Short Story Review: “In the Ruins of Mohenjo-Daro” by Usman T. Malik

4 of 5 stars.

Scars permanently brand bodies and psyches alike. Entire cities, cultures and landscapes can be scarred. A scar embeds a story, perhaps a cautionary tale or a lesson learned or even a worse fate avoided. The ruins of an ancient city and culture are a two-fold scar. The first upon the city’s former glory; the second upon nature trying to restore itself.

Beneath her hijab, Noor hides the physical scars of her former life in America and the suicide bombing her “martyred” brother expected her to help with. Now she teaches in Pakistan at a boys school where neither new teachers nor female teacher are well-treated. Her one friend is an older female teacher. Together with an arrogant, sexist male teacher and a dozen boys, they charter a bus to Mohenjo-Daro to see ancient ruins from a pre-Islamic culture.

Rumored to be haunted or worse, Mohenjo-Daro becomes more than just a quick tour when Taliban shoot up a private school not far from the site. Roads are assumed to be in terrorist hands and cell service cuts out leaving the small group stranded with little food, shelter or information as night brings chilling cold and an unsettling fog.

A couple boys disappear into the ruins and unearthly noises emanate from within as Noor tries to focus through her cluster headache and cramps . . .

This tale appears in the New Lovecraftian anthology, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu edited by Paula Guran. I received my copy of the anthology directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s excellent The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn and his “Resurrection Points”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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