Aydin Aghdashloo, Memories of Destruction, Sand Storm, 1980
I extend my left arm through the slimy bars, to what purpose I’m not sure anymore. I am certain I’ve tried it already. To strike him maybe, or to strangle him to death. The man hits me with a stick, again, and the wound partly reopens. A deep gash hidden among the hard itchy scales that are growing on my skin. He snaps a single word at me, a guttural rebuke, its meaning obvious despite the unknown language.
I howl and retreat in the furthest corner of my cage, pulling the dirty burnous around me, hiding my head. He’ll hit me if I show myself. I think he plans to exhibit me in a fair, and everyone who wants to see me will have to pay. Let him do it. Who cares about the few pitiful coins to be extorted from the curiosity of these deplorable beggars? The pain in my injured arm is searing, in unison with the weird malaise holding me in its grip. I must have many broken bones, or at least that’s how it feels. Even my eyes hurt. The light is too harsh. For that, the shroud is most welcome. It somehow subdues my agony, apart from hiding my shame of being such a captive. I can indulge in imagining these people aren’t here. Away from them, that’s all I want, to be away from them. I’m growing a tail, for Goodness sake.
The heat stifles me, heavy with the stench of all these bodies bustling around with antlike tenacity in this unrecognizable souk where I found myself taken as I painfully regained consciousness. It reeks of goat, undressed hides, and blood. Of incense, and spices.
Hear me! I’m here! I am Josh Buckley from Massachusetts. I only shout the words in my head, as burning tears swell uncontrollably at the corners of my eyes. I’m afraid to try again, still humiliated by the effect of my last attempt, by the memory of my mouth as it contorted horribly, with no sound leaving my chafed lips but a disgusting gurgle. Oh, how cruelly they laughed at me, these people, and threw stones at me, entertained by my comic efforts. Hit by this mysterious illness, a monster, a freak, that’s what I’m becoming.
Nightfall comes slowly. Muezzin cries call the faithful to the mosque. Gently, I rock myself to sleep, strangely soothed by the monotone chants. In the sleep, I can dream. I allow myself to remember.
excerpt from "Crossing the Lion's Lake", a short story