• tab Once day back there in the good old days when I was nine and the world was full of every imaginable kind of magnificence, and life was still a delightful and mysterious dream, my cousin Mourad, who was considered crazy by everybody who knew him except me, came to my house at four in the morning and woke me up by tapping on the window of my room. The click of his nails on the cold glass was so faint it made hardly a sound and, had I not been recently forced into consciousness by other neighborhood noises, would not have awoken me from even the lightest slumber. I crawled out from under my blanket, stepping gingerly across the threadbare carpet. When I unlocked the window there was an instant rush of fried air as Mourad tumbled on to the floor, a mischievous grin spread across his face.
    Clearly he should not have been in my room, but being young and naive I did not foresee any consequences. Then again, even if I had been experienced in the ways of the world, how could I have possibly guessed at the events of that auspicious evening. He was the first to speak.
    “I have something to show you”
    I glanced at the clock on my bed stand, “I don't think I'm allowed right now”.
    “Don't be a baby Ranya, I'm about to show you something you won't believe.”
    My eyes lit up, “Is it magic?”
    He smirked, “Yeah. I guess you could call it a kind of magic.”
    Thinking back, I should have realized Mourad's idea of 'magic' would not match up with that of an innocent child, but at the time I dutifully followed him out through my bedroom window into the side yard. He lead me down the street and out of the neighborhood, shushing me the one time I dared utter a sound in an attempt to ask where we were going. The cold air was chilling me to the bone in my worn cotton pajamas and I wished desperately I had thought to wear socks to bed. It seemed like an eternity before Mourad turned into an alleyway. I hesitated momentarily, but of course followed dutifully as he coaxed, “come on”, from just ahead.
    Immediately after turning the corner and catching up to him I noticed something was off.
    “M-M-M-Mourad... what is...” my eyes widened as I pointed at the grotesque image I was forced to behold, “that?”.
    He laughed, low and guttural, hardly a laugh at all really, and proceeded to pick up a dripping front portion of what had once been a small calico kitten.
    “This, is magic.”
    I was shaking in fear, “No... that is not magic at all!” I stammered, half frightened for my life, and half horrified at the thought of what must have happened to the rest of the poor creature.
    “Well, I suppose, in a way, you are correct. The real magic is how it gets this way.”
    I froze as he stepped to the far back edge of the alley and opened a small wire cage which I had not, until that moment, noticed.
    “I want to show you the magic Ranya.” He had pulled out another cat, this one still appeared to be alive, though only just, as it struggled only weakly against its aggressor. Holding the helpless animal in his left hand, upside-down by it's four paws, he began to slink towards me pulling a knife out of his pocket with his right hand.
    I wanted to run but I was too paralyzed with utter horror. No matter how hard a mentally willed my feet to run, they remained firmly in place.
    “Please...” I implored him.
    “Don't worry little Ranya, I promise not to hurt you”. He grabbed my wrist with his knifed hand. Blood began to trickle from the cut he caused by shoving the blade into my trembling fingers.
    I looked down at the instrument of death, now placed in my possession. If only I could run. Somewhere. Anywhere. Perhaps everything would have been different, but I could not, I just stood there looking back and forth between my bleeding hand and his murderous eyes.
    “Do it Ranya, it's so easy. The magic happens when the light finally leaves its eyes.”
    I shook my head, though it had no effect on his decision to grasp my hand and begin to force my hand in the direction he willed it. I fought the motion with every ounce of strength in my body, but I was no match for my older cousin.
    Guided by his, my hand plunged deeply into the defenseless kitten, and as his heart stopped I felt as if mine had too.
    “Look into it's eyes Ranya! See how the light extinguishes itself as he is released from this life!”
    I couldn't breath. I wanted to scream, but all sound remained stuck in my throat and I could do nothing but stare in wide-eyed terror. It was not long before everything went black.
    I regained consciousness many hours later inside of a cramped white room where I was laying on a small white bed. Not surprisingly, there were two policemen waiting the moment my fuzzy vision began to unblur. They asked me questions I could not bring myself to answer. I sat in silence, knowing I would have to speak, but somehow physically unable to utter a single syllable.
    If I had spoken up they would have looked for Mourad, and I'm sure I would have been released without punishment. After all, it was his hand which forced my actions. But I could not, and there were no witnesses. All these years later I sit in my cell wondering what happened to that psychopath, long after anyone else has bothered to wonder what has happened to me. Now I see the world is not so magnificent when we blindly follow those whom the world has warned us against. That b*****d stole my childhood and not another sole know.
    A guard came to slip my lunch through the slot in my door and I had to make a final attempt. Gathering myself, I managed my first sound since that fateful morning as I screamed “Mourad!” and collapsed for the last time onto the hard ground.