Summer Slumber

Beni Hammad Fort, Maadid, Algeria

I had spent the whole night walking on my own and was starting to feel pretty desperate to, for lack of a better alternative, spy a murky light shimmering on the horizon. I had been trying hard to ignore the foul stench of my bleak surroundings. After all, I had to reach my destination no matter how long or unpalatable the journey turned out to be. As I continued plodding forward, my mind set sail for where my fondest memories had taken place.

Suddenly, a gruff voice asked me about my love. Fear gripped me, but I tried to conceal it as I offered my answer.

“She belongs to my past, a past I wish I could leave behind. The notion that many of the stars we see gleaming in the sky are actually just mirages has always transfixed me. It is scary to think that we make wishes upon carcasses of light. The wilderness of velvet forests opens up unrivaled opportunities to stage ambushes on the saps of this world. Wait, wait! Jinn, don’t finish me off just yet. First, help me dispel these doubts that have niggled at me for quite a while now. Have I deluded myself into believing my love is more than just a twinkle in my eye? I love her so much my heart aches!,” I screamed.

“But you are too late. She has married someone else.”

Looking rather forlorn, I entered the old capital of the ancient Hammadid dynasty.

Unexpectedly, the same gruff voice from before called out, “You who dream with worlds of rubies, learn how to play your musical instrument, for your time has not come yet.”

Suddenly, I realized I was carrying an oud. Considering the deplorable state I found myself in after the blow my heart had just taken, it was no wonder that I had failed to notice it earlier.

Again the gruff voice pierced through the silence. “You who dream with worlds of rubies, you better hump the princess and play her that lovely song you called ‘YOLO.’”

Finally, I arrived at the doors of the great fort. There was a message on them written in the Zulu language with red ink. It read: “Death to all those who play sad songs. Long live rock ’n’ roll!”

I waited before the entrance, still holding the Arabic oud.

“I won’t make it through unless you help me, gruff voice. I have thousands of questions that I need straight answers to. I don’t speak Zulu to begin with.”

“Then how were you able to read what was written on the doors?”

“More importantly, I still don’t know how to play the oud!”

“In that case, how are you playing it right now?”

“I won’t set foot inside the castle. I don’t care what you do to me. I won’t, even if it means I have to die.”

An executioner dressed in black came toward me brandishing a sharpened sword. I tried to ford across the swerving stream of painful memories that were flooding back into me: a guide to payback, the aftertaste of a vanished smile, the ring from a broken engagement, the stab in the back. No mundane attempts to commit injustice would succeed. Not on God’s watch, they wouldn’t. As everyone’s vim and vigor rose, the most obscure of all traditional values began to be fostered. Spring was coming. The years of oppression were over, and the rage could no longer be penned up. Hence, war erupted.

“Fight, fight, fight!” yelled all and sundry.

I had almost managed to forget about my love, but by then it was too late. Since the sky had turned its back on me, the creatures of the night had gotten a shot at reassembling me. Now I am locked up behind bars, still waiting for God’s final verdict.


Written by Abdelkader Kechida.

Choose your own adventure

Not even science-fiction writers dare to moot the hypothesis of a bleak future where

a) spring is not welcomed.

b) musicians don’t enchant women.