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Nocturnal Journey

Najati Al-Bukhari

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

We, my Mother and I, have gone out of the medical clinic slowly. I had the intention of hiring a car for taking us at once to the Sanctity, to Jerusalem The distance between the City of Brotherly Love, Amman, and Jerusalem does not exceed one hundred kilometres after the opening of the new highway. One would need at least about one hour for crossing this distance.

Another route to the Sanctity was also available, north of the present highway that passes in the middle of the green valley that was known previously by its vineyards and by its trees of various fruits specially those of pomegranates and figs. In this green valley there were several small streams and springs of pure water that were decorating the scene and the environment and offered the chance for the inhabitants to enjoy the beauty of nature there in that green and lively valley.

Later on, this green and well-known valley lost all aspects of the green life. Most of the streams and the springs of water have dried up.

Before going out of the medical clinic, I thought that in a short time we would be arriving in the Sanctity and that my Mother would have the operation on the next day. I recall very well that the time when we went out of the medical clinic was almost that of sunset.

es/ Boy With Yoyo
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

At that time, and in a normal situation, all people in the centre of the City of Brotherly Love, Amman, had the habit, the practice, of closing their shops and their workshops for going directly to their homes. Each one of them carried in his hand something he had bought for his family specially the fresh made and baked local bread.

It was normal at that time to go to the centre of the City for going later on to home and to family. A very small number of people used the means of common transport, the buses, which would carry them to the several hills of the City of Brotherly Love where people have started to construct simple stone houses or deluxe villas.

The City, my City, therefore, when we went out of the medical clinic of our distinguished physician, should certainly have been full of all kinds of activities, full of people of working age who were going, in a rapid manner to their homes.

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The moment when we were standing on the footsteps of the door of the medical clinic I was enormously surprised to find ourselves in a totally strange world, an absurd, a banal and a bizarre world. Nobody was there, in that locality, in that place, at least as much as my eyes could see and verify. The street and alleys, the paths in front of the medical clinic were totally empty and deserted.

Finding ourselves in the midst of this sudden and astonishing situation, I wanted to return to the doctor, to our physician, to ask him for explanation, interpretations, information and remarks regarding what has been happening in our City of Brotherly Love, Amman. I wanted to ask him why there was nobody outside in the streets, in the alleys and in the paths.

Strangely enough, it was not possible to open the door of the clinic. Actually, it seemed to me that it was closed with the key, and perhaps since a long time. My suffering Mother, who was standing outside, did not say a single word.

"Doctor, doctor, doctor..." I cried and called several times in a loud voice trying to let the doctor come out. I repeated calling him and I was in a state of panic. Nobody answered me, nobody at all. I found myself in a strange world. Behind the glass of the window I saw only eyes which were looking at me without saying anything.

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I contemplated by saying, "what is going on, what is going on? Can it be that I am in a dream or what?" I could recall in a categorical manner that we stayed in total in the clinic for a period of one hour, no more. Before we went into the clinic all the streets and the alleys of the City were full of people and were full of noise. I started thinking and asking what has happened outside while we were in the interior of the clinic.

At last I decided to leave the stairs of the door of the clinic and to walk for few steps, few steps in the streets, of course, in the company of my Mother.

The silence, a threatening and horrible silence, was reigning and dominating everywhere. The void and the empty space was actually surrounding us everywhere as if we were in a deserted town, in a town that was almost dead, that was nearly full of phantoms and ghosts.

In finding ourselves in this strange and absurd world we started walking, slowly, carefully and prudently, along the street of the clinic. On both sides of the street all the domiciles did not show any sign of life with the exception of eyes that were hiding behind the windows and which were staring at us.

When we walked some steps forward, nothing has been there, nothing and nobody. Even the wild, the roaming and the lost cats and dogs which we have been accustomed to see in the streets have totally disappeared from our vision.

I have totally forgotten the illness of my Mother and I started to find out a logical explanation for this abrupt and unexpected change in the totality of the milieu and the atmosphere.

"Mother, listen to me, let us hurry up to our home. Let us be there as soon as possible. It seems to me that something weird, ghostly and inexplicable has taken place while we were inside the clinic."

My Mother did not respond and did not give any reaction. All that she has done was to walk towards our home. In fact, in a very short time we have been already standing on the stairs of the door of our residence.

In the quarter in which we were living nobody has shown himself up and nobody has been there. Normally, during the sunset all the children of the quarter played outside of their houses, here and there. Their cries usually filled the place and their active movement gave the impression that the quarter was really a battlefield.

"Open the door; open the door, my son" said to me my Mother. What a surprise, the door, obstinately, did not open. The door remained closed. Then I knocked on the door several times in waiting that somebody would come to open it. But unfortunately, nobody answered.

From the windows, behind the glass, some eyes were staring at us. These were the same eyes that looked at us in the street of the clinic.

"What a strange world! What a strange world" I said. My Mother, who was standing in front of me, was extremely fatigued. "We are caught up in a trap, my son. It seems to me that a curfew has been declared and imposed in the entire City while we were in the clinic with the doctor." she said to me. "Nobody can open the door… any door. As long as there is the curfew we could never enter into our house".

During the years of the fifties of the preceding century, my country, as well as the other neighbouring countries, was overwhelmed and involved in political and social unrest, turmoil, restlessness and disturbances.

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es/ Red Smoker
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

Everybody has participated in demonstrations in the streets and alleys of the City. From time to time, violence was less utilized by those who participated in demonstrations and more by the men of power and authority.

The curfew was a measure utilized frequently by the authorities in those difficult days. However, and at that time in the past, when the curfew was imposed by the authorities, one could see the representatives of the authorities everywhere in the City. The army represented by the soldiers, the armed vehicles and sometimes the tanks, all were charged to apply the rules and regulations of the curfew.

"But, the soldiers, the men of the authorities, where are they? I do not see anybody. There is no movement at all in the quarter. Even one could not hear any noise coming from all the domiciles of the quarter". I said to my Mother.

"This is true, my son, this is an inexplicable phenomenon; this is a riddle, an unbelievable puzzle and an incredible mystery." said my Mother.

At that particular moment, I suggested to my Mother to leave at once our quarter and to go without delay to the centre of the City. She was really hesitant to agree to my proposal because she was extremely tired.

In discovering that my Mother was incapable to accompany me on foot I decided without any hesitation, as if I was ordered, to carry her on my back, because it was absolutely unimaginable and inconceivable to leave her all alone in front of the door of our house in hoping and in waiting that it will be opened.

My Mother somewhat resisted my invitation to carry her on my back. But, there she was at last and finally on my back and I was astonished that I felt as if I was carrying nothing on my back.

Really my Mother was very light to the extent that she weighed nothing. We were walking towards the centre of the City of Amman. Along the route all houses did not give any sign of life with the exception of eyes which were looking at us from behind the glass of the windows.

The steps which we made produced a type of a monotonous noise that re-echoed in the absolute silence that was surrounding us. Slowly, the Sun has disappeared behind the horizon. The red colour of the twilight has been replaced by the obscurity and the darkness of the night.

"What a strange world! What a strange world!" I said. No light has been coming from the domiciles on both sides of our road. No light was coming out with the exception of a dim sparkling of the eyes of those, as it seemed to me, who hid themselves in their domiciles because of something which they have seen before their sudden retreat inside their homes.

Otherwise, how could one explain this abrupt change in the behaviour of the inhabitants of the City of Brotherly Love, Amman? Has a ferocious monster frightened them, a monster that has come suddenly to the City?

I was wondering whether the Monster was a type of a Cancer that has come from beyond the White Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, from the white steppes of snow who has the main intention and the determination to devour all people.

The night has been coming slowly and the light of the day has been hiding and disappearing with the exception of some sparkling of the eyes and the glittering of the stars in the sky. As a child, my Mother posed her head on my shoulder and she slept. Consequently, there was nobody there to speak or to communicate with me. I have never forgotten that my Mother was sick and that I had to go to Jerusalem for taking her to the hospital of the Mount of Olives.

In realizing that the time was passing quickly and that it was almost midnight I decided to look for a place, a location, somewhere there, for having few hours of sleep before the arrival of the dawn, of the day break of the next day. But where could we hide ourselves while all the houses were closed by the key with a lot of barriers behind each door?

For a short time I found myself in the emptiness and in the void. I could not at all use my faculty of reasoning. It was not possible for me to look for a shelter in our house because nobody answered to my calls.

At last I decided to leave the City of Brotherly Love as immediately as it was possible in taking the direction of the Sanctity. Perhaps, I said, I would find somebody who could offer us a shelter, and only for one night. I hoped I would be offered, together with my Mother, something to eat and to drink.

My Mother was sleeping very well on my back. From time to time she uttered few words which I did not understand. It seemed to me that she was dreaming. Slowly and with the passing of time, I could identify, recognize, certain words that she said. She has pronounced, uttered, the words "Cancer, the monster, save me my son."

The first two words used by her have really surprised me because that was the first time that I heard her uttering these words. All at once I have become very exhausted because since the afternoon when I left the "Lycee" I have never taken any rest.

I could not find any other alternative except to walk with determination towards the west. In my route I have never noticed anything extraordinary and I have not met anybody. The entire route looked to me to be a land that has already been ravaged and devastated.

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Several mountains which I have traversed were already in flames and all burnt since a short while, perhaps in the morning or in the afternoon. The black and thick smoke of burning trees has already formed dark and threatening clouds that covered the space in which we were walking. From time to time, we could hear the agonizing cries coming from beyond of the sinuous Holy River.

The twilight has long ago escaped very far behind the horizon. The night has been slowly, little by little, coming to everywhere. It was extremely difficult for me to walk in my route with my Mother on my back.

Down there in the valley I saw the river the water of which was flowing slowly and in a sinuous manner. In spite of the rapid advance of the night, I was able to see the water coming towards the south, towards the Dead Sea.

At the same time, I heard some groaning and sometimes some cries coming from my Mother whom I was carrying on my back. The two of us, my Mother and I, were really tired and even exhausted. Both of us were in need of some rest anywhere on the summit of the mountain, or perhaps underneath a tree that was not burnt. I walked forward towards a place which I have judged to be suitable for sleeping peacefully.

My Mother was already on the ground nearby a big stone that was utilized as a cushion, a pillow. As for me, I saw also a corner in this place where I wanted to sleep till the morning of the next day.

My Mother did not say anything and as soon as she posed the head on the stone she began her sleep. As for me, as soon as I lay down on the ground, my eyes were ready to be closed. In very few moments we were both of us in a deep sleep.

In the midst of the darkness of the night, I awoke of my sleep, in spite of myself, involuntarily. In fact, I wished to continue sleeping till the morning. I was in need of rest and to repose myself after the passing of a lively and agitated day.

My Mother was in a full and deep sleep. I did not have the intention to wake her up. She was more in need of rest and relaxation than me.

In looking around me I realized that Jerusalem, the Holy City, was still somewhat far from us and that we had to start our Journey towards our destination, the Sanctity, to Jerusalem.

While I was contemplating and making some reflections, my Mother awoke from her sleep. After that, she did nothing, but she has tried to see me near to her. I told her that it was nearly midnight and that we were about to start our Nocturnal Journey for arriving in the Holy City before sunrise.

Without awaiting any reaction on her part I put her on my back. My Mother did not say a single word. As soon as I started to walk I was able to hear her rapid and irregular breathing and I was certain that she was sleeping.

Towards the Holy City, the Sanctity, and in the midst of the darkness of the night, I started mounting the mountain in following the routes and the paths that have already been used by the vehicles and by people who used their feet for travelling in the Valley of the Sinuous Holy River towards Jerusalem.

In spite of the fact that I was carrying my Mother on my back and in spite of the darkness of the night I was not feeling tired or exhausted. On the contrary, I walked in a rapid and a determined manner. The sentiment that I was going to the Holy City made me go up the mountain in running. I was surprised to find the climbing of the mountain of the West Bank of the Holy River to be easier than the coming down of the East Bank of the Holy River. This Nocturnal Journey was actually for me as a dream because at last we have arrived at the neighbourhood of the Holy City, Jerusalem, with the birth of dawn.

We found ourselves at last under a huge and old olive tree that has countless rich green branches and an immense and big trunk. Many small birds were flying and hovering over us.

At that time, the sun was not yet fully awake. However, the shining rays of dawn have provided us generously with the light necessary to enable us to know the location where we were and to explore the environment that surrounded us everywhere.

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Since my waking up I was surprised to witness that we were actually in the heart of the Holy City, the Sanctity. Nevertheless, I could not convince myself that we have finally really arrived to our destination, Jerusalem. I wondered and said to myself for several times that there should have been a miracle in this Nocturnal Journey.

Near us, and not very far from the place where we were sitting, I could see a strange shaped basket full of several fruits of the season, of white local cheese, and several loaves of dark bread. At the same time, I could see also, nearby the basket, a carafe full of limpid and pure water in addition to a bundle of white cloth full of articles, things and personal belongings for me and for my Mother for our daily use and stay in Jerusalem.

Without waiting or hesitation we started to eat and drink with satisfaction. The amount of food and nourishment in general was abundant enough to satisfy our thirst and our hunger. In reality my Mother took only some water and she has avoided nourishing herself of the fruits and of the bread. At last, we have used what remained of water to wash our face.

Behind us, the high and the magnificent wall of the Holy City, Jerusalem, has impressed us tremendously. People, who were in the majority old, walked in front of the Great Wall. Probably, the majority amongst them were on their way going to the mosque of the Sanctity in order to pray the first of the five prayers of the day, of the dawn.

My Mother has abruptly started to cry and to weep. She suffered of her torturing pain. I have tried to appease her, to relieve her and to calm her as much as I could.

"Very soon we would be at the hospital where you would be operated. You would be cured. I really hope that we would go back soon to our home in the City of Brotherly Love, Amman, and you would start a new life". I said to her.

"I hope that what you have just told me is true." answered my Mother.

"After the operation we would see. I have the feeling that you would be cured and that you would be living till the age of one hundred years and even more than that". I replied.

"Last night, it seems to me that you were in a hurry, in a hurry, in a hurry. I felt as if you were a big bird with huge wings flying in the skies. I never felt that you were touching the ground of the roads, of the narrow paths when we were moving from the West Bank of the Holy River to the Sanctity." said my Mother.

"That is true. You are right, you are right. I was really in a hurry and I had the feeling that I was really in a dream, in a dream, in a world of mine only. No doubt, this Nocturnal Journey was exhausting for you as well as for me". I answered her.

"I agree with you completely and categorically. It was for me also like a dream when we crossed the Sinuous Holy River and when we went up the mountain. I really imagined myself to be flying, flying high in the sky of the Holy City." replied my Mother.

"We are going to forget for the moment the Story of the Nocturnal Journey. This was like a dream. I am certain. But the thing the most important is that we are now in the heart of the Sanctity and our hospital is not far from here. After a short while we have to prepare ourselves to go to the hospital". I said to my Mother.

I decided to leave the location where we were so as to go to the road that led to the hospital. I preferred, actually insisted, to carry my Mother on my back in spite of the fact that the public means of transport were totally available even in the early time of the day. Taxis were available everywhere.

In the open and wide space outside the wall of the Sanctity, I hurried up, precipitately but carefully, towards my final destination, the hospital.

The weather was fine and beautiful and the breeze of the morning was really refreshing. In the Summer Season, Jerusalem has always a pleasant and an agreeable climate because of its high altitude.

While walking in my route towards the hospital I noticed that a lot of people, who were curious, indiscreet and tactless, have stopped all at once, to watch us and to look at us from a short distance… to see me, I who was carrying my Mother on my back.

It seemed to me that the inhabitants of the Sanctity have never seen at all in their life a young man, like me, carrying his Mother on his back. Some of them have tried to follow me and to have a look from a distance. Probably, they have thought that I had a vow, a sermon, to accomplish. However, the crowd that was following me has been joined by more and more people and it was composed of adults of both genders as well as of children.

I did not have any option, or alternative, but to put an end for my Journey in order to stop and discover what the members of the crowd wanted from me.

I stopped on one of the pavements of the left side of the street. The people who were behind me stopped running after the man who carried his mother on his back.

"Tell me now what do you want? Why do you follow me? Why do you run after me? Have you not seen in your life somebody who carries his Mother on his back?" I have posed these questions to the people who were following me insistently and who stopped in front of me.

"Perhaps, perhaps, and most probably this thing we are seeing has passed, took place in the ancient epochs, took place once upon a time in a tale or in days of the past, since centuries and centuries in the past. But now, really we find this phenomenon, this extraordinary behaviour on your part, a little bit bizarre and even antiquated, outmoded and old fashioned." answered nervously a young man who had the same age like mine.

"Listen to me, if you please, attentively. I am on my way to the hospital, over there. My Mother whom I carry on my back is extremely sick and she would have an operation either tomorrow or after tomorrow". I replied.

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"Sir, tell us something about her disease." The young man asked again.

"Listen to me all of you! Listen to me attentively and lend me your ears; the illness of my Mother is perhaps the Cancer". I answered.

The moment I uttered the word Cancer, all people around me looked at each other and in an extremely short time and without saying a single word, all the members of the crowd have instantaneously disappeared and nobody was to be there around me.

Some of them, as a matter of fact, have escaped; some others ran away in an unbelievable speed. Others had signs of fear and terror and even of panic that has been clearly reflected on their faces.

I discovered myself to be all alone on the pavement, of course, with my Mother on my back. In reality, we could not at all understand the extremely strange way the people reacted and behaved. The absurd phenomenon which we have just witnessed was bizarre as well as strange.

In hearing the moaning of my Mother, once more, I decided to resume my normal walk towards the hospital that was visible to me. The hospital was probably constructed long ago on the Mount Olives.

Assuredly I felt really relieved in seeing the hospital in front of me. The time was not yet seven o’clock in the morning. We had almost before us a quarter of an hour for arriving, at last, at the hospital. In remarking that the magnificent hospital was within our vision, I hurried up my steps. And finally, I was actually on the stairs of the main gate of the hospital of the Sanctity, of Jerusalem.

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Nocturnal Journey

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© 1980-2024 by Najati Al Bukhari, Mont de Marsan, France

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