Muhammad Saleh was fifteen years old when the small Afghan village of his residence and the surrounding valley became the targets of American airstrikes and military occupation. The Americans were looking for Osama Bin Laden, whom Muhammad had never heard of prior to the September eleventh attacks, which had occurred two weeks before the airstrikes began.
“Who is Osama Bin Laden?” Muhammad asked his mother.
“He is the person who destroyed the Twin Towers.”
“He flew the planes?”
“No, but he organized the plot.”
“And where is he from?”
“But he is here now, in Hazara Qala?”
“Then what are the Americans doing here?”
“They are wasting money. Americans love to waste money.”
Muhammad’s ordinary life was gradually encroached upon by the presence of the Americans. The bombings of the mountain valleys at night would disturb his sleep so that he dozed off in class and for this his teacher would beat him. In response to the overhead jets and daytime bombings, the teacher and students would seek cover in a storage closet until the shaking and roaring subsided. One day, during the first week of the bombings, the teacher and students were huddled in the dark closet and Muhammad asked, “Teacher, who are they bombing?”
“They are bombing the people in the mountains,” replied the teacher.
“Because they are terrorists.”
“And what is a terrorist?”
“It is a person who brings terror upon others.”
More bombs were falling and the closet shook. Once the rattling stopped and it was quiet again, Muhammad said, “Teacher?”
“Which ones are the terrorists?”
“Which ones are the terrorists – the Americans or the people in the mountains?”
“Muhammad,” the teacher replied, “for asking such a stupid question, you shall be beat.”
In peacetime Muhammad would often play soccer with his friends, but due to the close proximity of the airstrikes and firefights, Muhammad’s parents required that he stay home when he was not at school. At home, Muhammad would help his father refine and package opium that was harvested from farms in the foothills.
“Do you think the Americans will leave soon?” Muhammad asked his father.
“But what if they find Bin Laden?”
“They don’t care about Bin Laden, he is worth less than a goat.”
“Then what do they want?”
“They want to take our land and resources. It’s the same thing every conqueror has wanted for the past two thousand years.”
“Will they take our land and resources, father?”
“Of course not. The conquerors always fail. Haven’t you been learning anything in school?”
“We always have to go into the closet at school,” said Muhammad. “When will I be able to play soccer again?”
“Shut up and focus on what you’re doing, you’re getting the resin everywhere.”
Muhammad went back to his work for a few minutes and then he said, “Father?”
“Can you buy me a bicycle?”
School and home life grew more difficult as power outages occurred with increasing frequency. The bombs fell closer and one night, when everyone was away, the school was bombed. As the firefights moved down from the valley and into the foothills, some opium farmers began to shoot at the approaching Americans whom fired back, killing the farmers who had shot at them as well as some farmers who hadn’t. The opium fields were then razed or burned by the Americans, and many farmers and opium dealers, including Muhammad’s father, were put out of work.
“What will you do now?” asked Muhammad’s mother.
“The Americans are building a large military base in Kandahar, perhaps I can find work there.”
“My husband will not work on a base for the occupiers!”
“What does it matter? It’s not like they’re ever going to conquer us.”
“It matters because you will be aiding the enemy!”
“But they probably have well-paying positions that offer very good benefits.”
“You should see if you can find a job with Al-Quadea, to fight the infidels!”
“Al-Quadea does not offer good employment packages. Plus, their staff are getting killed quite often nowadays.”
“I refuse to be married to a man who is traitor.”
“What will you do? Divorce me? This is not America, baby.”
The next day Muhammad’s father boarded a bus to Kandahar. It was a cold, sunny day and the bus was full of people who were leaving Hazara Qala for good, their luggage piled high on the roof. The solitaire bus was rolling along on a desolate and rocky road that stretched across a vast wasteland surrounded by distant mountains. It did not go unnoticed, for a satellite had spotted it and a fighter jet that had been dispatched to investigate had locked-in on the bus. From very high up in the air it is difficult to determine the nature and intentions of people inside of a bus, but the United States Air Force had come to the conclusion that all forty-five passengers were terrorists, and launched a missile which obliterated the bus and killed all of the passengers.
A neighbor informed Muhammad’s mom that the bus carrying her husband had been bombed and that all of the passengers had been killed. As his mother wept amongst the baskets of opium on the floor of their dim abode, Muhammad tried to console her, saying, “It’s going to be okay, Mom, it’s going to be okay.” But he was not sure what he was talking about, and as his bravery subsided he too began to cry.
The following morning Muhammad helped his mother build a stone memorial for his father in a field. He then went with his mother to the bus office located in the village center. Nearly thirty other relatives of the deceased passengers from the obliterated bus had crowded the office. His mother filled out some paperwork and consulted with a bus company official regarding any recourse she could pursue to avenge wrongful killing of her husband.
“What can you do to find the men who have done this and bring them to justice?” she asked, pounding her fist on the table.
“We are trying, but this is a highly difficult task. We are merely a small bus company in Hazara Qala, our annual budget is fifty thousand afghanis, and half our fleet was destroyed yesterday. The men who killed your husband have traveled in aircraft carriers and war planes from thousands of miles away for the purpose of killing innocent Muslims with impunity. They belong to the military of the most powerful Empire on earth, backed by the most powerful corporations in the world. These people have Google and Universal Studios and the Daytona Five Hundred, so their technology and weapons are very good.”
“We must bring them to justice! They have killed innocent people – people who have done nothing wrong, they have killed little children!”
“I understand, and we shall do our best avenge the murder of our passengers. We have telegraphed a letter to the American Embassy in Kabul demanding the extradition of the fighter pilot who fired the missile at the bus, along with those officials higher up in command who gave him permission to do so. The letter states that the culprits are to be turned over to the village magistrate and security forces at once so that they may be tried for their crimes. You should have seen how much paperwork we had to fill out, it was all very puzzling.”
“And if they do not respect our grievances and commands?”
“We must wait and see.”
“I refuse to wait while my husband’s blood dries, while my people are slaughtered by barbarians -- I demand retribution!”
The bus official was mute and stared intently into the woman’s eyes, her face shrouded by a veil.
“So I see,” said the official. “I have something that you may be interested in.”
The bus official stood up and walked over to a large metal cabinet. He opened it up and took out one of the many machine guns therein. He walked back to the table placed the gun on it.
“This is a Kalashnikov. Have you ever fired one of these?”
“Yes,” the woman replied, “Many times, at weddings.”
“In light of your loss, you may have it.”
The woman picked up the gun and checked the safety.
“Be careful,” said the man, “It is loaded.”
The woman stood up, put the gun under her burqa and held it pointing down against her leg. She bowed her head to the bus official and then left the room.
Muhammad was waiting for his mom outside of the bus station. When she came out, she hobbled past her son and was holding her thigh. Muhammad caught up with his mom in the street.
“What happened, mother, are you hurt?” he asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
As Muhammad and his mother made their way through the village center, a unit of American marines was heading toward the market. There were about a dozen foot soldiers, some of whom were tossing candy out to the children. Muhammad saw this and began scurrying toward them. His mother grabbed him.
“What are you doing?” she said.
“I was going to get a candy.”
“You fool, never take anything from these men. Do you hear me?”
“Now go home immediately.”
“Aren’t you coming?”
“I will be there. Leave now and go straight home.”
“But what about you?”
“I’m going to the market. Do as I say and go home.”
Muhammad turned and walked away from the market and out of the village center. He intentionally took a circuitous route which led past the village bike shop. A man was sitting outside the bike shop and smoking a cigarette as Muhammad slowed down to admire the bikes on display.
“Do you like bicycles?” the man asked Muhammad.
“Oh yes, very much so.”
“Which one among these do you like best?”
“I like this one, because it is sliver.”
“Ahh, the Wheel Warrior, a fine choice.”
“How much is this bike?” asked Muhammad, holding the handlebars.
“It is seven hundred afghani.”
“Oh.” Muhammad took his hands off the bike.
The man exhaled a puff of smoke and snuffed-out his cigarette. He said, “I see that you like that bike very much.”
“Yes, I do.”
“You may have it if you correctly answer this riddle.”
“You will let me have it?”
“Yes, but you must first answer a riddle.”
“What is it?”
The man told the riddle: “’I care not how to learn how to start off and end. I wish only to turn and go full speed ahead. Who am I?’ You get one chance.”
Muhammad thought hard and said, “Ummm…a terrorist flying an airplane?”
“What?” The man furrowed his brow and his eyes darted up in consideration, he then said, “No. The answer is a child riding a tricycle. You do not get the bike.”
Muhammad was about to protest when he heard a volley of gunshots followed by yelling and screaming originating from the market. Muhammad rushed back to the market, through and against the fleeing crowd. In the disheveled market bodies lay scattered in pools of blood and blood was splattered on many of the stalls. Frantic villagers were pulling the wounded away and the unit of the American solders was stepping back in a guarded retreat, dragging one of their dead comrades along. Muhammad saw the body of his mother on the ground and he collapsed beside his her. She had been shot in the heart and was dead.
For days Muhammad drifted around in mourning. He had buried his mother in the fields, beside a small memorial that he had built for his dead father. He did not eat anything nor speak with anyone until his teacher came to his house one afternoon. Muhammad was in the dark sitting at the table and was staring down. The teacher pushed the door open and the sunlight cast upon Muhammad.
“Muhammad, by God, you are wasting away,” the teacher said.
“I am sorry.”
“You must eat.”
“I am not hungry.”
“That doesn’t matter, you’re going to die if you don’t eat. Do you think you are respecting the memory of your parents like this? Do you think you would make them happy if you were to die?”
Muhammad said nothing.
“Don’t go anywhere. I will return immediately with some soup and bread.”
When the teacher returned with a bag a soup and a loaf of bread, Muhammad was gone. The teacher looked around the house and then went to the backyard. He wandered through the yard, looking for the teenager and calling out his name. Still holding the bread and soup, the teacher walked across the field and went to gravesite of Muhammad’s mother, which lay beside the memorial to his father. There, the teacher called out loudly, “Muhammad! Muhammad!” His voice echoed though the valley where a covert unit of special operations troops was on patrol. The troops took cover and looked at the teacher through their binoculars.
“What’s he saying?” asked one solider.
“I think he’s yelling, ‘Bin Laden,’” said another.
From such a far distance, even through their binoculars and scopes, the soldiers misconstrued the loaf of bread to be a rocket launcher, and a sniper shot and killed the teacher who dropped to ground beside Muhammad’s parent’s gravesite.
Though he had heard the shot ring out in the distance, Muhammad disregarded it as he wandered toward through the village in a daze. He crossed paths with another youth, whom seemed equally distraught, and the fact that this young man was walking along with the silver bicycle did not interest him. It was not before long that Muhammad, unintentionally (though perhaps subconsciously) found himself alongside the bike shop. Outside the shop the same man was sitting and smoking a cigarette.
“Hello,” said the man.
Muhammad said nothing and kept walking by. The man stood up and walked after him.
“Hey, my friend. Are you okay?”
“What is wrong?”
“My parents have died.”
The man closed his eyes and shook his head solemnly. “I am deeply sorry. How did they die?”
“They were killed by the Americans.”
“Come with me. I know someone who may be able to help you.”
Muhammad did not protest and the man brought him into the bike shop.
“Wait here,” said the man, “I will be right back.”
The man pushed aside a rug hanging over a doorway and walked down a passageway. Muhammad stared at the bikes and bike parts hanging on the walls of the shop and the man returned.
“Come down here,” said the man.
Muhammad followed the man down the passageway to a basement room. The room was dimly lit and there was another man with a grey beard sitting on a cushion in the corner.
“Have a seat,” said the bearded man. “Ahmed, thank you, you may leave us.”
The first man walked back upstairs and Muhammad sat down on a cushion opposite the bearded man. They were separated by a low-lying table. In the room were stacks of books, a few partially-dismantled bikes, and several flags hanging on the walls.
“I am sorry for you loss,” the man said, “Here, have some milk.” He poured a glass of milk.
“So, your parents were killed by the Americans.”
“There are too many stories like yours across this country. Those fucking Americans have killed so many people. And they have only begun their crusade.”
Muhammad sipped the milk.
“Do you like the milk?”
“Yes,” said Muhammad.
“It is from my cat.”
Muhammad stopped drinking and looked up curiously.
The man said, “Do you know that my cat is a very nice and private cat. She does not pick fights, she does not shit on my floor, she does not kill the other cats.”
Muhammad looked around for the cat but couldn’t find one.
“My cat,” the man continued, “she has seven little kittens now – meow meow meow – that is why we have the milk. She cares for her kittens and is generous with her milk to those who love her. But do you know something? Kitty will not allow me to hurt her kittens. For instance, say I came up to her to kill one,” the man squeezed his hand into a fist, “She would attack me. She knows she may not win, but still she will try to scratch the shit out of me, because she loves her kittens. And if I kill her kittens she will try to kill me – this is the cat that was so loving and peaceful.”
The man stood up.
“Afghanistan,” he said, pointing to a flag, “Is like my cat. We are rich with milk, we love our kittens, and we minded our own fucking business.”
“I see,” said Muhammad.
“We have done nothing wrong and we are being killed by these fucking Americans bitches! And will fight for the lives of our kittens! Do you see what I say?”
“Yes,” said Muhammad.
“Your parents…Habaab’s parents…” the man pointed to a Polaroid photograph of a young man on the wall. It was the same young man who had walked past Muhammad with the sliver bike. “They are the kittens that have been killed! And we are the cats that will avenge them!” The man turned toward Muhammad and hissed like an angry cat, his hands gripping the air in front of him with his fingers curled taut like claws.
“Tell me, do you want revenge, Habaab?” the man asked.
“My name is Muhammad.”
“Yes, sorry. Do you want revenge, Muhammad?”
“Are you prepared to kill the infidels in the name of God?”
“Are you prepared to die?”
Muhammad stared into the man’s eyes, “Yes.”
“This is what I like to hear.” The man spoke louder and said, “He who dies in an attack against the infidels is rewarded greatly by God.”
“Wait,” said Muhammad, “Is it possible for me to just attack, so I do not die?”
“Ahh, but this is not effective, and will significantly reduce your chances of being admitted into heaven to receive the bonus.”
“Yes, you get a lovely bonus in heaven if you suicide bomb yourself.”
“Come to think of it, you probably get the bonus even if you don’t want it.
“What do you mean, ‘the bonus?’”
The man grinned at Muhammad and said, “Let me ask you something special, have you ever had the sex?”
“Yes, you know, sex. Boom-boom, bang-bang, come on baby light my fire?” The man was thrusting his hips back and forth.
“Well, not really.”
“Not really? Tell me, how does one not really have sex?”
“No. I have not have sex.”
“Well, do you want to?”
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”
Enunciating each word, the man said, “Do…you…want…to…have...the…sex?”
Muhammad was still confused, “With you?”
“Good God no! Where the fuck do you...Who the fuck --- are you fucking queer?!”
“No!” exclaimed Muhammad.
“If you are a fucking fairy I will slit your fucking throat where you sit!”
“I am not a fairy!”
The man sat back down and was clam again.
“Good, so your bonus is like this – once you kill the infields…”
“And avenge your country…”
“And you die…”
“You get into heaven and you will have seventy-two beautiful virgins all to yourself. And you may do all that you wish with these seventy-two young and soft women.”
“Wow,” said Muhammad.
“Now,” said the man, “you have two choices by way of death.”
The man walked over to the work bench and picked up a heavy vest then walked back over to the table. “This is choice number one. It is a dynamite vest. You can wear it under your shirt.” Muhammad watched as the man was fumbling with the vest, trying to figure out which way was which. “This fucking thing…okay, so you put the vest on like this,” the man put on the dynamite vest, “and to make it explode you take this,” the man lifted and held out a cord and yelled “and-then-you-pull-this-and-you-BOMB!!!”
Muhammad jumped back in fear.
“Haha,” the man laughed, “I got you, you fucking shit! You thought I was going to suicide bomb us to death! Hahaha, you fucking guy! Ohhhh shit...”
The man wiped his tears and then took off the vest. He went back to the work station and put the vest back on the bench. He then picked up and bicycle frame and carried it over.
“This is option number two. This bicycle will become a bomb. We will fill the tires, frame, seat, and handlebars with explosives, and the same principal from before applies, except instead of pulling a cord your ring a bell.”
The man made a little bell ringing motion with his index finger.
“How big is the explosion?”
“It is huge. It will take out everyone at a checkpoint.”
“But the bike is not ready?”
“Not yet. We must first wire it with bombs. If you want to go with the bike then you must return tomorrow at noon and it will be ready.”
“Then I will go with the bicycle,” said Muhammad.
Muhammad stood up and the man put the bike frame back. The man then picked up a Polaroid camera from the desk and pointed it at Muhammad’s face.
“Say su-i-cideee,” said the man.
“Suicideee,” Muhammad said.
The photograph emerged from the camera and the man pinned it up on the wall next to Habaab’s.
“One day we will have cameras and microphones to make proper suicide video recordings.”
“May I ask,” Muhammad said, “Perhaps you can let me borrow a bike, just for a day, to practice riding. It has been a while and I am not very good.”
“I see,” the man said skeptically, “You want me to give you a bike to practice.”
“Yes, yes, that would be very nice.”
“But sometimes it is not so good to practice. You may not want to stop practicing. You know you will have plenty of time to ride bikes in heaven.”
“There are bikes in heaven?”
“Oh yes, many. And there are no hills that go up.”
“Or sometimes flat.”
“But maybe I can just borrow one bike for today, perhaps just --- ”
“Silence! You are about to sacrifice your life for a noble cause. I respect this, but I cannot allow you to simply ride away with one of my bikes for nothing. So, I will give you a bike if you are able to do one thing.”
“If you can answer a riddle correctly.”
“I see, and what is the riddle?”
The man said, “Okay, I don’t care about how to…I care about…wait, hold on, I have to remember how it goes.” The man murmured to himself and then said, “’I care not how to learn how to start off and end. I wish only to turn and go full speed ahead? Who am I?’”
Muhammad smiled confidently and said, “You are a child riding a tricycle.”
The man was quiet for a moment and then said, “Muhammad, that is by far the stupidest answer I have ever heard. If I were your teacher I would beat you. The answer is a terrorist flying a plane. You will not receive the bike. Come back tomorrow at noon and we will be ready.”
Muhammad left the basement and walked out of the bike shop. The other man was once again sitting outside and smoking a cigarette.
“How did it go, my friend?” the man asked.
“I will return tomorrow at noon.”
Muhammad turned away and the man called out, “Did you drink the milk?”
“It is from his cat.”
Leaving the bike shop reminded Muhammad of the day of his mother’s death and he fell back into a detached state of grief. He started home and heard a loud blast which was the sound of an explosion at a checkpoint. He kept walking, and on the wall in the basement of the bike shop his face came into focus in the photo pinned-up beside Habaab’s. That night, Muhammad tossed and turned in his sleep, his nightmares revolving around his parents and random felines.
When Muhammad arrived at the bike shop at noon the next day there were no bikes outside and the door was locked. He looked through the windows and inside all the bikes and bike parts were gone. He knocked on the door and soon the cigarette-smoking man opened it.
“Hello, come in,” said the man.
Muhammad walked inside and the man closed and locked the door.
“The Americans are raiding shops, so we are trying not to draw attention.”
The man then called down to the basement and the bearded man soon emerged from the passageway carrying the suicide bike. It had been fixed-up and painted black and Muhammad was transfixed by it. He walked up to it and placed his hand across the handlebars and the bearded man brushed his hand away.
“Don’t ring the bell until you reach the checkpoint.”
He handed the bike to Muhammad and said, “You are not to ride the bike, simply walk it to the checkpoint, and when you are beside an infidel, ring the bell. You will feel nothing.”
“I’m not to ride the bike?”
“No! You must not ride the bike. It is not stable. You are do to as instructed and walk with the bike as close as you can get to an American, then ring the bell. Do you understand me?”
“May God be with you.”
Muhammad walked outside with the bike and the man said, “Muhammad, if you fail to complete this mission, if you try to run away, we will hunt you down and kill you.”
Muhammad walked the bike through the village streets toward the market. He held the handlebars firmly and watched the shiny spokes spinning as he pushed the bike along. He was very tempted to mount the bike just to see how it rode. It was the right size for him, and if it were not filled with explosives it would have been a bike that he would have loved to call his own. He made his way down the familiar streets, and for the first time since his father’s death – gripping the bike proudly in his hands, imagining all the wonderful places he could ride it – Muhammad smiled. He kept going toward the market where the Americans had set up their checkpoints. He could see the soldiers on guard and the villagers crossing through the streets on that cold and sunny day.
The road that led toward the market and checkpoint was on a slight decline, and Muhammad came to a halt with the bike. He stretched his right leg over the frame and sat down on the seat. He put more weight on the bike as he lifted his left leg off the ground. The bike began to inch forward and Muhammad placed his feet on the pedals. Gaining momentum, he slowly swerved side to side, saying, “Whoa, Whoa,” each time he turned too far. The bike picked-up speed and he was stable, going down toward the checkpoint. He passed shops and villagers on the sidewalk, and as he caught a glimpse of himself on the bike in the reflection of a big window sorrow and joy filled his heart. Tears streamed down his face as he rolled toward the checkpoint, where he could see soldiers already watching him approach.
He tried to slow down but the brakes were not functioning properly and were squeaking loudly each time he squeezed them. He was going quite fast and began yelling, “Excuse me, Excuse me!” to those villagers scuttling out of his way. As he neared the market, he could see the bloodstain on the ground from where his mother had died, and he caught a glimpse of the soldiers aiming their weapons at him, yelling at him to stop. It was then that he felt a sharp pain through his shoulder and chest and he fell off the bike before the checkpoint. He had been shot through his lungs which were collapsing and he could not breathe. As he writhed dying in pain he thought about the bonus – how the arrangement in heaven was dependent on his suicide-murder of the infidels, who had instead killed him.
When he was conscious of his presence once more Muhammad stood breathing at the end of a fluorescent hallway that went on indefinitely. He touched his chest and was not wounded. At the beginning of the hallway where he stood, a glass window looked out to a bright sky and white clouds were floating slowly by. He peered out of the window and looked down and there was no ground in sight, only the endless sky. He turned back to the hallway that had a row of closed doors stretching down each side. He stepped forward and looked at the first door to his right. Scrawled on it was the name of someone he did not know, and he tried to open it but it was locked. He stepped down the hall, occasionally trying a random door – each with a different name, each one locked. He walked for a long time, until the window at the end of the hallway was barely visible. He was turning his head from side to side as he walked, and with one turn to the left he saw the door with his name on it. This time, instead of trying to turn the knob, he first put his ear to the door. He heard nothing and then knocked on the door. As he was doing this, Muhammad heard a raucous coming from the room across the hall. He turned and examined the door opposite his, and the name on it read Habaab Amin. Muhammad hear a man screaming and women laughing from inside, and just as he was about to step closer to listen, Habaab’s door burst open. Habaab appeared with a bloodied face and tattered clothes. He looked at Muhammad and yelled, “God help me!” He then sprinted down the hall toward the direction of the window.
“Wait!” cried Muhammad, “What’s wrong?”
But just as he began to dash after Habaab, his door opened up and he was yanked inside. The room was pink and white and Muhammad had been pulled to the floor. He lay on his back and the plump face of an enormously fat woman came into view.
“Looks like we got ourselves a fresh one,” said the woman.
Her remark was followed by laughter and the sound of the door closing. Muhammad rolled over and looked up. A diverse array of obese women dominated the room. They were sprawled out on cushions and couches, some lay naked on the floor, their torsos and thighs made indistinguishable by giant rolls of fat. Muhammad stood up in shock.
A woman, fat and black, stepped toward him. With her mouth full of food she said, “Don’t be scared baby, we gonna take good care of you.”
Muhammad took slow backward steps toward the door.
“But you…” he said, “I though you were supposed to be virgins...”
“Oh, that’s if you in the premium Kasbah, honey, and you ain’t in it.”
“Oh my God,” said Muhammad.
“You want to be a suicide bomber, baby?” a woman called out, “You can jump on this grenade.”
As Muhammad made for the door a woman lurched forward and grabbed his ankle. She started licking and nibbling it, saying, “I’m gonna eat you up, baby doll!”
Muhammad fell to the ground and the whole room was roaring with laughter. Before he could get to his feet a chunky, white woman began lowering her sagging belly on his face and was smothering him. He was screaming into her blubber, waving his arms around wildly and suffocating. She let up on him and another woman came forth, shaking the floor as she stepped.
“Welcome to paradise, sweetheart.” She stood over him and turned around. The woman then lowered her gigantic ass onto poor Muhammad’s face. Muhammad closed his eyes and cried out for her to stop, but he then shut his mouth so as to avoid tasting any contents of her ass. She lifted her ass up and Muhammad had squinched his face, he was spitting in disgust and the woman said, “That’s right baby, give me some of that nasty.” She once again lowered herself upon him. As this was happening the woman holding him down was tearing off his pants.
“Okay!” Muhammad cried out, “Okay! I will give you the nasty! Please just let me take my own clothes off.”
The woman lowered her ass onto his face again and he screamed into it.
“Please!” he begged as she lifted her ass off him, “Just give me one moment to catch my breath.”
The ass lady moved away but the woman holding him didn’t let go. He squirmed out of her grip and she held his pant legs as he scrambled up to his feet in his underwear. Once again, the women erupted in laughter and Muhammad looked down at his underwear that had pictures of Pinocchio on it. He then leapt back toward the door and the women yelled and stomped after him. He opened the door and looked back at the angry mob of obese blobs that seemed to be molding together into a single gelatinous mass undulating toward him like a mudslide. Muhammad launched out of the door and ran for his afterlife down the hallway, the same way Habaab did, toward the window. The women chasing after him were moving surprisingly fast, and would probably have caught up with him had they not kept jamming together in the narrow width of the hallway.
Muhammad sprinted toward the window and he could see the endless sky and soft clouds outside. The window was perfectly intact and he wondered if and how Habaab escaped through. Muhammad frantically tried to push the window open put there was no latch or handle. He then tried to break it with his elbow but it would not crack. He pounded on the window as the hollering stampede of angry gluttons fast approached. Muhammad then took a few steps back and faced the window. He took a deep breath and with all his might he ran, jumped, and hurled himself shoulder first into the window.
The glass shattered and Muhammad could feel the cool air outside. He opened his eyes and saw the blue sky that went on forever. He was falling away from the steel blue structure and he saw the pieces of glass suspending in air and then re-form into the window. He turned around and spread his arms, the air rushing past him. He could see no bottom to his drop, only a skyblue atmosphere that faded into darkness like the ocean. For hours Muhammad fell through the ethereal void. He called out for help but no one answered. He looked for others but no one was there. He closed his eyes and when he opened them he saw a distant island breaking through the clouds. It was the top of a mountain and it grew larger as he fell. More mountaintops appeared from other directions as well. The blueness below gave way to a green expanse. He fell through the clouds and the bottom was fast approaching. He could see valleys and rivers and verdant hills. He realized that the impact was near and began screaming and his shut eyes before he slammed into the soft earth.
When he awoke he was lying on his back on the ground. There was a faint giggling and something was licking his face. Muhammad stretched his sore body and opened his eyes. Giant stalks of golden wheatgrass surrounded him in a sunny field.
“Hello,” said a female voice, “How are you?”
Muhammad looked around, “Who’s there?”
The voice giggled again and wind passed through the grass.
“My name’s Gabriela. I’m your friend.”
From out of a thicket of wheat stepped a little cat. It was all white and had diaphanous fur that radiated with light. The cat purred and brushed itself against Muhammad’s arm and he watched her disappear back into the wheat.
Muhammad was overwhelmed with a fearful sensation of being lost and alone. He held back some tears and said, “I don’t have any friends. I don’t know where I am.”
A gentle wind rattled the wheat stalks and the cat did not respond.
Muhammad let the tears flow and said, “I’m lost and my mom and father have died. I have failed them. I have done terrible things, I tried to kill people. I have no one anymore and I deserve to go to Hell.”
“You’re not the judge of that,” said Gabriela, who came back and pressed her head against Muhammad’s hand. “Come with me,” she said.
She stepped through the wheat and Muhammad wiped away his tears, stood up, and followed her. The wheat was taller than him and beyond the golden stalks all that he could see was the blue and infinite sky above. He followed the cat through the blades of wheat and saw that they were nearing the edge of the field. He stepped out onto a path and beheld green valleys and hills. On the end of the gravel path was a silver bike and Gabriela brushed her body against the wheel.
“This is for you,” she said.
Muhammad was speechless as he approached the bike. It was sparkling new and tears of joy rolled down his face as he got on it.
“Just keep following the path,” said Gabriela, “Everything is okay.”
Muhammad pushed forward on the bike. He rang the bell and it produced a wonderful ring.
“Thank you, Gabriela. Goodbye!”
Muhammad began to pedal along the path. He tested the brakes and they worked fine and did not squeak. He looked around as he rode and saw birds flying over hills and streams of clear water. He passed a vast field where kids were playing soccer. They waved to him and he waved back. He kept going along the path, pedaling hard. There was a colorful field of opium, and standing in the middle holding hands were his mother and father. They were smiling and waving to him.
“Mother!” cried Muhammad.
“Keep going!” his mother cheered.
“Father!” exclaimed Muhammad.
“We love you!” his father called out, “Just keep going!”
He kept pedaling. The path stretched out to the horizon, toward two shimmering towers that awaited him in the distance. Muhammad smiled as he rode his bike along the path, which was only downhill – or sometimes flat.