It was dark and I was alone in said darkness. Those are the only facts that have remained true, unchanged in the hallucination that my life has become.
I did not know where I was. I did not know if I was in Masyaf. I could have been at the bottom of the sea. I could have been buried alive. I wish that were the case.
I could not hear anything, only the faint drumming of my heart that could easily be mistaken for fists pounding on the thick walls that surrounded me like a shell.
I had never truly seen what my room looked like, for light was unheard of in this existence. I knew the room by feel. I knew where the iron door was that opened with an obnoxious squawk that I had been hit one too many times with. I knew where I laid at night, in a pile of hay that prickled and poked me in my sleep. I knew my preferred corner to urinate, which reeked the strongest of a sharp, acidic aroma that assaulted the nose. The walls were soundproof stone, misty and damp. I knew this room as if I had been born here. I feel like I have known nothing else.
I had also grown used to my own body odor, a putrid, overripe scent of an onion, smelling of fear and sweat. I had become accustomed to that and also, to my raspy breathing, a hiss that used to keep me awake in the dead of night. Or, at least, what I thought was the night. Overtime, my noisy breaths a soothing noise that helped lull me to sleep.
Sleeping had become a way to pass the lonely hours in this cell rather than a way to rest. In the beginning, sleep was hard to come by. Escape had been my priority. Get out, get out, get out… I came to realize that was impossible.
I was fed once a day and water was tossed in for me to catch what I could and drink what was puddling up on the floor. My hopes began to sink faster than the water seeping into the cracked floor. When all hopes of escape were gone, my only goal became to hide from the monsters with their lying eyes and their cruel hands. The one in charge told me that he was trying to convince the others that they should let me live because to him, I was loyal, I was strong, ‘special.’ I was his ‘dear one.’
When he tried to grab me, I kicked his shin, blindly. He limped away, growling at ‘what a stupid woman I was. How was he going to convince the others now?’
I told him to tell them that his dear one was the one who had snapped his shin. He promised to be back.
And he did. The iron door grated open. Shudders ripped up my spine and I was frozen in a strained ball of terror. I tried to stay still, but he yanked me from my bed. He ripped away at my clothes and left me there, a flower wilting in the heat of August, a piece of paper shriveling in the icy rain. He circled me, examining me. There was a clanking of buckles hitting the floor and a hand touched my face. I may as well have been blindfolded. I could not see shit.
But there was no mistaking when I felt him lift my chin, popping open my mouth and shoving his growing member into my mouth so far that I instantly gagged. The taste was salty and repulsive, my noise buried in the musk of his hair. I tried to pull back, but his hands were in my hair, digging painfully into my skull, letting out a groan of approval. I panicked, unable to move, except with his hands, so I bit down, digging my teeth into his flesh. I could taste blood filling my mouth and I was shoved away.
A sharp crack filled the air before I was struck with a blunt, sharp object to my left cheek. Pain erupted throughout my face and I screeched. I held my stinging skin, the welt already beginning to form. I spat blood before I was heaved to my feet and thrown against the wall.
I rested my cheek there, panting heavily, struggling against my attacker. But he did not let go. I was terrified of what he would do. The panic had wormed itself into my brain.
Several more cracks ricocheted in the air and sprayed cuts on my back to hold me still. My pain was so great I wasn’t even aware that he had implanted himself within me before he started to slam his hips into mine. My head was smashed forward into the wall and I was screaming.
He was violating me. How dare he?! But my thoughts were the only to act bravely, as I was too weak and delirious to fight him. His thrusts burned against my ill-prepared skin. I could feel liquid running down my leg at a steady pace, the burn increasing.
I begged him to stop. He did not comply. He only shoved himself in harder, taking everything I had. There was no pleasure, only anxiety and anguish. I resisted my cries as I knew he enjoyed them. When I made no sound, he would hit me, with his hands, his weapons, or his words, enjoying the dominance he had over me, treasuring it like gold.
This was wrong. He was in Malik’s territory. Malik had every right to do this to me. This man did not. He leaned in and spoke huskily, “Your husband wanted this. He does not want you anymore, dear one. He ordered that you be given to me.”
He pounded ruthlessly into me after each word and I was feverish. There was no way to endure this, only to shut down and wait him out.
When he finally finished with a satisfied grunt, he pushed me down, letting me slump to the floor like a sack of rocks, his seed and our blood running down my leg. The iron door slamming shut signaled his exit. I vomited all over the floor and myself. I felt so humiliated and used.
My husband would never wish for that to be done to me. My husband loved me. He protected me. He cherished me… Didn’t he?
There was no one to reassure me that the words he had once told me were not lies. There was only my mind, which seemed to be deteriorating faster each and every minute.
Didn’t Malik tell me he cared about me? Did he not promise me to protect me? Didn’t he?! I had not dreamt this up… had I? The darkness held no answer, only an empty canvas for the lies to be painted upon and presented to my already unstable mind.
The lies would change. One month, they would stay true to one thing and then the next, the story was completely different. I was told my family was dead, that they had slaughtered and tortured Malik and Tazim, my innocent child, of whom they intercepted and kidnapped on his way to Jerusalem. They prodded needles beneath their nails, flogged them, broke each of their limbs, dripped boiling oil into their eyes, and amputated parts of their bodies and fed them to the dogs, among other things that I am too appalled to mention.
They would tell me they had imprisoned Malik for murdering Sef in fear of him taking over command. They said he would be lucky to live to see another day.
Most of all, they preferred the story of Malik throwing me to the wolves and leaving me behind, wishing to see me rotted away, his heart turned cold and his love for me severed. They told me he had escaped and was far away with Tazim, claiming he relinquished his power and his wife over to the new leader, Abbas, of whom I was to be the mistress of. Mistress is a modest word. More like a whore that was locked away when I wasn’t needed.
Whenever I heard the door open, I no longer cringed and instead, knowing what to expect, opened my legs when told to and never protested my discomfort, for that would further ensue more pain. My hair had been cut. I don’t remember when, but I could no longer hide in my long, dark locks. The lies would then be poured out onto me over a damp pillow, with the said leader hunched over my limp body, thrusting and shoving himself against me like I was a ragdoll. I had stopped trying to fight. There was no reason to now, as I knew not what to fight for. There was no way to escape. I just let him have his way with me.
I did not know what to believe, as there were so many versions of the truth to choose from. I had given up. I was useless, to everyone I had once cared about. I did not care about anyone or anything anymore. I felt empty, used. There was no need to cry because I had not the emotions to do so, for they had escaped out of the room that very first night.
If only I had not let Malik go back into the fortress alone, if only I had gone to Jerusalem and convinced him to leave with me, if only we had not fought… Allah, what had I done? It seems I was paying the price for my decision. I had brought this upon myself and my family. It was entirely my fault…
I was numb. My heart had drained of all feelings, like the dampness that sluggishly dripped down the walls. It had to be that way.
If I had been allowed to formulate any sort of sensation, I would be a wreck. I would drown in the waves of hopelessness, despair and worry for my family, the helplessness that I could not reach them, that they could not hear my screams and know that I was alive and that there was the possibility of saving me. They would not have to worry anymore, if only they knew…
But they did not know, or perhaps even care, where I was. That fact was the sole one that stayed true in this fictional dimension, run by lies and horror. That fact ripped my heart from top to bottom with a sickening squelch, the blood spurting and flowing from my body and soul until I was nothing more than a sagging, rotten corpse, with sallow and bruise-dotted hide that hung like a coat and lackluster eyes that stared out of round, dry sockets. Blood stained every open surface of skin, from cuts brought upon by myself or by others, and it ran from every orifice. I had tried so many times to bleed myself to death, but each time, I wasn’t allowed to. They kept a close watch on me and thrashed me severely for hurting myself. My nails were gone from scratching the walls, and my teeth chattered weakly, decaying and putrid. I had screamed so much I’d forgotten what my voice sounded like. My mouth was dry, what vision I had was blurry, every part of my body constantly aching…
My soul was long gone. My mind is a battlefield, whipped and shredded asunder, torn from the very fabric of reality. I had nothing left, other than the depth of the chasm into which I was perpetually plummeting and the demons that permeated said chasm, shadows lurking in every corner and dancing on every wall. I accepted that the farther I fell, the further away my reality went. It was blissful to lose myself in the hallucinations rather than lose my mind in the hellish nightmare my life had quickly become. I no longer knew what is or what was. My memory was shot, as well as my sense of time. Images played all at the same time in my head and them sometimes, never at all.
I used to believe that the meaning of alone meant being by myself, but I had never been by myself. Malik, Tazim, Maria, Altaïr, there was always someone with me. Even on the streets of Jerusalem, there were people, though they cared not about me or my shitty existence. I was still among the living, the sky, the wind, the stars…
Stars didn’t exist anymore. Nothing existed anymore. I did not exist anymore. I was gone, dead. Rajah was gone. There is no more left of that young girl who tried to keep going forward. She’s dead now. She has been for a long time. There’s only me, her body, going through the motions, taking the bloody beatings, taking the dictator with his never-ending need for sex and power, taking the brunt of her foolish decision to remain here. There is no way to save her, try as I might. Her eyes had absorbed the darkness, becoming black planets. She was dead the moment she met Malik and she knew it. She had just chosen to accept her imminent end. And in that stead, she has become the embodiment of darkness.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is the true definition of being alone.