The Lost Backpack

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Ramdan placed the backpack carefully on his dining table. It laid limp with its thin straps hanging off the edge. Tough green canvas, heavily used but still in good shape. He didn't steal it. It found on a park bench on his way home. Could've been a bomb, and he'd exploded there and then, not that it mattered. No one was around.

"So finders keepers, huh?" He declared.

When only silence was his reply, he rummaged through the backpack. Hardly anything inside. Not even a wallet. Only a pack of baby wipes, some game pamphlets, a sandwich wrapper. As he turned it around, a small keychain dangled out from its handle. A black square metal embossed with the word 'Makkah'. His thumb slid across it carefully.

"Fine, you're going to the police post." He announced. This was a burden he didn't want after all.

With a loud grunt, Ramdan pushed himself off his chair, slinging the backpack over his shoulders. He nearly lost his balance as it suddenly weighed him down. He paused but quickly, dismissed it as fatigue from work. Then with heavy steps, he headed out, closing his door on his ringing telephone. The one that was shoved in his drawer with the rest of his medications.

And the backpack grew in its weight.

"What the hell?" He grumbled.

By the time he reached the park bench, it felt as if he was carrying his entire life burdens onto his shoulders. The backpack fell onto the bench with a loud thud. He was left panting hard, weak in the knees and badly needed to sit down. Wiping off the sweat from his wide forehead, he opened the backpack again. The same junk inside. Why so heavy -

A bicycle screeched to a stop before him. Its cyclist, a small chubby boy scowled as if he'd been asked the rude question. However, Ramdan merely continued breathing deeply. His round belly jiggled up and down as he leaned back onto the bench, letting the evening air cool him off.

"Hey, mister, whatcha doing with Nasir's backpack? Did you steal it? It's a sin to steal, you know. How did you steal it?" asked the boy, still glaring.

Well, this was faster than he'd expected. Still, he wasn't ready for the chatter. Several more deep breaths before he replied, "I found it here. You know its owner? Nasir, was it?"

The frown vanished into a huge grin.

"Oh, man, who doesn't know the guy? He helps me with my homework. The other time he even bought me a game for passing my exams - "

Ramdan shoved the backpack to him. Good, mystery solved. Now, he could return to his empty flat or treat his diabetes to a big glass of cold cola. Wait, did he bring his wallet? He heaved himself off the bench. But the boy pulled him by his sleeve. Ramdan turned to him with a grimace, making him let go instantly.

"See here, mister," he said, meekly. "Nasir's a backpacker. He moves around the neighbourhood so I don't know where he's staying. I can't return it to him. You take it back."

"Look - " Ramdan waited for a name.

"Burhan," offered the boy readily.

"Burhan, I'm not taking this burden. If you don't take it, I'll throw it away." He shoved it back.

And something white fell between them. A crumpled handkerchief stained in dark red.

"It could be juice," assured Ramdan, seeing the boy's horror.

"No way, mister! I hurt myself badly once and I know how blood smells. You know any red juice that smells metallic?"

"Bad juice."

Gingerly, Ramdan picked the cloth by its clean ends, returning it to the backpack. It was really nothing. Or else, he would have seen something on the bag or on the bench. But little Burhan was gripping his arm tight, eyes now wide with fear.

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