thirty-eight

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A bright moon glinted in the midnight sky, glittering dots blinding his vision in their radiance. They illuminated the dark corners of the street, brightening the fears of the previous days with its blinding light. Nicholas sighed as he felt the coat of black cover him with its comfort, no longer being a terrifying scar in the back of his mind.

A soothing voice that resembled Humaid's began reciting in the college gym, where a group of Muslims had gathered for their Ramadan prayers. Dina was among them, but she had no idea that Nicholas decided to stop by. The voice swept through every syllable, every word, every verse with gratifying ease, voice thick with emotions as the Qur'an hit the reciter's core with all its revelations and glory.

Nicholas had no idea why he stood outside the gym, listening to the prayer. He had no idea why Islam began to intrigue him in more ways than one, falling in love with religious beliefs. He had no idea why the darkness no longer haunted him, freeing Nicholas from the cage he'd set himself into.

Although the last month had been a time of healing, he wondered how his parents were after he broke the news of his suicide attempt. They called him throughout the month, begging, pleading, crying for Nicholas, for their son. He had ignored each call, deleted each message, and stared at every gift they sent him.

What's happening to me?

He spent his time researching a promising religion, learning about all the Prophets in Islam, learning the scientific meanings behind the verses, and learning more about the five pillars every Muslim was required to follow.

His graduation was in two weeks and he still didn't know why he held himself back from converting. He could have the girl of his dreams with only a couple of words, but something stopped him every time.

Nicholas was no superman. He didn't have the strength of a thousand armies. He was an average white guy, who lived each day wondering if he could survive another. Dina needed a religious man, not a lost convert finding his inner peace, yet it wasn't all for Dina. Somewhere deep inside, Nicholas wanted to become a Muslim for himself, for his sanity.

He wanted to experience Islam and its beauty.

But something kept stopping him.

"Isn't it a bit angsty to be wallowing outside a prayer room?" questioned an amused voice from behind.

"Hello to you too, Haroon."

Chuckling, his friend made his way to Nicholas's side, staring at the stars above just as he was. Surprisingly, his classic beanie did not sit on Haroon's slicked back hair, exposing tamed strands of inky black to a humid sky. He noticed the ivory thobe Haroon wore, long sleeves covering his muscled arms, a feature Nicholas was still envy of.

He glanced down at his own arms, flexing them to see if a little muscle had finally grown. Much to his pleasure, the rigid curve of strength finally appeared before his eyes, small but visible. Haroon seemed to have noticed as well, eyes flickering towards Nicholas.

"Your biceps finally exist," he commented, grinning cheekily. "I told you they'd begin to show in a couple of weeks."

His cheeks heated. "S-Shut up."

The Younes twins decided it would be fun to train with Nicholas, taking him on long runs and strength training exercises. No matter how hard Nicholas fought against working out, the twins grabbed him anyway.

"So," drawled Haroon, "what brings you here?"

Nicholas shrugged.

At this, Haroon frowned, cocking his head to the side like he was a detective, investigating the strange case of Nicholas Muller.

No longer did the overwhelming cloud of misfortune hover over Nicholas, only its remnants of dark energy lingered. Still, Nicholas could not shake his qualms of his unknown future. Death became a foreign memory, an abstract thought hidden behind a scintillating future. There were so many issues he had left unsolved, but the biggest pertained to his spirituality.

He became even more confused.

"Nick," whispered Haroon. "Talk to me."

He hesitated.

A hand clamped on Nicholas's shoulder. "You know you can talk to me about anything. Don't be afraid," smiled Haroon, his tone soft as the wind that touched the ends of his obsidian hair.

"Well..." trailed off Nicholas, hand coming up to awkwardly scratch his neck. "I'm a bit confused with life right now."

Haroon's brows furrowed. "Did something happen?" he asked.

Nicholas half-heartedly chuckled. "More like the lack of something happening. I used to feel so suffocated by life, stuck in a hopeless tragedy with no escape, but now... I don't feel alone. I don't even know what I'm saying or if it even makes sense, but that void feels off."

"Maybe you're feeling better."

"But why? I've been burdened with this immense sadness for years. What changed?" he questioned, turning to his friend with desperate blue eyes in search for an answer. "Why aren't I hating God or the existence of mankind?"

Haroon smiled warmly at him. "Well, my friend, I think you've found something to live for, a purpose in life."

"Okay, save me the poetic verses. I need straight answers."

He threw his head back in a throaty chuckle. "Alright," he said with a grin, "I mean to say that when people are surrounded by loved ones, when they cross an obstacle, or when they crush their emotional barriers, there's a feeling of peace. Some religious people like me will say when you open your heart to the world and to Allah then your soul is at peace."

"Do you find peace from believing in God?" asked Nicholas, sounding like a lost child.

He faintly looked across the street at the lamplights that lined the bustling road of urban life.

A group of college students drunkenly leaned against one another, giggling while the Quranic recitation sang loud and clear over the lights, the buildings, and across the city. Soft, rhythmic words echoed into Nicholas's ears and he felt that he already knew the answer to his own question as a soothing motion overtook him.

"Yeah," Haroon whispered, voice distant. "It's natural to believe in a superior being, but there's more to it. Allah never abandons us. Even when the whole world turns against me, I know that Allah will always stay by my side."

"Even if you sin?"

"Even then. Sins are what makes us humans. He knows that and He created us to learn from our mistakes, to grow into better people. Everything that happens in life is part of Allah's plan."

"Al-lah," he stuttered to repeat God's name. "Does He care about all His creations?"

Haroon faintly smiled. "Without a doubt."

Then maybe He cares about me.

----

So, I'm literally a mute right now, which sucks because I love to talk and have things to do. Pray for me y'all.

It's summer though! I literally stayed up really late to write this. YouTube is such a distraction >.<

How do you guys think Nicholas is developing? Is he changing?

Don't forget to vote, comment, and follow!

Don't forget to vote, comment, and follow!

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