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The Sign

(Based on an actual event)

All the walls around him suddenly collapsed and crumbled into ashes. He choked as the dust clouds swirled and fine particles clotted his throat, his nostrils. As the dust settled, only darkness surrounded him. A mournful wailing sound reverberated all around him and stopped as suddenly as it began. Then, out of the darkness emerged a creature robed in black. Its dark eyes glinted malevolently. It pointed at him. On command, hundreds of black beings materialised and formed a circle around him. They raised their terrible shining weapons at him. The man uttered a name and begged for forgiveness, first on reflex and then in desperation. He was surprised to realise that he meant it. Fires flashed all around him and shards of white-hot pain lanced throughout his body. Then he began to fall…

The man woke up, his head jerking violently upwards. He impulsively ran his hand all across his chest area - there were no bullet holes. His ragged breathing slowed down, although his heart pumped like it had never done before. He looked around him. The room seemed unnaturally bright with almost an ethereal aura. Time, it felt, had slowed down.

Slowly the horrific dream faded away into something far worse: reality. The surreal melded into the secular and thousands of thoughts rushed in. The man carefully stood up, only to sit back down as his head spun with nausea. His entire body ached and he closed his eyes to momentarily dull the pain. It worked, but the effects were short-lived. As soon as he opened his eyelids, the throbbing pain returned afresh.

He raised his left arm to check the time - it had only been a mere three minutes since he had dozed off. Despite such an ominous nightmare, it was the most peaceful three minutes he had that whole day - and given his state of mind, it was probably the most peaceful time he had ever experienced in his life.

His beard was dank and unkempt, his eyes red-rimmed and watery. His clothes, drenched with bodily fluid, stuck to his body and felt unnaturally heavy. Or was it something else that created such an overpowering feeling of carrying an impossible burden? His bones creaked with arthritic pain, and his muscles, far past their prime, sagged and felt more like dead weights than support. This was a defeated man. Yet that fact could only be gleaned from physical appearance alone; his eyes still shone with a strange feral light - like an animal fighting fervently against the inevitable.

Time seemed to be caught in a limbo of speed - at moments it felt that it was moving along at an astonishing pace, while at others it felt like it dragged on, enunciating each painful second. During those lulls almost every fibre in his body wanted to sag and give in. However, that feeling was immediately replaced by a furious desire to do something rash, something memorable - something that would not undermine his existence and more importantly, his reputation.

The past few years of meticulous planning and procedure had culminated into a thirty-something hour siege by the notoriously demonic RAB forces. The man's emotions flared up - he knew the truth behind all the 'cross-fire' incidents. He knew how they used an iron fist to lay out justice. What angered him the most was that they had no greater purpose. No, they were not like him. What did they know about true greatness?

The only thing he had in common - and that was a feeling that was mingled with immense disgust - with the infidels was that he was not afraid to take lives whilst on the path to his goal. If one did not cull the herd, then what quality remained would deteriorate. Fear was a potent weapon and a supreme equaliser in his opinion - it allowed men to know where they belonged and what they truly were.

Visions of the future flitted in front of the man. After all, was he not like those who declared Independence those thirty-five years ago? The images of power and acceptance were suddenly and brutally replaced with him begging for forgiveness - not from the Lord to whom he prayed - but from those outside. The apparition was so sudden that it startled the man. He clenched his fists and roared obscenities at the invading forces. His voice was already hoarse from all the yelling he had done before.

As soon as he stopped, there was a silence, a deathly silence that chilled the bone. All the fighting, the explosions, the shouting - “What was their worth?” the man almost cried out to himself. He then looked up at the browning ceiling and viciously directed his thoughts at the heavens above. So what if he had killed. So what if he had gone through the path of violence. Weren't jihads a part of his religion? He had conformed to all aspects of religion, so where was his reward? The ironclad faith which he had unflinchingly believed in and which he had strongly imparted to his followers - it was beginning to fade. Or did it even exist in the first place?

He knew what was in store, he knew the consequences - yet 'knowing' accounted for nothing. He was facing a sudden stretch of darkness in front of him. All his idealistic plans for his religion were suddenly snatched away from him - a definite future shattered. He realised, only too late, that there was nothing to look forward to. Left in uncertainty, the man could feel his mind slowly unravel. If the process took any longer, he would cease to be himself. He would die and in his place would be a deranged madman. Or, would it be the other way around? Would the man that came after him be the sane one?

Random thoughts rushed through in a dizzying manner. When he had sent his family away within the early hours, was it merely for their safety or was it that their involvement might have diminished his role as the central figure. He wondered what his followers would think - that he was weak? That he could not hold onto what he believed in? That his visions were not worth it? That his activities could no longer be justified - all because of a bold move on the part of a group of infidels?

The man roared again. How could this have happened? Why could this have happened? What was happening? Questions that had just momentarily surfaced throughout the events of the day rose up in unison and threatened to overwhelm him. Unable to take the pressure of all his thoughts, his mind suddenly reverted back to the base, animal-like instincts that are ingrained in the psyche of all humans. He jumped to his feet and with seemingly clawed hands grasped the first thing he could see. He was about to rip to shreds a weathered tome that once lay on the broken table next to him. Even that seizure of pure rage could not blind him to what was written on the cover of the book. His knees buckled and he fell back into the chair. The culmination of his years to power was not in the raid but in his actions a few seconds ago - he had attempted to destroy the very book that he followed to the last letter. He found the sign unlooked for.

Whatever vestiges of morality and true religious belief that remained in this shell of a human vanished at that instance. The light from his eyes were extinguished and he was finally defeated in every way. His mind was surprisingly devoid of any thoughts - a vast emptiness only spurred on by a single course of action left for him to take. He threw up his hands in absolute rejection and thereby manifest something he had hidden in a veil of murmuring religious incantations and honeyed speeches - he never believed with his heart.

If the Almighty would not protect him, then he could salvage the same means by using His holy book. After all, to the man, it was nothing but a shield that preyed upon the religious tenets that bound the men outside - a restriction that surely did not apply to 'holy' men such as himself. Ironically, he did not forget to place a prayer hat on his head.

His final preparations complete, the man gingerly got off the damaged chair and walked towards the door into the bright sunshine outside.

On the 2nd of March, 2006, the JMB man known as Shaikh Abdur Rahman surrendered to RAB forces after a 32-hour siege.

By Le Chupacabra


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