Today is the day. The alarm echoes throughout the dorm and I hear murmurs as we collectively wake. The room reeks of stale conformity. I breathe it in as I shuffle to the end of the bed and collect my black burka. The movements around me are static-almost robotic- I guess that’s essentially what we are. Robots.
Just as I finish slipping on my black gloves the second bell of the day sounds: inspection time. Mirrors are a thing of the past, vanity is forbidden amongst women. Subsequently I have forgotten what I look like. I have no identity; I have no soul, just two numb eyes forbidden from truly seeing.
As my turn for inspection approaches I become increasingly nervous. At the Matron’s command the Jihadist dorm leaders drag the young woman in front of me into the whipping corner. I fight the urge to look. The thump of the whip followed by her piercing scream still manages to penetrate my body with fear no matter how many times I witness it.
The mandatory exercise demands I shake my breasts to eliminate the possibility that I am wearing a bra. Then the Burka measuring, glove checking and uncomfortable frisking ensues, this dignity-stripping act ensures I am in no way a source of temptation. For this reason men and women are entirely segregated. The only time I bore witness to the male city was on transportation day. Through the cracks in the wooden cart I could sneak glances at the industrial capital pumping out power. The sight was overwhelming for eyes that are used to seeing nothing. An array of new smells, sights and sounds lay before me, tormenting me before they were snatched away again. It was not at all how I imagined. Some men looked like dishevelled shells of their former selves, hunched and sullen, worn down by their superior role; in this way we cannot be wholly segregated.
Since then all I have seen is the dorm where I subserviently wait to be ‘bought’ from the Islamic State to be a Man’s loving and deferential wife. The basis of this segregation is supposed to be to protect women and ensure ‘respectful’ family homes are preserved. Every night, however, I fall asleep to the lullaby of women painfully whimpering. I can still remember hearing my sister cry for help in the neighbouring bed. Her young, beautiful face, once so full of happiness and hope, then full of fear as she knew what awaited her. I was the protective older sister of the naïve, innocent girl, but then I was powerless. Anger has passed, grief has passed, now only the memory remains. To them she was one of many, to me she was all I had left.
I was fortunate not to be born into this hypocrisy, unlike many who know no other life. I am old enough to remember the past, where religion meant growth, liberation and freedom. There is nothing I can do with this knowledge except take it with me. Today is the day.
I file into the canteen, all that can be heard is the shuffle of feet and clang of cutlery. Conversation is strictly forbidden to eradicate the possibility we may arouse a Protector. By suppressing the original sin-women-they help Males control their God given desires, and ensure we adhere to these evangelists without a cause.
All I can taste is universal fear. I can barely stomach my food alongside the array of pills. I will not benefit from these where I am going. Today is the day.
A Protector asks me to follow him. I feel the surrounding women’s eyes steal a glance at me before they shoot back to the floor. In that impermissible moment of contact I can sense their overwhelming sorrow. Sorrow for me, sorrow for themselves? I cannot tell.
As my gut churns I clumsily shuffle after the Protector. Today is the day. I have been bought. I will soon be handed to my purchaser who will take me to the city and use his sexually inferior possession as a means to gain social status and respect. He will become a plentiful man who is fulfilling Allah’s desire. I will be the mother to his children, a sex slave in his bed, a servant in his house; anything he wishes, and nothing I control.
I am escorted into the square, a white walled room. My veil is removed for the first time as the towering, dark haired man in front of me inspects me. He smirks in approval as I bow to his feet, yet I do not know what he truly thinks. We all have to hide our thoughts, and in that way perhaps we aren’t so different. He turns and confirms the transaction with the Protector giving me my one and only chance. I seize the Protector’s knife. As I have planned innumerable times I lunge towards the Protector. He falls. I see the man’s mouth move but I am too entranced to hear. I stab him too regardless. His eyes meet mine as he slumps to the floor. I realise I am screaming.
I leave no legacy behind, no victorious revolution, just an independent, isolated rebellion that saves me alone. It is selfish, I know that, but in this dystopia no one is selfless, no one can afford to be. I pierce myself and blood begins to seep through my clothing, but I feel no pain. Today is the day. I am free.