Short story based on true story
Short story based on true story
Just few hours before Saddam Hussein attackedour town with chemical bombs, my father, just like a restless dog, smelled something terrible was going to happen. He yelled at my mother and us children in his usual way, telling us to wear the warmest clothes we had, and to pack bread and food, andfor each of us to bring a blanket.
He yelled at my mother saying, “only money and food, no rubbish, no piles of clothes, we are going to walk, long and hard. If we stay we will die. That pig Son of Hussein, I can see blood in his eyes”.
In a matter of an hour he brought two of our horses and packed all of our possessions on their backs,and then made space for us. He and my two sisters on one, and me with my mum and Kamal, my younger brother, on the other.
My sisters and me were put on the horse, my dad was still busy with packing and placing food,making sure that my mother didn’t bring all her clothes.
He yelled again to my mother and Kamal, who were still inside the house looking for things, “You bloody woman! Hurry up, we need to leave now.”
My mother with her sharp annoying voice shouted back, “I don’t know what this silly boy is looking for, he is like a mouse running from corner to corner”.
My dad rushed in and grabbed him with one hand and pulled him up to the air, I knew he was looking for his favorite doll the pink haired Barbie. When my father saw it in his hand he went mad as he always did. He snapped it from his hand and broke it into pieces, legs arms and head scattered on the ground. Kamal felt the sharp heat of two hard slaps on his face. Dad shouted his usual phrase, “Dolls are for girls not you, if I ever see you touch any dolls again I will cut your ears”.
Kamal was out and in between my mother and me. On our horses, our trip started, and with the exception of our father, none of us had any ideawhere we going.
We saw a lot of other families had started to move,but most of the other families had decided not to. Some people made jokes about us, calling us cowards, “if you go out of the city you will be a better target for the helicopter snipers”.
My father didn’t reply and kept guiding the horses.
It was about 3 hours since we left Halabja. We started to hear the booming sound of bombs and the mushroom like smoke that rose up from different spots of the town.
Out of nowhere, a helicopter rose up from the valley toward us. I could see the face of the pilot clearly. The harsh sound of the motor scared the horsesand they started to run so fast that we all fell into the bushes. I was so dazed that all I could see was the blue colour of the sky and the green colour of the grass, I stayed still in the bush. All I could hear was the harsh sound of the shooting. I kept myself silent until the sound of the shooting and the copter stopped. Once silence had fallen for a while, I stood up and looked around, I saw both horses wounded so badly that they were drenched in blood. The surrounding grass bush was so high that I couldn’t see the ground. I shouted “DAD! MUM!”
I heard my mother’s voice whispering just few meters away, “lay down they might come back again”.
I went over to her and saw the horror in her face,she was covering Kamal ‘s mouth with her hand. I went next to them.
I said, “I saw the horses both killed, and all the food and blankets were covered with blood and their innards”.
She said, “keep quite they might be around still”.
My father’s voice appeared, “All safe here, they were bit further away”.
I stayed next to the dying horses. One of them wascalled Orange, she was covered in red blood and dead. The other one was called Wind, he was still alive, I was touching his forehead, I don’t know why I cried, usually I didn’t cry easily, I get sad often, but never crying. My father came with his gun in his hand saying to me, “men don’t cry”. And he shot wind in his head just like when he killed the chickens.
He was the closest one to the horses but it looked like he had no bond to them.
My mother with her sharp voice cut the silence,“Thanks god we had the horses, otherwise it would have been us, not them!”
My dad and mum collected what was left of the food and the dry blankets and we started walking. My eyes started to itches and tears were falling fromthem non-stop. I looked at my dad he was the same and my younger siblings started to cry too, “mum,dad my eyes are itching!”.
While we were cleaning our eyes I felt dead birds start to fall over my head, it was like birds raining from the sky, we could hear and see them fallen around us one by one. I held one, it was still alive with its beak open like it was asking for help, and itwas one of my favorites, a Nightingale.
My dad shouted, “Don’t touch them! It’s a chemical attack, everything is poisoned”.
We washed our faces with the bottled water we had, and rinsed our eyes.
Our vision was not perfect but I saw all the green trees and grass turning yellow, it was like the season had changed from spring to autumn within a second. I didn’t know what a chemical bomb was, but my Dad was an ex solider so he knew, he asked us to cover our mouths and noses with towels and clothes.
The smell of apple was everywhere; I never knew chemical bombs could smell so good. We kept walking faster and faster away from the town.
My mother was crying for her relatives and the families that were left behind in the town Centrewhere the bomb attack had happened.
She was crying, “we are so far away, and look at what has happened to us, what must it have been like for them at the Centre?”
My dad said, “we have no choice, God is great andit’s not our day to die, we are all in God’s hands. We need to hurry to reach Iran as soon as we can otherwise we will die here.”
We kept walking until the evening; the sun was brushing the top of the mountain with a beautiful orange.
We were in the most beautiful countryside, I don’t understood why we humans can’t appreciate life,why all those bombs and killing?
We were all exhausted walking and walking.
Although our eyes still itched and throats were still painful, it was getting better, I could see better. We stopped on the cliff for dinner. My mother took out some bread and honey with walnuts. My fathersaid, “I feel there is a spring around here. Whenever there is different shades of green in the valley that means it’s wetter and the spring shouldn’t be far.” He asked my mother to bring the container and he followed her to get some fresh water because we had used all our water to wash the chemical bomb dust off of our faces.
They left me to take care of my brothers and sister and asked us not to move at all.
Just 5 minute after they left we head an enormousexplosion and the sharp scream of my mother. I asked my sister and Kamal not to come to come but wait where they are.
I went to the location, I saw my father without legs. Each leg had flown in a different direction, and my mother was just like an orange, her body was ripped open. But both were alive with shocked on their faces. My father’s eyes were drooping, like he was falling asleep, trying not to stay awake. Hestruggled to speak, “Son you are the man of the family now, I believe in you. Take my coat off, there is money and all the official papers, if I and your mum die, you must take your sisters and brother to my younger brother. Tell him that’s my will. Get away from here, there are lots of land mine here, take the other route toward the top of the mountain. Take the route through the rocks, where u see the stones it will be safe”. As he spoke my father was drifting away. It was as very strange feeling for me,it was the first time my father had ever spoken to me like an adult; he always used to keep me down like I wasn’t smart enough, but that day I felt he treated me like a man, not a stupid boy, for the first time I realised he believed in me. That was the day I saw myself growing and becoming a different person.
My mother’s face was so different from what I was used to, she was calm and without expression. She was dead way before my father. I don’t know what I was thinking. I took my father’s legs next to him to look like they were not cut off.
That surreal day was the day I felt responsibility not only for myself but for the whole family, I saw myself as my father, I took off his coat, although it was bloody at the bottom, and managed to put it on and kept leading my family.
I can’t tell you how, or how long, but I managed to take my 2 sisters and brother to Iran after many harsh days and nights. I always felt my father was next to me, guiding me. I never liked my father, but always admired him. Maybe I always wanted to be him, even though most of the times I hated him for his harsh and ruthless way he used to speak to us.
2 years later I was fourteen years old and Kamalhad turned twelve and my two younger sisters were ten and eight.
We were living with my uncle ‘s family. He was a bad version of may father! He was even more sarcastic and abusive.
I gave him all my father’s money and papers and delivered his will to him. He was not very happy to take on more responsibilities than he already had.
But as our culture ruled, he took us into his family.
I had two cousins, they were very demanding. Sometimes I felt they treated us like were a burden to them all.
My uncle took me to work as a shop assistant, it was his shop but I think he was leaving me to run it most of days. He hated my younger brother Kamal. He said that boy would bring our reputation down, he was too girly and not man enough, blaming my father and mother for that.
I didn’t like my uncle and his wife but I had no choice, I was just a young boy, I had no options, I just wanted to do my father ‘s will.
My cousins were annoying, they always tried to boss my sisters and Kama. They also wereconstantly making jokes about him beingso girlish.
One day after a long exhausting shift in the shop,when I went back home I heard the sound ofscreaming from the house. I got in to see my uncle beating Kamal, the same way as my father did. He was shouting, “you are going to bring disgrace to our family, and if you keep acting like a girl we aregoing to be the joke family of the quarter.”
When Kamal saw me he ran to me like a wounded deer escaping from the jaws of a tiger. I shouted at my uncle, “what’s wrong?”
He replied, “He has stolen the nail polisher from my daughter, and see, he painted his nails! I don’t know if he a man or woman!”
Kamal cried on my legs, “she gave it to me, I didn’t steal it.”
I was so angry with Kamal, but at the same time I felt pity for him. Why couldn’t just stop been so feminine?
When I was his age, I was putting my father’s legs by his body and trying to cover my mother’s open stomach in the middle of nowhere.
Every day was the same routine for me, with sunrise I was going to work, with sunset I was going back home. Every night there was fighting at home, my uncle beating Kamal and asking him to stop acting like a girl, and Kamal crying and running to my sisters even though he was older than them. But he was acting like a little child crying on their laps, while they were trying to calm him down.
One night before going to bed my uncle came to my bed on the top roof of the house, he was whispering to me saying, “Look Karwan, we should do something about Kamal, I saw kids calling him faggot and touching his bottom, if that isn’t stopped now, with time he will bring the biggest shame to our family.”
That was the first time I had seen my uncle’s face with such a serious expression, it was quite scary to look into his eyes.
That night I felt that I was not a child anymore, and I was stepping into a new era of my life which wasadulthood, instead of feeling good about myself, I felt scared and anxious about the responsibility that others were expecting me to undertake.
I replied to him calmly, “but uncle what can we do? He is a child that’s the way he was and is.”
My uncle didn’t like my answer, his voice became more angry in tone. He continued, “Listen son, I amtalking to you like a man and expect you to act like one.”
I replied, “What do you want me to do uncle? Be more specific please.”
He lowered his voice and spoke even more seriously, “Son, you don’t know yet about what shame and honour mean, if your brother behaves like a woman we will all loose respect; nobody will respect me and you and nobody will be ready to marry my daughters or your sisters. He will let us down everywhere we go. You are the first one responsible for him. If you can’t change him you should finish him. Now that he is a child we can create a story, we can tell people he went to the village to live with your mother’s relative, no one would ever know.
His words shocked me, I got louder, “What are you asking of me uncle? To kill my brother that I’m supposed to take care of?”
He replied in an even lower tone, fearing that someone might hear him. He continued talking,“Karwan, you are still too young to understand these things, but that is the way wise people deal with such matters. Your brother is a faggot, and ifhe grows into it more, he will bring more damage,not only to himself but to all of us, it’s your duty to deal with that, you are the man of my brother’s family now, ahead of me.”
That night I couldn’t sleep at all. I kept thinking of things that I knew I couldn’t deal with.
Next morning I woke up late, sunlight was already kissing the hill across from our home.
I saw Kamal was trying to wash off the colours on his nails. He was only two years younger than me but I always thought he was just a little child. I stopped next to him watching him holding his hand washing away his nail polish which was a pinkish red colour. I spoke to him, “Kamal can’t you stop acting like a girl? You are a man, it’s time to grow up and stop that habit.”
He replied like a lost child, “brother what do you mean, I don’t understand?”
I replied with anger in my voice, “I mean, don’t do anything, don’t put nail
Polish on, don’t put scarves on your head like a woman. Just don’t do anything, don’t go out, don’tlet other boys and girls make fun of you.”
He started to cry like a lost child, sobbing, he replied, “I don’t know what you mean and what you asking for.”
He was right he didn’t know the difference, I felt foolish to even think about that, I had known him since he was a babe, he was always like that, growing into the person he had become was just natural.
That morning I felt the pressure of the next chapter of my life. I was not even 17 years old myself, but I felt like I was carrying the responsibility of my uncle’s generation. My childhood was buried in front of my eyes. Since I held the cold hand of my dead father I felt deep pain, and fear at the same time. Fear of taking the place of my parents, my mother and father left me with a big load on my shoulder. To take care of a brother and two sisters. A brother who thinks he is a girl and that made everybody mad and angry, and now my uncle wants me to kill him to save the family honour before it’s too late. But how could I do that? I promised my father to take care of him and my sisters. Now my uncle wants me to be a killer that I never can be.
From that day I felt exhausted, both physically and mentally. My uncle’s attitude was mean and provocative, he was treating me like a weak littleboy. He started to throw in my face that we were a burden to him and his family, continuously blaming my father and mother about upbringing.
I was deeply angry and more hateful than I used to be, of course meanwhile sad and helpless inside.
A few weeks later, my fourteen years old cousin was being forced to get married to my uncle’s friend, who had a shop next door to ours. Most of the time my uncle left work early leaving me with more work and more responsibility.
At the wedding day of my cousin, he told me we should think to settle my sisters also, saying girls are like white flower who can get dirty easily. “We can’t wait long, the sooner they get married the better, because Satan is everywhere and young girls are the first victims of his sins.”
At my seventeenth birthday my sisters and my cousins asked me to bring back a cake with candles, they wanted to make me birthday party. After work I went to the near by cake shop, they even written my name and the number 17 on the cake. I headed back home. As soon as I reached our door I heard screaming and fighting. I rushed to the door; it was closed. I knocked hard on the door with my fist. My little sister opened the door with fear on her face. She shouted, “come, Kamal and my uncle are fighting!” I run up the path which led to the back garden, I saw my uncle was beating Kamal who was laying down in the flowers trying to stand up again. With each slap of the cable wire in my uncle’s hand, he was falling down again, the girls were screaming, pleading with my uncle to stop. I ran in between them, the cake falling to the floor, it broke to pieces and made a mess. I shouted, “What happened?” I was trying to snatchthe cable wire form his hand.
My uncle was shouting madly, “He brings us dishonor, I saw with my own eyes the other boys trying to take his pants down, betting whether has a dick or vagina! I can’t take it anymore, if he can’t stop you all should get out of my house.”
Kamal was different that day he didn’t cry or scream running to my sister’s laps asking for help or sympathy, he stood up very shaky holding one of his legs. He walked like he had been crippled. Heheaded to the small hamam and bathroom, which was in the corner of the garden. The way he looked at me was very different from usual, eyes filled with anger, deep sadness and disappointment.
My uncle was like a mad dog, yelling at me and my crying sisters, saying, “I can’t take this anymore. I don’t want a shameful and disgraceful boy who looks like a fucking whore living in my house. What are people say about us right now? If you don’t care I do.” He kept yelling, his voice was suddenly overwhelmed by a big blast from the hamam. Kamal ran out, covered with flames of fire higher, he was running around garden leaving bloody foot prints everywhere, screaming in pain. He avoided touching us, he ran to his favourite pomegranate tree and hugged it with his burning body, the smell of burning flesh and burning pomegranate with mysplashed broken birthday cake was the ugliest view I have ever seen in my life.
Before he fell down dead he raised his hand toward me, I was the last one he looked at before he died. The girls were screaming crying, I looked at my uncle’s face, I could see that somehow he was happy. He came to me, he said, “It’s a pity it ended up like that.” I knew, deep down, he was quite happy with his death. I felt sad, angry, and full of guilt that I couldn’t take care of my little brother as Ihad promised my father.
The neighbours rushed to our home. Some said we should call an ambulance. They all had shock on their faces.
My uncle said it was an accident, that he had tried to prepare the hamam by himself, and that my brother had mental issues. He wanted to lie to the people. I couldn’t stand it anymore, I stepped in. In front of everyone I faced my uncle, I shouted, “you killed Kamal! You did that!”
I ordered my sisters to prepare their bags. “We are leaving this house.”
That day I felt I had become a man. Nobody could stop me from my decision, I could see my little sisters were ready to leave that house too. With no plan, and no place to sleep that night, we went out from the house. Our tragedy was, Kamal was not with us anymore