Fiction: Syriacide

November 1, 2017 Fiction , Literature , POETRY / FICTION

By

Michael Mulvihill

 

 

An extract from the novel ‘Syriacide’

 

 

Az had two children, one boy aged eight, a girl aged six. As time went by they were truly manacled by hunger.  Their hunger was not unique, we all were hungry. He was willing to do anything, literally anything in order to survive. At this present time he was searching for something to get by. In life he knew farming. Outside of agriculture he was lost. As a consequence of his situation he felt dead useless living in a city. In grave tone of voice he would often tell me, “I am as useful to my family as those destroyed buildings you see in the city,” and, “like the crumbling buildings we see around us, my family is crumbling before me there is nothing I can do about it.”

In response to these sorrowful and mournful words I gave Az what little extra food I had. He was grateful to me. But it was not enough to keep a family.  I knew that and he also knew it was not enough.

 

On a most primitive level Az was not willing to give up the struggle for survival. Az walked into one of the many blown up complexes searching for I guess what must have been something that was nothing short of a miracle.

 

His long beard was visibly filthy with strains of dirt lodged between and within hair which hung like a stalactite from his jaw. His face was dirtied and muddied on his cheeks, forehead, nose and ears, possibly from the plumes of smoke which were all around him. Az was a pitiful looking sight, depriving himself of food so his children and wife would live. With a proper diet he looked like a tall, strong man. Az did not have a proper diet. He looked cadaverous, skin and bone, like he were besieged by a regime of blood spitting haemoptysis, mixed with digested food, lodged with phlegm, save for the fact that Az was skinny, not causally created from sickness, but a chronic lack of food.

 

The ground he walked on was uneven. He tripped over a rock and landed into a swamp of mud and water. He used the strength of his arms to get out of the mud and continued walking ahead; he could not ignore the strong smell coming from underneath the rocks, unaware in his ignorance that he was smelling bodies. He bent his knees, raised out his hands and lifted a huge up into his chest.

 

He thought he would use this to crush something. He knew what he was looking for was somewhere between a crack in the wall and underneath the rocks below. He placed the rock he lifted on the ground. He got out a sharp knife designed to cut through nearly anything. It would kill what he wanted killed. He knew this from living in the countryside. But there was no game to kill around here. He kept looking for it; eventually he saw the nest in a group. What were they eating?

 

They were there lining up between the walls. Big, the size of dogs, no longer, barely detectable. They were always there, always under the ground. Before they were small, like pups, fast and skinny. They would run like the speed of lightening. There was no catching up to them. Now, with fat rolling from their body, they were hardly able to walk. What had they been feeding on, Az was curious to know? The answer dawned on him. His stomach churned.

 

He walked slowly up to the vermin. As he neared them, the sound of their clicks put a chill down his spine, disgusting, it gave him a chilled feeling like a stream of cold water running down his back, he contemplated it, seriously he did, this could not be his families dinner. As he was about to leave the blown up building, he saw white runners worn by a man with black trousers and a sweater. He covered his head with a balaclava. The militant entered what was a gunned down doorway and pointed his gun at Az. Az nearly fainted in disbelief, he had not contemplated the possibility of such an unwelcome arrival.

 

“You’re looking for something aren’t you?”

 

His heart thumped hard. He was going to be done for. Two weeks ago this same jihadist attacked a hospital a surgeon told the Syrian Arab News Agency, “I think the death toll is much higher than 30. The entire building was full of dead bodies and blood. I am still in shock and cannot forget the floor painted with blood.”.

 

This Jihadist was unremorseful and unperturbed by what he had done. In Fact he felt an intense desire to shed more blood.

 

“Yes,” Az said.

 

“I have seen you around before.”

 

“You have?”

 

“Yes, driving your motorbike.”

 

“I have no petrol for it now.”

 

The militant pointed his gun away.

 

“You’re looking for food?” He said, and he shot his gun at the rats.

 

“Yes,” Az said with shame.

 

“Do you have family?”

 

“Two children”

 

“I know you are one of us.”

 

Az did not dare on his life disagree.

 

“I will give you bags of supplies which will last a month. But you must do deliveries around the city using your motorbike.”

 

“How about cash for this?”

 

“I will pay in advance and great money to.”

 

“I don’t have petrol.”

 

“We will give you petrol.”

 

“I would appreciate that.”

 

“Come along with me.”

 

Az was brought to the militant’s checkpoint. It only took a few sentences for the militant to be understood by his fellows. Az was told to wait. Beside Az was ten armed and brutal men dressed in combat fatigues and looking ready to push their weight around. They were a mixture of nationalities; including one fat German guy who wore spectacles and acted particularly full of himself. He was a big man with a rifle. But without a rifle he was only an object of derision, unfit, easy to kick and punch around the streets.

 

“They are two children you have?”

 

“Yes two.”

 

“Give them extra meat.”

 

Az was given four big bags of food.

 

“Do you want me to help you bring them home?”

 

“No”

 

“You better let us help you, you live far?”

 

“Area 54.”

 

“It’s far enough for you to be attacked.”

 

“Okay help me.”

 

“When you get there we will load your bike up with petrol and make sure it is in working condition. “Your bike is outside your home?”

 

“Yes it is. I will get it out for them.”

 

When he got to his home his wife and two children were fast asleep. Good, he did not have to answer her questions. But surely he felt he soon would have to have answers. Az lit the stove and started cooking. His food would smell delicious. His mobile phone beeped to indicate a received message in his inbox.

 

“First job is tomorrow at eight, pickups and deliveries will be texted at midnight.”

 

He shook his head. His wife had woken up. Facing her was nearly worse than having to face the militants. The kids ate. It was a relief to see them eat. Junior before the war was ever the picky eater, now he wolfed down the greens and the fruits like they were the best foods in the world. This was a relief.  Her children had not yet reached the stage of starvation where eating would be impossible.

 

Nobody said anything. Az looked at his wife. His face did not depict the look of victory but of defeat. Today was a loss. It was quiet outside, like an undeclared ceasefire. The kids said ‘thank you.’ She did not say thank you. They all ate everything that was put on the table. He did not just buy simply messages. He purchased time to live for a month without starvation setting in.

 

An old lady that looked like a hysterical, crazy witch, began shouting next door in such a screeching merciless tone that the walls may as well have been made from paper because there was no blocking out the sound of her voice.

 

They all had eaten. As far as he was concerned he had done his job. He did not need her contempt and suspicion. If this was not good enough he could hunt and fry the rats, or if that was not enough he could always drown himself in a river, because there were no options, only desperate people and the dying living among the killers.

 

He got a bucket of water and a rag cloth, threw liquid into the water to suds up the water, went downstairs to wash his motorcycle, and forget about his family for a few hours. By the time he was done doing up his bike he was fed via sms instructions of his duties for tomorrow.

 

He thought if he walked upstairs and went into the apartment everyone would be asleep. He opened his front door. She was there waiting for him at the kitchen table looking angry. He could have had a heart attack. Heavy fighting in the city started at five am. Fighting continued without any decipherable signs of cessation. His phone rang at 6.

 

“We have the delivery earlier than expected come now and get it off us.”

 

“Okay I am coming for it.”

 

Az got on his jacket. He heard his wife’s footsteps. He turned his head to her.

 

“Where are you going?” she asked.

 

“To work,” he said.

 

“What work?” she asked.

 

“Dangerous work,” Az said grinding his teeth.

 

“What work?” she repeated.

 

“I am going to work.”

 

He refused to offer details.

 

“I try to understand we have to do desperate things to live.”

 

“I know if you understand we will survive.”

 

“I” she shook her head in frustration. “I see no future here.”

 

Az could not disagree.

 

“This is hell,” she trembled. “What am I to do in hell? Tell me?”

 

“I will work only as it is needed.”

 

He thought this comment would calm her down so he could mentally prepare for the work that was ahead of him.

 

“I know who you are with.”

 

Az wanted to bury himself.

 

“You saw who I came home with.”

 

“No,” she replied.

 

“No?” so how did he let his guard drop.

 

“They called to the house.”

 

“Seriously?”

 

“When?’

 

“When you were away?”

 

“They had to inspect me.”

 

“Inspect you?”

 

“To see if I was wearing the right clothes.”

 

“And?”

 

“They gave me orders on how I am to dress; they want to get me more clothes and to throw away all my old clothes.”

 

Az got his keys to leave.

 

“Az you have already joined them.”

 

“No I am only doing messages for them.”

 

“Wrong you have already joined them, yesterday was the initiation ritual.”

 

“I will do this job.”

 

“I don’t care what you have to do, be safe. Do what it is, whatever it is that you have to do, and let’s get to hell out.”

 

He hugged her. He opened the door. He gave her a kiss on the right and left cheek. He walked towards the door. A tear fell out of his left eye. He wiped it away with his right palm.

 

There was no getting around this place without a sat nav GPS. Most landmarks were blown up, luckily he had a sat nav as he rode his bike on the roads which were filled with a white sandy dust, plumes of smoke were sporadically emitting from various parts of the city. He drove in his motorbike to his first destination. All around him was a sea of rubble. His first destination was a pickup. He was given strict instructions not to go inside. By sms 564 he texted, “here at 8212.”

 

Az waited patiently. A giant of a man came out holding a large shiny box. The box was heavy. He handed it to Az telling him where to go. He wanted Az to be prompt, go right away, with absolutely no stops.

 

Az drove off. An aggressive battle was kicking off. Bomb after bomb, from land and air, in a ceaseless succession started firing. Az drove and focused himself   as calmly as he could on the road ahead. He kept wondering what was inside the box?  He continued driving. Overhead bombs flew in the sky. One such bomb seemed to possess a mind all of its own. The bomb appeared to be going off target and straight into nowhere, just as it was about to go off target it made not just one but two turns, indicating that the bomb was somehow guided.

 

Az kept riding in this urban dilapidated wilderness, in between rows of broken down houses; he rode the bike, dust from the ground beneath rose to the sky.  A bearded man with black hair that went past his shoulders lifted a manpad to his shoulder. He concentrated all his attention on Az making sure that he was in sight and range. A bird flew overhead as the rebel fired. The man pad was aimed directly at Az. The rebel shouted towards the morning sun. He was sure Az would be crushed to pieces whilst driving his motorcycle. The bird flew directly into the rebels face. He turned the man pad and as he misfired it the rebel managed to blow off his own head before he roared out loud about the greatness of God.

 

Az drove on, completely oblivious to the fact that he was being targeted. Eventually he reached his delivery point, it was a bullet ridden house, just like his apartment block with a blown up car, its roof and center taken completely out. The apartment bloc had many walls with drilled through holes used for entry and exit points, with the purpose of transmitting snipers and fighters as swiftly as possible, from one section of the building to the other.

 

Was he behind enemy lines or with allies of the militants? So called enemies traded and negotiated, whilst here, in this section, there was no clear demarcation for Az. Would they regard him as an enemy, a militant, or a civilian just doing work?

 

Az picked up the box and walked towards the front entrance of the bloc. Az took a deep breath and held it.

 

His wife prostrated on her prayer mat. She had not eaten anything. She would not eat until he returned, if that is he would, in any case she prayed fervently for his return.

 

Az held the box firmly in his hand.

 

“Come inside”, an unwelcoming voice said. He walked slowly, carefully, calmly, or as calmly as he could. A man in his fifties with long grey hair and beard, wearing a black leather jacket, sat down on a chair. He appeared to Az as if he had been waiting a rather long time for his arrival.

 

“What is in this?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

 

“I don’t know what I deliver.”

 

He walked towards the box. Az was about to stand up and leave sensing an outdated welcome.

 

“Stay seated,” he growled.

 

The man picked up the box, raised it, looked inside it, shut his eyes, paused briefly and commanded Az.

 

“Look.”

 

Az stood up from the chair. When he looked inside he was shocked by the contents.

 

“It’s my daughter’s severed hand.”

 

He put the book down.

 

“No keep looking in the box. This is the ring I gave her for her 21st birthday. How do you explain this?”

 

 

“I hardly know how to pick up a gun to use it.”

 

He lied.

 

“A gun did not do this, a knife did.”

 

“We are hungry. You know that armed factions control everything, we are the last to be fed, the last to be looked after.”

 

“They are not valid excuses.”

 

“But excuses are all I have.”

 

“Go,” he said.

 

“You mean I can leave?”

 

“Get out,” he replied.

 

Az got up.

 

“Are you sure you want me to leave?”

 

“Go ahead.”

 

He ran to his motorbike, got up on his bike and rang to base control.

 

“Job is complete is there anything more to be done for the day?”

 

“No,” base replied.

 

“Return home.”

 

He drove the bike past a half destroyed wall and feared a large chunk of rock could fall on him or create an obstacle on the street. He wondered why his life was spared? He knew there could have been anything in that box like an unexploded bomb.  His heart beat fast, his mind tried to focus on the road ahead. He was paid a sum of money to do this job. Az could call this desperation money, survival money, but somehow down the line there had to be blood money involved in this.

 

Az got off his motorbike. A fierce gun fight was ongoing two blocks from his home. He ran for cover in what can only be called the nick of time. His motorcycle was riddled with bullets.

 

The sound of gunfire suddenly ceased. This was not a natural cessation. The shooting was particularly nasty and vicious. Both sides were looking to get the upper hand. The decision for the gun battle to suddenly go silent was too abrupt. Az was trying to figure out the psychology behind it when a woman covered in black, her face hidden, save for her eyes, walked in the middle of the road. She had no gun or rifle. She gripped onto a human head by the scalp with blood dripping onto the ground from the severed neck. She was fully vested and belted with explosives attached to the outside of her veil. She screamed loudly. Az felt the natural repulsion of watching blood falling from the beheaded person’s neck, a motionless, expressionless, face as it hung still from her hands appearing to look him straight in the eye, as if daringly demanding of him to take some action, some gesture of retribution.

 

“I am a terrorist,” she announced.

 

His mobile not on silence, it tingled another sms which was now perfectly audible in the absence of gun fire to drown out the sound. He swore that she was walking over to where he was hiding; it was like he waved a red flag to a bull.

 

“I am a terrorist,” she re-announced.

 

“You have been killing us for a long time. I am your death.”

 

Blood continued to drip onto the dusty roads. If the gunman shot her in the chest it was curtains. Her head would detach from her body, pieces of her body, like meat would splatter everywhere, most likely Az would be crushed and crumbled to death in the impending explosion. She had hunger for vengeance and blood to spill throughout the land including that of her own.

 

A gunman raced onto the middle of the street quickly and confidently. She drew her hand to the suicide belt and was ready to explode; he shot her straight in the forehead two times. She fell back on the ground but she did not self-explode. Az did not have to think twice. He ran from the place he was hiding. The soldier who shot the woman dead looked at him directly. He did not say anything to Az, they both looked shocked.

 

 

 

Syriacide‘ by Michael Mulvihill

 

 

 

 

michael mulvihill

Michael Mulvihill

Michael Mulvihill, mulvihillp@ymail.com, of Dublin, “Bombing Basra” Indian Periodical (Feb 8 2017), Ireland, wrote BP #77’s “Drop” and “Lupine Savagery” (+ BP #76’s “The Watchers”; BP #68’s”The Toasters’ Tragedy” and “Ziggy’s Afterlife Analysis”; “Homeless” & “Why the Hell Siberia?” for BP #67; was featured author for BP #65’s “Ethagorian Evidence, Parts 1 & 2” & “Uninsured Assurance”; VAMPIRE HORDE, Ch.1… for BP #63; BP #61’s poems, A Love Story Beautiful, Capitalism’s Modern Architecture of Love, Red Brick, The Securocrats, and Toxic Addiction; the poems, “Fatigued,” “O Mother,” & “Spike-Inverted Hearts” for BP #58; “The Cleaner and the Collector” & all 6 BP #56 poems; BP #50’s “The Soul Scrubber” and was featured vampire poet with A Vampire’s Dilemma: Love, Becoming a Vampire, Vampire Insomnia, and Vampiric War in The Kodori Valley; wrote BP #49’s poems—I, the Vampire, The Reluctant Vampire of Tbilisi, Vampire Observations, and Vampire Psychoanalysis). The author published a short story, “Ethagoria Nebsonia,” in BP in ’98 and had a poem, “The Bombing,” in The Kingdom News about a domestic tragedy in Ireland. He has also written the horror novels, DIABOLIS OF DUBLIN & SIBERIAN HELLHOLE.

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