Day 4: What we find
Updated: Sep 15
A short story series about a couple living in Kurdistan in 1996.
On day 4 , the lockdown has ceased in Hewlêr, however the soldiers occupying the city begin searching homes for remaining enemy soldiers.
Fajr didn’t wake her today. They woke up at quarter past 8 with the blaring Kurdish sun shining through their bedroom window. She ran her fingers through his hair.
“I’m gonna go get the kids’ tomorrow. Then we could leave.”
“And then we can leave.” He smiled and kissed her on the forehead then climbed out of bed, put on a shirt and walked down the stairs to the kitchen, all the windows were open and the heat was unbearable. He took out two mugs from the cupboard and scooped in some instant coffee then placed the saucer on the stove to heat up the water. His eyes glanced over the arak bottle next to the sink, the sunlight gave the clear liquid an enchanting glimmer. He opened it up and took a generous swig, then another, and one more for good luck then screwed the top on and put it back.
Hebah walked into the kitchen and sat down at the kitchen counter, tapped out a cigarette from the pack and lit it.
“There are a lot of schools in Nashville looking for teachers.” she said “I’d have to practice my English a little more, try and handle the accent but once we’re there for a month or two I’ll be okay.”
“The kids can go to the same school my cousin's kids go to and her husband works at a car factory, she said there's always work going there.”
“Sounds good.” He smiled at her
He placed her mug of coffee in front of her
“We’re going to be happy, Zana. A change of scenery, change of surroundings, it’ll be healthy for you, for all of us.”
Zana let out a laboured laugh, she could hear the twinge of fear lying within it.
“As long as I breath, Hebah my vices will know where to find me.” He lit a cigarette and sipped his coffee. “But our kids, they’ll never be like me, not with a mother like you. No, our children will grow up to be scholars and poets and philosophers. They will know love, and will, and strength and perseverance, because that’s you. In anything they choose to do they will be kings and queens in their own right. You can do all that with or without me.”
Outside, Zana heard a car driving down their street, from above their fence he saw a truck stop.
“I think that’s the same truck that delivered the supplies the other day” Hebah said. Four men climbed out of the bed of the truck, opened their front gate and made their way to the door. Zana went over and opened it, “Hi there” the man on the doorstep said. Hebah saw his face and noticed he was the one who sat in the truck bed the other day with the smile.
“What do you need?” Zana said
“Oh we are just making sure everyone’s okay, checking identity papers and that sort of thing.” He flashed his smile again and walked past Zana into the kitchen. As the other three men followed, Hebah saw the last one to enter was the one with the kind eyes who handed her the box.
“I remember you.” the man with the smile - which had now turned into a snicker entwined with a hint of confidence said pointing at Hebah still sat at the kitchen counter. “Haven’t seen your kids yet, huh? Don’t worry, they’ll be okay. ”
Hebah stared at him and his ugly smirk, “I know”
No one said anything for a beat, Hebah and the man stared at each other.
“What do you need to see?” Zana interjected
“Identity papers, passports, anything you got. Why don’t you go fetch them.” He said, looking at Hebah.
“Why don’t you get the fuck out of my house.”
He let out a horrid cackle, “You’re a funny lady.”
“She doesn’t know where the papers are.” Zana said, interjecting again. “I’ll go and get them.”
“Mm, of course go ahead. Don’t worry, I’ll keep her company.”
“I’ll be right back.” he said, looking at Hebah.
Zana paced off into the garage.
“You have a lovely home here. You keep it very nice and clean, good job.” He grabbed an apple from the bowl on the kitchen counter and took an almost excessive bite. The juice wet his lips and dripped down his chin.
She didn’t say a word, she just looked at him.
“It’s rude to ignore someone.”
"Do you want to know why we really came here? There has been mumbles and grumbles around all the other houses around here that there is actually an enemy soldier in the neighbourhood. Fucking neighbours right? Can never mind their own business in this city." He smiled at her.
"There are no soldiers in this house."
"You know that is what I thought the second I saw your husband. He's too spineless, I can tell. A man like that knows nothing about being a soldier."
"And you know nothing of being a man." She said.
He walked over to within a foot of her and stood there for a second then tried to brush her hair behind her ear, she slapped away his hand.
“Don’t fucking touch me.” Hebah said, he smiled.
“That’s enough, Xoshnaw.” the man with the kind eyes said.
“Mind your business, Heval.”
Zana walked back in through the garage and closed the door behind him.
“Ah, there you are. Did you get your papers?”
“Yeah, here they are.” With one swift motion Zanas' hand disappeared behind his back and reappeared holding the gun. As he raised his arm to aim so too did the men.
“DROP THE FUCKING GUN” Xoshnaw yelled.
“PUT IT DOWN NOW”
“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE”
“DROP THE FUCKING GUN OR WE WILL SHOOT”
“Zana ,what are you doing?”
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE”
“It’s empty! Don’t shoot!” Hebah screamed
Zanas' aim drifted over all four men, a slight wobble in his posture from the swigs of arak. ”FUCKING DOGS!”
“DROP IT NOW”
“Zana, put it down!”
Hebah grabbed the arm of the man with the grim smile, “Don’t, please!”. He threw her off, sending her crashing onto the floor.
Zanas’ glance shot to Hebah, “You mother-”, He readied his finger on the trigger as the gun pointed to the soldier.
“DON’T DO IT”
Zanas’ head jerked back as a bullet entered his skull over his right eyebrow. A quick splat of blood spat out the back of his head partially painting the garage door red. The sound was so loud it felt like it shook the room, Hebahs ears rang, her vision was dazed, still on the floor she looked over to where Zana was. He lay there motionless, he didn’t utter a last word or gargle blood as he clung to life. He didn’t clutch a wound or have time to say goodbye. His head jerked back and his life escaped through the exit wound in the back of his skull.
She crawled over to his body.
“Hey, get up, get up, Zana, Get up, baby. Hey hey, wake up.” Her voice wobbled, her body was shaking. “It was empty” she said, “It was always empty”. She held his head in her hands and pressed him to her chest. "Wake up, Zana. We're getting the kids tomorrow. Come on, baby." She stared into his face waiting for a twitch or a blink as she ran her fingers through his hair.
The four soldiers stood next to each other a few feet away from her. All with bowed heads except for the smiling man who shot.
“Look what your husband did! He could of killed us, fucking coward!”
“It was empty.” she said, still looking at Zana.
“Yeah well that makes sense, cowards never shoot they just like waving guns around.” He laughed then began to approach Hebah. “Oh well, you can understand why I had to do what I did. Now get up.” he said to her.
Hebah sat there, her mind still reeling.
Xoshnaw was only a few paces away from Hebah now, his face had a look of accomplishment, like a hunter approaching a kill to claim his prize. “I said get-”
Another loud bang, Xoshnaw dropped to the floor like a building being demolished. Hebah sat there with Zanas' gun, her hands still shook, her ears still rang.
Two of the soldiers raised their guns and pointed them at her, seconds from firing.
The man with the kind eyes jumped into the line of fire.
“Put your guns down” he said to his men. He turned around and looked at Hebah, her hands and blouse covered in blood, aiming a gun that was meant to be empty at the soldiers.
“I’m sorry, Miss. I’m really sorry.”
She began to cry.
Heval looked back to his men “We came into the house and the resident began firing and shot and killed Xoshnaw, then I opened fire and took him out. That’s what happened, isn’t that right?”
“Yes, sir that’s what happened.” they both nodded in agreement.
“That’s what happened.” Heval said looking at Hebah ,“I am really, really sorry.”
He motioned to the other two to retrieve the dead soldier's body. One wrapped his arms under Xoshnaws' armpits while the other held both his legs, they picked him up and carried him out of the house and placed him in the truck bed.
“It was empty, It was always meant to be empty.” She said, looking at Zanas body, silent, still, and peaceful.
About the author: Aryan Ali-murad is a creative writer, and you can follow him on IG here
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