By Zekria Ibrahimi
Key Themes: Mental Health, Religion,
This difficult short story concerns the psychology of the Islamic suicide bomber. What is his perception of the West and of western motives? We need controversy here, rather than bland support for western ‘liberalism’ against what is felt to be religious intolerance.
The Muslim has become the alien to be wiped out, the sub- human who does not merit existence. Islam is turned into as some almost extra- terrestrial threat, utterly different from normality as the West conceives normality. The western response is bombing from the air, torture, invasion.
The short story is uneasily disguised as science fiction, but incidents in it are based on actual ones from the Vietnam War.
About the Author
Zekria Ibrahimi (born in 1959) is defined by his schizophrenia. It first hit him long ago, in his late teens. He is fifty two years old now, grey and frail, almost a pensioner, with all the aches and injuries of age, incontinent and impotent, lame and with constant tinnitus, and he does not always want to remember how, as an adolescent in the late 1970’s, he suddenly became afraid of everything surrounding him, and, worst of all, of himself. He would run around the countryside and knock at the doors of strangers because he feared the apocalypse was pursuing him … He would pick up rubbish outside in alleys and streets and hoard it in his not very palatial lodgings … He was always wandering away from home, searching for … what would never be found again … the straight route, the level way … He was a tramp, freezing during the nights in public toilets where he had various unsavoury insects as company on the cold concrete …
He hears his own heart- beat, the frightening pulse of it, and he is afraid…
There were years of pain when his schizophrenia became almost his only companion- albeit a sadistic one, punishing him even as he hugged it. Perhaps, to echo both R. D. Laing and Emily Dickinson, it is the entire globe, it is general society, that is truly insane. Schizophrenics simply burrow all too deeply under the surface. They reach the very core of the savage reality in us all. Most varnish over the anarchic truth within through the superficial sham paraded as ‘civilization’. Schizophrenics prefer to be uncomfortably honest barbarians.
Eventually, after much psychotic shouting on Hammersmith Broadway, the hapless Zekria was confined at the Charing Cross unit in the West London Mental Health Trust. Following the unsafe unstable freedom of his schizophrenia, came the restrictions of Section 3. He would not have survived without the multi- racial compassion of the individual doctors and nurses in Charing Cross. Yet the overall SYSTEM remains an ogre of rules and restraints, and the INSTITUTION of psychiatry can be as cold and vicious as in the days of lobotomy and insulin shock.
Now he is elderly, but still he muses about being locked up, drugged up, about how, with schizophrenia, the treatment can be worse than the disease…
Lieutenant Gore lay in a robot bed in a robot hospital. The fuck bed in Iqbal’s brothel had been programmed to record pulse and sweat rate, so as to vibrate in resonance with the bodies of those upon it, but this hospital bed seemed a thousand times more sophisticated. As it curled around the Lieutenant’s mutilated body, it recorded everything, neuron activity, liver profile, or whatever. It was almost a doctor in itself.
Above the groaning Lieutenant stood Captain Blood, who was full of mawkish sympathy for this favourite of his.
‘Two hundred gooks were killed by our guys at the checkpoint,’ Captain Blood said, with his usual inhuman pride. ‘That deranged suicide bomber may have taken out one of our boys, but your prompt orders, Lieutenant, ensured we had proper revenge. Two hundred gooks turned to dust!’
Gore beamed for a while, then grimaced. His left side was still hurting; a new robotic arm had been attached to his left shoulder socket, but he was not able to flex it adequately. It lay, semi-limp, beside him. Gore felt frustrated at his inability to move it totally as he wished. That his soul was a deformed mass of putrefaction did not matter to him. He only cared about his body, and his body had been damaged by the gooks. He hissed.
‘Those gooks, they’ve hurt me,’ he mumbled angrily.
‘You’ll have your own special vengeance,’ replied Captain Blood, whose platinum eyes glistened with a warped concern for the wounded lieutenant. ’You’ve been recommended for be another medal. The slaughter medal.’
Gore at last smiled. To receive the slaughter medal was indeed praise.
Who, what, was Lieutenant James Gore? He was like an animal wanting to lick the gore of its prey, like a virus corrupting and consuming all that had been wholesome and worthwhile. Planet one six-nine, this difficult and violent planet under the USA, was simply a morsel to be chewed and spat out. For all his apparent streamlined efficiency and modernity, Lieutenant Gore’s emotions were at the level of a bacillus. He was incapable of love, or compassion, or altruism; he regarded such feelings as the ultimate in darkness, as weaknesses that were dirty and pathetic; for him, aluminium, steel, platinum and titanium seemed the real light, the metals from which he was constructed. Steel does not have empathy with other beings; aluminium lacks pity for the poor. Lieutenant Gore was a robot, or semi-robot, and there was no true soul within him.
‘Thanks, Captain, thanks for the slaughter medal… Ask the nurse to come in. I am still full of pain.’
Captain Blood gave him a manly slap on his shoulder, which caused the Lieutenant, thanks to his injuries, to shake somewhat with discomfort.
‘The gooks have tried to mess me up. But now I’ve got the slaughter medal I’m as high as the sky, I feel as big as the galaxy, and l’ll do my job twice as ferociously, sir – which is to hammer the gooks until they’re nothing, just nothing, under our Empire!’