Saadi Youssef
Saadi Youssef
Fadhil al-Marzoog

I trained myself to sleep deeply at night, for I like to follow my preoccupations, my movements and contacts more or less without interruption, all day until late evening. But when night descends, I raise a solid wall between me and those daytime preoccupations, movements and contacts, and plunge into a deep slumber. No insomnia disturbs me, because what might disturb me is already behind that wall; all through the daytime and evening time I have dealt with what precedes sleep.

Let me say honestly that this hard-won habit has helped me keep my nerves connected and intact, without getting entangled and torn like a ball of wool in the claws of a cat.
But here, aboard the “Sun of the Mediterranean”, my night arms extend to have even more daytime hours. Didn’t Adil see me dozing on a reclining chair under the gentle sun? Couldn’t he have waited until I woke from my unbelievable daytime drowsiness? He would have talked with me, for sure, if he had found me half-awake or half-asleep. I would have welcomed him, for sure, but he must have found me in a really deep asleep.

That laughing gentleman says he is indebted to me for his life. That is true, and normal as I see it, since I am indebted to him for my life, although the reason is different. Tahir saved my life with his care, persistence and natural healing, in a not very bad place, meaning Seeba Police Station.
But Adil’s story with me is more complicated and took place in very bad and dangerous circumstances.
Adil and Tahir were back to their room, after a long conversation, filled with memories and questions, most of it between Adil and me. Tahir was reticent in a way. It is clear he is still under the impact of the shock of Hayy Assullam, days before abandoning the position. He was crawling over open terrain to evacuate a dead comrade who had been killed at the Engineering College axle, where the Israelis had advanced a tank and a number of sharpshooters. As Tahir approached our fallen comrade and started evacuating him, a tank shell exploded not far away. He couldn’t evacuate our comrade. He stayed there rooted to the bare earth, motionless, and so survived certain death by shrapnel or a sharpshooter’s bullet. From behind the wall that stood between our position in Hayy Assullam and the open terrain next to the Engineering College . . . rose the voice of Abdennasir the Sudanese calling Tahir to keep flat and motionless until fall of darkness. I assume the Israelis also thought Tahir dead. Under the protection of darkness it was possible to evacuate our dead comrade and bring Tahir back, alive. Beginning from that day, Tahir has ceased to be normal. He suffers from stupor, absentmindedness and carelessness. As if everything that takes place around him isn’t taking place. Even people he has known for a long time seem new acquaintances to him. He sees events of the past, especially the distant past, as shadows, remembering them drop by drop, and that only in a friendly environment, let us say, when he is with me, or with Adil. Here, the personal and professional background is important. Adil is a soldier, a tank squadron commander, whilst Tahir is civilian to the bone.
This evening, when Adil and Tahir left me, I couldn’t plunge into that river of deep sleep, contrary to my way. The “Sun of the Mediterranean” is pursuing its quiet voyage; I hear the rhythmical songs of the Greek sailors on the ship’s deck, soft and relaxed; and from time to time I could hear a Mawwal song. Fedayeen and sailors on board a Greek charter boat are setting out on a new phase of the long voyage, while I’m in a room that rocks, with the lights turned out. I open my eyes onto this hill of darkness.
I was arrested on Friday evening, the evening of the first day of the coup d’Ètat. I had visited Adil beforehand and told him that I was going to the meeting of the local committee in order to put in motion the contingency plan. I had to meet Adil to let him know what was going on. His position in the brigade, with our comrades, officers and soldiers, was very sensitive; if the contingency plan were implemented with a high level of co-ordination there was a possibility of things taking a different turn .

I was unarmed, even without a pistol.
Two footsteps from the door of a local committee member’s house, where we were to meet, I was attacked by two people. One of them hammered my head with the butt of a pistol, and pushed me inside a waiting car, which sped off immediately, then after a while threw me, blindfolded, uncertain, into the corner of a room, dealing me kicks and blows . . .
I shivered, soaked through by the water that kept flowing over the floor of the room. It was very cold that winter . . .

– You have handed pamphlets to a soldier and they were circulated in the camp . . .
– What pamphlets? What camp?
– You know the pamphlets well; and likewise the camp of the Third Armoured Brigade.
– Question: What is the name of the soldier you handed the pamphlets to?
– I have nothing to do with the camp and soldiers.
– Denying it will not help. One of your mates who’s been arrested has informed us that you are the liaison man between the Local Committee and your elements in the camp.
– False information.
– Who circulated the pamphlets in the camp?
– I have nothing to do with that.
– You are playing at denial. We know that. We are a clandestine party just like you, so we know ; we know a detainee has to confront any interrogation first with denial. We know that very well, so try another tack. Playing the denial hand will not help. You will regret it.
– You are intimidating me by saying you will use other methods to deal with me; and in the meantime saying you are a clandestine party with traditions . . .
– I’m not going to use other methods with you. Others will do that. I just wanted to tell you that denial will not help. I will give you five minutes to tell me the name of the soldier you handed the pamphlets to and the names of those who circulated them in the camp. That is my demand in full. I have no wish to waste more time on you. I thought you understood the situation well and would co-operate with us. We are a clandestine party, like you; in the old days, we used to co-operate on many things.
– Not this kind of co-operation.

The interrogation room was square: four metres x four metres. The door was shut, but not locked. The interrogator is a young man, twenty-five years old or so. He is facing me on the other side of the table. Behind him the wall, on which a Port Said sub-machinegun is hanging. To the right, a narrow window and through its iron mesh can be seen the entrance to the building and date palms on the other bank of the Khora river. A few cars were on the roundabout coming from the Corniche. Armed young men strolled along the pathway between the main entrance and the door of the building near the interrogation room. I know the place pretty well: the Economists Club, whose administrative committee was ours.
The building, then, had been turned into a detention and interrogation centre. It is even possible, then, that some members of the former administrative committee are among the detainees here.
I’m sitting, drenched, body and clothes, in water, facing the young interrogator who is expressing his impatience and frustration by intimidating me. He has called in a young man who was on guard outside. The young man entered, armed with the usual Port Said sub-machinegun. The interrogator smiled, then said to the guard: “Take him to see, then bring him back. Be on your guard; if he tries to escape let him run a bit, then use your sub-machinegun. Understood?”
The guard smiled in his turn, and ordered me to go before him. We left the room. After three or four footsteps he ordered me to stop at a door. The door was open. He ordered me to proceed inside. I did that. On the bare floor I saw three men, prostrate and motionless, even not breathing the way human beings breath. Their bodies were all swollen, and their eyes too. They were reduced to pulp. I heard one of them moaning faintly. The guard ordered me out. I went out. He closed the door and took me back to the interrogation room. The interrogator ordered me to sit where I sat before. He said: “Did you see?” I didn’t reply. He smiled: “The five minutes’ time limit is over.” I stayed silent. He said: “This isn’t the interrogation room. It’s only the reception. I was hoping not to send you to the interrogation room.”
He got up from his chair, brandished the uncocked sub-machinegun, and left the room, ordering the guard: “Take him . . .”

When I woke, from certain unconsciousness, in Seeba Police Station, with Tahir’s water-soaked towel on me, I started to feel the effects of that torture inside the interrogation room. I am unable to describe the pain that started biting every limb, every part of me, muscle, joint and bone . . . Breathing, it seems, is impossible.
Any minor move triggers an unimaginable pain.
The seven days I passed at the Economists Club were, actually, seven days in Hell. I think that they wouldn’t have transferred me to Seeba Police Station if they did not fear that I might die on them; they would assume that I would die in another place, a place not under their charge, so they would not be responsible for my death. Actually, if Tahir hadn’t been there I would have died.
In the interrogation room, they focused on one question: Who in the camp are members of the organisation ?
They mentioned names of officers and asked me to inform them about these officers. But I do not know any officer or soldier there, except for Adil with whom I had a personal connection.
In the early days they did not mention Adil’s name, but after four days they were saying his name all the time, to the extent that Adil seemed their only question. It was obvious that they had done a thorough check into everything in the camp related to our secret organisation. But the question of Adil kept hanging in the air – like a mystery. They failed to get any information about him.
Was he under arrest at that time? (Adil told me later that he was arrested on the Monday, four days after the coup d’Ètat.)
I fainted several times, but they used to bring me out of my faint, only to repeat the question about Adil and then to resume their torture.
But torture was no longer useful. Blows became meaningless for my body had swelled up to the point of senselessness . . .
A month after being in Seeba Police Station, together with Tahir Adil was transferred to Baghdad to stand trial at a military tribunal (all courts which dealt with political affairs were military tribunals).
So, I was alone in the station. I was gradually recovering from the torture inflicted on me. The swelling eased, also the blue bruises, and the pain in my bones and joints. Now, I’m able to move about in the room and walk in the station courtyard when permitted. I stayed there two months after Tahir was transferred to Baghdad to stand trial. One day I was transferred, in my turn, to Baghdad.

In Baghdad, the two policemen who accompanied me for the whole of that terrible train journey to Baghdad handed me over to the Serai Station, near Bab al-Muadham, not far from Baghdad Central Prison.
I recall that my days at the Serai Station, waiting for my trial, were not bad. I had recovered; and the conditions were tolerable there, considering the fact that the Serai was a reception and transfer station. Rules there were simple, insults less, and relatives bringing in food was permitted, so was sending letters by hand to relatives and friends in return for a small bribe.
In this detention station, I met friends, some waiting for their trial, some waiting for release after being acquitted, others had been sentenced and were waiting to be transferred to their prisons all over the large map of the country, though they were sure that they would be in one of eight: Basra Prison, Amara Prison, Kut Prison, Hilla Prison, Baghdad Prison, Baquba Prison, Ramadi Prison or lastly the desert prison of Nuqrat al-Salman.

It is worth mentioning that any one in this station would celebrate when he learned his trial date, and would be congratulated by the others. A trial means a verdict and a verdict means imprisonment and imprisonment means an end to the prolonged journey of torment. In prison, the prisoner would count among his friends, the days and years that lay ahead before his release At last he would be well installed, and back to himself – no interrogation, no transfer, no handcuffs and no howling trains. He would be at the end of the road; at his fixed point in the cold hell. As was customary, then, I was congratulated and I thanked my mates in detention profusely, hoping for happier days for them. I had been notified that I would stand trial before a military tribunal in al-Washash camp, the day after next.

Two days after this notification I am taken in a police van, along with others who have been collected from various detention centres, to stand trial that that same day, all before the same military tribunal.
I haven’t been on trial before.
For the first time in my life I will have a glimpse of that system which submits a person to an inevitable, non-negotiable punishment.
For the first time I will hear words that can ravage a destiny or a life.
For the first time I will face unknown people who have the ultimate right to shape my life; people unknown to me, as I’m unknown to them.
The first time in which I stand as an adversary to an omnipotent system.
The first time that I feel my comrades are weak.

Immediately, on leaving the police van, we find ourselves walking be-tween two menacing rows of Military Police. One policeman ordered us: “Hurry up!”
Then, slaps and blows started raining down on us. After that was another order: “Halt!”
We stopped in front of a closed door.
They summoned one of us. He entered, then came out two minutes later.
Another one was summoned, entered, then was also out two minutes later.
A third one. Entered, then came out two minutes later.
I was summoned . . .

I entered.
The courtroom was smaller than what I imagined. A soldier led me to a wooden dock.
I faced the men who were trying me.
They were three military officers of different ranks, close shaved, elegant and relaxed, but the one in the middle with the closest shave, was the most elegant and relaxed of the three.
He was smiling.
He asked me: “What is your name?” I replied: “Fadhil al-Marzoog.” He smiled.
Then he said: “You are charged with being responsible for a subversive party organisation in the camp of the Third Armoured Brigade. Guilty or not guilty?”
I replied: “Not guilty.”
He referred to a paper in front of him.
Then he said with the same smile on his soft lips: “The evidence against you is conclusive.” He was silent for less than a minute then, turning to the left and then to the right, uttered the words: “Life imprisonment. The session is over.”
Immediately, the soldier pulled me by the hand and led me out of the courtroom.

We were tried, all of us, in the space of one hour, so as a group again we were taken back by police van to Serai Police Station.
I stayed one night there; I would be transferred in the morning with another prisoner, handcuffed together – his right hand cuffed to my left hand.
Inside the train, the third class carriage was crowded but the policeman managed to ensure seats, and secured us to them with handcuffs.
We asked: “Where are we going to? He replied: “To Samawa Station.”
So the desert prison of Nuqrat al-Salman was to be our haven, my haven from here to eternity.
Samawa, halfway between Baghdad and Basra, saw its greatest activity as a transfer station, with its big police station receiving and making transfers by train and vehicle. The station itself was in full swing as if there was a pagan feast going on. Detainees, who were denied everything, could do nothing now but sing higher and higher . . .
I stayed one night in Samawa Police Station.
In the morning, the policemen crammed an old bus with us prisoners.
Half an hour later we were in the desert, the Samawa Desert, where al-Mutanabbi was killed and where Glubb Pasha established the castle that was transformed decades later into a prison.
The old bus crawled heavily through a barren wasteland. Suddenly. Nuqrat al-Salman popped up, oasis-like. No trees but its own trees.
Afternoon, and the bus pulled up, spot on, at the prison gate. The gate was opened. We entered.
The inmates welcomed us, standing in two rows from the gate to the centre of the courtyard.
They welcomed us noisily, with laughs and hand gestures, while some carried on playing volley ball at the end of the courtyard.
After the usual inquiries, the prisoners’ committee assigned us to this ward or that. My lot was a bed on the floor in the fifth ward, to the left of the prison entrance gate.
When you enter the prison, you find yourself in a wide square, a very wide square, really; on either side there were five wards, like soldiers’ barracks. Every ward has the capacity to take eighty prisoners, that is, eighty blankets laid out on the concrete floor. Each ward has two doors facing each other.
Minutes after unfolding my blanket, and setting down what poor baggage I had, even before putting things in their proper places . . . Tahir showed up. He greeted me, praising my health. He had been playing volleyball when we entered. A friend told him which ward I was in. Well, he had been sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for membership of a prohibited party. It was a lenient sentence, he said but added that getting into prison was far different from getting out of it. Prisoners were not released after finishing their period of imprisonment. He asked me about Seeba Police Station, about my days there after he’d left. He also told me that his mother visited him here, in spite of the journey’s difficulties, and the horror of the desert – straying. Losing your way in the desert means death from thirst, or being ripped apart by wolves’ fangs.
He cut short our conversation. “It’s teatime, so we can go and have a cup of tea in the courtyard.” We left the ward for the courtyard, then joined others sipping tea in metal mugs, filling them from a large pot with a metal ladle.
With the sun nearly setting, we felt the cold, the bitter desert cold.

In the mornings, the prisoners leave their wards and stroll through the courtyard, enjoying the sun’s warmth. Tahir woke me and suggested taking me sightseeing, as a veteran prisoner, across Nuqrat al-Salman, to visit the old castle where the old prison was, the last station for named murderers, leaders of clandestine parties and for Sheikhs of rebellious tribesmen. That old prison is no more used.
Nuqrat al-Salman means the new prison, with its ten wards and its high wall, and ninety small towers that could be used as firing positions in case of an outside attack. In the lowest part of the wall, there are small holes through which water hoses are passed from the tankers that bring water across the desert. There was no water well or water storage tank. I don’t know why but I felt a peace of mind there. I didn’t consider Nuqrat al-Salman a prison. Was that because we moved freely here and there between the wards and the courtyard? Was that because the jailers did not show up except for roll call? Or was it because the prisoners managed their affairs by themselves. Perhaps the desert with its impressive vastness makes one feels that one is free in one’s inner soul, rising over the wall, the towers and the locked gate.
We reached the old castle, walked around and through it and lingered in its dungeons. We saw a room built of stone, with no access except a narrow hole in its ceiling; that hole was sealed by an iron cover that was lifted only to lower food and water, to be shut again, leaving the prisoner down in this grave.
There was, also, another room built of stone, one suspended, with no access except a narrow hole in its floor. The prisoner would have to climb up to it by ladder and then the jailers would pull the ladder away, leaving the prisoner inside a suspended grave.
Tahir told me that a number of our comrades were prisoners there in the forties.

* * *

Winter passed, followed immediately by summer, as was usual in the desert.
The number of prisoners was increasing, but not at an accelerated pace, so the wards remained not so crowded, and newcomers enjoyed the same privileges as veterans; the incarcerated were moving freely, like beasts behind a fence.
Then came an extraordinary evening.
The summer sun was still flooding the desert with gentle rays when the prison gate was opened and an endless stream of military men swept through. They were in their uniforms, but these were mostly in tatters, sticking to their bodies and filthy from oil, dust and iron rust. Some of them were straggling behind; others were supported by their comrades. They were pale, with dishevelled hair and unshaven beards of three or four days. The entire crowd entered. The gate was shut.
All the prisoners rushed to help the newcomers. Like wildfire, the words reached our ears:
Those officers, the elite of the country’s army, sentenced or not sentenced, had been packed into iron freight wagons and locked firmly inside; the train moved . . . no food, no water; the snail-speed freight train whose iron wagons became oven hot under the scorching sun. Time passed, with the train moving slowly and the driver under strict orders to maintain his slow speed. Many fainted. Three died. The officers started banging on the iron sides of the wagons. Did the driver know human beings were inside the wagons, not freight? Against orders the driver accelerated. The train stopped at Samawa railway station. People heard the banging on the iron sides. Samawa town was electrified by the news . . .
The whole town rushed to the station, to where the train was stopped. Men and women approach the train; they open up the iron doors with their huge bolts. They see the crime with their own eyes. They start pouring water on officers who have fainted, saving them, bringing food and water to them, before a police force comes to take them all down to Samawa Police Station, from where the transfer to Nuqrat al-Salman would take place.

* * *

Among these officers was Adil . . . I met him the next day.
It is noteworthy to relate that he was – unlike his friends – in fine health, keeping his smiles and even his elegance.
He told me that they arrested him in the camp four days after the coup d’Ètat. They interrogated him at length. No confessions against him, no proof of anything. The Intelligence Officer tried winning him over. But they considered him a suspect. He was court-martialled, charged with non-Cupertino (actually not a charge), and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and stripped of his military rank; he was in Military Prison No. 1, from which he was crammed with the others into the Death Train.

The prison is getting crowded. Now three prisoners have to sleep in a two-blanket space.
Water is scarce, so is food. No room in the courtyard for jogging or playing volley ball.
The time between one shower and the next has become longer.
The guard has been intensified.
Then there was the order to transfer all prisoners with short-term prison sentences to Baquba Prison. Adil and Tahir were among those transferred.

One day, the Nationalists also arrived.
We heard rumours that the old castle would be renovated and adapted to receive more prisoners and detainees.
Nuqrat al-Salman Prison is gradually losing its particularity as an oasis for desert beasts.
Now it is an ordinary, overcrowded prison with an intensified guard.
You could even say that it is worse than other prisons. A waste land where wolves roam separates it from the nearest hamlet.

I want the “Sun of the Mediterranean” to sail forever, with me aboard, my eyes closed, rocking lightly as if I’m in a cradle. Adil and Tahir left me to go back to their room. Likely, they are sound sleep now.
They let me re-shape the image. But why do I have to re-shape it? Supposing I did re-shape it . . . would the shape transcend these moments of waking-sleep?
And let me explain more precisely: will the shape transcend the “Sun of the Mediterranean”? Are we, the three of us, able to retrieve the dream? To keep the dream intact? Our dream of building a world, more beautiful, more noble, more just?
Every one of us had his tortuous path to it; but did any one of us reach its end?
Take Adil for example . . .
Friend of my youth, and a schoolmate.
Lieutenant in an armoured brigade.
Imprisoned, though not charged.
Crammed inside an iron wagon to die of suffocation. Survived.
Released after finishing his term of imprisonment and paying a bribe.
Re-admitted to the army in the volatile days of 1967.
Promoted to the rank of a tank squadron commander.
Arrested and thrown out of the army in 1970.
Re-admitted to active army service in 1972.
He started becoming optimistic – perhaps he’d get married one day.
He cherished the idea . . . that the country was on its road to a future.
Then, years afterwards, war erupted on the eastern borders.
Adil re-read his papers.
Referred to the question of morals.
Declared: “This war is not my war.”
Ventured out, reaching the mountain.
Carried on with his adventure, reaching Khalda where he found his war.

In the ferocious tank battle, Adil actually fulfilled what he couldn’t do before to defend with arms a world as yet unborn.
Now where is Adil going to?
And Tahir?
Where are we, all of us, going?

At midnight, on the fourth night of my arrest, when I was thrown motionless on the bare floor, like a bundle of rags, with my joints moaning due to cold and manhandling, they work me with their kicks. A lean young guard took me to the interrogation room.
The room was lit with a dazzling light, so I shaded my eyes with my hand.
Sitting at the table was a new interrogator whom I hadn’t seen before. He was close shaved, very elegant in his civvies. The sub-machinegun was hanging on the wall.
A pistol was on the table. He looked at me at length while I stood in the grip of the lean guard. He took the pistol and started handling it and scrutinising it. He lifted his head and looked at me again, his hand holding the pistol on the table.
He said: “You have exhausted us. Exhausted our young men manhandling you. You are hopeless, you are not co-operating. So our command has sentenced you to death. The decision was taken tonight. I am commissioned to enforce the sentence.
His hand released the pistol. He ordered the guard to tie me up and blindfold me. There was an empty chair in the room; the guard pulled it back next to the wall. He sat me on the chair, took a short jute rope which was lying in the corner of the room and tied my hands behind me to the chair. My wristwatch with its loose metal bracelet dropped off. I heard it drop onto the concrete floor. I uttered: “My watch.” The interrogator laughed, saying: “What is your watch for now?” The guard blindfolded me with a dirty black and dusty cloth, which he took from his large pocket.
Strange . . . how quiet I was!
Nothing in the room concerns me, it was as if the room wasn’t there, as if those two people weren’t so near me as to be a danger to me. I was feeling – tied to the chair and blindfolded – that I was in another place, a place familiar to me, but from what time? Was it the time of childhood? Or before childhood? The scenes are wonderful, changing, but not quickly, just like a cloud propelled by a gentle wind. On my lips was a taste. What taste? And a fragrance rises up, a secret fragrance that spreads inside me only. Fragrance and the taste of milk. Mother’s milk . . . The fragrance infiltrates my body, spreading like the dawn mist on the riverbank.
I was awakened on the interrogator’s voice, ordering the guard to take the blindfold from my eyes. The guard did that. I blinked more than once as if I wanted to be sure of what place I was in. To be sure that this room was really the interrogation room.
The interrogator turned from behind his table and brandished the sub--machinegun that had been hanging, and faced me: “Listen! Listen carefully. This is your last chance. Will you co-operate with us? I don’t want to hear speeches. Yes or No.
I looked at him, with my hands still tied behind me to the chair. The features of his face were not clear. As for his words, I heard them elongated, stretched like rubber, faint, coming from the bottom of a well.
I’m in another place; what surrounds me now was only a ghost’s house. The interrogator is facing me.
Again I hear his words, like rubber, faint: “We will execute you immediately. I’ll do it with this sub-machinegun. Do you not see it?”
My lips do not tremble.
Out of the bottom of the well come his words: “Blindfold him!”

Again, words from the bottom of the well: “Bring me some ammunition!”
The voice is approaching. The interrogator prods me, likely with the butt of the sub-machinegun. “I’ll carry out your death sentence now. We will get rid of your corpse in a thousand ways. We will throw it to the dogs or under the wheels of a train. No one will say that you have been in the guards’ compound But, you know, a detainee might have seen you and recognised you. I have another plan: I will leave this door open, and the Club door open. I will order the compound guards to go home and send the outer door guard away on an errand. No one will know about your execution. No one will know that I have executed you here, in this room. I’ll say that you tried to escape, and that you were shot while attempting to do so. Your corpse will be thrown on the road, like a carcass, just metres outside the Club door . . .
I didn’t utter a word. I wasn’t in the room. The fragrance of milk rises. Minutes go by . . . no voice from the well. Now I hear footsteps approaching. Then shots.
My wristwatch with the loose metal bracelet drops again. I murmur: “My watch . . .”
Suddenly a slap resounds on my face: “To hell with you and your watch.” I flounder, feeling the chair falling back. I fall with the chair. The kicks multiply. Sweat and nausea.
Then everything was over.

* * *

I’m running along a labyrinth of intricate, interwoven lanes . . . running for fear. A monster is chasing me. A hyena-like monster with the head and the beard of a billy-goat. The monster is calling me: “Stop, so I can eat you. You are so fat now.” I’m running and running.
The intricate, interwoven lanes give way to a pitch-black gloom that makes me stumble. I stumble. I fall. I hear the monster clattering behind me, as if its legs have changed to horse’s legs with horse shoes. I am knocking on closed doors as I am running. No door opens for me.
I’m running, running.
At last, I am in open terrain, open as far as the eye can see. A deep pleasure fills my chest.
I turn and look back. No monster. I listen intently. No hoof beat.
I walk, leisurely, breathing normally and with normal heart beat.
Far away, there is a tree whose branches are horizontal, like a wide roof supported by a single column. Deep pleasure infiltrates every cell of my body. I feel light. Nearly flying.
Like air in the air. I sing as I’m walking, nodding my head.
I reach the tree and sit under its green roof.
Suddenly, a chair drops down from the roof, a throne-like chair.
Then the monster climbs down to settle himself comfortably in it . . .

Translated by the author

from his memoir Muthallath al-Daira [The Triangle]
Published Dar al-Mada, Damascus, 1994