By Haya Anis
I need to pee, Fatima thought as she nestled deeper into her fortress of cotton blankets. She ignored the gnawing at her bladder and stayed put. She felt something watching her. Evil spirits, she rationalized. She sensed their stealthy onslaught. Their presence was tangible and ominous, their aura dark and murky, like the waters of a voidless swamp. Her blanket was her only protective shield. She made sure everything was safe and covered, save for her nose and mouth; she needed to breath, after all. It was still dark outside; the call for Fajr prayer sounded an hour earlier.
I should have prayed earlier, she lamented. Prayer required ritual ablution. Ritual ablution required access to running water. Access to running water required a trip down the eerie, unlit hallway to the bathroom. The bathroom. The bathroom, where the evil spirits congregate and revel in their deviance. Or that’s what her mother tells her, anyway. For all she cared, the congregation of evil spirits hovered above her head tonight, waiting, waiting for her to reveal the slightest bit of flesh to feast on her festering soul. Never, she thought, and sunk deeper into her fortress of cotton blankets.
The air conditioning unit murmured softly. Outside, it was hot and humid. The morning dew stifled the air, offering conveyance to insects, the bloodthirsty and otherwise. It was 4 A.M now. Or was it 4:30? Fatima was too afraid to check her phone on the nightstand beside her bed. She knew light attracted mosquitoes. She knew because she once witnessed a mosquito haplessly fly into a light trap set up by her aunt in the heat of a summer night. Poor mosquito, flew to its own demise. It died noiselessly, save for a frazzle, like the one emitted by a frayed wire twisted and turned too much. A noise so small, proportional to the magnitude of a mosquito’s life. Fatima felt bad for the mosquito, but it was better that way; she didn’t want to spend her night itching swollen bites. So Fatima didn’t check her phone. She didn’t want to attract leftover mosquitos that may have entered earlier in the day, when the windows were open. The windows are shut now.
Rays of light seeped through opaque clouds, rendering them in hues of indigo. It must be 5 now. Fatima brushed her tongue against the inside of her mouth. The back of her two front teeth felt gritty. She no longer needed to pee, but she was thirsty now. The blanket’s comforting embrace now turned into a suffocating hold. She loosened the blanket’s grip and bared some of her arms and feet. Her soul felt less susceptible to espionage now; the heavy load of the spirits lightened. I might as well pray now. In a bout of courage, Fatima kicked off her blanket, grabbed her prayer gown and threw it on her shoulders and made her way to the bedroom door. Her brother slept soundly on a second bed in the room. His legs were splayed in odd directions and his blanket lay strewn at the corner of his bed. Fatima rearranged her brother’s limbs and tucked him back under his blanket. She worried about him. He was 10 years old. He was smart and quick but awfully lonely. His eyes twitched in an odd way and when he sniffed, he contorted his face in manner so ugly, it was impossible to watch. She worried about him.
Fatima opened the door and looked down the long, narrow hallway separating her from the bathroom. The bathroom looked menacing. Its door gaped like the mouth of Goliath, the shadow within breeding fear in Fatima’s heart now. Fatima quickly shut the door. She threw down her prayer gown and scuttled back to her bed.
I’ll pray when I wake up.
But she never did.