Before being brought out of my cell, I was handcuffed and blindfolded. Yet, I could still feel the scorching sunlight pressing against my eyelids. After having spent a whole year hemmed in by four walls, feeling the hot sand of the vast, almost never-ending desert warmed the cockles of my heart, despite the burning pain in the soles of my bare feet. I didn’t know where they were taking me, but, instead of panicking, I chose to focus on the pleasant sensation of the wind blowing in my face.
After a rather long walk across the desert, we stopped. We were about to enter a place with what seemed like a wooden door that was pushed open by one of the two French soldiers escorting me. They untied me and forced me inside, before closing the door behind me. I then took off the blindfold. My eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the light coming from the ceiling. I was locked inside a small windowless mud hut. Feeling enraged and trapped, I started pounding on the door frantically. Suddenly, I heard someone call my name. I turned around and saw there was another person in the room, crouched in a corner. At first I thought I was having a drug-induced hallucination. They had to have poisoned the stale bread they fed me every day. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. It was in fact her, my wife, right there, next to me!
“Ahmed, is that you?”
“Fatima?” I crouched down beside her and pressed her against my chest. I was elated to see her!
“Ahmad, I have heard they are planning to drop a nuclear bomb on us to exterminate us. They have brought us to the place where they are testing the bomb!”
Her assertion confirmed my suspicions. They were the reason I had been sent to prison in the first place. Some friends of mine and I had discovered their secret plans to test nuclear bombs on Algerian soil and had revealed them to the nation.
“You know what, Fatima? At least we got a chance to say goodbye to one another. That was my biggest fear; to die without having had the opportunity to see you and the Sahara desert one last time; to die far away from Reggane, the land I was born in. I am happy that I got to enjoy the desert one last time on my way here. But tell me, how do you feel? I hope you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me for having dragged you into this.”
“Ahmad, we are going to die as martyrs and go straight to Heaven, ain’t that right? I tell you this, for all that I may have grumbled about the gifts you have given me over the years, I have to admit that this is the best present I could have ever hoped for.”
Her words touched me very deeply. I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. We started reminiscing about the past as if we had all the time in the world. Next we started envisioning what our future together would have looked like and talked about what we would have named our kids. After all, we might have been about to die, but our epic story would live long after our passing.
Written by Ikhlass Elayyal.