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An Eclipse of Destiny

An Eclipse of Destiny

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An Eclipse of Destiny

Lunghezza:
419 pagine
6 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Feb 2, 2012
ISBN:
9781465359483
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Scheherezades Al-Tellawys remarkable life story is a powerful reminder
of the depth of human strength in the face of adversity - however sustained
and shattering. An engaging narrative, elegantly told, An Eclipse of Destiny
recounts the span from a traditional family upbringing in Western Syria to
her astonishing integration into life in an Irish community. Ever human and
kind in the face of prolonged suffering, Sheherezade brings tolerance and
understanding to every situation - an inspirational account of the struggle
for personal freedom that also draws attention to cultural divergences and
convergences of two societies generally conceived to be poles apart.
-Max
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Feb 2, 2012
ISBN:
9781465359483
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

In my forty years as an editor I have very rarely come across an author and her story that excited me as much as this one and I hope every one will feel the same after reading this Amazing extraordinary collection of poems the name of The odyssey of the souls. Scheherazade Al Tellawy is a well known clairvoyant now living in the UK. Her experience of over 21 years and 150.000 clients has created a unique framework of techniques aimed towards eliminating people’s mental and emotional, past and present troubles. Her contributions in helping individuals and the police in their search for the missing, and helping victims, are well documented in local media and was the subject of much excitement in the 1990’s. Through her unique seminars and regression sessions, she reaches people everywhere to enhance and raise their own psychic awareness according to their individual energies, capacities and interests. Since 2008 her collaborators of higher guides from ancient and far dimensions took Scheherazade into another Journey of writing. Books on love and energy, the difference between fate and destiny, spiritualism in the super-conscious, and the production of poems which reflect the soul’s journey and the causes of humans misery.

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Anteprima del libro

An Eclipse of Destiny - Donnie Ray Obina

An Eclipse

of Destiny

Scheherazade Al Tellawy

Cover Illustration by Donnie Ray Obina

Copyright © 2012 by Scheherazade Al Tellawy.

ISBN:          Softcover                                 978-1-4653-5949-0

                   Ebook                                      978-1-4653-5948-3

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

This book was printed in the United States of America.

To order additional copies of this book, contact:

Xlibris Corporation

0-800-644-6988

www.xlibrispublishing.co.uk

Orders@xlibrispublishing.co.uk

302664

Contents

Prologue

1  Fattaha

2  Extremism

3  Samsaras and Suitors

4  Welding Lives

5  Seeds of Emotion

6  A Dream Turns to Ashes

7  Paris of the Middle East

8  Illumination of the Heart

9  The Devil’s Creation

10  Conjuror of Emotions

11  The Plot

12  An Eye for an Eye

13  Escape from Hell

14  The End of a Fairytale

15  Embracing the Nightmare

16  Twilight of Fate

17  Escaping the Gilded Cage

18  Passport to Freedom

19  A New Country

20  Captive of Freedom

21  Regret

22  Imprisoned by Alcohol

23  The Most Beautiful Fear

24  Return to Syria

25  A New Creation

26  Victims of Injustice

27  The Imposed Exile

28  The Falling Tower

29  Despair

30  The Task

Epilogue

Appendix

Acknowledgements

The extraordinary world of communications from a unique spirit of higher dimensions call Suw produced special poem for this book as a gift for humanity.

Without my life partner George this book would never have happened, He was open to having our life revealed truthfully and so brutally, and to drive and support it from start to finish is a reminder of why he was chosen to fulfil the eclipse of my destiny.

The creative and professional talent from special friend Beverley Patterson is found in this book and I thank her for her, patience and skillful workmanship during the writing of this book.

Final touches to the book were added by my son Khalid, and daughter Yasmin. Their input came in different forms and are equally appreciated in bringing the book to life.

Special thanks to Martin Nobel for his skilful and tenacious editorial precision, advice and mentoring.

Prologue

Homs, Western Syria, 1958

An agonising cry echoes in the marble corridor and Khalid feels his heart wrenched in his chest. If only he could go through the pain instead of the fourteen-year-old girl in the room opposite, who is in labour with their first child.

‘I can’t think of anything except the pain Rewida’s going through!’

His mother, Um Nasser, calmly drinks her coffee and puts her hand on his shoulder. ‘Khalid, millions of women Rewida’s age have had babies. Women accept the pain of giving birth as an essential sacrifice for each life we produce. There’s nothing you can do. Stop worryingjust read your book.’

The Tales of 1001 Nights are still Khalid Al Tellawy’s favourite form of escapeas a child he was entranced by Scheherazade’s clevernessbut it’s impossible to concentrate. His mother spreads out her prayer mat then kneels to pray, and his nerves are soothed as she softly recites the Qur’anic scriptures.

Unexpectedly she stops. ‘Rewida will give birth to a girl, God bless her soul,’ she says. ‘Her name is written in the book in your hand.’

Unlike most Arabs, Khalid doesn’t care whether his first-born is a son or daughter but even so, he looks at her in surprise. Um Nasser is considered by many to be an angel on earth, thanks to her powerful gift for healing the sick. She meditates deeply, prays every day, and is unconcerned whether people believe in her powers or not. Yet, in the ancient city of Homs in western Syria where she has lived all her life, everyone has great respect for her, believing her to be a divine being on earth. His thoughts are interrupted by the Dayee the midwife.

‘Khalid, we need the doctor urgently. I think we might have to take Rewida to hospital, she’s having a very hard time—’ Without another word, she hurries back to the other room.

Khalid quickly dials the doctor’s number, waiting for what seems an eternity before the doctor himself answers.

‘Good evening, Dr Sobhy, it’s your cousin Khalid speaking. Can you come quickly please? Rewida is in labour and Dayee has asked you to come . . . Shukranthank youDr Sobhy.’

‘Don’t worry,’ says Um Nasser, getting up from her prayer mat, folding it carefully. ‘Rewida will be fine and the baby will be healthy. She will have eight more children and each time she will endure the pain of childbirth, although not as much as this time.’

‘No, Mother, I won’t let her suffer that way ever again,’ he replies.

She shakes her head in a knowing way and smiles fondly at her son.

In less than ten minutes the doctor arrives. Half an hour later, the wail of a newborn takes over the screams of the mother. Then come the sounds of the women ululating, their tumultuous cries drowning out the baby. Tears run down Khalid’s cheeks as he rushes into the birth room to see Rewida and the baby. He can see the pain still printed on his wife’s face: she seems frail and exhausted by her efforts. He takes her hand and gently kisses it.

‘I’m so sorry you had to go through such pain all by yourself, Rewida,’ but before he has time to ask her how she feels, the holy woman appears, holding the new bundle of life wrapped in a soft, white blanket.

The baby has already been perfumed with special scented oils; talcum powder and black kohl neatly rim her eyelids to purify her eyes and make them look more beautiful.

Khalid stares at his daughter, mesmerised by her dark eyes and soft, downy hair.

‘What are you going to call your little girl, Khalid?’ Dr Sobhy asks.

Khalid looks at his mother, remembering her words. ‘Scheherazade. My mother predicted it would be a girl with this name.’

‘Well, I’m looking forward to the rest of her prophecy,’ the doctor smiles at Um Nasser.

Abu Hory, Khalid’s father-in-law, goes in to see Rewida and hugs her, kissing her hands and rubbing her back. When Khalid hands him the baby he cries out, ‘Besmelah Al Rahman Al Raheem, Shukran Ya Rab!’ (in the name of the great merciful God, thank you my Lord!)

Um Hory takes the baby from him, hands her back to the Dayee and pushes her husband out of the room. She has already given him six children, the last one just a few months ago. She finds it hard to understand the fuss he makes of Rewida as he never expresses such warmth or emotion towards her.

Meanwhile, Rewida rests to regain her strength after giving birth to the baby. Next to her, the baby cries herself to sleep, perhaps to forget the pain she has gone through too, she thinks, as she finally drops into an exhausted sleep.

Outside, the men fire a volley of shots from their handguns and afterwards two sheep are sacrificed for the safe delivery of the baby and the well-being of the mother. Half of the meat is set aside for the poor, and the women prepare the rest for a celebration feast as at least thirty people have arriveda typical gathering in the Arab world where love, care and closeness are strongly knitted together.

Later that evening, the whole family sit around the big table laden with celebration dishes of lamb mixed with spicy rice and nuts, kibbeh, a dish of crushed wheat and minced lamb stuffed with pine nuts and herbs, taboleh salad, yoghurt and cucumber. When Um Nasser joins the gathering after prayers and visiting the baby, Khalid passes her a tea glass and some baklava, a sweet light pastry of honey and nuts. But she continues to look directly at her son, her aura strong after meditation. Everyone puts down their tea glasses and falls silent as they love to listen to her prophesies and she never predicts wrongly. After two minutes of silence, everyone staring at her in anticipation, Um Nasser begins to speak.

‘Scheherazade will travel far one day when she grows up. She’ll never belong to us, the Arab, nor will she stay, nor will she adapt. She’ll fulfil her task in life with different people, and her life journey will be written on paper and seen in a moving picture. Her spirit is not as the rest of her kind and she will have visions of the mystical and blessings of God, or her God—’

‘What do you mean, her God?’ Um Hory, illiterate and traditional, interrupts.

‘This is not for you to ask, Um Hory, you will never understand.’

The holy woman seems annoyed by Um Hory’s interference while she is prophesying; she lifts her tea glass, excuses herself and goes to look at the baby again. In doing so, she might feel compelled to speak more, as she herself has no idea how the prophecies come in the way they do.

At the table everyone is astonished and bewildered at Um Nasser’s strange prophecy. After all, they think to themselves, she’s just a baby girland of course it goes without saying that they, her family, will have complete control of her life from now on . . .

PART I

PARALLEL SOULS

1

Fattaha

Homs, Western Syria, 1969

Ever since I was a little girl I have been interested in fattahas or mediums, as they seem to play an important role in solving problems in women’s lives. My mother sometimes goes to the fattaha with her sister-in-law Nohad so that Hory, her husband, won’t marry a second wife. I keep asking Mum to take me with her when she goes with my great-grandmother Um Saleem, who wants to know the whereabouts of a missing emerald necklace. I’m aged about eleven, and although it’s usually only adults who go, my mother, worn down by my nagging, finally agrees to let me come.

As Mum is pregnant, we walk the short distance to Damascus Road and catch a horse and buggy taxi. I look at Mum’s big bump in front and I hope she won’t fill our house with brothers and sisters—there are already five of us and I don’t want to share my room with any of them. We drive to a poor quarter of Homs where mud and straw houses huddle together in labyrinth streets with neither names nor numbers. The buggy slows and a few minutes later the driver points at a dusty alleyway so narrow that two people can barely pass each other.

We climb down, and Um Saleem confidently leads the way, although I’m sure we’ll never find the fattaha’s house, as they all look exactly the same. But Um Saleem stops outside a door with a silver knocker in the shape of a cobra’s head, and although she now seems a bit nervous she raps the knocker firmly. Almost immediately a man answers it as if he has been waiting for us. He takes his fee without speaking and we follow him inside. After the hot bright streets, the gloomy room seems like a cave. In the room a single bulb hangs from a latticework of twigs and barely illuminated six wicker chairs placed in front of a sheer black curtain. I wonder if we’re going to see a movie.

After a few minutes, a hand swiftly pulls back the curtain to reveal a dark-coloured bench and a woman sitting like a statue on a straight-backed chair. She has fancy gold embroidery on her jelabeya and holds a string of big amber beads with gold tassels. Although we’re all looking at her intently, she keeps her eyes closed and chants a prayer of God’s names for several minutes before erupting in a loud and demanding voice: ‘I conjure thee, elemental spirit, heavenly bodies, let me obtain a virtue of your holy voice and knowledge. I conjure thee in the greatest name of the Almighty Allah…’

From nowhere a beautiful ancient smell, perhaps incense or musk, fills the room and a smoky cloud envelopes the medium. She starts to speak strange words that sound like foreign names, then her head falls down as if someone has knocked her unconscious. Her hand shakes violently, then her whole body, and her beads crash to the floor. My mum and Um Saleem are trembling and I wonder, Poor lady, maybe she needs a doctor?

The woman’s face suddenly turns into another face and something comes out of her mouth like a misty type of material. At first I think she’s being sick, but yards and yards of white substance keep pouring out of her mouth and the smoke behind her grows denser, then the light bulb goes out. My great grandmother gasps and clutches my arm, but I think, This is a great act, but surely you can’t believe this stupid nonsense? Once my eyes become accustomed to the gloom I notice that the fattaha is sitting upright again, her eyes open, but vacant looking.

With sudden courage my great grandmother asks, ‘What is my grand-daughter beside me going to have?’

The fattaha’s body jerks a few times and a man’s voice answered, ‘Rewida will have a boy, but he will not look like the rest of her children. He will have brown eyes, and his skin will be darker than his brothers and sisters. There will be a dark red birthmark between his eyebrows, like an Indian. Unfortunately, he will be cursed. He will suffer physically and mentally for 14 years, but he will survive. His initials are meant to be A.A. At a young age the curse will fall. Thirteen.’

Silence falls as we try to absorb this information, but my great grandmother is emboldened and asks the forbidden question: ‘When am I going to die?’

‘You will die in less than three months,’ the medium answers immediately.

The colour drains from Um Saleem’s face: surely this woman must be joking? She’s the picture of health, three months is impossible; she knows she’ll live more than three years.

The medium’s voice changes to a woman’s and in a softer tone she says, ‘Don’t worry, my dear lady, you’ll live a long time yet, at least three years. Remember, we are born to die, life’s redundancy is paid by our death package, OK?’

Um Saleem forces a doubtful smile. She wishes she had never asked the question and doesn’t want to know anything else now—all the predictions seem to be bad news. Mum, seeing her grandmother is upset, changes the subject and asks the fattaha about the necklace.

‘Her sister, her sister has it and plans to sell it quickly. She has taken all the missing jewellery and she hides everything in a china porcelain jug. A peacock painted on it, you will get it back, soon.’

The woman seems to fall into a deep sleep, so Mum takes my hand and we leave the room, telling the man, ‘Shukran, thank you, we’ve heard enough for one day,’ before walking quickly back up the alley.

A curse of silence falls upon us, and I don’t dare speak, even though I badly want an ice lolly. I wonder why they’re so upset—my great grandmother is old, so what does it matter if she dies in three months or three years?

To get back to Um Saleem’s house in Bab Al Sebaa we have to cross the cemetery that stretches for about three kilometres across the city. It’s normal to see graves disturbed by heavy rainstorms or desert dogs that come in search of fresh meat, and sometimes human bones are scattered around the cemetery. We always walk through the cemetery quickly, so by the time we’re back on the dusty streets I’m hot and irritable.

‘Please can I have an ice lolly now?’

‘Very soon. We’ll buy you one at the next corner, OK?’

We pass the cotton mill, full of women wearing long white cotton dresses sitting at machines spinning and weaving wool. I feel sorry for them, stuck inside the whole day with no fans to cool them, so I ask Mum if we can buy them ice lollies as well. I buy ten and run back to the mill where I gave them to a worn-out looking woman who takes Mum’s hand in her rough hands and kisses it. All the women know Mum and say ‘Shukran Rewida’ as it isn’t the first time we’ve stopped to give them fruit or snacks and chat together, but today Um Saleem can’t settle to listen to these ladies pouring out their troubles. I know she’s thinking, Their problems can be solved and they’ll probably live years and years while I’ll be dead.

As we walk slowly back the last few yards to her house, Um Saleem starts crying like a baby. Mum hugs her. ‘Don’t worry, Tita (Grandmother), no one knows when another human is going to die. Only God knows.’

*

‘Scheherazade, tell your mother that her grandmother Um Saleem is going to die on Friday at six o’clock. She will be found dead.’ A man’s voice, strong and commanding, penetrates my sleep. When I wake with a cold shiver and pounding heart I have no doubt this prophesy will come to pass. It is ten weeks after our visit to the medium and my first experience of a divine dream. I know that my belief that this is a divine dream isn’t logical and yet the power of my conviction is overwhelming.

I go and find Mum as the spirit voice has instructed. ‘Mum, where are you?’ I run down the corridor then out into the garden where she’s saying early morning prayers. I know I shouldn’t interrupt but I’m frightened and excited. ‘Mum!’ shocked out of her meditation, Mum asks God’s forgiveness as she cuts her prayer short.

‘Scheherazade, what is it?’

‘Mum… I heard a voice in my dream telling me that Um Saleem will be found dead tomorrow at six o’clock.’

‘Don’t worry, darling, it’s only a dream.’ She smiles and hugs me. ‘We all have nightmares sometimes.’

‘No. Mum, it wasn’t a dream, I was told to tell you Um Saleem would die on Friday at six o’clock.’

‘Oh God, stop saying that! Yarab Yarab, Ao zo Be Allah, my Lord, I seek help from Allah, stop it!’

I can tell that Mum’s frightened, but she says firmly, ‘No one knows the timing of death, only Allah, OK?’

‘Well, then, Allah told me to tell you that!’

‘No, no, he wouldn’t do that darling; he can’t come to you like that. Listen Scheherazade, it was the Devil telling you that news to upset us.’

‘Why would you believe that it was the Devil and not God that came to me?’

‘I don’t know, Scheherazade.’ Mum’s fed up with my questions. I’m not like other children who accept what adults tell them—I challenge every word and try their patience to the limit. Eventually she says, ‘OK, OK, we’ll check and see if you’re right, but I’m sure that evil prophecy is wrong! I saw Um Saleem yesterday and she was fine, so don’t tell anybody else, you hear? They’ll put you in bait al majannine (mental hospital).’

‘Why would they do that? I didn’t make it up, the dream—’

‘OK, enough.’ Mum picks up the phone and rings her grandmother.

‘Hello, Mama, I’m just calling to see if Tita Um Saleem is OK.’

‘Yes, of course, why are you asking?’

‘I’ll tell you tomorrow when I see you at the house, OK habibti my love, goodbye.’

On Friday, our Jomma, the Moslem public holiday, Mum is up early and I can see she’s feeling uneasy about my prophecy. In the late afternoon we catch a taxi, arriving at Um Saleem’s house around five o’clock. The old green wooden door is unlocked as usual and Mum pushes it open.

‘Where is everyone?’

She is answered by the braying of Granddad’s donkey that sounds like laughter. I smile at the donkey, which is more intelligent than all my uncles put together. Six rooms surround the big courtyard bordered on the inside by pomegranate and jasmine trees.

Marhaba,’ says Um Hory, my grandmother, and hugs and kisses both of us. Then granddad appears.

‘Where is Tita, Baba?’ Mum asks.

‘She’s in the other part of the house doing something. Washing I think.’

Mum can’t wait—she loves her grandmother more than her own mother, and without taking off her coat walks to where Um Saleem is doing laundry, looking just the same as she always does. For as long as I can remember she’s worn a long grey dress, and big white cotton head shawl. I have never seen her hair, but sometimes I catch a glimpse of the ends of two thick black plaits that reach her waist.

When she sees us she hugs Mum and kisses us both lots of times on the cheeks. Mum helps fold her laundry and we go into her sparsely furnished room, its polished cement floor decorated with a colourful rug. It’s a simple, humble room even though the family have made a lot of money from Roman coins and relics unearthed when part of the courtyard was demolished. After she puts the clothes away in a big ottoman chest, Um Saleem reaches into a tin and gives me a few pennies to buy sweets, but I don’t want to leave in case she has died by the time I come back. I go over and hug and kiss her again.

‘No thank you, great Tita, I don’t want anything.’ Um Saleem is surprised. I’m not usually a loving child, and she keeps her arm around my waist as she speaks to Mum. ‘So no sign of the baby yet, Rewida?’

‘No Tita, I feel a little pain, but when Allah wills the baby.’

I’m looking at the clock every few minutes and Mum gives me a very nasty look.

‘Come and have something to eat,’ says Um Saleem, taking my hand.

I sit down beside my young uncles on one of the carpets spread out in the yard. Um Hory brings a tray laden with fruits, Arabic sweets and black tea in small glasses decorated with tiny red flowers. I look over at Um Saleem, who still appears to be very healthy, laughing with Mum, drinking tea and eating baklava.

When we finished I help Mum carry the glasses into the kitchen and she whispers, ‘About your dream, don’t say anyth—’

Um Hory overhears and interrupts. ‘Load of nonsense, she’s just affected by your visit to the medium a couple of months ago. She’s only a child, what does she know?’

‘Tita, it’s not nonsense, I heard the voice,’ I tell her.

‘It’s evil, now shhh and go outside and play with your Uncle Ziad.’

My Uncle Ziad is actually the same age as me and when I tell him about my dream his eyes open wide. ‘Do you think it will happen?’ he asks.

‘Definitely,’ I assure him, and we go and sit in front of Um Saleem, staring at her, wondering when she’s going to die.

‘How are you?’ Uncle Ziad asks her every minute. ‘Are you OK?’

‘Yes my darling, I’m OK, why do you ask?’ She just smiles and we get tired looking at her. Later, when we leave, Mum doesn’t say anything about the prophecy, but I still believe in the voice in my dream.

*

My best friend is Bedour. We’re neighbours, and from the age of three we’ve played together every day. We’re very different in character but consider ourselves sisters in soul, mind and spirit. This is our last year at school together as, unlike my father, Bedour’s father doesn’t think it’s worth while for his daughter to continue her education. Although she’s only eleven Bedour has matured early and attracted the attention of many men; her father probably thinks she’ll soon get engaged and why should he waste his money on expensive education? But in spite of our different fates, Bedour and I remain close.

About a week later I’m running out of the house to visit her when I see Mum crying.

‘What’s happened, Mum?’ I say, but she keeps crying, then rings Dad.

‘Khalid, my Tita is dead.’

Shortly after my Uncle Hory’s car horn sounds outside, and just as Mum is leaving, Bedour arrives.

‘What’s wrong with your mum?’ she says.

‘Bedour, do you remember my dream?’

Bedour looks amazed. ‘Oh God, yes, you said Um Saleem would die at six o’clock—how scary!’

Bedour and I sit outside on the marble steps with a blanket wrapped around us as we wait for Dad. My father works as project manager for ABC, a British oil company, in the Palmyra Desert about five hours’ drive from Homs. He doesn’t arrive until about eleven o’clock, tired from the long drive, his eyes red from crying. Um Saleem is not only Mum’s grandmother, but also Dad’s only aunt and he has loved her dearly.

He hugs me tightly. ‘Hello, Baba, did you wait up for me? Keefek, Bedour?’ He takes a bag of sweets and soft buns from the back seat, gives them to us then tells Bedour, ‘Run home now, dear, it’s late.’

Although he’s tired, Dad goes inside to see everyone before taking his bags out of the car. ‘Dad, I’m not tired, can I come with you to Um Saleem’s house?’

In the car Dad asks, ‘Did you hear someone saying that Um Saleem was going to die on Friday?’

‘Yes, Dad, I swear I heard a voice telling me six o’clock. Why did I hear that?’

‘No one knows, but don’t be afraid. It means you’re special.’

‘Everyone says it’s evil—’

‘Don’t listen to that nonsense; evil people kill or harm other people, you’re not evil, God blessed you with this gift.’

We arrive at the house where dozens of people dressed in black are outside in the yard, the women wailing and many of the men crying. When we arrive, men keep stopping Dad to shake his hand as he walks across the yard to the room where Um Saleem lies. Mum is there, her face all blotchy from crying, and when she sees Dad she starts crying again. Candles cast shadows, distorting the women’s faces as they sit around the mattress with their prayer beads, praying for the dead to go in peace, praying for their own sins and for God’s forgiveness. Um Saleem’s body is covered with a white linen cloth but to me she doesn’t look dead, just asleep. I don’t feel sad and tell Dad, ‘She’ll get up again soon.’

He smiles. ‘You go out and play with Ziad now, Baba.’

‘Scheherazade, please get my handbag, I left it in Tita’s old room,’ Mum whispers.

As I try to get past the gathering I trip, put my hand out to save myself and land on Um Saleem’s body. She’s very cold, like marble, but she still doesn’t seem dead to me. I think maybe she just needs more heat in her body and I smooth the cover over her again. Outside, I see Uncle Ziad.

‘I have to get Mum’s bag, will you come with me to Tita’s old room?’

‘No way—I’m scared that maybe the dead will come and take us with them,’ he says.

‘Don’t be stupid, if Um Saleem got up, people in the room would catch her first!’

Ziad looks unconvinced so I go by myself, and as I pass the well, I feel a gust of cold wind on my face. Frightened, I switch the light on in the passage, and enter Um Saleem’s room, bare now except for the ottoman chest that has a keyhole so big you can nearly see the clothes inside. I walk over to the windowsill where Mum’s bag sits, but before I reach it, my feet freeze at the sight of a bright blue and white light emerging from the ottoman’s keyhole. I watch as it expands towards the ceiling and although there is no colour I clearly see a human face form in the light. It looks familiar, but before I’m sure it is Um Saleem’s face, a hand stretches out from the light and tries to reach me. I scream but no sound comes, then I collapse.

When I come round Dad is hugging me and I hear everyone asking each other, ‘What happened, what happened?’ Dad carries me to Granddad’s bedroom, everyone following.

‘I swear I saw her face,’ I say.

‘Calm down, Baba, calm down, whose face?’

‘Don’t be stupid,’ my grandmother Um Hory speaks loudly as usual. ‘That’s the Devil speaking.’

‘No Tita, it wasn’t the Devil’s face, it was great Tita’s face…’

Before I can tell them about my experience, Um Hory says, ‘What! She’s dead, she’s gone to heaven!’

‘No she’s still here in this house. Not her body, I think it must be her soul. I saw it coming out of her big box!’

Uncle Mohammed comes over to the bed. He’s in his twenties and considers himself a superior being as he has fair hair and green eyes. He is arrogant and sneering and has always disliked me, and as I’ve gotten older the feeling has become mutual.

‘I told you before, Scheherazade is crazy,’ he says scornfully. ‘She should be in bait al majannine (mental hospital), where all the nuts go!’

‘Go and get Sheikh Abed Allah,’ Um Hory tells Mohammed. Dad looks annoyed at Um Hory and Mohammed but says nothing out of respect for Mum. The Sheikh is elderly and Mohammed and Um Hory have to help him climb the steps into the room. He peers down at me, the tassels from his red tarboosh obscuring half his face as he murmurs God’s name.

I tell him about the vision, but he says, ‘My child, this is the Devil trying to possess your body.’ His eyebrows disappear into his hat when I disagree.

‘I don’t believe you!’ I shout. ‘I saw her face, she looked at me, she’s not dead at all, she’s here in this house!’

He puts his dry, rough hand on my forehead and I try to move away but Um Hory holds my hands to the side and

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