by Achmed Khammas
Finally, I reached the motorway exit after playing the same music disk for the third time. I inhaled deeply and drove the car carefully into the curve. The asphalt was ruptured from years of neglect. Our friends and family frequently complained about the purchase of a country house that was so far from civilization, but its remote location was exactly why we had decided to buy the house in the first place. It meant that I was able to get away from everything, to write in peace and quiet without subjecting myself to the constant visits of bored city refugees eager to recover from the stress of city life. Real friends would visit despite the distance and would stay no longer than the weekend.
I still had to drive down a short part of the country road, then navigate a curvy gravel way around a hill, which concealed our “dream castle.” Several years ago my wife and I had bought the house in disrepair and soundly and patiently renovated it.
Within the periphery of several kilometers, there were no freeways or villages, no pylons or military bases, and apart from an abandoned stone quarry nearby there was no reason for anyone to pay any attention to this secluded spot in the middle of nowhere.
My thoughts were racing as they usually do when I drive, and I almost missed the last curve. I unbuckled the seat belt to sit closer to the windscreen to look for the potholes in the darkness.
The music continued to divert my attention from the driving. My ears filled with the spacey sound of the electronic music sequence in which crazy Jack screams in intervals like a moonstruck maniac, although my synthesizer arrangement had disguised his frenzied vocals with a rather benign introduction.
I listened to the song twice. In some strange way, my reality was mixed up with my fantasy. The reality of the metallic clanging sound of the high plasma tones inside the car mixed with the fantasy of the high fidelity sound of the professional we had recorded. There was nothing musically skillful in that piece but the audience had received it with fervor. The reason for their reaction must have been more than mere appreciation of the infernal screams of our lead Armenian singer. Perhaps it was because we had recorded it while we were spaced out? Whatever the reason, it was our music, we were living it, and there could be no mistaking that if you were really, genuinely listening to the piece.
I had to smile when I remembered the evening when Jack arrived beaming with joy. He had found a very old recording of the band “Hawkwind” and was filled with excitement about producing new arrangements for some of their songs. He knew about my strong reservations about re-recordings and re-makes, but that didn’t stop him. I’m too lazy to rehearse and play music that’s been played by somebody else before and in all likelihood is much better than anything I could produce myself.
As an exception, we granted him that favor and finally (after several hours) even Jack realized that it’s impossible to immortalize such “old masters.” Disenchanted with the results, he began to scream his frustration into the microphone in such high notes that the headphone bolts on the headset of the guy sitting at the sound-mixer flew apart.
The problem with our amateur band was the distance between us; we all lived in different countries. We met once or twice a year for a few days. Each time, we realized that we needed much more practice; nevertheless, we would record a large number of ideas and improvisations. We made enough copies for everyone and promised each other that the next time we would stay longer.
Despite the infrequency of our get-togethers, our sessions had become an addiction. We had known each other for decades and we still dreamed about making a breakthrough with our original music.
Of course, deep inside we knew that we would never end up on stage but we could not and did not want to quit rock music completely. As I have mentioned before, sometimes we produced something that was really good. With our song “Nasaluh” we had created something like the first protest song in the war-torn Arab world.
Friends celebrated our song “The Last Part” as some kind of mythic punk. Our old songs “Ya-Uadoud” and “Al-Rahman” had provoked public indignation from Muslim fundamentalists who were frustrated by the post-oil-era and attacked anyone who did not dance to their tune. We had only the best of intentions with our Sufi rock. The Holy Koran is so beautifully rhythmic that we deemed it a shame not to use its texts in our songs. We believed that the power of those old and immortal words could only honestly be accentuated with pure Heavy Metal. In addition, none of us liked sweet sentimental music or dry recitations of the kind that made payment for damages to the audience necessary.
A deep pothole snapped me back into reality. The house was not that far away but it was almost dark. The feeble headlights did not make a difference but I knew the road and did not think much about it. The car was a different story. My car was in the city with my family, and I had borrowed an old car from a friend for this trip. The fact that it didn’t have an automatic disk player was the least of its problems. Calling it ‘junk’ would have been too generous.
Still it would bring an impressive price on the market, particularly after the state-sponsored import of automobiles had practically come to a halt with the introduction of currency and energy saving programs almost twenty years ago.
I was in a very strange mood. On the one hand, I was listening to Jack’s howls, wondering how the equipment was able to support them; and on the other hand, I nearly fell asleep. The slow shaky motion of the car, the half-automatic steering of the wheel and the sleepless nights I’d been experiencing lately were taking their toll. I might have even dozed off for a few seconds.
Instantly, I was fully awake but unfortunately it was a little too late. I crashed slowly but nonetheless with full impact into a car that was parked without lights in the middle of the gravel road. Just before I hit my head against the windscreen, I had enough time to wonder why Jack was not howling during that rather suitable moment. I also marveled at the existence of another vehicle in the darkness, a car that did not look like a car at all. Then I lost consciousness.
Some sort of vibration that caused me to push down the right harmonic synthesizer keys in my mind woke me up. I was squinting and was overwhelmed by the feeling that something was completely wrong. I slowly tried to get up and found myself in some kind of room with rounded corners. The floor on which I sat had a very soft texture and seemed to radiate the same soft shimmering brightness as the walls and ceiling. The only way to adequately describe it is to say that I felt like I’d been confined inside a hollow lemon candy.
Speaking about heads: Why I didn’t feel any pain in my head?
I touched my forehead and made every effort to remember more details from just before I blacked out. There was no swelling and I felt no pain in my chest although I must have hit the steering wheel. In my leather jacket’s breast pocket, I felt the empty cover of the disk. The actual disk must still be inside the car. But where was the car? And where the hell was I? Confused, I glanced around. This was clearly no ambulance – where would one have come from, anyway? Perhaps I was in another car, maybe the one I had hit? The last images I could remember were blurry and I could not recall what kind of a vehicle it was. All I knew was that it seemed to be substantially larger than the width of the country road.
And who the devil had left his automobile in the middle of the road without any lights on? Determined to find out what was going on, I stood up, only to sit down immediately. Something was wrong with the gravity in the room. Not only that,
the room seemed to be accelerating noticeably fast. Since I am an avid reader of (at the time, forbidden) so-called “Utopian fiction,” I could easily put two and two together. It was unbelievable, but it seemed clear enough to me that the only answer was that I’d had a head-on collision with a UFO!
Years ago, the different political groups of the Pan-Islamic Parliament had a heated discussion on the source of such devilish work as unknown flying objects and blamed sightings on the American or the Russian Satan. After much lengthy argument, they finally agreed that the phenomenon simply did not exist. There was no reference to such objects in the Koran or the teachings of the Sunna. According to traditional records, only archangels and the winged centaur, Al-Barak, who was created from light, were allowed to fly. Al-Barak had carried the Prophet in seconds from Mecca to Jerusalem and had then flown him from there into the heights of the seven heavens. In conclusion, nothing like a UFO could therefore exist. Anyway, the superpowers had annihilated each other in the last war and nothing much of them remained, or at least anything that could fly or could be considered airworthy.
And now it was me who had collided with that “creature” of a “sick fantasy” (a direct quotation from the Imams!)
Still, it was quite nice of the creatures not to commit a hit and run offense. Or should that be hit and fly?
By now, I was totally overwhelmed with the strangeness around me; the smell, the proportions of the room, the coloring of the hazy light and a thousand things more, which I had initially successfully repressed in my consciousness.
My thoughts entangled and then diverted into two main directions. The first one was a rather futuristic positive image . . . One where I would be taken to an interstellar hospital, all hereditary faults would be erased and medical tests would prove that I was intelligent enough to be commissioned to convince the inhabitants of my planet of the benefits of the meta-galactic free trade agreement. Back on Earth, my return would be wildly celebrated everywhere, even the Sheikhs would leave me alone and my wife would be proud of me.
The second thought plumbed the depths of my paranoid subconscious: They had positioned themselves at that spot on purpose. They’d been waiting for me for weeks, they’d watched me constantly, and they’d decided to kidnap me because they did not want my music on my planet… But why bother?
Most likely they would open the loading hatch and throw me into orbit as I had described in some of my alien abduction stories. This method is particularly evidence-free, but why would they be so uneconomic? During the heyday of UFO sightings in the old USA, an estimated 50,000 children disappeared without a trace annually. Just imagine that for a moment: 50,000 children, enough to fill a stadium. Had they been eaten? Prepared for take-away… A monstrous sandwich and now I was the appetizer… the aperitif.
Shivering, I interrupted the din in my head, which most likely had not lasted more than a fraction of a second.
Now, old man, I said to myself, congratulations. Wasn’t it always your dream to have a first-hand encounter with an ET? Don’t worry, you still have two wishes left.
The second wish occurred to me right away. I wished to be in that splendid, stinky, clanking old car driving the last few hundred meters to our home. I honestly did not wish for more. And the third wish, as a matter of fact, was that I would rescind that first wish gladly.
I tried to stand up again carefully. This time, I was more successful.
The strange feeling I had was not caused by a different gravity, which they were clearly able to regulate anyway, but from a sort of thrust, which reminded me of tremendous speed. From my analysis of the situation I came to the conclusion that we were no longer on solid ground. Inside me someone cried: “I want to get out of here!”
It was clear to me that that I was unable to do anything about the situation and I had no intention of misbehaving like a mad passenger. Indeed, I was a true believer in intergalactic codes of manners and behavior. As a representative of my dear primitive species, it was up to me to show them how evolved we are!
I wandered awkwardly around the bubble room fighting a light sense of dizziness that would have been of great pleasure to children taking a ride at one of the attractions in an amusement park. My hosts were indeed very polite to allow me enough time to acclimatize myself. I imagined myself shaking green tentacles and caressing red-violet bristles.
I noticed a hyperboloid container that gyrated like a spinning top on a flattened curve on one side of the room. The rotation was so accurate that it was almost imperceptible from a distance. After some hesitation, I determined that the container held water, simple fresh water. Was this my drinking trough? I was ashamed of my thoughts, and then I was ashamed of my needs, then of my vanity and then again of my thoughts. Most likely there was no fixed pipe-system in this spaceship, at least none for H2O.
After all, on Earth the luxury of plumbing was made available only a few generations ago, and during the last few years it has been disappearing in many areas. I found myself constantly increasing and decreasing my expectations and my self-evaluation. There it was, the rotating container and I stretched out my hands to touch it. It was surprisingly easy to stop the container from spinning and lift it up. I took my first sip on board this strange spaceship while the water inside the container was still rotating a little. Thanks to Allah, a small sip for me and a large sip for… I was unable to find the right quotation to suit the occasion.
Such thoughts created a strange sense of longing in me. I placed the container back and expected it to flip over. To my amazement, it began to rotate again – at first slowly then increasing in speed. Shortly it had, in my judgment, regained its original number of revolutions. The spinning movement stabilized the receptacle, although its total energy was still below the amount that would cause the water to spill over the brim.
For some time in my life I had been occupied -like many others, out of necessity – in the research of different energy systems. After all, oil was radioactively contaminated and power shortages had become frequent.
There had been a similar rotation system that should have operated within our planetary gravity field but influential scientists refused to believe in its practicality. To make matters worse, the sheikhs had not even made available a small ball bearing for research and experimentation.
The rotating container in front of me was not the product of the mind of a terrestrial expert on hydrodynamics, although in my current situation I would have welcomed the presence of such a temple-guardian of the principles of the conservation of energies, if only to amuse myself with the futile reasoning that “something like that” was impossible.
Tiny waves and eddies appeared on the rotating surface of the water. They became delicate and smaller in order to unite with the attractor-whirl.
The vibration of the increasing and decreasing speed, the almost negligible vibration of the spaceship and the rotation impulses, blended into short-term fractal images that would fascinate me repeatedly during the rest of my stay on board this space ship.
I’d never enjoyed watching television, more so after almost all programs assumed a religious nature. But here I had found a pleasant alternative. I forced my eyes away from the hypnotic vortex and turned my eyes to the right. About two steps away was a deep cavity in the surface. I placed some fluff from my jacket-pocket inside. It completely disappeared. I did not dare to place my hand inside. I remembered distinctly an illegal film with the title “The Fly” in which a crazy but brilliant inventor (this species of insect is now extinct) had discovered the trick of the material transmitter. Unfortunately, during the transfer his DNA accidentally melded with a fly and the result was a monstrous mixed hybrid. I was certainly looking forward to some more useful moments with my hand in the future. However, the purpose of the cavity was clear. Not that this had made me feel any better. In any case, I had more pressing sanitary needs and immediately took advantage of the opportunity to empty my bladder.
I found the third and final part of my discoveries at another oval opening. The concave device had a lid that would jump open at the slightest touch and reveal a hamburger inside it. It might sound ridiculous, but I was moved to tears that were mixed with half-crazed laughter at the sight of this product from our global food culture. I managed to place a piece of burger between my teeth to stop them from chattering. My hopes for interplanetary positive contact were gone like the melting of a superconductor in a sun-oven. Nobody, absolutely nobody would offer a guest a state-subsidized hamburger. I felt I was being treated like an animal, and perhaps it was justified in regard to the technological standards of my unknown “travel-agent.” Deeply humiliated, I snarled as I munched on the fodder that was designed for me, and then I sipped some more water – Thanks to Allah – and finally sat down on the floor swearing and brooding like the ungrateful captive that I was.
I must have fallen asleep again because soon I was dreaming that I was sitting in the old car, staring with intensity through the late twilight at the road in front of me.
Suddenly, I heard a loud crash and I stepped hard on the worn-out brakes. I barely avoided ramming into the strange vehicle that had unexpectedly landed in front of me.
I was surprised to discover that the machine was undamaged. I wondered if there was an even remoter part of land than this remote part of the country where our “glorious army” (ahem) would hide a top-secret research laboratory for experiments with flying objects. I had read many reports about the existence of such a facility but no official confirmation or denial was available to me or to any of those nosy journalists researching the subject.
The dream assumed a strange translucency the moment I realized that I was dreaming. I continued staring at the bizarre mirage.
Could it really be an UFO? My whole life I had been torn between belief and disbelief about their existence. I had spent long nights in heated discussions with friends on the subject, and read dozens of illegal books but never reached any definite conclusion. Nevertheless, I was dreaming, wasn’t I? Or was it the other way round? In the back of my head the old teachings of a certain Carlos Castaneda were being whispered to me, “Look at your hands…” As I slowly watched the dust settle in the beam of the searchlight (where was the UFO?), I tried to adapt to the events of the dream so that I would be able to step out of the car that had come to a dead stop in a diagonal position. I woke up.
Apparently nothing had changed in the room. I splashed water on my face and rubbed my eyes until I saw patterns. The dream was still very clear. It was the first time that I actually saw the UFO from the outside. The brushwood and wild growth at the edge of the gravel road had almost completely absorbed the light of its dim sidelights but the reflection of the matte metal of the flying object was enough to reveal its generic shape.
I wondered if the form was an invention of my fantasy or if my subconscious had reconstructed it from images collected by my brain during the moment of shock before the impact. I was unable to make a definite decision on that – at least I could not do anything as long as I was locked up like an animal in this room – the only thing I could do was to accept the form in the dream as a starting point for further consideration.
Under the lid was another hamburger.
After I had sipped some water I watched the water swirl and discovered that every second it formed a new pattern. I made an effort to contemplate the consequences of my situation. Somebody would find the damaged car, but when?
I realized to my great dismay that the next person who would drive down that gravel way would be my wife with my children. Instead of finding a cozy warm home with a concentrated me working at my typewriter, they would see the borrowed, mangled old car abandoned in the middle of the road. Would there be blood traces on the windscreen? I did not feel any contusion or wound. There was no reflecting surface in the room, and not even the rotating water provided an adequate reflection of my face. I tried to hold the container straight in my hands to stop the water from moving but I was unable to get more than a blurred image of myself. The surface vibration had not changed at all – at least not during the time I had been awake.
My wife would search the area and worry considerably. At that very moment, I was worrying exceedingly and highly ineffectively too. Should I go berserk after all? I used the toilet; not even a slight odor remained. I did not use toilet paper. I am a Muslim and it is incumbent upon me to use my left hand to clean myself and after that to clean my hands. What would a “Westerner” have done in my place? It was already difficult to hold the container with only one hand and I missed my bar of soap. But who would provide an ape with a toilet bag?
Anyway, the ape was getting claustrophobic. Was I still in the UFO? Did the vibration and my resulting dizziness come from another source? Was I already on the home planet of these strange creatures? Was I in a zoo in a disposable transparent capsule? In a paranoid attempt, I looked for evidence to prove that speculation but there was no sign of a door or any other observation devices. If such devices existed, would I be able to identify them? Where did the air I was breathing come from? In my extended fantasy I began to see monsters with super-huge eyes that could penetrate thick steel or observe me by some other means of artificial intelligence constructed out of silicon.
For the first time, I screamed in sincere despair: “Is there anybody out there?” The sound waves were absorbed by the damned softness of the room. I was now beyond being amused. Hours of brooding and useless pondering had come to an end. I could do nothing except eat and drink. Several times I read the address list in my wallet and unwisely dropped some coins into the cavity (not even a clanging sound could be heard as they went down). Increasingly I got nervous. For the first time in my life I was truly annoyed that I did not wear a watch – I had never worn a watch out of principle – but now in this shapeless void I was unable to measure time. How long had I been here? How long did I sleep? How long was I unconscious?
I meditated in front of the water container. Each time I had drunk some water the liquid had returned to its original level. In a bold action, I emptied the container into the cavity and waited for it to refill again. I wanted to see how that was done. Alarmed, I realized that the dish continued to rotate even though it was empty. Did the ape deserve such punishment?
I began to play with my thoughts, synthesizing them, and arranging and rearranging them endlessly. For the moment, I, Asia, had no new ideas to contribute. My musician friend Marine pulled the strings of the contra-bass a little colorlessly. The ghosts that I called upon chose to remain lifeless and without creativity. The atmosphere in the room did not change. I dozed off.
This time I felt a strange apprehension as I drove along the same gravel road. I felt electrified and my sensory circuits were overloaded. I remembered that the last time I’d been on this road I had almost fallen asleep but I could not remember when that last time was.
It was almost dark outside. I concluded that the high pitch of the music did not do justice to the synthesizer. Then the moment that Jack started screaming… I realized only seconds later that it was not Jack screaming but I.
A monstrous mass engulfed the car and flattened it without mercy. Just before I felt pain and lost consciousness, I was able to formulate two thoughts: “Music no longer exists” …and then, “It‘s very claustrophobic in here…”
I woke up sweating in my cage. The water container was full again. Praise All-Mighty Allah! I washed myself after the echo of the dream ebbed away. I had already taken off my shoes and socks. The indefinable temperature of the room would have allowed complete nudity but I still had paranoid tendencies and felt I was being watched. Or was that due to the last remains of my self-esteem? Slowly but surely I was starting to despair.
Did the quietly humming vibration suddenly change? It was probably just the droning in my ears. When I sang or called out loudly, the sound was muffled as if it was buried under low pressure. I dispelled all thoughts about my family, the house and the whole cursed planet. If only I could give myself a task to do! In stories about UFO abductions – at least in the literature that was held in contempt by the authorities – there was always a flavor of adventure and excitement surrounding the experience. There were fights, negotiations, and finally wild peace celebrations that would end in a planetary war.
I was disheartened that nobody took any notice of me and that I was only given a small bowl of water and a mouthful of food. Could our devilish mullahs have staged this entire event? Did they invent a new kind of psychological torture they were testing on me? Repeatedly, I examined the room to make sure that I did not miss even the slightest detail, but it was all in vain.
I had been provided with my basic needs but that was all. Definitely, the material and the technology were alien. I decided that from now on I would only listen to the opinion of my skin. Sealed off in this plastic bubble, how could I determine where I was or predict when I would be added to some interstellar collection of underdeveloped species? I felt certain that this was to be my future.
I tried to play chess with myself but was unable to pass the first four to five moves or to remember where my chess-pieces stood or which ones I had moved.
The verses of our sacred songs did not help either; after I had screamed them for the hundredth time, still nobody kicked me out. I began to recite the Koran. I did not know many suras, but the few I knew I repeated extensively. For a while I found comfort in the holy words, but my thoughts kept wandering off.
I ate my mandatory hamburger and sat down before the rotating container on the floor. I had discovered that it would rotate anywhere in the room. I made an effort to remember everything I had ever heard about the power of transcendence; however, I trapped myself, I always found myself in the old clunker that had brought me here instead of the Samadhi that I sought.
I began to have crazy thoughts. How nice it would be if the whole family went on holiday in this room. Or if Marine should take the second part in our band’s vocals (instead of me), or if we should engage a younger bass player who would do exactly what he was told to do instead of challenging us with his own undeveloped ideas.
With enough practice, we could put out some really good music. We were conceited and self-confident enough to believe that. But the time… the time…
At this point, my thoughts broke off because I saw a flashing light in the dusk behind me in the rear view mirror of the car.
At first, I thought that it was an illusion of my overtired eyes. What I saw distracted my attention from the road and the music. I stepped on the brakes and looked back but could not detect anything except the lights behind me. I began searching nervously for a flashlight inside the car but could only find a shrunken head made of plastic, some old yellowed pieces of paper and a number of tools. Well, never mind, at least that was something.
I tried to turn the car around. This turned out to be more complicated than I thought because of the relatively narrow road. While I was still turning the wheel and cursing myself for my curiosity, I saw the most amazing object of my life in the weak cone-shaped brightness of my headlights.
I always believed that electrical devices would fail in the presence of a UFO, but the opposite seemed to be the case. I was certain that the guys in the flying hourglass who had performed a first class emergency landing were in big trouble. I stepped out of the car and directed my steps to the spaceship.
They must have had a perfect emergency system to land so safely and precisely, without any evident damage and without any noise. Could I be of assistance to them? There was a generator in the house and enough black-market fuel to share, if it came to that. There was also a more gratifying 12-volt network with batteries, which we regularly charged with solar energy, along with a small Al-Majed wind converter that we used whenever we came out here.
I took another step towards the craft but that step proved too much for them. By Allah, the guys still had enough energy – and they pumped it like a lightning bolt directly into my brain!
I woke up.
This time I remained lying on the floor and tried to envision where the vibrations might lead me. I imagined hallways and flashing cockpits where I began to search for the crew, passengers, other victims, or at least the machines that operated the space ship.
My dreams began to form a distinct pattern but still there were too many different versions to comprehend, too many threads to untangle.
Why did I have to collide with that cursed object?
Not even the cheapest tabloid press would buy my story with the headline: “Reclusive writer in a head-on collision with UFO!” No way!
But what about the dreams? Were my dreams really dreams? I understood that the accident and its aftermath would still strongly occupy my mind. However, the existence of different versions of what had happened, in whatever order I tried to put them in, made no logical sense. The impossibly synchronized event of the UFO falling de facto on the car could only be a dream and a bad one, at that.
I sat down to eat my hamburger and drink some water. Then I started knocking and kicking at the walls. The sound was the same everywhere. The UFO produced as much percussion as a dervish drumming on a dead fish.
By the life of the Prophet, what would I do for a cup of tea! I recited the twenty suras that I knew, jumped around a little and considered starting a real fitness program, shadow boxing, Swedish exercises, perhaps Tai-Chi. However, I have always lacked the necessary dedication and discipline to maintain such a regimen. I give up too easily. I was spoiled from the relatively easy life that I led… No, to put it correctly… that I had lived despite the energy shortages and the power-cuts.
Instead, I began humming a thousand melodies in harmony to the pervasive vibration, which still seemed too fast to keep up with. It was almost impossible to set a rhythm. I blew over the surface of the water. I tapped my fingers against the container and sunk my thoughts into the spiral ripples that followed.
Again I played with rhythms and tried to produce repetitions and various counterpoints. The inalterability of my situation took all the joy from any success I might have had in my compositions.
I tried to recall long forgotten events because I was afraid of talking to myself. I fought off the recurring feelings of laziness and inertia that can easily develop in such a futuristic ambience. A kingdom for a television! Oh, how low I had sunk!
There was nothing left to stimulate my fantasy life or my creativity. There was no longer any possibility of capturing one of these endlessly fascinating thoughts that usually pass through my head. I could only think about wild animals in a zoo. How they would become lethargic from the regular feedings and bored to death by the endlessly unchanging environment. I thought about yawning hyenas and sleeping lions.
Many plans and possibilities, many unwritten books and unplayed songs rose in my mind. I could be very active and productive if I did the right things with the right people. Left alone, I had mountains of undone work: the unpaid monthly bills or the committee report or the unending stream of small but necessary renovations on the house and elsewhere. And then, I had always wanted to go to… and then because of the… Should I still do the…? But ah, yes — much more important than that was… and so on and so forth.
I longed for the mundane pantheism of daily life and I even began to miss that old car. I ought to repair it, too. And I might still find some of these rare original halogen light bulbs that I had stashed away in some safe place. Now it was not far anymore. Home. The rocking movement of the car was lulling me to sleep. I looked attentively in front of me. I was extremely tired from the drive and all those sleepless nights I had endured.
The weak headlights guided me over the gravel, the engine rumbled and something behind me attracted my attention.
Beyond the next curve, I saw the slope where the house stood. It was built on the side of the hill. I was just about to look into the rear-view mirror when the crazy screams of our lead singer, Jack Sakaian, disrupted my driving skills and gave me a strong adrenalin push. It seemed to me that the headlights were also getting stronger and I had to laugh out loud. Man, man… With the right manager (one with excellent connections to the Ministry of Religion) and a little more ambition from us old guys and we would be able to kick away the complete post-metal scene.
I was smiling to myself as I rolled through the gateway in the car. I stepped outside. I had a coughing fit from the clear and aromatic air. I had parked behind the house and went right to the energy station first. The batteries were a little lower as usual but it had rained quite a lot recently. Thanks to Allah! After all, the solar panels grew older with every year that passed, too. I did not have to turn on the generator. That was of utmost importance to me. Conservation.
I had to yawn and with a painful pop my eardrums opened up. The last thing that connected me with the city was the cracking sound of the cooling down process of the car engine. I sat down shivering under the extension where the batteries were kept and closed my eyes. I felt a humming noise inside me, a fine vibration, and I could still distinctly hear the echo of Jack’s song. Memories were woven with the overpowering silence that surprises and fascinates me every time I come to the countryside.
A little owl startled me with its cry. The owl seemed to be a sign of all that nature enveloping me. Suddenly all manner of creatures began to chirp, to rustle, to beep and to flutter. From far off, I heard a fine humming, then a bang and for a short moment all was quiet again. However, my ears were wide open, life penetrated them and I felt safe. I had some strange ideas and thoughts while I had dozed off during the long drive. Something about spaceships and water-swirls… and a decisive plan to take our music to the next level. Should we really leave this slowly recovering world eternally in the power of the Sheikhs? We would… We could…
The darkness silenced all my thoughts. I unlocked the door and began to carry my things into the house.
Translated by Furat al-Jamil, Berlin
First published in German at Heyne Verlag, München
Copyright © 1989 by Achmed Khammas
Achmed Adolf Wolfgang Khammas was born in 1952 to a German mother and an Iraqi father and grew up in Damascus. He is a renowed Arabic-to-German interpreter and translator who worked, among others, for the German government. He published several science fiction stories under the penname Ghasan Homsi and is in the process of compiling an anthology of Arabic and Islamic sf stories. Apart from writing and music his main interest is renewable energy. His homepage is at http://www.khammas.de/ His Book of Synery, a comprehensive ressource on alternative ways of energy production, can be found at http://www.buch-der-synergie.de/
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