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The Dream Catcher - Chapter 1



It was raining hard. I gazed absentmindedly across the huge double-paned glass window as the clouds threatened to empty themselves. Lightning spiked and was followed by a clap of thunder. The wooden chair with a red-cushioned seat near the window was my favorite spot to have tea and think - something I did quite often as pointed out by my roommate. Even though the heaters were doing a pretty good job at keeping me warm and comfortable, I knew the weather outside must be freezing cold or çok soğuk as they said in Turkish. I was told this was the hottest November in Ankara and the natives roaming around in casual hoodies was a testament to that.

"Not Again!" exclaimed Elif. I sensed her before she said anything. My senses had grown sharper. Also, she liked wearing strong fragrances.

"Zo you need to stop behaving like a grandma who loves to sit in her rocking chair and knit sweaters all the time" Elif complained for the thousandth time.

"Where's the rocking chair? And I wish I could knit.." I said playfully.

Elif rolled her eyes at me while getting rid of her trench coat and putting the umbrella away. "When are the scientists going to invent portable toilet seats! Plus the weather is challenging my bladder.. Be right back!" She ran towards the washroom while blabbering on and on.

To some she might be the crazy one but the truth was her reckless nature balanced out my over-conscious personality and her insanity kept me sane. She was the only person who made me feel alive and never judged me on being anti-social. She was patient enough to tolerate a roommate who screamed and woke up in the middle of the night due to persistent nightmares.

"Wow Zo! You cleaned the entire apartment all by yourself. Sorry I couldn't be of much help.. actually my boss has been dropping hints of firing people since last week and I don't want to take any risks.." Elif worked at the cash counter of a renowned clothing brand outlet. She was pretty, trustworthy and friendly - an ideal choice for her job.

"El you'll be fine. They can't find a better person for the job." I started to dish out the çorba (pronounced as Chorba). Elif was Turkish and she was a huge help when it came to learning the Turkish language and recipes.

"Ooo nice! Zoey Dawood you are a blessing from the Almighty!" She filled her bowl and started eating at once. Even after all these months my new name sounded strange to my ears. I had always loved my name 'Zuhal Hussein'. It was my mother who named me and it made me feel closer to her. But it seemed life was determined to strip me off of each and every emotional connection that I have ever had.

I was pulled out of my reverie by Elif. "I was starving!.. Have you added Nane (peppermint) in it? I guess you have.." She mumbled between mouthfuls. Another advantage of living with Elif was the fact that she wasn't much of an observant person.

"You are welcome and please don't talk while eating, it's against manners and against the sunnah". I reminded her while eating my own bowl of soup. At times I felt like a mother to her.

She gulped a spoonful. "Okay okay! by the way can we watch the new season of MasterChef Australia tonight? I've heard its awesome and It's up on the website."

"Sorry El, I haven't prayed I'shaa yet and I have to complete the painting for Mr. Aksoy tonight.. My Art School scholarship depends on it.." I politely refused as I finished my dinner and started placing the plates and pots in the dishwasher.

"No problem Zo, next time! I really hope you get that scholarship.. I mean you are a born artist.. I am sure Mr. Aksoy is earning huge profits off your art pieces and paying you peanuts." Elif finished her bowl and started cleaning the kitchen counter.

"At least he's helping me earn a living El.. The world is a cruel place. Its hard to find people who are willing to help you without expecting something in return. And lets be fair.. who pays an amateur artist?" I meant every word I said. I really was grateful for Mr. Aksoy's help. He used to buy my paintings and sell them to his elite clients. I was surprised people even liked what I made.

"To be honest your paintings make me very sad" said Elif in a matter-of-fact tone. It made me laugh.

"What's so sad about my paintings?" I asked.

"For starters they remind me of Picasso's 'Death at a Funeral'... you somehow make the colors look gloomy.." explained Elif.

Her analysis rendered me speechless because she was right. I was filled with anguish and art seemed like the only way to channel it out. My paintings were a personification of the heartbreak. A proof of how a living body could be a home for a lost soul.

Elif had finally went to sleep after wasting a couple of hours on all her social media accounts. I offered my prayers and completed my painting. I changed into my pajamas and made my bed. I was scared to go to bed because every time I went to sleep, my sub-conscious replayed my dark past in front of my eyes and the memories I wanted to forget so badly came rushing. And this was the reason for all the screaming.

"That dream-catcher is such a flop.. No offense but It has one job to do and its failing at that too! If it didn't belong to your mom I would have chucked it out for sure!" Elif had said. There was no way I could explain Elif the reasons behind its failure.

As soon as I slipped my phone below my pillow - its usual resting place- it started to vibrate. It took me a moment to process that someone was calling me. The screen showed an unknown private number which I didn't recognize. The first thought to cross my mind was "They have found me!" and I could feel my palms sweating.

The phone went quiet. "Calm down.. its just a call.. must be a wrong number.." I tried to reason with myself. The phone started vibrating again and it was the same number. "Pick up the phone before El wakes up!" I scolded myself.

"Hello." I answered the call with great courage. There was silence on the other side.

"Hello. Merhaba. Who's there?" I repeated. Suddenly I heard a sigh of relief and then I heard my name in a deep male voice "Zuhal?" I could recognize this voice even while sleeping.

"Who's there?" I asked even though I knew the answer.

"It's me Serhan." he said in a low, serious voice.

"We had a pact. It's time to fulfill it." he reminded me.

"How did you find me?" my voice quivered.

"If I can help you change countries then I guess it should not be a surprise that I found your number." There was a hint of amusement in his voice.

"Anyways. This can be discussed when we meet. I am texting you an address, meet me there at 2.00 pm on Saturday. Görüşürüz!" The line went dead and my phone beeped. There was a new text message.

I sat frozen on my bed. It was so silly of me to think he wont call. After all he had warned me: "Zuhal Hussein you have made a pact with the devil."

Read Chapter 2 here:


© 2018 Qandeel Saleem

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