Doing the right thing” Arnold whispered.

The assailant fell to his knees and Arnold planted a devastating blow on his face. It knocked the living daylights out of the assailant. The assailant had his back faced outwards and his legs were spread apart. Arnold called the police. He did not want the assailant to suffer the coldness of the night alone. He knew how it feels to be alone.

Arnold scanned around and saw the mess around them. Both of them collected the petite girl’s items and looked into each other’s eyes.

“Here you go” Arnold picked up the items and quickly returned them to the petite girl before it got wet any further.

He passed the items to the petite girl and looked into each other’s eyes.

“I bet this is your most treasured possession” Arnold passed the picture of a handsome man to her.

“Yes it is, thank you” the petite girl replied.

“I’m Arnold, May i know what your name is?” Arnold asked

“Eynn” Eynn smiled.

The old man and the young girl had their mouths agape to see how calm the two strangers were after what had happened. They expressed their gratitude to Arnold by thanking him. Arnold offered the couple to stay in his apartment for the night but they refused. Arnold couldn’t bear to watch both of them shiver and tremble in the darkness. He removed his poncho and gave it to the young girl.

Arnold turned around and looked at Eynn. Her demure look gave Arnold an impression that she was traumatized by the nightmare. She was beautiful as the moon. Arnold couldn’t help but look at her sparkling almond-shaped eyes.

“Well then, it’s getting late. I think we should get going now.” Arnold said.

“Yes we should” Eynn said.

“Till we meet again?” Eynn and Arnold spoke those exact words at the same time.

“Yea…wait” Eynn picked up her ringing phone.

“Look, i have to go now. Thank you Arnold” Eynn walked away from the alley in a hurry.

Arnold had the urge to know more about her somehow. The thesis was still in Arnold’s mind. Both of them made their way back. The rain subsided. The old man and the young girl slept peacefully under the shine of the moon.

“What a night…” Arnold thought to himself

The maelstrom was over.

©Anuar Tahir. The story is a work of fiction. Any ideas and characters in the story are wholly owned by Anuar Tahir. Do not republish it under your name.

Download the PDF version here. Note: Right-click and “Save-target As” or “Save Link”