Rizwan Saleem is a Banker based in Dubai UAE. The thoughts and expressions detailed in his works are of his various escapades suffered through life, and of the profound surprise of having survived long enough to pen them into words. His poems have appeared in anthologies Twenty Seven Signs by Lady Chaos Press and Self Portrait Poetry Collection by Silver Birch Press.
By Rizwan Saleem
The weather, as per the norm in this country, was hot. As if the sun itself had come down to partake in this spectacle about to take place. The landscape was arid, dusty and desolate of any greenery, had I not seen it before in its purity, the teeming masses now joining to expand the congregation would have disallowed such recollections. Human bodies were everywhere, black shiny skin glistening in sweat, their eyes blood shot but alert. Chanting war cries that epitomized their struggles against oppression. The general himself was at the helm of the mob. Dressed in his full regalia, he brandished a sword pointing it sky wards like a holy warrior, behind him, his men followed in religious fervor. Dedication like this is dangerous. My host for so many days and I walked at a leisurely pace , I soaking in the sights of this ritual, my host was almost a man resigned to some fate only he knew. The mob was in its hundreds now. All armed to the teeth. Sporadic firing filled the air, bullets hummed by closely. I had come to learn by now that regardless of the direction of fire, a stray bullet meant for you was going to find you, no matter what evasive maneuvers you took. “this is an impressive turn out”. I said to the doctor. “Hmm” he said. For an educated man he was a one for few words. In the cacophony of the noise our silence was awkward. It put me at unease.
“How often does this sort of gathering happen?’ I asked the doctor.
“At any given opportunity,” he replied, “unfortunately these days they have been happening a lot”.
I thought about his reply for a moment, perhaps it was the regime’s way of bolstering morale.
“It must mean a lot to the soldiers, these war parades,” I asked.
He turned to look at me, and once again it was in his eyes, Bright white with small jet black pupils. The kind of eyes that have seen too much. His forehead wrinkled in a kind of stress.
“Alas sir, this is not a war parade," he replied.
“Then what is it”?
Public executions were not uncommon here, but it intrigued me as to whom the victims would be.
“Whose”? I asked.
The doctor turned to me; I could not fathom the look in his eyes this time. This time they gave nothing away.
There is serenity in summary executions. A fait accompli if you will. No sooner were the words spoken by the doctor, I was surrounded by troops. If they expected resistance from my part, they were wrong. I did not kick or scream or yell indignation. I was simply too stunned to react.
One soldier came around me and simply locked my hands together with his, and led me to the front; the mob opened up and let us pass to the front. By this point I had overcome my shock at the events unfolding around me. I knew that in this job, one day my number would be up, so why not now? I just wished I would die in cooler climes, and some grass underneath instead of an African waste land. But alas very few of us have a choice in the matter of termination. I tried to recite some holy words, but my mind was a jumble of emotions and memories. I was scared, but I was more worried. I had left behind so many in completed things. I suppose they would take care of themselves now.
Now that I was a condemned man, the mob focused its undivided attention on me. I was being spit upon. Rifle butts were being slammed into my body. One blow hit me at the back of my head and I fell to the ground, my vision turned green then black and pain shot up my temples. A familiar warmth started to flow downwards and I knew that I was bleeding. No problem, I thought. I wont need much blood now. Finally we reached the front where the general was in audience with his minions and paid scant regard to my arrival. Just another Ferengi being shot. Most people, being in this situation would cry, sob or break down in hysterics. But as my very adverse sense of humor would have it I managed a wry smile of all the things, this being due to a flash back. I recalled how my class mates predicted that I would be a go getter and the most successful of the lot. Oh if they could see me now! Bound and bloodied and being led to execution. I wonder if any of them would want to trade places.
The general finally gave me his time. I was bleeding copiously now. “tsk Tsk, they have dirtied your shirt, I was hoping that we could have been more civil”.
“That’s ok, General” I replied.
“You can keep the shirt after you’re done with me.”
The general let out a huge guffaw hearing this.
“Glad to see man dying with good spirits, it’s a rare quality.”
“Thank you sir, but do keep in mind that this is my first time.”