Refuge

The Cargo ship tips and faces the ocean it floats above with a sense of defiance. It loses, rumbling down the steep wave and crashing, submerging the bow before slamming back prone against the water.

The movement brought everyone in the engine room looking for something to grab onto. Those lucky enough to find something were saved from gravity grasping at them and flinging them forward towards the rumbling grind of the white hot engine.

Keeping somewhat warm under a burlap sack in the middle row of five bunk beds stacked one on top of another, Naxiv sought to keep her grip on the rusty metal pipe she has been cursing since the ship left port.

The last bed open she knew instantly why nobody else had wanted it, the very pipe that prevented her from rolling off and down ten feet to the metal floor, seemed always to find a way to be right above her head when she moved.

It was never a gentle reminder, that pipe found her skull in new ways each time that always earned her a set of tearing eyes and a hate of all things metal.

What she hated yesterday she now loves and tightens the fingers of her left hand as she feels the ship climb another wave.

In her right arm Nativ cradles a sleeping child. She rubs the baby’s back with her free hand and tries to compete with the ocean in a soothing voice.

The child, most likely less than a year old, shakes with a fever and labors to breathe.

She took sick within a day the docks of Karachi disappeared in a setting sun set that exploded across the ocean from left to right in more colors then one would have thought possible.

The child is not hers. Naxiv found her screaming in the engine room unclaimed. All the other refugees turned stoically away from her waiting for the child to find her end. Naxiv couldn’t do that. She couldn’t leave the child to die alone. Plus she could afford to be a mother. There was an empty place in her heart she wanted to fill.

Her children were killed on the same day at some point in the not too distant past. Their deaths brought a timelessness to her life, years stopped accumulating, morning or night stopped having significance. She closes her eyes and still feels the moment they went to Allah. She sees every moment perfectly.

The blue skies

The white flutter of cloud

And a stiff drone from far off that didn’t yet interfere with the chirping resonance of a nearby mockingbird.

The drone was easy to ignore in favor of the chore that distracted her.

With her long black hair fluttering in the breeze she worked her calloused hands by hanging wet freshly laundered clothing.

A basket sat on the red clay ground of the back yard to the house she called home for almost two decades. The basket leaked water making the clay muddy. 

She remembers taking her husband’s white cotton kaftan and flapping it in the air, trying to get some of the wrinkles out before hanging it on a length of rope tied between the house and the lone tree in the yard.

The tree that at one time ripened every spring with sweet dates.

The tree that had been fallow for years now, maybe a decade or more.

The tree that doesn’t exist anymore.

From inside the house she heard frantic footsteps approach. She looked and in the doorway was her son’s diapered two year old on the verge of tears arms held high begging to be picked up.

Behind the child is the father, her oldest, one finger pointing up to a black dot in the sky.

The dot grew larger.

The dot got louder.

The dot brought death.

She tries not to dwell. She tries not to close her eyes. She tries not to think why she survived. She alone got to continue to walk the Earth.

She tries to remember that it is not her place to question Gods will.

God is good. God has a plan.

She has lived a good portion of her life already. Thirty-three years of life all to be brought to constant pain, confusion and disappointment. It’s the definition of her existence now. She is ready for death. She is not afraid. She trusts in Allah to bring it to her soon.

Her oldest would have been eighteen, her youngest twelve. She had four children. All killed. Her husband. Her daughter-in-law. Her grandchild. All gone.

Now what?

That was her constant question as she journeyed from Kabul to Karachi.

The Child in her arms gives off a warm wetness that for some reason gives her a  sense of peace even with the storm lashing water against the ship in what could only be an attempt to drown them all. Naxiv knows death is not coming for her like this. She knows the warmth is a warning that death may be closer to the baby then it is for her.

Maybe the child is the lucky one.

She can deal with death.

She has witnessed it and brought it down on her enemies herself.

It was in giving death that she became okay with the idea the cold sharp talons will one day come for her also.

The face of the stranger who came to offer his condolences at the loss of her family told her all she needed to know. As his body lost its strength a sense of peace fluttered across his face. It was a peace worth more then any moment she has yet witnessed. It was the peace only God could offer. She looks forward to her own peace. She watched the peace wash over his face as his grip on her naked shoulders relaxed and his arms fell to his sides. She was able to breath with no restriction for the first time since he grabbed her.

She rolled him off. Gathered her ripped clothing to her chest and cried deep body wracking sobs.

She hadn’t wanted to kill him. She hadn’t wanted his tongue in her mouth, or his hand under her kanthan either and when she felt the warm smooth flesh of his phallus enter her she forgot to be afraid any longer and stuck him three times with a foot long length of copper wiring rolled up in melted plastic.

It was a nasty jagged length of coil.

It was a weapon of God.

God handed it to her to use to make her attacker stop.

And she used it.

She doesn’t remember finding the coil or picking it up, or if pressed she wouldn’t have been able to retell the event of sticking it in the man’s throat repeatedly, but the deed was done and on the third strike she must of left it embedded for that’s where it was when her mind cleared.

And now she goes.

She rolls over storm tossed seas to a new place where she will live until God hands her another weapon and she will use it and wait to die and join her family.

The child in her arms coughs one last time and is still.

Naxiv says a short prayer for her and lays the body down on the soiled mattress. When the storm clears, she decides, she will toss the ten pound corpse overboard.

Allah Akbar, she whispers, God is Good.

 


 

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