“Haunted Hopes” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Anuj, The Air Force School, India.
Rehman sat on the mahogany chair next to the window, reading the national daily. It was his favorite spot in the entire house. He could smell the aroma of the Spanish cuisines, coming from the stalls next to his apartment. It was a delight for him to raise his family in the busy streets of Madrid. He believed that his little girl, Zara, could learn a lot from the Spanish lifestyle.
He was reading an article about the unstable situations in his motherland, Afghanistan. He remembered his childhood in the streets of the historic city of Herat. His vision became hazy, with tears obstructing the view. He dived deep into the past.
Rehman was blessed to be born in one of the most well-known families of Herat. His family was among the few prosperous ones. His father, a man with a liberal mindset, made sure that in addition to theology, Rehman would receive education in Sciences and Literature. When it was time for Rehman to go to college, his parents reached the consensus that he would be receiving a world-class education in the United States. Rehman did a doctorate in Literature and moved to Spain as an offer to teach at the University of Madrid.
Then, came the murky times of trouble. Rehman besought his parents to move to Spain to avoid the turmoil in Afghanistan. Sadly enough, his parents died in a bombing in Herat in 1999. To this day, he cannot distinctly recall what the Maulviji’s exact words were. He became numb and was out of his senses when Maulviji uttered the words “no more”, on the phone.
He wailed and sobbed and blamed himself for everything. He rarely spoke to Samira, his wife. He became an unpleasant man, who was demented and traumatized by his life.
In 2001, his life took a new turn. He held the newborn Zara in his arms. He could not find any more reasons to be sad, for he had innumerable reasons to light up the world of his little angel. He had to become a better man for his family. He pledged to offer all the happiness that was out there in the world to the two most beautiful women, who made him the man he was.
Now, his eyes were filled with tears of joy. There was a smile on his face, one of contentment and complacency. He was wiping off his tears of reminiscence. At that very moment, two things happened almost simultaneously. One, there was a large thud on the main door of his house. He heard some people running like mad wolves in the wild. Two, he heard his wife screaming and dropping the utensils on the floor of the kitchen. He got up from his mahogany chair and turned around to see what was going on. A fist lunged towards him and punched him on the top of his head with an exceedingly sharp thrust. He vaguely remembered someone covering his head with a black cloth.
The mahogany chair lay next to the window. Broken, destroyed and crushed!
16 hours later
The next thing Rehman remembered was the dazzling light that was falling directly into his eyes. He was almost certain to be blinded by it. He found himself to be dressed in dull orange clothes. It took him a second to realize that all his dreams were shattered and pulverized in the blink of an eye. No angel could mend them.
He was at the most dreaded place on the entire earth.
Camp Platinum, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Many more Rehman(s) were picked from all around the globe in the same way. They were taken away from their families and thrown in the cells of Guantanamo Bay. This was the result of the United States of America’s war against terrorism. More than 700 people, from all around the globe were detained without concrete evidence for the purpose interrogation. More than half of them were found to be innocent and were not associated with Taliban or Al-Qaeda in any way. Moreover, they were deemed as “detainees” and “enemy combatants”, instead of “prisoners”. This was for the sole reason that detainees are not subjected to the Geneva Convention, which ensures the ethical and humane treatment of all prisoners. Furthermore, the detainees were subjected to coercion and various other torture methods.
If those who lead the path for the world and set examples in various fields go wrong, then hope cannot be promised to the future and setbacks will be inevitable.
And as for Rehman, I shall leave it up to you all to decide his fate. I hope it is a happy ending!