“Amer, Wake up. It’s time to go”. Amer woke up as a middle-aged burly man pushed him. It had shaken Amer. He had ruffled hair and a long beard which made him look intimidating. He was wearing an old and dusty, bright yellow Shalwar Kameez. However, one feature of beauty that God had gifted to him was his dazzling blue eyes. As Amer looked at them now, shining under the moonlight, he grew envious of them. The man’s name was Maalik. Till a few days ago, Maalik and Amer had worked together at the butcher’s shop in the city of Kabul. They had only started working together about two years ago, however, it felt like a decade. In the time that they had worked there, Maalik had become his best and only friend. Amer’s parents had died five years ago, leaving him alone in this world. Since then he had become used to street life. He had enormous hardship ad more. Lived a life of worthlessness. Thus, for Amer, Maalik was like a breath of fresh air. He was his friend. In fact, he was more than a friend, he was like a brother, a role model. Maalik respected Amer as an equal and treated him, and above all, he respected the ambition that Amer had. It was nice to feel like that for a change. Unfortunately for Amer, however, it was this untapped ambition that seemed to have gotten him here.
As soon as he had opened his eyes, he felt by the darkness of the night. It took a moment for Amer’s eyes to settle in the dark and for him to realise where he was. It was a dark quarter near the centre of the city. A fan was slowly circulating up on the ceiling with a creaking sound. To prevent anyone from the outside from seeing them, they had kept the lights in the quarters off. The only light coming into the quarters was from a stained window. A metal wire mesh lined the window. Torn near the edges, it prodded anyone who dared to come near.
“What happened?”Amer asked.
His question was met with silence. As Amer got up, he saw Maalik crouched against the window. His face was brightly lit by the moonlight and Amer noticed how grave and serious his facial features were. Sweat was rolling down his forehead. Amer had never seen that expression on Maalik’s face before, but he could easily deduce that it expressed fear. Seeing the fear on Maalik’s face made Amer realise his anxiety and fear which had combined with the intense heat of the summer night. It was as if the realisation of Maalik being afraid had just made it all too real.
Amer turned around to see the mirror was upon the wall. A pubescent boy was looking back at him while sweat glistened on his body under the moonlight. He was wearing a sleeveless vest on baggy torn jeans. He was almost nineteen years old, but he was severely undernourished, which made him look small for his age. The extreme sweat had made the vest cling upon his body.
Finally, Maalik turned around to check up on him and signalled at him to look at something outside the window. Slowly, Amer crept towards the window and crouched down beside Maalik. Without looking at Amer, Maalik pointed out of the window at a building across the street.
“You see that building there. That is the biggest bank in all of Kabul. That is where all those fat, obnoxious businessmen keep their money…” said Maalik.
Amer got impatient and interrupted Maalik in between, “Have you called me for sightseeing. I thought you said we would get money. I don’t see how we do that here,”.
“We would if you would just listen to me. Now that is the bank and we will loot it,”.
As soon as the words escaped from Maalik’s lips, Amer couldn’t believe what he had just heard. “Wait, a minute. What did you just say?”
“I will not repeat myself so listen. We will rob the bank; you and me,”.
“Are you out of your mind? I will not rob a bank. We would get caught by the police and thrown into a jail cell,”.
“Ghali sha. Don’t you try to mess this up, boy? You told me you wanted to make some easy money, so this is it. I would not go to jail because of a coward boy. Now we shall rob that bank. Do you understand? I know you think I care and honestly, I want to but I don’t. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. A choice between life and death, and I will always choose life. You remember that”.
Amer was so shaken by this sudden burst of emotion by Maalik that his body momentarily froze. Then Maalik repeated the question, but in a gentler voice. This time Amer responded by the slight shake of his head. However, the damage had been done. The words had stuck in his mind. Ghali Sha. Shut up. How many times had he heard that from people around? Those richer than him, better than him, older than him. All those people who thought him to be nothing more than a pest. A plaque. A disease. That was how he had been treated his entire life. Maalik had been the first person to truly make him feel like a human being. But that all had just been shattered. He was just like all the rest. Tears gathered at the edges of his eyes, but he drew them back. Now was not the time for him to cry. He had lived his entire life crying. Never again. He would rob this bank and use that money to get a better life. He would show what he was made of to everyone who ever doubted him. His mind was puzzled and filled to the brim with questions.
“Let us go over the plan,” said Maalik.
Maalik rolled out a map on the floor and explained how it was a layout of the bank and how it would help them. They had been staying in those quarters for about three days and during that time Maalik had completely scoped the place. Now they knew of the guard’s shift in timings. Well, to honestly Maalik knew at least. This all was however too much for Amer to understand. There would be two guards on duty outside the bank. About fifteen staff members in the bank and probably some civilians. CCTV cameras would be at every corner.
Amer had had even of the mumbo-jumbo, so he interjected, “Excuse me. CC, what?” He was too lost to understand anything.
“Just let me take care of it, don’t you worry about it. You just need to know that once we get in we need to hurry or you would spend the rest of your life in a jail cell,”.
This time Maalik didn’t wait for any response from Amer and got up from the crouched position. “Let’s get some sleep, we have a big day tomorrow and we would need all the rest we need,” He saw the worry on Amer’s face. He went to Amer and sat down next to him. “We need to do this for the money. Whether or not you like it. You need to learn one very important lesson today, my boy. Money is everything in this world! The sooner you understand, the better… for us both.”
After saying that, Maalik got up and went back to lying down. However, what he had just said was still circulating in his mind. He found it hard to believe that the person he thought cared the most didn’t care at all. For him, Amer was just an accessory for a crime. Someone to use in the time of need. A tear came into Amer’s as he thought about it. He felt broken and betrayed, as he had perceived Maalik to be better. He had thought him… to be different.
Maalik’s words had been stuck in Amer’s mind and in the years to come he would also look back onto them and would think what would have had happened had he reacted differently. Those words showed the start of a wild turn of events that would change Amer’s life forever. Amer silently got up and went back to the place where he had been sleeping, but sleep was the absolute least of his concerns. It was probably as he wasn’t feeling tired anymore or just the excitement.
Amer turned his face lying down a couple of times before giving up any attempt at sleeping completely. He sat upright and leaned along the wall. Maalik, who was lying right next to Amer, was sound asleep by now. The boy stared at the man with a sharp look in his eyes.
He was lying down with a blanket completely wrapped around him. Glancing at Maalik, Amer felt hatred for the man when suddenly out of the corner of his eye he saw something near Maalik’s feet. The object was shimmering in the moonlight as a part of it was prodding out from underneath the blanket. Even before Amer slid it out from underneath the blanket, he knew what it was. He had seen it many times in the hands of men. This breed of men who had left the body of the country to be rotting in the shadow of its original greatness were the ones who had infected Afghanistan. He picked up the gun and weighed it within its hands. As soon as he picked it up, he was one with the gun. The cold metal was a pleasant change from the overall heat of the atmosphere.
The gun seemed to have woken a sleeping devil from inside him. He felt a sudden surge rise from inside him and a horrible thought crossed his mind. He could not believe that such a thought crossed his mind. Was he capable of something so horrid? But to think about it, it was the easiest thing to do. To end it all, to go back to how life was. This wasn’t him. He wasn’t a thief. However, he wasn’t a murderer either, or was he? The gun was right there. He turned it around in his hands and at that moment he could feel its power, its majesty. His eyes rolled from the gun and then onto the sleeping figure of Maalik.
He heaved himself up onto his feet. As he stood up, he felt his entire body tremble with the thought of the sin he was about to commit. Blood rushed within his veins as he felt his heart beating hard against his chest. The world spun around him, and Amer felt he was about to faint. Then, the thought of Maalik’s words reignited the fire for revenge. It provided a somewhat loose justification for Amer. He raised the gun, feeling its weight on his conscience and pointed it towards Maalik.
Amer placed his hand at the trigger. This was it, it was going to be now or never. His arms trembled as tears rolled down his cheeks. Amer closed his eyes to this world and its worries. BANG!!