Absent Figure

Roman ruins in Bir Kasdali, Algeria

“Liki? Is that you? I can hear you speak, even though your lips aren’t moving!”

“Don’t be a mammoth, stop believing everything you’re told!”

“A mammoth?”

“Mammoths were very naive. That’s why they died out. When thunder started growling and the advent of an ice storm became glaringly apparent, instead of paying heed to the signs of an impending catastrophe, they froze, both literally and figuratively.”

“That’s sad!”

“Oh, aren’t you the sensitive type! Sing something, I want to hear your beautiful singing voice!”

“Liki, please, stop! Sit down next to me! I don’t know where you get all that energy from! You worry me!”

“You remind me of someone. It might be the mischievous glimmer in your eyes. Do I know you? What are you doing here?”

“Very funny! By the way, is this where you hang now?”

“Sit down, sit down next to me.”

There is something about Bir Kasdali that unnerves me. People in this town are like zombies. They seem to have developed a habit of twisting the truth. According to what gets posted on Facebook, the graveyard I was at is a popular place to go practice black magic, because people believe it contains a portal to the underworld. The burial site is approximately one century old, fenced in by pine trees and close to a Roman archaeological site. Since being unearthed, the ruins of the archaeological site have been left pretty much abandoned. The whole place looked pretty spooky. I had decided to leave at sunset, which is when the street dogs start barking, but then Liki had shown up, out of the blue, almost like an apparition of sorts. I tried to avoid jumping to conclusions right away. It might have just been a coincidence after all. But then, he had started acting as if he didn’t know me! Wow! That was just unbelievable! Was it even possible that he might have been someone else? Perhaps, he was in fact a genie! I was starting to freak out. I even wet my pants a little. I tried, nonetheless, to stay cool, calm and collected, because I didn’t want him to notice I didn’t have the situation under control.

“Look me in the eyes and tell me the truth, man. Are you Liki or some kind of genie?”

“Have we met before? Who are you?”

I immediately regretted having asked him to look me in the eyes. He might, after all, try to hypnotize me! I tried to hide my fear behind a smile and said:

“So, tell me, am I supposed to play along?”

“Listen to me, man. We both seem to know what the other one is thinking, even though we haven’t expressed it out loud. We should be asking ourselves how that’s even possible.”

Suddenly, we both burst into tears. No way the man standing in front of me was anyone other than Liki. He had the same look in his eyes that Liki had when he bid me farewell last time we saw each other. I didn’t quite understand what it meant back then, but its image was lodged in my mind.

We hugged each other, he gave me the flowers he had been holding in his hand the whole time and said:

“Don’t let these flowers wither and don’t you dare become a mammoth. Also, last piece of advice, always ask before assuming anything.”

Then he disappeared, as mysteriously as he had popped up. I was still shouting his name, when I woke up. My mother had been the one to wake me. She pressed me against her chest and said:

“I know you miss your father, but he ain’t coming back.”


The Author, Abdeldjabar Deboucha:

I am the Executive Director of Idea Magazine, a writer and a social media activist. I fight for what I believe, to make life worth living.