From the ramparts and their jagged towers, the village of Balkhash presented a wonderful sight. Woman paced through the market, a blue blur of burqas. Children guided goats through the crowds, struggling to avoid the throng of cyclists . Pigeons wheeled in the sunset. Various birds squawked from treetops in an evening chorus joined by barking dogs below. Some street mongers pushed trolleys along, selling scrap metal and pieces of plastic. Sheep entails hung over the bicycle handlebars of a butcher's shop. A row turbaned 'white beards', the elders of Balkhash, sat on a mosque rooftop talking among themselves while they waited for the call to prayer. On the mud roofs around them, boys of all ages ran here and there, shouting and chasing each other wildly amidst the smoke drifting upwards from the kitchens below. Many were flying home made kites which fluttered in the breeze, gathered around the sun like excited moths. In the distance, lights were being turned on in the sixteenth century mosque. Further off, hovering over the Balkhash like a dark cloud was the black crayon smudge of the Paripomosus mountains.
Then it came, first the crackling, croaky whir a large intake of breath and them, the melodious voice of the muaddin calling the faithful to the evening prayer. As the call continued, a tide of men, swelling by the minute, flowed across the city towards the mosque, and the white beards descended from the roof to pray. High above the street, a man stood on a flat rooftop, elbows atop the low parapet, surveying the scene with delight. He was clad in torn shirt and jeans and raising his cellphone to his face he muttered something and closing his eyes, pressed a button.
It seemed like everything and everyone had stopped. The time had completely ceased to move forward and the only sound that was heard was the ticking of the second hand until the minute hand moved forward and then, it all happened. An immense explosion erupted near the mosque in a ball of fire and all the shops, stalls, cars, people and houses disintegrated and disjointed as a beast pulls its prey limb from limb. The fire and smoke spiraled up into the air and the twisted, blackened remains plummeted to earth with breathtaking speed. Madness began.
Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport. (2)
As the big DC-8 sank down, i glanced round its crowded interior. The bulk of passengers who shared my belief in the madness of flying, dug their fingers in the upholstery or in the seat, while the others who were not, sat with excessive nonchalance like those who are ever ready to face their impending doom.
The DC-8 landed with a short bump and taxied on the runway to the airport where it was to line up with the corrugated disembarkation tube. The exit door opened and i stepped into the tube and came out on the terminal floor, passing tow or three airport employees who eyed me suspiciously. Oh well, its their job, i thought, and moved on. There was a man standing at the end of the platform. He was of middle height, with dark hair and black, cold eyes. I recognized him immediately : Nathan Lloyd. He was dressed in a black suit and overcoat but his forehead was accumulated with beads of sweat and looked worried. As he came forward to greet me, his worried countenance jelled almost instantly into an expression of pure shock. It was then that i observed , almost subconsciously, that he was looking to his right and not at me.
In that small fraction of a second, i caught a glimpse of a man in grey suit to Nathan's right with a pistol raised to his head as he pulled the trigger of his silenced Walther. He jerked convulsively and fell on his face on the floor, as the assailant made his escape. My senses were numb and i couldn't react, waves of nausea engulfed me and my stomach was in a knot. On noticing the dead body riddled with bullets, the whole terminal was soon enveloped in furor and madness. In this commotion, i lost my bearing due to the pushing and nudging of people running by but soon regained my balance and on impulse started towards the door of the second terminal.
On my way there, i found myself correct as the first terminal was flooded with screaming people. Suddenly, i saw the man in grey suit making his way past the door of the second terminal. I darted towards it and tried to pass through but the damned door was blocked by a person trying to enter. A girl. I dodged to the right and she dodged to the left. I dodged to my left and she dodged to her right. Check. You can see the same performance take place any minute on a city pavement when two over polite people succeed in blocking each other's way. I looked up to see her face but right then, a heavy, blunt instrument hit my head and i fell on the floor, lying unconscious.
When i opened my eyes, i found myself seated on a chair with my face on the table in front of me. I guessed myself to be in a cabin of a boat or ship with a single light at the end of the room, as it was swaying side by side. I tried to sit erect but couldn't, and my face and body ached painfully. My head was swarming with unconnected places and people and my thoughts were a kaleidoscopic whirl. I couldn't focus correctly but on shaking my head, i made out some pictures on the table and two large hands picking them up and putting them down. There was a brass knuckle on his right hand, from which i judge, i got the bruises on my body.
Silence reigned in the room save for my muffled groans, and after a lapse of some time , a hoarse voice spoke in an Italian accent from the darkness in front of me. He was probably fat and short necked.
"You scoundrel! You failed us, dammit. You've failed us ALL!", exclaimed the fat guy.
I tried to speak but couldn't find my voice.
"Kazakhstan, the Mosque, You ruined my plan. Nathan Lloyd, shit, he was YOURS, goddammit! It was a good thing i tested you, you mole. Look for yourself, you twerp!"
He threw the pictures at me, and i found to my surprise, that it was me in every picture. How could that happen? I gasped in horror and recoiled in my seat.
"Ten years of my planning gone down the drain. Ten years! Hell, you were my best man, Brain. I relied on you. But, no....NO! You do not get a pardon this time. This time...you sleep with the fishes!" He shouted in anger, and pounding his fist on the table he cursed at me in Italian and pointing his burning cigar at my face, whispered in my ear the words, " Brian Cain".
Brian Cain. Brain. Oh God, no, this cannot be. And then, it all came to me. Everything. And before i had time to assemble my thoughts together, i was lifted off my feet and thrown into the sea. Struggling against the current in vain, i kept myself afloat and saw to my horror, barrels of oil being emptied into the sea. I was slowly losing my balance as the waves pounded and engulfed me, and the last thing that my eyes could register was the light of a flickering flame coming towards me. Everything turned black after that.