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All That Is In The Heavens [Part 19]: Bawah Dunia

As Tarek Othman ventures into the chaos of the undeworld city known as Bawah Dunia, his telepathic abilities begin to overwhelm his mind.


Space battle

As Tarek Othman ventures into the chaos of the undeworld city known as Bawah Dunia, his telepathic abilities begin to overwhelm his mind.

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories.

This is a multi-chapter novel.  Previous Chapters:  Chapter 1 | 2 | 3| 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18

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Excerpt from History of the Felis Somni, by Tarek Othman:

Dreamers cannot simply stop dreaming. Visitors to Felicidad, the Felis Somni homeworld, are confounded by the vast quantities of overlapping dreams. Some diplomats and business travelers must be medicated just to survive a brief visit. They wonder why the dreamcats cannot “control themselves.” But for the Felis Somni, dreaming is far more than just a combat strategy. It is an expression of faith, and a means of communal heart-sharing, and even a form of love. When we humans have a great personal goal, don’t we say, “I have a dream”? So it is for the dreamcats, but their dreams carry genuine mental weight. They are as real to the Felis as your waking life is to you. The Felis have an expression: “To dream it, you must first believe it.”

Stop Looking

The men lowered their guns and faded into the darkness, and the door opened.

TarekCasino lights gaped. The entrance to Bawah Dunia was a massive open space with a ceiling that rose to the height of a five story building. It was not rough like a cave, but smooth and polished, with Islamic designs on the walls and ceiling. Wide tunnels branched off in every direction. There were people everywhere, and vendor stalls lined the walls. Some of these shops were simple constructions of wood and aluminum, while others were proper stores, with flashing signs and barkers in front calling out with slogans that were hyped, rhyming or just plain loud.

Major Darwish leaned in close to him and whispered, “Stop looking around. Ahbareen are focused, impassive. Imagine you’ve been here many times and this is all as old as Earth to you.”

Tarek nodded. He still looked around – there was so much to see – but tried to do so with his eyes only, which were hidden behind the blue reflective goggles. He must have been lagging, because the Major took his arm and pulled him along through the crowd.

“First stop is the tattooist,” his aunt informed him quietly. “He’s a friend of a friend. He’s on sublevel five, Bougainvillea district. Don’t speak at all. Let me do the talking.”

They took a side tunnel, which was still as wide as a city street. They passed through a district of brilliantly lit but eerily silent casinos with armed bodyguards in front. In fact almost everyone in Bawah Dunia was armed in one way or another. They carried swords, daggers, axes, war hammers, old fashioned projectile guns, sonic pistols, laser guns, and guns of types that Tarek did not recognize.

They passed through a district of repair shops, with cluttered stores filled with old holoscreens, i-links and e-links, sonic purifiers and all manner of other junk that Tarek did not recognize. From many of these stores, and from many of the Bawah Dunia stores in general, the sound of the Quran emanated. This surprised Tarek. He’d imagined that the denizens of Bawah Dunia would all be arch-criminals and degenerates.

Humanoid Cat

He gaped in astonishment as a creature passed by that looked like a humanoid cat. The cat man – for he was unmistakably male – was tall and covered in orange fur. He wore nothing but knee-length shorts and a long dagger that hung in a sheath across his chest. He stared at Tarek with bright yellow eyes with vertical green pupils.

Cat's eyeMeeting the cat-man’s eyes, Tarek was hit by the oddest sensation. It was as if dreams or visions were emanating from the creature in waves. A rainy world with a gray sky, and a line of crabs marching across the surface… A calm and vast sea, and Tarek himself swimming in it, except that he was not Tarek because he had fins and a tail… An unbearably crowded city populated entirely by cat-people, and as Tarek watched, two chased another across the rooftops, leaping from building to building, covering tremendous distances.

It might have been overwhelming, except that a part of Tarek’s mind was aware of the cat-man’s actual, underlying thoughts, and knew that these dreams were visions that the cat-man somehow cast into the space around him. Tarek wasn’t sure the cat-man even knew he was doing it, or if he did, it wasn’t deliberate. It was something he did in the same way a human might remember a childhood event, or fantasize about a woman, or the way a slave might wish to be free, whether idly or with the passion of desperation. Tarek knew something about the latter.

He noticed that all the other threatening characters down here gave the cat-man a wide berth. How dangerous must he be!

Even as he was thinking this, thoughts from other people infringed on his awareness.

A Cacophony of Thoughts

A black robed man with bruises on his face: “I should have left well enough alone. What do I care what she does?”

A teenage girl wearing a hijab, with an incredibly ancient looking shotgun strapped to her back, strolling along alone, eating a huge slice of watermelon: “Obviously, we could make the time coordinate look like the space coordinates, in which case, x4 = ict. Which gives us

Formula for special relativity

But what if we inverted it yet again, this time by pulling one end through the other? SubhanAllah, I think this could change everything.”

A blonde young man wearing a massive backpack, leaning forward to counterbalance the weight: “SubhanAllah wa bihamdihi, SubhanAllah wa bihamdihi, SubhanAllah wa bihamdihi…”

Robotic manThey went down one level and another, passing eateries, jewelry and gem shops (these proprietors called out to them aggressively), weapons shops, a brothel, and even a masjid. A robotic man strode past them quickly. Tarek found this shocking. The prohibition against mobile AIs was something that even small children were aware of. It was one of the foundations on which human society was built. But maybe this creature was a simple machine, not an AI. Certainly, its mind was blank to Tarek. No thoughts of any kind emanated.

The thoughts came hard and fast, some in words, some in images, and some raw and mixed with emotion. These latter hit him like pinpricks at first, then pinches, then hammers. The flood of thoughts and feelings grew stronger by the minute, coming not from two or three people but from a dozen, then a few score, then hundreds. Tarek put his hands to his ears and cried out. He stumbled and would have fallen if Saba had not caught him.

“What’s the matter with you?” she hissed.

Tarek barely heard her above the cacophony of thoughts, but he did hear her, and he moaned out loud, “Too many thoughts. Too strong, can’t take it.”

Mental Shields

Saba clapped a hand over his mouth and dragged him into a secluded alcove where a natural stone wall dipped inward. “Don’t speak out loud,” she whispered. “Send your thoughts to me. When did this start?”

“When I read the mind of the girl at the door. It triggered something, now it’s all coming at once, it’s like a hundred hammers hitting my brain.” He was panting as if he’d just run a race.

“You’re much stronger than I thought. I’ve never had this problem. I have to concentrate to pick up on one person. But there are techniques I have heard of. Take a few deep, long breaths. Try to slow your heart. Now visualize a beautiful shield of white light totally surrounding your body and extending several centimeters beyond it. This shield is impenetrable to the thoughts of others. They bounce off it.”

Tarek tried this. The impact of the raucous voices lessened, but did not vanish. Instead of feeling like he was losing his mind and identity, he felt like he was in a music concert where the volume was so high it made his brain bounce inside his skull. He informed Saba of this mentally.

“Alright then… Imagine putting on an invisible cloak. You pull it up over your head and zip it closed. It covers you completely and it makes you invisible to the thoughts and emotions of others. They zip right past you because they can’t see you.”

It worked. The intruding thoughts and emotions vanished completely. Tarek took a shuddering breath of relief, and leaned against the rough stone of the wall. A few people had stopped to watch, maybe because displays of emotion by Ahbareen were so uncommon. With an effort, Tarek stood up straight and put his shoulders back.

Keep Your Armor On

“I take it that worked?”

Tarek sent a “yes,” but Saba continued peering at him expectantly. He realized that the cloak worked both ways. He couldn’t send either. So he nodded his head.

Medieval armor“Good boy. But there will be times when you’ll want to read other people’s thoughts or emotions. So I want to modify it. Instead of an invisibility cloak, make it a suit of invisibility armor. Solid plasteel everywhere, head to foot. It’s even stronger than the cloak. Nothing can penetrate.”

Tarek did this. Still good.

“The face shield in your invisible armor can be raised, a little or a lot. Try raising it the tiniest bit. Only the thoughts of someone you face directly will be able to get through.”

Tarek raised the shield a centimeter. So far so good. He faced Saba and sent a thought: “Sorry if I got us in trouble.”

She beamed and sent a thought back: “No worries, mashaAllah. Keep your invisible armor on, you’ll be fine. Just remember that you cannot put up a shield against Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). This is a good thing, not a bad one. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wants good for you, He wants you to fulfill the potential for which He created you. He is on your side. Remember that.”

Silent But For Allah

The world was suddenly silent. Shockingly so. Tarek began to realize that he’d not only been reading people’s emotions – something he’d been trained to do – but had been picking up on people’s thoughts for a long time, on a very low level. Not in clear words though, and so he’d mistaken them for feelings. But the test at the academy had detected his budding ability. Now, within his armor, he might as well have been underwater. Nothing but his own thoughts, his own heartbeat. It was eerie, yet beautiful.

He found himself repeating the verse that Auntie Saba had given him to memorize. “All that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth glorifies Allah, for He is the Almighty, the All-Wise.” In this new world of mental silence, he still had Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). This was something Saba had taught him. All things knew Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), all things acknowledged the Master of Creation. It was, according to Saba, the underlying reality of the universe.


They came to an animal market that sold a variety of large beasts, which Tarek found baffling. What would anyone in this underground city want with a Tellian water buffalo, or a camel, or a – what was that animal? He stared at a huge cat that sat on its haunches in a cage. Its head came up to the height of Tarek’s chest. This was no humanoid, but an actual wildcat with black stripes on yellow fur. Its eyes were blue, and the look in the creature’s gaze was so intense, so full of emotion, that Tarek felt compelled to raise his imaginary face shield to hear the cat’s thoughts.

Even through the tiny slit, the cat’s thoughts hit him like a flaming torch:


The shocking thing was that these thoughts came not only in the form of images, but in actual words. Not in NewMalaysian, but in some kind of rough-edged, throaty words that Tarek translated within his own head.

As for the images, Tarek saw a wide plain of grasslands with stands of trees. Four legged, horned animals bounding in herds – these were prey, food. Two other great cats of the same kind, resting in the shade. These were family. A wide but shallow river, the purple light of Besar as it passed overhead, the stars crowding the night sky… The hunger for freedom was so palpable, Tarek could taste it in the back of his throat.

I Will Free You

Along with all this came fury at the people who had imprisoned him, and at those who had used electric shocks to “tame” him. A desire to kill all humans, to tear their throats out.

Tarek approached the animal, and it stood, snarling.

“Careful,” cautioned a tall, bald man with a full set of golden teeth. “He’ll take your hand off.”

Tarek extended a hand to the animal, and thought, “I will free you.”

Tiger's teethThe cat did not stop snarling. Just the opposite. It bared its teeth and growled, deep and low. Tarek sensed deep mistrust based on long experience of abuse at the hands of humans.

“Alright then,” the golden-toothed man said. “I never heard of an Ahbari buying anything but jewels, but it’s yours. That’s ten thousand e-creds.”

A Deal Is A Deal

“He was only requesting information,” Saba intervened. “We’re not buying it.”

The proprietor narrowed his eyes. “Everyone knows that Ahbareen purchase by pointing. Are you trying to renege on a deal? Don’t you know the laws of Bawah Dunia? Never squeal, a deal is a deal, no appeals. Pay up or I’ll have the Penguatkuasa on you.”

Tarek scanned the man’s mind for a split second: the Penguatkuasa, apparently, were the enforcers of the few laws that existed in Bawah Dunia. They were brutal, well trained and ridiculously well armed. And the only penalty for breaking any law was death.

Saba must have known this too, because she took a quantity of gold coins from one pocket and handed them to the proprietor.

“Never heard of Ahbareen paying in cash either,” he said, “but whatever.”

Everything happened very fast then.

The man pulled on a long lever to raise the door of the cage.

Saba cried out, “Hold on, what are you doing? It will kill us.”

The wildcat leaped forward, coming for Tarek with death in its eyes.

The proprietor said, ‘Not my problem,” as he stepped back and pressed a button, whereupon a steel door slammed shut.

Saba reached through the slit in her robe, presumably to draw her laser pistol.

Focused entirely on Tarek, the wildcat leaped with claws extended, and fangs bared in a rictus of murderous rage.

* * *

Next: All That Is In The Heavens, Part 20 – Attack In The Slipstream

Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!


See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

Wael Abdelgawad’s novels – including Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters and Zaid Karim Private Investigator – are available in ebook and print form on his author page at

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Wael Abdelgawad's novels can be purchased at his author page at Wael is an Egyptian-American living in California. He is the founder of several Islamic websites, including,, and He teaches martial arts, and loves Islamic books, science fiction, and ice cream. Learn more about him at For a guide to all of Wael's online stories in chronological order, check out this handy Story Index.

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