Silence of the Fearefull

In this section I shall post all sorts of short stories I author of whichever length.

Short stories is one attractive genre of literature that remains a type of fiction nevertheless takes different formats and shapes. a three lines narrative is short story, so does a  20 and 40 pages narrative, such as those written by Naguib Mahfouz and Ahdaf Sueif.

First story here titled “Awaiting You in Eden” is the first in a book, my first compilation of short stories, all depicting human sufferings in Gaza Strip, caused by years of destructive illegal occupation of the Israeli forces. The book, decided to carry the name “Silence of the Feareful”, is inspired by my three-years political writing during my employment at Uk-based AJ Publishing.

Silence of the Fearful

Story One

“Awaiting You in Eden”
“Both light and shadow are the dance of Love.
Love has no cause; it is the astrolabe of God’s secrets.
Lover and loving are inseparable and timeless.
Although I may try to describe love,
When I experience it, I am speechless.”

– – Mevlana Jalaluddin Muhammed Rumi

***

“What a grim fate!! I just don’t understand, why do lovers always have to experience tremendous suffering?! Why do they have to pay dearly for falling in love?!” exclaimed Jameela Korayyim, 19, holding in her hands Shakespeare’s masterpiece Romeo and Juliet, a book she was given by her best friend Khalida, who lives in the building opposite to her house in the town of Beit Hanoun in Gaza Strip.

“Well… what are novels but a microcosm of the actual world around us?!” replied Jameela’s mother. “The sad ending you find most common in famous love novels is probably a reflection of the fate of most true love stories.” she continued.

“Does this mean you either love or live happily? Asked Jameela in somewhat sad tone. Does one have to choose between happiness and love? Well, I’d rather stay detached from this sad world we’re living in, and aspire for a better one.”

***

It’s almost midnight now, one of those chilly nights of December in 2006. Five days have passed since the area was shelled by Israeli artilleries, an onslaught that left 19 dead, most of them belonging to the same family.

Silence prevails as the sound of a few cars passing by echoes across the small district in the troubled town, nearly void of any passersby.

Suffering traumatic effects of the attack that mercilessly killed their neighbours, including Khalida, her most intimate friend, Jameela is in her bedroom, holding in her trembling hands a book, it’s  not Romeo and Juliet this time, but a copy of the Qur’an, the Muslims’ Holy Book.

“Father is back,” cried Jameela, as she watched him from her room’s window having a quick chat with some of the neighbours who sat outside the building watching the TV news.

“Everybody is still talking about the barbaric attack in our district,” Said Hajj Korayyim, owner of a sweets store, who’s been imprisoned inside the Israeli dungeons for 11 years.

“The brutality of the strike kept everyone wondering when is his turn,” he added as he slammed the door behind him.

“Nothing new. Same scenario repeats itself everyday. I guess we’re the ones who should be blamed. We refuse to change our fate. What is life but a set of choices?!” Said Jameela in an angry voice, cursing the occupation armies, poverty, death, the silence over the invaders’ crimes, and the treachery of the country’s political leaders. She also cursed her dashed hopes, hopes she saw embodied in Khalida; her aspirations for a better tomorrow and her precious love story.

The two girls are childhood friends, they were never apart. Jameela went back to her bedroom, browsing through some old photos of her friend and recalling their sweet and bitter memories.  She felt nostalgic about those not so good old days, when she had to experience loss of loved ones yet had a shoulder to cry on. Now, she has to face the brutality of this world alone, strong and faithful, no matter how bitter this is, she just has to face it.

Though feeling sad for Kahlida’s death, Jameela is kind of jealous of her friend and the fate she faced, having escaped the bleak life forced upon her nation, where people are deprived of their basic needs, where freedom, security and dignity are no longer regarded as human essentials, while food, medicine and electricity are seen as luxurious commodities.

Jameela cries her eyes out, calling out the name of her friend, who, although has gone with no return, is still present in her thoughts and spirit.

“True I can’t turn back time and save Khalida’s life,” she thought to herself, “but I can continue fighting for the same causes that preoccupied her life, helping the poor and the needy, trying to raise people’s awareness about how crucial fighting to liberate our lands is, our land that has been usurped since I don’t know when. Yes, there’s a lot to be done that I think will help me get over my sorrow. Yes there’s a way to live without Khalida, my only friend and the dearest person to my heart. But Ziyad, what about Ziyad? How am I going to inform him? He would never bear the news. She’s his only love and his reason for living.”

Ziyad, who studies law in the West Bank University, was Khalida’s fiancé. They were planning to get married after he finishes his studies.

Finding out that there’s another person who will share her Khalida’s loss, Jameela somehow felt better. She stood at her room’s window, staring at the rubbles of her friend’s house, and watching the smoke of the men’s Hookahs cutting through the gloomy mist, sending white clouds in the sad yet shimmering blue sky. She enjoyed the cold weather and the chill channeling her body as she watched the Hookahs’ smoke clouds taking various shapes. She envisioned some taking the shape of a beautiful face, resembling that of Khalida’s. She can also hear her friend’s voice. She can hear her speaking, telling her about how much she loves Ziyad.

“Ya Allah, he’s going to suffer tremendously,” Jameela thought to herself.

Suddenly, the men’s mumbling became louder, as they argued about what seemed to be another attack that took place a few days ago in the troubled area. Their voice interrupted the tranquility Jameela was enjoying. Disturbed by the noise, Jameela decides to get inside and just shut window.

Trying to figure out how she will gather her courage to deliver the sad news when she meets with Ziyad, Jameela’s line of thoughts was once more interrupted, this time by the voice of her parents greeting some visitor; a stranger. “Visitor? In such weather and that late?!” Jameela asked, trying to listen to the conversation going outside her room.

She can hear the name Afareen.

Driven by curiosity, Jameela decides to get out of the room to see what’s happening- who’s visiting them at such a late hour.

“Isn’t it saddening to see how mighty the Israelis have become and how tactfully they managed to smoothly lay hands on Gaza and shape up the life of its people?! “It’s unbelievable how powerful the Israelis grew and how tightly their hands of control have become.” Said a young brown-haired, blue-eyed woman- dressed in jeans trousers, a white shirt and a long black coat, with black and white Palestinian pashmina wrapped around her neck.

“Who could that lady be?” Wondered Jameela. Another ambitious journalist using our sufferings and the sad events in our dear country to craft a state of the art news report, hoping for more success in her glamour job and wishing to grab as much new information as none of peers did so as to please her bosses…” Jameela thought to herself.

The repetitive Israeli criminal attacks have locked up entire Palestinian families at their homes. No going out, even for buying daily needs. No schools, as parents fear for their children’s lives, after daily brutal murders kept everybody wondering, whether tomorrow will bring similar crimes, whether their turn has come to face the fate of those who left their suffering world.

Jameela rushed through the corridor like a wild beast.

“Who are you? And what are you doing here at such a late hour?” she asked.

“My name is Afareen, an independent British journalist of Iranian origin,“ the woman replied. “What’s your name? And what’s the reason for your anger and unwelcoming attitude?”

“Why are you here? To take some pictures and gain popularity? Does our suffering seem a good subject for your bloody news reports where you fail to raise awareness to the slightest extent of our true conditions? We’re dying here under the Israeli shells and bulldozers while the world stands watching; while the world leaders, including ours, stand watching.” Please tell me, what do you want from us?”

“Jameela, calm down,” Hajj Korayyim shouted.

“That’s not the way Arabs greet their guests. The lady is not here to gather information about any attack, she’s inquiring about an address to deliver a letter she has,” he added, turning to Afareen and asking her if she would like to have something to drink.

“I’m here to deliver a letter to a girl called Khalida, sent by her fiancé. He’s a friend of mine. He said he’d be gone for a few weeks to visit his sister in Jordan, that’s why he sent this letter, asking me to deliver it to Khalida Darwish in person, not her mother, not her father. Only Khalida should read this letter and know its contents.”

“So please could you help me find that lady?! Because I’m leaving to UK tomorrow night, and he said that I should deliver that letter to her before I leave. I want to call him before heading off to the UK to assure him his letter has been safely delivered to the intended person.”

“Ziyad?! You’re saying you have a letter for Khalida from Ziyad?!” asked Jameela in utter amazement, as the tears descended slowly upon her cheeks.

Everybody remained speechless for minutes, probably wondering whether they should tell the visitor that Khalida was among those killed in the recent attack, and assign her the heavy task of delivering the sad news to Ziyad.

Jameela’s mother, Ameena, interrupted the silence that prevailed over the house for like five minutes, telling her daughter to ask the lady, as she doesn’t speak English, how did she get to know Ziyad.

“You must be close friends, for him to entrust you with his letter to his fiancé,” Jameela told the woman.

“Not really. We’re not close friends. Last week was the first time I see him. But somehow I’m credited with saving his life. I warned him that the Israelis were planning to plant a bomb in his house, which they intended to blow up along with four other buildings they suspect are being inhabited by members of militant groups, including some from Hamas,” Afareen replied.

“Militant groups!” exclaimed Jameela, adding that she knows almost everything about Ziyad and asserting that he was never member of any of those groups …

Jameela and her friend spent long nights talking about Ziyad and about Khalida’s love for him. Khalida was only one year older that Jameela, she was like her elder sister and somewhat her role model. Their talks about Ziyad made finding a lover who resembles him in almost every single aspect of his character be Jameela’s premium goal in life.

Jameela grew increasingly skeptic of the visiting journalist’s motives.

“Couldn’t she be just a spy trying to gather information, and her claim that the Israelis are having their eyes set on Ziyad was nothing but a trap to get us tell her whether he’s affiliated with any of the armed resistance groups here?!” Jameela thought to herself.

Deciding to put an end to this unnecessary confusion, Hajj Korayyim revealed that Ziyad’s fiancé was actually dead.

“She’s buried under the rubbles of the destroyed house outside.  This is the tenth house to be demolished by the Israeli bulldozers this month. So are you going to write about that? Is it newsworthy?” He said in a rather sarcastic tone.

Afareen remained silent for minutes. Not finding a word that would describe how shocked she was, she got up and walked in the direction of the door, without saying a word.

Jameela asked her to wait.

“Where’s the letter?” she told the woman in bewildering sadness.

“Was they so much in love?” Afareen asked in a sad voice.

Jameela’s skepticism began to melt down as she stood watching the impact of the news on Afareen’s face.

She nodded in affirmation.

“Yes they were. They’re my first encounter with love. They’re what love means to me. I never read about or heard about people who were so much in love. Their relationship was different. Their beliefs were the same, their interests were the same. He meant everything to her and she meant everything to him. They knew each other since they were fifth graders.  At first it wasn’t love, but they felt close to each other. Friendship grew into eternal love and unprecedented feelings. The way they felt toward each other made them brave enough to face the world, with all its absurdities and torments…”

“He supported her views and she supported his,” Jameela continued.

“It’s hard to describe how unique their relationship was. It was love mingled with wisdom. She was everything to him. She found in him the tenderness this world is lacking, the truthfulness and warmness she never found among human beings. He respected her naivety and saw in it his chance to escape today’s sophistication and ambiguity. You can say they were each other’s source of warmness and light in this dark world. Watching their love growing through the years was so heartwarming in a world where everything is momentary and meaningless. It wasn’t an ordinary love relationship or social commitment, but a union of two spirits.”

Trying hard to keep her tears from flowing, Afareen said in a weak voice:

“I have no clue how to tell him that the woman he loved that much does not exist anymore”.

Khalida’s death and in particular the end of the love relationship that meant the world to Jameela added to the bitterness she felt in her life. It added to her resentment of the statehood of her nation, the brutality of the occupation, the absence of freedom as well the minds that would end such nightmare.

Gaza has turned into a sad face which, although has stayed strong and unwavering as it received one slap after the other over the years of the brutal Israeli occupation, grew tired of humiliation, of the color of blood, and the warm tears falling on the cheeks of crying women wailing over the death of their husbands and children. And with the absence of true and effective intervention from the international Community or the so-called humanitarian organisations which have unbelievably failed to lift the slightest sufferings of the turmoil-stricken Gaza, the situation seems to be getting worse, with no end to this mayhem appearing on the horizon.

Jameela’s sorrow wasn’t that of normal sadness resulting from the loss of a close friend, for Khalida’s death stood as symbol of the failure of humanity at large to stand in the face of injustice, barbarism, and criminal aggression.

Jameela approached the journalist in slow steps as if she was wasting time as she tried to regain control over her nerves and summon her courage to read Ziyad’s letter.

She took the blue envelop in her shivering hands, and had a quick gaze at each one, then opened it and began to read …

Everybody waited for what seemed like a lifetime as Jameela read in silence while her tears kept flowing, soaking the letter in her hands.

Having probably finished reading the letter, Jameela broke down crying. She cried her heart out for a complete half an hour without saying a word. After several attempts to get her speak up, she finally calmed down, looked at her father who asked her to read the letter out loud, which she did;

Trying to cool off, Jameela took a deep breath, and began to read…

Dearest love,

By the time this letter finds its way to your little hands, I’ll be gone.

Remember when we used to discuss the meaning of names and wonder why my mother named me Ziyad? Remember when I told you that I wish I would be like Tarek Ibn Ziyad, the noble Muslim warrior who led the conquest of Visigothic Hispania? Well, I had to fulfill part of my duty towards my country, religion and my people, I had to fight the aggressors and kill as much as my little and weak tools can of them.

Remember the book we bought together when we were 11 year old? That thick book about the Companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)?

Ever since reading that book, I had the words of Tarek Ibn Ziyad engraved in my mind:

Addressing his armies after reaching Gibraltar, the noble warrior told his armies:

“Oh my people, whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy. Remember that in this country you are more unfortunate than the orphan seated at the table of the avaricious master. Remember that if you suffer a few moments in patience, you will afterward enjoy supreme delight. Do not imagine that your fate can be separated from mine, and rest assured that if you fall, I shall perish with you, or avenge you.”

I wish we, suffering Palestinians, were more equipped in a way that would have saved our lives. I wish we had enough weapons to ward off the occupiers’ attacks instead of using our own souls.

I’m sure your heart will forgive me for deciding to leave your world Khalida. I know you will understand my motives as you always did.

I thought of bidding you farewell last time we met, but my courage failed me.

Please forgive me for I know my words have hit your delicate heart hard, they convey but little of my true feelings that I have and always had for you.

Let me remind you of what you used to tell me; “love knows no time”.

My love to you is timeless Khalida, and your words will remain stuck in my heart as a sweet melody.

I will always love you.

I wish  I could tell you this in person as it would have enabled me to somehow soften your sorrow for our separation, I wanted so much to look you in the eye while assuring you that you’ll always be part of me, always present in my heart. But please know love that we haven’t been separated. It’s just a temporary physical separation that won’t affect our feelings for each other. Our date that was set for next week will be a bit delayed.

Please don’t cry, for your warm tears will fall on my face, informing me you’re sad.

I shall always be grateful for your presence in my life, it is you who gave me the strength to face many challenges, it’s you Khalida who gave me the courage to do what I’ve done. It’s your piety my tender angel that brought me closer to Allah and made me appreciate his creation, appreciate the sanctity of human lives, the sanctity that’s being violated everyday by the aggressors. You were Allah’s reward after my mother was killed by the Israelis when I was nine; it’s hard to imagine how my life would have been without you.

I appreciate every moment I lived while close to you.

And till we are reunited back together, I’ll always be yearning for having you close to me. Until the day where we’re no longer apart becomes a reality, please promise me to take care of yourself.

Awaiting you in Eden.

Yours forever,

Ziyad.

Turning to her father, who was himself trying hard to keep his tears from falling, Jameela said:

“Well father, I guess we shouldn’t worry about informing Ziyad of Khalida’s death anymore. He as well is gone.” Then she resumed her crying.

Afareen, who, besides not attempting to open the letter, doesn’t understand Arabic, was listening in disbelief while Jameela’s mother stood motionless, trying to tie together the so many threads of that sad story.

The morning broke calm and quite, carrying signs of exhaustion from the sad surprises that kept unfolding the previous day and the ebb and flow of conflicting emotions which reached the peak as the sun rays gradually lightened up the darkness of that sad night.

“The morning broke, I think you need to get some sleep, let’s continue when you’re up,” said Hajj Korayyim, asking Jameela to take Afareen to her room to get some rest. He set off for work and Mrs Ameena went to the kitchen to start her daily tasks, in an attempt to shift her attention away from the burning desire inside her to spend the rest of the day doing nothing but crying, crying over Khalida’s death, the sad fate of the two young lovers and all those who died under the merciless and persisting agression of the occupiers.

Jameela and the female journalist, both silent, went to the bedroom. Afareen drifted off so quickly, but Jameela kept staring at the window as if she were talking to Khalida, telling her about what has happened, and wondering if she’s with Ziyad now, probably in a better more stable world. Somehow she felt that her friend has been awake all night hearing their conversation about Ziyad. Deep inside, Jameela was somewhat convinced that Khalida was reading her fiancé’s letter with her. She read the letter through her friend’s eyes, and felt the pain that would have befallen her heart had she been alive and read it herself.

She got up and went to watch the men as they continued clearing the rubbles of Khalida’s destroyed house, Lest they find more victims. She stood at the ruins enjoying the sun rays falling on her shoulders as if they were the hands of her friend, calming her and telling her that she’s safe and happy.

“Could this unjustified ease of mind and calmness be some divine sign or message from God telling me that Khalida is now in Paradise where she has probably met with Ziyad?!” Jameela thought to herself.

“Or could it be a normal aftermath cooling off?!”

“Could it be a mere coincidence that Khalida’s house comes under an Israeli assault and she gets killed same day her fiancé decides to forsake his life and blow himself up?!”

“When I heard about the attack yesterday, which now I know was carried out by Ziyad, it didn’t even cross my mind that this could be done by someone I know. Somehow I always felt detached from those actions, although my father has been held in Israeli dungeons for long years. I never thought of those actions as close to me or my acquaintances. SubhanAllah I was listening to the men outside the house as they commented on the attack, taking it lightly as if it were some of those normal everyday occurrences. It was the very same minute that journalist rang our doorbell to deliver Ziyad’s letter carrying the news of his death.”

Jameela kept battling her thoughts trying to find answers for the too many questions tiring her mind.

She found remnants of an old sofa that was placed in Khalida’s room. She cleared off the dust covering it, and sat for a while, recalling her memories with Khalida, her younger brother, two sisters and her parents. She recalled their long conversations about Ziyad and the meaning of true love. They used to discuss many things; love, martyrdom, Jihad, and what life after death would look like. They shared with each other everything they knew. But now, that each of them lives in a separate world, Jameela is quite sure her friend knows more about the other world.

Sitting in the sun pondering over what’s been happening over the past days; Khalida’s death, and the changes it triggered inside her, Ziyad’s death and the significance of the two incidences occurring at almost the same time, Jameela felt a hand touching her shoulder, it was Afareen.

Like Jameela, she was feeling an unexpected overwhelming calmness as if nothing bad has happened, or may be believing that what has happened was somehow the best for all, for both Ziyad and Khalida, none of which would have survived the loss of the other.

The two ladies exchanged a soft smile, as if communicating their feeling of content.

“I must head to the hotel in the West Bank,” said Afareen.

“I’m leaving to the UK in the afternoon, but I’ll be back in a few weeks time to resume my work.”

Jameela looked back at the rubbles of Khalida’s house and then to the journalist. She unfolded her hands, and in them was a silk handkerchief belonging to Khalida- she felt joyous. She got up, embraced Afareen and they both promised to exchange letters and to meet up during Afareen’s frequent visits to the country.

Having shared such an intense moment of sadness and emotional pressure, the two felt as if they’ve been friends since long.

“Take care of yourself and let’s discuss, next time we meet, what all this has taught us about the true essence of life and how to live it,” Afareen told Jameela, pressing her hands in assurance.

“Salam.”

“Salam,” Jameela answered.

End

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