ONE-SHOT. TIAxBENJAMIN. Translations + A/N in the next chapter.
* * *
A man was staring at me from across the street. His eyes were unclear to me. It was as if I could see them, but not for what they really were. As if an invisible veil covered their true appearance from me, but yet did not hide them completely.
I was uncomfortable under his gaze. He was watching me, studying me.
I looked away from him, focusing my gaze back to my hands. I scooped up some sand and closed my fist. Carefully, I let it seep through my fingers. Some of the grains caught under my fingernails. When my hand was empty, I started again. And again.
"Ya Benji!" the familiar voice snapped me out of my focus, and I released the fist I made. The sand fell carelessly to the ground. Forgotten.
"Aywa ya Ramzy! Izzayak?" I greeted my friend as I got op from the ground.
"I'm good, I'm good." He smiled as he came up to me. "Where's the rest?" He asked me.
"Omar told me we should come to 3ammu Khalil. He's waiting there for us with Mohamed and Atef."
Ramzy nodded and we started walking down the busy market street. The man with the eyes and the sand on the ground, forgotten.
"Ramzy! Benjamin! It has been too long, my sons." We were greeted by Omar's uncle Khalil. "3ammu Khalil." I grinned and shook his hand.
"Douaa'!" he called towards the back of the house. "Bring the boys some bebsi?"
His wife, Douaa' answered and came out of the kitchen with a tray in her hands. Some of her hair was escaping from under the loose headscarf she was wearing. Her face was bright and open, and she smiled as she saw us.
"Ohhh you've grown so big!" She sat the tray down on the coffeetable and came over to us. Ramzy was the first to be pulled down to her height and to be kissed and pinched in the cheeks. And then me. "Benji, how old are you now, sittasher?" I nodded. Yep, I turned sixteen three months ago. "Oh, so big." She shook her head with a smile. "You all keep on growing and growing. I'm glad Shaima' doesn't go so fast." Shaima' was Omar's little cousin. She was just four years old.
"So, what are your plans for Adel?" uncle Khalil asked while he sipped from his own glass of pepsi. Adel was the friend to make our group of six complete. His birthday was today and we planned to take him to the pyramids and later on to Andalusia Park. He was the last one of us to turn sixteen.
We stayed at 3ammu Khalil's for another 30 minutes or so, before we collected ourselves and started for Adel's house. He didn't know we were coming, so I hope he would like the surprise.
Our stroll to Adel's neighbourhood was slow, casual. We weren't hasty. The meaning of haste was unknown to us. Haste, simply wasn't in our blood.
As we walked down the familiar street, we passed Mr. Fathi's butchery. Smirking I kept an eye on Mohamed, and grinned even wider when I caught him glancing inside. A faint blush spread on his cheeks and he turned his head away. I glanced inside to see what had him blushing. Surely, it was Nadia Fathi. Mr. Fathi's fair daughter. She was about to look away when she caught my eyes. A red blush also creeped up to her cheeks when she realized I caught the eye-contact between her and Mohamed. I winked at her and turned my gaze back to Mohamed as we passed the shop. When I was sure we were out of hearing range, I shoved him in the shoulder. "Ooohhh Nadia! Nadia!" I laughed. Atef, Ramzy and Omar started making kissing sounds and laughed with me.
"Shut up!" Mohamed tried to get us to stop, his face turning redder and redder. He roughly shoved or hands of his shoulders and picked up his pace, walking a few feet ahead of us. Our laughter and teasing had died down once we reached Adel's house.
His mom opened up for us and ushered us inside. We sat down on the low couches after we greeted everyone in the house. Adel sprawled out next to us.
His mother gave us all another glass of bebsi and some basbosa to eat.
After all the drinks were finished and the third round of basbosa was eaten, we took Adel out.
Later that night, I walked home with Atef at my side. He lived in the same neighbourhood as me. On the way back we bought roasted corn cobs from the street vendors and spent a few minutes to chat with them. It was a nice night.
"See you tomorrow, fi madrasa." Atef said, as he turned for his house.
"Yeah, see you tomorrow." I answered and walked on to my house.
When I climbed the staircase, I passed our door and went up directly to the roof. There, I went over to the little tab in the wall to wash my hands. I crouched and watched for a moment how the water ran and disappeared into the drain. Then I put my hands under the stream and started rinsing them. Cupping the water, and then releasing it slowly. Wringing my hands. Cupping the water, and then releasing it.
"Masaa' al kheer, Benjamin." A deep voice startled me.
I rose quickly to my feet and turned around. There stood the man I saw this morning. The one with the eyes.
"Enta miin!" I demanded.
"Ismi Amun." He answered.
"What are you doing here, you have no business here." I told the man, Amun. I was scared, I couldn't deny that.
The man's features twisted into a grin. "You are my business." He said darkly.
"What do you mean?" I was truly scared now.
"Do you have any idea who I am? What I am?" He asked me.
I studied him. His skin tone was the same as mine, but somehow it was a little off. It looked unnatural. He was not human. Not human at all.
The panic must have showed on my face because his grin grew wider.
"You will make a fine creation, my son." He said. Before I could comprehend what was happening, a hand clamped around my mouth and I felt a sharp sting in my neck. I screamed from the pain and the fire in my veins, but the sound was muffled by the cold hand on my face.
The pain was unbearable and I could feel myself slip away.
* * *
"…Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar…" The prayer echoed from the speakers that were hanging on every corner of every street.
"…La ilaha illa Allah. Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar…"
"It is time to feed, my friend." Amun said. His eyes were like the crimson red of a ruby.
Eiid al Adha. Eiid al Kibiir. It was the 10th day of the Dulh Hijjah month. The festival of sacrifice.
"Eiid mubarak." The lips of my creator curled slowly around his teeth into a dark grin. And then he sped off. His mate, Kebi, following in his shadow.
I flew towards the city, and satiated my thirst. The cries of the humans were short but agonizing, and pierced through my soul. But it was food. As long as I was in the frenzy state, the humans were nothing more then food.
I learned to control myself relatively fast if I should believe the words of Amun. When the thirst and the ache in my throat became less of a distraction, Amun tried to teach me how to develop my abilities, as he called them. He made me practise during the day on some outskirt of the dessert.
And at night, we would hunt.
"La', no, no, no oh, allah, allah! Huwwa massas el demaa2, huwwa wa7sh! A monster!" The woman cried uncontrollably. But no one would hear her. No one.
"I'm sorry." I whispered just before I sunk my teeth in her troath.
* * *
I sat there, on one of the rooftops in my street. I had seen Atef leaving the house with Omar. Probably on their way to meet the others. I felt sad that I could not have them in my life anymore. I tried to remember my sisters. Souhair, Aya and Zahra. My father, Moataz. My mother, Rougheya. Their faces were murky in my ill-lit memories. I had not seen them yet, since I was born to this new life.
"Tia!" A voice distracted me. I turned my head into the direction it came from. I saw a woman appearing in the doorway of one of the roof terraces down the street. She was scolding at a younger girl who had been hanging up laundry to dry. I could only see the top of her hair and her fingertips, as the rest of her was covered behind a white bed sheet.
"Na3m mama." The girl answered. Her voice was soft and warm. Almost sultry.
"The dark is no time to hang up laundry! You should have done it while the sun was still shining, yalla, get inside" The mother, I assumed, shooed her daughter.
"Na3m, I'm coming." The mother turned back inside and I could hear the thuds of her footsteps as her descending feet hit the treads of the staircase.
I wanted to see the face of the girl. I wanted to see what kind of eyes belonged to a voice like that. I felt like I cheated a little when I used my abilities. I sent a soft breeze her way that made the bed sheet flair up a bit. It was no use, her face was angled away from me. I sighed and rested my head in my hands, on my knees.
I could hear her humming a soft tune. It was like a melody to her heartbeat. She continued hanging the laundry in her own pace. Not afraid of more scolding from her mother, not afraid of the night.
"…hmmhmm…we atmana law ansak...hmmhmmhmmmhmmm…" Occasionally words escaped her lips.
Finally she was done and walked around the washing lines to retrieve her basket. She gathered the dry laundry and was about to head inside when a sound stopped her.
"Mehw?" a dusty white cat pushed its head against her legs and looked up to her in question. Her galabeya rode up a little, revealing a slender ankle.
"Hello, little one." I heard the girl, Tia, say to the cat. She put the basket down and kneeled to pat the cat on its head. "Mehw?" The cat mewled again.
"What's wrong habibti? Are you hungry?" She asked as she scratched it behind its ears.
She grabbed the cat in one arm and clenched the basked against her body with her free arm. As she stood up, I finally caught a glimpse of her. The long black hair framed her olive-toned face, and even with my superior senses, I could not separate the pupil from the iris in the dark of her eyes. She was a daughter of the night.
"Ayza takli eih? Chicken? Meat? We don't have fish today." She apologized to the cat.
"Shh, shh, ummi can't hear you. Be quiet ya 3assal" She shushed the cat as she disappeared in the doorway. I heard her humming as she descended down the stairs.
She murmured to the cat before I heard a door open and then close again. Some shuffling around, some scolding by the mother. A while later the door opened again and I could hear a satisfied purr coming from the cat.
I listened until I could hear no more sound but the steady beat of her heart.
I had to leave my place on the roof when I saw the sun coming up. I went off to the desert to practise my skills. I did not return to Amun's camp until the night fell.
* * *
I could hear the cries of pain before I saw the source.
"Amun, what's this?!" I hissed as I reached the camp.
There, on the ground, in the sand, lays Tia. Her body writhing in agony. My eyes travelled to the source of the smell of fresh blood. Her galabeya was teared where the sharp teeth had sunken in her shoulder. The blood had stained the textile.
"You need a mate. I saw you watching her." Amun shrugged.
"You killed her!" I shouted.
I kneeled down at her side and tried to sooth her by stroking her hair. Of course I knew that was no use. I had felt the fire. I knew what it was like.
"I gave her immortality and I gave her the honour of becoming your wife." Amun said in a strong voice. I could hear he was becoming angry.
"Control your powers!" he hissed in addition, as I tried to make the sudden rain go away.
"You gave her no choice!"
"Silence!" Amun yelled in his deep voice. "I created you! I created your future mate. It is me who gave you life. You should be thankful. Show your gratitude for once!" He turned brusquely and flew away into the night. Kebi on his heels.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." Tia's head rested in my lap and my hand cupped her jaw as I continued to whisper apologies. A day, or a day and a half later, the screaming and writhing stopped. Her body had grown colder and her heartbeat weaker. I knew she still felt the pain. The twitches in her face gave it away.
"…We laeek. Mashgool we shaghelny beek. We einaya teegy fe eneik. We kalamhom yeba aleik. Wenta dary…" I sung to her softly,
"We raeek. Washa men el leil anadeek. We abaat rohy tesaheek. Om yally shaghelny beek. Garab nary…"
I repeated the song over and over again until she started to spasm. I knew it was almost over now. I released her and scooted a bit away. With her eyes clenched shut, her body curled and uncurled itself. Her back arched of the ground and then dropped back with a thud.
It was quiet for a moment. No sound. I had even silenced the wind.
And then her eyes opened. They were even blacker then when she was human. She blinked and stared up to the sky. And then in one fluid movement she was up on her feet. I did the same and watched her cautiously. Her eyes fell on me and she froze.
She did not say anything, and she did not prepare for attack like I had expected her to.
"Tia." I tried slowly.
"You are Benjamin." She spoke. Her voice not in question, but just stating a fact.
"I am." I nodded. "How do you know?"
"The older one. The one he made me this…" She gestured down the length of her body, "told me I was for you before he took me."
"I apologize." I told her. "He should not have done that. Not without giving you a choice."
"If he is at fault, then why are you apologizing?" She asked.
I was surprised at how controlled she was. Maybe the realization of the thirst hadn't set in yet.
"Because he took your life in my name."
She stayed quiet after that. Her eyes focused on mine.
"Do you feel it?" I tapped my throat with two of my fingers, changing the subject.
She nodded slowly. "It's the thirst. You need to feed."
She nodded again. And I could read in her eyes that I did not have to explain our diet.
I held out my hand in an offer for her to take it. And she did. I led her to the city and set her free when the frenzy began. She was not very controlled in her feeding, but discrete enough. We hunted almost the whole night through, her thirst seemed insatiable. I worried a bit about how we were going to do during the day, when she was not able to hunt without betraying herself. But I found the answer when we went back to the desert.
Amun was there, dropping a body from his shoulders into the sand. Next to the others. It was disgusting. But it was necessary.
Tia learned to control her thirst very fast. After only a week or two, her need had lessened and she was able to just hunt by night. And after a few weeks, she managed to adjust to our schedule.
I did not speak much with Amun, for a while. I was grateful for having Tia here with us, but I felt that she should have had a choice.
* * *
This evening, I had taken her up to Gabal Musa, Mount Sinaï, there where God had spoken to Moses. She had never been here before and I wanted to be the one to show her.
Her hand was clasped in mine as we stood on the mountaintop. The wind played softly with her hair.
I watched her as she looked at the landscape beneath us. "Enty zay el ful." I whispered in her ear. She was as flawless as the jasmine flower in her hair.
She lifted her face to meet mine, and her hand followed, taking a place on my cheek. I caught her caressing fingers and held them there, smiling at her.
"Enta albi," she said. "If I was offered a choice, then, and I knew that this life would bring me you. I would not have chosen differently. I would have chosen you."
She smiled at me then, and I could resist no longer. I dipped my face down and touched her lips with mine.
A breathless laugh escaped her as she responded. My arms wound around her waist as her hands wound around my neck.
I felt like floating. Bost al amar. That was exactly how I felt. Like I had kissed the moon. I kissed a daughter of the night.