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Death In The Caliphate
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 1

Note: Those readers who know the webcomic I draw, Raghead the Fiendly Neighbourhood Terrorist, will be familiar with the characters of Colin and Rose. It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome them now to the world of prose fiction.



"I suppose youíre wondering why I summoned you here today."

The Khalifa Abu Rashid al Sirdardi, Commander of the Faithful, Amir of the World, walked to the window and pulled the curtain aside. Through the tinted bulletproof glass, the city looked as though it was bathed in blue moonlight, for all that the noonday sun blazed down on the streets.

"Iím sure youíll tell me as soon as you think fit," I responded diplomatically.

The Khalifa snorted. "And why do you imagine Iíd have called you here if I hadnít seen fit to tell you?"

I kept my silence. He wasnít really expecting an answer. Besides, al Sirdardiís huge office was so luxurious, and the air, after the heat outside, so cool that I felt almost as though any word I spoke would sink down into the dark blue carpet on the floor and disappear.

"I see," he said after a brief pause, still looking out at the streets, "that the delegates have begun to arrive. Is everything all set?"

"My report will be on your desk Ė"

"Iím not talking about the report." Al Sirdardi slid the curtain back into place and turned to me. His thick pale hands moved across the breast of his black camel-hair robe, like blind animals searching for prey. "You know how important this conference is."

"I know how important it is to you, Commander of the Faithful," I said.

"Cut that Commander of the Faithful crap, Colin. Weíve known each other too long for that kind of stupid ceremony." The Khalifa sat down and stared at me across his desk. "Do you know why this conference is so important?"

"Well, itís obviously necessary to show the vassals that we have their interests in mind and so we need to take their opinion into account when formulating our policies." That was the official line, though, of course, nobody ever uses the word vassal. Itís always "brother nation" or some such other euphemism. "Is that right, Comm...Khalifa?"

"Not even close, Colin." Al Sirdardi stroked his beard. It was threaded through with silver now, but he was still an immensely vigorous looking figure, as befit the Khalifa. I wondered, once again, what hidden disabilities might lie under that black robe, kept in check by his doctors. There were plenty of rumours, but they were so contradictory that I suspected al Sirdardi himself of starting some of them as camouflage. "Itís a whole new step weíre going to take here Ė weíre trying to make a new world for everybody."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. But not everyone can see that, and those who can, donít agree."

"What exactly do you mean, Khalifa?"

"This isnít twenty years ago, Colin. We arenít trying to set up the Khilafat any longer. We arenít running around fighting enemies on every side. Weíre a nation now. The first nation among equals, maybe, but a nation all the same. And nations have their own priorities."

"Thereís a time for war and a time for peace," I supplied.

"Right. And this is the time for peace. We canít keep acting as though weíre at war, or else weíll end up at war again, and that is something I will not allow." Al Sirdardi drummed his fingers on the tabletop, an old habit of his when thinking hard. "What I am trying to achieve is a modus vivendi with the rest of the world. I intend to try and find a common ground on the religious level, a framework of common minimum values everyone can agree on. If that succeeds, we can then move on to political agreements. In the end, I want a world under our leadership, true, but a world where everyoneís willing to let us lead, instead of resenting us and waiting for an opportunity to strike. And hence this conference. Itís the first step."

"That sounds commendable," I said neutrally. "Though I can see that this would lead to certain difficulties with some people."

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:General Horror
Type:Long story
Rating:8.33 / 10
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