The Spider Killings (3)

It was a hot and sunny day, perhaps too hot


The Spider Killings (3)
by laleh haghighi

A fictional series based on real events that happened in Iran known as the "Spider Killings". [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]

Part 3
Babak could see his mother, Fati, standing across the pond at Kuh Sangi Park, one of the most beautiful parks in Mashad that he and his mother loved to stroll in whenever possible. She was clad as usual in her long chador with only her face peeking out, a tall black triangle with a small white oval in the top corner, an oddly austere figure among the colorful and fragrant tall grass and blooming flowers that covered the ground at Kuh Sangi Park like some sort of magically alive Persian carpet.

Babak continued to calmly suck his thumb for a few seconds, believing that Fati would eventually see him and come towards him. But she just stood there, still as a tree. The little boy eventually took his thumb out of his mouth and used both his hands to shield his eyes from the glaring sun. No, there was no doubt. That definitely was Mamaan.

-- ”Mamaan, Mamaan, man injaam, I am here.”

Babak waved to his mother but there was no response. She was near and yet not near enough for Babak to distinguish her facial expression, for any signs that she had seen or heard him. From what the little boy could gather, she was just staring ahead. What to do? He looked around.

It was a hot and sunny day, perhaps too hot, and he could not see any adults nearby whom he could run to for help, in the usually popular park. He looked over to see if he could possibly go around the pond to where Fati was standing, but the distance seemed endless, and the heat was bearing heavily down on Babak.

He looked down at the water and wondered for a few seconds if he would dare dip his foot in it. He did not know how to swim and was afraid. But his longing for his mother, whom he had not seen for over a week that he had been stuck in the care of Mahin Khanoom, proved stronger than his fears. Every day since his mother had left him at the landlady’s, the little boy had sat by the entrance door stubbornly, waiting for Fati to come back for him, as she had promised. And now, it seemed she had been waiting for him at Kuh Sangi Park the whole time! Babak was overjoyed.

Slowly, cautiously, he dipped his right foot in the water and was pleasantly surprised to feel that the water was not only cool and refreshing but it was also shallow enough that it came only up to his knees, which would allow him to walk across without any danger. Babak took one last look at his mother across the pond to see if she had budged, to no avail. So he took a deep breath and put his other foot in, almost losing his balance in the process. But he prevailed. It seemed an eternity for him to cross the pond. With every step that he took, the water resisted him more, turning from a clear, limpid liquid to a thick, murky substance that Babak at times feared wanted to swallow him. But he pressed on, finally making it onto the opposing bank and without wasting a second, he ran through the tall grass towards his mother, who was still standing in the same spot.

Hugging the bottom of her chador, he waited for Fati to pick him up in her arms and lift him to her face, so that he could smell once more the scent of her skin, reminiscent of the sweet, warm shirinee smells, the whiff of baking pastries, that always emanated from Farideh Khanoom’s Noonvayee-Ghannadee, the bakery near their home. As Babak felt his mother’s hands grip him under his arms and pull him up, he closed his eyes and puckered his lips in anticipation of a kiss. But none came. Surprised, he opened his eyes and the sight before him suddenly turned his happiness into full-fledged horror. The face that was staring back at him had two black holes in place of his mother’s eyes.

The inside of Babak’s stomach suddenly caught fire, and the fire was violently propelling itself through his body and up his throat but instead of flames, only a bone-chilling scream erupted from his mouth. His arms and legs flailed wildly until the creature (for this was surely a deev, a demon from hell that had lured him into its claws by taking on the appearance of his mother) lost its grip on him and he fell backward. With a loud thud, he hit the ground but instead of the supple grassy ground of Kuh Sangi Park, he found himself on the hard, worn-out Persian carpet that adorned the bedroom he was sharing with Ali, Mahin Khanoom’s son. Ali, woken suddenly from his deep sleep by Babak’s blood-curdling screams, joined in and it wasn’t long before light appeared underneath their bedroom door and Hossein Agha and Mahin Khanoom rushed inside their room. Mahin attempted to embrace her terrified son only to be met with a hard slap in the face by Ali. Meanwhile, Hossein picked up Babak from the floor and held him tightly. The five year old little boy’s screams eventually stopped but the violent spasms of his back showed that they had merely morphed into sobs.

This was a scene that had played itself every night for more than a week. Another nightmare. The same Babak had had every night, ever since Fati had left him in the care of her landlady to run an errand in the middle of the night and never returned.

-- “Ey Khodaa! Basseh! Basseh digeh! Enough already!” whined Mahin Khanoom, sitting on the bed nursing her swollen cheek, “ Khassteh shodam Hossein. I am at the end of my wits. This can’t go on any longer. Hamin allan baa tippa in vahshi ro mindaazam az panjereh biroon! I won’t have this savage in my home any longer.”

-- ”Hisssssssssssss zan, quiet! Nemibini in bacheh bichaareh maadaresh ro mikhaad? He is without parents, at least for now. It is our vazeefeh, our duty, to attend to him.”

Mahin attempted to protest but one look from her husband changed her mind. She was too exhausted to argue anyways. Tomorrow, when she had more strength, and when Hossein would be out at work, she would see what needed to be done. She had already once tried to dump Babak off at the police station but the police officer had sternly ordered her to go back home while he investigated the whereabouts of Babak’s parents. As if she could rely on those lazy good for nothings! No, as usual, she would have to solve her problems on her own, as she had done her whole life. Tomorrow, she would figure out something. She didn’t know what it was yet but she knew that somehow she would eventually get rid of this maadar-jendeh vahshi, this savage son of a whore, once and for all.

That afternoon, Babak and Ali were playing in the courtyard in front of the house when they were suddenly aware of a third presence in their midst. Looking up almost simultaneously, they saw a man standing at the front gate, looking through the bars at them. The man was tall and broad-shouldered, with thick salt and pepper hair and a five o’clock shadow on his strong jaw. He was wearing an olive green uniform, with a gun prominently displayed in his belt pocket. Yet despite his imposing figure, he was looking at the children with kindness and they did not feel scared of him.

-- ”Sarbazieh? Is he a soldier?” whispered Babak, who remembered seeing an old photo of his father Jamshid, in a uniform, proudly posing with a rifle.

-- ”Na khareh! No you dumb-dumb” snickered Ali “He’s a police-man!”

And, seeing Babak’s perplexed expression, he added maliciously:

-- ”Mikhaad bebaratet zendaan! He is coming to take you to jail!”

Babak had heard of zendaan, of jail, before. Ali and the other kids in the neighborhood had often teased him, asking him if his baba, his absentee father, was in zendaan again. So Babak brightened up a bit at the thought that he would perhaps be reunited with his father in that city called zendaan. And after leaving zendaan, he and baba could return to Mashad to look for Fati.

-- ”Mamaan mamaan, police, pppppoooooolllllliiiiiicccccceeee!” chanted Ali loudly until his mother finally came out of the house, ready to pounce on him.

When she caught sight of the stranger however, her surprise could not have been greater. She quickly re-adjusted her hejab and sauntered towards the gate to let the officer in.

Babak could see the police officer and Mahin Khanoom whisper back and forth, occasionally glancing at him and he felt more and more confident that yes, he would be reunited with his parents very soon. His happy thoughts were interrupted by Mahin Khanoom:

-- “Bachehaa tekoon nakhorin. Stay where you are children. I have to go upstairs for a moment to show something to Mr. Brigadier-General. You be good boys, you hear me!”

As soon as they had disappeared inside the house, Babak and Ali followed quietly, climbing the stairway with the skill of cats, Babak’s heart beating hard at the thought that maybe his mamaan was home already. Ali, who was taller than Babak, looked through the keyhole into Fati’s apartment and described what he could see as best as he could. No, Babak’s mother was not there, at least, he could not see her. He could only distinguish his own mom standing with the Brigadier. She was showing him the framed photo of Fati and Babak when he was a newborn baby, the only picture that existed in the apartment. The Brigadier examined the photo carefully and after a few seconds, nodded his head and said something to Mahin Khanoom, upon which the landlady suddenly ululated terrible cries and started beating her chest and scratching her cheeks.

-- ”Ali what are they saying? Why is your mamaan crying?” Babak asked, suddenly alarmed. The eye-less face of the deev from his nightmares had just flashed in his mind.

Ali turned his face slowly from the keyhole to Babak.

-- “They are saying… Fati Khanoom is dead.”

That night, Babak did not dream of his mother >>> Part 4
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]


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