Chapter 24: The Fallen Boy
The Fallen Boy
That night I awake to a violent and sudden thud, followed by a wrenching scream. The sound splinters the ice-cold air and the eyes of all fly open, Andri springing to his feet like a cat awoken by the howl of a dog and springing his head against the bars.
"What's going on?" Bane asks in Arabic, himself fumbling from the sheets as the broken wails continue. The sound is brash, something like listening to a beast having its heart coved from its thick chest, like a thousand souls screaming to be free. As I stand against the bars in the dark, I see two figures; one is lying flat on his back, raveled in rags of fabric, the other bent low over him, the red of blood smothering his branched hands in the circling moonlight, which spotlights the scene like some cruel stage.
"It is the boys," Andri says, securing the key in the lock and opening up the door; he moves out of the door and stands at great distance to the scene. Others begin to emerge from their own doorways, all silent and watching, staying far from the two figures.
It is only then that I realize who Andri means by 'the boys'; Barsad and Firdos are the two, one curled over the body of the other, and it is not until I venture out to Andri's side in the moonlight that I realize which is which.
Barsad has his arms curled up under the body of Firdos, who is drenched from the torso down with red liquid, which seems to be flowing in a tepid river from the crook of his neck. Something in my chest falls, and I find myself saying, "Do something!"
"Too late," Andri merely says, shaking his head solemnly. "Far too late."
"You have to help, you're the doctor, for God's sake-!"
"Too late. The boy is dead."
Barsad lets out another sobbing howl, which reaches with desperate fingers up to the star-dogged moon. The moon looks back with pitiless eyes, blotting out its stars as the boy weeps for his dead friend.
"Akh," Barsad moans over and over, leaning down upon the face of the smaller boy, "Isme akh…"
Firdos' small head rolls back on his shoulders as Barsad shakes him desperately, exposing a thick vertical gash drawn across the throat of the boy, severing his fresh muscles and thick tendons. The prison lets out a sigh of shock, all men breathing at once, and Barsad screams, a sound like no other I've ever heard. It causes me to step forward, and I feel Bane's hand take hold of the back of my shirt; I squeeze it in my own and he lets go. I walk out, falling from the cloak of darkness and into the lambent light. Barsad's howls chill the air as I unconsciously move closer, bending the other side. Gently I reach out a hand and place it on Barsad's inverted shoulder, and he shoves me away roughly, causing me to stumble backwards. He screams something at me in such a flurry of Arabic I fail to understand it.
"Hell anni rooh bee'd!" He screams, "Hell anni!"
I shy backwards, and Barsad fights to breathe straight, wailing again as he draws the dead boy up in his arms, holding his bloodied corpse close to his chest, burying his head in Firdos' blood soaked clothes, his bones poking out at all ankles. Firdos' back looks to be shattered, by the way his body leans against Barsad's conformatively.
I realize with a wrenching feeling that the hand which pushed me away has left a wet streak of Firdos' blood up my arm; I crawl backwards on my knees, a little more into the shadows, and stand close as Barsad wails. Bane says my name from somewhere close by and I feel his arm on mine as he pulls me back into the darkness.
"What's happened?" I ask, shaking with tears falling from my own eyes now, unable to think straight; all is silent apart from Barsad's incessant screams of rage and pain, and the docile whispers of our small group.
"It has happened before," Andri explains. "With new ones."
"What do you mean?" I ask, my voice choked.
"They must have seen the bodies ascend," Bane explains, his breath warm against my neck.
"When we sent up the corpses of Dandachi and Nas," Andri tells me. "They must have thought it a logical means of escape; poor, stupid fools."
"They tried to get out?" I char, holding onto Bane's arm like he is some sort of sanctuary; he doesn't pull away, although I can see the gesture does not leave him comfortable with the situation.
"The eldest would have tied up the younger and hauled him upwards to the surface; I suppose he would have asked the rope master to do the same for him in the morning."
"They should have been warned," Bane says. "I should have told them."
"Told them what?!" I ask, flustered and turned to stone by shock. This is unreal. Surely only a dream.
"The guards slit the throat of all the bodies taken up," Andri explained. "The boy must have reeled as they made to be sure he was dead; the guards slashed his throat and sent him back where he belongs."
Barsad wails again, clutching tightly to the deceased boy who was his closest friend.
"Perhaps it is kinder," Andri says quietly, no-one moving forwards to do anything; not to remove the body, not to console Barsad. "A boy of his disposition; I believe he would have become as the Sharmuta Walad."
"We ought to something," Bane says.
"No," Andri instructs, "let the boy grieve for his friend. Then later, we shall burn the body. Let him mourn."
The other men who have withdrawn from their cells to see the spectacle unfold have begun to shimmer back inside, perhaps unmoved or somehow displaced by the scene, one many of them have seen unfold before.
"Burn him?" I ask quietly. "Why?"
"The guards will not accept such a treachery twice," Andri answers. "They cast the boy back down; here he will remain forever. We shall have to burn him ourselves, and face the torture of it as punishment. So is the way of the pit."
"None can leave who do not climb," Bobby says quietly in broken English, stood behind the rest of us. "It is known."
"It is," Andri affirms. "Come- back inside. The night is not over; now is the time to sleep. Tomorrow we shall dance with the dead."
Bane touches the blood on my arm with light, firm fingers and bows his head.
"Come," he beckons, and the four of us turn slowly, walking in a procession back into the warmth of our grilled home, leaving the cleaved boy to choke his sorrows into the black earth.
AN: I am so, SO sorry it took so long for me to update. My mind has been in myriads of other places (coursework, my Walking Dead fic) and I was in a bit of writer's depression, that combined with the fact i'd contracted a severe case of writer's block with simply how to format the story meant I was unfit to write in legitimate sentences. But then I bitch-slapped myself last night, read all your sparkly reviews of wonderment and WROTE. LIEK A BAWSS.
Thank you guys so much for reading, and I really hope you enjoyed this chapter, regardless of how short it is (My apologies). RIP Firdos- another character I loved, struck off and cast into the dust. Hope you, Dandachi and Nas are havin' a big ol' party up in OC heaven.
Excuse me a sec whilst I high five myself at updating all my fanfics in one night *high five*
Please, PLEASE R&R, and I'll see you next time for another dose of 'Condemned!' xx