Author : Farah Rahman

Intelligence on the ground was that insurgents from the Afghan border were hours away from seizing control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal with the help of North Korea.

So NATO drops the bomb on Waziristan and Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, a woman gives birth in the mountains. A blinding white light bathes the land as they carry her deep into a network of caves and put her down to rest.

‘PUSH!’ shouts the midwife,

‘NO’ she screams, fighting the wave after wave of pain.

‘PUSH! Your sister is coming! It’s not too late!’

Her lips turn grey and she stops moving so they have to go in for the baby. Black rain splashes the boy’s soft, creased face and someone in a radiation suit wraps him in silver sheets and runs, deeper and deeper into the caves, until a dot of light on the other side of the mountain becomes an opening. Pebbles and rocks cascade as the figure with the child skids downhill to a plateaux where there is a vessel covered in grey, black and white camouflage. The side door is open and another figure in a suit hurries down the ladder.

‘Quick! Hand me the child!’

Rain thickens as the child is raised up.

There is sweat, panic and a flurry of hands clipping seat belts shut. The boy grows quiet as his aunt removes her mask and reveals hazel eyes, light brown skin and tangled hair caked in dust. The child lies in her arms, curled up with his knees to his chest and his right fist in his mouth. She takes his hand away gently and replaces it with a bottle. She holds him so close it is as if she is trying to absorb him through her skin.

“Allaho sha allaho zama jana allaho (Sleep my love.)
allaho sha allaho zama jana allaho
(Sleep my love.)
khobe de dershi pa lailo (May you rest with the blessing of God…)
lale lalo lale lalo lale lalo” …as sleep falls over your limbs.)

She will carry this and other songs to their new home, which has been christened ‘Al Habib’ – ‘new hope’. It will be over fifteen years before the moon with its underground quarters can be purchased entirely from the North Koreans, but in space they will have less enemies and the costs have been reasonable.

‘I’m sorry about your sister’, says the nurse, as he hurredly checks and rechecks the life signs of the crew on his moniter. He is trilingual in Korean, English, Arabic and Farsi, as are all of the Project pioneers. The boy’s aunt shakes her head in silence, tears spilling onto her lap. She kisses the boy’s brow as they break through the atmosphere and the whole ship vibrates

‘We’re lucky that he’s stable and he’s lucky he has you. Hold on to that for now and sip some water. You’ll need to drink A LOT for the journey, especially if this is your first time.’

Aisha nods and presses her lips around a straw connected to the fresh water supply attached to her seat. Naseem’s eyes close as he nuzzles into his aunt’s chest and falls asleep. She leans in and barely whispers into one feather-soft ear:

‘You will grow up to know peace. You will grow up to know beauty. I promise.’

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