Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fiction By Monty Python
Illustration: Latuff

It seemed like an eternity, but actually it had just been an hour since Abu and Fatima took refuge under the broken debris of the fallen building. Even a few minutes ago there was noise of people shouting and running, children crying, people cursing and looking for a place to hide. What used to be a busy marketplace was totally turned into disarray by the sudden unexpected noise and explosion. But now, for the last few minutes, which felt like an eternity, the noise and the shouting had died down. Now there was complete silence.

It was a bright and sunny day in the market place of Tabeer Gaza. People were going on about in their usual work of buying and selling. For Abu and Fatima, it was business as usual, fighting with each other. Although the two were just one year apart in terms of age, there was a sea of difference between the two. Fatima was the older one. But if you'd see her, you'd think she was only half her age, jumping around, shouting like little girls. Abu was more the serious type, the one who'd take the donkey out and graze it and earn money for the family. He was the man of the house. So, would seldom tolerate his elder sister's childish antics. Fatima, on the other hand, would seldom accept Abu's bossy nature over her. Why? She is the older one of the siblings, and Abu must do whatever she told him, and that was that. Their recent quarrel (which lead Abu to pull her hair and eventually to a fight) was just about that.

But out of nowhere, out of all the life and bustle of this forsaken land, came a ground shaking thunderous noise. Followed by another and yet another. Suddenly people ran in all direction. Unable to comprehend, so did Abu and Fatima.

After an hour the noise stopped. The two tiny brother and sister lay clutching each other in the darkness amongst the broken stones and bricks. No light entered, no air stirred. But at least they were safe.

“Abu, where is mother? Is she safe?” Abu didn't know. The last thing he saw, before holding Fatima's hand and running away was smoke engulfing everything around them. Even though he was young, he understood the world. He understood what had happened outside. The enemy of the land had stuck. It was supposed to happen one day. He had many friends who worked for the freedom fighters and they told him stories of atrocities and crime of the enemy, and of their cause at arms. He himself would have fought against them, but he knew that he was too young and also that his family came first, as they needed him. They were poor and the only property that they had were a few goats and donkey which Abu grazed. He too wished to join the war for freedom, but when he grew up.

As he heard stories about their homeland and how it was taken from them, and no one could do nothing about it, hatred had developed in his mind. He couldn't accept the fact that while people kept dying, crushed under the tank or bombed away like ants on flowing water, the so called leaders of the world did not do anything. He hated the world more for it. But most of all, he hated the enemy. But then, he loved his family too much. Mostly he loved Fatima, then his mother. He has never seen his father, only heard stories about him. That he was a freedom fighter. And that nobody has seen him for ages. Although his mother is sure that he will come back, but he knew that he wouldn't. But he didn't feel sad, because he was sure that his father was now a martyr, in heaven.

“Abu, I am hungry and thirsty. I wish we had some water.” In fact, Abu was also hungry and thirsty. But for a moment he forgot his and felt more for Fatima. He felt that he must do something for him. Although all the noise had died down, but the silence is more deadly that the noise of falling missiles. And presently to leave their hiding spot and to go out would be inviting death, for both of them. Abu knew how the enemy operate. At first they will shoot fire from the sky. The enemy was a coward for that. If you are so brave, then why not fight face to face. Why tuck away your tail where we can't do anything to you. They would fire away until everyone is dead (then it occurred to him that mother may not be alive). Then they would bring on their tanks and crush everything on their way, even the children. It is true, he was seen pictures.

So they waited, Fatima grew more and more impatient. There was debris all around them, with thick layers of dust which was entering through their mouth and nose. Fatima began to cough. She needed water. She was weak, always was. Presently Abu heard some noise, noise of the tanks rolling down the streets somewhere far. This caused a panic in his head. He called the fact that these tanks crush everything, even young children on their way. He urged Fatima to move so that they can get away from the path, maybe out of the city. But Fatima was weak and could not move, she asked for some water. Abu went for a small opening to see the scenario outside. Sure as he was, there were dead bodies outside, vultures flying in the sky. His stomach turned, but he remembered that he must be strong, or else Fatima would be even more scared. Eventually his eyes struck on the well. It was some distance but he can make it. So he assured Fatima that he would come back with some water and bread, put his kurta on her and went outside.

After carefully making it out from the debris. Abu saw a copper vase lying in the street; he picked it up and ran for the well. It was some good distance away, in the centre of the market. He was going to get the water and come back quickly. He gathered momentum as he ran.

Just as he lowered the bucket in the well to get some water, a shrill sound of army vehicles reached his ears. So quickly! But he thought the tanks and the Jeeps are far away. He had no time to think, he dropped the bucket in the well.

Suddenly a noise shuddered him from the behind. As he looked back he saw several army Jeeps of the enemy covering his path back to Fatima. He was desperate, but so were they. They pointed their guns at him and shouted something. He didn't understand. He was getting angry. As if the anger of his father, mother and Fatima was screaming through his mind. For a moment, something flashed in his mind, something bright, and red. He didn't know what it was, but it was compulsive. As if all the universe wanted him to do this, to express his anger at the enemy. He dropped the vase, picked up a piece of stone and threw it at the enemy.

And everything became dark.



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