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The Clock

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Dum... Dum... Dum... went on the Drum.

The procession has arrived at the Holy Square, at last.


The uniformed Patriots brought Him, on their shoulders. They stood still in a solemn remembrance.

First shot for the late Hero... Second shot for the noble mission he died for... Third shot for the honorable corpse he so bravely served... Fourth shot for the departed Martyr, for the Man this audience believed he was...

The coffin, which had been carried in the careless official carriage, amidst the constant cries of the horns, has now been put on a red square carpet, right onto the ground. The crows flew above in an unrestrained impatience for fresh flesh...

A colonel then a lieutenant delivered few rehearsed lines. The Man of Faith sang the dead man's qualities and some selected verses from the Holy Book in an attempt to picture a prophetic analogy. The Book was then closed, the swords were raised high in the air, and the coffin was put deep down in the fresh brick earth, with the national flag on top of it. The audience burst into a synchronised sob. The mother fainted, the spouse was moaning, the sister was crying, the child was wondering... and the friend was watching.

The friend, the only true battlefield friend, has been keeping his head down all through the ceremony, not knowing what to look at, whom to look at, and where to turn to, for fear someone would know, for fear someone would guess. Only the trees around were of some comfort to the sight. Yet, the cypresses! Tall and dark and straight! What if they knew? The one just across the Square, that big one, with a branch twisting in an eye-shape, with thick needles morphing into crossed eyebrows... It seemed to be translating his strange look, deciphering the very codes in his pupils.

That's all silly! How would a tree know? ... It does look, however, like the trees in that village, in that remote country he and his fellow military were summoned to chase savages... It wasn't his idea but that of the Hero. While the other soldiers were abiding by the regiment's stiff rules, he was helping his friend concretising his exotic fantasy. A youth dream, just a dream. The fault wasn't all his. After all, it wasn't he who spotted that teenage girl herding her goats near the Black River. It wasn't he who dragged her to that shabby cabin. It wasn't he who first had the idea of abuse. It wasn't even he who started the abuse. He just followed... and called a third mate, for fun. It was that third mate who, actually, messed it all. Yes! HE drew the attention of enemy fighters passing by with his thick laughter and sick jokes. HE suggested to the Hero to slaughter the girl and get rid of her body in the water....

The friend checked the eye of the cypress again...

He didn't start anything. The Hero and the third mate were the obvious culprits. But who lied, that day, to the regiment's colonel, asking for troops to come in rescue at once? Who embroidered to the hierarchy that hostage-taking story, in which he and his two companions were victims? All right. He wasn't completely innocent, but he had to do it, for survival sake. For honour sake! Could he really do otherwise? He was surely not prepared at the time to tell his fellow men he'd been having a good time with two other soldiers while they'd been attacked, nor was he able to say he had been the first to flee the group and leave his friends alone in the fight, nor would he ever be prepared to tell anyone about anything. What's past is past, and buried...

Yet, the third mate! Al was his name. The companion who went missing during the wild fight with the native soldiers not far from the cabin, the soldier whose rifle had been discovered much later at the riverside, and whose blood had been traced all along the road out of the village, until the mouth of the bush...

The flag was now all covered with the roses people were throwing as they were leaving.

No. No one will ever know. Al went missing during the stiff exchange of fire he and the Hero led against the armed men. If the Hero everyone mourns here had been an easy target to the alien bullets, what would one think so weak a man as Al would become in that case! He must be rotting in that remote bush, if the crows in the area were proud enough not to live on cowardly stuff...

No. No one will ever know.

The friend raised his head and fixed defiantly the big cypress...

Tic-toc... Tic-toc... Tic-toc... promised the clock.


Author

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Amina Bezzazi


"Location: Algiers, Algeria.

Occupation: Assistant Lecturer in American Literature and Creative Writing in the Department of English, University of Algiers II, and writer.

Achievements and Publications: Founder and Executive Editor of Ink and Muse, respectively the newspaper and magazine of the Department of English, Algiers University. Author of short stories and poems in both French and English, published in Algiers, France and the United States."


Stories

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Ammi Was Right

I knew the basics of survival. My mother had already given up on trying to confine my unmanageable bouts of adventure and had resigned instead to teaching me a few life hacks in the hope of preventing my untimely death.

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The Small Big Thing

Ahiliya, the beautiful princess of Magadha, was sitting on the balcony of her palace brooding over her loneliness. She had a score of girls to keep company though. Yet, everything looked so lacklustre.

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Luck and Patience

"There are two lives that can be lived," said Mother Cat to her kittens, "the one you have with me safe at home, nestled in comfort... or ..."

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INGENUITY

Sam does not smoke; at least no more at present. In his boyhood days, he used to inhale an occasional puff or two from a friend maybe, but not now.

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Derailed

It was a regular Friday morning, the last working day of the week. As much as my little princess Ziva, I was also pretty excited about the weekend.

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Child's Unfulfilled Wishes

There was a 12-year-old boy who had a lot of money to spend and enjoy his life. He lived in a mansion like house and studied in one of the best schools in the country.

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Chance Meeting

Let me see dear. Oh yes, I should do. I've lived there for nearly fifty years. Was there anyone in particular you were looking for? I might know them.

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The Epitome of Love

'Handle with care' used to be written on the bottles into which my father poured his finest blends. My brewer father and simpleton mother handled me with utmost care.

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The Clock

First shot for the late Hero... Second shot for the noble mission he died for... Third shot for the honorable corpse he so bravely served... Fourth shot for the departed Martyr.

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Wise Yenzi

Word had come through the mountains, along the long winding trails of our jungle and finally along the river, Yenzi was coming.

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Wrong Turn

It's evening, and we are walking on the beach. The sun is going down, and the sky is so beautiful. She is beautiful too, and laughs like a pixie.Of course, I've never seen or heard a pixie, but I love her.

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Tom and Molly

Molly: Hey Tommy! You, goody-goody! Why on earth you're peeping through the window?

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Eddie To The Rescue

Lou looked up from her school exercise book and looked across at her gorgeous teddy she called Eddie bear.

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The Missing Person

She looked around uncertainly. The station was crowded, how was she supposed to find her daughter amongst the crowds.

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Our Story

Look at this snap, I say. Isn't it so telltale? Doesn't it speak volumes on our closeness? Our relationship could be the subject of a great novel of romances.

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The Wolves

Although it was dangerous, I had no choice. We needed to eat and there was nothing left in our old habitat.

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Messenger of Chance

Life is complex, putting most answers on a spectrum, which I suppose places me between ordinary and special, smack dab in the middle of average.

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Lucky Strike

God! He had been lucky, what if he had not walked back into that place today? Tomorrow would have been a disaster; his life would have changed completely.

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The Docks

The two girls Grace and Charlotte stood watching, fascinated by what they were seeing. Grace put her hand over her mouth to stop herself crying out.

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Magic

The plan chalked out in the morning had nothing to do with birthday plans. They wanted to visit the Forbidden Fortress. It is a place they are told to stay off.

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Little Jackie Pete

Janette was a head and half taller than her sister Susan who stood just in front of her under an arching entrance to an alleyway off the side of a cobbled street.

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The Dragons Of Drakonfell

Scarlet and Ashley had been told not to leave the castle. They stood in the doorway watching something flying overhead. It wasn't all that large as dragons go.

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Joy

"Fred! How are you?" Jim said to the man that had stopped in the street before him. He had been cycling down the road trying to keep warm...

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Gratitude

I can imagine you in a pinny. I've just been up to the cemetery; it would have been Ethel's birthday today so I took her a few flowers.

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The Release

The enormous looking egg sat there with a look of abject horror on its face. A human was trying to take the layer of shell off.

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A New Dawning

Charlie came running out of the woods in the morning mist. When he saw the lake pier, he slowed down to a walking pace.

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My Fair-weather Friends

We trees are pretty awesome. Don't you think so? Just look at me! How blessed I am to have these orange beauties all over me.

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Maisy

His niece turned to her teddy bear. A notebook opened upon her lap. She had been scribbling along pretending she knew how to write.

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The Hitchhiker

He walked along the road, arm out hoping to catch the eye of a passing motorist. It was a lonely stretch of road with trees lining it.

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The Final Stand

Two young girls, one looked to be ten while the other looked no older than six, were running around the tavern with trays over their heads.

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Sitting By The Lake

Darkness in the trees that reflect his mood. A match that will not light. Thoughts that take him far from serenity.

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Lost People

He tried to judge her accent. Possibly Spanish. Definitely another backpacker, like himself. If she wondered about him, she didn't show it.

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Mirage

He pressed his face on the fence very hard. He looked far into the empty street to see if there were any signs of life.

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Fly Away

I was beginning to go stir-crazy being cooped up indoors. All the things you take for granted suddenly became insurmountable mountains.

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Jake's Story

It had started in college. In the summers Jake had worked for a catering company in the resort area south of his hometown.

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Color Blind

I was a mathlete, my teachers always called me the Bell Curve Breaker.

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The Dig

They were camping. It was supposed to be a relaxing break from the hectic pace of the last few weeks.

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Hide And Seek

They say there is no such thing as the Bogeyman. But I know different. And right now we are playing hide and seek.

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Differences

"Why are you staring at the water? We pass by this stream daily and I can't see anything new. Are you ok?"

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The Devil's in the Details

He'd been waiting for hours for God only knows what. Frank wasn't an information guy. They told him to wait here, so here he waited.

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A Wannabe Voyager

"Why did I leave home? Why am I here? Does any of this make sense?" I kept questioning myself over and again.

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The Trail of Two Brothers

"You came all this way just for college?" Cody said to his little brother. Cody looked around himself.

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A Day By The Lake

Father and son were enjoying some quality time together. It was late September but still the weather was nice.

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Life Goes On

"Sometimes it is not the person we miss; it is the feeling you had when you were with them."

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The Message

My romantic nature pondered whether the 'special something' he wanted to buy me would be an engagement ring.

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Swirls

For me, the bridge was a gateway to a new life and for Ryan; the bridge was something he never wanted to cross.

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The Distress of Our Planet

I kept flapping around my house with similar haplessness until the quake subsided. I empathise with the bird.

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The Text

A blonde-haired woman wearing a bright green trench coat walked down the streets of a bustling city, her nose buried in her phone.

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A True Friend Indeed

Rambo came into Maggie's life a couple of weeks ago. The moment she saw him, she fell in love with him.

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Incurable

I lay in the bathtub with my eyes closed. I pressed the straight razor against my wrist.

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A Father's Treasure

"No, not again", I sighed. It has been a routine now to search for my pen in the morning before leaving for work.

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Crossing Over

Yumi couldn't feel her hands. She pushed her fingers through her hair. Nothing. Her heart didn't beat.

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Picture Of A Man That Couldn't

My fingers caressing its strings like they once caressed the only woman's skin that I have ever loved.

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The Fall

No one would give a job to a homeless young man. Prejudices never gave an opportunity for survival for the homeless.

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Gateway To Getaway

If I tell you, 'I've made this bridge', you will laugh at me; because you know me. I have never done anything constructive.

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My Superhero!

I am here at the park; taking a stroll with the person I love the most, My Dad!

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An Everlasting Love

This love started many years ago when they lived in the same neighborhood, a couple of houses away from each other.

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And It Rained

Croaka was pensive as he sat down on the slimy stone near a puddle formed by a steady stream at a corner of Mughal Gardens.

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Follow The Money

It was just past midnight when she arrived at the cordoned off station. There was a yellow Ka parked by the front.

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Long Road Home

Not sure who took that picture, but it's me hitching a ride, my backside anyway, age 17, running away from home.

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The Unfinished Coffee

I am Wahid. I came here nearly 40 years ago. I live in the next street. Are you here with your family?", the old man asked.

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A Fine Evening

It is a typical evening; a cool breeze surrounds the insides of the subway. Never do they notice the intentions of each other.

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Strange Obsession

The cold winter air stung his nostrils as Stephan walked along the brick covered sidewalk next to the tracks.

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The Café

It had started innocently enough; the place had been packed, he had asked if he could share my table. The hour flew by as we started talking.

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My Thumb Leads The Way

Sam was on that lonely stretch of road and he had his thumb leading the way. He was out there all morning.

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Sarah Disappears

What if all the books were worlds, and when she opened one, she opened a door to that world that she could go through? Wouldn't that be awesome?

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Take My Hand

John's wheezed as he ran through the forest. He was a runner, why was he wheezing? Couldn't he outrun his six-year-old?

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A Penny For Your Thoughts

Pete was at a cross roads and he had to make a decision fast or else he was going to lose everything.

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Memories For A Lifetime

The narrow road at the corner is the way to the blissful nature, where one will find true bliss.

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Scars Of A Rose

The fight is over forever. It is all numb now. There is no more pain. Life is setting me free. Let me fly...float in the clouds and forget my wounds.

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What do I have Left?

Marty's number was called and he had to report to Parris Island, South Carolina for 12 weeks of basic training.

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Bruno's Howl

Bruno knew something was wrong long before I did. He was a dog amongst dogs and saw things before anyone else.

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Keeper Of The Logs

The old man makes his first journey at seven in the morning and brings back a pile of logs on his return journey.

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A Newer Dawn

Lake Kaka is one of the nicest as you can see here. It's not large, but beautiful; Miss Caroline calls it 'serene'.

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