The Banshee of Ground Zero



Omar Mohammed Al-Fez stared out of the glassless window that over looked the still burning rubble that once was the World Trade Center, but was now called Ground Zero. He leaned against the glassless window pane in the deserted building, smiling at the wreckage below. There was a loud crack, or perhaps an echoing pop, and the light of flames buried in the ruble spasmed as some carís gas tank gave in to the inevitable onslaught of heat and fire, just as the west would give into the heat and fire of Holy War. At least that is how Omar believed the future would unfold. From his illegal vantagepoint he watched the unquenchable fire devour the heart of this city, this island, this country and he rejoiced.

In the two weeks since September 11th rejoicing had been difficult for Omar. He expected a backlash to sweep through the Islamic community. He expected tanks and guns to murder the sheep who claimed to know Allah in this godless city. They could have been the martyrs that would have birthed revolution and destruction throughout this heathen country. The tanks never rolled. The people did not claim to blame Islam for this destruction. They did not torture, execute, or even inprison the Muslims in their midst. The sheep were not slaughtered. The fools were not martyred. These Americanís are weird, thought Omar.

The manhunt did go on. With Israeli like precision the western athorities hunted all those who might have helped the Martyrs of 9/11. Omar was one of them. He was part of the hidden cell that arranged all the details the martyrs needed to accomplish the great victory that burned and belched smoke below his feet. He used his eyes to spy on these unbelievers. He used his ears to listen to their weaknesses. He used his tongue to spread this information to where it would best be used.

As the vaunted American security forces searched the world for people like Omar, he went to the one place they would least expect. He volunteered to help with the rescue effort. He offered water to the firemen, only twice thinking of poisoning it. He listened as fathers and brothers and sluts of mothers searched for loved ones. He smiled when they were found. He sympathized when they were not. He betrayed the sanctity of the Martyrs, cursing them falsely whenever anyone was around. He sang their Christian/western/patriot drivel. He praised their fool of a president who could not even control his slut daughters. Never once did he allow himself to smile and enjoy the destruction he had created.

Tonight was his night for celebration. Weeks working as a volunteer had helped him memorize the new face of the city. He found the deserted building, avoided the usual patrols, climbed the darkened stairs and now stared out of an empty window and the foul smelling carnage below.

ďEverythingĒ he said aloud, for he knew no one was around to hear. ďI must memorize everything. Every detail I shall keep, to pass on to those of us not fortunate enough to visit this shrine.Ē He leaned forward staring at the jagged mound of destruction. He watched as the red fires below glowed up through the ground like blood in this jagged scar of the city. When the dust and the smoke teared up his eyes he closed them. Leaning back he lowered the mandatory-breathing mask to take in the aroma of destruction. He smelled the dull choking dust. He smelled the tang of burned gas and the oily smell of burnt rubber and plastic. He smelled the sweet cloying aroma of garbage left out and food gone to spoil. The one smell he searched for, he hoped to find, the smell of rotten corpses alluded him. Perhaps he was too far up; perhaps the never ending winds through the canyons of New York swept that stench out to sea. It was disappointing.

When he started to have trouble breathing he slipped the mask back on. His eyes were clearing up, but he kept them closed. He wanted to listen to the music of a dead city. So the music came.

The wind whistled through the streets of New York, and hit the tower of rubble and deformed steel. It must have set up a resonance, thought Omar. The hot air rising from the fires meeting the steady flow of cold air from the streets must vibrate the steel, ringing it like a sitar string. From the ground below came a sound, low at first, but rising slightly higher. It sounded almost as a womanís wail. A death dirge thought Omar, perhaps the towerís post mortem lament. The other street sounds, already hushed, were soon drowned out by this constant noise, this tone creeping up the scale as it crept up in volume.

A cold chill blew through the window and startled Omar. The sound, so musical, had started him dozing. He had worked a long day. His exhaustion, and the closing of his eyes, and the almost soothing music. It was music. He shook himself again. The sound, the nerve fraying jingling had become a song. He stared out the window searching for its source.

He was not expecting the girl sitting on top of the burning mound. She was western, long flowing red hair, pale skin. The flames below gave her a strange bluish glow. In her hands she held some instrument, though it was her own voice, apparently amplified by the geography of destruction, that he heard.

Something is wrong, he thought. How could she climb up there and survive? How could he hear her music from so far away? The other sounds, burning metal, collapsing walls, a living city a few blocks away, all became silent. How?

Words began to be found in the song. He could not recognize them for they were not English nor Arabic. They were not French, and did not hold either the hard constructs of German or the short bites of the Asian languages he had heard. He could not understand the words, but he felt their message. This was a dirge, a song of lament, a burial tune.

Perhaps, he thought, the insanity of the Americans was sinking in. Perhaps she had lost a love, a strong firm hand that controlled her like a woman needs to be controlled. In her grief she throws herself on the fire, singing of her loss as she is consumed.

But she is not consumed. The fires seem to grow higher, leaping up at the sky. Her song rolls faster now, harder, more demanding. The lament is gone in a shower of angry words sung on key. Omar notices one other thing. She is looking at him.

Over half a mile separates him from this singer, yet she sees him in the shadow of his perch. She stands as her singing gives way to shouting. The sweet harmony and clarity of her voice shifts. It becomes grating. It becomes unnerving. It becomes painful. He backs away trying desperately to escape her stare. She is so far away, but he can see her eyes. He can read the hatred and the anger and the accusations that they carry.

He breaks away from her sight, but the music follows. It holds anger and recriminations. It hold cries for justice that swallow his own cries for mercy. It roars at him like a jet engine screaming in a dive. In a dive, he thought, just before it slams into a building.

He runs.

When you are in a building, high above the ground, where can you run?

He finds the stairs. In a panic that fights the wave of crescendoing sound he leaps down the stairs. He throw his hands to his ears to block out the sound of that one lone girl. It does not help. When he reaches a landing he threws his hands out to stop himself from crashing into the wall. Thatís when he sees the blood on his hands. Thatís when he feels the blood draining from his ears. Dizzily he turns. He takes one step forward and the music stops. Caught off guard by the sudden silence he stumbles and falls.

They found him the next day. They assumed he was just one more determined and curious fool who wound up injured for his stupidity. Apparently he fell while coming back down from his vantage spot on the seventh floor. The fall didnít kill him. It did break eight bones, crack three ribs and bruise him severely. Worse, landing on a chunk of falling debris, his right eye was gone. His ears had also popped, though how that happened was a mystery no one had time to investigate. The saddest part, according to the nurses, was his tongue. As he had fallen he had bitten about half of it off. It lay in his breathing mask all night, cut off from its needed blood supply by an inch or so. If he would have been found in time, they could have sewn it back on. As it was Mr. Omar Mohammed Al-Fez would spend the rest of his life a deaf mute.

Omar realized that his days as a hidden operative were over. He had used his ears, his eyes, and his tongue to bring about Ground Zero. She had taken those ears, that tongue, and one of his eyes. Justice? A spiritís Justice, he believes. Only a damned spirit could know to torture him by allowing one eye to remain.

Every night Omar Mohammed Al-Fez now hears her music and nothing else. It sings to him, mocking him, calling him, shaming him. With every bomb that falls on target, with every arrest made, with every life wasted, the song grows louder. With his good eye he watches as his enemies grow stronger, his own allies grow weaker, and his cause collapse into its own burning pile of rubble. He spends his time sitting in his room, watching his world collapse on CNN, and humming a Celtic tune taught to him by the Banshee of Ground Zero.

(C)2002




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