FREE BOOK: Bleeding Perseverance – Chapter 2

A modern ninja and a Muslim girl, book cover for Bleeding Perseverance.

A modern ninja and a Muslim girl, book cover for Bleeding Perseverance.

by

Rico Lamoureux

 

 

All Rights Reserved.

 

CHAPTER 2

Girl

In A

Fabric Prison

Although you hold the sword above my heart, I will prevail.

Although you hold the sword above my heart, I will prevail.

Although you hold the sword above my heart, I will prevail.

 

 

Karida loved books. From how their titles could only be fully understood once their pages had been fully read to how the images on their covers and descriptions on their backs could serve as imaginative seeds that would not only grow but flourish as the journey would unfold with every word read. So amazing were these treasures that Karida could see herself dying for them. Especially the one she had pressed against her chest. Concealed under her burqa and over her pounding heart a part of her felt her hidden secret would be discovered at any moment as she followed her older cousin Omar through a congested market and to a bus station. This was Southeast Afghanistan. A region whose people were not only under the stronghold of Taliban rule, but so conditioned and influenced by the extremists that they would keep the strict beliefs in firm place even when their authoritative figures were on the run from Nato forces.

Unfortunately such laws of the land included no rights for their own women. It was the men who would decide what their females were to wear. How they were to act. Who they were to marry. And by no means were they allowed to be educated. For this would lead to the controlled minds discovering free thought, which of course would threaten the whole foundation the society was based upon.

And so it had been her and her father’s most hidden of secrets. A small tunnel under the family’s modest home, which led to a room carved out of the earth, initially so tiny you could barely sit up in it but over the years expanded as their collection of smuggled books grew, digging the walls farther to widen their little underground library.

From the age where she could comprehend and keep a secret this is where Karida had learned the language of freedom. Of opportunity. Of prosperity. English. How to speak it. How to read it. How to love it. From See Spot Run to Curious George. The Chocolate War to Choose Your Own Adventure books. Autobiographies. Text books. Encyclopedias. So many treasures, yet never enough.

Her father Hadi had been working in the country’s capital of Kabul for as long as she could remember, coming home every few weeks with what he had managed to earn, along with a few new books given to him by “friends”. Books they read together while he was there and she alone when he was gone, with the promise that she would never take any of them above ground. They had to remain among the Earth’s soil, like the roots their pages originated from, for if unearthed could mean the end to their little family of father, mother and daughter. Not only because they lived in the heart of Taliban country but also directly linked; Hadi’s uncles, nephews and cousins holding high positions in the militant political group.

It was part of a larger family he had been secretly trying to escape for years, but with opportunity being as barren as the land he had been born and raised on he was barely making enough to feed his wife and child from the odd jobs he’d hunt for while in Kabul. But it didn’t stop him from hoping, from dreaming, making up for the lost time of being away from his daughter by bonding with her over stories from the big city. Stories from the books he secretly brought home to her. Stories filled with hopeful dreams of one day living in the country where most of these books had come from; America, where Karida could go to school and visit libraries said to have tens of thousands of books.

It seemed unimaginable to her that such a place could actually exist. Sure her father and the stories had taught her that nothing was unimaginable, but it was all she could do to keep that spark alight. The overwhelming darkness of oppression being so claustrophobic at times she felt like ripping away her fabric prison and charging down the streets naked like Lady Godiva.

But reality couldn’t be further from such a yearning as she followed Omar to the bus that would take them back home after she had spent a couple of weeks helping her grandmother. A couple of weeks that had taken her away from her precious books. A separation she couldn’t bear the thought of, which had led to violating her dear father’s trust. To risk their lives, as she followed so close behind the enemy. Her own blood. Her own cousin. Who would use his warped and false interpretation of the Quran to destroy them if he knew what was mere inches away underneath that burqa.

Although you hold the sword above my heart, I will prevail.

Although you hold the sword above my heart, I will prevail.

Although you hold the sword above my heart, I will prevail.

And so hoping to cloak her fears Karida silently chanted that powerful statement from the book she held so close, turning it into a mantra of her own. The essence of the art she loved to learn about. The secret Ninja. So wonderfully spiritual. So inspiring. Simple province people who had been pilfered, raped, maimed, murdered. And yet found the strength to rise up and overcome.

Although you hold the sword above my heart, I will prevail.

So poetic. Nothing could have been more fitting for her own life. The only life she had ever known, yet at the same time feeling so unnatural. The burqa. The praying. The worshipping. All obligations that came with the burden of being born in this part of the world.

Not that she had anything against the beliefs of her own people. It would have been just as suffocating to her if she had born in a Latin country, conditioned by Catholicism. Or any other religion that trained the mind to absorb its teachings before it had a chance to develop and choose for itself.

And yet such conditioning of the being had somehow spared her, which at times felt more like a curse than a freedom. At least the countless followers around her didn’t have to endure the constant battle within of having to force themselves into devotion. A spirit. A heart. A soul that somehow knew it was not meant to be fused into such an existence.

And then, after seventeen years, it was as if the universe decided she had suffered enough, sending her spiritual oxygen in the form of this series of books that her soul immediately identified as truth. These books on mikkyo. The universe’s hidden secret. The blueprint of truth, based on fact, not faith. And practiced by those who used it to prevail. To overcome.

A truth that was now hers. Brought to her by her dear father Hadi, who like most in the world thought nothing more of the Ninja than a folklore. A fairytale.

But he represented the kind side of Islam. The compassionate loving side that advocates peace and harmony, unlike his kin’s death and destruction. Not wanting to hurt him with the knowledge that although daughter had the same core beliefs of goodness as father she did not interpret it in the same way. And so she had kept her hidden secret within their hidden secret so as not to bruise their bond.

 

***

Where did they come from? Where were they going? Karida wondered as she watched the clouds make their slow journey across the sky. Had they passed over the romance of Paris? The beauty of Hawaii? Although she was peering from behind a curtain, she had put on her burqa before going to the window so that she could run out and greet her father when he arrived. It had been three weeks since his last trip home, and the thought of the two reading to each other while enjoying Yoo-hoo chocolate drinks and Grandma’s Home-style Peanut Butter Cookies had her just as excited as when she was a little girl.

Sometimes she’d manage to ration the American treats until he’d come back with more, while other times she couldn’t help herself and consumed her small stash within a day or two. This time around, not knowing when her father would return, she had found the willpower to save a whole bottle of chocolate, along with two sealed cookies, reading the label and package countless times while hidden among her books. ‘Manufactured in the U.S.A.’ If only she could have been so fortunate.

A patch of navy blue making its way through dust clouds from the dirt road they lived beside brought her out of her daydream and back to the present. It was the special tote bag her dear father would use to hide the books and delicious American treats. What new adventures did he bring home this time? Was he able to find the continuations to some of her favorites? Just as the dust settled, right before she was about to turn away and run out to him she noticed that someone caught his attention. Had called out to him…

Her eyes found Omar, and behind him, his father Mahaz. Maybe they had come to ask for money. Or had they asked him to buy something in Kabul? He didn’t appear to have anything extra on him from what he normally travelled with. Whatever it was she’d have to wait and meet him at the door, otherwise they’d get on to him for her being unattended, even though it was just a few steps away from their home.

The three crossed the street to the front of the house, where they were joined by a few more high-ranking members of the Taliban. This is when Karida’s heartbeat started to increase. What were they doing here?

Oh, no. Does Omar know about the book?

Please, no…

But how could he? She had been so careful, only taking it out at night once her grandmother’s reassuring snoring had started up, letting her know that it was indeed safe to turn on the flashlight under her blanket. And for those two weeks, the only ones to have stopped by were a few other little old ladies admiring Karida’s youth and beauty, while speaking highly of their own grandchildren when they learned that she hadn’t been arranged into marriage yet.

Had Omar seen the outline of the book against her chest when he escorted her to or from? Had he somehow sensed it? Impossible. But nothing was impossible, just as nothing was unimaginable.

Why is father shaking his head no? What is he denying?

All of a sudden her chest tightened, with her pulsating heart spreading to her head and ears as Omar ripped the navy blue tote bag from Hadi’s hand, Mahaz and a couple of the others tearing away his other two bags.

Omar opened the tote bag, looked inside and took out a paperback. After looking at its cover he held it up to Hadi, shaking it in the air while yelling accusations.

Karida’s eyes began to well up with tears. 

Her cousin forcibly threw the paperback at her father, then reached back into the bag, grabbed another and struck him again.

Please. That’s it. You’ve punished him enough. I’ll never read again!

Yoo-hoo was the next to come out of the navy blue, the label barely showing itself before shooting out of Omar’s hand and shattering across her father’s face. The glass instantly cutting through skin and releasing blood, which began to pour over the coat of chocolate milk.

NO!” Karida cried out, prompting her mother to come running in from the next room and to the window just in time to witness the second glass bottle exploding against her husband’s head.

With another scream of protest Karida turned to run out to him but was stopped by her mother.

It’s over! It’s over!” she assured in their native tongue through her tears. “Look, they’ve stopped. They’ve handed down their punishment. It’s over.”

Shaking in each other’s arms, the two watched as the men talked down to Hadi as he pleaded on bended knee, his wife frantically begging Allah under her breath to truly make it be over.

But the accusations kept coming. This time from Mahaz, before spreading amongst the other men as well. A crowd had started to form, which brought the horrific thought to both mother and daughter, no matter how hard they tried to shut it out. A thought so fearful they didn’t dare utter it, but inside were still trying to convince themselves that it couldn’t be. Not over a few simple books and some snacks, even if they were American.

But then their darkest thought materialized into reality when one of the older men came forward and threw a handful of pebbles at Hadi, sending his wife and daughter into hysterics as they rushed out of the house screaming. For this was the start of the most feared punishment of all. Honor killing- by stoning.

Just as they threw themselves down to shield him they were ripped away, Omar preaching to the ever-growing crowd as pebbles continued to rain down upon Hadi.

Our own blood has been conspiring with the enemy!” he shouted in Dari, “confirmed by members of our own council who witnessed him coming and going out of the American embassy day after day. Our dear Hadi, who refused to accept and serve alongside his family to help free our people from these foreign invaders. Acting as though he were working odd jobs in Kabul when in fact he had joined the enemy! Those who come to destroy our beliefs and burn our holy Quran! Massacre our innocent women and children! He not only betrays us, he betrays Allah!”

The crowd responded in an uproar, demanding the ultimate punishment for the ultimate betrayal.

And who do you bring this trash home to, traitor?! Who do you brainwash with the language of the enemy? Your wife, who disrespects the holy teachings by coming out uncovered, or your daughter? Or is it both?”

It is me! Only me!” yelled Karida’s mother. “My daughter knows nothing of this. She is a pure Islamic girl.” Mahaz looked at the properly-covered Karida, walked over to one of the books, picked it up and put it to the mother’s face. “Read it”, he ordered.

Although she was close to illiterate her mind had absorbed a few dozen words over the years while Hadi had secretly instructed Karida in their home, and as she looked at the book’s cover in front of her face she thanked Allah for having recognized them.

BLACK WOOD FARM!” the protective mother cried out, tears running down her husband’s face, glazing streaks down the blood it was covered in.

The crowd instantly went back to heaving handfuls of pebbles and small stones, showering both husband and wife as they were brought up to their feet.

To bring such dishonor to your own people!” Mahaz condemned before turning back to the crowd. “As commanded by Allah, we will cleanse ourselves of this betrayal, and my son Omar shall take this innocent as his new wife, to bear children who will help carry on God’s word in this holy war of freeing ourselves from the enemy. Praise Allah for having guided us here today to those who would live among us yet conspire against us. He continues to show us that we are on the right path by shedding light on such a betrayal! Praise Allah!”

And with that Hadi and his wife’s death march began, the crowd continuing to assault them with any sized piece of earth they could find while shoving them down the road and towards the town square. Karida taking a beating of her own as she refused to let them go without a fight, occasionally freeing herself from unknown grasps to cling to her mother or father for a few seconds before being ripped away and thrown to the ground.

During one of her more successful attempts Hadi took advantage of the moment by pleading to his daughter to stop.

My dear daughter, I am so sorry, but please don’t let it be for nothing. You must carry on. You must stay strong. Escape at the square and hide down in our sanctuary until-”

Once again torn away, but he found the strength to lunge forward long enough to whisper in English, “Your freedom will be our freedom! We die in peace knowing this!”

By the time they reached the town square Karida’s mother and father were so bloodied and beaten they no longer looked like her parents.

For generations this is where those who were believed to have committed unforgivable acts were executed. A waterless fountain filled with perfect sized stones stained in pink by decades of tasting blood. The platform in the center serving as a barbaric cleansing stage for the damned. Townspeople would gather around it, hurling the pieces of earth until enough blood had been shed to cause death.

The two were dragged up and to the center, Hadi doing his best to shield his wife from the barrage of stones now coming at them from three hundred and sixty degrees. Word had spread like wildfire, and by now the whole town had filled the square, all thirsty for what they saw as justice.

Through the blood, through the countless stones, through the ignorance and hatred mother and father managed to make eye contact with their daughter, begging her one last time with fading eyes to escape and taking peace in the sight of her doing just that as she allowed herself to be overtaken by the crowd until she was nowhere to be seen.

No one had noticed her slip away, not even the vicious Mahaz or Omar, and within minutes she was back in front of their simple home where it had all started.

Karida had never stopped crying, but broke down again when she came upon the shattered bottles of Yoo-hoo, but then she spotted the dirt-covered books, her father’s words coming back to her.

Your freedom will be our freedom.

Giving her the strength, the focus to grab the books and cookies and take refuge. The enemy was sure to come back to the house in search of her but would find no one, with no clue of what lied beneath their feet, or at least she hoped.

 

Chapter 3 posted shortly.

 

 

 

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