By Mike Mulvihill
In an ocean of blood
Most of my once-beautiful bayside
haven lay decimated by shelling, its ruins a testament not only to
urbanicide, but also fratricide. We survivors looked dead
and Death in the form of Jihad dwelt among the living.
I lived in a half shelled-out building with Abdullah, who still
had not accepted the death of his wife after she was shot in the
head. He carried on as though she was just badly injured—dressing her,
feeding her, and nursing her. Last Friday, at the time we usually prayed
together, he screamed for a full hour. His wife at this stage was
rotting. He was answered by the shrill of live ammunition.
I continued drinking my cup of Arabian coffee. In this
hellhole of rations and degraded quality of life, it’s my secret how I managed
two cups a day, fed myself, and stayed sane. I am even too afraid to tell
that to the piece of paper I am writing on.
The only other man who had remained in this half-ruin
loved his wife; believe me, his was true love. He worshipped the ground she
walked on and loved her the very same as on the day they first met back in
Aleppo. He told me he only bothered to work hard for her; otherwise working did
not interest him.
I know he was not mad. When we looked into each other’s
eyes, I saw only sorrow. Five minutes later he started crying like a
child. I cradled him in my arms. He wept and moaned, “Ahmed, she really is
It shocked me how his mind had fooled him until now into
not registering the actuality of her death.
“Everything will be okay. I will fry us some bread and
eggs. Food always makes people feel better.” My response was all too
typical of me. Once food became unavailable, I, too, would lose touch with reality.
I released Abdullah, relieved that we would finally bury
his wife. When I returned with his meal he had gone. I buried his
wife in a backyard garden, as respectfully as I could manage. The days of
people spending a fortune on a funeral had long gone. With so many of us
crushed or blown to pieces, who worried about how they might be
commemorated? No one even called the living to prayer anymore.
Good never results from war, especially among blood
brothers. In a place so recently full of hope for reconciliation, it
was mad to consider isolation splendid, and folly to assume safety. Why
did these Jihadists want more blood, especially mine? What is one more drop of
blood in an ocean of it?
Although partly destroyed, my building was still
inhabitable. The bombers likely considered it a job only half done, since
their solution demands full destruction. I thought of the people who
had lived here. No one returned. Some have died in the protracted
conflict, but surely others have made it across the northern or southern
I walked past the shell of a nearby apartment whose former occupant
had fled his debtors before the current war broke out. Addicted to
gambling, and having lost his wife to this addiction, he still had not reached
rock bottom, until he placed a wager that caused certain dangerous
people to go after him. In a way, his last gamble was lucky.
I sat on the seat of one of the public toilets in my
building within the wilderness of urban deterioration. I had a view of the
fabled hills where home after home, business after business, and even our holy
mosques had been destroyed—from the bay to the ocean. I felt like the
world was ending the way we had all been warned down through the
ages. Those who wage war will not stop until the last nails are pounded
into peace’s coffin. High on methamphetamines, speed,
and LSD, they rape, decapitate, commit genocide, and
find novel forms of cruelty to use on their own brethren.
I wiped and flushed. I listened to water flowing slowly in
the pipes and the tank filling up behind me. But I had not yet pulled up my
trousers to leave, when I thought I heard voices. Disturbed for the first
time in my life by the sound of speech, I almost hoped they were ghosts. Nobody
had come here for six months. No one who left returned. The
past was debris strewn across the city whose future lay buried
under fallen grandeur.
People, not ghosts, walked the hall outside my refuge. I
carefully listened. Hyper, they did not sound like anyone authorized or
contracted to come here. Had insurgents finally entered this part of the city?
Those voices were aggressive. What their kind wanted was never good, and I
was badly outnumbered. I feared the scent of my waste might give me
They were running and shouting! “Should we set
bombs here?” asked one.
Quickly, I pulled up my trousers, closed and sat
on the toilet seat lid, and lifted my feet onto it. My ears rang
when shots were fired. I heard shards of glass falling as bullets hit
walls, windows, and doors. Then it was quiet. I listened for cues of what they
might do next.
My heart started racing. I had seen bombs crush people
under rubble or leave them to die in unbearable pain. Some people can cope with
pain, but not people like me.
They continued negotiating, but I couldn’t quite make out
their words. Was it about where to place bombs for optimum destruction? If
they blew up the building I might die quickly. Yet, if they were prepared to
squat here, how would I ever get out? If they found me they would torture me!
I opened the toilet cubicle door, and, gently, opened the
window. They could easily have overheard me, and might enter and
shoot me in the back. I placed my hands on the ledge and lifted my knees up.
Outside on the window ledge, looking for a way of
escape, I judged the distance to the ground below. If I fell, I had no
idea how I would survive, but I was going to have to drop. I didn’t
like the idea of falling, but liked less the idea of staying. I saw a
drain pipe that should support my weight, but might snap, and drop me too
quickly, too far.
As I was about to slide over the ledge and grab
the drain pipe, I realized my sweaty hands had no decent grip. I
needed gloves. I stayed on the ledge, then heard and saw a van drive up to the
“Get out—out!” one of four angry, armed men shouted.
I saw what I presumed to be a man in a black hood taken
from the back of the van. I left the window ledge, crept to the door, and peeked
through the keyhole. I did not want to let them catch me alive,
but chances for escape were slim. I had to try, or risk being tortured,
mutilated, and left for dead. I did not want the terrorists to cut me into
pieces. Either in death or life, I wanted to stay whole.
“Did you bring your camera?” I overheard one of them
“We are going to film, and then broadcast, our prisoner’s
“I will film everything.”
From the keyhole I watched as they vacated the floor I
was on. I slowly turned the key in the door and removed my shoes. I went
on tiptoe and opened the hall door. Intent on getting out of the complex
alive, I tiptoed all the way back to my apartment.
I studied my apartment. I did not hear a sound
or see evidence that the door to my apartment had been forced. So I
approached the door, kept looking behind me, and slowly opened it.
I kept an AK 47 under my bed. I got the gun, sat down,
and cradled the gun in my hands as I had Abdullah. I could hear the
insurgents walking up the stairs. I heard them speak on loudspeakers,
and looked outside.
Something wrapped in a black bag hurtled past my
window. The object thudded to the pavement. I waited, sure they were going
to blow up the building. I didn’t know when,
but imagined they would do a thorough job. Mercy was not in
their creed. As far as they were concerned my building was empty.
I kept watching and waiting for what seemed like forever,
determined to leave this cursed city. I heard a louder thud just after a larger
object flashed past my window. I heard trucks stopping
outside. Were more invaders coming? If so, I would be discovered, and, if
I couldn’t shoot them all first, I would be either dead or tortured to
I heard feet clambering down the stairs, and then saw what
I presumed was all the insurgents getting into their trucks, turning on their
engines, and driving away.
I waited twenty minutes before I left my room. I decided to
check every floor. Had bombs on timers been set? Had
some insurgents remained? What had
been dropped from the floors above me?
I checked the top and middle floors of the building,
but didn’t find anything. When I went downstairs and walked outside, there
lay a decapitated body, its bagged head beside it. I figured that there must
not be bombs attached to the dead body because they would have exploded
when they hit the ground. I picked up the head and placed it on a
round steel table people once used for outdoor dining, and opened the
bag. The head was my neighbor’s. I refused to dwell deeply on this
I dug a hole near his wife’s grave and placed Abdullah’s
body minus his head into the ground. I kissed Abdullah’s head just to
prove that the world was not totally loveless. I said goodbye to
Abdullah as I placed his head in the ground. After covering his remains with
soil and flowers, I walked away. I will stop only when I find
peace. I won’t return to Baghdad by the Bay in Caliphornia ever again.
Michael Mulvihill, email@example.com, &firstname.lastname@example.org, of Dublin, Ireland, wrote BP #77’s “Drop” and “Lupine
Savagery” (+ BP #76’s “The Watchers”; BP #68’s“The Toasters’ Tragedy” and
“Ziggy’s Afterlife Analysis”; “Homeless” & “Why the Hell Siberia?” for BP
#67; was featured author for BP #65’s “Ethagorian Evidence, Parts 1 & 2” &
“Uninsured Assurance”; VAMPIRE HORDE, Ch.1… for BP #63; BP #61’s poems, A Love Story Beautiful, Capitalism’s Modern Architecture of
Brick, The Securocrats, and Toxic
Addiction; the poems,
“Fatigued,” “O Mother,” & “Spike-Inverted Hearts” for BP #58; “The Cleaner
and the Collector” & all 6 BP #56 poems; BP #50’s “The Soul Scrubber” and
was featured vampire poet with A Vampire’s
Dilemma: Love, Becoming a Vampire,
Vampire Insomnia, and Vampiric War
in The Kodori Valley; wrote
BP #49’s poems—I, the Vampire, The
Reluctant Vampire of Tbilisi, Vampire Observations, and Vampire Psychoanalysis). The 30ish author published a short story,
“Ethagoria Nebsonia,” in BP in ‘98 and had a poem, “The Bombing,” in The Kingdom
News about a domestic tragedy in
Ireland. He has two 2007 poetry books out with Exposure Publishing: Searching
for Love Central and The Genesis and Anatomy of Love, and has
written the horror novels, DIABOLIS OF DUBLIN & SIBERIAN HELLHOLE.