Fiction: The Voice

March 30, 2016 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

By

Muhammad Aladdin

 

 

Like all prophets and most nuts, he began to hear a confident voice speaking to him. As he reached a certain age of prophecy, he got used to the voice as part of his daily routine, and, as he reached a certain age of insanity, he told no one about it. In the beginning, he was troubled suspecting that he deserved a place in a good mental institution. He was overwhelmed by these ideas for some time, until, comforted by reassuring memories, he convinced himself that we all deserve to be in one institution or another.

He was careful not to salute the Voice, and not to be noticed by his wife’s suspicious eyes, as she told him one day, casually, that it was completely natural for a man to talk to himself. He took the same precautions with his coworkers and teahouse acquaintances. He decided to take his chances while locked in the bathroom, and there discuss with the Voice its views which, rightfully, deserved to be considered. He acknowledged the possibility that one of his sons might hear these long conversations, which had to be long after all this silence. He made a conscious effort not to converse.

The Voice was so familiar, such a calm masculine voice, that he was on the verge of believing it was his father’s, except that it was so noticeably calm. He tried to concentrate on the Voice’s unusually long sentences. It often said things that assured him of its close relation: In any account of stories or memories, he could find himself? or his sister, who was dearly loved by his father? or his uncle, who exhausted his father and himself in meaningless disputes? or his mother, who had lots of goarounds with the father, and her relationship to him, as with every married couple, belonged to the era when you really can’t differentiate love from hatred. But it was all for nothing: He got no result from that deep concentration but the boiling tea he splashed over his crotch while meaning to drink it. At least he gave his work fellows some roguish smiles when they saw the wet spot.

The Voice spoke about such simple things, yet even in their simplicity they seemed to him like the most important things to think about. The matter of bicycles for example: those circles going around after each other, with their centers sending out those thin spokes to the rim, their shadows rolling backwards most of the time, their chains encircling the thorny rings pedaled by feet, how the man presided over the lions which do not know bicycles.

It was such a deep discussion but, as with all deep discussions, it has a just price: his boss got so angry when he read his last report, where he wrote that a mutual colleague was a “bicycle”, and gave him a hard time for his extraordinary rudeness toward his coworker in an official document. Thus, The Voice never spoke about a family connection nor did its tones hint at it, but he found himself wondering if it was his father’s, after it had acquired some calmness at last. He told himself that that Voice is so much smarter now. He was embarrassed by himself so he assumed that the man had acquired calmness and intelligence after his death.

So he lived in ease surrounded by lots of debts he had for buying a car, which his elder son was extremely happy with in the beginning, for reasons we can understand, until he realized that his father never spent his free time anywhere else and only stayed in his car. He willingly took all the burden of having a car in a lower middle class neighborhood: he ran all the errands for the extended family and friends, paid the lease and the gas, just to be alone with The Voice everyday, making sure not to write “a bicycle” in an official document or to pour boiling tea on his penis.

Speaking of which, his wife began to doubt his long, frequent hides, so she searched his pockets, checked out his phone call records and text messages, and while she found a woman here or there, found nothing substantial. Consequently her mind considered other possibilities. Maybe he was smoking hash, the same thought of the policeman who saw a fifty year old man waving his arms around, talking furiously to himself, sitting in his parked car in a side street, but when he checked on the guy, realized that the man was so sober (physiologically at least), that he was puzzled, and so had nothing to say and he let him hit the road untouched.

So his wife tired of playing games and just asked him a direct question: What the hell was he doing during his long absences with the car?! The man, who was just like every elderly yet lower ranking employee, found it difficult to answer straight questions, replied that he was “sitting out there, thinking.”

Surely, it was a joke that haunted him for the time he lived, definitely used by his elder son for vengeance, amusingly narrated by his wife to her friends? even he teasingly narrated it to himself. However, he never allowed this to engulf him during his long conversations with The Voice. That Voice which overtook him, serving as a lens, presenting a clear and comprehensible perspective of life to him. For example: Magdy, his fellow worker, died a bizarre death. When a heavy van hit him while crossing over the highway on his way to work, he was unharmed, with minor scratches and a few bruises. Yet when he was gulping the sugar cane juice which he grated himself, thinking of how merciful and compassionate God is, he was so deep in the act of thinking and so distracted by his thoughts that as he poured the juice down his gullet, he choked and died.

The Voice told him that the way of dying summarized Magdy himself: he was so uncomplicated that it didn’t take a huge heavy van to kill him. Thus he found himself better understanding who Magdy was only after his death.

Therefore, when The Voice decided to vanish suddenly one day, he was readily disturbed.

It started by decreasing in duration, The Voice stopped talking to him for an entire day, it spoke to him on fewer and fewer days, the sound gradually descended, and the gaps between one phrase and the other stretched, until it abruptly stopped without finishing one sentence, while he was sitting on the balcony listening to it, surrounded with some relatives he was hosting. He tried to hide his anxiety from them, but he found himself screaming at his woman for forgetting to put some sugar in his tea. The guests were taken aback by this? so was the wife, who never understood why her husband began to wane after that or why he kept himself enclosed in his study after returning from work (as his attempts to speak to The Voice failed miserably in the car). She didn’t knew why he quit work, lying in bed like a rock with no response to sound or to the shove of her hand. (It made his elder son happy that he could take over the car.)

And when she found the sleepingpills she didn’t understand why in hell he would use them, simply because she never knew that her husband had been befriended by a voice that had vanished in sobriety but was vibrant in sleepiness. Thus the husband had to chase him, every night, even stretching the nights, just to be able to see the world as he saw it with the Voice. He had begun to wake up only to walk in a daze to find something to chew to keep him alive, or to evacuate his bowels, then to return to his extended journey.

Then came the day that the sleeping pills lulled him into an even longer sleep, when he stopped eating and drinking and began to shit where he slept. What shocked his wife wasn’t the urine or shit which stuck to her husband’s body, which was thin like a finger, nor his long scruffy beard or his cracked feet. What shocked her was that happy smile, a very happy wide smile, wandering around the face of his dead body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muhammad Aladdin

Muhammad Aladdin, a noted Egyptian novelist, was born in Cairo on October 7th, 1979. He was chosen as one of the most important Egyptian writers in the new millennium by the Egyptian weekly Akhbar Al-Adab (News of Literature) in 2011, and one of the ‘’Six Egyptian writers you don’t know but you should’’ as the writer Pauls Toutonghi said in The Millions.com. He has written 5 novels and 4 collections of fiction; among the noted work his first novel ‘The Gospel According to Adam’, ‘The Idol’, and his latest ‘A Well-Trained Stray’. Some of his works were translated into English, Italian, Dutch, Russian, and Spanish.

He has contributed to several publications like the Lebanese leading An Nahar and MTV’s Rebel Music, Egyptian leading As Shuruq, and Arabian leading Al Arabi Aljadeed.

He lives inbetween Cairo and Berlin, dedicating his full time to writing.

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