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In the Company of Strangers by Awais Khan - Book Tour

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In The Company Of Strangers

Mona has almost everything: money, friends, social status... everything except for freedom. Languishing in her golden cage, she craves a sense of belonging...
Desperate for emotional release, she turns to a friend who introduces her to a world of glitter, glamour, covert affairs and drugs. There she meets Ali, a physically and emotionally wounded man, years younger than her.
Heady with love, she begins a delicate game of deceit that spirals out of control and threatens to shatter the deceptive facade of conservatism erected by Lahori society, and potentially destroy everything that Mona has ever held dear. 

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Intro: This extract is from the prologue that is told from a terrorist’s point of view.
He stepped closer, visualising how the end would be, and a plethora of confusing notions assaulted his mind. How would it feel? Would it hurt? Would he feel the head splicing of his body, and rolling across the floor? Would he even feel a hint of the savage triumph he had been promised?
The voice of their Leader rang in his head again like a drumbeat. ‘It will be painless for you, jihadi, but the pain of those kaafirs, those non-believers, will be unimaginable. Remember, they are not humans; they do not feel. They do not love. You shall be rewarded for this noble deed, my boy, you will go to heaven. Kill those kaafirs!’
Kill those kaafirs. He recited it like a mantra in an attempt to ward o other, more disturbing thoughts. The cocoon of indifference he had created around himself threatened to burst, and reveal something ugly, something forbidden... something that smelled like fear. He felt an urgent need to tear away the shawl, and fling the jacket into the rubbish, leaving the button intact, and the world unchanged. Was this what going to heaven was like, through so much pain, through such cruelty? Did he have to stoop as low as those Goras to exact revenge?
These were the workings of Shaitan, the Satan. Their Leader had warned him about this. Shaitan will tempt him; try to deter him from the virtuous path to that of sin and cowardice.
He must fight this.
He trudged toward the ancient gate, the breeze drying beads of sweat that had erupted across his forehead. His hand slipped inside the shawl.
Kill those kaafirs.
An ice-cream van approached. The gate to a house on his left opened. A woman emerged, carrying a small child in her arms as the ice-cream van blared the familiar tune that heralded happiness, lighting up the faces of children everywhere.
He paused, waiting for the child to receive his ice cream. He thought the child deserved that much. Ismail watched him as he slurped it down, resting his head on the woman’s shoulder. Possibly her son, he thought.
Not so long ago, he had done the same... rested his head on his mother’s shoulder as his father came back from a hard day’s work, smelling of sunshine and well-earned sweat. Not so long ago, he had been innocent too, oblivious to everything happening around him, running alongside the ditches with his siblings, relishing the potent possibility of falling into the black muck. So filthy, and yet so exciting.
Until they had bombed his village.
Killed his entire family while he brought back fried fish for dinner.
Everything lost in a second.
He remembered the polythene bag speckled with condensation falling to the floor with a wet smack, the crusted fish sliding out on the floor. Slick with congealing blood, the floor wore the red colour of shame, the shame of being branded terrorists in their own land. Steam issued from his family’s still-warm bodies, dissolving in the cold air, the head of his infant brother lay in the ditch; his eyes wide open in fear or question, he couldn’t tell.
That was it; he couldn’t take it anymore.
He flicked open the plastic casing that protected the button, and closed his eyes as his thumb punched it hard.

Author Bio – Awais Khan is a graduate of Western University and Durham University. Having been an avid reader and writer all his life, he decided to take the plunge and study Novel Writing and Editing at Faber Academy in London. His work has appeared in the Missing Slate Magazine, Daily Times and MODE, and he has been interviewed by leading television channels like PTV, Voice of America, Samaa TV and City 42, to name a few. He is also the Founder of The Writing Institute, one of the largest institutions for Creative Writing in Pakistan. He lives in Lahore and frequently visits London for business.

Social Media Links – Instagram: @awaiskkhan @thewritinginstitute

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