This story came to me in a dream in this same way: the same characters, story line, events, and imagery. I woke up immediately after it ended and decided to write it in the form of a short story because it struck me as unusually vivid, highly emotive, having a somewhat reasonable narrative, and later that day, memorable and above all, containing so many details. As an occasional dreamer, it is rare for me to have a dream possessing more than one of these properties at once. I sat down on the same day and wrote it in 5 hours only. What I found most pleasurable is that I had access to all the character’s thoughts and feelings. I had the thrill of a producer (the sources of the story reside somewhere in my subconscious) and that of a spectator (I did not consciously control any of the events)
Omar sat with his father in the family car that parked in the dimmed neighborhood where they lived. Panting with anger, he looked through the windshield at the darkness thinking about the fight that him and his father had just had with the gang members and which left them with bruises and wounds. He replayed every single scene in his mind, and his dominating resentment reminded him that no matter how hard his punches were, him and his father were still the victims because they were the ones that got attacked.
Omar looked at the deep wound in his arm, but it wasn’t the physical pain that bothered him. It was his father’s black eye, the severe bouts of fear that his sister gets when the gang members show up … it was his inability to protect them and, more importantly, the thought that ever since the war broke out, his city became a Mafia-governed territory and justice was suspended. Justice, that conviction that things have to run in a specific way and that every intentioned attempt to derailed their sequence cannot go unpunished, that process that he always took for granted, was all gone now but its shadow still haunted and cursed his family.
He looked back through the windshield and his melancholic sigh cast his mind back on how this abominable affliction suddenly began. More than a year before, and shortly after the war started, the mafias divided the city into territories and shared them amongst themselves. They then began subduing the defenseless people in their territories and plundering them. His family, too, meant to show no sign of resistance as they were cognizant of their own helplessness in front of the mafia’s power and ruthlessness, especially that his neighborhood was controlled by the biggest mafia in the city. Nonetheless, the grudge they held on the looters when they carried their frequent violent raids was translated by their shared sense of justice into frowns, looks of hatred rather than terror, and apparent reluctance to fully collaborate with every one of the looters’ orders.
Now Omar clenched his teeth and fists unwilling to let his mind take him again to the incidence that grieved him for a year. He doesn’t like to go there. His body muscles started twitching convulsively as if getting repeated electric shocks. At this point, his mind was already past the black hole that sucks his soul …
A year before, Omar came back home and saw his father sobbing on the ground with his hands covering his face. He immediately knew something terrible had happened to his mother. Before he could put the words together to form a question, his father started wailing “She resisted them and they killed her and took her body with them!” … Omar felt his chest could no longer restrain his violently pounding heart. Even with the state of war inflicted upon the city, he had thought that being controlled and continuously looted by the savage gangsters was as bad as it could get … loosing his mother was beyond the territory of his imagination.
As the demon of his mother’s death lost grip of him, Omar thought something had to be done. After all, his own craving for revenge was more savage than the gangsters.
“We must stop this,” he bitterly told his father. “We can’t stop resisting even if we want to. Plus, they’ve already put us in their blacklist.”
With arms closed, his father lowered his head and sighed with an air of exhaustion.
“I cannot deal with the fact they killed mom and that we cannot do anything about it,” Omar inaudibly mumbled.
He pondered again at his mother’s death, a thought that he was never able to fully grasp. He began to cut it down to manageable pieces, just like his mother used to do when she explained math to him as a school boy “death is soul leaving the body … mom is dead, so her soul left her body …” He kept repeating it over and over. But this only got him sadder, as the heartless gang members did not even leave her dead body for him to hug one last time.
Omar always suppressed his desire to know the details of this tragedy, for it would just pain him to know that his mother had suffered in his absence. But this time he thought it might help him come to terms with it.
“Did you see her dead body?” he carefully asked his father in low gentle voice, partly afraid that it might trigger unwanted answers and partly surprised that he hadn’t asked this question before.
“No, I did not!” his father replied casually.
The reply sent a chill down his spine and a child-like hope that defied natural laws ignited in his heart.
“How do you know she died?”
“When I arrived, I saw them closing the door of their white van and speeding up. I run into the house, and there was blood everywhere. I kept shooting ‘they killed her and took her dead body with them’ so the neighbors could help me stop them but nobody reacted. later on, when there was no trace of her, I assumed she died,” Omar’s father recounted.
This only increased his hope that she might be alive somewhere. Filled with optimism, he told his father with a vibrant voice “Let’s go there and bring her back!”
They both knew where that was.
The mafia that took control of their neighborhood was headed by politician who was quite influential in the pre-war era. During the period of chaos, he used his influence to form a mafia and somehow controlled most of the city. He took a public library as his bastion and headquarter.
Omar and his father arrived at the entrance of the library during working hour. They were shocked to see that it functioned casually like any sort of public service before the war. The sense of security and civility that permeated the area was unparalleled in the rest of the city, let alone their neighborhood.
They entered and saw people lining up in the large hall in front of the reception counter, and the receptionist listened to their requests, typed them into a computer and printed out two copies. He handed the person one copy and lead him to a big room, and sent the other copy to the former politician, now head of the mafia. Omar pulled his father gently from the arm signaling that they should bypass the receptionist and go straight to the big boss.
Once in the room, Omar hastily headed for the former politician who sat in a big desk right in the middle of the room, leaving his father at the entrance. As soon as he got a closer look of his face, he was struck by how different he was from when he used to appear on television as he now grew a light gray beard, and surprised at how kind he appears in person. His attention suddenly shifted to the people seated in chairs along the walls with no space in between as if he just noticed their presence. The head of the mafia who was elegantly dressed in a khaki suite and blue tie with white diagonal stripes ignored Omar when it took him a long time to speak, and lowered his head to resume his work. From a big green file, he would take out one paper, call the name on it, and a seated individual would raise his hand, and the head of the mafia would address his requests in the order they came in on the sheet.
The young man’s hope to find his mother, mixed with indignation vis-à-vis the political status quo kicked away his amazement at the curious situation inside the library.
“We live in constant chaos and fear, and my mother was kidnapped last year … and you know who caused all this? Your men!” Omar boldly and angrily accused. The politician’s eyes opened widely, hiding an innocent excitement at a story that is potentially less boring than the pile of repetitive requests he was dealing with.
“How dare you trouble me with your stupid story when I have almost a city to run by myself?” he replied at the top of his voice.
Omar sensed that the politician, given his position, had to stick with the persona of an unsympathetic head of a criminal gang and that hidden lenience was beneath that mask. Focused on getting his mother back, he decided, contrary to his impulsive propensity, to play along.
“I know that from your perspective, it’s as frustrating as if you were flying over a desert on a helicopter, and suddenly you saw someone in the middle of the desert waving at you and begging you to land and help him, and when you did land, he asked you to help him find a ring he lost in the desert … but from my perspective the ring that I lost is MY MOTHER!” said Omar, not knowing how such analogy occurred to him.
After hearing this, the politician clung to his solemn merciless expression for dear life, but it was obvious to Omar that he was deeply moved by the analogy. Then, a frail old lady on a wheelchair started moving. She was a small wise-looking matriarchal figure, probably approaching a hundred years old, dressed so casually that Omar had no reason to tell her apart from the rest of attendees. Her shrewd looks were examining him since he got into the room, and she, too, sensed the politician’s reluctance to give in to the young man’s pressure.
“She must be his right arm,” Omar thought.
“Don’t you see he’s busy?” shrieked the old woman as he was looking at her for more cues, snapping him out of his reflective mode.
“What’s your mother’s name? how does she look like? where do you live?” she began asking so to save the politician the trouble of doing it himself.
Immediately after he answered her, three men went into a room and came out of it carrying a stretcher and placed it on a marble laboratory bench … it was his mother’s body, wrapped up in a thick olive-green plastic shroud.
He ran to it and began feverishly uncovering his mother’s face. He held her from the arms, tilted his head back and examined her carefully, unable to believe that he is looking at his mother one year after her announced death. Her face was pale, bruises and a few blood stains were still apparent in it. And before he could wonder if she was dead or merely passed out, she took a quick but deep breath and started screaming as if resuming the fight with her aggressors.
“You’re safe, mom” he kept repeating as he gave her a strong comforting hug, thinking she might be given a sort of a drug that kept her blacked out for a year. As miraculous as it seemed to him, he didn’t dwell on it now that she is finally back.
At home, Omar sat in the guest room near the window and knew his gratitude for the regained peace would last for years to come, no matter how long the chaos outside will go on. He thought about his mother who immediately resumed her normal life, ending his painful longing for justice, and took a moment to enjoy the long gone, now deserved complacency for he triumphed at the height of war.
As he sat there, he heard someone climbing up to the window from outside. Something within him told him it was his sister, who was until then outside and hadn’t yet known about their mother’s return.
“why didn’t you use the stairs?” he exclaimed as he opened the window for her.
“Don’t ask me that” she replied, slightly bothered that it wasn’t obvious to him that she had been afraid the gang members might have been in the staircase again.
“I have no idea why I’m smelling my mom’s scent!” she uttered with an air of sorrow.
Trying not to give away any signals so to witness her exhilaration at the unanticipated reunion, he said “mom? She died a year ago!”
She came in the room, and suddenly run inside like a flash when she spotted her mother’s shadow in the hall, while crying out at the top of her lungs “MOOOOOMM !!!”