Thursday, April 24, 2014

Voices and Souls

The setting was dim. The wreckage was apparent throughout the avenue where Ahmad lived. He couldn't absorb the destruction all around him. The appalling scent of burnt rubber nauseated him. Ahmad didn't even notice the wounds covering his chest, the pain only served as a minute pinch to his senses as his eyes scurried through the dark smoke trying to make out the building of Uncle Saleh. Was it still up, did it get damaged as well? But he couldn't locate it, he didn't recognize anything around him. The sound of multiple sirens started to alert his senses, arousing his own motion of survival. Before finding anyone else, Ahmad must find himself.

Ahmad's shirt was saturated with blood, and his nerves began to respond to the blinding pain by sending multiple painful signals to his brain, paralyzing his ability to move. He's supposed to act quickly if he is to survive, only reassured by the ever-emerging sounds of sirens, presumably ambulances. He laid on his back easing off the burden on his chest, and began to breathe steadily, looking to his right and left. That is not the room he was in 10 minutes ago. Glass was shattered everywhere, half of the roof was collapsed next to him, ornaments that belonged to Mazen's apartment, which he visited often, were scattered to his left, and the dust just wouldn't subside, or was that smoke? Surprisingly, Ahmad was completely calm, with his breaths returning to the steadiness of a casual jogger. He kept muttering the verses he remembered from the Quraan, always returning to the first chapter and almost rehearsing it for the time he was going to need it urgently, up there, he kept thinking.

Then the doomed thoughts began tormenting him. His mother, grandmother, his 4 sisters and the new niece whom he just celebrated her birth. Where were they? He didn't want to think about where they were at the time, fearing the worst. Then anger. Pure anger covered him. Why? Just why? Why would one do such a thing?

Ahmad now recognized voices growing closer to him. Cries of "الله أكبر" and "لا إله إلا الله" and "إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون" were simultaneously being called around him. He heard women and children crying and men shouting curses. Once, every few minutes, a howl of apparent mourning was initiated by one of the women signaling the death of a loved one, as he presumed. The anger choked his breath, and tears started trickling down his face. He felt, once again, as a young kid, unable to do anything, caged by the strength of the oppressive forces that surrounded him. The same feeling that was there 19 years ago, when they shackled his father and guarded him as they threw him in one of those old, dusty black SUVs, for him not to be seen ever again, until he became a distant memory, an entity worth forgetting. Now he began hearing the sounds of strenuous footsteps approaching accompanied by calls for anyone alive, and in need of help. Ahmad strained as he tried to alert whoever was coming close by, testing the ability of his vocal cords to shout "help." Nothing came out. He tried again, and again silence. Frustration now blanketed him as he was thinking of something else to do. To the right he saw a large jarred piece of glass that looked like one of the windows that used to shield his room. Haplessly he tried to move and carry that piece. Finally something was working out, although the agony of such action was indescribable. Carrying the piece of glass, and with all remaining force Ahmad had in that moment, he tossed it as hard as possible on an adjacent wall, causing a terrible screech that seemed to be magnified by the echo of the new hollowness of his destructed room, half room. The sound of the crash was a success as the distant voices grew closer and closer, asking for a response as they called for anyone in need. That was Ahmad's last duty for the day, as he collapsed, again, on a bed of sharp fragments of glass, wishing for nothing but utter and absolute revenge. Ahmad fainted.

2 days later

The makeshift hospital Ahmad was residing in shouldn't be worth being called a hospital. Beginner nurses were scattered everywhere, with the presence of doctors being as rare as electricity in medieval Europe, or for a better similarity, as rare as electricity in nowadays Homs. He woke up exactly on the 48th hour, after being sedated continuously, with the med student supervising his case knowing that the pain of his injuries, if he had woken up earlier, would endlessly agonize Ahmad. His memory wasn't fuzzed, and he remembered every little detail of that blast; the sounds of airplanes buzzing beforehand, the scrimmage for safety by the population on his street, the calls for cover, the swiftness of the whole thing, the 10 minute hammering of barrels falling everywhere, colliding with a building, and exploding soon afterwards. And when everything seemed clear for a while, that time gap of comfort when the manmade storm of explosives subsided and gratefulness streamed through his body as he thought that his building was spared, just in time for the last barrel of them all to fall directly on his head. With complete vividness, he recounted the shouts for help, the screams of "God is great," the bellows of utter fright, and the transformation of the multi-story building that he lived in into a mass of mess. Sheer pain surged throughout his body, muffling him into a chorus of moans that were heard by his fellow wounded on the beds next to him, and by the bewildered nurses as well as Uncle Saleh.

To his right was Uncle Saleh, commanding the nurses to call the young doctor. The brightness that always illuminated the old man's face wasn't there anymore. Creases and darkness were now the features highlighting the lineaments of his face, with a deep sorrow permeating by his looks of worry and anguish. Ahmad worked up the power to voice a few words through his moans in the form of small questions that required answers.
"Mama?" Ahmad lightly said.
"No." Uncle Saleh confirmed by shaking his head.
"My sisters? Little Sophie? "
His heart was crushed. He wished he was dead. Death was a better salvation. The agony increased as he frantically wailed and cried his heart out. Uncle Saleh joined in, not caring to comfort him or ease the agony. Both were distressed to disproportional measures, to inconceivable states of loss and emptiness. Ahmad then felt that thud of hope as he recognized that Uncle Saleh was alive. If Uncle Saleh is alive, then so is... Not caring about the formalities of traditions, and the inappropriateness of such care in his following question, Ahmad uttered, "and Amna? Where is Amna?"

Uncle Saleh lowered his head and shrieked at the mention of his beloved daughter. The patients, nurses, and the hurried doctor all stopped as they saw the old man hit his head, crying her name multiple times, afflicting pain on himself and emotional pity on the others. The scene was frantic, the devastation colossal. And Ahmad. Ahmad stopped crying, stopped moaning. Ahmad just stopped. Tears left his confounded eyes with his pure soul.

I cannot imitate or describe the utter devastation of war and death. I never experienced or have ever been close to someone who did. This is all fictitious, but this is just my way to falsely experience such trauma and highlight it. We look at wars indifferently. The numbers of the dead turn are just numbers lacking any sort of humanity or personality. I just hope that this short piece is a means for my little group of readers to know that the dead are humans that once lived, having aspirations and ambitions, wishing for safety and security, and were unfortunate enough to be under the fire of dirty politics. May the souls of the martyrs have the comfort of bliss, and may their sacrifices be remembrances for all of us.  

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