Wrote this fiction in 6 hours quite some time back for Fixi’s Sci-Fi Novel. Thought of publishing it anyway although it is not good enough. The resemblance of the characters or plot are not intentionally done. Do criticise on this story, I’d be happy to hear from you.

Nadia has always been the girl that loves dreaming big, having high hopes, realising the big dreams and most of all her perfectionism at times make me want to blow her head off; with a bazooka. She is some kind of queen-control freak overwhelming with so many ideas and what annoys me is that, most of them would agree with her ideas and listen to what she has to say. You know what they say; you’re either a leader or a follower. When you can’t stand up there to lead the rest then it’s better if you just keep your mouth shut and let her do her thing right? Yeah, I that’s what I tell to myself.

No matter how much I hate this girl, at the end of the day she will have that soft spot in my heart. Nadia and I have been really good friends since we met at an event as crews to fill our pocket money. She is the reason why I am here. Now she is working her buttocks off to execute this show that she has been singing to me from the first day I continued my studies here. It’s been three years and seven months now but her enthusiasm did not disappear.

We are just here doing all we can to get that piece of paper with stamped certification as degree holders. This is why we are keeping our nerves calm to get through the course which is nearing to an end. Our college days are pure fun. We have no commitments to worry about, we only look forward to each day meeting each other and always brew something up, about anything. We’ll plan and plan and plan but we can never seem to get that plan going. Like this once, were too excited to go on this road trip and it just vanished nowhere but that doesn’t give us a reason to give up on each other.

There are few of us in ‘group’; so there’s Nadia and me and Deanna – the girl from a well-to-do-family with a photographic memory and she believes supernatural forces all her life; Jason – the rebellious with a simple mind that doesn’t like complications; Harris is the one that constantly sweeps lecturers of their feet with his opinions and charms, practicality is his belief and he is the perfect best friend that any girl can have and there are few more but some left while the rest did not see us as friends as we did. Well, it wasn’t something to grief but I feel that the number of friends we have somehow reduces as we grow older and we will only appreciate true friends who will stick around for a very long time.

As the plans were quickly laid out for the team to work on, Nadia was constantly in doubt and when she usually take it hard on herself. I have always been there through her ups and downs and since then she trusts me with all her heart whenever she needs someone to talk to or to get an opinion without being judged. At times I feel like I am turning into her whenever I safe her from ‘drowning’. Every time our “counselling” session ends, I always remind her not to trust anyone too easily including myself. Though she’s a superwoman, her childlikeness blinds the real world outside.
The final event project pushed us to give our best, I did foresee some true colours to reveal, I warned her but Nadia didn’t spare time to think about it as she is already dealing with tonnes of work as she is the show’s director. Thank god we have Harris; he is the smartest and wisest among all of us. His way of doing things are simple yet it is complete. How I wish if Ms. Perfectionist could pick up some skills from Harris to run the show, but I have nothing to worry because Harris will not let Nadia to lose her way.

It was hectic and the show is only about a month away. The rest of us are giving all we can. Then one day out of nowhere Ashton showed up. Ashton is the apple of our Principal’s eye. He is spontaneous, energetic, talented, super friendly, Jason’s best buddy and a rock star. He disappeared for quite some time and we thought that he have quit but he decided to make a comeback and we left with no other choice but to have him on board for the show as well.
Ashton is a popular kid in campus mainly because of his whacky personality and of course for his band. Since he is in the entertainment business, we gave him the responsibility to get in touch with local celebrities to perform for the show. This might be the easiest piece of task that anyone could get and knowing him, this is just a piece of cake for Ashton.
“Ummm… Harris, don’t you think that he seem to behave very differently, he is not the Ashton we know. Do you think that we should be worried?”

“You think so, dude? Jason, actually I think the same too; maybe he is a changed person now.”

“Oh come on, Harris! He doesn’t even talk to me like how we used to. But what could have gone wrong?”

“Hey guys, is everything ok?” I asked them. Jason and Harris looked at each other, “we should be worried about Ashton”, Jason exclaimed.

I spoke to Jason then we both decided to keep an eye on him as we do not want anything to spoil the show.

What could be worse than organising senior event in the final semester and completing the five other subjects at the same time? It’s facing Karim Mokthar; our “beloved” Principal, who doesn’t agree with almost everything that we have planned for the show. So, we bait Ashton to get things easier for us but then, there is something fishy going on between them. I mean I never seen Mr Karim and Ashton being extremely close and fond of each other before. Only Nadia and Ashton can manage his unpredictable mood swings well. 

After the discussion we had in his room, I can’t help but notice Mr Karim hung this huge group photo with about 40 people in it on the wall. I spotted few familiar faces, some have graduated, very few are still studying and the rest are strangers to me. The ones I know well in that photo are Ashton and Nadia. I had so many questions in my head but I just ignored it as my plate is already full for other nonsensical thoughts.

That night, I just couldn’t sleep thinking of the group photo so I called Nadia.

“Nadia, sorry to bother you at this time but I’m just curious.” “It’s alright, babe. What is it?”

“I know it’s so random, you know the group photo in Mr Karim’s room; I only recognize you and Ashton and some seniors but who are the rest?”

“Oh that one! Mr Karim told us that the rest are his ex students from the previous University he taught.”

“But why only the few of you, is it because he favours you guys more compared to rest?”

“I don’t know babe, but this was taken… ummmm, oh yeah, after our camping trip with Mr Karim last year at Cameron Highlands. Oh my I can’t remember that happened!”

“How come you did not tell me about this Nadia? How can I not know about this trip? You always tell me stuff.”

“Babe, honestly even I can’t remember that we actually went. I only recalled just now. No hard feelings ok, it was just a trip. Anyway, how’s the sound and lighting coming along for the show?”

“Hmmm, ok then. Oh yes, it’s all good. They will be coming to set up two days earlier as requested. We shall meet tomorrow, bye.”

Why Mr Karim went for a trip with only few students? I just don’t get it and I don’t have good feelings about this. Then I thought that I might get some answers from one of the senior and decided to meet him personally.

“Kiddo! It’s been so long!”

Rajesh is one of the most helpful and kind seniors I met in college and I can’t think of anyone better than him to talk to.

“Raj, do I still look like a kid to you?”

“No matter how old or big you grow, you’ll always be the kiddo. Anyway, is everything alright, you seem so tensed, senior year killing you already?”

“Hahaha! Well, not quite. But I just want to ask you few things about the trip you went with Mr Karim last year at Cameron Highlands. You still remember?”

“That’s odd. How did you know about this? Mr Karim told us to keep it a secret and I shouldn’t be telling you anything about it. Hey, let’s order something to drink. Still iced Milo for you?”

When Rajesh turned around to call the waiter, I noticed a tattoo behind his right ear and the side of his upper neck, it looked like a symbol…

“Ummm, Raj. I see you got a tattoo, is that new?”

“Oh this one, we all got it during the trip last year. Your best friend Nadia got one too, didn’t you notice?”

“No, I didn’t. Raj, this trip with Mr Karim is so cool, you guys get free tattoo and only few are a part of it. Can I join the next one as well?”

“Don’t worry about that, Mr Karim always look out for the best ones around and I’m sure you’ll be recruited as well. Maybe you should be more outspoken and stand out from the rest so he will notice you and that’s how most of us got in.”

“Recruited? Got in…? So, you must go through some sort of selection round to be in this ‘cool’ team?”

“Well, sort of. But if you really want to be in, just take my tips and Mr Karim will rope you in. We will be meeting up next week to discuss on upcoming agendas. I’ll recommend you alright.”

“Sure Raj. That will be great!”

My suspicion was right; Mr Karim indeed has some hidden agenda brewing with all these students, not just the ordinary but the best ones. I’m afraid that this could be detrimental; a group having the same tattoos isn’t a cool thing. I’ve read many news and stories on mafia and gangs and could this be one of it or am I just overreacting, I shall find out soon at their meeting.

I know that I can’t do this alone so I spoke to Deanna and Jason about this and asked them to help me investigate on it. While the show’s preparation madness is at peak as the date is nearing, the three of us stayed late at college to sneak into Mr Karim’s room.

The first step was to bribe the security to turn off the CCTV cameras, being good friends with these people comes handy. We were well equipped and extremely careful to not leave any evidence or signs that we were in his room. Mr Karim’s place is located at the sixth floor, all Principals and Deans have their individual room, while the lecturers desks are at the open cubicles.

Earlier, we had Jason to be at sixth floor to do printing and we asked him to make sure that his room isn’t locked and it was the right time to go in that night. Once we were in, Jason rushed to the personal computer and was figuring out the password, Deanna was going through the cupboard that’s filled with hundreds of documents while I was looking around the room and the group photo was one of the things I was staring at for a long time. I must say that Mr Karim’s room do give me strange chills for no reason perhaps because of my anxiousness of knowing that he has a dark secret kept hidden from everyone all this while.

Jason tried too many times and he failed to unlock the password, he then contacted his hacker friend to unlock the laptop. Deanna found a whole stack of newspaper articles tied up and tried looking through if she could find anything odd there.

As I was browsing through the room, I notice letters signed by Mr Karim, his signature has a tiny symbol at the end of it that I’ve seen before and I was reminded of Raj’s tattoo. I showed it to Deanna and Jason if they seen it anywhere else, they both remember seeing it tattooed on few seniors last year and also on Nadia, Ashton and Harris.

I was shocked to hear Harris’ name as he wasn’t in the group photo. As I was recalling if I ever seen Harris with that weird tattoo, Jason startled both of us with his sudden hand slam on table. Jason found videos from the trip they went last year and also few others. I asked to him save as many videos as possible in my hard disk so we can have evidence to take action on Mr Karim if it is indeed true that he is up to no good.

Deanna handpicked some articles that were suspicious, all of us were worried knowing that anyone might just dash into the room any time, if we ever get caught; we will face serious trouble for sure. While Jason was saving the files and Deanna was keeping the documents in her bag, I heard voices from afar. The voices were getting closer and closer, we can’t even use the main door to escape; we had no choice but to get out through the window.

We took our belongings and climbed out, luckily there is a platform under the window, I was the last person to climb out and I can hear Nadia’s voice speaking to Mr Karim and Harris; it was only a few seconds gap before they arrived. The three of us climbed through the third window to get out of that place.

It was a crazy night and we did not believe that we made it out without getting caught. We wasted no time and went on to watch the videos at Deanna’s place. Jason only managed to save 8 videos out of 39 files; we really hoped that these few ones could answer our questions. Jason played the videos that were taken at the trip last year. In all of the videos, Harris came on and stated the date, time and venue and also mentioned that it is the second day of their activity; it all sounded as if some experiment is conducted and our seniors and other friends are the subjects.

So, it is confirmed that Harris is a part of them as well and he was the recording all the videos. We were dumbfounded by the videos and we just couldn’t digest the fact that this is happening to our friends. Deanna quickly grabbed the documents that were taken and I ‘googled’ Mr Karim to learn on his background. Deanna, Jason and I looked at each other in shock.

My phone vibrated in pocket, it was a call from Rajesh, the senior.

“Hello, kiddo! Sorry to call you so late.”

“…Yeah, hi Raj. No it’s alright, what is it; is everything ok?”

“Nothing much, just want to let you know that we are meeting up tomorrow evening with Mr Karim.”

“Why? Is this for the event?”

“Nope. Remember you told me that you want to join us, the cool tattoo gang; that’s the meeting I was telling you last week!”

“Oh, yeah! How can I forget, sure I will be there. Where again?”

“Mr Karim’s place at 6.05pm sharp! Before I forget, bring along Deanna and Jason as well alright, Mr Karim wants them to be at the meeting too.”

“Huh? That’s weird. Why them?”

“Even I asked him the same. But he insisted you three to be there tomorrow! Goodnight.”

“Ok. Goodnight, Raj.”

I told Jason and Deanna about the meeting, the three of us are freaking out. Deanna suggested us to ignore the invitation but we can’t simply go out of Mr Karim’s sight until we have completed our studies. We contemplated the whole night and thought of few backup plans in case anything goes wrong. The most important thing right now is to let everyone know what Mr Karim is up to!

I felt devastated for not being able to do anything and how could I overlook of what happened around Nadia, I was disappointed with myself that I couldn’t safe my best friend, I can’t even give her a call and speak to her like none of these happened. We prepared the evidence to be given to the authority and we each left a copy at our homes. As a part of the plan, I managed to convince Deanna and Jason to go ahead first.

It was 5.50pm, I was still driving to college and after a massive jam I reached at 6.20pm and I ran to Mr Karim’s place. I repeatedly dialled Deanna’s and Jason’s number but they did not answer. There’s note placed on his door: “MEETING VENUE CHANGED TO EVENTS HALL AREA”. After reading the note, I rushed to the events hall but there were no one there, I searched the entire place and started calling out Deanna’s and Jason’s name but no sound is heard.

I went all around the campus but couldn’t find anyone. I felt so tired and I sat by the swimming pool to catch my breath. I took out my phone and kept on trying to call Deanna’s and Jason’s phone but no one answered. I was scrolling the contacts list and I was just a tap away from calling Nadia and a hand held my right shoulder. I was nervous to turn around and Nadia called my name. I turned around and looked at her blankly. She said that Mr Karim has been waiting for my arrival and she walked on, I followed her.

I did not believe my eyes when she brought me to the backstage. She lifted open a door that was hidden under the carpet. It is Mr Karim’s very well planned underground room. I was in complete silence and kept on following Nadia. She’s not the Nadia I knew. I was angry, worried and extremely nervous of what might happen.

We walked down the underground staircase, the place was brightly lit, bright white light, there were many rooms at each side of the walkway, the place is well ventilated and we were heading to another hall that is at the centre of the entire underground area. I was wondering on how he could have involved in building this place, it definitely should be done while this college was being built in 2003.

I took a deep breath and walked towards the hall, I saw familiar faces, and they are the ones from the group photo in Mr Karim’s room. Everyone was staring at me as I walked towards Mr Karim, I was looking for Deanna and Jason but I don’t see them anywhere.

“Well, well… Look who’s here, did your exposing plan work?”

I was just watching him and stood there like a helpless goat that will be sacrificed for their ritual. I saw Raj, Harris and Ashton grinning at me.

“Where are Deanna and Jason?”

“Not too fast, they are in the process of becoming a part of us and next will be you. I’ll make sure that you go through an intensive therapy!”

“That will never happen! Why don’t you just admit your crime, why are you even doing this? You’re a monster! You’re that mad scientist! I know everything about you, Ghazlan! That’s your real name right; Syed Ghazlan. Let everyone go and we shall forget of what happen today! Where are Deanna and Jason?”

“I applaud your investigation skills; you will be useful for us. Yes! I am the well known scientist Syed Ghazlan Ibrahim, this is my long term war and will not let a small kid like you to ruin it! Do you know how it feels when I am always ignored for my achievements and I don’t get my well-deserved honouring for everything that I have done, and now I am going to show them what I am capable of!”

“Your ‘drug-MP3’ will not do anything to me! You’re out of your mind; you can’t do anything to any of us here!”

“Shut up! I did not start this today, this was planned 11 years ago and I’m not going to stop right now. What did you say? ‘Drug MP3’? It is not as simple as it sounds, my creation not only will get the listeners high and addicted to it, and they will also obey to my command. I am building my army, I am going to grow this and I will be the leader of this world! I was supposed to be the Prime Minister, but the greediness of those politicians you voted for is destroying the country today! I came up with many ideas and plans to run this country but I got kicked out after all of my ideas got ripped off me!”

“You’re being selfish! You just want the power! You are addicted to the feeling of it don’t you! This war will not happen and you can’t influence everyone!”

“I know what I am doing; your claims are just merely from those articles that you read. You still believe the media? You do know that they control what the people need to know! I am here to change all that, I will take them down one by one.”

“Not all of us are under the influence of i-Doping”, Nadia came forward together with Rajesh, Harris, Ashton and other three of my seniors. I looked blankly at her.

“Listen, this society needs our help; we can’t let them to destroy us day by day. All of our money is eaten by these greedy monsters! The poor becomes poorer and they become richer every second. The UN defines poverty as those who earn income 50% lower than the average income in Malaysia, while they state that those who earn RM500 and below. Do you think RM800 is enough for many Malaysians? Don’t you think that these nonsensical figures are ridiculous? It doesn’t make sense at all. When we go out there to earn; RM 2,500 will be enough for us within few hours of a day, it will be sufficient for our monthly expenditure and no savings. Remember, how we argued about those who lead us today?”

“Stop it, Nadia! But that does not mean you guys have to do this, putting people under influence of sound waves. This is a crime!”

“If they can do whatever they want, to continuously colonise us; this is not a crime! We are making sure that all of us are on the same wavelength to continue this fight together”, Ashton came right at me and said that to my face.

I kept on thinking and thinking, but I can’t seem to think alike like them and Mr Karim came closer to me. I can’t be here, I have to escape!

“We want to shed some light for the people. We will not force you but at the same time we can’t let you go after knowing this. Harris?”

Harris walked towards me with a silver case; I was taking my steps backwards; Rajesh and Ashton grabbed my both arms and I was screaming struggling to release from their grip. Nadia injected at the back of my right ear and I felt numbness flushing all over my head. My vision was blurring, I saw Harris coming closer with a pair of headphone and placed it over my head.

All I hear is fainted music.