Wisdom Tooth

Kobani Syria

“I beg you, wisdom tooth of mine, smash the pain that shoots up my spine as if it were a bar of cereal you needed to stay strong and healthy.”

It’s not like we are hardly a soul; we are thousands, millions of people. But our society has been split into four different sections by political boundaries.

Close to the city of Kobani, in a corner of the world where everyone had been sentenced to death, the miasma of defeatism had her surrounded. The indigenous Kurdish population had set up camp on top of a small hill serving as a defensive emplacement and had woken up the next morning perched at the edge of a bottomless pit.

Clinging on to her automatic assault rifle, she tuned her voice and began crooning Sibel Can’s “Berivan.” Her wisdom tooth fed her the lyrics like a prompter who had been hiding backstage, namely, at the rear of her woeful display of pluck. But regardless of how pathetic it might seem, succumbing to despair was not an option for her. She wouldn’t go without putting up a fight.

As the night wore on, it grew darker and darker. At some point, she lost hope of witnessing another sunrise, for she had been blinded by the dazzling blaze of enemy fire, which was proving hard to snuff out. Even when the shooting and the bombing ceased for a while, the ensuing silence came across as being deadly, as deadly as Daesh’s brain-dead combatants had turned out to be.

She might have had a shot at becoming a beauty queen, or a Hollywood star for that matter, had she been born in another place and at a different time. Her visage echoed that of an angel, and she had mastered to perfection the art of disguising how fierce-looking her big almond-shaped hazel eyes, which melted the hearts of men with iron will, could be behind a smokescreen of disarming smiles.

But she had had no choice other than to become a warrior who fought for a people lacking recognition as a nation: a peshmerga—a fighter who spits in the face of death.

However, despite having pledged her life to be ready to heed her people’s call to arms whenever it was issued, she hadn’t forgotten what it meant to be and appear like a woman. Thus, she kept her copper brown mane plaited in a very becoming French braid.

Bierina sprinted to one of the other hills while the bullets whistled past her. As soon as she found cover, she looked at her shoes and saw that they had been stained with her friend’s blood.

She blamed the West. Those slimeballs had left them high and dry. They had been—for lack of a better word—stingy with their air support and had thus let them fall prey to the snarling beasts of the desert. Perhaps they had been far more interested in letting the Turks get their hands dirty dealing with the awful nuisance of the nutjobs hoisting black flags than in tapping into some oil reservoirs. The First World had to pick its battles, and it had left the Kurds to fight this one alone.

The battle cry of the dogmatic men in black who embodied the curse of modern civilization could now be heard coming from the dark. They were encroaching upon them. Panic broke out. Their chanting of the “God is mega” slogan deafened the Kurds to anything but the blood coursing through their veins, including the real meaning of the words those hooded figures so blithely misemployed. They were hemming the Kurds in. There was no escape. Death was just around the corner.

She needed a miracle in the form of Moses’s staff or Kaveh’s chutzpah, for instance, to make it out of this one. Oh, the Newroz tale! She had loved it ever since childhood, along with the famous song of the same name composed by the peerless singer Hassan Zirek.

According to legend, there was once a nation that had been subdued by a tyrant called Zuhak. During his reign, the sun decided not to risk showing its face. Apparently, as pets he kept serpents of ravenous appetites that fed exclusively on children’s brains—more precisely, the brains of the Kurds’ younger generation. However, one day, a sharp-witted blacksmith by the name of Kaveh hit on a brilliant idea. He started tricking the serpents into believing the brains he was feeding them had come from Kurdish kids when in fact he had altered their diets by giving them lamb brains instead. His people praised him when they learned that his hoax had been successful. The kids whose lives he had saved were very grateful to him and started following him around. In a short span of time, he had amassed an army of children. Kaveh provided them with military training, and as soon as they were of age, he led them to kill Zuhak and put an end to his reign.

Kaveh had since become a national hero. His people portrayed him as an emblem of courage throughout their travels far and wide after the dark times had come to a close and the sun rose anew. The day the tyrant had been dethroned was still being celebrated as the Newroz, New Year’s Eve. She remembered dolling herself up in holiday attire, throwing on some trinkets, and stepping outside the house to spend Newroz playing, dancing the dabka with her peers, and . . . Tears started rolling down her cheeks.

It seemed as if the grim legacy bequeathed by Zuhak and his serpents had abided until that day. The Daesh brutes epitomized Zuhak’s wickedness and depravity so flawlessly that one was left to wonder whether they weren’t somehow related after all.

She cringed at the thought of having her head smudged with blood and dangling from the dusty hand of a Daesh schmuck with a dirty look on his face. She knew that in allowing herself to continue staying among the living, with every passing second she was risking being alive when they seized hold of her, and if that were to happen, she would not only have signed her own death warrant but also guaranteed herself a slow and painful death that would be inflicted on her meticulously until the very end. She had two options: She could either commit suicide or extend an invitation to one of those aberrant creatures, those lame excuses for men, to force himself upon her. She would rather write the end of her own story on her terms than give those abominations the green light to enslave her spirit. When the hail of artillery fire knocked at the door, she feared her resolve might start falling apart. She began groping around for the bullet she had stored specifically for this occasion, the moment of truth. She loaded her gun with it, pressed the muzzle under her chin, and resumed her singing.

“I beg you, wisdom tooth of mine, smash the pain that shoots up my spine as if it were a bar of cereal you needed to stay strong and healthy.”

She logged her last word on her cellphone: “Goodbye.”

And pressed the trigger.


Written by Amr Saleh.

Choose your own adventure

I reserve my deepest respect and admiration for

a) people who take the bull by the horns and face reality at any cost.

b) a very feminine peshmerga who took up arms against diehard fans of treating women like dirt.