The Drowned Breaths

Algerian rural area, between the villages of Mila, Ain Tinn and Sidi Khelifa

She stood still and stared at his rifle, which hang on the wall of memories. It woke up her past, which opened its doors for her. As soon as she crossed the threshold, she sailed forth behind a flock of pigeons. The clouds drifted hastily across the sky. Then she heard a shot being fired nearby and tripped. It had whistled past with the rumble of her inner gulfs and she shook. She knew for certain that the hunter’s bullet never missed its target; she was positive it had actually hit her instead of the pigeon that was now drowning in its own blood. Suddenly, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned around but found no one. She took a deep breath and sighed through the chimney of her heart. It had been his ghost, willing to spare her the pain of remembering. She stood up and uprooted the fence surrounding the cave’s entrance. It kept on playing the hymn of the barren desert. She walked until she was brushed by the sun’s eyelashes and then began to cultivate her desires. Her passions ignited and she felt drawn to the moon’s iciness at night, which always took her far away to a place where werewolves share a common playground with demigods. An owl alighted on the philosopher’s stone as a harbinger of misfortune.

Scared that it might determine what the future held, she snarled, “Fly away and take your ill omens with you.”

She laid her hand over the small heart that beat inside her and felt inner peace. She moved her lips as if saying a prayer and began to drag the onerous void the rupture had foisted on her through the alleys of solitude. In the meantime, darkness started to creep up and blur destiny’s features so as to let the sun of the unknown shine.

Indoors, through a crack in the ceiling, she was introduced to a sky stuffed with clouds and bereft of stars. A drop fell from her womb and caused patience to sprout. “Embrace the pain and wait for the pleasure to flourish.” For a few instances, she yielded to the kick of her opiate absent-mindedness, an audacity she could hardly ever afford. She freed her birds from the cage of lethargy while her eyes stayed embalmed in insomnia. The light of darkness lit up most of her cities, while the scandal faded on a random street. In a time when ghosts gambled with the hopes of the living, the constellated people bowed their heads. Soon, the mournful funeral procession would catch up to her on the same road that had once led her to him, when her dreams of becoming the last pigeon to be caught alive had come true. However, he had inadvertently placed her next to the powder cartridges. Hence, her life had become a mined land and her heart had not dared to vibrate for a long time.

Before dawn, on a hunch, she found the source of her anguish—the mummified nightmare that had been chasing her regardless of her being asleep or awake. The stronghold of her silence collapsed in her thirsty deserts. Finally, she realized there was no escaping fate. She aimed for the door without turning her eyes. She saw a ghost reaching out to her while it slowly advanced toward the exit. Thereupon, she got rid of her skin and started to follow it. She didn’t pay attention to her feet until they arrived at the exact same place where the owl had perched not long ago. She lifted her eyes to look past the abyss and saw something unbelievable: the sun revealed her face and the impressively crowded entourage of the deceased.

She was taken aback and the two hearts inside her pounded. She shed a tear, which plummeted onto the ground that would not take long to encapsulate it while the droplet made a heartfelt plea for mercy. At that moment, her consciousness detached itself from her bemusement and jolted to a halt at the last stop. She then decided to pay her respects in her own fashion. Therefore, she returned to the cave to doll herself up. On the way, she saw a flock of pigeons fly overhead for the last time with their final goodbye. She kept walking until she found herself in front of the mirror. Immediately afterwards, she began to dig him a shelter at the bottom of its internal bay. Using her eyeliner, she hedged him in with all the other everlasting notions so that the tides of the past would not swallow him up. The moment of grief triggered by the separation mingled with labor pains; nobody would be able to abate her fire any longer. Only the never-diminishing surge of mercy had such power. The cry of the newborn, which sinks life into peace and quiet, healed her wounds and conjured the pulse.


The author:
Tiouanes Sadeek is a short-story writer with a minimalist style. He participated with several stories in the literary symposia that took place nationwide in 1995 and 1996 in honor of Ghada al-Samman. He likes to be inventive and experiment with his writing techniques.

Choose your own adventure

She did not relish the idea of giving birth to

a) a constant reminder of her late husband’s ruthlessness.

b) a reason to stay alive.