Six Years Old

May 29, 2008
By Cody Behan, Cherry Hills Village, CO

They told me it was right. They said it was for the better. I wanted the paradise, wanted to see what it looks like, wanted to feel the sheer bliss that was so vividly described to me. Looking down, I ponder whether or not they knew. How could they know that I would arrive at the “eternal paradise”? Now that I think about it, that’s not the question. The real question is, how was I so naïve? But enough of this; here I am grumbling away when you don’t even know what happened. I’ll fill you in.

It was the morning of November 29, 2007. As I stepped over the threshold, the brisk morning air of Kabul stunned my cheeks. I stepped into the dusty streets laden with beggars, and the women lacking husbands, forbade to work, forbid to live. As I pass by one sprawled in a ditch, quite obviously having spent the night, I dare to glance down. Beyond the concealing tightly stitched fabric of her dark hijab, I could see her soft, yet piercing eyes, and I could hear her irises calling to me, pleading to take more notice, to acknowledge another whose purpose was lost long ago. But I kept walking.

I’m supposed to be going to the market, supposed to get the morning papaya, supposed to return home afterwards. I round the corner and gaze upon the neatly assorted carts, filled to the brim with exotic fruits and vegetables: The cantaloupe ripening to an edible state, the dates and prunes lazily piled in a mound of distorted wrinkles, and the golden papaya glistening in the sun. And a man. He’s wearing traditional baggy clothing with a tightly wrapped black turban atop his hairless head. His beard is long and unkempt, a piece of his breakfast still tangled inside it. He smiles at me to reveal discolored smokers teeth, randomly arranged under his cracked and bleeding lips. Although he was smiling, giving the façade of friendliness, his eyes, blinking rapidly and surrounded by deep wrinkles and a scar on the left side, told the truth. I don’t know why I didn’t heed this inner warning. I just didn’t know any better.

This man, he lured me in. He said he needed my help, and if I helped him, Allah would reward me eternally. I listened, eager to know what my reward would be. I didn’t care what I had to do. He told me I was the one chosen to do a deed. I followed him around many street corners and down many shadowed alleyways. At the end of this labyrinth lay a dark room filled with many men that portray the very man who led me there. They all seemed falsely grateful, but my tunnel vision led me to see only the gratitude. After they fitted me with multiple wires, strapped around my waist, under my shirt, their cold metallic skin chilling my abdomen, they gave me a button. They explained that I simply needed to walk up to a man and push the button and I would immediately receive entry into the eternal paradise, and soon after my parents would join me. I was led to the town center; the greed and anxiety in my heart leapt as I saw the man whom I needed to get my prize. I could taste the sweetness of the paradise just inches from me, the adrenaline in my veins pumping hard as I ran towards him, my finger poised on the button. I squeezed it and felt the world go black.

My name is Kalib Ahmal. I was six years old.

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