Paradise

Monday, August 29, 2011 3:09 PM By crosswaysnet , In




The flesh under the hole in Akil’s shirt was burning. Literally. He rolled to the ground to smother the phosphorus ember. He ripped off the night-vision goggles and blinked hard from the flash and now the total darkness. 

“Ten, Akil. You have ten seconds. Get to the trigger.”

The voice crackled in his right ear. The one that could still hear. He still couldn’t see.

“Eight... Seven...”

Akil could make out a green blur next to his face. The goggles were blinking back to life. He grabbed them and held them to his face with his bleeding left hand.  He swung up his head to see the green blaze of gases still heating the atmosphere around him.

“Six...”

There. The trigger. The switch to end it all. Still mounted on the fake mailbox. One of seven placed among the districts of Gaza and the West Bank. Yawm al-Qiyāmah has come. Al Dajaal almost deceived them all. The self-proclaimed peacemaker had united Palestine. Made Peace with the infidel. And what did it bring? This. Surely he had to die. It had been spectacular. The Sons of Mercy had dealt the blow as the devil signed away their destiny. His blood for the blood his pen would spill. Alas, it mingled with the blood of the Israeli devil. One bullet; two hearts. Not intended, but a fitting end to the both of them.

“Five...”

It was a bridge too far. And now the Israeli bombers were sweeping in for the final kill. A ring of bodies surrounded the smoldering hole where Ishaq stood a moment ago. No laughing now. Or he’s laughing in Paradise. The drug flowing through Akil’s veins was wearing off. His courage faltered. He swung his goggles around wildly looking for a way. He would have to step on the bodies to reach the trigger. What was left of the children and their protectors boarding the bus - to evacuate in the dead of night. What remained of the soldiers racing to stop Ishaq. The blood of the damned. Pigs, all of them. Akil would not touch them. Akil could not tell which were the Arabs, the Christians or the Jews in the pile.  If he was to enter Paradise, he would be pure when he did. He rolled to his right and ran around the carnage.

“Four, Akil! You must do whatever it takes! Three...”

Obedience Before Sacrifice. the motto of the Sons of Mercy rattled around Akil’s brain.

Akil leapt to the right of a charred lump - a soldier, landing just past the twisted gun. To his left he could see the trigger was intact. It would light the nuclear fuse. The great sun of the Day of Judgment would burn its purifying retribution on all the infidels. It would usher all the faithful into Paradise. Akil, among the exalted seven would see the ultimate rewards.

“Two...”

Akil lost his footing on the soot and gravel,  slamming a knee into a chunk of pavement. The pain lit up his brain as he dropped the goggles. Total darkness.

“One...”

Akil sprung to action, fumbling madly for the little slider mounted below the box and next to the metal leg. The smoke was clearing enough to allow a glow of distant street light to illuminate around him like a candle by an open window.

“...”

Akil’s fingers were slick. He screamed in desperation, the sound muffled by a pounding, a rushing in his ears. The switch! He pulled it toward him.

Flash to White.

***

Akil awoke from the pounding in his head. The pain descended down his body in a wave pushing the drug and its courage out his fingers and toes. He felt restrained, immobile. A terror rose up from deep within him.

I have not arrrived. Where am I?
A bare reflected light shone down from blackness. Someone rising from a chair Akil could not see. A shadow stood beyond the pool of yellow light. A vague silhouette.

“You have failed, Akil.”

“Where am I?” Akil’s throat felt sandpaper dry.

“You were to do whatever was necessary. Did you not hear that? Did you not understand?”

The Commander’s voice. Akil knew it. In person even more threatening and quiet. A hushed condemnation. 

“I... reached the trigger. I completed the task! I...”

“You did not reach it in time. You have failed.”

The voice was possessed of a final authority. The judge before the gallows.

“I have not!” Akil protested. He pulled up his shoulders to rise from the chair. His hands remained locked behind the chair. Chains pulled up on his ankles. His heart began to pound.

“You have failed. And you will pay for your crime.” The Commander’s voice remained calm, piercing in a way only a dagger in the dark can do. “You were to do whatever it took to reach the switch in time. You failed.”

“I did not! I pulled the trigger! I saw the blast with my own eyes... WHERE AM I??”

“Time was your only weapon, Akil. When you ran out of it, your best intentions were worthless. You had a clear path and you chose to stumble around in the dark. You avoided your duty. You think we did not notice? We know weakness when we see it. You are weak. You have failed.”
Akil was panting.  Gasping. Swallowing nothing but dust.

“I would not defile myself!” He protested. “We must be pure to enter Paradise!” Akil’s mind was racing.

“We must obey to enter Paradise, Akil. You did not.”

Could they really read minds?

“You have failed the test, and you will not enter Paradise.” The Commander’s voice was ice, cold as death.

“What test??” Akil sputtered. A hand yanked back his head, pinning his neck to the top of the chair. The Commander’s veiled faced suddenly appeared inches away, an inverted shadow in the yellow halo of light.

“The test of a true believer, Akil. The test of one who will walk through the fires of hell, through blood of infidels to obey Allah.” The hand released Akil’s hair. His head snapped back up. The room was swirling.

“And now your mantle will pass to another. Someone without such selfish reservations.”

A door opened, spilling light into the darkness. A group of men entered the room. Quietly. A jury of peers. A young boy approached. Husam al Din. The one assigned to Akil as aid and servant for the time of purification and preparation. The Commander lifted Akil’s blackened vest and handed it to the boy.

“Husam?”

The boy approached Akil with fierce eyes, stopping for a moment to study Akil’s fear. In a swift move he struck Akil across the right cheek. The eyes never flinched. He retreated to the new group of seven. Mash’al stood in the place of Ishaq. The Sons of Mercy were whole again. Seven soon to see Glory.

“Husam!! Come here!!” Akil began to whimper, his chest heaving.

The Commander’s voice, quiet as ever, spoke benediction over the departing men. “You have your new targets my sons. Bring glory to the One. There is little time. Today we shall be together in Paradise.”

The men left the room as silently as they entered. 

“NO!!” Akil screamed. “Come Back!!” Something landed in his lap. He looked down into the face of a pig.

The light flickered, followed by two concussions. The sound of gravel hitting the roof above them.

“Nooooo....” Akil tried to retreat. There was nowhere to go. He looked up slowly. Akil’s good ear heard the click as the Commander pulled back the hammer.

Hudud thought Akil. He could see straight down the barrel.

Obedience Before Sacrifice, Akil.”

The hammer released. Fire Jinn leapt from the Cave of Death.

Flash to White.

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