Written by Haisam Elkewidy
Of all the ways I thought I’d die, I never thought I’d be impaled by a metal crossbow. Funny enough, I survived the hit.
I pulled out the arrow from my side, screeching in unfathomable pain as the metal yanked out my flesh. It may have pulled out a part of my organs, but I didn’t know the human anatomy that well. I could hear my own screams, contained in a closed environment as I raised up my hands and touched on the rocky roof above me. I had less than half a meter of space above me. Not able to see my own surroundings, I fumbled around the container I was in, trying to discern my surroundings. I smelled dust, sand and, somehow, a few rocks near me. Later on, I could smell my own blood lightly oozing out onto the floor.
Pushing with my own limbs, I reckoned I only had eight centimeters of space near my arms, head, feet, and chest. With little room to maneuver, it was a surprise that I would’ve died from a crossbow hit. Having yanked out the arrow, I started to chisel my way onto the rocky roof. I couldn’t shake off the feeling of being carried by people, and then the feeling of being dumped into some container. I felt like this was the container that I was dumped in. And so abiding by that sentiment, I started chiseling an escape from my confinement.
I must have been locked up in here for a while, because it was getting increasingly difficult to breathe. The air started smelling more putrid from the combination of sand and rocks in here. Not to mention there was no ventilation system. With each passing moment, I had the inkling that I was never meant to get out of my underground prison.
And that motivated me to chisel my way out even harder.
I tried to use the arrowhead to carve my way out of the rock and, noticing its strength, I realized I had a way to escape. It had become apparent, that I was destined to sleep with the fishes. Yet there was a fighting chance. But with every chunk of sandstone and concrete I tried to peel off, the crumbles filled up the space I lied in. And I couldn’t switch to any other position. It didn’t take long for me to create a narrow hole right above my chest. I feared the rock fragments would sharpen during their descent, and probably cut into my abdominals. But the risk was well worth trying to get out of here.
I widened the hole, and suddenly, the memory of what had occurred flashed before me. I remember the warzone, the foreign invaders attacking us, the chill inducing screams, the pain of the arrow puncturing my flesh…
“You only ever swear allegiance to one of two sides, son,” My mother told me. “either life, or death.”
The words of my mother echoed across the dark chamber. My family got caught in the fray; all of which were killed by those same invaders. I didn’t know who they were, what they were doing here, or where they came from. But they took away my family. My mother’s advice created a severe mental blockade, as a swarm of feelings rushed into my chest while carving out the rocky roof above me.
The hole widened into a large gap; rocks rained into my grave. At this point, I was in the perfect environment to develop claustrophobia. But I resisted and tried to widen the hole, just enough for me to rise on my back and start to climb up there.
And the odds seemed to be in my favor.
I heard the ground around me tremble. Violent shaking rattled the chamber, and my back followed the flow of the quaking. Unable to restrain myself any further, I firmly grasped the crossbow arrowhead to avoid it accidentally plunging into my chest once more. My right hand dripped in sweat, and the ground shook so severely that the rocky material above me cracked open wide. A large shower of rocky fragments fell upon me, literally covering my entire lower body with sandstone.
I shield myself with my hands pushing off some fragments to my feet. Then I stare up into the air, and I see an opening far wider than anything I could’ve personally carved out of the rock.
A thin strand of sunlight shone at the end of the vertical tunnel. Lifting myself up, I glue my palms onto the cylindrical walls and start to scale the newly created tunnel. The ground continued to shake nonetheless, the fissure widening my grave and filling it up with an incalculable amount of sandstone fragments. The grave soon filled up, but by that time, I had clawed my way out and started scaling up to the sunlight.
I ascended to the light at the end of the tunnel; my palms scraping against the sharp rocks. Whenever I removed my hands and latched onto higher ground, I could see the skin being peeled off and streaks of blood sticking onto the sandstone surrounding me. With suction cups of flesh, I climbed up the tunnel and embraced the sunlight of redemption waiting at the top.
I figured I had been buried about six feet into the ground, because when I rose up, I took note of my surroundings. Brick walls surrounded the hole I had just carved my way out of. The sun not only scorched the roofless room, but the entire cluster of rooms. I overlooked the presence of other rooms just like this one, and my hunch was correct.
I had just been buried into the Nasr City public graveyards, out in the open, when the invaders thought I was dead. I had proved them wrong. Turned out I highly overestimated their aiming skills.
Even when I stood on the surface again, I heard rocks around me being carved out of the ground. I crept to my own tomb entrance, and lightly peered into adjacent rooms. An orchestra of chiseling and carving echoed across the entire ancient cemetery. I heard more hands latching onto the sand, and the screaming of a thousand revenants rising from the rocks.
It seemed that the invaders had underestimated us all.
“FORMATION!” One of the revenants had said. I identified the source and stared at the individual. A lone, old man, covered in sand, dust, and rocks, lifted a rusted bayonet blade without the gun into the air. I looked at the anchor beneath it; it was deformed. I knew he had yanked it out of an invader’s gun. The prospect blew my mind.
A flock of revenants started marching along the tomb aisle, growing into a large cluster marching in monotony towards the bayonet holder. They filled up the aisle and, just as they passed by my tomb, I blended right into the throng and tried to follow their lead.
“You only ever swear allegiance to one of two sides, son,” My mother said. “either life, or death.”
When I learned that life was happy with our allegiance to it, I was even more committed to acting on it.