One Night Under the
Dedicated to all those Muslims Who Suffer "Ethnic Cleansing"
By Yahiya Emerick
She didn't know how long she lay there. All she could think about was the men who came to her village. A day before, or a week before, she couldn't say for sure. They just burst upon her people with no warning and started shooting. She thought she saw her father taken away in a line out in the woods. Where is he now?
The last thing she recalled was the gravelly voiced man saying, "Save that one!" Then she must have been knocked out. She looked around her dimly shadowed cell. Strange...there was carpet on the floor, a nearly-good mattress and a bowl in the corner.
The wallpaper was good, too. But why such a nice prison for a young girl? Maybe the war will be over soon and they're really not so bad people. She tugged at the door. Locked. She pounded, "Hey! Is anybody out there?" Suddenly she began to hear other muffled thumps from the outside, and voices too. There must be other prisoners here. At least she wasn't alone. She kicked at the door once and grimaced slightly. She had lost one of her shoes and didn't realize it. She flung the one remaining shoe into a corner and sat herself down on the mattress.
The only light came through a tiny slit in a window covered with old boards. Some of the nails were rusty. Her father told her to avoid rusty nails. She would have to be careful. What to do next? She scanned the small room- well, to her it was not a bad size. Her living room back home was only a little bigger. Why should she get such a nice room? But thoughts of home betrayed her child-like confidence. Why is she being held? Where is her family? What happened to her father, her mother, or her two sisters? Are they in little rooms now too? She hit the mattress with a tiny fist. So soft, she thought, like the soft wool her uncle used to bring for her pillows.
She had to know what was going on! Deftly she slipped from the mattress and approached the slit in the window. She had to stand on tippy-toes to see through it. Outside it was nearing dark. She could see the sun approaching the horizon. In a little while her cousin's father would call the men to prayer in the little village mosque. Then she and her friends would play in the courtyard outside, all the while sweet tones and words would emerge from the building and gently roll through the valley. Did she remember the minaret lying on its side. No, they would never harm such a good place.
She worked her fingers into the slit and managed to widen it just a little. Peering downward, she could see that she was on the second or third floor of a big building. Below were a couple of men with guns and a beat-up car. The men looked as if they were smoking. One had a bottle of something. Every time they passed it between each other they chuckled. I wonder who they are, she thought. When she could no longer hold herself up she left the slit and paced the room. A few moments later she heard some noise outside.
Sprinting back to her peep-hole, she watched in apprehension as several big trucks pulled into the yard below. Many men- with guns- poured from them. They were laughing and looked excited. "Who are they?" There must have been thirty or more. She strained her eyes to look straight down as the men walked under her vision into the building. "What do they want?" She wondered if she would have to be seen in the presence of men. She still had her head-scarf, wrapped around her shoulder. She unbunched it and wrapped it over her chestnut hair. "Take care to cover hair," her grandmother used to chant, "or of Shaytan beware!"
She sat down on the mattress and crossed her legs. If her guards were going to see her, then she would look like a lady. About a half an hour passed and no one came. "They probably stopped for a rest," she pondered. She fidgeted with her blouse. It had a rip in it near the collar. She could sew it she thought proudly. Her mother taught her how. Her musing was interrupted abruptly by the sound of heavy boots outside in the corridor. The footsteps were approaching her door!
Closer they came, dull uneven thuds. Her heart began to beat faster. "Is it one of the men?" Her palms felt sweaty. Suddenly the boots stopped outside her door. She almost stopped breathing. A moment passed like an age. Her arms felt light and tingled. But then the heavy boots moved on down the hall, droning like a fading nightmare. She sensed that another door opened, and slammed shut, but she couldn't be sure.
She didn't know why she felt so relieved. Nor could she explain to herself why her heart beat so heavily. She felt her forehead. It was warm. Quickly she arose and returned to the slit. The sun was down now and the moon was rising. But there was no prayer call. Were there any other of her people here? There must be, so why didn't anyone give the call? Softly, and in a voice so trembled it surprised her, she intoned the words of the adhan. She didn't quite know all the words to prayer, but she knew the beautiful chant that woke her every morning, while still nestled in the covers.
She had scarcely finished when she heard again the sound of heavy boots in the hall. This time she didn't sit on the mattress, but backed into one of the corners of the room, and waited. Her heart started pounding again. Her breathing reduced itself to quick gulps. Her shoulders felt heavy. The boots stopped in front of her door. She wanted to scream but nothing came out of her mouth. She twitched involuntarily when she heard a key slide into the lock. She listened in horror as the tumbler turned slowly and the catch released. What was happening!
The door swung open. There, with the light behind him so she couldn't make out his face, stood a huge, burly man. He remained where he was, like a hunter looking at his prey. "So my little sweet!" he shouted in a gravelly voice. She heard that voice before. "Now is my turn!" He laughed and she whimpered hysterically. She didn't know why she feared him so. What was he going to do to her? Beat her? She blinked as the door slammed behind him. In an instant of utter revulsion and horror she understood what was to happen to her. She dropped her hands to her sides and pressed her palms into the chipping plaster behind her.
She awoke in the afternoon of the next day. Was she still alive? She didn't know, or care. All she could feel was the sharp pain in her lower abdomen. She touched her face and winced. She could feel a nasty bruise rising. She sat up on the mattress. Her clothes were ripped and tattered. There was blood on her skirt. Was it hers?
She saw her hijab lying on the floor. She clenched it in her fingers and a few tears rolled down her cheeks. She still didn't understand the full magnitude of her ordeal. She was perhaps too young. In desperation she scratched at the boards in the window until her fingers bled. She slid to the floor and cried the death song of a dying bird. She couldn't seem to form any words in her mind. She glanced up at a few of the jagged, rusty nails in the boards.
She sprang to her feet and wildly gashed her arms over them. Maybe they would bring her death like she was told. She stopped when the pain caught up with her madness, and slid back to the floor in a heap. Softly she cried. In the distance, the sound of trucks rumbled through the valley.