Islamic Fiction Contest Winner - 2011
Sleeper of Flames
By: Samiya Shamma
“Okay,” Mrs. Deema said walking up to the school building. “Let’s go.”
“Just wait here, I can get it,” Fajr said quickly. She took the school’s keys out of her mother’s hand.
“You can’t go off alone,” Mrs. Deema said, stopping Fajr with her hand. “You know that. In fact, did you even take your medicine today?”
Fajr winced. She hated it when people reminded her of her disease. Fajr had narcolepsy, which was a sleeping disorder that caused excessive sleepiness and frequent daytime sleep attacks.
“Mama, I’ll be fine without it,” Fajr said. I mean, Allah will take care of me, right? She thought casually.
“You have to take it honey,” Mrs. Deema said with annoyance.
“I know,” Fajr said exasperatedly taking small steps toward the school. “But… can I just run in and grab my purse? I’ll be back in, like, five seconds. If you come, it’ll just be slower, and somebody needs to guard the door and…”
“Alright, alright.” Mrs. Deema said. “Hurry up.”
“Thank you Mama!” Fajr yelled as she ran up to the building. The sun had gone down, making the old building seem menacing in the dark. Fajr hesitated for an instant, staring. She shook herself, then quickly unlocked the door with the key, pulled it open, and walked inside.
Fajr power-walked down the different hallways, briefly checking the various classrooms. Fajr wasn’t actually sure were she laid her purse down, so she was forced to check all her classes. In the history room, Fajr noticed an open notebook on her desk. She went up to it to see what was written. Squinting in the darkness, she read: Fajr, I suppose you’re looking for your bag right? It looked so old; I picked it up for you… and then donated it to the janitor’s closet. Eid Mubarak! ~Jamila.
Jamila had played another one of her nasty pranks, Fajr thought angrily as she ran out of the classroom. Fajr went down the hall, and she soon found and opened the door to the janitor’s closet. Flipping the lights on, Fajr saw that it was a narrow space filled with a large cart carrying various cleaning supplies. Fajr slapped her forehead in frustration when she saw it. Her favorite black purse was hanging from a ceiling hook above the cart. Fajr sighed and pulled the cart out of the janitor’s closet. She stepped in and jumped as high as she could, but she couldn’t reach it.
Maybe if I pulled the cart in, I could stand on it… Fajr thought. She pulled it in and then placed her foot on the edge of the cart. Holding on with one hand Fajr used her other hand to reach up…
“Bismillah,” Fajr said quietly. She put all her weight on the foot that was balanced on the cart and lunged upward. The cart tipped dangerously backward, spilling tools onto the floor before coming back to its original position as Fajr, now airborn, grabbed her purse. When she landed, Fajr stumbled over the fallen tools, and pitched backward into the bucket of water.
“Arghh!” Fajr yelled angrily as the water sloshed over her. “Stupid bucket!” Fajr fumed as she stood up. A wave of fatigue suddenly overcame her.Fajr put her hand on her head. “No, no, no,” Fajr mumbled quickly. Fajr could barley move, and she knew that she was having a sleep attack. It always started with sleep paralysis, which was when she was unable to move after becoming drowsy.
Mama was right, I never should have come alone, Fajr thought despairingly, barely staying conscious. I should have taken that medicine. I shouldn’t have just hoped Allah would help me after I didn’t do anything to… help … myself… Fajr slumped to the wet ground and fell asleep.
Malik surveyed the scene as he jogged, the sound of fireworks booming in his ears. There was the large, beautiful masjid; beside it was a crowd of families sitting in the grass. Across the street was the old school Malik attended.
“Did ya get it?” Ahmed said in his southern accent, glancing up as Malik came near. Malik nodded and handed him the package. Malik had never liked Ahmed very much, but he had to admit that he had done a great job with the Eid al –Adha fireworks show. Ahmed took it and unwrapped the package, revealing set of really large fireworks. He looked at it and sighed. “Eid Mubarak, Malik. Thanks for helping me this much. I know you ain’t really enjoy’en it.”
“No, no it was fine,” Malik said quickly.
“Alright, this is the last one. You can go,” Ahmed said as he began to set up the Acid Rain.
“Are you sure, sir?” Malik said, trying not to sound so eager.
“Yeah, go have fun,” Ahmed said with a wave of his hand. Malik turned to walk away but Ahmed suddenly pressed something to his palm. “Almost forgot your payment.” Malik’s eyes widened as he saw the twenty dollar bill in his hand.
“But, sir, this is way too much, you can’t…” Malik stuttered, trying to hand the money back.
“I can, and I just did. Now go have fun,” Ahmed said, smiling in triumph.
“Fun,” Ahmed said, and then became stern. “Word of advice boy; when you receive a gift, just take it and be grateful.”
“Thank you, sir,” Malik said, pocketing the money.
“That’s better, now…”
“Fun, I know,” Malik said smiling, holding his hands up in defeat. Malik started to walk toward the crowd when he heard malicious laughter nearby. He turned and frowned when he saw it was Ibrahim and his gang. They were all huddled in a circle and talking excitedly about something near the pile of un-used fireworks. Malik’s stomach knotted nervously.
Ahmed had had him running back and forth from the storage room to the parking lot carrying the fireworks he wanted. After the second trip, Malik had grown tired. He decided to just get them all at once, and then when Ahmed was done, take them all back. He wasn’t actually allowed to bring them out and leave them lying around… He had hoped that Allah would keep him out of trouble, but now it seemed obvious that mere hope would do nothing for him.
Trying to look casual, Malik wandered over, near enough so that he could make out what they were doing. They had squatted on the ground, surrounding Ibrahim who was opening a box. The boys were whispering and waving flashlights around as Ibrahim set up something. Oh no, Malik thought as he suddenly recognized the shape.
“What’s up Mal-eek?” someone asked, noticing Malik’s presence.
“Just putting the fireworks away,” Malik said, coming closer.
“Okay, here,” Ibrahim interrupted quickly, pushing the pile towards Malik’s feet.
“Thanks…” Malik said slowly, “but I need all the fireworks.”
“There they are,” Ibrahim said casually.
“Including the one in your hands,” Malik said bravely.
“Uh, this one’s broken,” Ibrahim said. “Look I’ll show you.” Ibrahim continued setting it up.
“Look, Ibrahim, just give it to me,” Malik said impatiently.
“What happens if I don’t,” Ibrahim sneered, “You gonna run to Ahmed?”
“Ibrahim. Hand it over,” Malik said angrily.
“Hmmm. No,” Ibrahim said. He struck a match and lowered it to light the firework. The string caught, and with a spark, the firework was launched upward, just passing Malik. Malik kicked at it, hoping to put it out, only succeeded in turning it sideways. The firework, now flying across the parking lot, shot through the air and crashed through a high window of the school. With a deafening boom, it exploded into a bright, blue ball of sparks. What. Have. I. Done? He thought in despair.
“You… IDIOT!” Ibrahim screamed at Malik. “It was going to be a small trick, some fun you know? Do you realize what has happened?!” The members of the gang took off running, leaving Malik alone. People are going to think I did it! Malik thought frantically. It’s my entire fault, why did I leave the fireworks out here? I just destroyed the school. I should call 911! No, I should walk away. Allah will take care of it, right?
Malik slapped his forehead. No, the reason I got into this was because I just hoped Allah would keep me out of trouble. I have to actually do something to help myself. Malik thought. The people will understand right? Malik took out his cell phone and typed in the number. Bismillah…
Fajr awoke were she had fallen asleep. She couldn’t tell how long she had been asleep, but she hoped it wasn’t too long. Mama must be terrified, she thought worriedly. Fajr sat up and stopped, suddenly. A strong smell hit her nostrils. Smoke? Fajr frantically stood, gripping the edge of the cart for stability. She put the strap of her purse over her shoulder and rushed into the hallway.
Thick gray smoke filled the area. Her heart was frozen with fear, and her mind blanked. What was she supposed to do? I don’t know what to do! I have to get out of here, Fajr thought in panic. Fajr ducked and ran through the smoke, trying to ignore her stinging eyes.
As Fajr ran by the gym she heard a desperate call for help. Mama? Fajr thought. The voice screamed again, and Fajr knew she was right. Fajr dashed to the doors and placed her hand on the handle. She then pulled it away, for it was hot to the touch.
“Mama!” Fajr yelled helplessly, “Bismillah…Ar-Rahman Ar- Raheem.” She opened the door of the gymnasium.
A blast of heat surged past her, immediately drenching her in sweat. The gym was aflame, its wooden floor in burnt pieces. Fajr stepped into the gym, braving the inferno. Her skin felt like it was literally searing off. Fajr screamed and backed away.
“Help!” her mother’s voice called. Fajr had tears running down her face, she was terrified. I have to do this… Bismillah. Bismillah. Fajr took a step forward, searching for a way around the flame.
It moved in front in her like a snake, back and forth, up and down. Mama is in danger. That thought kept repeating in her head. She watched the bright flame, sweat and smoke in her eyes. Up, down, left and down… Fajr leaped over it as the flame bent down. Fajr landed at a bare spot, the fire close behind her. She turned left, and went forward and then right, narrowly avoiding flame. Al- Hamdullilah my dress is soaked and muddy, or else it too would be aflame. Fajr thought quickly.
Allah save me, she thought. Mrs. Deema screamed and backed up against the wall. Fajr now could see her. Terrified for her life and her mother’s, Fajr ran through the gym, jerking away from the fire and leaping over the smaller flames. This must be what Jahannam feels like. Fajr was crying in fear and pain, but she tried to ignore it. Allah will help me. I have to do this. Soon Fajr was a mere ten feet away from Mrs. Deema. Fire rushed between them and Fajr screamed as she lost sight of her mother.
Malik stared as firemen rushed in and out of the burning building. This is my fault! Malik stood in front of the crowd, watching the firemen shoot water at the fire.&nnbsp;
“Let’s get some men in the gym! There are people inside!” A fireman yelled. People? Allah, please save them. Malik thought. He noticed two police-men talking in earnest. One police-man nodded and then spoke into a speaker-phone.
“If anyone has any information about the fire, please come forward,” he said sternly. Malik gulped. If I tell them I did it, they’ll kill me. Allah will settle it, right? Malik thought. But deep down he knew he had to come forward. He walked up to the men.
“Sir,” he said slowly. “I can explain.”
Fajr saw figures approaching through the fire. The figures came close and someone put its arms around her. Fajr yelped in surprise as she was picked up.
“It’s okay, I got you,” the man said comfortingly, not looking at her. A man with a mustache in a thick brown and yellow suit was carrying her through the heat and across the gym. The burning she felt all around was so strong, she couldn’t take it. It was so hot. So hot.
They went through a door and then they were out. Outside in the cool air. It felt amazing on her skin. She glanced behind her and found that her mother and another man in a suit were following them. She started to sob.
“Al- hamdullilah, Al- hamdullilah…” She whispered over and over again.
“Al- hamdullilah,” Malik said as he saw a two fireman walk across the side-walk, one carrying a teenage girl, and one was guiding a woman by the hand. They were hurt, but they were all alive and that was what mattered to him. The crowd erupted into applause at the sight of this and someone yelled
“Allah-hu- Akbar!” They all responded.
Fajr soon learned that when she fell asleep her mother had come looking for her, during which, a stray firework had set the building on fire. Soon the fire was completely extinguished and a boy named Malik came forward to explain the accident. Fajr was thankful they had gotten through with so little damage, and that the fire hadn’t spread too far. Tears ran down her face in the mere shock that they had survived.
The gang was brought forward, but most of the blame was on Malik, because it was he who left the fireworks out and then kicked it into the building. Malik spent the night in questioning, and at the end was sentenced to community service hours. His parents were horrified and grounded him for three months. But Malik accepted this. He was grateful that Allah had saved most of the school and the people inside.
The community immediately came forward with donations for the repairs, and several people volunteered to help. Over the next year, the community came together like never before. The school was completely redone and the students who came there often boasted of their amazing school and the fire. Steps were taken to make the school and the places around it safer environments.
Malik was never lazy about his job again, and made sure everything was done right. He became known for his service to people and wisdom. Fajr never went anywhere alone and learned to take her medicine every day. Her friends will tell you of her patience and virtue.
They now understand that trusting in Allah is important, but you must also take action and put effort out yourself as well.