“On Mortality”

Story written by Franklin Rayeski – Please do not use without crediting me

          I was walking through the house with a laundry basket at my hip and I was delivering clothes to each room. It was in the middle of the evening and the sky outside was a dark gray with the wind whistling against our windows. I opened up my youngest child’s room and put the hamper down on his bed. He was sitting with his knees tucked into his chest underneath the window sill in his room; his green eyes gazed up at the morbid skies above him. I neatly placed his clothes on his bed and smiled to him even though he paid no attention to me. After picking up the hamper again, I headed for the door.
          “Mom…” he called to me softly. I barely heard him but I still turned my head around and faced him.
          “What is it, honey?” He didn’t look me straight in the eyes; his eyes were glued to the floorboards.
          “I don’t want to die.” He said and, after saying it, he looked up at me for a response. I was caught off guard and dumbfounded but worried at the same time. I placed down the basket, made my way to him and sat down in front of him.
          “What happened, sweetie? Where did that come from?” I warily asked. I gently ran my fingers through his soft blond hair. He stopped looking at me and stared at the floorboards again.
          “I just don’t want to,” he said, “It’s just scary to think about.” I got closer to him, picked him up and sat him in my lap. I rubbed his hair and kissed the top of his head.
          “Baby, that won’t happen for a long, long, long time.” I comforted him.
          “It could.” He quickly answered back.
          “Don’t think like that, it won’t happen anytime soon. I promise.” I stopped petting his hair and placed my hand on my forehead. Maybe it’s normal for little boys to be afraid of something like that, I thought to myself, but it feels like there’s something more that he’s not telling me. I took a deep breath. “Why are you scared of it happening, baby? Did something happen?” He gave a little sigh.
          “I don’t wanna stop being me,” his voice started to shake, “If you’re dead, your brain shuts off and you forget everything and I don’t wanna forget you or sissy or Dad or my friends.” I was caught off guard again. I shook my head in disbelief of what my little boy was talking about.
          “Who told you this?” I asked immediately; it was the first thing that popped into my head. Surely someone told him something, I thought, a little kid like him wouldn’t be able to just come up with something so dark.
          “I don’t know.” He shrugged his shoulders in shame.
          “Was it your sister?” I said with a harsh voice, “Did she fill your head with that nonsense of hers?” He started to whimper a little bit.
          “I heard her talking about it in her room,” he admitted, “she’s scared, too.” I rolled my eyes. My boy’s back was facing me but his body reacted as if he could feel my irritation. I gave out a long, annoyed sigh.
          “Neither of you have anything to be afraid of.” I said with a bit of tough love, “You know: your sister has been on my last nerve lately. She comes home and goes into her room and thinks she can get away with talking badly about the Lord? She talks to her friends and people online about this, that and the other and I’m sick of it! Our Lord has done so much for all of us and all He asks in return is faith. Without faith, what are we?” I took a deep breath after I stopped rambling. My son wasn’t sitting on my lap anymore; he was laying his head on the floor and crying.
          I picked him up and faced him towards me. I shouldn’t have been so rough. I wiped away his tears and hugged him tightly. His little hands grabbed onto the back of my shirt and he continued to cry into my chest. I put my chin over his little head and rocked him slowly.
          “I’m sorry, baby,” I whispered, “I just don’t want you guys being afraid. When you lose faith, you start getting afraid of everything; I don’t want my babies afraid of anything. The Lord is watching both of you; he cares about all of us so much.” I gently pushed him away from me and lifted his chin to face me. “When it’s time to go, you’ll go to Heaven and all of us will be up there too. I’ll go first and then I’ll wait for you, and, up there, I’ll hug you and hold you close forever.” I kissed his forehead. “There’s nothing to be afraid of, baby.”
          His little lips formed a faint smile for a moment. He hugged me again and then got up and walked out the door. I got up myself a few moments later, grabbed the laundry basket and then left the room. I walked down the hallway and headed straight for my daughter’s room. As I walked and looked over the railing next to me, I noticed my son sitting on the steps with sad eyes. I’ve already told him everything I could, I thought, he’ll get over it eventually. I opened his sister’s door and set the laundry basket on her bed then neatly placed down all of her clean clothes. She was sitting in her computer chair with her back towards me. I picked up the basket and started to head out the door.
          “I don’t want to die.” She said softly. I turned my head and she was turned towards me, looking at me dead in the eyes. Her eyes were swollen and tears were streaming down her face. I closed my eyes and put down the basket inside the room. I closed the door, turned to her and then took a deep breath before telling her to grow up.

“As If Holding Hands with the Devil”

Story written by Franklin Rayeski – Please do not use without crediting me

Warning: Contains Graphic Content (gore)

          I stretch my hand upwards to grab the nearest, stable rock above me. I look down to see how far up we are and I see all the jagged spikes below me. I take a deep breath and keep climbing. I get to the ledge where Barakah is and I throw my body over it with my legs dangling. I go to pull myself up onto the ledge but I slip and start to fall. Barakah saves me. He holds my hand tight and pulls me to safety. I stand up next to him and keep holding his hand; as long as I am in his hand, I am never going to fall.
          He doesn’t take back his hand; he keeps on holding my palm tightly. I get balanced and look up to see where we could climb from here; there’s nowhere to climb. I sit down with him on the ledge and he pulls out our snacks from his bag. We quietly sit together, on the ledge looking over our town and eat.
          Nevertheless, we climb back down and head home. As we’re walking, I pretend to trip just so he could catch me and hold my hand again. It was nice. His hands are very soft and warm—like a small, cozy fire in a pleasant home. Holding his hand makes me feel safe and happy.
          He doesn’t hold onto my hand for long before giving it back to me so I keep pretending to fall and he keeps catching me. I think he knows I do it on purpose, but he keeps on saving me and holding my hand anyway. I finally stop and just smile at my own hand—as if he had left a small stamp of himself on it. I walk home standing close to him with our shoulders touching. He doesn’t seem to mind.
          The sun has already set and when we get home we can hear his mom call out into the street: “Barakah! Barakah! Come inside!” and Barakah goes inside. I hear my mom call out too: “Jihad! Jihad! Don’t be late for dinner!” and I walk in the front door. We pray, we eat and then I go upstairs and sleep—dreaming of battling dragons with Barakah and his soft hands.
          I wake up and pray again and eat and then head out to find my best friend. We go off on a new adventure for the day and face another dragon. We go down to our market to look at all the cool and shiny things for sale. There were tons of people around us and there were some black banners hanging from the rooftops. I feel anxious so I reach for my friend’s hand.
          His soft palm kisses mine. His arm tugs my body through the ocean of veiled women and bearded men. I feel so safe with him that I almost don’t notice people looking at us. We stand off to the side and look around at all the tall men and women walking about. We stand there and I yawn. I don’t know why I’m tired, I just am. I yawn again and slowly lean my head on Barakah’s shoulder.
          “Luti!” I hear someone scream. I slowly open my eyes only to be struck in the nose by a big pebble. My nose starts bleeding really bad. A few more miss us and shatter against the walls touching our backs. I watch the crowd with a confused look, wondering what we did. I see a man and he picks up a stone, raises his arm and then lets that stone spit from his fingers and smash into the side of my head. I keep holding onto Barakah’s hand and squeeze out whatever safety I can.
          Two tall men with black masks that only show their eyes take us by the shoulders and separate us. I struggle for Barakah and his hand. I’m scared. I don’t know what I did wrong. I didn’t hurt anyone. All I did was feel safe. They take our hands and bind them behind our backs. They drag us up a staircase and lead us onto the roof. Up there, I can see the calm blue sky meeting our harsh city at the horizon. Down below us, we can see all the grown-up’s from the market place gather and cheer. The men put us both close to the edge of the roof. I look at my best friend and he looks at me. One after the other, we’re pushed off.
          I slam into the ground and most of my body goes numb. It hurts to move. I can’t move to look at Barakah. I see cloaked women and their husbands and children pick up more stones. They cast them at us and I start hurting really bad. My ears start to ring. My clothes get really wet and so does the ground around me. I try to call out for Barakah but my throat is tight and won’t work. My mouth hurts to move. A rock hits my eye and everything goes red.
          I hear people cheering. I hear flags blowing in the wind. I hear the sound of rocks cutting flesh. I hear a man loudly recite prayers over the crowd. I hear more stones hit skin. The man’s yelling something about the devil. I hear more people cheer.