Alif the Unseen. Home · Alif the Unseen Author: Wilson G Willow. 47 downloads Alif the Unseen. Read more · Unseen · Read more · Unseen. Read more. 'Alif the Unseen is a terrific metaphysical thriller, impossible to put down. The fantastical world Alif inhabits – at once recognizable and surreal. PDF - Alif the Unseen. In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients—dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other.

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Alif The Unseen Pdf

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The light was refracted by his lashes. When he looked through them, the world became a pixilated frieze of blue and white. Staring too long in this unfocused way caused a sharp pain in his forehead, and he would look down again, watching shadows bloom behind his eyelids. Near his foot lay a thin chrome-screened smartphone—pirated, though whether it came west from China or east from America he did not know. Another hack had set this one up for him, bypassing the encryption installed by whatever telecom giant monopolized its patent. It displayed the fourteen text messages he had sent to Intisar over the past two weeks, at a self-disciplined rate of one per day. All went unanswered. He gazed at the smartphone through half-closed eyes. If he fell asleep, she would call. He would wake up with a jerk as the phone rang, sending it inadvertently over the ledge into the little courtyard below, forcing him to rush downstairs and search for it among the jasmine bushes. These small misfortunes might prevent a larger one: the possibility that she might not call at all.

Alif pocketed his phone and slid off the window ledge, back into his room. Once it was dark, perhaps, he would try again to reach her. Intisar had always preferred to meet at night. Meeting after dark showed a presence of mind.

It suggested that you knew what you were doing went against the prevailing custom and had taken pains to avoid being caught. Intisar, noble and troubling, with her black hair and her dove-low voice, was worthy of this much discretion.

Alif understood her desire for secrecy. He had spent so much time cloaked behind his screen name, a mere letter of the alphabet, that he no longer thought of himself as anything but an alif—a straight line, a wall. His given name fell flat in his ears now. The act of concealment had become more powerful than what it concealed. If clandestine meetings fanned her love, so be it.

He could wait another hour or two. The tart smell of rasam and rice drifted up through the open window. He would go down to the kitchen and eat—he had eaten nothing since breakfast. A knock on the other side of the wall, just behind his Robert Smith poster, stopped him on his way out the door.

He bit his lip in frustration. Perhaps he could slip by undetected. But the knock was followed by a precise little series of taps. She had heard him get down from the window. Dina was already on the roof when he got there. She faced the sea, or what would be the sea if it were visible through the tangle of apartment buildings to the east.

She turned and tilted her head, brows contracting in the slim vent of her face-veil. The English was probably too difficult for you. I understood every word. Calling something by a false name changes it, and metaphor is just a fancy way of calling something by a false name. There was a hiss of fabric as Dina tucked her chin, eyes disappearing beneath her lashes. Though he had not seen her face in nearly ten years, Alif knew she was pouting.

Alif looked impatiently over her shoulder: he could see a section of the Old Quarter glimmering on a rise beyond the shoddy collection of residential neighborhoods around them.

Intisar was somewhere within it, like a pearl embedded in one of the ancient mollusks the ghataseen sought along the beaches that kissed its walls. Perhaps she was thinking of him. Alif blinked.

They said your mother is still secretly a Hindu. They claim they saw her downloading puja candles from that shop in Nasser Street. Abruptly he turned and walked across the dusty rooftop, past their satellite dishes and potted plants, and did not stop when Dina called him by his given name. Sweat stood out where the salwar kameez she wore exposed the first few vertebrae of her back.

Have you eaten? Her parents will be wanting to marry her off soon. She used to play in my room. His mother turned to look at him, a frown distorting her round face. Take your plate with you. He stepped over the maid as she bent to pick it up. Back in his room, he examined himself in the mirror. Indian and Arab blood had merged pleasantly on his face, at least.

His skin was an even bronze color. His eyes took after the Bedouin side of his family, his mouth the Dravidian; all in all he was at peace with his chin. Yes, pleasant enough, but he would never pass for a full-blooded Arab. Nothing less than full-blood, inherited from a millennium of sheikhs and emirs, was enough for Intisar. In the mirror he saw his computer monitor flicker to life.

He frowned, watching as a readout began to scroll up the screen, tracking the IP address and usage statistics of whoever was attempting to break through his encryption software. Naughty naughty. Curiosity, then. In all likelihood the prowler was a gray hat like himself. If he was half good, the intruder likely ran specialized anti-malware programs several times a day, but with any luck Alif would have a few hours to track his Internet browsing habits.

Alif turned on a small electric fan near his foot and aimed it at the computer tower. He could not afford to be lax. Even a day offline might endanger his more notorious clients. The Saudis had been after Jahil69 for years, furious that his amateur erotica site was impossible to block and had more daily visitors than any other Web service in the Kingdom.

Alif was not an ideologue; as far as he was concerned, anyone who could pay for his protection was entitled to it. It was the censors who made him grind his teeth as he slept, the censors who smothered all enterprise, whether saintly or cynical.

Half the world lived under their digital cloud of ones and zeroes, denied free access to the economy of information. Alif and his friends read the complaints of their coddled American and British counterparts—activists, all talk, irritated by some new piece of digital monitoring legislation or another—and laughed. Ignorant monoglots, Abdullah called them when he was in the mood to speak English.

They had no idea what it was like to operate in the City, or any city that did not come pre-wrapped in sanitary postal codes and tidy laws. They had no idea what it was like to live in a place that boasted one of the most sophisticated digital policing systems in the world, but no proper mail service.

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Emirates with princes in silver-plated cars and districts with no running water. An Internet where every blog, every chat room, every forum is monitored for illegal expressions of distress and discontent. Their day will come, Abdullah had told him once. They had been smoking a well-packed hookah on the back stoop of Radio Sheikh, watching a couple of feral cats breed on a garbage heap.

They will wake up one morning and realize their civilization has been pulled out from under them, inch by inch, dollar by dollar, just as ours was.

They will know what it is to have been asleep for the most important century of their history. No, said Abdullah, but it certainly makes me feel better. Meanwhile they had their local nightmares to occupy them.

In university, frustrated by the gaps in a computer science curriculum taught by the very State servants who policed the digital landscape, Alif had weaned himself on spite. He would help inundate their servers with sex videos or bring the soldiers of God down on their heads—it did not matter which came first. Better chaos than slow suffocation. Only five years ago—less—the censors had been sluggish, relying on social media sites and old-fashioned detective work to track their marks.

Gradually they had been endowed with some unholy knowledge. Chatter began on countless mainframes: who had tutored them? The CIA? Mossad was more likely; the CIA was not bright enough to choose such a subtle means of demoralizing the digital peasantry.

Yet their methods were as identical as their goals were disparate. Discover, dismantle, subdue. In the City, the increase in Internet policing appeared as a bizarre singularity. It moved over the weblogs and forums of the disaffected like a fog, appearing sometimes as code glitch or a server malfunction, sometimes as a sudden drop in connection speeds. It took months for Alif and the other City gray hats to connect these ordinary-seeming events.

Debate still raged about its identity: was it a program, a person, many people?

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Whatever its origin, Alif foresaw disaster in this new wave of regional monitoring. Hacked accounts were only the first step. Inevitably, the censors would move on to hack lives. Like all things, like civilization itself, the arrests began in Egypt.

In the weeks leading up to the Revolution, the digital stratosphere became a war zone. The bloggers who used free software platforms were most vulnerable; Alif was neither surprised nor impressed when they were found and imprisoned. Then the more enterprising geeks, the ones who coded their own sites, began to disappear.

When the violence spilled off the Internet and into the streets, making the broad avenues of Tahrir Square a killing field, Alif dumped his Egyptian clientele without ceremony. It was clear the regime in Cairo had outstripped his ability to digitally conceal its dissidents. Cut off the arm to save the body, he told himself. Reza sat down at his table, pulling a large stone bowl toward himself. The work would distract him until evening arrived. Into the bowl, he poured a portion of the precious mastic resin that had been simmering over a charcoal brazier since early morning.

He added several drops of black oil from the seed of the nigella and stirred to keep the liquid from hardening. When he was satisfied with the consistency of the mixture, he gingerly lifted the linen veil from an unassuming metal pot sitting at one end of the work table.

A scent filled the room: sharp, alarming, viscerally female. Reza thought of his wife, alive and blooming and big with the child that had died with her.

This scent had permeated the linens of their bed before Reza ordered his servants to carry it away and burn it. For a moment, he felt lost. Forcing himself to be impassive, he separated what he needed from the viscous mess and, lifting it with metal tongs, dropped it unceremoniously into the cooling bowl of varnish. He counted out several minutes on his knuckles before looking in the bowl again.

The varnish had turned as clear and glistening as honey. He wrote in Arabic, not Persian, hoping that this precaution would prevent his work from being misused should it fall into the hands of the uneducated and uninitiated.

The result was perplexing. The stories were there, rendered as well as Reza could manage, but something had been lost.

When the creature spoke, Reza would drift into a kind of trance, watching strange shapes amplify themselves again and again, until they resembled mountains, coastlines, the pattern of frost on glass.

In these moments he felt sure he had accomplished his desire, and the sum of knowledge was within his reach. But as soon as the stories were fixed on paper, they shifted. It was as if the characters themselves—the princess, the nurse, the bird king, and all the rest—had grown sly and slipped past Reza as he attempted to render them in human proportions.

Reza dipped a horsehair brush into the stone bowl and began to coat the new pages in a thin layer of varnish.

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The nigella oil prevented the heavy paper from buckling. The other ingredient, the one his apprentice had obtained with so much misgiving, would keep the manuscript alive long after Reza himself had gone, protecting it from decay. Reza was so intent on his work that he did not notice when the sun slid past the dome of the palace, disappearing behind the dry peaks of the Zagros Mountains on the far horizon.

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A chill in the room alerted him to the coming of twilight. Carefully, before the fear took hold in earnest, he placed the varnished pages on a screen to dry. On a shelf nearby were their companions, a thick sheaf of them, awaiting the completion of the final story.

Once he was finished, Reza would sew the pages together with silk thread and bind them between linen-covered pasteboards. And then what? The voice came, as always, from within his own mind. Reza straightened, his stiff joints cracking as he moved. He steadied his breathing. It had appeared without a sound, and sat quietly within the confines of its chalk-and-ash prison at the center of the room, regarding Reza with yellow eyes. Reza suppressed a shudder. The sight of the creature still filled him with warring sensations of horror and triumph.

When Reza had first summoned it, he had half-disbelieved that such a powerful entity could be held at bay by a few well-chosen words written on the floor, words his illiterate housekeeper could sweep away without incurring any harm whatsoever. But it was so—a testament, he hoped, to the depth of his learning.

Reza had bound the thing successfully, and now it was compelled to return day after day until it completed the narration of its stories.

But what can it hope to gain? The Alf Yeom is beyond its understanding. Reza drew his robes about him and squared his shoulders, attempting to look dignified. Man was exiled from the Garden for eating a single fruit, and now you propose to uproot the whole tree without the angels noticing. The only way forward is through. Let me complete my work, and I will release you. It was immediately knocked backward, rebuffed by a barrier Reza had created but could not see.

What do you want?

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Why do you force me to tell you what I should not? These are not your stories. They are ours. What you call the bird king and the hind and the stag—these are only symbols to disguise a hidden message, just as a poet may write a ghazal about a toothless lion to criticize a weak king.

Hidden in your stories is the secret power of the unseen. A breeze had stirred through the open window and the scent of drying varnish wafted toward him.

Reza thought again of his wife. Its yellow eyes were fixed and unblinking.

Reza remembered the herbal remedies and the cupping and the incense to clear the air and the low terse words of the midwives as they moved about the bloody bed, pulling their veils over their mouths to speak to him as he stood by, useless and despairing.

The creature sat back, draping its not-arms over its not-knees, and regarded him. Get your pen and paper, it said. I will tell you the final story. It comes with a warning. Get your pen, it repeated. The light was refracted by his lashes. When he looked through them, the world became a pixilated frieze of blue and white. Staring too long in this unfocused way caused a sharp pain in his forehead, and he would look down again, watching shadows bloom behind his eyelids.

Near his foot lay a thin chrome-screened smartphone—pirated, though whether it came west from China or east from America he did not know. Another hack had set this one up for him, bypassing the encryption installed by whatever telecom giant monopolized its patent. It displayed the fourteen text messages he had sent to Intisar over the past two weeks, at a self-disciplined rate of one per day.

All went unanswered. He gazed at the smartphone through half-closed eyes. If he fell asleep, she would call. He would wake up with a jerk as the phone rang, sending it inadvertently over the ledge into the little courtyard below, forcing him to rush downstairs and search for it among the jasmine bushes.

These small misfortunes might prevent a larger one: the possibility that she might not call at all. It glinted in the sun. Below him, the black-and-orange cat that had been hunting beetles in their courtyard for as long as he could remember came nipping across the baked ground, lifting her pink-soled paws high to cool them.

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