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Showing posts with label Gold Island. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gold Island. Show all posts

Monday, September 14, 2015

SHORT STORY: The Gold Island

The Gold Island
By: Aadel Al-Mahdy

In the olden times, Herodotus said, “Egypt is the gift of the Nile”. Like a giant blood artery, the Nile journeyed from the heart of Africa all the way through Egypt carrying silt and abundance of easy-to-catch fishes in its flood murky water. I believe Herodotus was right to some extent, but it is not far from the truth to say Egypt was and still is the gift of her hard-working peasants whose dark skins were scorched by Ra, the Sun God, or Aton; a name that reappeared in the Arabic language as Utoon, meaning fire.

The mighty flood of the Nile was a dangerous natural phenomenon that required the peasants’ patience until the water recessed and the silt deposited. The peasants then, under the blazing sun, seeded the land and took good care of it. Thus the Nile banks and little islands, scattered on its aquatic face like beauty marks, dressed up every year in a lusciously green lined with black soil, hence giving a yearly birth to the Nile valley.

The Gold Island is thus named because it has always been since the olden days a fertile patch on the watery body of the Nile, and along with other smaller patches, the gold island has always stood proudly like Joseph’s granaries feeding the nation during hard times. The islands contained fields of lusciously green crops of wheat, maize, vegetables, fruit bearing plants and trees. Milk, cheese and butter producing animals and first of all, humans; peasants whose families took care of the islands for ages were all part of the Island equation.

It is also said, Egypt is the mighty rock on which her enemies’ arrows get broken for Egypt  survived invasions whether from within or without. She has always repelled her enemies at times that seemed her weakest. The Hyxos, the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the French and the British, all came and left, but the worst of all enemies was the one that lay within; the maggot created by corruption and decay.

This land is my body and soul. I can’t be separated from it” chocking on his hot tears that rolled down his cheeks old El-Bendari said. “The land is ours. So is the island. Look over there, that’s our cemetery! Here is where we were born, and here is where we’ll be buried” said old Umm-Afifi with emphasis placed on every syllable.

Having received eviction notices, the island inhabitants, whose sole profession is peasantry, had no other alternative but stand united against the government’s decision. So they dug grave-trenches and lay prone therein with hands crossed on the chests like ancient mummies. The poor peasants swore not to leave until death did befall them. That is how the military captain found the inhabitant.  The Egyptian corruption, using one of its tentacles; the military, steered a military boat loaded with soldier in arms towards the gold island in an attempt to evacuate it.  “Why don’t you go away and leave us alone?” said young Saniyyah. The military captain said, “But these are the government’s orders. I can’t disobey the orders and I’ll have to evacuate the island. You have been furnished notices 15 days a go” Middle-aged Tuhami pleaded, “We have been living in hell ever since. I have a wife and three kids. Tell me, who is going to feed them” The military captain said, “I do not know. Don’t ask meKa’abel-Kheir asked, The Military Captain said, “Who do you think? Ask the government, of course!”  Ka’abel-Kheir said, But we have been living here all our lives. We know no where else” A man carrying a hoe on his shoulder asked, “Do they have to build their hotels and summer resorts on the island? Can’t they build them somewhere else?” The Military Captain said with sarcasm,   “Where do you think, in the desert?” In defiance, El-Banna said, “In the desert, on the mountains, that is not our problem. Not on the island where hundreds of families already live” The Military Captain said,  “I do not know. I am just following orders. I do not have a hand in the matter”  Ahmad who is a young student caught in the events while he was on his way to school said, Of course you do. You are the tyrant regime’s executioner. But for the sake of argument and aside from the fact that the land has been in our families for ages and that possession is one half of the ownership, the island yields enough to feed its inhabitants and the whole population of greater Cairo. Who will feed the population then?” Ali, the hunchback, said, “Please don’t tell me the recreational centers and horse racing fields which are a luxury enjoyed only by the elite! Is there justice above or below" The Military Captain said, “But what do you expect me…” and before he finished his sentence a woman seen coming from the southern part of the island was wailing, beating her face, pounding her chest, pulling her hear and tearing her garment. Knowing what must have happened, Ahmad ran to comfort her. She was Sittel-Banaat, Sadoon’s wife. A drum was heard and everybody recognized the beats; the announcement of Sadoon’s death. Sa’doon was a peasant whose health deteriorated lately. His wife had to divide her time between caring for her husband, looking after the kids and tending the field. Sadoon’s knowledge of the government’s intention regarding the island made him so sad and his illness worsened.

Bound by unfair decision which he believed it was nothing but a government’s blunder based on grounds mainly prepared for serving the ones on the top, the ilitary captain looked at the peasants and shook his head in sorrow. In the island’s peasants, the Military Captain saw nothing but people who could have been his forefathers, his fore-mothers, his uncles and aunts, his neighbors who also farmed the land. He saw Egypt  ── Why is the government totally heedless of the island inhabitants? Why is it always the peasants who pay by the sweat of their brows to the lords? ── the Military Captain questioned himself, but his self-interrogation was interrupted by Sadoon’s wife’s cries and constant pounding of her head with both palms of her hands. Another woman, carrying a 5-year old crying girl who seemed to be Sadoon’s daughter, joined in, lamentation. A ripple went through the crowd and the excitement of farmers who lay in their grave-trenches elevated. They were torn apart between two choices; a choice to stay, thus heeding not a death and the carrying out of all its relative social duties, or a choice to surrender. The Military captain knew how vulnerable they have become. He felt torn inside. He felt week, angry and being used as a whip in the hand of slave drivers. He looked at his soldiers. Though they stood waiting for his command to start evacuating the island, their sad eye begged not to do so. They also had families who farmed the land.

In the western horizon where red and orange-stained clouds slowly moved revealing the birth of the moon, the sun was almost buried by the end of the day. Shortly later, shining on the machine-guns that were carried by the soldiers, the lunar light filled the grave-trenches.  The Military Captain looked again at the farmers who lay in their ground hole; their dark skin color blending in the black soil. His eyes shone with tears.

The End