Out there by the Tigris, in all its rivery might, silence and mystery, lies Samarra. It lies there ruined, mutilated, crippled, surrounded by liquid-hot sand which is dyed a deceitful golden hue in the never-rising sun. Instead of vibrant melodies with an oriental tint, on the desolate streets where one can sense a powerful musk of death, sounds of rock and hip-hop booming from the speakers of foreigners’ cars. The American devil, aside from desolation, brought with him the pillars of his own modern culture, as their leaders put it in front of the auditoriums worldwide. A convoy of white armored trucks labeled “UN” would occasionally run by here and there, caring little whether there is any form of life left on the streets, followed by battle-ready hummers from whose machinegun turrets the surrounding nature is slashed across by trigger-happy boys’ eyes hidden beneath dark sunglasses. It is freedom brought over by the conquerors.
All of this was unknown to Aziz Mohammad Sarr man ra’a when he had first heard the voice of an old woman from a humongous airbus E300 Air France, the most state-of-the-art plane and the very pride of its French company. He had never even flown in a plane before. During his twenty-two years of living on this Earth he has not moved a single muscle from his hometown which had slowly but surely been turning into a heap of ruins.
At the very edge of Samarra, out of the remains of an erstwhile airbase of an elite Iraqi revolutionary guard which was wiped out by alliance planes in one fell swoop, dropping at least double the precision guided laser bombs of grand destructive power than it was necessary, blossomed a new, improvised base for training martyrs –suicide pilots.
The global terrorist organization “The Blade of Islam”, backed with seemingly endless financial assets by the secret Arabic businessmen and oil magnate tycoon society dubbed “The Word of Allah”, has been closely monitoring American war operations worldwide, utilizing every available opportunity to redirect their explosive-laden planes, predominantly piloted by uneducated, young Arab recruits, themselves unaware of what they’re about to do, onto the American troops. Modern guidance, flight control and observation equipment was stored in an old control tower, whose concrete walls were littered with huge gaping holes. Craters on takeoff runways were buried under surrounding shards, not an ideal solution for the takeoff of older Soviet MiG and Sukhoi fighter aircraft models which the organization had at its disposal. The takeoff was important, because this was a one way flight.
For some unexplainable reason the reconnaissance satellites never learned of the existence of this base, nor did the ground patrols passing by it at a distance of mere ten-ish meters. To everyone, aside from those within it, the base was simply invisible. An experienced officer of this organization, a veteran of many terrorist actions, now in charge of recruitment and training of martyrs came to Samarra one day and by way of his story managed to hypnotize a vast number of desperate souls which the war had backed up against the wall. Within this story Aziz saw the chance for vengeance against those who had destroyed his hometown…
Clad in an Iraqi revolutionary guard lieutenant camouflage uniform a few sizes too large, Aziz leisurely clicked the switch to open the cabin door, once, then again, then for the third time… “Damn piece of junk” – he thought for a moment – „No power again! The fuse underneath the control panel must have burned out again. The last one we had.
„Is there an end to this?“ – for the nth time he swore at the organization leaders who have via middlemen purchased obsolete aircrafts out of date even in the former East Germany after the collapse of the Warsaw pact and the USSR troops’ retreat from Eastern Europe. He knew that enormous money was collected from around the world to finance a „greater cause“, he knew that the machines they had had such a hard time with since the day they had been bought were paid a pittance, he knew whose pockets had been filled with the sizable monetary surplus, but… he still wanted to live, at least until the moment when he himself would run his plane into his selected target and join the virgins that would await for him in Heaven, as the training officer had said.
Even though he had spent his whole life in this scorching hot climate, never before until now had it happened to him that he just could not stop sweating, so much so that the blouse could no longer soak in all the liquid pouring out of his body. He was melting and already there was nothing on him left that could melt, he dreamt that he could at least have one more bath, his eyes were clouding up and reflexes slowed in this temperature within the cabin compared to which the fifty degrees outside seemed like a sudden cooldown. Enraged and powerless, with all his remaining strength he whacked the lid of the control panel with his untied combat boot and… the glass dome of the cabin creaked backwards, releasing Aziz from his own private hell.
Aziz then pulled a wrinkled pack of “Lucky Strike” from his soaking wet blouse, the same pack which he had once picked up next to the body of an American marine in a destroyed armored transport vehicle, whom he had at one moment even felt sorry for, naïve as the marine was, sent to this hellhole under the excuse that the basic principles of western democracy should be defended in the Iraqi sand, thousands of miles away from his hometown in Louisiana, Kentucky, Arkansas or wherever. In the rare moments when hatred did not blind him, when reason commandeered his actions, and meeting this soldier, or at least what’s left of him was one of those moments, he kind of found the similarities with this enemy of his, a select nameless individual the news of whose death will only echo in the heads of his closest family interesting.
Out of courtesy he offered what little remained of his cigarettes to the „automatic pilot“, a grown-ups doll clad in a terrorist getup complete with balaclava and an AK-47 in its plastic hands, planted onto the copilot seat, which was found in a dumpster dropped by an Alliance-owned “Hercules” close to the base, because Aziz and his friends put on the British SAS uniforms and fooled the crew of the transport plane. Despite the gravity of their mission and the fact that they had long stopped counting themselves among the living, their sense of humor did not cease to be. Seated comfortably next to the “auto-pilot”, he put his dark “Ray Ban” sunglasses on, the same ones he took from the dead face of the second marine in that very same transporter, a sergeant he did not feel sorry for one tiny bit because even while dead he kept that smug expression on his face typical of outside conquerors when they spoke to Iraqi civilians.
He looked at the stained broken mirror on the cockpit in front of him, next to which lied a framed photo of his kin – his wife, whom he never felt close to since their parents married them when they were barely fifteen, and his daughter who was the one ray of light in his gloomy life, then a burned poster of Angelina Jolie surrounded by smiling children in one of the UN missions in Cambodia. He looked dangerous and this filled him in an instant with a self-satisfaction of sorts. He recalled the letters he had gotten that morning and which were brought to him by a childhood friend, now sergeant Abdulhamid Suleiman Al-Hardanni who would in an hour or so take flight with him towards his own target, a passenger plane Airbus E300 belonging to Air France, he opened the crumpled, filthy envelope which used to be white, but a cold chill deterred him from reading the text. Momentarily he got the feeling of freezing even though it was the hottest day of the year outside. Something was wrong, he knew it instantly, but what? And then, the runway before him became red-hot, the sand around it blinked in a blue-ish tint which made his eyes ache, and across the heavens dark clouds started flying by with ludicrous speed. He jerked in his seat nearly involuntarily grasping the catapult handle which would have sent him well above the craft, and he instinctively searched for the ladder to exit the cabin…
“Damn ladder. No ladder!” – he barked and hopelessly started looking around as if he had known what he wanted to find. And then that voice, the one with nothing human about it, deep, even, calm like still water, and yet non dissimilar to the ghostly growling of the Baskerville hound – the voice which made every nerve in his body numb and every hair on his head stand upright – “They are there. I climbed up those.” – the voice became deeper and more creaky.
At the same time it reminded him of his wife’s fit of anger when she found his box, his precious black box, where he had hidden the ardent correspondence with one Habiba El Harrai, a femme fatale who made all the wives of Samarra fear for their husbands, and of his daughter’s groan when shortly after that he announced that he was sending them to Jordan for an indeterminate amount of time for safety reasons, even though they both knew well that this was a mere excuse and that he really wanted to be left alone with his mistress. After many months spent in the Jordan’s capital, they both complained in correspondence about his dryasdust demeanor, because during this period he had not written to them once, nor phoned, nor sent a message. Aziz was raised and brought up traditionally. According to him, the wife was the property of the husband, who had every right to treat her as was his fancy, to control her life the way he believes he should. Thus he saw this new knowledge as a deathly insult, which made him decide that there was no longer room for the two of them in his life and enjoin the two to obediently pack up and take off to his distant cousin Abid, in Crest Hill, Wyoming, in the USA, far across the Atlantic.
He looked over his shoulder to the space behind him, where his “automatic pilot” should have sat peacefully, but… instead he saw the face of an old woman wearing funeral clothes, contrasted against her surreally pale white face, as if it had been soaked in water for days. He was scared stiff in his seat when he realized he was being watched by empty eye sockets . He turned reflexively and reached for his “beretta” which was in the compartment to his left, even though subconsciously he knew that nothing was going to change even if he were to fire his whole round into this unreal apparition. Fast like he had never been before he reached for his gun and pointed it at…his “automatic pilot”, who reacted to this performance with workaday indifference. The old woman was gone, her voice vanished… the disquiet and panic remained. “The letters! Where are my letters!” – went through his head.
All the letters from Habiba he kept in a black box under his control panel, the same black box that took on the role of the Apple of discord in his marriage. He was relieved! The box still stood motionless in its spot. Then he heard on the radio-communicator in his cabin the call from his training officer that the time had come to implement the will of Allah. “Already! How, it’s only been a couple of seconds…” – Aziz had completely lost the idea of the time passed which his wristwatch had confirmed for him. Time flows differently in a parallel universe which he had come into contact with! He somehow managed to concentrate and give out the takeoff order. Abdulhamid and himself had the same mission. One of them, whoever, had to take down the Airbus E300 of Air France over the Mediterranean sea, inside of which, allegedly, a high-ranking Pentagon intelligence officer had been travelling incognito. Abdulhamid set his armrests, unlocked the controls and started pressing routinely the numerous switches on the control panel in the provided sequence. He had mastered the training remarkably well. Hence why he was given the honor of being among the ones to perform the first suicide mission within the Samarra terrorist cell’s organization. The takeoff from the scabrous, damaged runway went worryingly smooth… there was a scream in the distance!
The voice clenched Aziz’s neck like a tight rope. It howled in his auricles, which started to prickle from it. He tried shutting the scream out with his hands, but despite this it became squeakier, thinner, more horrid. He lost control over his plane. On the copilot seat behind him, the old woman sat. She held the black box in the palm of her hand, not unlike his own, but somewhat smaller – “Open the box.” – she said, this time it was a deep, emotionless voice. Aziz turned around, but could not find his own black box of letters. He extended his hand towards the old woman – “A child’s variant” – she laughed daemonically, as she was leaning over him with the creak of her voice that sent chill down one’s spine – “Kill Abdulhamid, Aziz! Kill or…”
The passengers of the Airbus E300 of Air France on the Damascus-Washington line were, each in their own way, passing the time during their several hours long flight. Some were napping, some nonchalantly leafed through the many magazines printed in several world languages, others still were watching something on the internal television or were having their meal, a group of Arabian businessmen, who were occupying the business class, was vehemently discussing the prices of crude oil on the world market. The aircraft had been above the Mediterranean for a while now, on the standard cruise altitude of 10.000 meters. A girl was sitting by the window with her doleful gaze pointing ahead. For but a brief moment she glanced through the window and froze. She only managed to utter the following – “Mommy, mommy, quick, look at this…”
Abdulhamid swiftly pulled the control stick towards himself and increased the velocity of his flying bomb. The plane growled and got on course of direct collision with the colossus. The explosive detonator was set to activate during any intense impact… this collision was one nobody could survive. Parts of the destroyed airbus were comingled with the charred dismembered human body parts and scattered around formiles. During all this, Aziz was overcome with madness in the other plane. Amid hysteria he alternated between laughing and trembling in fear, not registering Abdulhamid’s final “ALLAHU AKBAR” in his headphones, not noticing the powerful bang in the distance, when…
The rescue teams couldn’t do much the morning after. They managed to find merely the sporadic remains of the terrorist attack, but were left in wonder that an untouched body floated onto the surface. It was a very wrinkly old woman with her eyes closed, as if she fell asleep, her face pale, almost white, even though her arms were livid due to water. Next to her corpse a singular black box floated.
Around noon the Arab television station “Al Jazeera” broadcast the video delivered to it by some covert channels and with masked armed men on it reading some pages from the Muslim holy book, letting the viewer know that there were many more martyrs ready for the biggest sacrifice in the name of Allah and that the fate of Airbus E300 of Air France was awaiting other infidels as well… the standard rhetoric of all fundamentalist terrorist organizations.
Getting back to his Samarra base, Aziz found his black box on his table. Within it was the letter in his daughter’s handwriting.
“Dear dad, this is your daughter Aziza. An old woman keeps telling me not to travel across the Atlantic, but to stay in Jordan and that I will be safer in Samarra than in America where you sent us. How can I reach you before we take off?… Mom is getting her jewelry ready and is adorning herself. She is calling you a pig and an ox. Did you send the old woman here, dad? Did you? Tell mom that we cannot go to uncle Adib.”
Having read this, Aziz blew himself up with a 237kg grenade.