The following is an imagined alternative future scenario, part of the author’s future insight series. The objective of these write-ups is to analyze presumed future occurrences in abstract form and troubleshoot existing activities which could turn them into a reality.

He closed his eyes for a brief moment and opened them up again. Everything around had changed. Evolved. He walked on a neat and clean road dotted with sky-rise buildings on either side of the Islamabad Expressway. The sun was about to set, he was bewitched by the orange and pink hue along the horizon, like a majestic curtain trying to wrap the Sun around itself. It was quite cold and he could sense the need for a jacket in an hour or two.

He walked, and he walked, and he walked. All the way from the corner of Airport Road to Kashmir Highway. He kept on walking. Luckily for him, there wasn’t much traffic around. In fact, there was none. He stopped to gather some breath on reaching a 70-story building near the corner of a site where Shifa International Hospital once existed. It was there no more. The greenery seemed to have eroded as there was barren wasteland on the other side of the road. Despite the cool breeze, too much walking had fully warmed him up. He was sweating profusely until he heard a siren.

It was an emergency siren. “I have to run fast”, he thought to himself. He ran. And he ran. Until he stopped near a petrol pump. There was no one around. He went inside the tuck shop, trying to help himself to some snacks, that he discovered all the items were rotten. They gave a most hideous smell and he rushed out well in time before he could have vomited.

Roshan aur pur-aman Pakistan mubarak ho…

Where was this announcement coming from?

He tried to discern the direction of the booming voice and immediately looked up toward the sky. A gigantic hot-air balloon was moving along the highway in a fixed orientation:

Roshan aur pur-aman Pakistan mubarak ho… Mubarak ho aap sab ko, roshan aur pur-aman Pakistan mubarak ho…”, the voice boomed. He could figure out a near-bald individual saying those words, his video playing on one side of the balloon.

Hum taraqqi ki nai raahon par gaamzan hogaye hain… Mubarak ho aap sab ko, roshan aur pur-aman Pakistan mubarak ho”.

There was still no sign of traffic or humans anywhere. No animals or plants either. In essence, there was no life around except his own. Or maybe he thought so, since thus far he hadn’t confronted any sign of life. He became too confused, by this point. After three hours of a painful walk, he managed to reach Blue Area where he noticed a half-burnt building with the words “The Ce…” inscribed on it. It was dwarfed, to his surprise, by dozens of silver-colored skyscrapers around it. He could make out they were around 20 in number.

It was almost 9:30pm and he felt sleepy. And hungry too. He lied down inside what used to a part of The Centaurus mall to protect himself from the blistering cold. The cold in winters was more intense than ever. He snuggled himself in a corner and lied down, jerking suddenly by the sound of a loud horn.

Within a few seconds, he was standing in the middle of the Metro Bus route facing the President House. He quickly jumped to the side before the approaching bus hit him. There was no driver inside. It was fully automated. The uncomfortable truth was that there were no passengers either. Just a group of Metro Buses running on auto-pilot to and fro. Their lights would flicker on and off, signaling emergency. The entire Jinnah Avenue by now had lit up with yellow and green LED lights. The President House looked spectacular because of the constant launch of firecrackers in its backdrop. The sky was black with hints of crimson red. It was much colder than he had expected. His jacket was gone.

He signaled a Metro Bus to stop and it did. It was fitted with the latest Passenger Sensing & Identification System. He went inside as the lone passenger and waited for the bus to take a U-turn and head back toward its last destination in Saddar, Rawalpindi.

The bus had truly lived up to its description of being “rapid”. From wherever the bus crossed, he saw nothing but skyscrapers and some demolished buildings on the left side. On the right he could see a vast desert. It was the perfect paradox, sheer development on the left and sheer neglect on the right.

The bus sped past bridges, ups and downs and stopped at a signal marked ‘Saddar’. He stepped out on the wasteland. There was no infrastructure in sight. As he looked back, he noticed that the Metro Bus route had also vanished into thin air. Now all he could see in the far off distance was that giant hot-air balloon; that too vanished into thin air moments later. He was feeling mighty hungry by now and wanted to have at least a few morsels of bread or, preferably, meat.

He looked to his left, trying to catch sight of the powerful army headquarters. There were so many spotlights around the entrance that he was almost blinded by them.

To Be Continued…