The Shadow Of Death *

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
They are going to take part in fighting. What is going to happen to them?

Submitted: January 29, 2019

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Submitted: January 29, 2019

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The Shadow of Death*

 

He moved up a little, pushed his head out of the long sack and took a quick look around. “The mosquitoes are making their usual rounds,” he mumbled to himself. There was not enough light for him to spot the troublesome insects but he could see the shadow of someone sitting up on one of the beds striving  to catch and kill as many of them as he could.

He turned his head around to glance at the other two occupied beds before he crept back into the big sack and pulled its edge under his head. “It was Abdul,” he muttered. “Now I am sure that at least one of our guys is alive! Who knows? Maybe those bastards are not going to kill us so soon, after all!” He took a long breath and shook his head. “What a waste of time and energy, though!” he mumbled to himself. “All Abdul needed to do was to learn to bear the heat! He could then sew the sides of his blanket together and make a sack like mine. No mosquitoes can break into such a tight sleeping bag with no opening!”

He pressed his eyelids together and tried to forget what was going on around him. The single mosquito, which had penetrated his refuge, was soon captured and killed. “The bastards don’t even give us enough time to rest!” he muttered irritably as he stretched out his legs. “Despite the high temperature, the insects and the stink, this place, with its deep silence, and its sky full of shinning stars, is not a bad place to sleep! That is, if no one is really going to kill us while we are dozing!”  He squeezed his eyelids together again and tried to get control of his nerves.

“How in the world can you hit the sack under such horrible circumstances?” someone’s voice suddenly rang in his ears.

“It’s not all that hard, dear Hamid,” he heard himself say. “The key to it all is finding a way to control your mind. Why should we go on thinking about the hideous things around us while we can think of the wonderful ones?”

“But how can you control your mind, Karim,” said Abdul, “when your body has to bear a fifty degree centigrade heat, and you are surrounded by gangs of bloodsucking insects and wild beasts?”

“Yeah!” snorted Farzad, “Why should we go through all this shit, anyway? Who in the world has said that we have to risk our lives to save a mob of lazy, good-for-nothing, hungry people!?”

He rolled over in his sack, took a long breath and tried to forget where he was. He soon began floating in the air, lounged in something like an aircraft. A young man was sitting next to him, with a smile on his lips. “We’re going to land, in a few minutes,” the lad muttered. “What do you think…is going to happen to us next?” he asked obviously trying to hide his anxiety.

“We have nothing to fear, Hamid,” he heard himself say. “All we need to remember is that your name is Nasser, and mine is Karim. The authorities here won’t have any objections to our new identities because they have forged our passports themselves! So, there’s really nothing to worry about!”

He then saw a line of people waiting to get off the plane.

 “Sabah al kheir!” someone said loudly as soon as they reached the airport building entrance.

“You speak Arabic now, Nosrat?” asked Hamid.

“Shwaieh shwaieh,” answered the man called Nosrat as he embraced and kissed him.

“Your name is Karim, now, Herman, right?” Nosrat said coming towards him.

“That’s right! I’m Karim, and I’m happy to meet you, whatever your name is!” he retorted chuckling as he embraced the newcomer.

“Where are we supposed to go?” he then asked Nosrat.

“I’m going to take you where you’ll be staying for a few weeks,” replied the man. “It’s not very far from here.” 

He shook his head, took a long breath and tried to think of something else.

“We’re going to start our training program today,” somebody’s voice rang in his ears then.

“The first part of our scheme is…teaching you the art of self-defense,” the man added. “I’ll be your instructor for Judo, myself.

“Do you know this guy?” whispered Farzad in his ear.

“Yes,” answered Herman, “All Persian students in the Statesknow  him. He is Dr. Mustafa! Haven’t you heard of him?”

“Yeah, I guess I have,” said Farzad. “He’s a pretty famous guy. This is the first time I see him in person, though.”

They were all standing around, now, listening carefully.

“You’ll complete this part of your training in about two months,” Dr. Mostafa added, “We will, then, send you to a rangers’ military camp where you’ll receive all the preparation you need for guerrilla warfare.”

“I hope we will not turn into gorillas ourselves!” whispered Farzad chuckling.

“That was the best part of our journey,” he thought smiling. “There, we had a rather clean, comfortable place to sleep, and pretty good food to eat….”  He took a long breath and swallowed his saliva. “Mustafa was an excellent Judo teacher,” he continued thinking. “I wish he were half as good in…other areas!”

The putrid odor, which had penetrated his sleeping bag, disrupted his thoughts. He grabbed his nose with his right hand and squeezed it.

“I wish there was some other way,” Hamid’s voice rang in his ears.  “I can’t wait until night time to go climb over the Base’s wall!” 

“Why can’t you do it my way, then?” he heard himself say.

“You must have the skin of rhino or something,” said Abdul shaking his head.

“Yeah…!” exclaimed Farzad, “I can’t even imagine how you can go to a toilet with walls covered with dried and wet shit , andthousands of flies and mosquitoes rushing at you as soon as you enter the place!?”

“Well,” he heard himself mumble, “You can always…go out there in the middle of the yard, afterwards, and wash your whole body using the tap and  hose for watering the plants.”

“Think of those poor rangers,” said Abdul softly. “After so many hours of running and practicing in the desert, they only get something like five minutes to move their bowls. No wonder you see all that shit stuck to the walls of the toilets here!”

 “I don’t know how you can do it, Karim,” said Hamid after a minute. “Despite all the agony I have to go through, I’d rather wait until night time to climb over the soaring military Base wall and go to the woods around to relieve myself.”

The whole place was as quiet as a graveyard now. He could only hear a strange sound from a distance. He listened carefully for a few seconds before he sat up. “It’s probably Farzad snorting! He must’ve put a blanket around his head again,” he mumbled to himself, “One of these days, he’s going to get himself suffocated!”

He gently slid out of his sleeping sack, sat up and began looking around. The dormitory was dead silent again now. The only sound he could hear was that of Abdul snoring softly.

He moved out of his sack, got off the bed, gently walked to the two other beds which were occupied, and stared at the blankets for a few minutes to make sure they were moving.  He then let out a sigh of relief, walked to the little table, picked up a bowl of water and took a sip. The water was warm and smelly. “It tastes like seawater mixed with urine or something!” he grumbled softly. He then walked to the window, waving his hand before his face to scare away the mosquitoes. “We’ve got to get ourselves out of this graveyard somehow, before it is too late,” he thought.

“You can return to our country as soon as you…complete your training,” commander Mustafa’s voice suddenly rang in his ears.

“But, how?” he heard himself say, “How are we going to go back, sir? The secret police probably have files packed with all sorts of reports and photos about us!”

“You’ll be sent to the border and…we will help you cross into the country safely,” said the commander, “The secret police will not know about your return!”  He paused for a few seconds before he added, “From there on, of-course…you’ll be on your own!”

“But sir!” he heard Hamid protest loudly, “We’ve been away from the country for quite some time! Except our own families and friends in our cities, we don’t know anyone!”

“I’m sorry,” said the commander, “but you said yourself, just a few weeks, ago that…you don’t believe in our ideology. How can we place you somewhere in our organization along with our own fighters while you don’t believe in our principles?”

 “They’ll probably get us killed somehow while crossing the border,” he heard Hamid whisper in his ears. “Then they’ll call us their ‘martyrs’ and gain some prestige while they have gotten rid of us as well!” He paused for a few seconds before he added, “We’ve got to get ourselves out of their grip, as soon possible!”

“Don’t worry,” he heard himself say. “All we have to do…is to tell them that we want to go back to the States. They know that we can’t harm them when we are so far away. They may even help us do that!”

“Yeah…!” said Hamid hesitantly, “Maybe! But, it may be far less costly to them if they get rid of us right here where they have control over us … rather than take the risk of letting us go back to the States! We know so much about their organization and their plans…! They may feel that we are a threat to the survival of their organization!”

“Well!” he heard himself say, “We don’t really have any other choice. We must keep our fingers crossed, hoping that they are not as evil as we think them to be, and leave it at that!”

He gently walked to Hamid’s bedstead. The young man seemed to be asleep now. His mild snoring could be heard from a distance.  Mosquitoes had covered part of his blanket. “They are waiting for their turn to get under his cover and have a mouthful of his blood,” he thought, frowning. “Thank God our training is almost over.”

“Freeze!” he suddenly heard someone shout from a distance in Arabic.

“God!” he thought. “We were really lucky that we knew this word in Arabic! Otherwise they would have shot us dead instantly!”

“You were truly fortunate, gentlemen, that I happened to be nearby tonight,” the commanding officer’s voice rang in his ears. “If I hadn’t told them to stop, our guardsmen would have killed you. They had thought you were Israeli agents trying to break into our Base.”

“How cowardly of them!” mumbled Farzad. “It goes to show how terribly scared they are of the Israelis!”

“I’m not going to report this incident,” the commander said in English. “I’ll have my men take you to your sleeping quarters, and I hope that you’ll never leave the base without our permission again!”

“How in the hell can we not leave the base!” whispered Farzad with a smirk. “Our intestines will explode in two or three days if we don’t!”

They all chuckled.

“We were really lucky,” Hamid said to him later that night, “Someone must have found out about our nightly trips, and conspired to kill us. We were fortunate that their commander happened to be around, and their plan failed!”

“Just one more day,” he thought as he walked back to his bed. “We’ve learned how to use various types of guns, how to run zigzag to avoid enemy fire, how to go up and down a high barrier, how to bear flies covered with shit stinging our faces and bodies, and how to climb over walls in order to move our bowls!” he chuckled  as he returned to his bed.

****

He was sitting on his bed looking out the window when he suddenly shook his head. “God!” he exclaimed, “It looks like…there are some…women and children…walking down there…on some sort of a pavement…below our building!”

Hamid laughed. “Yes,” he said emphatically, “I think I can see them, too. “So what?”

Herman shook his head. “It seems to me…that I’m living in some sort of a …dream world!”

“Really!?” said Hamid rather surprised.

“They’ve told us,” commander Mustafa’s voice rang in Herman’s ears suddenly, “that you’ve carried out all your assignments diligently and you’re ready for operation.” He smiled and shook hands with the people standing in line fervently.  “We’ve got to decide about your next assignment now,” he then added.

“Abdol and I,” said Farzad, “are going to go back to England for a while, as I told you before. We can make plans for our first operation in our country after making a comprehensive plan.”

“Fine!”said Commander Mustafa looking at his close comrade, Ibrahim, the vice-commander. He then turned to Herman. “What about you, dear Karim?” he asked, “What would you like us to send you?”

“I think…,”said Herman hesitantly, “we’ll go back to the United States…if you don’t mind.”

“Ok,” said Mustafa softly after a pause. “I wish you…a lot of success…wherever you are!”

“Thank you, sir! Thank you!” exclaimed Herman loudly.

 

“What are you thanking me for?” Hamid asked looking more surprised. “For saying that I could see those pedestrians down there, too?”

“No, no!” said Herman shaking his head, “It’s just that…sometimes I get the impression that I’m still in that horrible rangers’ garrison!”

“I know what you mean,” said Hamid. “It happens to me too, sometimes. This cheap hostel is really a heaven compared to that hell we were in for some months,” he added with a smile. “The only problem, now, is that…the last time we ate was yesterday morning…and we have no money to buy something…to to fill our stomachs!”

Herman was still looking down at the street below. “How long has it been…since we saw anyone of them…last?” he said meekly. 

Hamid shook his head. “The last one who came to see us was Nosrat, and that was about a month ago!”  He gently moved to Hooman’s side and began looking out the window. “Remember what I told you a few months back?” he said softly while watching. “I still believe that they have a plan to destroy us. What’s going to happen to us, now, without having any money, in a foreign country where we can’t even speak the local language? We may die of hunger if none of them show up soon …! That’s probably what they had in mind when they brought us here. They wanted us to starve to death!”

There was a long pause before Herman nodded a few times and said gently, “They made a mistake if that’s what they had in mind. I think our problem can be solved rather easily!”

“Oh, yeah?” said Hamid disbelievingly staring at him with surprise. “Has Mustafa…, or someone else, contacted you somehow?”

“No!” answered Herman. “But an angel has!” he added with a smile. He was silent for some seconds before he continued, “A very beautiful one.”

 “A girl!?” exclaimed Hamid almost shocked. “Here!? In this shitty hostel?  What girl!?”

Herman began to laugh. “You know,” he said chuckling, “something funny happened yesterday morning…when I went to the bathroom!”  He took a long breath and then added, “The door of the place was wide open. So I thought there was no one in there and walked straight in. But , as soon as I entered, I was stunned. There was a girl standing in front of the big mirror…combing her hair…stark naked! She had absolutely nothing on!”

He stopped, shrugged his shoulders and nodded a few times before he added, “When she saw me approaching, she just smiled, said ‘excuse me’, and began putting on her panties, giggling.”

“Are you…joking or…something,” said Hamid totally confused.

“No!” said Herman. “I’m not! I really thought I was in a dream of some sort at first, but when she put on her panties and bras, she told me that she had a room on our floor. She added that she was from Alexandria and that she had come to Cairo to have some fun!”

“Was she…really…naked when you entered?” asked Hamid with his mouth wide open.

“Yes, she was!” answered Herman. “She was a little fattish around the waste, but otherwise beautiful.” He paused for a few seconds and then added, “She told me that she had run out of money and was waiting for her parents to send her some cash. In the meantime, she said, she was living on the free bean-sandwiches that…Egyptian government has provided for the poor people who have no money to buy food.”

“You mean to say that…we can also go and get free sandwiches?” asked Hamid after a long pause.

“Yes, exactly!” answered Herman. “That’s what I meant. She said that all the sandwich shops are required to offer those sandwiches every day. The only thing you have to do is to go there and ask them for one. So we can go out and eat some bean sandwiches as soon as you are ready!”

“How come,” asked Hamid with a suspecting frown, “How come she told you about the sandwiches? Did you tell her that…we had nothing to eat or something?”

Herman laughed. “No! I saw her yesterday morning, after we had eaten our breakfast. I was not hungry, so I didn’t pay much attention to what she said about the free sandwiches. She told me about them because she wanted to stress that she was flat broke and needed me to lend her some cash!”

“I see!” said Hamid. “Maybe that was the reason why…she wanted you to see her naked body, huh?”

Herman cackled. “I got that impression, too,” he said after a minute. “That’s why I didn’t bother to tell you about her. She asked me for money after we had spent our last penny.” He stopped and shook his head before he added, “Maybe we can lend her some cash after…Mustafa, Ibrahim, Nosrat, or somebody will show up and bring us some.”

“Which may be…never!” said Hamid emphatically, beginning to put on his street clothes. “Let’s go and get ourselves a couple of those delicious, free, bean-sandwiches Colonel Abdol-nasser has provided for us!” he added. “We’ll talk about the girl afterwards.”

****

The whole place was dark, and dead quiet. “It’s not so different from the graveyard I once went to in the States….!” Herman thought.

He gently got up, sat on his bed and turned his head half way to look at the bed on the other side of the room.

The man sleeping there was now beginning to snore. “It sounds more like someone who is suffocating or something,” he mumbled to himself.

He gently got off the bed and looked out the window. A woman was yelling something in English with a heavy German accent. He stuck his head out of the window but could not see her. She was now saying some things in German in a very loud voice. She sounded like she was approaching the hotel. Then he heard the grumbling sound of a man speaking in English. “I…wano…fuck,” he kept repeating loudly. “He sounds dead drunk!” Hooman thought. “He is probably an American soldier.”

“You vill fuck!” the woman shouted. “Just vait…five minutes!”

He turned around to look at his roommate. The young man was now breathing very softly. “He sounds like he is going into comma,” he thought. “I may have to do something…soon!”

He sat back on his bed and tried to clarify his mind.

“Hello, dear Karim!”  he heard someone’s voice echoing in his ears.

“Hello,” he answered indifferently.

“Sorry we’re a bit late,” said the newcomer. “But you know how things are in this country. We had to see a lot of people to get tickets and things for you two.”

“We almost died of hunger,” said Hamid. “You could’ve at least sent us some money to pay…for our food, Mr. Ibrahim!”

“You will forgive us!” the man called Ibrahim said. “But we thought you had enough money…with you.”

“We have been living on the free sandwiches the Egyptian government has provided for the Arab vagabonds and the homeless…for some time now,” he heard himself say.

“An Egyptian whore told us about it!” said Hamid angrily.

 “I’m sorry,” said Ibrahim. “As I told you…putting your papers together was very time-consuming. Everything, however, is fixed up now. You will leave for Frankfurt Germany, tomorrow. We have rented a room for you in a hostel so you will be comfortable there until…you can get visas to go back to the United States.”

“God!” he thought to himself. “That was almost two months ago!”

He shook his head and walked to the window. The German girl and the American soldier were now standing somewhere near the door of the little hotel talking softly. He could only hear some words now and then. “Holly shit!” he mumbled irritably, “There are so many of them in this country, too! These poor Germans… don’t seem to be much better off than we are!”

 

“Look,” Hamid’s voice echoed in his ears, “The guy dropped half of his hamburger!”

“You don’t want to pick up a half-eaten hamburger off the street ground, do you?” he heard his own voice saying.

 They were walking around the city, as usual to kill time and, of-course, to find something to eat.

“Maybe,” mumbled Hamid, if we fiddle around with…one of those sandwich machines in the ‘Bahnhof’ building we can get something out of it…to eat!”

“You don’t want to go to jail just to get a sandwich, do you?” he heard himself say.

“No! I was kidding,” said Hamid. “You know better than any one that…I wouldn’t do such things!”

“Yes, of-course!” he heard himself say.

They were now near the train station. He felt extremely weak. They sat on the first bench they found nearby. “How are we going to go back now” asked Hamid meekly “We took a long walk… on empty stomachs,” he added in a soft voice, “When was the last time we ate -- the day before yesterday?”

“Yes, I think so,” Herman mumbled back. “It was our last piece of bread. We ate it…in the morning.”

“What did our guys say…exactly…in the letter they…sent you?” Hamid asked.

“I think I’ve told you that three times already,” mumbled Herman. “It wasn’t a letter really! It was just a note they had put in the envelope, next to my mother’s letter. They said that …they would soon find the money needed for our trip back to the States…” He took a long breath and added, in a rather firm voice, “All we have to do…is to wait a bit longer. Either the guys from Mr. Mustafa’s revolutionary organization will show up…or our own money will arrive. Then we will get our visas, buy plane tickets …and go back…to California!”

He looked at Hamid who was now grunting noisily. There were  deep black wrinkles under his eyes and on his cheeks. “Oh God!” Hooman mumbled to himself. “You can see the shadow of death on his face! If I don’t do something quickly, he may die tonight. It’s time for action!”

He gently changed some of his clothes to look as neat as possible. He then moistened his handkerchief and rubbed it on Hamid’s face.

“What…is…it, Herman?” asked Hamid sniffing repeatedly. “Has…anybody …shown up?”

 “Yes, my dear Hamid,” answered Herman. “It’s time for us to go and get something to eat.”

“Do we…have…money?” asked Hamid.

“Yes, of-course!” Herman said. “We have nothing to worry about!”

He helped Hamid get up and put on his clothes before they gently stepped out of the room and locked its door.

Down in the corridor there was an American soldier leaning against the wall saying incomprehensible things. Not far away from him stood a thin, tall, blond girl talking to the desk clerk in German. Before they left the lobby, the hotel clerk moved out of his work place, grabbed the American soldier’s arm, and, with the aid of the young girl, began taking him towards the elevator.

“Where are we…going?” mumbled Hamid when they got out of the hostel.

“We’re going…to eat a Hamburger and some French Fries,” Herman mumbled back.

“Is it very…very far?” asked Hamid.

“No!” answered Herman. “It’s just around the corner. You’ve seen it lots of times before. I think we ate there ourselves a couple of times!”

“Oh, yes…,”mumbled Hamid. “I remember…that!”

They were now approaching the place very slowly. There was a small crowd gathered in front of a Fast Food coffee shop. They had to wait a few minutes before they could enter and find a place to sit.

“We want a couple of hamburgers and some French Fried potatoes,” said Herman in English.

The waiter nodded his head. “Yes, sir,” he said after a short pause.

“Vould you like…somsing to drink?” he then asked.

“Do you want some beer,” Herman asked Hamid while looking at the menu.

“Yes…,”mumbled Hamid staring at Herman, puzzled.

“Two beers, please,” said Herman to the waiter loudly.

“Comin up, sir,” shouted the waiter before he turned around and walked away.

They sat there quietly looking at the people coming and going without saying a word.

“Did…one of the Mustafa group…give you…the money?” eventually asked Hamid softly.

“No, there’s been no sign of them since we left Cairo. You know that!” said Herman with a smile.

“Did…our guys in…the States…?” mumbled Hamid with a grimace. “Yes?”

“No!” Herman said shaking his head.

“Who then? Where did you get…the money?” said Hamid in a very meek voice.

“Someone lovely… gave it to me,” said Herman. “Now, eat your hamburger and drink your beer! The guy is coming!” he added pointing to the young man who was bringing their food.

Neither one of them said anything while they were eating and drinking. Hamid’s face was now glowing. The dark wrinkles all over his face were gradually disappearing.

“I think I’m a bit drunk,” Hamid said eventually. “You really saved my life,” he added. “I thought I was dying when I lay in my bed…last night.”

“It wasn’t last night,” Herman said with a smile. “It was just a few hours ago. I really saw the shadow of death on your face. It had been five days …since we ate last…”

“Yes, you really saved my life!” mumbled Hamid. “I don’t know…”

“Your bill, sir,” said the young waiter interrupting their conversation.

Herman took the bill, looked at it and then took a piece of paper out of his pocket and gave it to the waiter along with the bill. The young man gazed at the piece of paper for a few seconds and then began to walk away.

Hamid was now staring at Herman with a big question mark on  his face. Time was passing very slowly. Herman, then, gently stood up.

“It’s time…for us…to go,” he mumbled.

Hamid rose cautiously, put his clothes in order and stared at Herman who had already begun to leave. They swiftly walked to the outside door.

“Sir!” suddenly yelled someone from behind when Herman pulled the door open. “Wait a minute, sir!” he shouted again.

“Keep it,” said Herman loudly as he stepped out of the restaurant.

“Sank you, sir,” yelled the waiter.

Hamid let out a sigh of relief. “I was getting ready to run…or begin to fight, or something,” he said. “Where in the world did you get the money in the middle of the night?”

Herman shrugged his shoulders. “It’s a long story,” he said. “Let’s get going. I’ll tell you on the way.”

“Remember the day we went to the Post office to pick up our mail?”he asked Hamid after they had walked a distance .

“Yes!”answered Hamid. “We just received a note from our guys saying that they would try to send us some money soon.”

“That’s right!” said Herman. “They had also sent us my mother’s letter along with it.”

“U-huh,” said Hamid. “I remember that, too.”

“Well,” said Herman, “My mother had sent me the letter to say ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. She had also put a five-dollar bill inside her envelope as my birthday present.” He stopped, shook his head a few times and then added, “I didn’t tell you about it because I thought I had to keep the money for a rainy day. Remembering how long Mr. Mustaf’s ‘revolutionary organization’ left us without support in Cairo, I thought they might do the same thing again, here in Frankfort. I, therefore, decided to use that money as our very last resort. I told myself, ‘I’ll keep this bill as a souvenir from my mother, and not spend it unless we are starved again, and, even then, not until I  see the shadow of death on Hamid’s face.’” He stopped to take a long breath before he added, “That’s exactly what I saw tonight when you were lying on your bed in our hotel room.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2019 Herman Azadi. All rights reserved.

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