Whispers Echo

By Moneer Elmasseek

‘Twas a cold night I met my end...

That was not a. exaggeration. It was cold, bitter even. The later months indeed kept their frosty tradition. My loafers crunched down on the stale snow from the night before as I walked carefully, keeping my balance on the icy surface. The cold wind pierced through the gaps in my clothes and a sharp shot of chill shot up my spine. A path of grit lay before me so I decided to make my pace swift. It started to rain, the rain invisible apart from when it flickered past the streetlights and created an image not dissimilar to dust in a sunbeam. I turned my collar up and put my hands in my pocket. I felt my phone, to be quite honest I had forgotten I had it. It was still some distance to my destination, so I decided to leisure on my phone to pass the time and to take my mind off the cold. Little did I know that I was ignorant to the sheer magnitude of the distance I would travel this winter night. The phone illuminated and there she was, smiling in the palm of my hand. My heart pumped a flood of warm blood through my body and I found myself smiling back at her. It was merely a picture but it was enough to drive the bitter chill away. Dimitria my Love, my heart, my other wing, my flower, my future, my everything! My walk turned into a jog as the prospect of seeing my beloved came closer to heart. She did not live far from here, I could almost see her in my mind, oh it would be so enchanting to hold her, to hug her, to feel her lips upon mine once more. The very thought bought determination to my steps. Love? You know it when it hits you. You’d be willing to do anything... absolutely anything. A lot of people say hate drives a man insane; turns him into a monster, a beast, an inhuman creature. Love's effects are far more drastic. In love, a man forgets about morals, pride, self-control and his life. Some might say when you fall in love you really do fall and when you stop falling you land in a hole, broken and scarred. Sometimes you just cannot get back up and those who do crawl up the edge of that crevasse of despair do so slowly. It is wise not to look down because if you see what you are crawling from you might just be tempted to let go and maybe land on something soft... Love and Hate? Strong emotions - but hate has limits, love has none. I found myself thinking about such poetic nonsense. Life is simple and beautiful but I cannot help it when I think of her every single love song, sonnet, quote and poem all make sense. Ah, Dimitria - her name is as beautiful and unique as she is. She told me once that her mother gave her that name as a tribute to her favorite play, I think it was a variation of one of Shakespeare's characters but I am no expert, all I know is that her name is printed on my heart and I could never forget it. I turned the street, not far now, just round the corner. I passed toy-shops, decorated with Father Christmases, Rudolf and other festive characters. I look in the window and see a five year Old’s dream. A fresh Christmas tree littered with presents at the foundations as a mini locomotive trundles in circles on its train track. The 25th of December, children around the world rush into their living rooms with smiles on their faces and glee in their hearts to see what Santa has left them: gifts and parcels of every conceivable shape and size. Their parents stand hand in hand looking down adoringly, their offspring completely innocent except for a tiny white lie. An interesting concept isn't it? A small lie brings so much joy to the young but then I guess it feeds the imagination and as a child nothing is more important. After all, imagination feeds dreams, dreams feed ambition, ambition feeds hope and hope feeds life. Anyway, I carry on walking and I catch a reflection of myself in a closed post office window. I make sure my hair is tidy and my tie is neat. I give myself a slightly cheesy smile. I don’t look that bad tonight, could have done with a shave perhaps but nothing can be done i guess. I turn the corner and across the road i see it, 27C Marble Street. A normal house with precious content. This is where Dimitria resided, the diva that she is. I thought I would surprise her, she loved surprises. I always wondered why because I always liked planning ahead; knowing were I was coming from and where I was going. I walked up to the door and was about to buzz the intercom when I thought no, no perhaps I could knock on her window and surprise her properly. I crept up to the window.

Now, before I divulge further I must make a personal note. My eyes have glanced at such sights that would make any average person scatter into the corner and beg to be blind. I have seen blood...so much, too much. The heat, the sand, the noise, the...screams. Private Robin Shaw, Private Tony Williams, Private Sam Woods, Private Michael Tike, Private Christopher Brown, Private Freddie Drake, Private Sarah Hood, Private Maria Ann Johnson, Corporal Kevin Wake; my platoon, my responsibility, my friends, my family.......and my loss. Some things in life we just wish we couldn’t remember, we wish we could just get a hard knock on the head and forget the constant nightmare of days long gone. I lack that luxury I’m afraid. The stripes I used to wear on my shoulder might as well have been burnt into my flesh because I can’t forget, as much as I would like to; some scars just don’t heal. Scars are not just skin bound. a scar is a reminder; a constant torment of a darker time. Some images scar your soul. I could take it though, it was a sight I guess I had been trained to endure but what I saw through her window was a ragged spear through my heart, a gallon of acid down my throat, a thousand wasps in my eyes, fire upon my skin. Because there she was... smiling as she always did but this time her smile left a canyon in my heart because she wasn’t smiling at me. No, she was smiling at the man holding her against the wall. I’ve felt every emotion that can exist in a human being but what I felt now was alien to me. it wasn’t anger, sadness, betrayal or even confusion. It was disappointment because i hadn’t lost Dimitria... because I never had her. It was false; an illusion of happiness. My Dimitria never existed, she was just a good, nay a beautiful dream that I had just woken up from. Like a child when he figures out that Father Christmas's generosity depends on their parents’ income. I can see my translucent reflection on her window that wasn’t the face of a man full of strife, that wasn’t the face of a shell-shocked war hero, that wasn’t even the face of a man who was losing himself in the cold. That was the face of a man who had long seen enough so I turned away from the window, turned my collar back up and walked away. Was I crazy? Most men would be fueled with rage right now but I was not. The only urge i had right then was to get out of this cold which I could feel so much more now. My casual walk turned into a jog. Thoughts and images rushed through my mind, thoughts like these are poison. Was she lying to me this whole time? No! couldn’t have been ,she looked me in the eye, I could see her soul. she meant what she said. No! She was in the arms of another man. Had I meant nothing to her? At this point my easy jog turned into a full out run as I was tackling my mental demons. When I held her was she thinking of him? When i kissed her was she thinking of him? When i slept with her was she thinking of him? When I....loved her was she thinking of him? My heart started to beat faster and faster, I could almost feel my heart bursting out of my chest, not because I was devastated at tonight’s revelations but because at that very moment I realised that the grit that had been sustaining my balance had ended and I had ran into the centre of a large icy cross road section.

I didn’t have time to soak up my new surroundings because the speed of my travel left my motion out of my control and i felt my feet leave the ground. I could see the world spinning upside down beneath me and then it stopped and for a nano second i gathered what was coming next as I dived face first on the rock hard ice. My forehead hit the ground first, my head curved back along my spine and then my waist followed. Pain? I have felt my fair share of every aspect of that word but I have to say that hurt! My mind had finally adjusted to my current unfortunate situation. My cheek ached as it was touching the matured ice. I extended my hand to the side of me and eased myself up but the palm of my hand was too smooth and it slipped and I cracked my chin on the ground. This had indeed been a most entertaining evening. I pushed away the slightly annoying sarcastic thought and applied my mind to figuring out a solution to this predicament. I rolled my wrist back into the sleeve of my coat and gripped it I then mirrored said maneuver on my opposite wrist. I then proceeded to attempt to gain posture again which I semi succeeded but unfortunately my loafers simply had no grip on the icy ripples. I managed to twist onto my back and sit up straight. I could feel the bitter cold through my trousers I had no urge to stay here all night so I twisted once again but this time onto my knees. I wasn’t going to risk another impact by trying to stand up again. So there I was, just kneeling, contemplating my next action when suddenly the sub zero wind stopped and my world went silent. I didn’t understand, had the cold made me numb? But then I heard something. It sounded like voices but voices so far away I could barely make out their sound. The voices grew louder as if they were getting closer. I was starting to get scared because I couldn’t see anybody. As the voices grew louder I thought they were going to start screaming, which would horrify me beyond explanation. But they didn’t, in fact they sounded so calm and so tranquil I felt my heart pump warm blood through me once more. Then I started to hear the voices more clearly and they weren’t talking to me...they were singing to me. They sounded like a choir but like none I had heard before. A man could not have composed these notes of music because no man can write music that could warm somebody’s soul to such an extent that they might just forget the horrors of this day. I felt a single tear emerge from my eye and roll down my cheek and then another and another. What was my body trying to tell me? It was as if my heart knew something my mind did not. The voices continued their angelic melody as if they were not warning me no but preparing me for something. It was if they were holding my hands and comforting me, but why? Was it because of Dimitria? No, it couldn’t have been, she was merely a phantom in my dreams. Was it because of my current predicament? No such an idea was almost comical. No, they were comforting me for something that was coming, something that was yet to happen. They knew what my heart knew but refused to tell me. I was still crying and now I was starting to shake at what was coming! The voices started to disperse and fade and I started to feel the wind again. I had decided i had been in this deplorable position for long enough to drive me crazy. I needed sleep but I didn’t want to check the time on my phone for fear of seeing her face once more but I knew it was late. I stared into the darkness in front of me and for a while my mind drifted into dark places but wait! What was that? I could see a light coming towards me partnered with the sound of something approaching. My heart was beating so hard it felt like it was punching the inside of my ribs. My breath was getting tighter and getting denser and then I looked closer at the light that was getting bigger and something strange happened. Not that I’m daring to say that this evening hadn’t already been the most bizarre of my life but at the time this struck me as truly outlandish. This single white light had split into two and they were slowly protruding away from each other. While this was happening the noise had become higher pitched and louder, it almost sounded angry, not like the sweet songs of the voices before. Then another sense was alerted: smell. There was a foul stench of burning which in this climate seemed extremely odd. What was stranger still was that it didn’t smell like wood burning at all (being a child of camping adventures I might welcome the aroma of a campfire in this unique situation) this was the smell of burning plastic, an unnatural smell to say the least but wait! Again I am mistaken for this was a far more specific type of plastic, this was the smell of rubber and not burning rubber but heated rubber. As though it was friction of some sort like it was moving under pressure like a car's brake... how ignorant I was: the twin lights; head lights, the sound; a car’s engine and the smell the car’s brake fluid. I tried to move but my limbs just weren’t receiving the signals from my brain, I was literally frozen. The car was getting closer and closer. I could hear the horn of the car blaring. The driver clearly did not want my blood on his hands. Another revelation came to mind, one which I wished i could have ignored. The horn was not the driver saying, “Get out of the way!” No this was the driver saying, "I’m sorry....I’m so sorry. There’s nothing I can do, today was your swansong, today was your Sayonara, today was your final stride".

The car came into clear view; it was a blue sports car, an average pub goer could probably tell you what make and design. Right about now I wished I had a car, hell I would even have taken a pedal bike, anything to avoid what preceded. The car sped towards me, the snow and the fog disbanding around it as it pierced though like a thin stone into water. And then for a moment - one shining moment - everything slowed down. The car was in slow motion still charging like a juggernaut, the grill and the front almost looked like a growling tiger about to pounce on its prey. The faded light from the streetlamp shone into the car windscreen and I could see my unwilling doom bringer; it was a very young, and very frightened teenage girl. As I looked into her sweet innocent turquoise coloured eyes I felt an urge of guilt; I didn’t want her to be part of this. She was so young but her eyes told me she was running from something or someone. Her hair was a cherry red as were her adolescent lips. I wanted to comfort her; to tell her it was okay, to tell her it was not her fault because I didn’t want her to grieve for my demise. So sweet, so innocent but yet so scared. But not of me, she was running of course but what from? Who would brave this harsh weather, at this time of year? Well I guess we all had our reasons. Car getting closer now, can hear something else… “it’s a boy”, “honey look he’s taking he’s first steps”, “if I was to add four and four…”, “ I think I love you”, “you have been enlisted”, “congratulations on your promotion Captain…”. Memories? My life to this day, it had been a good one.

Darkness now, silence. Almost peaceful, I have brushes death many times, brought back from death once, but this is new. Is this what its going to be like forever? Guess I have my thoughts, they’ll have to do. But wait what was this? Another light… this wasn’t the car, this was beautiful, getting closer and closer. I looked behind me to see the earth below, getting faster and faster I look at my arms they are glowing like stardust I look down at my feet there is a trail of gold sparkles shooting out from under me and I look up and there it was, the light was brighter then ever now. I could see into it…and I saw beauty, forever smiling, forever happiness, forever Love…