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The wind blows over the horizon as you hurry home. Night is quickly drawing near, and you know the dangers that await women traveling alone in the dark.
You adjust the newly purchased produce in your arms as the wind blows your facial shawl, the overlapping fabrics obscuring your vision. You must hurry home; you must hurry home.
The walk from the market has re-opened your blisters. You know you need new shoes. Unfortunately, your hunger wins out over any other physical pain. The money left is all the money you will ever have. Left behind by your obviously faithful and loving husband, whose whereabouts you have no idea, and haven’t known for several years. The moderate amount of money was left to help grow your son, but that money has long since been used. You have scrounged and begged for a living. Now society refuses to sympathize. You are utterly alone.
Except for your cherished son Muhammad, named after the glorious prophet himself. He has been the only happiness and joy that has ever constituted your life. He is young, and that is why he did not accompany you on your journey. The market is no place for a young boy of only six. So you persuaded him to stay home and look after Belzdah, the family chicken. This is why you must hurry home. Alone in your small hut is no place for a small boy either.
As you round the corner, you find your hut hidden among the sage bushes. At last! Refuge from the cruel outside world! And home to our sweet Muhammad.
You walk in and find his small body sitting on the dirt floor, stroking the chicken. His growth had been stunted due to his malnutrition, and you can see his rib cage through his stained shirt. How you wish you could do more for him! At least you have proof of your absence, proof that you want to be a better provider.
You set your purchases down on your small worn out table and walk over to greet him. You stroke his hair, and he looks up at you and smiles.
“Hi, Mother,” he says.
“Hello, my sweet Muhammad,” you reply, smiling through your worries. You realize he’s getting weaker. At least the chicken would produce an egg tomorrow morning that would serve as breakfast. She was an expensive investment, but well worth all her gold in meals. Chickens are coveted by the poor, and you are very proud to own one.
“The minaret sounded while I was away at the market. Did you obey its call?”
“Yes, Mother,” he sighs.
“Good boy,” and you lean in and kiss his head. “How about we eat a little something?”
His face lights up at the prospect of food. You run over and grab a fig and hand it to him. He practically inhales the fruit.
It is pitiful to watch. You turn away and walk to the corner of the hut to the kitchen, seemingly tiding up, but only avoiding the scene in front of you; avoiding the fact that your son is starving to death right in front of your very eyes.
As your eyes graze the window, you notice a rustling in the bushes. Two dark figures sneak by in the dark. You reach in the drawer and pull put your knife for protection. Many wonder by, expecting your house to be deserted, but you do not want to take any chances.
You try to avoid attracting Muhammad’s attention as you shift your weight. You hide the knife in your pocket and move towards your son.
But as you pass the front of the house, the front flap opens, and two men run in. One immediately wrestles you down. You attempt to pull out the knife, but the man begins to beat you, and you cannot move.
You observe the other man as he flings himself at Muhammad.
“No!” you scream, and fight back. They would not take away your son, your only reason for living.
The man pinning you grabs your wrists, limiting any struggle. The other man is now upon Muhammad, wrestling with him over some object.
You see he has no mercy, no intention of backing out. This man will go to any length to get what he wants; even if that means taking your son’s life.
You cannot bear the thought.
“Please, let him be!” you cry.
You thrash against your vise, gaining no advantage. He is just a child. Why can’t they see?!
You hear a smack and Muhammad’s cry. They are hurting him! Beating him!
You start kicking, punching, biting, crying; anything to set you free. You have to help.
Suddenly you feel a blow to the head, and everything goes dark.
You wake up feeling a warm liquid on your face, sinking into your facial veil. You raise your hand and feel the open wound on the side of your head.
The movement startles you. Your resistance is gone. The men are gone.
Fear floods your heart. You sit up, your head spinning from loss of blood. You press harder to the wound, hoping to stifle the flow.
Immediately you’re on your feet.
“Muhammad!” you call, as you search the dark hut for your son.
Your eyes fall on his still body in the middle of the room. You run and fall on top of him, crying, relieved they did not take him from you.
But his form does not move at your touch. His eyes are open, but unblinking.
It cannot be true. He cannot be gone.
Your sobs become more pronounced as you gather his bony structure in your arms. You examine his hands, his tiny hands, and find chicken feathers, still clasped in his fasts.
Of course! Belzdah. You made him swear on his life to protect her. And he had done just that. The murderers only wanted the chicken, not your son. But they have taken him away forever.
You wail into his hair, and shower his head with kisses and tears.
Your beloved Muhammad, sent to you by Allah himself, now taken away by cruel humanity. Taken away by the cruel, unfeeling world who could not recognize pure happiness, pure innocence for the greed in their eyes.