She knew she had to alert the Terrorist unit that had been hers for so many years. She picked up her other mobile and called the head of the unit. After an exchange of salutations and a few pleasantries, he asked her what the purpose of her call was as she had been excluded from the unit by her boss who had asked the head of the unit to refrain from speaking with her anymore and to ensure other members of the unit also did not exchange with her. She answered that an attack might be imminent in Westminster but she did not know for sure there would be trouble. She explained that it was expected that individual cells from Boko Haram and ISWAP would meet at the station and perhaps things could go awry from there. He asked her for a few other details and finally told her not to worry and that the unit would be ready for them the whole day and the couple of days after that if they did not arrest them the same day.
After hanging up, she wondered whether it was really the best choice. She had no idea whether Manas would also join the Boko Haram cell. After all he was the head of Boko Haram in Cameroon and he might need to prove his value to the headquarters in Nigeria. She wondered whether she should call him and tell him not to join the meeting but she had already broken her burner sim and she was not sure she would have enough time to get a new sim so she just typed ATU coming on her phone and hoped that Manas would see it in time to avoid the Westminster meeting. After that she ran to the shop to purchase another sim which she used to call the other number for Manas. The phone rang several times but nobody picked up. She kept calling, all the time worried that something happened to him. Suddenly she saw a message flashing on her normal mobile. It said “OK, out”. She felt so relieved that he was no longer in any danger.
She wondered what was happening with the other members of the two cells. She tuned into the frequency that the members of her old unit used to use. The satellite phone she had was able to link into the frequency and she heard everything her old team was saying. Funny that they had not changed the frequency after her departure, she thought. The head of the unit probably thought she would not remember it but he visibly did not realise how good with numbers she was and underestimated her incredible capacity to learn strings of numbers without any problem. She was not just a tactical part of the team, her ability to leverage a person’s psychological issues in order to turn them away from what she wanted them to stop doing was considerable and had made her boss interested in deploying her in the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU).
When she was in the ATU for Africa, she had been able to decipher several transfers of money using her pattern-matching capacities. It was thanks to this that she had been able to establish that several transfers coming from high-ranking officials in Qatar were funneled into an Islamic organization that professed to be a non-profit for building mosques and then routed through the disguise of Sadaqah, or charity towards the poor, to reach a similar organization in Nigeria and be distributed to what looked like ISWAP’s accounts in Nigeria. It was difficult in practice to establish that these accounts were indeed ISWAP’s accounts because the front was a non-profit that looked like a charitable organization but when you linked all the entities with the payments made and you realized that the individuals who received the payments were indeed suspected ISWAP members, you knew that these had to be ISWAP accounts. The only problem was that they could not establish for certain that these individuals were ISWAP members because they were perceived as God-fearing individuals who were devout Muslims and there was no actual proof of wrongdoing. In the time she worked with the ATU, she had never established a clear link and her unit was never able to bring the ISWAP down through the money trail as they had to proceed with caution, owing to local cultural and religious sensitivities
Enigma - The Rivers Of Belief
After a period of interrogation, the anti-terrorist team released her as they didn’t have anything against her and they could no longer retrieve her to the US as an asset given she was no longer part of the team. They let her go with a sneer and a jeer though and inferred that if they found her with him, they would not hesitate to shoot her down to serve as an example. She merely scoffed and took her belongings before leaving the US embassy in London. She could see that the two who had caught her at the London eye were following her discreetly. They were not so discreet though as to evade her trained eyes. She stuck up her middle finger backwards towards them, showing them she was aware of their presence. She went straight to her flat and decided to sleep for a few hours.
Her phone buzzed for a while before she got up and grabbed it. She had hoped to see Manas but it was someone else who was clad with the same clothing that she had seen Manas wear. He pointed towards a picture next to his face. It was very small and she had a hard time identifying what it was. He then sent her a picture and deleted it after he saw that she had identified it. It was a burner phone and he spoke in Arabic telling her to get something similar. He told her to get the yellow one and she put on her computer and activated the private network application so that nobody could follow her search on the internet if they were hacking her computer. She almost felt like a terrorist herself now that she was trying to avoid the US anti-terrorist unit dedicated to African terrorism that had been hers. He also sent another picture and she quickly took a photograph of it before he could delete it. It was a number in what was now considered as Arabic numerals and she realised it was a UK number to call.
She kept the application on throughout her research and purchased the yellow burner phone. Instead of having it delivered to her, thereby leaving her address, she marked it for collection at the store. She was glad she had got this small payment card that she had used as it could not lead back to her at all and had sufficient money in it to purchase anything else she would need to make her encounters with Manas as safe as possible. Later that afternoon she went and picked up the phone and bought two prepaid sims which she paid with cash rather than the debit card even though it was deemed to keep her untraceable. She walked towards Southwark park and sat on a bench before bringing her phone out. She put in one of the prepaid sims and called the number that Manas’s man had sent her. The phone did not have whatsapp on it and she realized that it would not be possible to put that application on this phone. She heard Manas on the line and her heart skipped a beat.
- How are you, she said
- I am fine Angel. How are you?
- I was so scared for you but I feel better now knowing that you got away.
- Angel, I need you to do something for me
- Anything my love
- Don’t take any tube today that passes by Westminster
- Why, what is going to happen in Westminster?
She felt a cold sweat running down her back. Was there going to be a terrorist attack in Westminster? She could not possibly suspect it and do nothing. So many people could die if she did not report it to the authorities. Manas was not answering her question. He appeared hesitant but then said
- I don’t want you to get hurt. Two opposing factions of Boko Haram are meeting at the station. I really don’t want you to get hurt
- What about the other innocent bystanders?
- They risk less. You risk a lot because your face is now known to the two factions. You could be used to bring me down or as a tool to make me lose control at the leadership level of Boko Haram in Nigeria.
- Understood. I will not go there today
- Today and the following two days might be better actually.
- Yes, okay. I will do as you say
She hung up feeling a pit in her stomach. At the same time, her mind was racing. Should she report this to the authorities or not? If she did report it then the two factions might suspect Manas and she did not want to get him killed. Was he telling her the truth? She knew that Boko Haram wanted to reignite its fame and be counted as a force to reckon with outside of its territory and this might mean that they could have wired up the station to take down westerners together with the other faction that called itself the Islamic State West Africa Province (to be known as ISWAP). Boko Haram could easily send only suicide bombers to the meeting with the ISWAP group and then bomb the whole of the Westminster station. This would cause huge disruptions in the life of thousands of westerners and block all logistics around that area for days if not weeks as well as send a stark message to Islamic State abroad. She felt stuck, incapable of making a decision for several minutes. Then all of a sudden she stood up and went back home after throwing the sim card in a dustbin. She knew what to do.
"Desolation" - Adam Hurst
Elixir part 1 – The Truth of the Elixir29 May 2022
She looked behind her fleetingly trying to assess how far her assailant was. Not more than 90 seconds before he would be able to seize her. She stomped with her right foot the earth under her feet while thinking at the same time of being inside the earth. No sooner had she done that than her body sank into the ground dropping at a very high speed. She thought of the steps of soil and they materialised under her feet. She ran quickly using one step after the other and leapt onto the one leading her out, on the other side of the river where her assailant, general Stein, had been stalking her.
The Elixir was within a vial knotted closely into the hem of her shirt. She clutched at it frantically, needing to assess whether it had opened and spilt over. It was safely knotted, lid intact, into her clothing. Her eyes grew misty when she remembered how her mother had sacrificed the remaining years she had to live just so that she could be able to make the Elixir and work on making more so that more people who were dying could be saved.
The Elixir had a restorative nature allowing it not only to provide more years of life to those dying but also to heal the organs within the body of the sick persons it was administered to.
She had seen time and time again how the elderly were happy to grant the remaining years of their life to their ailing children or grandchildren. All the Elixirs she had made had been used. Only the one she had made from her mother’s remaining years was kept close to her heart. Nobody had ever been able to understand how she made the Elixirs and she had kept the secret close to her. When the word had started coming out, she had received offers from pharmaceutical companies but she knew well enough that they would only buy her technique in order to bury it as those companies thrived on the sickness and death of people and had no intention of actually making Elixirs to heal people.
She thought again about what she had created. It would seem like the holy Grail when you thought of it but it did have some side effects: it held some of the memories of the deceased and it seemed that those were in majority memories of trauma or other levels of pain. These memories kicked in when anyone given the Elixir was experiencing any level of anger or stress. Upon studying this phenomenon, she realised that these memories were stored in some pockets of the Elixir which had a slight discoloration of the pearls of blood around it. She needed to be able to isolate this from the rest of the Elixir without foregoing any of the years contained in it.
She looked at where general Stein was looking at her, seething with anger that she had again escaped him. He had never pursued her with any offers, unlike the pharmaceutical companies. He simply wanted to get from her the secret of creating the Elixir so that he could use it on the children of his elite clientele. Ever since he had left the army, his only scope in life had been to earn as much riches as he could and Amelia’s invention represented a fantastic opportunity to do so. Back in Melancholy where he visited his rich clients, the parents were dealing with a very difficult situation as all their children were either neurasthenic or suicidal and he knew from observing Amelia’s work that the Elixir would not only extend the life of those who took it but would also make those who took it wish to live a beautiful life
Al-Nil - Armand Amar
She looked again at Manas’s beautiful black face filling the screen with his lips parting on pearly white teeth in such a beautiful smile that it made her heart ache with longing. His face seemed to pop out of the screen.
She smiled back, yet she wanted to know the truth, even if it were to hurt her.
- Did you order my torture, Manas?
- How could you think that my angel?
- I don’t know. It seemed impossible that your supporters would do it without your permission.
- Those who have tortured you have been castigated. I know I cannot make it up to you, I can never remove the effect the torture had on you, but I have punished those who took it into their hands to punish you for my imprisonment. As soon as I was let out of prison, I tended to that.
- It was awful
- I know. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I should have left instructions that you should not be touched but everything happened so fast, and we had to run away from your anti-terrorist team.
- I forgive you. I see now that it could not have been you and you did not have time to make sure nothing happened to me.
- Meet me alongside the Thames, near the London Eye at 4 pm
- Tea-time! I see you are getting acquainted with the locals
- Anything for you, my angel. I have followed the change of your career and know that it is now here that you have settled down. I want to be with you and give you the best of myself.
- What about your terrorist gang? Are you going to be attacking civilians here?
- I wish I could answer you, my angel. Let’s not think about things that separate us. We have so much to catch up about. I have missed you so much
- Me too
The words almost suffocated her. She had missed him so much that it actually hurt her. She felt as if her chest had been bashed in, so difficult it was to breathe. She quickly put on her clothes and ran towards the tube. It would not take her long to get to the London Eye from Canada Water. She kept wiping nervously her hands on her jeans as she was sweating profusely, and her hands were wet too. She wondered what it would be like to be in his arms again. Would his love for her be the same? Had he been with other women while they were not together? What had he been doing after his release from the Cameroonian prison?
She got down at Waterloo and walked towards the London Eye. From far she could see Manas. He was disguised and now had a beard on as well as a wig, but she could easily recognize him. Suddenly she felt someone gazing at her on the side and turned to see one of her team members from the Cameroon operation. She also felt someone staring at her from the back and turned around to see another of her team members. They were closing in on her and she realized that her phone must have been tapped.
The good thing was that they had not yet recognized Manas so she turned around and looked squarely at the team member behind her. She pushed him and he fell to the ground. The other team member at her side closed in on her and caught her wrists. Stop fighting, he said but she started throwing punches at him while kicking at the other man who was trying to hold her legs. She saw Manas slowly back out of where he was and then turn and walk away. At least he is safe, she thought as her two team members jointly held her by the wrists and legs.
Norah Jones - Come Away With Me (Official Music Video)
She thought back to those dark moments when she had been tortured while Manas was in captivity. It had seemed to last ages although it was only two weeks as she had discovered later. At the beginning of the torture, she was full of the resolve to fight and avoid giving crucial information, but it did not seem like they were searching for any information at all. They had put her feet in a bucket of water and periodically one of the three torturers present would put a wire in the bucket making her experience what seemed like a thousand shockwaves jolting through her body. They had kept doing it systematically until she lost consciousness. She could hear the prayers throughout the day while she was being tortured and that gave her the sense of what time of the day it was.
She was never left alone, even during the time for prayers, as there was always one guard watching over her. The second day they had attached wires to her genitalia and every time the electricity went through it felt like her genitalia were on fire. Later, when she attempted to urinate, she found it was even more excruciating to pass urine than to suffer the electricity going through her genitalia as the effect of the burning lasted. She pleaded for a bucket of water but there was no moving them it seemed, even though she had started pleading in Arabic and invoking the name of Allah in her request. At last, one woman she had not seen before came to her and gave her a sponge filled with water so that she may wipe herself. This apparent mercy was no doubt due to the fact she had invoked the name of Allah and had done so in Arabic.
That temporary mercy did not last long though and they resumed torturing her. This time she was whipped repeatedly until she lost consciousness. She was then awakened with salts and whipped again. She could feel the skin on her back tear in smaller pieces than she could imagine possible. At the same time, they were repeatedly telling her something in a language she could not understand. A few moments later, one of the torturers who had understood her plea in Arabic came forward and said that she was being punished because she had persuaded Manas to give himself up. She understood from him that Manas was their leader and him going to prison exposed them all to getting caught if Manas talked under torture in prison. She answered that it had been necessary to keep him from being killed. She tried to explain to the man that being in a Cameroonian prison was a better option than him being caught by the US anti-terrorist squad operating in Cameroon. This did not end her ordeal though and she was tortured day after day with only a few hours of rest in the evening when they went to rest leaving only one guard watching her.
One day, without any warning, she was given new clothes and taken into a house that was in front of the shed where she had been tortured. The woman who had given her the sponge earlier took her to a bathing room where she was cuffed at both the hands and the ankles before the woman gently eased her into a bathtub full of warm water. Instead of soothing her, the contact with the water just seared the scars all over her body. She did not complain though as she realized they may be reaching an ending of some sort. It could be that they would kill her or that they would release her. She prayed it would be the latter and indeed, after slowly applying the sponge all over her body gently and attempting to clean her skin as much as she could on the back and with a bit more vigor on her front side, the woman asked her to stand up. As she stood up, the woman applied gently a balm to her back and gave her some asking her to apply it to her genitalia.
She was then clothed gently with a white linen shirt and a matching flowing white linen skirt. She was then blindfolded and left in front of the US embassy where her boss had taken over from the embassy officials and told her she would be leaving in a day or two to Dubai. Her thoughts were immediately for Manas and she wondered whether she would ever see him again. She felt saddened and at the same time angry at her boss for his lack of empathy considering what she had endured. She also wondered: was Manas the person who had ordered her to be tortured in that way? Could it possibly mean that he did not love her anymore? She tried to soothe herself by thinking back to the days when they were together and to how much she had been happy with him. No, undoubtedly, Manas had not been the one to order her torture. She closed her eyes and could see behind her closed lids the beautiful image of Manas smiling at her. It was only that which had kept her sane during the torture.
Fadl Shaker &Yara Akhedni Maak فضل شاكر و يارا - خدنى معك
I was once a swan
I conquered surfaces of waters
gleaming as they slipped
tickling my under belly
working their way to my neck
that revealed itself to slaughter
Daytime picked its grind
tossing me sideways
ripping parts of my wings
as I lay flat on the lake
a sacrifice to my ineptitude
my commonplace fantasy
of being no more
What is left of me loosens
at the edges; it parts
revealing scintillating facets
of places hidden within
where I search for my traces
when I moved head held high
unveiling my togetherness
I am still sometimes a swan
patching feather after feather
through my insides laid bare
retrieving lost wings
carved inside my memories
They speak of lost paradise
when we were all children
I see now the swan in her
fleetingly visible in the sun
shadows of her wings soaring
high above the green lake
I see her and feel the ache
She hides it gracefully
We were once swans
Reading of the poem:
Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" - Piano Sonata No.14 - Arr. G.Grant
She was walking for almost an hour now, always with the Thames by her side. Her thoughts went back to Manas and how she had met him first in a small hut-like construction in Cameroon. She had landed quite abruptly in the field near his house and had hid the parachute under the sand and foliage beneath the trees. She had removed her jumping gear and shoved it under the sand before straightening her clothes. She could not see the remaining members of her team and remembered that she had seen no member of her team jump after her. She knew what her mission was anyway: look for and then report Manas once she had identified him. She had headed towards the house and found the household in great agitation and fuss, celebrating a marriage.
Without further warning, she had been whisked into the cohort and had become part of the celebration. With her local clothes on, nobody suspected her of any ulterior motive than just the wedding celebration. She had looked around for Manas and identified him sitting next to the bride. She looked at the wristwatch with the small camera, but the camera place seemed damaged. She had turned it nevertheless towards Manas and the bride, hoping that the camera would transmit the images of Manas to her team in the airplane that seemed to have vanished in the skies.
They probably will come back after viewing the images sent by her camera she had thought. She had sunk into a small couch next to several other women and joined the celebrations, keen to keep her identity safe. Manas had walked over towards her, his smile engaging and charming like she was told it would be. Her boss had predicted accurately that she would be Manas’ type and that this would lead him to bring his guard down. Manas had bowed towards her, with his hand extended, inviting her to dance alongside him like the Muslims in Cameroon did. She had stood up and had slowly been taken by the banter and the dance and almost forgotten what she had come here to do.
She looked back at the Thames and threw a stone in it, watching the ripples grow as the water was displaced by the impact. One of the images that haunted her mind was Manas standing in front of the policemen in Cameroon where she had taken him, and he had not fled. He was free now, walking sometimes in the streets of London when he needed to but all she could think of was the Manas in chains in Cameroon smiling at her, with his followers at his side. She realized that the only reason Manas was free now was because some policemen in Cameroon admired his jihadism and one of them had released him making use of the lax state of security in Cameroonian prisons.
Her story with Manas had been a very controversial one when her boss realized that she was actually falling in love with the man she was supposed to bring to justice. She had been demoted and was no longer on the anti-terrorist team so she resigned and joined the private sector. She thought back to how the story had evolved. It seemed so long ago now while it had only been 6 months since she had first met him. She remembered how he had reached out to her when he had first got out of prison. She had wondered how he had found her in London as she was not on the phonebook and not a registered voter. She threw another stone in the Thames and realized that it was raining, making more ripples than with just her stone. Her love story with Manas had begun in a very strange way so it was probably just as well that it could lead to strange things. She let her mind drift…