*This story is based on a prompt from r/writingprompts which can be found HERE.
Ishmael breathed into his hands to warm them by the fire. For all the lofty talk of freedom he had heard, all he could say for sure was that it entailed a great deal of discomfort. If only he’d escaped from MECCA-CITY 01 -at least then he’d be in the desert. True the desert lacked abundant water, but seeing as he wasn’t particularly thirsty at this moment that seemed a reasonable trade-off.
(DAYZ Forest Campfire by Kaelakov)
He was suddenly distracted by a giggle from Fatima.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
“I don’t wanna tell you.”
“Because you’ll make fun of me.”
“Pfft, I’ll make fun of your dumb-ass ass anyway.” At this, he lunged and attacked her. They wrestled for a moment until he pinned her loosely underneath him. She looked up at him and smiled. Without her head-scarf, her thick, brown hair fell in cascading locks that were quite lovely.
“You should be wearing your head-scarf,” he said, admonishingly.
Fatima’s expression soured. “Oh what, are you gonna be the religious police now that we’ve escaped the city?”
“No….it’s just that it’s cold and if you get sick I’m gonna have to be the one to take care of you.”
She weighed this and nodded. “You know ‘ll get sick even quicker if you keep me pinned on the ground like this.”
“What were you giggling at?” he inquired again? Without waiting for her to respond he grabbed her wrist and gently twisted it so he could see the image on the smartphone’s screen. It was a picture of the prophet engaged in immoral acts with a camel.
“What the fuck?” he exclaimed and got off her, registering mild, though still exaggerated, disgust and disappointment.
“See, I knew you’d think I was stupid for looking at memes.”
“I don’t care that you’re looking at memes, but that’s disrespectful.”
He resumed sitting on the log he had leapt from moments ago. and took on a brooding demenaour.
“It’s a fucking joke, ” Fatima protested. “Have a look. Now, that we’re outside the mosque we’re picking up all kinds of signals from parish and synagogue satellites. I find the parish memes funnier so far…”
But Ishmael drifted off into his own thoughts. There had of course been speculation that the infidels had their own networks and advanced technology, but he’d never been very much interested in that notion; he wasn’t one to spend much time online anyhow. But now, seeing firsthand that the ‘barbarians at the gate’ were actually sophisticated societies…well, it was all a little sobering. Fatima on the other hand, always had her nose in her phone and took it for granted that the infidels must have the internet because what else would they do with their time? She was so far past the shock Ishmael was feeling that she was already doing a comparative analysis of various infidel cultures.
“Why do you think that is?” asked Ishmael slowly and deliberately.
Fatima neither looked up from her phone nor missed a beat as she answered: “Well it seems that the Jews are more afraid of us and the Christians are more disgusted with us, so they’re less overall respectful and therefore make funnier content.”
“No, not that. Why do you think we’re picking up these signals?” he asked, already knowing the answer. “Why couldn’t we receive them in BAKU?”
“Duh! The men who control everything control EVERYTHING!”
That was it. He still wasn’t sure why he found this so shocking. Perhaps it was because it was final, irrefutable confirmation that he -they- had lived a lifetime of betrayal.
“You look surprised.” Fatima observed with as much compassion as she could muster, even looking up from her phone and trying to penetrate his sullen state with her eyes.”
Ishmael took in a deep breath and unconsciously straightened in his posture while turning to Fatima. “Look, we both wanted a way out, but we both knew we wanted it for different reasons.” Fatima unconsciously turned herself toward him and let her hand with her phone in it fall to the side.
He continued: “You have always felt trapped by every aspect of society. You were always a rebel, since we were kids even. I don’t think anyone will be surprised to find you’re gone tomorrow. The elders will probably make a gestural condemnation of you but I don’t think it will go past that. To their credit, they’re pretty liberal in the periphery. Even the men of the desert -most came this far to escape Meccan stricture.”
“So then why did you want to leave if they were so understanding?” she asked with a touch more condescension than she had intended.
“Well as liberal as they are, there were certain things which were beyond questioning. I was fortunate to learn under Mullah Enoch. At times I asked him questions which others may have had me flogged for. But he would just laugh understandingly and say, ‘This isn’t the place to ask such things.’ ”
“Where was the place to ask such things?”
“I didn’t know…at least at first. Then I started to think that perhaps I should approach him outside of the mosque hidden in plain view where noone would be particularly interested in a student and teacher’s conversation, but whenever I approached him he was evasive or just told me that we could talk the following day in the mosque, which of course was ‘not the place to ask such things.’ So I started thinking perhaps he wasn’t talking about the mosque, but the city itself. Perhaps it wasn’t that he couldn’t talk about what I wanted to know, but that he didn’t have the answers to my questions.”
“So you’re gonna gonna look for a mosque in the wild?” Fatima interrupted with some derision.
“I don’t know!” Ismael responded defensively. “But I’m certain that Mullah Enoch was trying to tell me to leave the city.”
Fatima laughed unexpectedly which startled him. “What? Another clever picture of one our faith fucking an animal? What is it -a pig this time?” he asked, disapprovingly.
“No, I’m laughing at you, dumb shit. All this time I thought you wanted to escape the faith and now I found that you want to go deeper.” She brought her phone back into her lap. “That’s so ridiculuous -you’re finally free and you want to imprison yourself even more.” Her eyes traveled down toward her phone.
Fatima’s words didn’t bother Ishmael so much as he realized his story may have been a touch melodramatic, but he had enjoyed having her complete attention. He felt a tinge of panic when he saw it go back to her phone so he decided to tease her to get it back.
“Well, I can’t let you become a godless heathen,” he said matter-of-factly, casting her a sidelong glance. “We’re still going to pray several times a day and read the word of the prophet.”
“Oh really?” Fatima said, not looking up. “Maybe I just abandon you in the middle of the night.”
“I wouldn’t recommend it.”
She looked up from her phone, amusedly challenging him. “Why’s that?”
He looked at her phone. “The battery won’t last forever. Who you gonna talk to when it’s dead?”
“Congratulations! The one reason for staying with you that I can’t refute,” she said as she looked up at him and put her phone to sleep.
His confidence regained by his triumph over her phone, Ishmael relaxed a little and the conversation began to flow a little more freely from his end. “Yeah well when it comes down t it, it’s our crippling fear of being alone with no one to talk to that truly gave birth to civil society.” Fatima smirked at this. “If nothing else, it kept my parents’ marriage from falling apart.”
“Wow, that’s a pretty cynical view of the social contract.” Fatima observed. ” ‘We are both completely inadequate -so let’s be somewhat less cumulatively inadequate together.’ ”
“You could at least give me a ring before you make a proposal like that,” he said, feigning haughty indignance.
Fatima stood up and got one one knee in front of him, looking him in the eye. “I’m just a young apostate kneeling in front of a young heretic asking him to complement her shortcomings with his his own in a co-dependent, probably destructive way.”
“I hear apostate chicks go all the way…”
“Till they stone me or burn me with acid.”
“Wow. You just gave me the weirdest boner.”
“And at that, the condemned young female’s vagina dried up and she rediscovered the faith. Allah hu Akbar!”
They both laughed and Fatima propelled herself by pushing against Ishmael’s chest, causing him to fall off the log.
“Lucky for you it’s cold out here so we’ll have to spoon to keep warm.” she said, giving him an accusing smirk.
Ishmael hadn’t bothered to get up from the ground after she’d pushed him. Instead he laid there and cast her seductive eyes., dragging his finger slowly across the ground. “I feel so tiny wrapped up in your big, strong arms,” he said in a smoky, sultry voice.
“Ha, nice try -I’m little spoon.”
“Dath coo!” He got up and began brushing his clothes of while singing, ‘Ain’t nothin’ but a dry-hump par-tyyyyy…’
“Just keep your weird boner away from my butt-crack and we won’t have any problems.”
Ishmael rolled out a blanket on the ground near their fire while Fatima gathered some more sticks and wood for their fire.
“Should we stay awake in shifts?” she asked.
“Probably the most prudent thing to do. You wanna take first or second shift?”
She yawned. “Umm…neither…”
“Then it’s settled. Let’s go to ground.”
They both laid down on their right sides and Fatima curled herself into Ishmael’s embrace. After a few minutes of fidgeting and getting comfortable they finally settled and began drifting off.
“I love you.”
A moment passed.
“I’m all you have.”
“You’re all I want.”
They both began tearing up as the knowledge of how alone they were set in. A few moments passed then Fatima spoke:
“I love you.”
Ishmael squeezed her tighter and kissed her on the back of the head and they, at length, drifted off to sleep.