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written by: Alison Vail Fuller
Asil is scared… now, of her own mind. Frantic thoughts colliding, smashing into each other: her baby’s “quiet,” the hemorrhaging blood, her family, her need to help, her need to live…
She whispers firmly, “Calm, calm, breathe, breathe…” A lullaby springs from the depths of her soul. “Sleep little moon… sleep, sleep… thine eyes glow twinkles of light…” She sang it last night as she lovingly cradled baby Terak. His big brother, Sayid, twirled Asil’s hair between his small fingers. A four-year-old’s way to self-comfort.
Asil spots a red silk scarf, its delicate beauty the antithesis of the apocalyptic debris surrounding her. The soft scarf still intact from an unrecognizable past, a gift from God, an unrecognizable God.
Asil gnaws at a thread, ripping it from the silk edging, which allows her to tear the scarf right down the middle. She notices faded yellow flowers curling throughout the red fabric––an oasis in the nightmare. She knots the two halves together, then wraps the now rolled strip at the base of her femur. She uses the fragment of strength she has to tighten it like a vice. In spite of excruciating pain, she manages to stop the blood. Lying back, she waits for it to clot.
The torment of her mind starts back up. Their makeshift home, no longer standing, clobbered by some bomb, by some human high above. The gold vase shattered all around her, a family heirloom, in pieces. Shards of gold glistening in the now exposed sun.
Distract, distract, she tells her mind. From the red-orange demons of the blast, mass destruction, shattered lives…
She knew baby Terak stood no chance. She really had no chance either, but somehow survived a heavy metal wall falling over her, creating a triangle of safety. Cutting her but saving her…saving her…but not from the cruel fate of living with death all around her.
Now the blood is only trickling from the tourniquet announcing a chance to live past this minute.
It starts as a small whimper. “Ahhhh--med! Ahhhh-med!” Her fervor and desperate need to see her husband and son give her strength. “AHHHH-MED! Sa-yiiid! Answer me, pleeease!” She knows that her only hope––perhaps her very last hope––is that the blast had hit their shed from the front. It had to have landed at least thirty feet due west in order for her to survive at all. Ahmed and Sayid had left the shed from the back, venturing east to find sticks for the fire, a near impossible task but one that could have saved their lives.
The air is a thick dusty haze saving her perhaps from the brutal discovery of her baby’s remains.
Oh, she had heard the quiet, loud and clear. The deadly quiet as her ears and heart begged for the sound of Terak’s wails. But nothing. Nothing at all. And she knew the deafening quiet was a noise no parent should ever have to hear.
Asil’s next “call-out,” a primal scream, is something in all her thirty-two years of life she has never made before. It seems to start at her tourniquet, just above the empty space where her lower leg and foot used to be. Climbing, climbing up her tattered body: “AHHHH--MEEED!
She fights the desire to give in, to sleep. To sleep means death. Stay conscious, stay conscious. Feel the pain, feel the nightmare, feel it in order to live.
“Ahhhh-med! Saaa-yiiid! Answer me, answer me, pleeease!“
Blinking away new blood that is making its way into her eyes, she realizes that the wall or some shrapnel must have hit her in the head. This prompts her to yell again, up and out of the rubble. If only she could know that they made it. Her four-year-old, with a chance at life. Perhaps a father by his side. That’s all she needs as death taunts her.
“Ahhhhmed!“ Her voice is now fading. Her body wants to move, to crawl like baby Terak when he still had a chance at life. Only there is nowhere to go, no room between the jagged rock and debris.“Sa-yiiiid!”
And as she starts to sink into the dizziness, she hears it. She hears it!
“As-iiil! As-iiiil! Maaaa-ma! Ma-ma!” The sobbing scream of her name, not from one but from two! Her man and her boy. They are moving things to get to her. The frantic and terrified screams are agonizing, but the strength she hears in their voices fills her with happiness, a painful happiness. The screams are getting closer.
That’s when Asil allows herself to drift off. As she slowly gives in, she feels a lightness in her heart. This feeling overcomes her as she sinks into death or her new life. Either way, it’s the wondrous feeling of hope.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
Art by Russel Foltz-Smith
The blank page beckons. It can provide the key to truth, to inspiration, to enlightenment, and to justice. At a time when fundamental democratic institutions are under assault, arts and letters can give testimony to the unprivileged, the underserved, and the forgotten.
I write because it is life sustaining, and I hope that my words reflect, even in a small way, the indomitability of the human spirit.
A Connecticut girl transplanted to New York City’s East Village, I later found my way to Venice, California. I was quickly won over by its tableau of diversity, art, and the breathtaking views that always promise better days—for our daughters, our sons, and all mankind.