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my whole being was pure light. As I pressed my ear to the ground, I heard moans and tearful gasps coming from bones hidden away in near and distant layers of the Earth. I heard the weeping of the slain and kidnapped who had been buried alive. I heard cries of distress from women who had been raped and their throats slit. I saw children’s severed limbs longing to be knit together once more and folded in their mothers’ arms, their tiny hands never having developed to the point where they could grasp the dolls and toys that had awaited them on Earth. I heard countless stories of mothers in pain, and beautiful tales of love that brought joy to my heart, filling it with more light still. The stories were being told by waters that welled up from the depths of the Earth, as though love had been transformed into life-giving streams. But what I heard most frequently were stories of passionate love, followed by painful farewells that rang out from the Earth’s depths.The accounts meshed and intersected, as though every particle of soil was now a story that I was hearing together with every other.

“Then I felt dizzy again, my sick brain about to explode. I pressed my ear more tightly to the ground in the hope of hearing about me. I heard my name and Youssef’s being repeated over and over. Then everything went silent. Before I’d heard my own story, my light went out, and I entered once more into my dark delirium.

“I’d like to be able to remember my life in my mother’s womb. If my body could obey me and repeat its journey through love, dance, and life, its rhythms could tell the whole story. I don’t know how I ended up choosing you as the person to tell my story to.You aren’t the only person who’s urged me to talk!

“One time, Anisa said to me: ‘Stories are what birth us. Stories are our mothers, Basma.’

“And now I want to be birthed again by my story.”

Chapter Three

The next morning, I trembled as I read about what the storm had done the day before. I tried to get Youssef to talk to me about the state he’d found me in, but he put me off. “However, I don’t want to do that to you. “I’ll finish the story for you, although words are like threads that

82 BANIPAL 70 – SPRING 2021

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