A Short Story Of An Afghan Tragedy
“Listen! Hey! Hold up!”
Ahmed stopped and turned around to see a well-dressed man in his late thirties approaching him with purpose. It was late afternoon so the setting sun illuminated his back, making it difficult to read his expression. Ahmed squinted his eyes for a closer look. His face was set in a firm expression and there were wrinkles under his eyes, overshadowed by dark bags. Ahmed wondered how many sleepless nights did he have to go through.
The man dismissed his thoughts as he extended his hand and said in a deep voice,”Aslam u alaikum”. Ahmed replied,” walaikum aslam! How may I help you?” Ahmed found his attire questionable as no one in Afghanistan could afford such clothes since the war started. The man seemed in a hurry as his next words came out in a rush and barely audible. “Son, I want to ask a favor from you. You have to agree as the betterment of this country depends on it. It’s a small task, will you do it?”
“What’s the task?”
While handing him a small bag, the man asked him to place its contents on the main public square on the night when the crescent is high in the sky and to not utter a single word about it to anyone. In return he offered the boy and his family a safe passage out of Afghanistan in order to escape its atrocities. The deal seemed attractive enough as Ahmed was desperate to escape the agony of starving nights with only misery to feed on.
The enemy’s forces were drawing closer to his village which had created an aura of agitation since last week. So to make use of the last chance that was being offered to him, without wasting time, he shook hands with him and promised to perform the task.
As Ahmed made his way back to home, the bag dangling from one hand, a seed of hope and a better life planted itself inside him.
In the privacy of his room, out of curiosity he emptied the contents of the bag to find something appalling. He was traumatized to see that the bag contained a large bomb and a large red button; probably to blow the bomb. Ahmed realized the trouble he was in as the scenario cleared up in his mind.
He had been trapped! Like a helpless wasp entangled in a spider web. Cautiously, he placed the contents back and made the most difficult decision of his life. He decided to perform the task because it was the only way to escape Afghanistan, even if it meant sacrificing things such as honor and integrity. Anxiously, he waited for the day to arrive.
Finally, on the evening of Friday, the holy day for Muslims, he found himself standing in front of the square, bag tightly clutched in his hands. There were 11 stalls in the square where little kids and women were crowded the most, buying stuff for the ensuing celebrations of Eid. A pang of guilt ran through him but he knew what must be done. Standing on the square, he leaned down to place the bag.
Then holding the button, he ran and stood at the far end of the place that was bursting with so much life. Just as he was about to press the button, a thought bombarded him that will he be spared when the bomb blasts. But it was too late as his finger was already on the button, and his decision had already been made. As soon as his thought was put into action, the market erupted with a loud boom, leaving the whole place silent in its wake.
Written by : Zeela Shoaib