Friday, 27 November 2015
Arose By Any Other Name - novel extract
Blog: 17th May 2006 / 27th Rabia Awal 1427
Another- the last- fitting for my nuptial dress. Has me more than a little nervous. Only natural of course. My fingers are trembling and I can’t do up a single clasp. The seamstress clicks her tongue in sharp disapproval and says such conduct would be unbecoming on the big day itself. The girdle feels tight, even though I have barely eaten this last week, despite cautioning from those around me to maintain my strength. I have even surrendered up my beloved gelatis. But today I feel I can treat myself to a bombe glacée. A last trifling indulgence, before the most profound change occurs in my life. And if I spread a couple of inches under its calorific assault, then I’ll just have to suck in my stomach, which with the likely state of my breathing tomorrow, shouldn’t be too hard a task. I force myself to think pure thoughts by envisioning my betrothed before me, as the seamstress gingerly packs up my raiment. And in conjuring such happy thoughts, a smile breaks out to envelop the worry lines around my pensive brow. Now my lips quiver only with joy. Such a remedy never fails. Tomorrow we shall be conjoined for ever. I leave the premises to search out my ice cream, once I have safely stored the vestments. Now it is just a question of killing time.
With all the trepidation, it’s been a very long and sleepless night. As the light faded, my thoughts flared around me, projected into the formless shadows moving on the wall. Car headlights seared their way through my shutters and churned and roiled my ceiling, making me dizzy and disoriented. Shutting my eyes did nothing, as they managed to prise through the membranes of my eyelids. How thin and insubstantial all of my body feels at this time. My flesh a flimsy curtain, partitioning the unknown chambers ahead.
I rose from bed and am now carving this for the want of something to do. Of course they left me no means of communicating with the outside world. But they did leave me a knife for self-protection and when I had blunted that, I used the flints sheared off from the stone walls of the room itself. Had other brides and grooms to be, been put up here before me? Then the building will tell its tale as well as my own.
My overriding thought right now, would to please be permitted some sleep, so I am not too befuddled for tomorr- or later today as it now is. I’m going back to bed, doubtless to joust some more with my ceiling-borne demons overhead. Whence death seemingly always comes, in our insignificant part of the world. Where the sky is forever falling in.
A pealing siren outside woke me, even though it was far away in the distance. A presentiment of ill-fortune? But again I just marinade my mind with thoughts of my beloved opening his arms in welcome and all such anxieties melt away and me with it back into my furtive dreams. Wherein my Mother soon intercedes. Bustling and barging the angelic bystanders as she cuts a direct path to me. Standing now right in my face, eclipsing even the joy of my light, for she would not approve of such an espousal. This is not exactly an elopement, yet still she cannot know till after the event. I have recorded her a message to explain the matter. But her forceful image has demanded an explanation of me before she is even in the know. A lingering last vestige of guilt.
Mother, the sole message is I love you. Even as I seemingly repudiate you by this act. I am not propelling myself away from you. This you must understand. How I love you more than anything else on this earth and I am beaming this message to you, with greater force than all the generative force soon to adorn my belly, that will pull us apart merely on this plane. In my absence, you will receive only greater honour. Till we are ultimately reconciled in Paradise. My Mother and I hug, seemingly unconditionally as she did when I was a baby. And finally I fall into a dreamless sleep.
18th May 2006 / 28th Rabia Awal 1427
I imagine hearing another siren, but as I groggily come round, I realise it is my beeping alarm clock. An adhan summoning me to my calling. My salvation. I shut it off. I’ll be present at my union soon enough. Lying here, I try and evoke an image of the light of my life in the future, but nothing comes. It’s as if my thoughts are like birds, flying in confusion and without navigation during an eclipse, as my rapidly beating heart has blotted out the sun. So I do what I’ve been steeled to do and I use it to my advantage. I am to enter the core of this black sun, and ball it up in my hand. Driving the fingers till they seal my palm. Thereby readmitting the light to embrace me once again. Ha, already the quickened pulse recedes. Resumes its orderly place in the background. But do not be fooled. That faint tick, tick, ticking, is the sound of my seething heart, walled up behind the thorns and briars of my sin. How they dam up my heart from God. Now is the time to purge them like an infernal machine, back whence they came. Return my pure being back to the bosom of God. For He cannot be contained. My heart is fit to irrupt, its furious palpitations cannot be accommodated a moment longer.
I swing my legs out of bed. My bare feet meet the cold stone of the flags. All the more felicitous then, since a grave will be yet colder. I wash myself from a bowl of water, letting the precious liquid trickle back down to its source. Our adversaries would deny us even this most basic of elements. As I bathe them, I devote each one of the two hundred bones in my body to you my Love. And by my actions, I imagine we will share them in turn with five times that amount of suitors, dispersed like passing out wedges of wedding cake. Spearing into their trespassing hearts, as we entwine and are yoked together into death. Then there is the added confetti of nails and ball bearings, only this time it will be the bride showering the congregation. Even my virginal veil of modesty shall be aflame and sail through the air combusting all it brushes against. My flying blood will baste their foreheads with the indelible sign of their guilt. The liquid in the bowl is still once again.
I hope my laving is suitably thorough, but I am without any mirror for inspection. One isn’t to wake on the morn of one’s self-appointed expiration and glimpse dread in the eyes. No photos to kiss either, no earthly tugs at all to corrode the will. To blunt my whetted mind. Instead I picture weaving my own carpet. I who have nothing, can still donate this wedding gift. As they deny us the wool because we have no land to breed sheep and we have no looms to spin it within our flimsy, cramped houses, so then will I fashion mine from blood and bone. I aim to weave the largest rug that is humanly possible from my frame, to drape the entire tarmac between two bus stops. And my signature, will be my essence mingled in with theirs. They who are so precious about collecting and burying every last drop of their blood spilt, will not be able to determine if it is mine or theirs. Blotting me up with their paper as they do with their own. How they will waste such resources in taking precise, forensic care of my remains, it will almost be like they are forced to yield me the same worth as their own burnt offerings. But for all this, I will yield them no insights. Other than reinforcing that which they choose to remain wilfully blind to.
I’m ready. This time I rig myself with barely a faltering in my fingers. The clasps all snap home. The girdle still feels tight, but now hangs heavy, arrayed with the wedding gifts lavished last night by my escort. What a most generous gift he has seen fit to bestow upon me. The needles to unstitch with. The pattern in my mind. At last, for the first time in our despoiled land, my belly feels fecund.
19th May 2006
20th May 2006
21st May 2006
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Posted by Rough Beast. 12/08/06
I will disclose at once, that the above is a fictionalised account. I composed it, based on several interviews I’ve carried out with jailed Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel. Now, I’ll admit that in itself has been a tad frustrating, since by definition the ones in prisons are FAILED suicide bombers. Would-be suicide bombers. The defeated and the fatigible. Those betrayed by fate. By their own inexperience. By the will of God. Or their own humanity, their own inner struggle, however deeply overlaid and suppressed.
For the bottom line sees the human spirit remarkably tenacious at preserving itself. The body is stockpiled with a whole battery of reflexes to resist its own cessation and death. Its default setting is for life. So mental illness aside, how can this possibly be overridden? It requires an abstergent, in order to yield a blank screen upon which any message can be projected. Including graduation from a human being, into a human bomb. The knack, is to change the bomber’s desires from embracing life, into a hankering after death.
Interview after interview, I was presented with similar, reedily intoned versions of how this was brought about. One strand had them sat drooling at the feet of some hierophant in a madrassa, as he categorically untangles the frayed threads of life, while they scratch their carpet-fluff beards and nod accordance. I’ll tell you something, if I was promised myriad virgins in the Afterlife, I’d probably enlist myself. Blissfully blow myself to Kingdom Come. Presumably, it’s one virgin to tend each bit of the body atomised by high-explosive. Of course, rather than nubile women, why couldn’t it equally be the ghosts of the 72 camels slain for Fatima’s wedding? That’s the drawback with numerical symbolism. It’s open to double counting.
Alternatively, they drilled before a paramilitary hawk, sharpening the recruit’s claws on his steel gauntlet. The logic he advances, is that the mission should be beyond fear, for no other soldier has such certainty of whether he will return alive or dead from his next action. Whereas the suicide bomber knows to the precise minute. What a boon.
By whichever method, these fellows are striking a deal with their egos. They don’t shut them off, rather they believe they are swapping a pretty squalid life not for death, but for another, improved life up in the clouds. A literal leap of faith. Trouble is, when their heads are blown upwards off their body towards Heaven, sure as hell it hurtles back down to earth under the prosaic ministrations of gravity. Does each bomber actually possess the finer shades of understanding, exactly what the Holy Text suggests is in store for them? Ultimately, they remain just teenagers on the most extreme and ugly of promises. And as to the secularist bombers, they too are left in no uncertain terms that they will become pin-up poster boys on the walls of Gaza and Baghdad. This is the poor man’s version of celebrity. A pension from Iran or Syria will see that their family is well provided for, a sort of posthumous dower. Or a divorce settlement.
When one of the plump-bellied commanders or hierophants squeezes into a belt, rather than a whey-faced waif; when one of those educated-in-the-universities-of-their-foes strategists puts his own body on the line, then I’ll afford them credence that they’re not just exploiting and manipulating these bomb mules. Winding up the key of taut and tutored desperation in their backs and setting them off towards mayhem. See, the thing with successful missions as the Japanese kamikazes demonstrated, is that you cull your elite talent. No such thing as a suicide veteran. You need a constant stream of fresh volunteers. But unlike Iraq, where Jihadists are crossing over the borders all the time, Palestine is sealed off. So the quality of the bomber pool declines. They started sending children and simpletons. I saw them in the prisons too, though I didn’t abuse them any further by requesting to interview them. Even those with the slightest sympathy for the strength of will of the suicide bomber, ought to be repulsed by this abasement. Bad strategic decision.
So I return to these prompters, these whisperers from offstage. The puppet master, pedlars of death. What these men do so successfully, is to take the everyday currency of death in their blighted land and raise it to the ultimate value. The reward they offer, confirmed as instantly as a scratch-card, is the status of martyr. They market death as a lifestyle. Conferring an off the peg posterity. Of soldier; freedom fighter; liberator; hero; martyr; patriot; bomber. When life circumstances have prevented the volunteer from being secure in the roles of lover, father, son, worker, provider, man of leisure. Such appeals strike at the very core of anxiety and neurosis. Become a sapper rather than merely sapped.
These manipulators, these programmers, are marketing geniuses. For being able to turn death around like that and make it an attractive option. An aspirational choice. They ought to be employed in Soho and Madison Avenue, having their work plastered across giant hoardings and on TV. Then they’d be earning enough money to send back to revive their homeland economy. But these mavens of destruction would presumably baulk at the job title of ‘Creative Director’.
extract taken from the kindle novel "Not In My Name" available from Amazon