The Gift

By Mudabbir Ahmad


The boy sat there, sharpening a rusty old knife on a shiny new whetstone as a burned out sun shone like a fuzzy ball of dead fire. The boy did not like this work, but holding the knife by its beautifully carved pommel and looking at the rusty but sharp blade gave him a comfort that he had come to love. The sky was dreary in spite of the sun, and so was the boy’s mood when a stranger approached him with a luscious smile on a peculiar face.

The boy put the knife aside, and took the whetstone in his hand and sprinkled it with some water as he looked at the stranger, who was standing right over him now. The stranger leaned forward and with a wry smile asked the boy if he knew who he was. The boy said that he did not. The stranger then sat down next to the boy and took his hat off. His hair was thick but it was grey- not the usual grey, but the grey of deadly storms that have death on their minds and misery on their lips. Just as the stranger took his hat off, a gust of wind rushed through that grey hair of his and it seemed to the boy as though the air had been set on fire upon coming in contact with the stranger. The stranger’s skin was so thin that it that it looked like the air would peel it right off him. It was so tightly stretched across the stranger’s face that it would relieve a great amount of pressure off his bones were the air actually to peel it off. His eyes were brighter than the dead sun that shone in the sky, and when they glanced over the parched landscape, they lit up with a terrifying excitement.  

His wandering yellow eyes had come upon the boy’s knife and with a sudden and swift movement he grabbed it and put it in his pocket. The boy, surprised and angry, asked the stranger to return it. The stranger looked into the distance, and calmly produced a dirty mirror from his pocket. The boy took it in his hand and inspected it with disinterest. But as soon as he came across his image in the mirror, the boy froze.

The stranger asked the boy for the whetstone without looking at his face. The boy’s hands worked of their own volition and handed the stone to the stranger, before the boy’s mind could even comprehend what the stranger was asking for. Then the stranger turned towards the boy his thin-skinned face and looked at him with those yellow bright eyes, and with his hands, on which he was now wearing gloves that he had produced from his empty looking pockets, he took the stone from the boy’s hands. The boy looked at the stranger’s hands with a curiosity that seemed have sprang up for the first time in his mind. The stranger could see this, and he asked the boy not to trouble himself with thoughts and questions. He then leaned over to the boy, and whispered in a voice that almost sounded like a song, “Do not think your hands empty, I have placed the greatest gift in them- ignorance.” 




Someone once told me that while writing about yourself, be modest- I can do nothing but be modest as I write about myself, because I have done nothing of significance. Anyways, I have a Masters degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kashmir University. I work for a local magazine as a reporter (sometimes). I like reading and photography, but most of all I like films (passionately).  And I almost forgot, I write too. Read more of my work on my personal blog at-