The second chapter in my novel whose working title is "Amran".
Year:2082 Location:A prison cell
Drip, splash. Amran was knee deep in the creek that ran through the very center of the neighborhood. . The water from this creek, after taking many detours, came from the Nile herself. The Nile, the longest river in the w orld, she
had helped provide for Egyptians since the dawn of time. On this day sheprovided entertainment for one man-to-be.
Amran’s keen eyes scanned the creek for any sign of movement. The trick, which he figured out after what seemed like a thousand tries, was to not look right where you thought it was and to look using your peripheral vision. Amran had been playing for as long as he could remember, and he figured out quickly that the last statement was easier said than done.
His breath steady, his muscles calm and relaxed, Amran turned just a hair to the left and he saw it ........ one of the fish that had eluded him for years. Slightly bigger, and also smarter than a minnow, catching one using one’s hands alone was a daunting task. Doing just this however, in the words of Amran’s Father, had become Amran’s “Holy Grail”.
It was a very slight movement and it didn’t move very far. To the untrained eye it would have just seemed like a small rock being pushed down the creek by the current; however, Amran knew better.
Taking next to no time to analyze how he should go about catching the fish, Amran pivoted his front foot and dove into the water, not caring about getting his
shorts and shirt wet. With one, final, determined leap he threw his whole body a few feet further, clasped his hands hands around the fish and ........ crashed into something.
Had Amran not have known he was in the creek he could have sworn he was he crashed into a wall. He opened his eyes to get a better look. Wait,
when had he closed them? He looked to see what he had collided with and what he saw would have made him laugh had he not been overwhelmed with anger.
He had indeed crashed into a wall, the wall of his cell. As Amran looked down, (still half-expecting to see the fish in his hands) saw only a rock, and
realized it had all been a dream, one of his more detailed and interesting ones, but a dream nonetheless. Rage filling him quickly Amran threw the rock against the wall and roared.
“AHHHHHHHHH Oh come on, how could I could be so stupid?” He half-heartedly banged his fist against the wall a couple of times. How could his own
mind trick him like that?
Would it really be called a trick since a trick is supposed to be a surprise and even if he didn’t see that dream coming his mind did and his mind was part of him and, and, and, — Amran laughed. This was the reason the guards hated him so much, he never cracked. No matter how tough the conditions were, Amran was able to amuse himself just by thinking of strange things that confused him and made him think, but at the same time he found funny.
The guards were the only people Amran (or his mind at least) came in contact with. There were eleven guards that were, in shifts, in charge of Amran’s cell. Amran never felt the presence of more than two outside his cell at a time. By looking into their minds he was able to find out that the guards did not have to watch any other cells and as far as Amran could tell he was the only prisoner they were guarding. He also found out any and everything the guards thought about during the time they were within range of Amran none of it particularly intelligent and some of it downright disgusting.
He was not on the other hand ever able to find out about who was employing the guards because he had long since realized that he could only find out about
what people were thinking about at the moment he was scrutinizing their mind. The guards either did not know anything about who was employing them or they had found some way to conceal the information from him. Amran, in all his time with his ability, had yet to meet anyone who knew how to hide information from him and seeing as how the guards weren’t the sharpest knives in the taxidermist’s house he doubted the latter of the two.
The person/people who ran the place remained largely a mystery to him. Sure, they were probably lonely, thought that imprisoning him was for the greater good, were dropped on the head as baby ... repeatedly, yada, yada, yada, but as Amran looked down at his meager figure and the around at the cell’s horrible conditions he couldn’t help but think that they were, for lack of a better word, evil. What could possibly drive a human being to lock up a fifteen year old kid for four months?
Five months. Man, that seemed like a long time. Math wasn’t Amran’s
favorite subject but he was pretty good at it so he was able to quickly deduce that (because he would turn sixteen in two months) he had been in that cell for more than 1/38 of his life. Seeing as how he couldn’t remember anything about the first four years of life (as most people couldn’t), he had been in that cell for more than 1/28 of his life that he had memory of. 1/28 didn’t seem like a huge fraction when you were talking about pie or marbles but when you were talking about life, it felt it felt enormous, especially when it was a life as short as his. It was 1/28 of his life he wasn’t getting back.
He absentmindedly shifted from his uncomfortable position. He was sitting on a single cotton sheet that served as his (among other things) couch, bed/blanket, table and sweater. Day by day he grew more certain that his captors had only given him that sheet to push him to the brink of sanity. He hadn’t just been thrown into a cell, nooooooo they had been nice enough to give him a sheet
It wasn’t the fact that the sheet was the only asset he was given that drove him crazy, it was the fact that he had to use it for everything. The sheet was his only physical resource, and he was determined to contort it to his every need. What was the best technique to wrap it around his foot when he sprained it kicking the wall in frustration? Was it really worth it to tear a piece off this valuable resource to mend his pants? How exactly might wearing it as a turban help the present situation?
When Amran thought hard he would absentmindedly gnaw on his hand. Many a time he had done this until his hand bled while attempting to come up with a new use for the sheet. Then, he would look down, see what happened, and then realize it was over something as stupid as a sheet. He would be forced to wipe the blood off his hand with the sheet, afterwards using some of the precious water ration he was provided to rinse out the blood. The worst part was that at times like that he was certain they had given him the sheet to bring him closer to the edge of the cliff that was his sanity, and it was working.
He lay down with his head propped up on one of the concrete walls and just glared at the wall opposite him hoping for the millionth time that it would all just
go away. That it would all be just be an elaborate dream like that fish. He still remembered how it had all began: It was a sweltering morning in the Egyptian desert when he had looked out over the horizon and ...
No he wouldn’t drag himself through reviewing the details again. Torturing himself with what if’s. Amran’s only cell-mate was his own consciousness. His bodyless companion was a great conversationalist but the story of how he had gotten into this mess was one that he had revisited all too often. He would not recount the story again – not until he had someone concrete to tell it to.
It was while he was angrily staring that he felt it. At first it was just a jolt from his mind. Without even realizing it his hands and feet started to shake and the shaking moved steadily up his arms and legs until his whole body was shaking violently. Amran remembered thinking that he must have been having a
seizure. He felt a sharp pain in his arms and legs whenver they uncontrollably pounded against the ground but he hardly noticed because of his mind. His mind
felt astonishingly great. What felt now was warm and gentle and for a moment he forgot about where he was.
As quickly as it started it was over. The feeling of ecstasy vanished from
him as he sat up and the reality of where he was sunk in again. He couldn’t just go back to his dismal mood though, he just felt too happy. The odd thing was he had
no idea why he felt so happy or what had just happened. In spite of the fact that nothing had changed he let out a small grin and then Amran realized why he felt so happy.
Something had changed. For the first time in what felt like forever he felt as though he wasn’t alone.
He felt as though there was someone out there who could help him. It was such a strong feeling that he nearly got up and jumped before realizing he would probably get a concussion because of the low ceiling.
Amran tried to calm himself down and think what exactly this meant. He really had no clue except that he wasn’t alone. He tried to compose himself to direct something through his mind to whoever or whatever was out there. He tried
to keep his hands from trembling and concentrated with all his energy on the two words that he had rehearsed over and over and had thought desperately of a way to get them out. He built up and sculpted the the two syllables to the point that it would be understood and then he released them and felt them rush to whoever was on the other end.
“Help me.” The words came whispered out of Amran’s mouth while at the same time they escaped through his mind. There was no answer, there was no response and all he felt back was a haziness and then an eventual shut down of whatever was on the other end. A wave of shock and disappointment rushed over him as he felt an opportunity slip between his fingers.
Despite this he couldn’t shake the feeling that the shut down of whatever it was on the other side wasn’t forever and he knew that there was still hope. So as the initial shock and excitement calmed down he decided he would wait. Really what else there for him to do?
16 Years Earlier
Year:2106 Location: Cairo, Egypt
A bead of sweat slid down the smooth dark surface gently rolling off Akil Zewail’s chin and land with a slight splash upon his dark shoe. He stood waiting on a platform, hands clasped trying to look as calm as possible in the eighty degree
whether waiting patiently for his bride. Nervous thoughts rushed through his head: Remember to smile, It has to look sincere otherwise it will just seem cheesy, I hope
I don’t have anything stuck in my teeth. Then all thoughts stopped as he stood awestruck watching his wife-to- be walking down the aisle.
It was an interesting scene, both parties dressed in the wedding garb that their culture demanded. He in a safa with it’s flowing tail end and her in the traditional American wedding dress.
As his bride walked toward the platform escorted by her father Akil could not help but marvel at her long dark hair and her delicate features. He could barely
contain himself from shouting, “Layne you look beautiful.” She let go of her father’s arm and walked the last few feet to where the platform stood, carefully stepping up onto it.
The wedding of Layne Harper and Akil Zewail was held on the beach of Alexandria with only the family and closest friends of the two invited.
It was a simple wedding to be presided over by a justice of the peace in hopes to avoid the clash of their Christian and Muslim faiths. Most aspects of what both parties imagined a traditional wedding would be made up of were thrown out in order to avoid offending anyone. Everyone got their way in this era of political correctness even it required everyone to tread carefully. The strangeness of the whole situation was lost on the families of the bride and groom, too busy being overcome with happiness.
The ceremony went just as everyone expected: The two recited their vows, exchanged rings, said “I do”, and were pronounced husband and wife. It was better than they hoped, it was their dream wedding. Tears were shed, memories were created, and laughs were guffawed.
Everyone proceeded to the reception and had a wonderful time dancing, singing, and having just a little to much wine. A few awkward moments were had: Layne’s great uncle became a little tipsy and tried to crack off a few Arab jokes or when Mrs. Zewail (Akil’s mother not Layne as she chose to keep her maiden name) switched a few letters around and referred to Layne’s family as being of the “Prostitute Faith,” but all was forgiven and forgotten in the spirit of the occasion.
When all was done, everyone went back to their homes. Layne’s family and friends went back to their hotel rooms where they would stay the night then fly back to the states the next day. Akil Zewail and Layne Harper retreated to the apartment they had rented in Cairo for the months leading up to the marriage.
It had been tough for both sides to inform their relatives of their engagement. Originally, their families had been convinced that they had nothing in common and that the marriage would fall apart. The cultural rift was too great! They weren’t going to spend money on a wedding gift for no reason!
From the outside looking in it would appear that their two families were correct. Obviously there was a cultural barrier and their lines of work were completely different but, as the couple saw it, these things were just mere pebbles in the great road of life. Their relationship was based on much more than common interests and similarities. Though neither mentioned it to the other, they each realized within a first weeks of meeting each other they shared the same mind set. Despite vastly different upbringings the two saw shared the same way of viewing the world even while standing at different vantage points.
Their families finally caved in and after seeing the bond between them and gave the couple their blessing in a display of Disney-like cheesiness. It had been hard convincing their families, but the truly tough part came the day after the wedding.
Akil sat up in bed rubbing his eyes with his hands and yawned. He looked over to the other side of the bed which he came to find empty. His wife had already gotten up and was probably in the living room. Once he was awake enough to stand without crashing into anything, he stepped out of the bedroom. Layne was sitting upright on the couch, mug of coffee in hand, flipping through the television channels. “What are you doing up so early?” he said rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“I always had to get up this early if not earlier when I was on duty,” she said with her eyes wide open as she took another sip of coffee, “what are you doing up so late?”
Akil looked at the clock above the television then turned back to her with one eyebrow raised. “Layne it’s 6:30.”
“And your point is ..........?”
“My point is that 6:30 is so not late.” They both laughed.
Their relationship still seemed a lot more like two people who had just met than a married couple. Akil sat down beside her on the couch gingerly taking a sip
of her coffee and then contorting his mouth in mock disgust. “You know you make this way to strong.”
That brought about a debate about coffee that lasted nearly an hour that ended only when Akil realized that he had to prepare for his class. He soon kissed Layne goodbye and headed out to Mesi Enan University, currently one of the world’s best schools, named after an influential member of the “Egyptian
Revolution”. Recently, after Akil’s step out of the limelight of the world-stage he decided to return to his true love of teaching.
Layne spent the day running errands around town and still, after months of living in Cairo, taking a deep breath of fresh air after stepping out of a building once and a while.
At the around 5:00 both Akil and Layne returned home. They shared tales of their days: three different Egyptian cabinet members had pleaded with him to join the political arena and Layne had bought a papaya. Eventually they found themselves eating dinner at the counter near the fridge.
“So I was thinking about our honeymoon today and....” Before he could start into his thoughts about their honeymoon an anxious looking Layne cut him off.
“I’ve had the last couple weeks to think about it and we have to address this issue: Who’s living where? My leave from the F.B.I. is almost over, so what’s happening? We’ve got to figure out if it’s better for me to live in Egypt or for you to come to the U.S.” When she finished she still looked anxious but relieved too. As if a huge burden had just been taken off her by saying it.
“Yeah, I know you’re right it was just nice to forget about it these last few weeks.” They both just sat in silence for a minute that felt like an hour, neither of them eating.
Finally, Akil broke the silence, “Layne you know how much I love my job and the fund the Egyptian government is paying me under the table to reside here. I still have plenty of money left over my books but I suspect that might mysteriously disappear if some of the higher-ups find out about me moving. Not to mention the death threats I’d be receiving as a traitor. Plus, you know how the U.S. has been about immigration. Getting in would be like trying to fit a square block in a round hole. Not to mention my nationality and the U.S.’s current stance toward Egypt. Not that any of that really matters though because I’ll do whatever it takes to be with you the days and nights of my life and you know that.”
Relieved to finally get it off his chest, he let out a deep breath,. His fingers fidgeted on the table as he nervously awaited her response.
It came like as a whisper out of her mouth, “You’re right.”
Before the words were even out of her mouth Akil had sighed and put his head in his hands not wanting to have the shouting argument again. “I could come to the U.S. it would be impractical in so many different........” he trailed off as he realized what she had said “Wait you said I’m right. So you’re going to stay in Egypt?”
She nodded then said rather softly, “I thought of every possible reason I couldn’t move here. I thought of every possible reason it wouldn’t work. But, when I put them on a scale next to being with you the balance tipped in your favor.”
Akil stood up from his chair so fast it flew backward and toppled over. “I can’t believe it, you’re moving here. We finally know what we’re going to do.
We’re going to be together ” He ran around to the other side of the table, plucked her out of her chair and just began dancing, cheering all the way.
Seeing his wife’s sullen expression he stopped, put his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eye, “I know you’re going to miss all of your friends and family Layne. If there is anything you ever need me to do to help you
feel more adjusted just let me know. Okay?” He smiled and looked at her hopefully.
“Okay.” she said and curved her mouth up into a smile.
“Yay, when you’re happy I’m happy. I have got to go get some champagne so we can celebrate ”
“I suppose I should go call my family and tell them the news.” she said, a sigh creeping into her words.
“Oh come on, be happy, be happy.” he willed her.
“I’m happy, I’m happy calm down.”
Unconvinced but not wanting to make a big fuss about it Akil searched around for his wallet. He spotted it on the counter, grabbed it and turned to Layne, “I’ll be right back with a bottle of champagne.”
He kissed her before rushing out the door eager to be back as soon as possible. Rushing out the room Akil was ecstatic. All of the empty promises uttered by all the dignitaries he had met during his travels meant as much the few short sentences uttered by Layne moments ago.
He had only gotten to the first flight of stairs however, when he realized he had forgotten his car keys and turned around on a dime. He walked back down the hallway and opened the door to the apartment, “Forgot my car .....” He trailed off as he noticed there wasn’t anyone in the room. He was a little surprised that
Layne had already gone to call her family. Since he had dashed even before either of them had eaten very much he figured his wife would have at least had a few more bites before starting her calls.
He put it out of his mind as he spotted his keys on the couch. As he was reaching down for them he heard Layne’s voice coming from the bedroom. He
couldn’t make out what she was saying but her tone and volume sounded a lot different from the loud cheerful voice she used with family or friends.
Feeling guilty but extremely curious Akil quietly stepped over and put an ear to the door. “Look McCarthy there is just no way you can get me to stay on the
force I’m not going to spy while I’m here either. I’m going to get a new job and I’m going to live happily ever after.”
There was a pause and Akil knew that she was listening to the person on the other end. With raised eyebrows he pressed his ear closer to the door.
“You know what McCarthy? These stakeouts you have been sending so many people out on are pointless. Egypt isn’t the corruption ridden cesspool that you make it out to be and I’ll tell you where you can put your ‘grave and present danger schtick’ – ” the next words our of Layne’s mouth were a string of expletives which he Akil had not heard her utter since he dropped the couch on her foot. After that there was another long pause in the middle of which he
heard Layne let out a frustrated growl. When she finally began talking, her tone was much angrier and at all times it seemed like she was trying to suppress a yell.
“Don’t you dare threaten me Before long I won’t even be an American citizen and I’ll have cut off all ties from the CIA. If I so much as see a single member from the force within a hundred yards of me I’ll spill my guts to the Egyptian government. They’ll know everything you’ve had me and countless others do here. Along with secrets you didn’t think I knew and even some that you don’t have a clue about. I’m going to miss my post. I’m going to miss a lot of people I worked with. But, I am sure as hell not going to miss this crap you’ve wasted my effort and talent have been wasted on these last few years. The paperwork will be in soon. I resign.”
He heard her hang up the phone and heard footsteps coming closer to the door. Worried and confused but not wanting to be caught intruding on Layne’s private affairs Akil hurried out of the apartment and into the hallway.
Not sure whether to be upset that Layne lied to him or concerned for her safety he strolled worriedly down the hallway to where the elevator stood. Akil pressed the down button and before long the doors opened and he stepped inside. Trying to convince himself not to worry and that it wasn’t his business he was able
to relax a small bit. He laughed as he was able to view it from a comedic standpoint. I just eavesdropped on an CIA agent.
Year: 2122 Location: Vermillion, South Dakota
“The temperature is a beautiful 70 degrees outside not a cloud in the sky on this Saturday morning. The forecast for today is clear with an average temperature of.....”
Den turned in her bed wondering to herself why someone was talking about the weather while she was chasing a leprechaun up a waterfall. She opened her eyes and took a look at her surroundings. “Oh right I guess that was a dream,” she said to herself while turning off her radio/clock alarm.
She soon got out of bed and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. She made her bed, took a shower, and did the usual things she did to get ready for a day. Before long she was downstairs on the couch looking at the clock above the T.V. It was only 10:00. Den searched around for the remote before finding it lodged between the cushions. She turned on the T.V. without hesitation and flipped through the
channels for something that might interest her. As she lay comfortably on the couch she saw her mother, father, and sister coming down the steps out of the corner of her eye. They all had shoes, coats, and gloves on as they reached bottom of the stairs.
“Alright honey, we’re gonna get going,” her mother said.
Den sat up in her chair, totally confused to what was happening. “What? Did I miss something, where are you going?”
All three family members looked at Den with puzzled expressions on their faces before Rose finally spoke, “Sioux falls, remember? We’re going to go up there to shop for the day, we told you about it all week Den.”
As perplexed as Den was she did vaguely remember hearing the words “Sioux Falls” coming up in a couple conversations. “Oh yeah, that’s right I remember you telling me about that.”
“You’re sure you don’t want to come Den?” her father said.
“No, but have fun without me.” Den had never really understood the point of spending an entire day shopping, especially when it was only a weekend and not a holiday. The two days off between a week of misery and despair were not to be fooled around with.
“Your loss,” said Rose smiling.
“Alright honey,” said her mother, “you know my cell phone number. If you need anything and make sure to call before you go anywhere. If there’s an emergency call 911.”
With that last assurance from her mother her family headed out the side door and into the garage. Den heard the garage door open as she made herself comfortable again on the couch. She gave her attention back to the T.V. she heard the rumbling of a garage door a second time signifying that her family was gone for the day.
With her family gone for the day Den flipped through the channels wondering if there was anything besides morning news on. She paused for a moment on one of the shopping channels to see how the host was going to convince people to buy a solar powered flashlight,(“So yeah, it’s for those times when it’s only kinda dark....... but there’s still some light from the sun but..... errr... yeah that’s what this is for, you should definitely buy it.”) before realizing Saturday morning television was a lost cause.
Having given up on television Den headed toward the fridge (It was a tie between the two for most important appliance). She opened the door took out the orange juice and poured a glass, then scoured the fridge for something to eat. She was tempted to make pancakes but she couldn’t eat them without syrup and the only kind her mom had been buying lately was the kind whose commercial advertized, “No sugar, no carbs, no calories, and reduced riboflavin levels, it’s delicious ” it wasn’t delicous.
Although Den’s Dad had brought home a new batch of groceries yesterday none of them had been breakfast foods and at the moment Den really regretted not having written, “Breakfasty foods” on the grocery list that her parents always took with them to the grocery store.
Giving up on breakfast-type food Den looked at her other options. While the huge steak in the freezer did look appetizing Den didn’t relish the prospect of eating half a cow before 11 A.M. Den soon realized that most things in the fridge were way too–what was the word she was searching for here... healthy. Her
parents had been in a health food kick lately, a kick that hadn’t been to great to her taste buds.
Having given up on finding something to eat in the fridge Den contemplated her options: A. Mix some of the really healthy food together in hopes that it would taste good or B. Walk to the Dunkin Donuts a half mile or so from her house. Den spent enough time at school trying to guess what was in her cafeteria food to realize she didn’t need another “Mystery meal” so she chose option B.
While jogging down to the Dunkin Donuts by herself probably would have been good for her mile time Den felt in a particularly social mood so she picked up the phone in the kitchen and dialed Alina’s cell phone number.
“Hey Alina, it’s Den, there’s nothing good in my fridge so I’m gonna head down to Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast, wanna come?”
“Sure, yeah good timing too,” said Alina exhaustedly “I just back from a half hour of yoga with my mom at the gym so I’m starving. Lem’me take a shower and change first and then I’ll meet you at that stop sign at the end of the block in like... 15 minutes. That’ll give me a chance to wake up too because yoga really wore me out, sound good?”
“Sounds good.” With those passing words Den heard a click on the other side of the line before hanging up the phone herself.
Den now had a quarter of an hour to kill before meeting Alina at the end of the block. She figured may as well go sit on the deck and enjoy the sunny spring weather before it started raining again like it was prone to do in April.
She proceeded through her living room glancing at the TV which – even now with the beautiful weather outside – was tempting to just sit down in front of, to the glass door which separated her house from her deck. With one swift movement she pulled it open and stepped outside. She took a big gulp of the fresh air before closing the door behind her. She lay down on the beach chair which her father had bought despite the fact the family had never been to any ocean.
Lying comfortably on the chair Den’s mind began to drift, hoping perhaps she might catch some rays and make her complexion a little darker. For a brief moment Den thought of going inside to grab a bag of croutons – another of Den’s favorite snacks – before remembering that her sister Rose had finished them off the other day. Rose, who at 12 seemed worlds younger than Den’s mature 14, finished the croutons just to anger her. At least that’s what Den figured to be the only logical conclusion seeing as how Rose claimed to have put herself on a “low-carb diet”.
(Author's note: I know it just cuts off at a random point but this is all I have written so far. If you want to see what happens next make sure to let me know and perhaps I'll even give you a personal sneak peek.)