Strict Upbringing

by Joaquin I.

line

The original German version of this story is available here:
Strikte Erziehung

(1)

Nurcan and Cansu prepare to leave. It is late. Both go into the dressing room. The school is to begin soon. The sisters of 13 and 14 call for their brother. He has to accompany them. “Ahmed is late again today,” says Nurcan. She lifts her burqa, which both girls wear even at home, and takes a deep breath. Cansu has lifted her burqa as well, and has taken two black ball gags from the dresser. “Wait, I’ll help you.” Nurcan opens her mouth and Cansu puts the ball into her sister's mouth.
Both would rather prefer a scarf as gag, kept inside the mouth by another scarf tied around the head. A scarf doesn’t cut into the lips. But at school the gag is going to be removed, and rubber balls dry fast and are more hygienic.
Cansu is now gagged by her sister. Both lower their blue somewhat washed out burqas and wait for their brother. As he arrives he lifts each burqa to see if his sisters are sufficiently tightly gagged. Nurcan’s gag he tightens further. One sound from his sisters in the street could mean a penalty, which would mean fewer ration points. Besides that Ahmed works for the government. He knows how the surveillance works. His colleagues from the police are everywhere. A good upbringing teaches girls from a certain age to be silent and disciplined. Since childhood he has known this.
Ahmed goes to his wife, Fatima. Fatima is a tall woman who hides her face and body beneath a burqa. “Fatima you are soon going to be alone in the house. I would like to blindfold you, it is the best for you.” He carefully takes the tall woman’s burqa off. Under her burqa Fatima is quiet. Her husband has gagged her to avoid her voice to be heard. A good looking woman with brown eyes appears, who might need a hairdo, because the burqa has ruined her hair. He guides her towards a chair. Leather cuffs are attached to the legs and the arm rests of the chair. Ahmed ties her to the chair. Fatima does not resist. When he blindfolds her with a black silk scarf, she nods just before her world becomes dark. Finally Ahmed puts the burqa over her body again. “See you” he says cheerfully and opens the door. The two girls follow two steps behind. Fatima is left in the darkness beneath her burqa.

(2)

The smell of spring is in the air, as the three stand outside the door. Here and there two or three leaves are seen on trees and bushes. The school is located in the Gallus quarter of Frankfurt. The three has to walk for ten minutes passing old buildings, which has passed their best days. In the streets all the women are wearing a burqa or a niqab and walking behind the men. Rarely a woman is seen without company. It is not only the women of non-european immigrants. No, the european women as well wear a burqa or niqab in public. Since it became custom that all women and girls are gagged outside the house, order has ruled in public places. This custom is so old, that Ahmed cannot remember, how public life in his city was before. Anyway he has become fond of the gag obligation. At home once his wife Fatima without being asked had opened her mouth and said something. Since then Fatima wears a gag beneath her burqa at home as well. It was terrible to think of, if she had spoken in public. The ration points are soon gone, even shopping for small things.
Ahmed and his sisters arrive at the school. The street outside the school is sparsely trafficked. Since the reduction of oil supply most of the traffic is bikes and small cars. At the big iron gate many girls in burqas are assembled. A number of teachers in black niqabs receive the girls. Ahmed hands over his sisters without a word. He knows the teachers are gagged beneath their niqabs as well. A girl school is forbidden area for Ahmed. Even as their relative the custom make it unthinkable for Ahmed to take a step into this space reserved for women.
The girls quietly line up for their classes waiting to go to the class rooms. The teachers in their black niqabs take the lead and the girls follow to the class rooms. Inside the teacher takes off her niqab, unfastens the strap and takes the gag out of her mouth. An attractive woman in her middle thirties appears, cleaning her gag at the sink, and hanging it next to her niqab. The young ladies take off their burqas and copy the teacher. Nurcan and Cansu now recognise Annika and Birte and say hello. In the back off the classroom is a sink where the gags are cleaned and a wardrobe to place things. The pupils put their burqas on the clothes hooks. Slowly the class comes alive.
Mrs. Maier, the teacher, knocks the pointing stick against the blackboard. The noise quickly silences the class. “Ladies, sit down!”

(3)

Meanwhile Ahmed walks alone back towards the house. Life in the streets has increased. He stops for a moment to watch the scene. The women look like a multitude of coloured spots. Here is a bright red burka and there a beige niqab. Other women wear veils in green or black. A fashion trend for this year is not visible to Ahmed. Suddenly a woman with an unusual veil catches his eye. She is presumably - considering the law - gagged. As a member of the authority he assumes she is. Covering her entire face is a scarf of orange colour, looking opaque, but not entirely. Anyway she does not walk like someone wearing a blindfold. To complete her head covering she wears another scarf on top tied like scarves normally are. It is not against the law to walk around like this, but it is very unusual. Her entire head is covered in silk. As she passes Ahmed she momentarily turns her veiled face towards him. In seconds she has passed and disappears in the crowd. Continuing his walk home Ahmed wonders who might have accompanied the silk face, if any.
Ahmed is back at the house. Fatima under her burqa turns her head in the direction of Ahmed when she hears someone entering the room. He takes off her burqa and looks at her blindfold and her gag. It really isn’t easy to be the only man in the family. Ahmed's father had been wounded in the war. After his return both his sisters were born. But the parents died early. Now he has a family with two teenage girls and a stubborn wife. But he loves his stubborn wife. Everytime he takes her blindfold off the eyes of Fatima sparkles like a precious present he has just unwrapped.

(4)

He unbuckles Fatima’s leather cuffs, takes her blindfold off and unties the scarf that keeps her gag inside the mouth. “Darling, coffee please,” he commands in a friendly tone. Fatima smiles as she goes into the kitchen, and Ahmed puts the wet scarf, which was used as gag, in the washing basket.
Before filling coffee in the coffee-machine she drinks a glass of water. Even if she is used to wearing a gag for prolonged periods the scarf in her mouth has made her thirsty. When Fatima returns with the coffee and biscuits she sits down again. Ahmed takes a blindfold of soft black leather from his pocket and puts it on her.
Fatima is used to only seeing when it is absolutely needed. Ahmed pours the coffee for her. “Tonight Bernd and Klaudia will be visiting. You have to cook with only Nurcan and Cansu as help.” “No problem,” answers Fatima thankfully. “With the two troublemakers I am soon to be finished.” She is looking forward to an entire evening without a blindfold, and further Kladia and she could chat. While the men eat and drink it is not likely that the women in the kitchen have to be gagged. Her hands have sensed the bowl of biscuits. With a direct hit she puts a biscuit in the mouth, coughs and reaches for the coffee. “How is the cooking skills of the two progressing?” Ahmed asks. “When they really try, they are allright,” Fatima answers. “But sometimes they don’t want to.” In her voice sounds resignation. “They must learn to be obidient.” Ahmed lights himself a cigarette and holds the package in front of Fatima. She has had good training. Even with her eyes covered she finds the package at the first attempt and pulls out a cigarette. Ahmed gives her light. She inhales deeply, puts her head back and blows the smoke out. Ahmed wonders about how confident her movements are despite her blindfold. Even the ash always falls in the ashtray. Fatima become serious. “I am your obedient wife and I take care of your sisters too.” “You are a stubborn wife!” - - “... but only only sometimes!” is Fatima’s sharp but thoughtful answer. She takes two more puffs from the cigarette and puts it out in the ashtray. Ahmed is glad she can’t see his fascinated look. Even if she can’t see her cigarette, somehow she knows when it's finished. He takes her blindfold off so she can clear the table. That far his confidence in Fatima's abilities does not reach yet. “We have to go shopping,” he says and gives his wife a wet kiss, which she passionately answers. Her tongue finds his, and his finds hers. Afterwards he produces a scarf from his pocket and knots it. Fatima laughs and opens gladly her mouth. Very gently he pushes the cloth between her teeth and covers her mouth with a second scarf.
While Fatima uses the toilet, Ahmed goes to the bedroom cupboard and finds the dress for his wife. The solid wood cupboard is used as dressing room for his stubborn wife. All of Fatima’s burkas and niqabs hang inside, as well as gloves and different kinds of gags and blindfolds. There is a pump gag as well, even while rubber is very expensive now. Rubber designed for air inflation is practically impossible to find. Ahmed has used his connections to get the pump gag. There are piles of silk scarves. Small scarves to fill Fatima’s mouth and larger scarves to tie around the head. Ahmed takes two elbow long black gloves and a niqab from the cupboard. He helps Fatima putting on the gloves. At the wrist of the gloves is a small chain which Ahmed connects to Fatima’s belt. Fatima now hardly is able to move her hands which are prevented to move out from the body. Then he ties the niqab around her head. Her wife is now properly dressed. Her attractive body is not visible and it is suitable to be seen with her in public. While Fatima somewhat hindered in her movements looks for a suitable bag Ahmed goes to the kitchen to fetch the leather blindfold used by Fatima while drinking coffee.

(5)

Ahmed has a good salary from his government job. The family has a small car of their own. It does not belong in the fast lane but fits nicely to the current conditions. He is one of many office workers who reads the publications before they are published. Most of the time the work in the office is simple and boring. But even then the salary is good. He can afford a car while there is war. In a time where the front line in the Middle and Far East moves unpredictively and the country is shattered by terror attacks from the enemy the press must be closely watched. Enemy propaganda in our own newspapers may ruin the moral of the people.
Ahmed opens the car door to the passenger side to help Fatima entering with her hands chained. She puts the bag on the floor in front of the seat. Before Ahmed starts the engine Fatima leans towards him to help him blindfold her. It is natural to her that she is blindfolded during the drive. Ahmed starts the car and drives towards the city center. The drive is uneventful. Ahmed has nothing to say and Fatima in the passenger seat is unable to speak.
Ahmed has to start at the drug office. He has got this months drug ration card. All male citizen without an abuse record receive a card for an amount of marijuana or hashish and alcohol. When his wife has annoyed him, e.g. by her public behaviour, then Ahmed has reminded her that he might have something to please her at the end of the month. Fatima is aware of this, so she behaves more modest in public. She thinks about tonight after the cooking, then she and Klaudia would like to smoke something. Then they would enjoy themself.
The drive goes through the business quarter of Frankfurt. A couple of houses still show traces of bombing. Because seemingly normal people packed with explosives could leave a trail of blood Ahmed has lots of reasons to believe that something is wrong with the society and the enemy has infiltrated the system.
He parks the car outside the drug office, takes his ration card from the bag and kisses Fatima on the clothes covering her head. “I’m right back.” He shuts the door of the car and locks it. Fatima wonders if Ahmed is getting their drug ration for this month. “Is there marijuana for this month?” she speculates under her blindfold. She prefers it for the ordinary hashish. Hashish makes her feel tired after a very short while.
Ahmed enters the drug office. The hall is packed with people. A woman with an orange scarf and another orange scarf tied as face veil flows in the current for the exit passing him. “Strange,” Ahmed thinks “Is this the veiling fashion for summer? Or is it the same woman again?”
At the counter it is less crowded. A bureaucrat whith thick glasses and the attitude of a man who knows his importance takes Ahmed's ration card, disappears for a moment, and then puts a brown bag in front of Ahmed. Ahmed thanks him and looks at the content while going towards the exit. In the bottle is alcohol. Small packages of alufoil contain the hashish and then there is a small quantity of a substance with a greenish colour which could be mistaken for tea. “Fatima is going to be happy,” Ahmed thinks knowing what his wife like. For shopping Fatima has to accompany him. He unbuckles her blindfold and takes it off. Her eyes seem to ask what he has got from the drug office, but Ahmed avoids the begging curious look in the eyes of his wife and says nothing.
The shelves of the small shacks surrounding the drug office, which serve as food shops, are well filled fortunately. It wasn’t always like that. In previous months the supply of several food products were short. Fatima holds the bag which Ahmed fills with the products they need for tonight. The line for the counter is long and as Ahmed is looking towards the counter he sees two shapes leaving the shack. One of them has her head covered in orange cloth. Upset he turns to his wife. “Did you see that?” Fatima is surprised and under her veil says something unintelligible in the gag.
During the drive home he continously has his mind on the orange experience. Fatima again wears her black leather blindfold and is buckled in her seat. The houses pass by as he is occupied by his thoughts. Was it the same woman three different places, or is this kind of veil the coming trend? Strange it was anyway. Ahmed sees a considerable number of cyclist ahead of him. He decides to take the route through the old tunnel. This route is going to be faster. He switches the lights on and drives into the tunnel. Orange! Very few burqas or niqabs have this colour. Suddenly he steps on the brake confused. Fatima is caught by her safety belt and murmurs something into her gag. Ahmed turns pale. A moment ago he had seen the road in front of him. Now it is gone! The road behind him where he has just been is gone as well. In front of him is a black wall. Ahmed doesn’t know what has happened. He doesn’t care if it was a terror attack or something else, he has to get out of the tunnel. He puts the car in reverse and accelerates in panic. Fatima becomes worried beneath her niqab. Something must have happened. Ahmed rushes backwards out of the tunnel, stops the car at the side of the road, and tears the blindfold and the face cover of her niqab away. Fatima sees his face is white as chalk. He takes the gag out of her mouth and says “Gone! The road was suddenly gone!” “Nonsense!” Fatima answers annoyingly. She has never seen her husband in such a condition. “Put my veil on before anyone sees that I’m unveiled”. She moves her hands towards her face but is stopped by the chains of her gloves. Ahmed complies. But he does not gag her again and the leather blindfold stays on the dashboard. Fatima feels better wearing her veil again but is still annoyed. “What happened?” Ahmed answers “Suddenly there was a black wall inside the tunnel!” “Turn on the lights then!” Fatima replies sharply. But she feels Ahmed is afraid and something must be said. “Drive into the tunnel once more, then we will see.” Ahmed can hardly think of anything more unpleasant, but he will not admit it to Fatima, so he starts the car. The passing of the tunnel does not cause problems. For Ahmed the situation now becomes embarassing. “It was real Fatima! The car behind us was gone as well.” “Yes I believe you,” says his wife. But something must had happened inside the tunnel. Ahmed does not try to cheat her. He is afraid. He parks the car in front of the house. “Remember, you are not gagged,” Ahmed says before leaving the car. “I’m aware of that,” his wife says and stays silent until she is inside the house.

(6)

They both empty the bag in the kitchen. Fatima waits until her husband has removed her gloves and her niqab. While changing clothes she asks “Is there any mari...?” Ahmed interrupts “Yes there is!” “Splendid!” Fatima answers. “But first you have to prepare the food for the evening. And I have to fetch the girls at school.” He looks absent-minded at the clock. “I have to hurry.” He heads for the door. “... and me?” Fatima asks perplexed. Ahmed shatters, it takes him a while to comprehend. “Sorry.” Fatima is sitting down in the chair with leather cuffs for the arms and legs and smiles towards her husband. First Ahmed buckles her hands and then goes on to her legs. Fatima feels how loose the cuffs are and says surprised “... the arms tighter, darling,” as she sees the distant look in Ahmed’s eyes. He seems to be unaware of what he is doing. “I would like the pump gag today please, but you have to pump it thoroughly,” she tells Ahmed in a high-pitched voice. He doesn't seem to notice. Ahmed gets the gag. He pumps a few times to fill the gag a little. “I beleive you have experienced something in the tunnel, but when you open the door over there it is the world outside and not a black nothing. We continue our conversation later,” says Fatima before she holds her mouth open for him. Ahmed puts the gag into her mouth and ties it at the back of her head. Then he pumps until the gag fills her mouth. Next he gets the blindfold, the one she had on in the car, and fits it on her. Fatima presses her chins into the soft gag. She enjoys to wear this exclusive gag. Her husbond loves her. But Fatima is worried. She has never seen her husband in such a mood. Before he has always made sure that she was waiting bound, gagged and blindfolded until he was back in the house. Now he is haunted by ghosts to an extent that he forgets her. Besides, he has forgotten to put the burqa on her. Something must have happened inside the tunnel.

While Fatima enjoys her isolation, Ahmed staggers to the school to collect his sisters. It's still a lovely day in spring and the streets are busy. “Orange,” he says to himself. He thinks of the silk covered face while he observes what is happening around him. Green washed-out cotton burqas and black niqabs are passing him. Not a single woman he seen wears an orange veil. Certainly not such a special veil. In the morning and when shopping he had seen a lot of these veils. Or was it on each occasion the same woman? Further the woman had not been acting cautiously. Women with their eyes covered are often not able to see much through the fabric. The scarf covering her face seemed to be made of silk. And the silk of normal quality is rarely so thin one can see through it. Silk with see-through quality is so delicate, it becomes very expensive. Women with their eyes veiled are normally accompagnied by a man to guide them. Who would allow her wife to wear a silk veil anyway? It is impossible to buy! A pump gag like Fatima’s is expensive. It is possible to buy leather, but rubber and latex is badly needed in the war industry. He arrives late. Outside the school Nurcan and Cansu are waiting. Their teacher in her black niqab makes a small nod and leaves. “Come,” he says nodding to his sisters. Nurcan and Cansu covered in burqas start walking slowly behind their brother. “Tonight Klaudia and Bernd are visiting. You have to give Fatima a hand in the kitchen,” Ahmed tells his sisters, like if he would get an answer from the women being gagged beneath their burqas.

(7)

It is evening and night falls over Frankfurt. Cansu and Nurcan have taken their burqas and gags off and placed them in the wardrobe. They are working with Fatima in the kitchen. As government employee Ahmed has equipped the room with quite expensive things. There are four cooking plates and a small discwasher. The kitchen is furnished in light wood everywhere. Ahmed has made some of the work himself. If not, it would have been too expensive to make it like Fatima wanted. Even a wardrobe, which is necessary for women in certain rooms, is covered with wood panels. The kitchen wardrobe now contains the three burqas and the three ball gags which the women have to put on if male strangers are present. The meal is nearly ready. In the sink the dishes are piling already. The first pots are cleaned by the three women. The food is kept warm in the oven. The door bell stops the three women in their work. Fatima fast reaches for the ball gags hanging in the wardrobe and hands them out. The three women gag themselves. Then they put on their burqas and are ready to show themselves to Bernd and Klaudia. They all leave the kitchen. Ahmed is at the entrance to welcome his guests. Klaudia wears a black niqab with eye veil. Her eyes are completely hidden. When her head is moving the contours of her face are showing beneath the black cloth. Fatima is surprised. It seems Klaudia is wearing the thickest eye veil she has ever seen. She is hardly able to see. After Ahmed and Bernd loud and in many words have greeted and the gagged women have embraced, the men go to the living room and the women to the kitchen. Klaudia walks very cautiously trailing Nurcan who is walking in front of her. When all the women are inside the kitchen they undress. Fatima can hardly wait. As soon as the ball is out of her mouth she says full of admiration “Please, show me your veil!” Klaudia takes her niqab off. Appearing is a black ball gag fastened with a leather strap and buckled at the back of her head. Nurcan helps her to unbuckle it. “This veil is fantastic. Try it on!” Fatima, Nurcan and Cansu try the veil, and Fatima with admiration points out “Fantastic. Ahmed will have to guide me!” “You can barely see the outlines of your surroundings,” Klaudia remarks. Fatima walks to the shopping list and tries to read. She keeps moving her head closer to the list. “Now I can read it.” Nurcan and Cansu grumble “We would like one as well!” Fatima interrupts “Listen. You know the rules: From six you wear burqa and from eleven you are gagged in public. Niqab and eye veils are only for adults. You have to wait until you grow old enough.” Nurcan and Cansu grumble disappointed. Klaudia cleans the ball gags at the tap and laughs inside her head. Her blue eyes sparkle when she sees everything is warm and ready in the oven. “Now we shall hurry,” says Fatima. “Cansu, Nurcan, are you the ones to serve?” Cansu opposes “I take the items out of the oven, then Nurcan carries it away and serves.” Nurcan turns to the wardrobe and takes a ball gag, which Klaudia just has cleaned and placed in there. Nurcan puts the still moist ball in her mouth and Klaudia helps her to fasten it at the back of her head. When it is sufficiently tight Nurcan puts on her burqa and nods. Nurcan walks to the door and Cansu hands her the first tray with dishes.

In the living room Bernd and Ahmed are absorbed in conversation. Ahmed has evidently told Bernd about the woman with the orange veil. “No, I have never met someone like that,” says Bernd with surprise. “Orange, what kind of colour is that? A scarf tied over the face? On top of that another scarf? And she was unaccompagnied?” “Yes, I haven’t seen a man by her side.” Bernd is surprised and somewhat unbelieving.

Nurcan puts down the tray with the steaming bowls. Then she leaves. In the kitchen she takes off her burqa, takes the gag out of her mouth, cleans it and sits down at the table along with the others, who meanwhile have laid the table. “In half an hour you serve the desert and the alcohol, but now let’s eat,” says Fatima. When the kitchen has been cleared she is going to enjoy some time with Klaudia smoking. Nurcan and Cansu have to go to bed then, she thinks.

Meanwhile Ahmed and Bernd continue their conversation. The plates are empty and they are in a good mood. Ahmed has told Bernd about his experience in the tunnel. Fatima has difficulties in believing him and Bernd says he is crazy. Further they talk about Klaudia’s new face veil, which has struck Ahmed as well. “How was it really before?” Bernd hesitates and says “Before what?” “Before it was ordered that the husband is responsible for the correct dress for his wife, and violations means no more ration cards.” Now Bernd looks at Ahmed as if he doubts his mental condition. “It has always been like that!” Nurcan brings in a new tray, puts the kitchenware on the old tray and leaves with the tray. Meanwhile Ahmed is continuing his line of thoughts “And at our opponents? The countries we are at war with? How do their wives dress in public?” Bernd looks surprised at Ahmed. “The war ended several months ago! On the radio tonight is once again one of those parades paying homage to war heroes, which are transmitted live.” Ahmed feels once again like in the tunnel, feeling he is out of control. As he was in a car sliding towards a wall. “Have you been drinking?” jokes Bernd continuing “Since the beginning of time women have been veiled and gagged. How it was before weaving cloth was invented, the historians are still trying to find out.” He opens the first bottle and fills Ahmed’s glass. Ahmed is uncertain about reality again. As soon as yesterday the newspaper had a map showing the war frontline. He turns on the television. The nine o’clock news is running. Ahmed feels like he gets a blow to his head! The presenter announces: The peace treaty will be signed in two days. Ahmed turns the television off, struck by the words. In addition he is sure that some weeks ago the pre-print text for the compulsory use of veil and gag was on his desk. Again this uncertain feeling: Something is wrong.

While Ahmed questions reality in the living room, the women have finished eating in the kitchen. The dishes are in the dishwasher or washed in the sink. Fatima and Klaudia are now entering the nice part of the evening. Bisquits, ashtrays and drinks are ready on the table. Cansu and Nurcan are hoping the adults are going to let them smoke as well. Fatima is very reluctant about this. “For you two it is time for training,” Klaudia says with a knowing smile. The three others don’t get it. “When you want to wear eye veils later on, then you have to learn to do certain things while blinded.” Klaudia has got up and has gone to the wardrobe. She has found what she is looking for. Coming back to the table she is carrying two black leather blindfolds. Nurcan and Cansu understand. They take the blindfolds and cover their eyes with leather. “Later, when wearing eye veils, you’ll thank me for at an early stage to have taught you how to move in the darkness,” says Klaudia, while Cansu buckles her blindfold. Klaudia in turn holds the cigarette packace in front of the two blind girls, and observes how the girls after an uncertain beginning are able to get the cigarettes out of the package. “Not a bad start!” Klaudia applauds the girls. Fatima, who has stayed in the background so far, ignites a lighter. Generously she holds the flame to their cigarettes. Klaudia’s eyes reveal that she thinks this is too easy. Fatima reads her thoughts “... it is yet too difficult Klaudia!” Then she lights Klaudia’s cigaret.

Meanwhile Ahmed thinks about, what has happened with reality as he knew it? Bernd has gone to the bathroom, which leaves him sufficient time to try to put his thoughts together. There has to be a logic reason for it all. Does his department wants to test his loyalty as employee? The news on his television could have been manipulated with the right equipment. But how about the tunnel? The women with the orange veils could be coincidences. Perhaps Bernd had been wrong about his statement, that women always have been required to wear veil and gag in public. Or is there a connection between all these experiences? Bernd is back, which ends Ahmed’s considerations. For Ahmed one thing is sure: This evening he is going to ask Fatima for advice.

In the kitchen Fatima has decided the girls have go to bed. “Keep the blindfolds on,” she orders Nurcan and Cansu. With a gesture Fatima tells Klaudia to make herself a joint while waiting. She puts her hands on the shoulders of the two girls and guides them through a second door to their bedroom. As Fatima gets back Klaudia is ready with the joints. She leaves it to Fatima to light them.

(8)

Later it is time to leave. Ahmed shouts into the kitchen “Get ready, it is time to say goodbye.” With some difficulty and a little out of balance the two women go to the wardrobe. Their faces show a tired selfcontended look. Fatima now clearly feels that Klaudia has used plenty of marijuana while making the joints. It takes a relatively long time for the two women to gag themselves. Then Fatima helps Klaudia with the intricate niqab and eye veil before she puts her own burqa on. Now the sight of two women being high has been hidden. Fatima insecurely guides the niqab covered Klaudia out of the kitchen and out to Bernd. When they have left Ahmed says “Darling, we have to talk!”

Ahmed could not have chosen a worse moment. Bernd has drunk most of the alcohol. He is sober and Fatima is totally intoxicated. “Darling, when did the war end?”

“Mmmpf,” it sounds from under the burqa. “Oh sorry darling.” He removes Fatima's burqa and unbuckles her gag. “When?”

Fatima’s reddish eyes shows some confusion. “Darling, you speak nonsense,” Fatima mumbles. “As long as I remember we have been to war against ...,” she stutters “... someone,” she closes the line. She urgently needs a chair. “Come, let’s have a seat.” Fatima goes without waiting for Ahmed into the kitchen and drops down on a chair. After placing the burqa and the ball gag in the wardrobe Ahmed takes a seat at the table as well.

“Darling you have to buy me such a veil,” she continues her talk.

“Fatima be serious please. Bernd told me tonight, that the war has been over for several weeks.”

Fatima laughs “You men must have had something to drink and smoke as well.” She puts up a silly laugh.

“No darling,” Ahmed thoughtfully promises, “I’m sober and the television told it as well. The war is over.” He takes a bottle of water and he and Fatima both take a big gulp. Fatima is about to understand that Ahmed isn’t joking.

“Strange,” she says wondering. Ahmed is worried. “The woman with the orange veil, the tunnel, and suddenly the war has been over for weeks.”

“When we drove into the tunnel I was blindfolded, but I believe you, something must have happened in there. But I fully believe that yesterday the war was not over,” Fatima slowly reflects.

“I work for the government, our work is important to the war, we would have been told. But now I can prove, that I’m not insane. Thank you darling.” Ahmed caresses the hand of his wife with affection. “I’m not well,” Fatima answers Ahmeds affection, “but let’s talk about it again tomorrow. Klaudia’s joints are so ...,” she mumbles something, “I think I am going to bed.” Ahmed believes in himself again. He is not insane. Fatima knows that the war is not over. He accompanies Fatima into the bedroom where she drops down on the bed completely exhausted.

“I’m back in half an hour. I need some fresh air,” Ahmed says and kisses his wife.

“Then I’ll be sound asleep,” his wife replies. He looks in the bedside table drawer and finds Fatima’s blindfold for the night. He puts it on her and gives her an affectionate kiss, which she answers just as affectionately.

When he comes out in the street it is still quite warm. It looks like it has rained a little. It is moist and a little mist rises from the street. Ahmed observes the lights of the city. The city is covered under a milky gleam as he sees it lying wide open below him. The house of Ahmed is placed on a hill from where there is a good view over the houses below. A sea of lights spreads out in front of him. It seems totally quiet. Perhaps because the war really is over. And perhaps because Fatima has proven to him, that he isn’t insane. The tunnel, the sudden end to war, the issue of wearing gags in public and the woman wearing orange. All this has for a short while questioned his sanity. But only for a short while. Fatima knows something is wrong. But what is wrong? The woman wearing orange ... ‘the void’ in the tunnel ... or if the woman with the orange veil is chasing him? Or is it all coincidences? Ahmed walks down the street thinking. Suddenly he sees an orange figure disappearing around the corner. Without thinking he follows her. He can’t do anything else. He has to know if he has been mistaken. Now he sees her. Yes it is the woman with the orange headscarf and the orange veil. The orange figure seems to have noticed him and increases her speed. As his chase takes him around the next corner he is suddenly in a dead end street. She has disappeared but she has to be here somewhere. The street is, he realises, a delivery entrance, and ends at the concrete wall of a shopping area. The large gate is at this time of the day of course closed. The orange woman cannot escape, she has to pass him! But where is she? She is gone, but anyway she has to be here. Ahmed is standing against a wall thinking. The delivery gate is closed. Has he failed to see another door? The wall is made of grey rough concrete and constructed without much care. There are even small holes here and there. A crack sounds, and another hole is seen in the wall. “Someone shoots at you,” it goes through Ahmed’s head. Obviously a silencer is used. He has no intention of becoming a trophy. Ahmed knows from the army what bullets can do. He drops to the ground and crawls for cover. Besides a garbage container on wheels there is nothing in the entrance. He attempts to find out where the gunman is, but in vain. It's too dark. Again this awful sound and sand falls on Ahmed from the wall above. “Silencer,” it goes through Ahmed’s head, “but a lousy gunman.” Ahmed leans against the movable container and makes it roll towards the street opening. Somewhere in this direction the gunman has to be. He can only hope that the penetration of the bullets isn’t too deep, and thus the steel container gives him sufficient cover. The container squeaks as it moves. Now the shots are heard clearly. The container vibrates for each hit with a sound like a bell. Ahmed worries if he has heard a 'plop' before each hit. This would indicate that the gunman is quite close to him. He should have been an easy target. Now he has reached the street with the container. He leaves it in the middle of the street, and jumps down in the ditch on the other side. He rolls down the slope. His plan has succeeded. He is unharmed. But it surprises him that no more shots are heard. Strange: Any professional gunman would have finished with a shot that couldn't miss. But nothing has happened. Shaking Ahmed gets up. Except for some blue marks nothing has happened to him. He is at the bottom of a two meters deep ditch. He is out of shooting range, at least he hopes so. But to be on the safe side he doesn't take the route past the supermarket to reach home, but takes another route. Slowly and in deep thoughts he walks home.

(9)

When he enters the bedroom Fatima is sound asleep. Some strands of hair cross her face. The black blindfold covering her eyes contrasts her pale skin. Ahmed sits down at the window and stares out into the black night. What he has experienced gives little meaning. There is no road map or no table of contents to the confusion in his mind. The view outside changes between Bernd, the woman in orange, the tunnel ending in nothing, Fatima who leans towards him in the car to immediately make him put on her niqab and the bullets that hits the concrete wall. Time goes by, he has no idea how long he has been sitting like this. Slowly he lets the impressions banging in his head fade. Until now he hasn't noticed that he is completely exhausted. He just lies down in the bed next to Fatima.

Ahmed has a dream. He is back at the window staring out into the night. The black of the night slowly transforms to his bedroom. He looks into the bedroom and sees himself and Fatima lying there. Fatima still wears the black blindfold over her eyes. But her skin seems to be more flawless. Next to the bed the woman in orange appears and orders him to get himself and his wife ready to travel. Strange, he should have been surprised and scared to see her appearing. But he behaves as if the appearance of the woman in orange and the order for him and Fatima to be ready to travel is something completely normal. He gets up and wakes Fatima. "Let her blindfold stay on, and dress her," the woman in orange orders. Fatima wants to know who is present and what is going on. Ahmed only whispers in her ear "No questions Fatima, we leave." She gets up. "Don't forget the gag," she says in a sharp voice. Ahmed finds the remark somewhat embarrassing. But he is sure Fatima again is bursting with curiosity. He quickly goes to the cupboard and finds a large and a small scarf. "Open up, darling." Fatima opens her mouth and Ahmed crumbles the small scarf and puts it into her mouth. Quickly he has fitted the second scarf to avoid the gag falling out. During all this the woman in orange is standing unmoving in the corner. Her veil is completely opague. Ahmed is feeling she is watching them closely, and laughing from what she sees.

Now Ahmed has covered Fatima as the custom requires. The woman in orange gestures Ahmed that he and Fatima should follow her. They walk out in the street where Ahmed has to pay close attention to Fatima because she is blind beneath her niqab. The woman in orange walks up to a van and opens the side door. Ahmed helps Fatima up inside the van and the woman in orange guides her down on a seat. She puts straps across her arms and feet. When she is securely strapped and unable to move the woman in orange closes the sliding door of the vehicle.

As Ahmed enters the front seat, he is impressed by the sight. The van is fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The woman in orange takes the driver's seat. "We take both of you to the other side," she says. Like it was completely natural she then removes the veil from her face and starts the van. Ahmed is confused. He finds it close to obscene that an unknown woman unveils in his presence, and what is the meaning of her words? "I don't understand," Ahmed puts forward, before he cuts himself off. Meanwhile the van has stopped abruptly. The woman in orange pushes two switches and an intense flash of light appears in front of the van. The street outside the van has disappeared and it seems to be standing in a white room.

"A warm welcome to the nearly real world." The woman in orange gets out and looks over her shoulder at Fatima inside the van. "We leave her like that for now. You can then explain to your wife yourself." Fatima stays in the van and remains unmoving covered beneath her veil. Ahmed is confused. The van is now parked in the white room. He is not sure if he is still dreaming. Unbelieving he observes his surroundings. "This must all be very confusing to you Ahmed," the woman in orange thoughtfully says. Meanwhile she has removed all her orange clothing.

"My name is Farah," she starts "and what we see here is the gate." Farah laughs insecurely. Ahmed stares at her unbelieving. He still doesn't understand anything. Farah gestures him to follow. Through a door they enter a sort of control room. "Here," Farah continues "is the gate. To the dream world. Routine 1 to 23 are the relaxation routines. At routine 43 the fetish segment begins. Here for example, read the description of routine 64 "A world where an alternative life style exists. All women are veiled in public, and are further gagged ...,"

Ahmed interrupts "That is where I come from."

"Right," Farah continues "these parameters are constant. Our customers - or rather the mind of our customers, is connected to the routine. After that they enter the entrance area, where we are now. Female customers submerging into this world must, before they pass through the gate, take a burqa or a niqab in the dressing room. All other values they can decide themselves. We carry a supply of all kinds of gags as well. Virtual to emphasise! When you are equipped you may enter the selected routine."

"Then we are not real at all?" Ahmed's face still shows a kind of disbelief.

"No, you, Fatima and everyone else exist only inside the computer. I'm not real either. I'm on a couch about twenty meters from here. Through a special helmet I am connected to the computer. I'm not a customer, but the technical manager of the software. Some customers have already got themselves virtual friends. You know Bernd and Klaudia?" Ahmed nods. "Unfortunately an unlikely error happened. The computer malfunctioned and the routine got stuck when you drove into the tunnel. A total crash was avoided. We entered that this event never had happened. But we couldn't erase it from your memory. Even your wife believed what you had experienced, and then it couldn't be erased from her memory as well. My team and I noticed something unusual was going on. You developed an identity of your own!" Ahmed walks restless around the room. "Bernd and Klaudia entered new values. The war should be over. You had to accept this value, but somehow you had doubts, and Fatima couldn't accept the new value either. Our tests showed that even simple recollections couldn't be erased from your memory anymore. Both of you were suddenly not programmable anymore."

"The law that all women have to be gagged in public... I was right about that," Ahmed mumbles.

"True, but before that Bernd and Klaudia had told us that you two units possessed extraordinary abilities. Because of that I wanted to meet you and Fatima personally. My veiling might have been a bit flashy but you have never been programmed to let something like that attract you."

"But why did you shoot at me?" asks Ahmed startled. "It was the final test. When you came home and still was able to remember the incident, it was the signal for us to take both of you out of the routine." Farah continues subdued "We have never intended, that you and Fatima should have an identity of your own."

"How about my sisters?" Ahmed interrupts.

"They are normal units, only you and Fatima have your own consciousness."

"What is going to happen to us now?" Ahmed asks thoughtfully.

"You can't enter the real world, because you are not made of flesh and blood. You are software units, and I have attached myself to your world. Where we are now is the gate to the routines. This means we are still inside the computer."

"I think I understand," Ahmed says. "Fatima and I have to go back."

"I had hoped, that you would say like that Ahmed. I can guarantee you that we won't manipulate the asignments of the routine any longer."

"That would be nice," Ahmed said seriously. "It is not especially funny when reality suddenly is torn to pieces. But Bernd and Klaudia should stay as our friends."

"Bernd and Klaudia will join you in designing and constructing your world."

"I am going to get Fatima. I have a lot to explain to her," Ahmed says. Farah and Ahmed leave the room and return to the van where they open the sliding door. Fatima is still hidden beneath the veil and strapped to the seat. Bernd unstraps her, takes her veil and blindfold off and pulls the gag out of her mouth. "Darling, there is a lot I must explain to you." Fatima looks at Farah and her husband in disbelief.

 

Written by Joaquin I. invierno71j@yahoo.de

Translation from German to English: Bo_Emp