After a short period of the upheaval, they arrested thousands of citizens. Most of those were students and workers. They cramped them in the old castle’s tunnels thinking of the best methods to hide and deal with them far from human rights organizations’ eyes because the upheaval is still in its brittle, experimental outset. No one heard anything about the prisoners for several weeks. Prisoners’ relatives gave up investigating and searching believing that their people were among the lost with whom the history of the country is crowded.
Before prisoners’ appearance became familiar in Al-qassaba streets, more prisoners had been brought to the castle. Their sudden loom was an astonishing one. They let them out row after row early in the morning, ordered them to drive second-hand cars whose exhaust pipes exerting smoke accompanied with high rattle. The cars were to cross Al-qassaba’s crowded complexes while drivers were instructed to follow the narrow pavement extending from the castle into the city. It was spiral zigzag with junctions where they had to stop for more than an hour but the arrested drivers don’t feel the course of time flowing as we do; they only feel the extension of the endless pulse of suffering in both the body and the soul.
The street curved and curved to reach to its end at Hah castle again. That was the new name given to the castle by the members of public. The arrested drivers went on followed by men carrying whips. The men’s whips shrieked over the arrested drivers’ heads. The men with whips were shouting: hah, hah hurry up.
As soon as cars moved again the arrested drivers were stopped by a policeman followed by a policeman roaring with two ugly tuned questions about the driving licence and insurance policy and when he found out that the drivers had no licence (and this usually likely to occur), he recorded the postponed punishment then ordered them to go ahead. After a mile the drivers were stopped again to be inquired by another policeman reciting a question about the car’s condition. The arrested drivers were moving slowly as if they were getting higher to implement a ritual at Judgment Day. The lashers were as exhausted as the arrested drivers were with sweat pouring from their bodies, they sniffed the smoke too, but the difference was that whips holders could shout: ‘stop idiot, go animal’, they were weaving whips waiting to receive award. On the other side of the picture, the arrested drivers were shouting because of heat, irritation, their sense of maltreatment and above all their knowledge that punishment was waiting for them at the end.
Suddenly each one of the arrested drivers became nervous, went crazy and nearly denied himself. It was a jungle full of sound and commands and he had to stop every now and then and it doesn’t matter whether there is a reason or not. The objective of all this stuff is as absurd as Jiha’s wheel. They began to move from the gloomy castle to go through smoke and sound, crossing the curved street; to turn back to the castle. Those who didn’t drive cars were trained within a week.
Every morning the slow rattle of cars began to roar in the curved street surrounded by smoke and sound. The day in the castle began by arranging the prisoners in rows as if they were bricks and their lashers began to scold them likewise they were pupils standing in front of old-fashioned teachers. After that they were compelled to drive the second-hand cars beginning the daily creeping. When they crept back to the castle after twelve p.m., they were neglectful, tired and nervous. All of them went to sleep wishing that the sun wouldn’t rise the next day. As soon as they reached their rags, they fell asleep. They slept as if they were dead. After few hours they heard the morning whips’ bursts forcing them to get up. They did chased by curses. Hideous water was provided to them in hideous pails. No bathrooms were there. They had to say their prayers compulsorily guarded by cruel gazes. A new day to receive their fixed meal of torture began again. The rattle of the second-hand cars and the husky voices shouts announced the beginning of the day: ‘move, hah, stop here animal, hah, hah, hah’.
Bushra Al-Fadhil: A poet and a short story writer. He awarded a PhD degree in literature from former Soviet Union. He taught Russian at the University of Khartoum before he left to live and work in Saudi Arabia. He wrote several short story collections, Hikayat Albint Alaty Tarart Asafiroha means (The Tales of the Girl whose Sparrows flied) and “Azraq Al-Yamama”. He also translated a number of literary works from English to Arabic and from Russian to Arabic in addition to literary comments and essays published in Sudanese and Arabic newspapers. He won Tayeb Salih International Prize for short story in 2012.
*Translated by: Jamal Ghallap