As dawn blossomed, I heard the morning prayer drone from the speakers. While I stood, I sought nearness to God. I raised my hands,
“Allah is great.”
I bent over and placed my hands on my knees.
“I praise Allah the Cherisher, the Sustainer, Developer and Perfecter of the worlds, the most Compassionate, the Merciful. Glory to Allah, Free from All Defects is my Lord, and with His praise I bow.”
I stood up tall,
“God listens to one who praises him. Allah is great.”
I knelt with my forehead pressed against my rug, the rough wool scratching into my skin.
“Glory to God. I ask Allah, my Lord, to cover up my sins and unto him I turn repentant.” I whispered.
As I turned towards the door my father appeared in the hallway, scratching his long grey beard.
“Come Abdul it’s time for school,” he grumbled, obviously making an effort not to remember our last conversation. He looked me in the eyes, sighed, and walked downstairs.
The shriek spilled out throughout the schools halls. I always hated that bell. Slowly I picked my way off my seat as my class members raced to the doors. I trudged away, the school gates slowly disappearing into the distance as buildings grew taller, the noise rose louder and dust thickened until I could taste the desert and its heat. Nobody gave a second glance as I walked along the pavement, shacks and buildings alike on either side of me. No one even noticed when I was tossed into an alleyway by three westerners. I cried out as they swung their fists into me, pain lashing throughout my gut. They shouted out curses, abusive words to my religion and race.
Oh no, I thought to myself, another westerner to pick on the skinny Arab boy. I let out another whimper, but I was too hurt to be ashamed of my weakness.
“Leave him alone!”
I looked up to see the new arrival put himself between my attackers and I. Never would I have thought a westerner would do such a kindness to me. As my bullies grumbled off I looked up at the white face peering at me.
“Hi, are you alright?” asked the westerner, concern etched onto his face. He must’ve been a boy of 15 years with sandy hair and deep blue eyes.
“Yes,” I mumbled.
I quickly stumbled to my feet ripping away from his grasp and fled, I had been taught not to affiliate myself with westerners and their deviousness, I knew this was a trick. My first thoughts of gratitude turned to disgust and shame as my helper was swallowed up by the bustling metropolis of Riyadh.
As I burst through the door to my house I dumped my bag on the entrance rug and slumped onto the couch. When I opened my eyes I saw my father sitting across from me looking down at his Quran muttering phrases and lines from our holy book.
“Are all westerners evil?” I asked.
My father frowned at me, his dark eyes hard.
“You know the answer to that Abdul, I should not have to repeat myself. They are the ones who killed your brother. It was their carelessness! They’ve destroyed our beautiful kingdom, invading our land all in the name of oil and money. They are the curse of our people! What do they care for our lives when they say one westerner is worth a thousand Arabs!”
His anger shocked me but it dawned on me the truth of his words, the white westerners who are treated like princes are evil. Yet still I could not shake the concern the American had for me, the selflessness he showed. But what good would it be to fret over such petty matters. After all, tomorrow was the day of my death. A glorious death. A death in the name of Allah my god, to protect my people from the grasp of westerners. The thought gave me strength.
We’d gone over the plan so many times that it seemed so surreal.The compound we were targeting was in the city centre, 20 buildings wide and 30 buildings long, sparkling pools were surrounding by luxurious white buildings and that stood out amongst the ram shackled building of the city. As a poor city boy this was all just a dream to me, an Elysium. An Elysium for those who didn’t deserve it.
As night fell I looked down at the explosives strapped to my chest. It was so terrifying seeing the cause of my death, strapped to my chest. The constant flash of numbers reminding me of my impending death. It’s for the greater good I reminded myself. it’s for the glory of this sacred kingdom.
I hauled myself over the two metre plaster fence, flailing as I tripped over the barbed wire coiled at the top. I fell off, tasting dust as I landed, feet tangled and arms spread eagled. I picked myself off the ground and ran across a tiled courtyard, past rows of bushes until I stumbled onto the street, houses were all around me. I turned wondering where to go. And there he stood. Right in front of me. His eyes were lifeless and dull. It broke me. I hadn’t felt like this in all my life, what was I to do? I had c4 strapped to my chest and I had the weight of my father’s hopes and expectation pressing down on me. I didn’t have a choice. But there my saviour stood, looking down at a small body cradled in his arms, a once happy face now etched with grief.
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered.
“Why, I just don’t know why you had to do this.”
“I don’t have a choice,”
“My name is Jake,” he said, his eyes watering. “I want to grow up.”
It was then that I realised that this was a human being standing in front of me. A living breathing person with hopes and dreams. I shouldn’t be the one to determine whether he lives or dies.
I’m not ready. He’s not ready. We have so much to live for.