Essence of Time

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We think that we are immune to the ill affects of society. We draw a line to separate ourselves from “them”. What happens when “them” is us?

“They say: “what is there but our life in this world? We shall die and we love, and nothing but time can destroy us.” But of that they have no knowledge; they merely conjecture.” -Qur’an 45:24

“Nothing but time can destroy us..” the words echo in my head now as I strain to see in the dim light of the boxcar where we are crammed, one atop another. Around me, the twisted, knarled bodies of neighbors I once recognized begin to come into focus. The stench of urine and sweat-compounded with death-assaults my nose and lurches my stomach into a symphony of pain and repulsion. Gruesome images of a not-so-distant past come flooding into my brain and plays out before me now as a passion play devoid of humanity or wit. The cosmic clock is ticking, the end is near… but they say there are far worse things than being dead.

Arms, attached to bruised souls, reach out into the night through the slats, begging for some chance at salvation.

Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland; they canonized him. How can you make a saint out of a murderer? Maybe it’s true: “Kill them all and you’re a god.” But not my God.


I hear the elder men in the corner praying the Fatihah. Is it a glimmer of hope in the face of despair or a desperate plea to Allah, Most Merciful, Oft-Forgiving?

The essence of time slips from my grasp and melts into an incomprehensible tangle of shattered dreams and long forgotten promises. The enfolding darkness is barely eclipsed by the faint glow of what could hopefully be a silver moon. It is by grace that we are still in motion; for now, there can be no surprises. All too soon, however, the rattling stops and we are jarred against the walls of our confining space.

The inhabitants that I share this nightmare with become strangely silent as the shadow of their demise passes over their faces in sudden comprehension. Is it true that death-swift and sure-comes without pretense? Surely illness is an ancestor of death, terror a precursor-but neither is required in the end. Or, are they? Clearly, the illness is in the minds of our oppressors-and their terror lies within us all.

The door clicks and slides open quickly, and we are herded out-as cattle-into a blinding light. At once, we are submerged in a sea of evil. Violent, screaming accusations in a tongue I am not quick to understand pierce my sensibilities from all angles, assaulting my flesh and cutting into my core.

Shall I bleed for you-the crusaders who kill under the name of God-the so-called flag of righteousness? No! My resistance is strong-a reflection of my youth, perhaps.

Head spinning, equilibrium challenged, I am thrust downward, my veil ripped from my head, left cheek directly beneath the heavy boot grinding me into the dirt. Fire rips through my shoulders as my arms are jerked back and my wrists bound behind me tightly. Lifting me up by these restraints, my captors-two of them-pull me up to my feet and shove me past trees with dying limbs where hangs those whom I used to know. An orchard of earlier days serves as a makeshift gallows, a breeding ground for death and destruction.

Echoes of inquisition days-the pleasure from pain principle-rain upon me as I am led into the compound, away from the cries of the infirmed. Fear lends its icy chill to me as I notice the body of death no longer bears the face of the aged, but of the young.

I cannot allow myself to cry, for the tears would cloud my comprehension along with my eyes, and I must remember every aspect of this terror that befalls us. This is a new holocaust, domination by wolves and pigs, bent on destroying all I hold dear. This jihad, it lives in the hearts of men, each weighing bad against good-often to no avail.

In vein, I try to fight; against this tyranny my lone yarp is lost. With alacrity, I am cast into another dark space: smaller, colder, and lonely. The darkness enfolds me completely and I spiral downward-losing balance because I am still bound, and there is not even a tiny glimmer of light to guide me.

I hear the claws and scrapes of at least a dozen rodents scurrying away from the source of the disruption I have caused. Then, nothing. More frightening to me than the harsh screams of terror is the chilly silence that has all too sharply followed.

I try again to cry out, but the guttural sound that escapes me seems hallow, even to my own ears. The tears I have tried to elude come flowing from me now-first one, then a torrent. Soon I am wracked with sobs so that I can barely breathe. The sins of my fore bearers lie thick on my tongue, and serve a bitter poison to my soul.

When they came for the others, I did not speak up because I was afraid. I did not fight because it was not my war, not my struggle. They destroyed and I did not help… I did not seek justice. Now, there is no one left to come for me.

I am truly alone.

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