novel
By
Asaad Al-Jabbouri

 

 

Translated from the Arabic by

Christopher Marrs

Copyright © 2014 by Darsafi, LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed,
or transmitted in any form or by any means,including photocopying, recording,
or other electronic ormechanical methods, without the prior written permission
of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical
reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For
permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions
Coordinator,” at the address below.
www.darsafi.com
16301 NE 8th St.
Suite #220
Bellevue, WA 98008
info@darsafi.com
This book is translated by Christopher Marrs
Translation4all, Inc
www.translation4all.com
info@translation4all.com
253-630-5234
Printed in the United States of America
Cover by Saad Yagan
ISBN 978-1- 63068-93

1
The Broken Butterfly
She sat in front of the computer screen, rashly moving her forces across
the chessboard. As she maneuvered and positioned her pieces it was clear she
hadn’t formulated a strategy for defeating her virtual enemy. After losing so
many wars with her lover she had only one desire: defeating him in one battle,
even if only on the chessboard.
Her nerves were getting to her. Joanika imagined herself as a small ship
desperately trying to break free from the current that drew her to her lover,
Philemon. She was trying to put an end to her absurd life full of mistakes and
betrayals that would never be rectified. The woman was drowning in a constant
darkness. When she grew bored of ambushing, attacking, and killing she shut
down the computer and let darkness crawl over the screen swallowing both
armies mid-battle.
As dark thoughts clouded Joanika’s mind she heard a key turn in the
front door of the apartment. Quickly, she dove under the comforter on the
bed, feigning sleep. Philemon came in drunk and clearly still agitated by the
thoughts he had gone to the bar to forget. He dropped his body onto the couch,
fully clothed, ranting to himself.
Joanika found herself a mix of conflicting emotions. In moments like those,
her will power and decisiveness betrayed her. As she watched the scene unfold
in secret, she felt the desire to jump from the bed and embrace her lover. But
she also couldn’t shake the desire to tie him to the bedposts and beat the alcohol
out of him. She didn’t dwell long on those thoughts. Growing bored of the silly
game of spying on her drunken lover, she climbed out of bed nearly naked,
determined to put an end to his loud, drunken ramblings. However Philemon
didn’t immediately respond to her advances. Instead, he grabbed Joanika by the
hand and pulled her down next to him, saying,
“What does this journalist want from me? This is just what I need right now!”
Growing more agitated, Philemon continued,
“I can’t rule out a surprise. Maybe this guy is insane and he’s got into his
head to mess with me. Or he’ll try to drag me into some sticky legal dispute?
What did he say in his last message?
“That he wants to have a historic meeting with me, what the hell does that
8
The Assassination of Nobel
even mean?”
“Does that mean anything to you Joanika? Or is it all just a bunch of
nonsense from a total stranger?”
“I think he’s really disturbed but why all the interest in me? What did he say
in his message? He wants to meet me, at any cost?”
“Something like that. This is killing me.”
“You think he’s insane?”
“Why else would he spend all that time investigating me, tracking me down
across several cities and countries?”
“Damn him. He’s really insane.”
“You know what I’ll do Joanika? I’m going to laugh at him, treat him like
a joke. A joke sent from the heavens. The heavens don’t send messages to just
anyone, you know. Every century or so they choose someone, set him aside for
some terrible story or miracle. But that’s not important right now. I just need to
see his face, that’ll calm me down. Tomorrow.”
Philemon lifted his hands up high as he sprawled out on the couch then he
went on to say,
“The important thing is to stop this stranger. Grab him and hold him before
his secrets can ruin us. What’s wrong with that?”
“You’re clearly worrying too much, Philemon. You’re acting like you’re
some captain leading a battleship into the fray. If you’re not worried by the
man then why do you keep going on about him? All these worries are just your
imagination. The journalist could just be lost or misled. Just keep that in mind.
Enough of your pessimism and ranting.”
“And why not? I guess it’s your right to think my real fears are just ramblings.
Sure, why not?
If you were in my position your blood would run cold.”
“As you said, he works in the news. You’re not exactly the type to attract a
bunch of media attention, Philemon. Don’t be delusional. What is so important
about you that you’d risk that? You’re just a chemistry teacher chasing young
coeds raging with hormones. Isn’t that the only real thing in your life?”
Philemon laughed bitterly and responded indignantly.
9
Asaad al-Jabbouri
“If I meet this journalist, I’m only going to ask him for one thing: to rid this
house of all the apathy and cynicism that is rotting in your head!”
“And how do you think that will go for you?”
“I’m not going to sit here and be mocked! I’d rather sleep than hear your
useless chatter.”
Philemon stood and headed towards the bedroom as Joanika called after
him angrily,
“Well this is nothing new. I know this all too well. This is what you’re best
at, running from me. You rile me up and go to sleep. We’re even chasing each
other in our dreams.”
Before he closed the bedroom door, Philemon called back to her in something
resembling boredom.
“It’s time for me to go to bed, darling. I don’t have time to respond to all the
nonsense pouring out of your head at the moment. I’m meeting the journalist
tomorrow. I need to be well rested and alert.”
Joanika followed him in a rage.
“Before you go to bed Philemon, tell me…did you see that girl Laura today?”
“No, but I may have seen her as she was going into the laboratories.”
“You mean you met her in one of the labs to sleep with her!”
Joanika screamed at him, gnashing her teeth like a wildcat. She reached
into her handbag and pulled out a handful of colored condoms to slip under his
pillow as she whispered in his ear,
“Here. Take the condoms you forgot in your desk this morning. You’ll need
them if you meet Laura in your dreams too!”
Joanika left him and headed out of the bedroom without hearing a response
from Philemon. She felt that she was nothing more than a tender rabbit caught
in the cage named Philemon. She had little hope of changing her life with him.
Were it in her power to open him up and fix him from the inside, she wouldn’t
hesitate to grab her scalpel. Despite herself, she loved the man.
Ever since Philemon began to study chemistry he’d been obsessed with
the nature of the body and human instinct. He saw chemistry as a means of
addressing all of life’s woes. Though he never let anyone truly near him, he
knew how the moth was attracted to the flame.
10
The Assassination of Nobel
There was no way she could change the path he had set for himself. Perhaps
it was because he chose to burden himself with thoughts that went well beyond
the commercialized conditions that rule the lives of men today, past the ruins
of ancient civilizations. Perhaps that was the difference between the pigeon and
the hawk. While Joanika sat accepting her reality, Philemon sought to supplant
it for the sake of his soul.
Where will this nonsense between this monster and myself lead?
He tries to destroy everything to be set free from centuries of thinking. He
wants me to be a pretty little specimen in his world of laboratories. I’ve grown
so bitter after the endless circles of this relationship with Philemon. But isn’t
that what pushed you towards that emotional wreck, the hope of somehow fixing
him? So many times I’ve thought of fleeing this state of love-no love that I live
with him, being rid of this feeling that is tearing me apart. But each time he
embeds himself deeper in my mind. Philemon is a musical being full of wild
symphonies, not tied to any specific harmony. In the end, he’s the maestro that
conducts a band of demons.
Joanika asked herself angrily as she held her head in her hands. Then she
went to the window, looked out and wrinkled her face in disgust. She drew
the curtain shut and returned to lie on the couch carrying a magazine she had
plucked off the table in the corner of the room.
Philemon didn’t take advantage of Joanika’s condition. His intentions were
entirely different. He pushed her to break the patterns that held her prisoner all
her life, to break that mental cage and fly far from the conformity she had forced
upon herself. He wanted to make her in his image: a person who floats in love,
not entrenched by it. In his eyes, lovers were creations of crystal. They are the
only ones whose souls glitter behind their human shells, burning with the desire
to transcend reality and search for worlds far stranger than this one.
Flinging the magazine aside, Joanika rose from the couch and headed
towards the computer desk where she searched for nothing in particular. She
picked up a small card and returned to the couch to read what was written on it:
In a time when our days are choked like pearls in an oyster, the thickness of
our minds will lead us nowhere but to a world of harsh lands preyed upon by
crocodiles. We may not recognize the fire in us now, but eventually we will. We
will know the distance between the mind that drives us howling towards dead
philosophies and the spirit that tries to liberate us from this reality that we base
our conception of reason and right upon.
Our tears, Joanika, will not cleanse the world of its worry, nor save it from
drought. We will not stumble upon our dreams in the vortex of the unknown.
11
Asaad al-Jabbouri
This reality that you believe will take over the world and turn its soil to gold
will not be victorious except in the universal hospital that we occupy with our
sick and dying games.
Joanika laughed as she finished reading the card. Then she let out a long,
deep sigh saying to herself,
“Philemon wrote this for your thirtieth birthday last year. Don’t mind
everything he says about you or writes to you. The day will come when he
returns to his senses, before he’s lost forever.”
Joanika returned the card to its place on the desk and made her way to the
bedroom. She lifted the blanket and slipped in beside the man sleeping there,
filling the cold space next to him. She thought of Philemon and the nature of
their relationship as her body tried to drift to sleep. But, for whatever reason, she
couldn’t bring to herself to sleep. Like a butterfly whose wings had been torn,
Joanika emerged from the bed and staggered to the couch in the living room.
She sat pondering the picture of Philemon, the absent-present man, hanging on
the wall. She laughed and joked to herself,
“Instead of wasting your time staring at Philemon, you should do something
better. Open all the gates of hell, get up and carry that man in bed and throw him
in, dreams and all. Oh, and don’t forget his picture of course!”
The thought came to her in an instant and her face flushed immediately.
She got up quickly and dressed to the leave the apartment into the gray hours
of early dawn.