“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.

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