Well, I wrote this short play for a contest calling Arab women from Arab world to write scripts about women in their countries. Mine wasn’t accepted with no further explanations, though they said they will, but they did not. However,I didn’t expect much as it was my first attempt to write one.
Anyway, I saw my rejected play in my documents file and I thought that it deserve better than this end. The play is about a Syrian mother in the Syrian revolution. It’s title: The Mother. Enjoy reading, if not you can tell me it is bad or meh 🙂 .
Cast of Characters:
A 45 years old Syrian woman. She is a midwife and a farmer who works in a secret field hospital. Characters in the play mainly call her mother.
28 years old. He runs a hidden field hospital with Umm Khaled.
A 25 years old activist who witnessed the horrors of detention.
A 22 years old girl raped by regime’s soldiers found in the street.
A soldier serves in the Syrian regime army.
A song for Fairouz is playing. A small basement in a neighborhood in the city of Homs-Syria, turned into a hidden field hospital. The walls are damp and the paint is peeling, a couple of phrases are written on the wall in Arabic in front of the audience, one is: الشعب يريد اسقاط النظام (people want to topple the regime), the other is صلي لروحي ياأمي (Mother, pray for my soul). In the middle of the stage there are two metal beds placed next to each others. The beds are covered with weary colored covers and the pillows are covered by patches. A patient- human size figure- is laying on one of the beds, a bag of serum attached to it. The other bed is empty, a small drawer beside it where some cotton and bondage are kept. There is a small wooden desk looks old, two seats and one huge old version laptop on it. A far sound of gun shots and blasts heard from time to time. Umm Khaled is sitting on the desk using the laptop. She wears a long dark blue skirt, a white long sleeve blouse, and small white head cover tied under her neck, but some of her hair can still be seen. A doctor wearing white dirty coat stained with old blood spots, carrying a black plastic bag full of medicines enters stage with Abdo who wears a casual jeans and a Kofia, blood spot on his forehead.
Doctor: Salam mother. Finally, medicines are here, I hope there are some pain killers among them. I didn’t check, at the delivery point in the field between olive trees we heard far gun shots and we left fast. I didn’t have the time to check what they brought. [Walks toward the desk and puts the bag on it. Opens it and starts sorting boxes on the table]
Umm Khaled: Who brought them?
Doctor: The guys from Al Qusair area near the Lebanese borders were able to smuggle some medications, they lost one of them.
Umm Khaled: Bless these boys. O Abdo what happened to you? Your head is injured!
Abdo: Don’t worry mother, when we started running through the field, a tree branch scratched my head. It’s nothing.
Umm khaled: Come sit here to the table and let me clean it.
Abdo: It is nothing mother.
Umm Khaled: Hush child and sit here, let me get some cotton and alcohol [takes cotton and alcohol from drawer].
Doctor: Now now, you can’t disobey Umm Khaled. Enjoy the few drops and a small piece of cotton, today we have, tomorrow we won’t.
Umm Khaled: [cleaning Abdo’s scratch] did any of you hear from any Coordinators or activists from other neighborhoods in the city?
Doctor: We met Nora from the Coordinator of the eastern side. She told us that the entire area was hit by mortars yesterday. She said that they are not receiving any kind of aid, no food and no medicines. We told her that everyone must move to another area, they are coming with everything the got.
Umm Khaled: [To Abdo] you are done child. [Goes back to her chair]
Abdo: Umm Khaled, did you check the Revolutions’ news? What are the areas targeted by regime’s battalions today? Any announced names of new victims, injured, found bodies, released detainees?
Doctor: We are not counting victims anymore, we are counting massacres.
Umm Khaled: [Referring to the laptop] the black angel became our favorite friend. I was communicating with activists online and they told me that the regime forces wiped out an entire village last week in Hama province. The men who were defending it were all killed. They couldn’t stand a chance against killing bulldozers. I saw footage of one 8 years old boy who was hiding in the house attic for 2 days. When neighbors and friends reached the disaster village the smell of powder and burned ashes was suffocating. They entered the boy’s house, miraculously a tiny soul jumped into their hands. His family was all slain in the living room. The activists who went there uploaded pictures and videos online. I sent all links to media, maybe when the world sees this massacre someone would act. How could one sleeps anymore?
Doctor: Umm Khaled, no one cares. [Pulls chair and sit to the desk]. Our wounds became an exhibition to the entire world. The world might feel horrified, angry and even critical but it ends like another scene mother. What is the use? They know what is going on. It’s a good business for media and death brokers.
Umm Khaled: Doctor, those who seek justice care. Allah knows that I care. Everyone must open their eyes and see, no excuses.
Abdo: I am with Mother. Since these monsters came to power, for 40 years many people were devoured by time in detentions centers and desert prisons. Syrians disappeared from streets, from schools, from work, from everywhere. No one’s memory will be forgotten, no one will be absent like they were never here in this life. At least, uploading these footages online will keep them alive.
Umm Khaled: [Closes the lap top]. I must keep the energy for uploading and exchanging information, we should find other ways to generate and save power. Electricity still comes a couple of hours every 3 or 4 days, we can use the generator but hardly any fuel can be found these days. Eh, my child, you see this [she taps gently on the laptop] it never occurred to me that I will ever use this.
Doctor: Why not?
Umm Khaled: Well, a rural woman like me, my marriage was arranged at a young age, and then children started to come. Never had the chance to make it to the ninth grade at school, Time was divided between washing clothes by the river side, helping my husband farming our small land, taking care of children, and helping women to give birth. Some women feel embarrassed to let a man deliver them, some men feel jealous to let a male physician deliver their wives. I am a professional midwife; all mother said that I have magical hands because I always gave birth to the most quiet and cutest babies.
Abdo: In this place, reaching 30 marks the end of you. If one couldn’t achieve or learn anything earlier, then that’s it, you are done. Leave your chance to the young and join the misery.
Doctor: Mother, I never asked you how you learned to work online.
Umm Khaled: One day we started to hear a faint roar, we thought that it was our imagination. It was the sound of rebellion. The other day, many men crows raided on our peaceful lives, armed to the teeth. They took our fathers, our brothers, our sons, took them all away in the middle of the night, all vanished from reality as if we were always by ourselves. We waited for one day, two days, three then ten. We started to ask why; peaceful farmers were taken from our long forgotten lives, why just now we were remembered. Why didn’t they keep us out of memory? [Sigh]
[The Doctor holds Umm Khaed’s arm]
Umm Khaled: Women refused to remain muted, we decided that we must move and break the silence and the cycle of fear, we cannot afford to be submissive anymore. Not now, not in this time of change and transformation. So we joined hands, grandmothers, mothers, daughters and sisters. We all marched to the streets and then we cut the highway. We chanted and danced in the road. We were free. And for the first time in my life, I was using my mobile to record our holy roar. We felt that this soil, our mother earth, was trembling with joy because her daughters were finally fulfilling themselves. But the crows were watching my child, they aimed and shoot. I…..I was still recording, and through the lens I saw my 80 years old neighbor Umm Ahmed on the ground in the middle of a pool of her blood. There were screams, tears, prayers and curses. Some women started to shout at the crows: don’t you have mothers? Then another wave of bullets poured on us, we scattered. I ran and ran till I arrived to a house that I know. I screamed, the family in the house came out and took me inside. For a moment I lost track of what happened, I thought I just woke up from a nightmare. When I calmed down I wept.
Abdo: What these monsters are made from? One can never tell. But their substance is not from this good earth. They must be the offspring of evil.
Umm Khaled: I told the family what happened, I showed them the video on my mobile. A young man from the family asked me: Can I take your mobile mother? I hesitated before I answer. He understood my hesitation, then asked me to accompany him so he would show me how this video would be useful, he said that he will teach me how I can tell the world, how I can cast my call into the virtual universe hoping my voice would echo. I was amazed my child, a new world revealed in front of me. As he was teaching me how I can upload a video on Youtube, I became addicted. So many things I missed all these years, so many things to learn and share.
Abdo: It is a wonderful job that you do to document the numbers of victims and send them to the activists and organizations abroad. It is ironic that a machine memory won’t allow us to forget all the people we lose in these vicious days. Machines seem more faithful and braver than us. All these years many people were disappeared and slaughtered, no one dared to mention them or document them.
Abdo: [Whispering] all these years..
[The doctor heads toward the patient on the bed to check on him, takes off an stethoscope from one of his coat’s pockets, puts them on]
Doctor: how is he today?
Umm Khaled gets up, takes syringe and medicine from the black plastic bag.
Umm Khaled: His body is going in a chock each time the pain becomes unbearable to him. Praise Allah, you brought pain killers here, but I don’t think this is enough if the regime forces heavily shelled a neighborhood around us. Last week was a disaster, people were screaming everywhere in here, each family took its still living loved ones and wandered madly in the city searching for something to ease their pains.
[Umm Khaled walks toward the patient to help the doctor]
Abdo: You should see me when I was arrested. When intelligence officers dragged me from my house blindfolded. I was beaten, beaten, beaten with batons, with Kalashnikoves, with fists, with shoes, with belts, with everything they have. When I reached the intelligence forces’ center my body became numb, it actually started to tickle me and I started laughing like a mad man. I was thrown in front of the General, I couldn’t stop laughing. Each time he asked a question I answered with a giggle. He was so mad that he ordered put me on the German chair. Well, at least I am still walking.
Umm Khaled: I can’t imagine the agony my child.
Abdo: They released me because they don’t have any more space for other prisoners. The small cell was so crowded that we took turns in standing and sitting. One time the cell was stuffed that my feet couldn’t touch the ground, my body was hanging on. I got used to smells of rotten flesh and body fluids, in the chilling winter nights the congested breaths made us sweat. In the cell there was a 13 years old child called Hamza. We used to keep him at the back of the cell so they won’t remember him in the torture rounds. In the night we lift him up to the small window to let him breathe some fresh air. Each one of us spared a bite of whatever rotten food they gave us. One day they came and took him. Do you remember Hamza Mother, Doctor? I learnt what happened to him when I got out from the cell.
Doctor: Hamza Al Khatib? He became the reason of our revolution. Another lantern lighted our darkness.
Umm Khaled: I remember the picture of his blue body in media and internet. They said that the poor soul was tortured with a drill! You should write your testimony Abdo.
Doctor: Why? What is the use? Would this world be able to bring back his wasted dignity? Would humanity be able to repair the cracks in one’s soul? They will only have the right to look through these cracks, for what?
Umm Khaled: Fine, I will write it down and post it on social media. I will not forget anything I bore witness to in this madness. I want those out there to see.
Doctor: [Starts to prepare the needle] you can’t help not documenting everything mother. Necessity is the mother of invention, or in your case Umm Khaled, tragedy is the mother of knowledge!
Umm Khaled: Are you hungry? We only have some dry bread and thyme. There is some water remained, we need to go to the well again. I ate some before you both came here.
Abdo: Since they shelled the bakeries and banned flower from reaching our ovens we had to dry bread whenever we get it. Please mother, I’ll bring them.
Abdo heads toward a small table beside a sink at the back of the stage, brings two dishes with dry bread on them, place them on the table. Abdo and Doctor sit on the table to eat. Umm Khaled exits.
Abdo: Doctor, listen….we need to take Umm Khaled to another place. This neighborhood is besieged and we expect a huge raid soon, the guys cannot keep defending the area.
Doctor: I don’t know if I can convince her.
Abdo: She listens to you, Doctor. We don’t want them to arrest her here, the army has our names and they will show us no mercy. You know what they did in Karm Al Zaitoun neighborhood… no man, woman or child were spared.
Doctor: I know mother, she might let the rebels to take her family to a safe place, but she will never leave. I will talk to her tomorrow morning again.
Abdo: Doctor she must leave I tell ya.
Doctor: I feel angry too Abdo, but she is a grown up woman, and if she decides to stay here with us we cannot stop her, Umm Khaled is stubborn, she will not leave us here, she told me before that we either go together or die together.
Abdo: [Puts one hand o his forehead] I can’t Doctor, I can’t see another dear person die.
Umm Khaled enters stage carrying a sac of rice and a box with a number of small plastic bags and a measuring cup
Umm Khaled: We need to divide what is left from the food aid, there is still some rice we can distribute on the hungry people. [Puts box and rice on the table. Takes plastic bags out of the box, starts measuring one two cups and put them in one small plastic bag. Ties bag and place it inside the box].
Abdo: Mother, let me help?
Umm Khaled: Rest, the amount of rice I have will only fill a few bags. We must discuss who will receive these few bags, those who need them most.
Doctor: The Rifa’i family has many children; we need to take these bags to them before they flee with the others tonight.
Abdo: I heard about a family that in dire need for food, but it is hard to get to them, there is a sniper near their house.
[Sound of rain drops]
Umm Khaled: [Joyful] it’s raining, finally some water.
Abdo: I saw some clouds coming and going few days ago; I opened the barrel on the roof. I also placed some pots and pans, and our kettle. Finally we will be able to have some tea. The Doctor helped me drag a basin from a destroyed and deserted house and take it on the roof. Ohhh, I might wash my body with a sponge. We will all have a sponge bath.
Umm Khaled: I will bring one of my Laurel soaps. Only 3 bars are left, I used to buy them from Umm Ahmed, she made them in her house. She was a specialist in herbs. Her dry herbs healed the ill, but I believe she had some healing powers, it is not enough to get the herbs; they must come from her shop. Ah, the soothing smell of the dry Chamomile, mix of flowers and Lemon Balm leaves filled her small house. I could use a cup of her mixed flowers right now.
Doctor: You are talking about Umm Ahmed who was shot when the women of your area cut the highway?
The bags of rice are set in the box. Umm Khaled puts the box of rice under the table.
Umm Khaed: Yes, I am talking about her. The day when women marched was a glorious day, we felt empowered and confident. If you just saw Umm Ahmed our old and wise oak tree. She came as we were assembling in the square, using her stick to walk. She stood in the middle, left up her walking stick, like a Seville orange tree standing firm [Umm Khaled walkes toward the audience with her fist up] she said: Women, the day is our day. This is the day when we shake the dust of oppression and underestimation. Today, we will stand up together demanding for our rights, demanding for our freedom, demanding that our loved ones return. Women, this soil grew us all free, and as freewomen it is our right to claim what belongs to us. Let us change the paradigm today; we will not be silent and submissive…no no, no more. Let us march for our lives and future. [Umm Khaled lowers her fist, and sounds more disappointed] She was in the front, holding hands with her sisters and daughters. I heard the soldiers laughing like Hyenas. We heard dirty words; they spilled out their sick fantasies on us, women and girls from 15 years old to 80 years old heard the most repulsive words. Then they aimed and fired. My child, those who believe in guns and authority will never understand the power of wisdom and beauty, the power of someone like Umm Ahmed. You know what was the sad thing Doctor? I saw our neighbors’ son Ali carrying a gun and standing in the street. I realized that he joined the Shabiha, government’s militants. He is so young. I said Ali my child, what are you doing here? He said foolishly: I am defending my country. I said from whom? He said from those who want to change it. I begged him, I said Ali go back and find a better life, the blood curse will haunt you forever. It was too late. The entire area became a war zone after the death of Umm Ahmed.
Doctor and Abdo take what is left of dry bread to the small table beside the sink at the end of the stage. Seconds of silence. Sounds of blasts. Everyone starts to look up and turn their heads from side to side.
Doctor: This isn’t what patriotic citizens should do, killing each others. Everyone turned on each others, and for what?
Umm Khaled: Doctor, can I ask you a question?
Doctor: Of course mother.
Umm Khaled: How old are you.
Doctor: I am 28 years old.
Umm Khaled: Don’t get me wrong, but many doctors like you fled to other countries. You are the only one who remained in this area. Child, why are you still here?
Doctor: After the university suspended me, my friends urged me to leave. But everyone else left, who will remain then to treat the people?
Umm Khaled: Why did the university suspended you?
Abdo: [playfully] you were a lazy student, aren’t you Doc.?
Doctor: [smiling] for treating patients, for keeping my Hippocratic Oath. That is why. In the university hospital, they didn’t want me to treat the injured protestors. When people in streets were shot they were brought to the hospital to keep them alive for investigation and not for treating them. Sometimes intelligence officers drag them to the prison immediately.
Umm Khaled: Where were the other doctors?
Doctor: You mean the secret police doctors. We tried to protest on what was going on in the hospital by our colleagues; we told them that it is our duty to treat the people who are brought here. Once, we were locked in the X-ray room to prevent us from caring for two teenagers shot in the street. They wanted us to use what we learned to torture and extract information from the protestors, or we will be accused of being traitors to the country and the leader, the sentence for that is death.
Abdo: I’ll check about that. [Exits stage fast]
Doctor: The daily music began.
Umm Khaled: They are getting near. Those who are still here must leave tonight, everyone must leave.
Doctor: I hope the rebels can hold the army till tomorrow. You should get ready mother.
Umm Khaled looks at Doctor in silence.
Doctor: Mother you need to leave with the others.
Umm Khaled: No, you know I will never leave anyone behind, we all leave together, or I’ll stay here.
Doctor: Mother, let us be honest here, if you stay here and we had to rush out you will not move fast enough, we can’t let them arrest you.
Umm Khaled: Now listen, there is a small pistol inside that drawer. I found it beside a rebel shot by a sniper two month ago, and I took it. I kept it there if this place was ever stormed by them. They will not take me alive.
Doctor: No, listen to me…
Umm Khaled: You listen to me, I will be the last soul in here.
Abdo enters stage carrying a body on his shoulder covered with red sheets. He stops and looks to the side he entered from.
Abdo: Doc, mother, they are shelling the area. Come in. You’ll be fine here. We are friends.
[Aisha, a 20 years old woman walking barefoot, enters]
Abdo: Hurry doctor, they are shelling insanely. [Abdo places the body on the ground] shame on Muslims, shame on Arabs, shame on humanity.
[Umm Khaled open’s the drawer and takes a mobile with camera, starts taking pictures of the wrapped body]
Umm Khaled: Identity? Name?
Abdo: No, I couldn’t find any papers with him. I found him in the sniper’s ally.
Umm Khaled [talks to the wrapped body] forgive me if I posted your picture on internet, but there are many families need to know what happened to their loved ones. [To Abdo] That sniper killed at least 30 people, the scum. May Allah blinds him.
Doctor: Are there any other victims?
Abdo: I don’t know yet, I saw a group of people running toward me, I stopped a man carrying his daughter and asked him. He told me that two buildings collapsed when a warplane dropped a TNT barrel, there are families were buried under the rubble. His child was covered with dirt and blood, I didn’t know if it was his blood or his daughter’s. I told him to avoid our field hospital and find a way outside the neighborhood. Mother, Can you handle the media?
Umm Khaled [Terrified]: Where is the shelling?
Abdo: In Al Jin Ally, we must go there for rescue. Doctor, let’s go! We may also have to pull out a woman’s corpse in a sniper’s area in the eastern side of the city. She remained there for a month. I heard the sniper moved to another roof.
Umm Khaled: Did you find this young woman in the shelling area?
Abdo: No, I saw her nearby and I brought her here. In this chaos I didn’t ask her any questions, my focus turned blind.
Umm Khaled: Don’t worry child, I will take care of her.
Abdo: Doctor, let us go now.
The Doctor takes a bag from under the empty bed and gets out with Abdo. Umm Khaled walks toward the young lady and takes her hand gently.
Umm Khaled: Come my child, sit here on the bed.
Umm Khaled puts her hand on the young lady’s forehead. Takes some cotton from the drawer and starts cleaning Aisha’s face from spots of blood and dirt.
Umm Khaled: Let me clear this lovely face. [Aisha makes no expression and let Umm Khaled acts freely]
Aisha: What is the use?
Umm Khaled: What’s your name dear.
Umm Khaled: Now Aisha, a beautiful girl like you have all the reasons to live my child.
Aisha: What is to live? What is beautiful?
[Umm Khaled stops padding on Aisha’s face for a while and looks at the girl in sadness]
Aisha: I am cold. My bones ache. My knees can’t carry me anymore.
Umm Khaled: Call me mother, or Umm Khaled. Let me cover you.
[Aisha lies in the bed, Umm Khaled covers her]
Umm Khaled: here you are my child. I’ll make you some hot tea. You are a lucky soul you know, it rained today and filled the kettle.
[Umm Khaled get out for few seconds]
Aisha: I am weary. I am filth. I am nothing [puts her hand on her face]
[Umm Khaled enters the stage carrying a cup of tea]
Umm Khaled: here you are my child. Warm your heart.
Aisha: I don’t have heart.
Umm Khaled: Everyone has a heart child, some decide not to use. Where did you come from?
Aisha: A place not many dare to trade in these days. A place Where Satan rule and thrive. It became a pile of fire and coal.
Umm Khaled: Oh God forbids, such a lovely sole comes from such place.
Aisha: I don’t remember anything from my past, I don’t realize the present. I only have one infinite memory in my head. It swirls like a hurricane and consumes me.
Umm Khaled: Now my dear try to get some sleep. Let me take that.
[Umm Khaled takes the cup of tea from Aisha, Aisha puts her head on the pillow and closes her eyes]
Umm Khaled [walking toward the table]: Is there anyone spared from the agony of this place. Is there any soul not haunted by death and terror? This land is so hungry that wants to devour us all. [Sits on the table, starts working on the laptop, types something]
Aisha [sleep talking]: so cold, so painful. No No. [Few seconds of silence] Please leave her, please she confessed…confessed…both of us will confess…please…
[Umm Khaled walks to Aisha and amend her cover, puts her hand on Aisha’s hair tenderly]
Umm Khaled: shshshs, now love, leave it and dive in dark deep sea of slumber where no reality can hunt you down. Only if Umm Ahmed was here, I am sure that she would find the right herb for you, something that will purify your mind from the stains of human cruelty.
Mobile phone rings, Umm Khaled takes it out of her pocket.
Umm Khaled: Hello
V.O: Hello Umm Khaled, this is Aljazeera channel, is it a good time to talk now?
Umm Khaled: Yes, I have some minutes to talk now.
V.O: we received news that your area is under shelling right now, it that right?
Umm Khaled: Yes that is right, we need to flee tonight.
V.O: Can you talk about it on air in a few minutes?
Umm Khaled: Yes, I didn’t get much information about the victims yet, but I will share with you what I know.
V.O: Great, standby we will go on air.
[News Music] V.O.: Good evening and welcome back to our news hour. Back to the Syrian file, activists in Syria said that Regime forces are shelling a number of areas killing and injuring many civilians including a number of children. We will talk to Umm Khaled who is an activist. Umm Khaled, tell us what is going on there.
Umm Khaled: There is a frenzy shelling on our area, sounds of explosions are deafening. I am also hearing gun shots and a warplane grazing the sky. I learnt that TNT barrels were thrown on residential areas and two buildings collapsed burying many families under them. We don’t know the number of victims yet but as soon as we get any numbers we will announce them. The rebels are defending the area but we expect a massive raid anytime tonight or tomorrow. Many people are trying to get out but it is too dangerous because security forces kill anyone they spot.
V.O: But the regime claims that there are terrorists in your area and the government must purify the area from them?
Umm Khaled: That is absolutely not true, there are no terrorists in this area, only the people trying to defend themselves. When such huge chaos happens, armed militants loyal to the regime called Shabiha start raiding at houses to arrest, kill and steal. The embargo on this area is lasted for a couple of months now, many soldiers are surrounding us. The people here are trying to defend their lives.
V.O: What about aid, food, medicines?
Umm Khaled: We spend many days without electricity and water, we don’t have fuel and we can hardly get medicines. I really hope that no one would be severely injured because we will not have the necessary equipments to save a life. Some people bleed till death, some lose their limbs though in normal situation their limbs can be saved. People can’t go to governments’ hospitals because they might be tortured there.
V.O: We have less than a minute Umm Khaled, would you like to add something?
Umm Khaled: I want to deliver a message to the world and international community to stop this unleashed murder. I am calling the citizens of this world to find mercy in their hearts and try to do something…anything. Break your silence; break free from your apathy, do something to us so one day we would do something to you.
V.O: We were with Umm Khaled from Syria talking about the latest developments there. Thank you Umm Khaled.
Aisha: So cold, so tired. No, No, I confessed, I swear, my brother did it, Giath did it. Noh. Leave her, not the baton. Noh.
Umm Khaled [wipe Aisha’a forehead]: I will bring you some more hot tea. [Takes the cup and leaves stage]
Aisha [crying]: Please oh please we confess, we confess, we prepared meals for those in the shelters, those in the wild, those in the basements, those in the caves, those in the schools, those in disaster areas, we confess we are terrorists. Noooo. [Few seconds of silence, then Aisha screams and wakes up, starts praying] Allah, Allah why did you forsake your children?
Umm Khaled [enters stage carrying a cup]: You are awake my dear.
Aisha: I am not sure.
Umm Khaled: are you hungry? We don’t have much but, some dry bread and water.
Aisha: No, I am not hungry.
Umm Khaled: You were dreaming my child, I was worried.
Aisha: Nightmares, gruesome nightmares. Almost real. Can’t tell difference any more.
Umm Khaled [takes a chair and sits beside Aisha’s bed]: Tell me about your nightmares, I may be able to chase the monster from under your bed [short laugh].
Aisha: I….I don’t know….they bring me close to insanity…I…They are everywhere, monsters everywhere, too many.
Umm Khaled: Maybe you will break free when you release them.
Aisha: Mother, I am ashamed of me. I don’t deserve to be here anymore. I smeared the reputation of my family, I can’t go back home. What will people think of me?
Umm Khaled: Why are you saying such horrific thing my child?
Aisha: Words refuse to be articulated, they are stuck in my throat.
Umm Khaled: Breathe Aisha my love, breathe.
Aisha [Takes a deep breath]: My nightmare starts 4 in the morning in my family’s house. We heard a loud knock on the door, got louder and louder. Then they broke in, men wearing like army, they have no faces. They started a frenzy search of the house. I ran out and saw my family gathered in the corridor and, I didn’t realize how the search ended. We were unconscious from fear. When the search ended the house looked like a dump of torn and broken memories. We were screaming, but no one came. The regime was here.
Umm Khaled: The pack was there. Isn’t there a soldier who thinks anymore?
Aisha: They rushed toward us; one of them grabbed my hair and savagely pulled me out from my house. Attempts to pull me back in by my family failed. One soldier hit my father with his rifle, the next thing I found myself dragged in the street.
Umm Khaled: Where did they take you?
Aisha: We crossed to another universe, alternative world that looks like ours, but in a hellish way.
Umm Khaled: Do you know which one?
Aisha: I was blindfolded, lost track of time and place. Lost track of who I am. All turned dark and in the dark I remained…oh mother I ashamed my family.
Umm Khaled: No dear, you will never bring shame to your family.
Aisha: I stayed for a long time by myself half naked in a small humid cell, heard the echoes of woes, sighs, screams, sometimes faint sad songs. I used to think: Did I die and went to limbo? All I did is cooking and taking food for the people who escaped from the “disobedient areas.” [Silent]
Umm Khaled [hold Aisha’s hand]: Where is your family now?
Aisha: Cannot show my face, don’t know if they would accept me, I am an abomination now. People will refer to me and say: this is the girl who stained her honor. Somebody might try to wash the stains with blood. One day… night… sometimes… Where am I?
Umm Khaled: You are in a safe place, your mother is here.
Aisha: Don’t know if time passed or not. Someday they took me to another room. Five soldiers to control all the senses held me down on a wide metal table and told me to confess. I asked: to confess what? They said I must confess that I did it. Did what, I said? They wanted me to say that I took aid to terrorists. I said no, you must be mistaken… slap…slap…slap… they said that I lie… slap…kick… I am a terrorist…slap…hit…hit…I am against the benevolent leader… slap… slap…fist… hail the merciful leader…hit…belt…baton… praise the almighty leader. They brought a poster for the leader and placed it on the table. They ordered: Kneel down you terrorist, kiss our leader’s face. I knelt and kissed him. Laughs… they told me that I must say: No God but the leader. I couldn’t say that…belt…belt…pulled my hair and took off a handful of my hair. I screamed. In my heart I whispered to Allah, I told him that he knows that I must lie and asked for forgiveness. I said: No God but the leader, and kissed his face again… Laughs. [Silence. Aisha lose gaze] I shouted with praise and declared my love to our leader, asked for his mercy. They said that I am a wild filth need to be purified from my betrayal to all the goods our leader given us…slap…slap… they pulled my hair and threw me on the floor. Then I saw her. A girl lying in the shadowy corner like a colored rag, half dead she gazed at the other human in the room. The soldiers saw it, and they wasn’t happy to realize the look of compassion in our eyes, they wanted to break all empathy, they wanted our spirits. One tied me and the others went to the poor weary girl to continue their game, I prayed Allah to end her agony soon. I tried to turn my face to any direction but her. One soldier held my head and forced it to turn her way, he said that I better open my eyes or they will take out her eyes. So I looked. They raped her with batons, just pushed it inside her further and further, then she trembled and let go. I sighed heavily then cried because of the irony of my relief for her death, I am disgusted with me. I recited all kinds of verses I could remember from any holy book I came across in my life. I thought maybe, maybe God will listen to one and let me die soon and fast. We all turned into beasts. I…I confess I tell you. I helped terrorists. I confess of everything. One officer asked do I confess of taking information to terrorists. I said yes. He asked do I confess that I moved arms? I said yes. He asked do I confess that I made a suicide attack in a school. I said yes. A Satanic wave of laughter filled the room. I laughed also; when they saw me laughing they laughed more. Then they came to me. The officer kicked the body of the dead girl and said that she found the freedom she asked for, then asked me: Do you want freedom? I said no I don’t want freedom. He said that they will give me a taste of freedom. I did not struggle, I confess I tell you, please I will appear on TV and confess. The many hands and laughs covered my awareness. I started lose my conscious, I went into the womb and out…into the womb…out of the womb…whip…slap…into the womb…darkness… out of the womb…Haynes laughing…into the womb…I wanted to stay there, didn’t want to go out, then I came out and on the street…in the mud beside the dumpster. A man asks me what is my name? Where is my family? Where I did came from?
Umm Khaled: Abdo found you and brought you here.
Aisha: No more words mother. What will my family say, what will they think! Mother….mother I must take my own life and regain my reputation. No need for my father to do that, in fact I’ll just vanish and never return. No need for anyone to know that I am out. I went in, but never out. [Jumps from bed and starts wandering on the stage. Umm Khaled follows her]
Umm Khaled: Aisha child, stay with me, we will all get out from here tonight.
Aisha: Can I escape from myself? I am a disgrace, what if my relatives wanted to wash their honor with my blood? Who is going to marry me? They will always point at me and say: This girl is not clean.
Umm Khaled: You are just a victim my child, no one will say this.
Aisha: I can’t go to my family’s house. If they spared my life they will give me away to the first man to hush the whirling tongues. Why did I come here? I must stay in the dumpster I was thrown in.
Umm Khaled: Aisha love we can heal, we can recover, stay in my house and I will take care of you.
Aisha [covers her face with her hands]: Oh no, I can’t live with myself, I can’t [shots and explosions sounds] It is raining bullets, it is raining missiles, it’s raining death. Let death wash my humiliation away, let it takes me as his pride.
Umm Khled: Aisha, listen to me, you are the victim here and you have every right to live and love, you don’t have to do this child.
Aisha walks fast then runs outside the stage, Umm Khaled follows. Few second of silence. Umm Khaled returns back breathing loudly. She heads toward the table and sits on the chair that faces the audience. [Breathes for few seconds]
Umm Khaled: She was running insanely, her hair was whipping the air. She didn’t even stop when a sharp glass sticking from the ground injured her leg, blood made a trace. I tried to follow it, but she was running toward the center of war zone, I cried for her. I begged her, I begged Allah to make her trip and fall down so I can catch up with her. Then…a huge blast took place in front of us, I saw Aisha running toward the ball of fire and fragments of what is left from life. I hid behind half a wall and closed my eyes for a moment, and when I opened them and came out, Aisha was gone. I shouted her name till my voice became a knife cutting my throat. I ran in all directions, Aisha was gone the same way she appeared. Oh Aisha, I wanted to take care of you, dearest soul.
[Sounds of bullets and explosions]
Umm Khaled: Like our shadows, the angel of death is following us. In all directions we expect to meet him, east, west, north, south, up, down, in our closets and under our skin, death hides. The monsters are targeting women and girls to break down the society, to humiliate us, to mutilate life by breaking the givers of life. Government is after us, society is after us and family is after us. There is no shelter in this place, only our own strength and faith is our sanctuary. Oh dear Aisha.
[Sounds of bullets and blasts. Doctor and Abdo rush in stage carrying bodies all wrapped with weary and dirty sheets. Both lay the bodies on the ground. Doctor and Umm Khaled went to take out some cotton, bandits and prepare medical aid]
Abdo: hurry up, there are many, the guys will bring the others soon.
Umm Khaled: How many?
Abdo: too many inside, the two buildings turned into ruins.
Umm Khaled: where?
Doctor: Near the squire.
Abdo: Body parts are everywhere.
Umm Khaled: Oh Allah please protect my children, dear Almighty keep them away. Please Ezrael if you have to take someone let it be me.
Doctor: We caught a soldier in the area, he was with a group of other soldiers near the barricade which the rebels launched mortars at. His friends left him injured on the ground and fled. The rebels will bring him in a few moments. Come on Abdo, we must bring the others. Umm Khaled be prepared.
Abdo: Where is the girl?
Umm Khaled: Gone Abdo. She couldn’t handle future. I lost her before a fire ball in the street. I wish that I can sit down for many days and mourn, but I’ll mourn my children in peace one day. Everything is delayed in this war, our tears and our smiles are on hold. At this time of death, our presence is only now.
Both doctor and Abdo exit the stage for few seconds, they rush in stage again. Abdo is carrying another all wrapped body, doctor carrying a child all wrapped body. Doctor places the child on the bed.
Umm Khaled: This is just a child. [She walks to the child and tries to see the child’s face. Umm Khaled trembles and takes a step backward] Who is this? His face is familiar.
Abdo and doctor looks at Umm Khaled. Umm Khaled walks toward the baby and tries to take another look on the child’s face.
Umm Khaled: Oh this is my child? [Shaking voice] This is my child, where did you find him? Tell me? Tell me, oh my baby, my soul don’t leave me. Where did you? Take me instead, leave him and take me instead. Oh baby wake up.
[Umm Khaled takes the baby and hugs him, starts singing a lullaby, walks slowly around the stage].
Umm Khaled : Day is done,
Gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.
Doctor: Umm Kaled! [Tries to follow her. Abdo stops him]
Abdo: Doctor, leave her mourn her child. It is leisure now to mourn anyone. Let us give her the space in this crowded time of horror. I am going to bring the wounded soldier in.
Doctor [left his head up]: Why am I relieved that we found the child whole? It became leisure for us to be buried in one piece.
[Ali moans. Abdo helps him on stage]
Abdo: Doctor, help me take this swine in?
[Ali moaning gets louder]
Doctor: Hurry, let us put him on bed.
Abdo: You know doctor, I don’t think that we can’t trust him?[Abdo searches Ali’s pockets]
Doctor: We can’t leave him out there.
Abdo: Why not? At the moment he returns back to his group he will rat about this place. Besides, he will only be hit by the missiles his friends were launching at us.
Docotr: He is injured, we need to treat him then we will surrender him to the rebels, they will know what to do.
Abdo: They do not treat us if we get injured; the most merciful treatment we might receive is a bullet in the head before any elongated torture session.
[Umm Khaled completes the circle around the stage. Then puts the wrapped child on the table]
Doctor: Umm Khaled, please go home.
Umm Khaled: What home when you’re beloved is gone. Let me stay here with my child till I can bury him, I might seek some comfort in healing another soul, when the injured starts pouring in.
Doctor: Abdo we might need ice for the bodies.
Abdo: I still have the bottles of ice from yesterday. We didn’t have electricity so I don’t think they are frozen. But doctor listen, this rat does not deserve mercy. Only in the morning he was shooting at innocent people and laugh when he hits someone with his criminal friends.
Umm Khaled [Chants again]: Day is done,
Gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.
[A blast. Ali moans from pain]
Doctor [Walks toward Ali]: Here, let me help you.
Abdo: But don’t give him any drugs, keep them for someone worthy I tell ya.
Doctor: No, This is not what we are.
Abdo: What we are brought us to this. Doctor let him die I tell ya.
[Doctor takes a pain killer to inject Ali]
Abdo: No you won’t, we were nearly shot when we were trying to bring the medicines here, probably by him [tries to stop the Doctor from using the medicine]
Umm Khaled: Stop it Abdo.
Abdo: Mother, your son was just killed by this animal’s friends.
Umm Khaled: They do not represent us. They are not our role models for doing what is right, for fulfilling ourselves.
Abdo: Mother, you might get injured, and we might not be able to help you. Think of other children that will come here tonight. Mother…
Umm Khaled: Abdo, we might not make it till morning.
[Abdo exits stage]
[Doctor injects Ali with pain killer].
Umm Khaled [looks at Ali’s face]: Do I know you?
Umm Khaled: You are Ali, aren’t you?
Umm Khaled: Why are you here?
Doctor: I know why you came here. You were caught in the madness you created, didn’t you.
Ali: Rebels shot a mortar near our barricade. I was injured.
Doctor: And what happened to your friends?
Ali [in a fable voice]: They left.
Umm Khaled: what?
Ali: They left.
Umm Khaled: They left you there alone?
Ali: The battle is more important than one soldier.
Doctor: You mean the one you revere is more important than the rest.
Umm Khaled: Did you like my TV?
Umm Khaled: Did you like the TV you took from my house during the chaos?
Ali: I didn’t mean to take it.
Umm Khaled: You sold it? Was it worth taking it?
Ali: No I kept it.
Umm Khaled: What about the rest of the house?
Ali: The commander took everything else in the house, he said I can take the TV and sell it, but I did not.
Umm Khaled: Ali, your face is grey.
Umm Khaled: Why did you do it? Why did you turn on your neighbors and friends Ali? Your country sons and daughters? Look at us now. Here we are altogether, in the middle of nowhere, the middle of no time, the middle of no what, the middle of no why, in the middle of no how. Nothing is reasonable now; we all reached the borders of the absurd. Why did you do it Ali? I remember when you were younger and your mother used to send you to our house to borrow a cup of rice, maybe half cup of coffee and sometimes some olive oil, and we borrowed from you too. I never forgot all the grains of rice I ate in your house, why did you forget? Just because they told you to hold a gun and shoot at people, you did? Don’t you have a mind and a heart? Don’t you see as worthy of living just like you?
Ali: I was protecting my country and leader.
Umm Khaled [walks toward her baby on the table]: And who was supposed to protect my baby? Those who supposed to protect him killed him. Did he threaten your leader and your country? [Touch the wrapped bundle] his fingers are so small and innocent, so helpless and promising, is my baby a terrorist? You were small once, helpless and innocent Ali. Probably no one thought that one day you will pick up a gun and kill. Tell me why did you do it Ali?
Ali:I was protecting my country and my leader.
Umm Khaled: How dare you to curtail this great land in one individual? How dare you to identify our generous land with this man who never had enough? Tell me Ali; is he as tall as our mountains? Does he stand firm like our oak trees? Are his hands wider than the plains of Houran? Is his skin softer than the foam of our sea? Is his sweat purer than our morning dew? Is his breath more scented than our Jasmines? Is he wiser than our cats? Does his voice wakes life in the morning like our yellow canaries do?
Umm Khaled: One day Ali, you will realize that all this frenzy was for nothing. One day, many many years after we die and we became the star dust we are, one spec of me will be floating around with a speck of you in peace, like we never were in another shape before, like this never occurred before. And when the sunlight shines, its beams attract us to elevate to our source somewhere in another dimension Ali, all this will seem so trivial and foolish. Tell me why did you do it?
Umm Khaled: What did you say? [Walks toward Ali and holds his face with her hands] Ali listen to me….listen…We can heal my child.
[Sound of explosion, smoke fills the stage, missile hits the field hospital]