My Family and Other Terrorists

by Marijana

Preface

An in-depth observation of terrorism grown throughout human kind and its absurd effects on family relations. A sensitive and warm story about individual contacts, empathy, aging, stigmatized mental illnesses and common distresses. Well induced thriller elements with metaphors and symbolic meanings. Fine-tuned humor underlying and criticizing modern industrial society and its tricky values. The book will trigger many thoughts about developing your own capacities, enduring and reframing the reality.


1 DUSK

In summer days like those, urban infantry becomes a hostage of the clenching heat, stuck between the sky and pavement ovens. Humble, grape-clustered commuters try to hide under the moderate available islands of illusive shades at bus stations, while the fully exposed walkers helplessly withstand sun's radiation driven by their life agendas. With no sanctuary for the destitute pedestrians, all outdoor activities become soaked in sweat. The ultimately loyal corporate foot-servants submissively hold on to their suit and tie costumes, while the less automated individuals opt for a diverse selection of robes and shields.

Dusk was sitting in the same room which, before her nestlings had fled away to some other zones, used to be hers. Her entire home life style remained confined there, just as if the long gone living arrangement had never been changed. Although everything seemed ordinary, her life was somehow tending to take a gloomy turn and her brain's recent, but acute, swallowing mental disorder was slowly taking its toll.

The cheap, long not maintained air conditioner in Dusk's apartment emitted a very strange smell, and once she persuaded herself that it was unhealthy to use it anyway, all she had left was the natural ventilation, as a bogus source of chill.

So, there she was, with her more than ten-years old sofa bed, the fifty-eight years old soul, and with yet another bizarre corporate document resting on her laptop screen for translation.

Dusk briefly gazed at the neighbouring modern block of buildings. And next to that window, in the corner, stood her notorious cabinet with a hefty drawer designated for the piling up, pending bills and tax fees. As she glanced at it, the pain in her stomach and chest spread, releasing a choke of desperation.

In her quarantined work-from-home environment, Dusk continued typing, with a background TV-live buddy. The news about the latest terrorist attack made her stop working. She watched and listened because she wanted to see and hear. Her mind was triggered. It started processing and interpreting the meaning of terrorism as a social phenomenon. Has it been a companion of human race, trenching the targets both as preys, and troopers; as members and sufferers, all infected by the same universal syringe?!

Dusk's new, inner misery urged her to deal with the questions about terrorist tentacles and how they found ways to peak, sneak and infiltrate in her family bubble.

The whole thing seemed so huge, with such a tremendous impact on humankind in general; with many questions about its roots, consequences, reasoning, functioning, and the programmed recruits.

And, there was Dusk, just another climacteric female leftover, lolled in her sofa, meddling with language interpretations and fighting with the discomfort in her stomach. After a period of tranquillity, being once again trapped by her own colourful luggage, this TV news just added fuel to the fire in her mind.

The first terrorist lethal species she had met in person, were her parents.

As far as she could remember, it was sometime around the age of five. Back then, she could not have known that the exposure to terrorism was actually a recruitment procedure; an enlistment of envoys and executors; a trickery used for managing the families.

Her unawareness and the steady merging with a terror group did not make Dusk immune to the hits; on the contrary. Every punch was more painful, leaving lesser space to hide and preserve the sense of belonging and safety, within her house-terrorist-hold. Too often was she left behind to endure, just as any dispensable consumable. And the more punches she got, the more expedient terrorist grew inside her.

After being infected by that concept, it took quite some time, before she became a real follower and a subtle achiever. Usually, terrorists do not perceive themselves as such, and if they sporadically do, the pain of the respective historical wounds, drives them away from any remorse.

But, Dusk's infection was also followed by the guilt bug. She would often wear sackcloth and ashes, yet never hesitating to neglectfully disregard and betray her vulnerable, helpless, biological dependants. Terrorism was her parental model and a handy self-gadget. Her doings were rooted and shaped by that paradigm, and the absorbed patterns which had been served to her by those she trusted and loved the most as a child.

Now, it was her time to settle up accounts. Of course, Dusk knew and was profoundly aware of her guilt. But, what she did not know was the duration of her sentence, and if she was ever be pardoned.

After all, could and should terrorists ever be pardoned? Has she ever pardoned them?

So, there she was, stuck with this burdensome haversack. It was full of her children's piled, code-locked memory packages, pressing her chest, causing the pain that spread like a cloud. So many issues and questions were stacked there, haunting Dusk like her own black shadow, like hints of some implied, judgemental and scary messages.

Dusk badly needed to handle the ongoing mind agony which gave her physical shivers and tremor. The growing endless hole settled in her upper stomach, and the captivating fears, were a reason enough to call her old friend, Forger.

"Forger?"

"Oh, hi there, old chump. How's it going?"

"Listen... I need to see you as soon as possible."

"Aha. Well, let's see; how about tomorrow at one?

"Fine. I've been waiting for quite some time, you know... now, now things got out of control."

"Listen, hunn... now worries, gotta go now fix some things, but hang on, and see you tomorrow. OK?"

"Yes, thanks, see you then".

This calmed her a bit. Forger was a person and a spot where she could seek remedy; perhaps a shredder that could suck all her chaos. And now, for the first time, she also wanted to speak to him about her handicap; an alleged condition planted by her mother that deprived Dusk of being a normal human being. Dusk has never been definitely positive if she was really limping on her right leg.

As far as she could remember, with a reason or not, her mother would have often got carried away by some kind of a pandemic fury, giving Dusk amuck looks, yelling at her about her right leg; sometimes using the cudgel and hitting the leg real hard. So hard that Dusk could not walk. Being as small as she was, she thought it was a way to cure the thing, as mum knew best.

When she started her primary school she was unsure about the visibility of her handicap and whether it was evident or not. Usually she could not help behaving as a cripple, which was not without some profound consequences to her entire life. That phase was just a stepping stone to the intrusion of terrorism into Dusk's DNA.

2 DAWN

At one o'clock that very afternoon Dawn had to be in the nearby Welfare Centre to deliver as a certified interpreter. This time she was to do the so called "chuchotage" technique. A kind of simultaneous interpreting, with no headphones and microphone, just whispering into the listener's ear, transposing the speech as it goes.

Dawn was hired for the job in the case of an Egyptian, who had been issued a restriction order for contacts with his daughter and son, in response to the allegations made by his wife in divorce. Their meetings were to take place under the "controlled" circumstances, in the Welfare Centre. Dawn's role was to be there and interpret to the Egyptian whatever his children said, in the presence of a social worker.

So, preparations for the job started. She had a shower, styled her hair, and selected the appropriate outfit for her fattened figure. Dawn took her vanity case, the magnifying mirror, and set on the sofa to put on some makeup, basically the blush and lipstick.

Her hands were shaking, and the entire fixing procedure seemed as if done by a zombie rather than a sane person. Dawn was undergoing yet another panic attack. Frequency and duration of those attacks raised no resistance in her mind and body. She simply handled her condition quietly, ashamed of it, horrified and with a strong feeling of humiliation because she was affected by a disability.

Once ready, Dawn first took her dog out for a walk, fully business-like armed. Her poor poodle followed her, trained to do whatever it had to in a very fast and time-saving way. Afterwards, Dawn went off to the agreed address. She expected the assignment to be easy, and herself recuperated by then.

But, the devil never sleeps, and on her way there, Dawn fell on the street. For a few seconds her face was almost touching the pavement. Her entire body seemed to be helplessly fighting to restart its already poorly operating system. During those instances, the shock was so horrific, leaving her with a feeling of complete disorientation. And, as she was stretching there on the street, the prevailing feeling was the one of ultimate abandonment. She was petrified by the need to lean on; a provision that has not available to her. Unlike her body, her infected mind somehow did not stop. It kept processing and construing, sending clear and killing messages about her perpetual inner homelessness and destitute, evidencing all that with the current position of her very self; the broken self, lying there, on the street. In the end, Dawn's dormant mind-palace lodger, her inner, mental handyman, grouchily budged, opened the self-preservation kit, and started the recovery process. Dawn slowly moved to get up on her feet, when a passing-by stranger stopped and offered her a hand. She gratefully took that hand, still traumatized and shaking. With a candid concern about her well-being, he stood close by her side. Dawn thanked, reassuring the stranger that she would be good; and only then, he left. As she did assemble, Dawn noticed that the right leg of her trousers was torn and knee was bleeding. With hands trembling, she took out a hankie from her bag and put it underneath the trousers. The incident seemed like yet another sinister and blood-freezing sign of her problem, adding up to the flooding mental disorientation. And just as any robot would do, Dawn brushed the trousers, and moved on.

Even under the given circumstances, her mind just switched as she entered the venue. With an apologetic, polite smile on her face, Dawn gave a brief and laconic explanation about the fall, the trousers, the knee, set down next to the client and concentrated on the job, performing to the best of her knowledge.

As things finished, Dawn wanted to rush back to her safe sofa-base, frantically looking for some peace with her canned, ever loyal spirit-friend.

Yet, for some reason, the Egyptian wanted to stay with her; to hear her advice, tell her about his fears and hurdles in the pursue of the parental rights. And there they were; the two levitating strangers, exchanging some seemingly personal, but nonetheless universal emotional contents.

The reason why Dawn was so responsive to this guy, considering her psychosomatic status, was probably his extremely tender and loveable behaviour to his children which she witnessed during the meeting. Also, she was appealed by his admirable level of honesty and the worrisome burden which was so heavily depressing his eye lids. All that inevitably opened doors of Dawn's compassion casket. Although his presence on her way home was inconvenient, she was aware that he needed someone to lean on.

As he was following her back home, it happened again. Dawn stumbled once again and fell. However, this time not so heavily, and with him by her side, not hesitating to sincerely engage, and heartily help her get up. It was the second encounter in a single day where she sensed a stranger's care for her bodily safety. And for a second, it crossed Dawn's mind how humans had an inborn sensitivity to visual effects; they could easily relate to physical incapacities, while mental drawbacks had a completely different status.

Eventually, Dawn parted the Egyptian with a handshake and truly appreciative looks. The rest of the day was yet another portion of time she had to cope with, using all available notorious, canned, ammunition just to fight the torment. This abuse of alcohol could be a part of the destructive terrorist heritage, or else, an alternative exit created by her mind palace's handyman.

That day she had to deliver a seven pages long translation. So, there she was again, on her sofa, with her laptop, a telly, and a cup of coffee.

Once she was done, the only thing she yearned for was a canned "flashlight" that would temporarily alleviate the darkness from her numerous tunnels.

3 TWILIGHT

As the morning arrived, before opening her eyes, Twilight first felt the familiar devastating, upper-stomach and the right leg ache.

For a few seconds she really thought about quitting, and just doing it; but, the well-trained copers normally don't act accordingly. Be it out of a simple social decency, or a responsibility to the descendants, the "not doing it", always prevails.

With thousands of inner bees wildly bustling and hurting her, Twilight prepared for the meeting with her psychologist.

Walking to his place, she felt a dose of trepidation as to the effectiveness of his delivery.

After her brief exposé, the psychologist looked at her compassionately for a while. That was so healing.

Then, he started.

"Our minds process and interpret the psychographics; they output the readings regardless of their impact. We all need to keep re-entering and scanning the hideous, robust and cumbersome mind fortresses, looking for alternative arrangements and spaces."

Twilight began with her eyes fixed to the floor.

"On the top an oak china closet, my mum used to keep a cudgel, which was presented to me as an apparent cure for my supposed limping. She used this offending object far too often and unlimitedly. The pain which followed was dreadful.

My father was a follower of a bit different up-bringing clan with a final goal to cushion my needs, dismiss my own self, as if I were a troublesome organism imposed on him."

While talking, Twilight would burst into tears from time to time, and the psychologist would offer his Kleenex, not taking his eyes from her.

"I was pretty much confused with my vague disability; I desperately looked for a helping hand. Terrorists turned the recklessness, arrogance and torment, into my family pattern."

The psychologist was listening to her attentively and Twilight was feeling that they had some kind of a cognitive and emotional bond.

His reply was, as always, very soothing and elaborative.

"The word terror originates from Late Middle English; terrorism was used in the late 18th century, during the rule of the Jacobin fraction in the period of the French Revolution. So, this is really not a new animal, it is rather an elephant which has been haunting us.

Terrorist actions causing massive attacks are more visible and alarming. It is about the massiveness; the number of physical fatalities. It is the bodily injuries, and the deadly, visible scores that count in this matter.

But the issue building up to the micro terrorism impact, is the severity of the invisible infection that soon turns the exposed ones into the "spokes" and the "do-it" persons. The micro-terrorists, and their terrorist-to-become offspring, are simply infected, with hardly any options to make a turn.

Howsoever disguised, the family terror, keeps destroying the integrity, the self, the identity of the children, producing eventually dysfunctional household cells. Ultimately, terrorism pilots to the collapse of the micro homogeneity, sometimes creating individuals susceptible to broader, horrific terrorist attacks. It is all like a social clockwork.

Families should be suitable both for kids, as well as for adults. And that is the very idea the terrorists disrupt and defy."

Twilight listened attentively.

"But, how come the desperate victims choose to be cruel? Where is the boundary between tricking others and being tricked by our own minds?

How to handle and interpret the highly sophisticated, deep-rooted messages we receive? How come the recruitment process of family members is so contradictory? And why we nag later about the reckless acts, cruel and hurting behaviour of our beloved inheritors, whereas we had been the very implanters of that same behavioural model?"

"That has to do with individual interpretations, which frequently offer almost no tools to grow unaffected perceptions. From my experience, I think all it takes is simply to reconceptualise.

Nothing starts from the point where you stand. The hereditary tape decodes messages, reshapes them; all within the capacities of the given mind kit.

It is also about the reinvesting in the family, instead of being passively poisoned and tucked up by the terrorist aggressive aloofness. Not just for the sake of a created comfort zone, but for a broader and indeed more humane goal of passing an assertive behavioural pattern onto the offspring.

There is just one way of being a good family member. That means playing your role aptly. Otherwise, you'll be hurled back into the terrorist lap."

He was talking and Twilight was sitting on his sofa like a five-year old child, with drooping shoulders, physically distorted and freaking out to hear the magic word that would change her condition.

She felt the panic creeps overwhelming her body and mind, again.

Although her response was the one of a seemingly collected person, Twilight was just an obedient, yet craving infant, sitting in front of her psychologist.

"Yes, I can relate to that."

Twilight looked at her own humbly positioned feet.

"But, let's get back to the yesterday's event. So, you told me that you fell, tore your trousers, and with a bleeding knee went on and interpreted?

How, I mean how could you do that? Many people would just turn back, cancel the job..."

"I don't know. I was just like a soldier; had to move on and do it. Couldn't afford cancelling a job."

He raised his eyebrows and kept silent for a while.

Twilight started sobbing, with her face in her hands.

"I have no one. I'm so scared because of my disability. What if it prevents me from working!? What will happen to my children?"

"But your twins... what were their names, Lace and Grace?

"Yes."

"So, Lace and Grace are not that small, they are grown up young ladies. Aren't they by your side? I mean specifically now, when you feel as you do? And what about your eldest daughter?"

"I didn't tell them anything. And, after all, our entire relationship has been like an echo of the terrorist concept."

After yet another burst of crying, she continued.

"Speaking to them about this would be so narcissistic and unjustified. Because I see them like... like my own grown-up babies that I was supposed to nourish...but, obviously I kept leaving them wretchedly behind to survive all of my terror.

Was I so reckless, so driven by the terrorist inside me? And most importantly, have I... have I really ever mindfully understood the basic meaning of parenting?"

We both kept silent for a few seconds. Eyes of the psychologist showed deep concern. Watching him, she was all in tears. So often, during their talks Twilight had a feeling that he had the part she was missing. And more often than not, she longed to captivate and internalize the feeling he had for her.

"You know, I see my daughters wearing their own, hand-made, bullet proof, zipped up, coded, self-preservation vests.

They are survivors, trying to handle the boiling pots of the genuine anger inside. And this anger comes from their mind palaces whose contents were deviously contaminated by others... mainly, by me."

At that point she was simply driven by the need to keep talking, to follow her stream of consciousness.

"You know, I cannot say for sure, but it seems likely that my family has been entrenched in this terrorist pattern for as far as remember.

For example, my mother was a member of the Child-Mutilating Gang. She was an easy pick to be recruited. Her family was killed during the War, when she was like... about fourteen. With lots of space for manipulation, she had been receiving the messages which, opened door to her new shouldering habitat. She learned that terrorism could be a handy tool.

And as for my father, it was a different story. He joined the Red Brigades, after revealing the mighty idea of communism in the Second World War. Being quite of a skirt chaser, and a person pretty much focused on indulging himself, there was this specific kind of absenteeism and remoteness. With age, he became more of a caring father, and specifically a grandfather. When he died, I felt a deep loss."

    is where she stopped.

Twilight felt the creeps of her panic again. She shivered, afraid of drifting away from her current impelling problem.

The psychologist did not say a word. As if he could understand what was going on, he approached her, kneeled down, held Twilight's hand.

"You are ok. You have yourself, with so many ways to perceive and reconstruct."

Twilight nodded trustingly.

"I have never told you some details, the events... about me... Maybe you'll reject me for this?!"

She looked pleadingly at him.

"I would never reject you. I'm on your side. Actually, you have the two of us. We don't abandon. Our mission is to reach that long frozen concept of a battered, weak and handicapped wretch; to unfreeze it slowly, get closer to your immensely resourceful self, and eventually, if not fully, at least lightly, embrace it; to coach you how to dare open the doors of your self-palace... and you know... you have a mighty rich palace with lots of precious rooms you've never opened. Yet, through these tiny door gaps, the content behind, has always managed to creep out and guide you. You see... you're sitting here... you've been surviving."

Twilight just stared at him. Perhaps it was the idea about her handicap that prevented her from moving throughout the self-palace and benefiting from the many undiscovered rooms inside!?

When she started, her eyes were hitting the ceiling, the floor, the walls, restlessly roaming about.

"It was some time in the early eighties when I joined the Hezbollah. I was probably not even aware of that at the time... They simply started sending me the instructions, using different means, finding their way to my interface. By far, the most detrimental orders were those which affected the parental part of my mind. As a mum, there were times when I would be hurled by an overwhelming fury; the fury which I would splash onto my children, acting like any properly trained terrorist, simply ignoring my children's feelings, dismissing their needs, stepping on their most sensitive body parts. At other times my mental and physical absenteeism would produce neglect and lack of minimal care."

Twilight stopped there for a few seconds with crying eyes and permeating sadness.

"These are just some of the many, terrorist actions I've exercised against my own offspring.

But terrorism hits back, serving you with your own fabricates. It's like an endless self-propelling process.

You remember that I tend to believe that Joan converted into radicalized Muslims some ten years ago; she's been even wearing a burka... at least for the most of the time when I happen to be at their household. Safely hiding her face from me. Maybe it's her way of coping.

I have no right to disrupt my daughters' fragile survivorship patterns. I had done my share long ago.

That's just how things are. And that is why I cannot interfere, or confront them now with my handicap."

"I understand. But, what I see is the feeling of guilt which drives you below any level of human dignity.

Nobody is born as a terrorist. It's the circumstances that do the meddling.

Human race is intrinsically a fan of kindness, and good guys. I'm positive about that.

What happens after our birth, those external shots we get later on in our lives, that's something every individual is left to deal with; to wrap up the events in personally acceptable packages.

In your case, you have this never-ending need for self-flagellation, self-pitting, and self-distressing.

You don't forgive yourself. You perceive the self-forgiving as yet another reckless act towards your "victims". You have no available space for self-forgiving; it's like your own tacitly imposed conviction.

Since you know me as a non-believer, I don't want to preach about the forgiving concept; I mean, to me it's a concept over-exploited by religious middle men.

Instead I would rather talk to you about the reconstruction; perhaps you could try sometimes to observe yourself from the outside; as if you were at the same time an actor and the audience.

Try to distance yourself from your own box within which you function, open its cap and look into it as an outsider. Experiment, and see how you'll perceive yourself then, simply dare. Dare to have the right to be angry. Dare to set up your limits. Dare to forgive yourself, just a bit, one crumb at a time. Dare to leave the empiric blueprints you took on."

There he stopped, watching her with compassion and anticipation.

"But you need to share this situation with your daughters. Your condition might be quite serious. You don't want to scare them, but you need support now.

You have a lot of weight to pull and there's nobody to help you.

And don't worry, don't panic, I'm here.

Try to understand that you have a someone. But, as I have told you, more importantly than me, there is your own capable self.

Have more confidence in it and try to cherish it. It's a wonderful self, and I'm sure that deep, deep down you know that. Let it speak up to you. Let it be active, let it be a participant; not just an uninvolved observer; let it hug you, lead you, let it voice its bosom words. In your case, that is of course easier said than done, but just start thinking about this idea."

He stopped there and stared at her with those piercing eyes.

She kept silent. She knew that it would take a lot of digging and reconstructions; a lot of discipline and time.

Then he continued in a more enterprising manner.

"Now, back to our rescue plan.

Please take the current situation seriously and do speak to your children. Don't be afraid of that because of the luggage you keep dragging from the past on your already overburdened back. Let the bygones be bygones. Don't shy away from being their mother. Whatever they do and how they react now is their own responsibility. We all make mistakes. And, trust me, they do, too.

We have to see what to do with your leg concretely. You can always come and talk to me, but I think that's not enough to get rid of that pain. You also need to get some medical treatment, for the leg.

Let me see. I have this colleague, perhaps you could go and see him?"

"Of course, I also feel that's something I must do now."

Psychologist took a piece of the paper from his notebook, and wrote down the name and phone number of the doctor.

"Ok, thank you so much.

Now, I must leave you. I must go, I have a job to finish.

I'll call this doctor immediately to make an appointment."

As Twilight got up, she could hardly stand on her right leg.

He took her by the right arm.

"Are you sure you can walk. I'm worried about you."

"Yes... yes, I'll walk carefully. Don't worry, and... thank you so much."

Before parting, they exchanged the looks which seemed like the ones of a terrified child and a carrying parent.

So, she left, and headed to complete another job on time, at the nearby scheduled address. This time she had to verify some contracts as a certified translator. Twilight was insensible to anything around her, focused on getting ready to confront the situation.

Some five minutes later, before arriving to the location, she called the number the psychologist had given to her and made an appointment.

After that, Twilight calmed a bit. She will see an expert; he'll surely know how to help her.

Soon after, she arrived to the location of her business engagement. Twilight could not find the entrance, as the building was one of those with many offices and labyrinths on the ground floor. So she called her agent who then navigated her to the venue.

She got inside this flashy company facility, making sure her appearance seemed composed.

Everything there, starting from the dress code, high heels, suits and other achiever-gear, was so artificial, and somehow unfriendly, just like any other modern corporate casemate.

The secretary who took Twilight to the first floor, was a humble, yet ambitious student; a nerd ignited by the socially imposed self-confidence performance, compelled to remain a yes-man to her mentor.

The mentor showed up in a very costly clothing, decorated by fancy costume jewellery. She was very kind and respectful to Twilight. After exchanging a couple of the meaningless but necessary small talk and moderate appropriate jokes, they entered another phenomenal office, corresponding to the idea of a bombastic successful establishment. There, they waited for the client. It was an Arab guy, posh and very polite; socially defined as a professional.

Having finished the job, Twilight left those cyber-looking, and money-making premises. Walking back home she thought about the pending translation, and a class scheduled with one of her ever loyal students.

As soon as she dragged her body back home, she set on her sofa, feeling the creeps and shivers in her shoulders and arms. Although she completed all the tasks, steered by the fixation to be always fit for the job, the restless leg syndrome drove Twilight to cry, scream, kneel, plead, freak, tremble. Later in the night, she turned to her only loyal friend - the cans.

4 SUNRISE

The same pain woke up Sunrise the next day; an immense stomach, mind and leg pain, with daunting misery running all over her. And again Sunrise hesitated whether to do it once and for good. Right there and then. But, against all odds, Sunrise just went on; anyway, "the doing it" would always be there, she thought. So, she started with some simple moves, had a shower and set down. Sunrise knew that ultimately she would have to cope. As a trained soldier, she managed to finish another translation and started preparing for the meeting with the doctor.

While commuting to the private medical centre which was realistically too expensive for Sunrise, she was trying not to be bothered by that money issue.

Sunrise managed to get a grip of herself, and put on a polite smile for the nurse who awaited her. Fifteen minutes later, the doctor came.

At first sight he seemed like an experienced, knowledgeable expert; a medical wizard who, after being over-flooded with other people's pains, has formed an outer crust of a screening scrutinizer.

Anyway, his know-how was bolstered by the grey hair, and his encash by the classy king-blue shirt and trousers, the brown leather belt and shoes. Consulting room was plain, just like any other office. He sat opposite Sunrise, with a view of the window behind her back.

Not long after Sunrise started talking, she burst into tears, trying desperately to reflect her interior guts in an as readable form as possible. Sunrise suspected that nobody, other than her fellow sufferers, could ever really understand the mess inside her. All this specialist sitting in front of her could really do, was to properly classify her case, put it in a right drawer, which would in turn, output an appropriate pharmaceutical juju.

He looked at her with examining eyes; asked her several specific questions, and then Sunrise could feel that he started processing the information. That was a good sign. He was listening and Sunrise was delivering her narrative. In the end he asked her a question which seemed more like a conviction.

"How about staying in a hospital for some time?"

Sunrise was profoundly stunned. It took her breath away. Her first thought which went like a swift cold snake from her head all the way down to her toes was "am I really that sick". And that idea was absolutely paralysing.

"No, no... it's not an option, I have to work, my children depend on me."

"Well, do you have any income, I mean, are you employed?"

"No, no, I'm a freelancer... if I don't' work I don't get paid. And that's also something that drowns me, leaving me just enough time to take my nose out of the marsh, to get a quick breath; that's how I operate; and my children's subsistence literally clings on me. I mean...I feel so responsible for the twins; they have no one else. It is now, in this period, that they need my help; they need support in order to get hold of their own engines; they're still studying and their future fully depends on my help. You know... I often feel like, like... do you know the Tom and Jerry cartoon?"

He nodded.

"Well, I feel like Tom defencelessly trying to close all the leaking holes in his room. I'm simply burnt out by that, by everything...I don't have enough limbs to close all the pits.

I don't know if you understand, but... but... I feel I've reached a point where I cannot respond. And that terrifies me. Cannot play the role of being a balanced self. And this limping only underpins the helplessness."

Her whole elaboration of the circumstances was followed by crying and babble.

Doctor hesitated for some time, looking at her in a professional and assessing manner.

"If you stay in a hospital, maybe later on, we could plan some kind of a disability pension for you...I mean... hospitals are for people; you know?!"

"No, no... no way. That's just impossible."

"Ok then, let's leave that aside for now.

Have you ever had similar episodes?"

"Yes, several times."

"When was the last one?"

"Four years ago."

"Also in late spring?"

"Yes, in springtime."

It made her wonder how he knew that.

"What did you do then?"

"I appointed a visit to a doctor. She was a very good doctor in the City Hospital, gave me some pills and they worked."

"Which were those pills?"

When Sunrise told him, he simply replied.

"You don't discard a winning horse from the race. Let's try with the same pills... and we'll see. I'll be on a holiday for a month, and after that... let's meet again. Let's wait and see you and your leg then. I know it hurts a lot now, but you must be patient, it takes time. You'll keep track, and we can always increase the dose, that's simple. Is that ok with you?"

Sunrise nodded, she paid for the session on her way out, leaving her wallet with just enough money to get the pharmaceutical supplies, and enough cans.

Intuitively, Sunrise felt she was never to see that doc again.

Once Sunrise came home, there was her sofa. And along with it, there came a drive for a call, for a contact, for acceptance, for a shoulder.

Sunrise called her friend, Hera, who was very euphoric.

"Hi Sunrise, what's up. Oh, you should just see me here in the cottage, arranging the flowers right now, with a big straw hat, it's wonderful! You must come here some time. How's it going with you?"

"Hera, I'm not well."

Sunrise just started weeping, and mumbling something in a broken voice.

"Sunrise, Sunrise... what's going on, what's wrong."

Sunrise couldn't speak for a moment.

"Sunrise? Sunrise... are you there? Sunrise?"

"Hera, my right leg... it's horrible."

There came another burst of crying.

"Tell me, tell me, what's happening with you, tell me all."

By hook or by crook, Sunrise's story found its way.

After that, Sunrise remained quiet for a while.

"Sunrise, why don't you come here? You'll feel better here. There's nature... you could stay with us for some time."

"No, no... thank you so much."

And Sunrise started crying. It was the self-pity, the neediness, and the thankfulness.

"I have to work. I just have to work."

"But, Sunrise, for Chris sake, how could you possibly work now?! The doctor wanted to put you in a hospital. You should be in bed waiting for the leg to heal, with your daughters around you.

I guess you have told them?"

"No."

"You're insane! You must tell them. How could you possibly not tell them?

You're really sick. I mean... your leg...it is just like, like any other illness. I hope you understand that."

"Yes, yes, Hera, I do, but... that's not how things work in our family."

"Jesus! Will you come here then?"

"No, no, I couldn't possibly, thank you."

"What are you going to do now?"

"Try to get some sleep and tomorrow I'll go to visit my mum."

"You are really so bloody unreasonable! How could you go visiting your mum in such condition? That's crazy."

"I must bring her the diapers and other stuff. I must."

"Isn't there anyone else to do that for you? Your daughters?"

"No, that's not an option."

"I have no words. Please, and this time understand me well; you must speak to your children. You understand that? They must know?"

"Hera, you can't be serious about me doing that?"

"But of course, how could you even ask something like that!?"

"Ok, I'll do it."

"But don't scare them, don't freak them out. Just tell them so that they can understand."

"OK."

"And call me. Call me any time... whenever. Let me know how you're doing."

Back in her silent space, Sunrise picked her trustworthy, dedicated, tinned friend, and not long after she fell asleep.

5 MORN

Her same old same old system was restarted. That day, Morn was to pay a visit to Joan's family and her mum's.

Contacts with her grandsons, where the only moments when all discomfort from Morn's body was simply swept away; they were like the sensitive Martians with antennas directed towards the world around them, esoterically cherishing every bit of affection and every new experiential encounter. With them, she indulged in the primal need to bond and exchange love. Those were also the moments when Morn could somehow reinstall her self-image.

Normally, Morn would borrow Joan's car to go visit her mum in the nursing centre. But this time, given her condition, Morn knew it was a mission impossible.

Morn took a bus to her daughter's place, navigated by her mind-integrated GPS which operated unaffected by the hullabaloo in the other parts of the brain.

Her son in-law opened the door, welcoming her, while Joan was changing diapers to Morn's younger grandson. Joan gave her a fair smile from the room, but Morn could not make out if Joan was wearing a burka at the time.

As usually, Morn took her shoes off, washed hands, and was ready to hug her grandsons. Her son in-law, Backer, asked her the habitual questions. He often seemed like a middleman in the imaginary communication between her and Joan.

Backer asked Morn the usual questions about her wellbeing, and the job. Morn always earnestly appreciated his queries, as they contributed to her own perception of someone who mattered.

This time, not as a translator, but rather as a communicator, Morn had to interpret her head-mutant state.

"Well, I've stumbled a bit. It happens. My right leg is not working properly and I'm limping heavily... But I guess...I'll be OK. It's just a phase..."

After appeasing mention of some further details, the medical referral for hospital, etc., even though Morn did her best to hush the possible turmoil, she could not help feeling like a bogeyman.

By that time Joan had her burka tightly on, entirely ignoring the conversation, while her son in law looked for a way out from the mine field he had unexpectedly entered.

Joan kept silent behind her outfit for the rest of the time, leaving Morn to wonder about the extent of her unacceptability. On the top of everything, Morn had a feeling that the looks received from both, were the ones of the auditors, screening primarily the aptitude to meddle with her grandsons.

At the doorstep, Backer saw her off, with a cold, polite, pretty much controlled smile.

And after that, Morn felt like a rag, realising that the whole thing was a detrimental failure.

Nobody mentioned the car, or her health issue, ever again.

As Morn went out, she felt the hooks ploughing through her mind unbearably. With the growing and deeper limping, she wondered if she would actually still be allowed to see her grandsons. But, that was just another useless, self-made, detrimental fear.

And so, while standing in the crowded bus with hands full of stuff for her mum, Morn impulsively took a double dose of the prescribed pills, desperate to release at least a small portion of the inner desperation. Before reaching mum's nursing home, she could feel the medication working.

With a hefty package of diapers and many other things her mother had asked for, Morn reached the place. The main idea was to hideaway the limping from her mum, as Morn childishly feared the consequences. Although her mother had been in a pretty bad shape for some time, she remained to be a demanding person. And, somehow, Morn could understand that. It was her irresistible need to sustain some kind of her precious comfort, some self-respect, importance and dignity; even more so, under the circumstances, where she was just another number, another occupied bed, another lifelessness.

As Morn entered her mum's room, she shook hands with her endearing roommate, said hello to the other two ladies in the next door room, and then she approached her mum. Morn kissed her in the cheek and noticed that her eyes were blurred more than before. For the first time, after only one week of not seeing her, Morn could notice that her whole body seemed to be vanishing, shutting down.

Still, there were some things that hadn't changed.

Her mum started talking.

After a long elaboration of her intestinal problems, blood pressure, head and other issues, she switched to another topic, whispering about her mates, the house intrigues and gossips. She stopped once she exhausted all the items on her agenda.

Then she wanted to see what Morn brought. In her meticulous way she unpacked and then repacked every single thing, applying her own enveloping technology, and putting the goods into the space she had dedicated for each particular item in her nightstand. Morn could tell that this time she was satisfied with the batch of supplies.

Then mum looked back at her.

"And you? How are you and the children?"

"All is fine mum, we're all fine."

"And Joan, Lace and Grace?"

"They're all doing well".

"Do the two study?"

"Yes, Lace and Grace study and Joan is very successful at her job. They are really good girls."

"Does Joan call you sometimes?"

"Well... not really."

"What can you do..."

Then Morn sighed.

"And your grandsons, how are they?"

"Let me show you their photos."

Morn's mum liked that a lot, making some humorous comments about them, and laughing at how cute they both were.

Morn took her by the hand and held her.

"My dear daughter. I love you so much."

"I know, mum. And I love you, too."

Morn stepped up, cuddled her forehead and head, and mum started crying.

"What's gonna happen to me?"

"Nothing, mum. It's just another crisis. It will pass. It happens all the time. We all undergo crisis."

Mum got that sombre look immediately and asked Morn if she was drinking.

"Of course not, mum, how could you even ask me something like that now. I don't drink."

"And your leg? You know that it needs to be treated?"

"I know mum, I treat it, daily... It's perfect."

Her mum had an urge to keep Morn attached to her as a single source of Morn's cure, and a person indispensable in her life. But, that kind of dependence had been long gone. Now, the hits with mum's stick were merely her way of communication and imaginary bonding.

Making a huge effort not to show the profoundness of her limping, Morn went out to the terrace of her mum's room for a smoke.

A nurse joined her there and told her that mum was not well, that they had all been trying to help her, and that they would let Morn know within days if it would be necessary to put her mum in a hospital.

Morn stayed, captivated with the reality, her own, her mum's, the painful reality booming in her mind.

As Morn came back into the room, her mum was asleep. Morn kissed her in the forehead, said goodbye to all her mates and left.

On her back home bus tour, Morn felt a bit better due to the medication, and in a zombie-coded way towed herself back to her sofa.

It was then, that something extremely peculiar happened. It was a situation beyond the comprehension of her reasoning.

There, on her table, just in front of her sofa, laid a message written in big letters: JOAN HATES YOU.

Morn looked around. There was nobody. Morn limped her way through all the rooms and opened the entrance door. Looking down the stairs she saw a figure wearing a ski mask, running like hell. Although Morn did try, chasing and getting hold of that creature that was simply far beyond her capacities. The only thing Morn managed to notice was the Hezbollah logo at the back of his tight black top.

As Morn closed and locked the door twice, ideas came flooding her mind. An unknown somebody had been there just seconds before she came. She set down on the sofa, took the printed message and looked at it carefully. There was nothing leading to the discovery of its origin.

At first Morn thought about calling for the housebreak, but then, supported by the very moderate but memorable experience with police, Morn quickly dismissed that idea.

Morn picked her mobile.

As Morn was dialling the psychologist's number, her cell phone was actually quavering in her hand. In fragmented sentences Morn breathlessly uttered what had happened. As always, the very sound of psychologist's voice had this curing effect on her. They appointed to meet the day after.

Morn put the phone down and opened her most reliable, intimate, alcohol container. Instead of jumping on it immediately, she kept examining the room to see if there was anything moved, replaced, making sure she was all alone on her sofa. Even though her dog was just a friendly and harmless poodle, Morn knew that in the case of another burglary it would definitely detect it and bark. Morn looked at the printed message again, just to verify if it was real, or if she simply went nuts.

Then, Morn gave a call to her old sweet heart, that she had split with some twelve years ago. Since they've been in contact occasionally, her call did not really come as much of a surprise.

He arrived half an hour later. Morn waited for him at the local bus station and rushed into his arms, leaning on his shoulder.

"Oh, Miles...."

The rest of their encounter was about her sobbing and frantic restlessness with severe limping on the way to the nearby café. He was looking at her leg worriedly and listening to her attentively, while Morn kept mumbling about her leg, the doctor, her grandsons, her daughters, the pain, the message... Then Morn told him she could no longer sit there, and asked him to keep walking for a while. Although hobbling, she believed that moving would cushion the inner cyclone agitation. To her misfortune, it didn't. After a while, Morn told him that she had to be alone, which was a blatant lie, since all Morn really wanted to do was to knock herself down.

He stood there confusedly looking at her.

"Are you sure you can walk home safely?"

"Yes, yes, Miles, I'll walk my way home. Thank you so much for coming. You are such a... such a wonderful person. Please excuse me for troubling you and thank you... thank you so much."

Before he could say anything, Morn put her arms around his neck.

"I'll call you. Thank you, thanks a million."

And they parted, but this time not for long.

It had always been like that with Miles; Morn could never really tell what he felt. He often seemed like a boy zipped up in his simplified version of the world where he felt safe. He preserved such setup just by submissively following the mainstream habits and rituals, and adding some spice to his neat life-arrangement, through many hobbies which coupled him with other people. Sometimes, Morn thought that Miles's only criteria for accepting those numerous others was just to be accepted. Features of the others simply seemed not to be within Miles's periscope.

But, Miles proved to be a true friend to Morn, and definitely more than that; fully devoted and ready to hold her lingering hand. Unfortunately, at the time, her state was unrepairable from the outside.

As Morn finally got hold of her safe sofa, she drank fast, trying to get to the point of the tranquilizing indifference as soon as possible.

Before dozing away, her very dear, exceptional friend and a colleague texted her, telling her that he was no longer in the roaming area. Even during his stay in Belgium, Boniface used to call her every now and then, just to tell her how some things in Brussels reminded him of her, and how he wished Morn was there. And that was so remedying; the validation which proved that she had preserved some of the fertile soil for the self-confidence in her distorted picture.

They spoke briefly on the phone, arranging to meet in two days. Morn left her limping exodus story for some time later, or perhaps for never after, which in their relationship wouldn't make much difference anyway.

    and Morn had something in common, and that was the addiction; actually her "alcoho" and his "foodo"-lism. When in action, consumption of their hooch was so fast and so frantic as if both had to silence their cravings speedily.

6 NOON

The next afternoon, Noon decided to call her daughter, Lace. And to her, Lace was another very delicate curve to climb, just as were the other two.

Some three years ago, at the age of seventeen Lace had started having serious problems with her mandible whenever she was to eat. And not before long, probably like most mums do, Noon could smell the handicap. Maybe because it was, just like hers, nourished with years, and just like Noon's, sustained by her own mum, the dodgy terrorist in disguise. There were times when Lace simply could not open her jaw to eat, and at other times she could not close it; and that was more often than not, a life threatening condition.

It's one thing if a parent is hit by a handicap, but it's a whole different kettle of fish when it captures your kid. Noon had secure techniques to catch a breath, but as for her child... she wasn't sure. Although Lace's pain was readable to her mum, Noon could no longer truly get hold of Lace's hand which was so, so very precious. That hand was lost, lingering somewhere, in some other, unknown spaces, helpless, tiny as it was, and all alone.

With time, Lace started physically disappearing.

Noon suspected that it was the Isis that sneakily and slowly recruited her, using the terrorist frequency which had been tuned in Lace's mind. It was an embracing anger ideology, an antagonizing tunnel, wherefrom Lace saw no way out. Lace must have felt that there was no reason to exit, as outside, the one and only thing awaiting, was her family.

Whenever Lace was let to come back home from Syria, Noon could notice her radical ideas and bodily injuries. Isis had her under their thumb. They got hold of her child's hand, instead of her.

Noon's intuitive guide instructed her just to stick to Lace. And Noon blindly followed that, sending regular notices which were mostly ignored in the beginning. However, months later, Lace started giving some hints about her own self reunion, somewhere else.

At the time of Noon's call, Lace was living with her boyfriend, someplace else, for more than a year. Noon truly tried to sound calm.

"Hi, Lace, how are you?"

"I'm Ok. And you?"

"Well, I'm not good".

"Why?"

Their conversation ended with her restrained support and acknowledgment of the situation.

When Noon hung up, she was somewhat worried about the impact of her delivery, yet reassured by Hera's advice that her children should know.

A phone call brought her back to business. It was one of the translation agencies Noon worked for.

"Noon?"

"Oh, hi. What's up?"

"Just as busy as always. We've sent you a document for translation. Please take a look and see if you could accept it."

Noon opened her e-mail and as usually, found a huge paper with a very short deadline.

For the sake of her financial situation, there was no option but to accept it, and work like hell. So, the process started.

Soon after, another agency called.

"Hi Noon, listen, will you be available next week to deliver simultaneous interpreting? It's going to last two weeks."

"Sure, no problem. Could you send an e-mail with all the details?"

"Of course, Noon. Bye".

"Bye, and see you there. Thanks."

Noon spent the whole day working as fast as she could. The translation was due by 8 the next evening.

Then, there was a phone call.

"Hi, mum. How are you? I planned to come today to pick some things as Ace and I will travel to visit his parents. Will you be at home this afternoon, around... like 4, 5 o'clock?"

"Yes, honey, I will. And please make some time for, 10 minutes for us to talk."

"Why, is there anything wrong?"

"Well, not really, I just want to talk with you."

"What do you mean by 'not really'? Is there something wrong or not?"

"Well, yes...".

When Noon finished, she could feel Grace being utterly taken aback and scared, probably recollecting the handicaps running in the family.

As a member of an anti-terrorist intelligence, SIGINT, Grace operated by means of technical equipment, distanced from any unwanted close human contacts. Grace often used silent signals, and most frequently just observational studies in her reports to the headquarters. It was an operational pattern Grace had adopted. Noon's guess was that Grace joined the group at the age as early as seven. And Noon knew it was Grace's own preciously developed preservation link.

Being, so physically fragile ever since her birth, and living in a limited space with her twin room-mate, Grace managed to connect with the group where she found shelter. It was a connection which helped her survive within the family nucleus. And Grace was undoubtedly one of the best SIGINT's recruits, with her pragmatic, yet very sensitive and delicate sensors.

Given her mode of operation it was more acceptable for her to process all information over the phone, than in person.

Noon walked her dog and coming back home she found the door unlocked. She slowly and fearfully half-opened it, not knowing what to expect behind. Another message? Another ski-masked guy? A face to face encounter?

"Hi, mum."

"Oh, oh Grace, Jesus! It's you. You scared me. Uh. I thought it was a burglar. Let me hug you."

Noon hugged her with huge relief. Grace, on the other hand, tried to keep distance, and get out of the clinch. As Grace was collecting the things from the once-to-be-her room, Noon asked her to sit down, which she reluctantly did.

"Listen Grace, I'm not well. I don't know exactly why, but I really feel horrible. Please try to understand. This won't be my permanent condition. It's just a phase. I'm a survivor and will overcome this. You know me, I've always survived."

Grace looked down with obvious unease.

"I know mum, but I'm simply scared. I don't know what to expect... will you also go to Syria like Lace... I just don't know what's gonna happen now. What does all this mean!? What's next? And that's something that horrifies me."

Grace was looking down at her knees, where she was nervously messing with her hands.

Noon started crying; it was the guilt and the incompetence that crushed her. Then, she collected herself in order not to lose Grace's hand, too.

"Listen Grace. This with me, it's gonna pass, just like one of the many episodes behind me, and you see, I'm here, coping. I'll be OK. You'll see. But... just please..."

And then Noon burst into tears, sobbing with her face in her hands.

"Please don't reject me, don't abandon me because of this. Please... I'll be OK. I've always managed to get a grip. It's just that now... now I'm limping; but that will pass, I know that. Nothing lasts forever."

There was a pause before Grace replied, on the verge of crying.

"Mum, I will not reject you, I'm not gonna abandon you. Now, that you explained all like this, I feel more confident. Don't worry, I won't leave you".

We hugged again on her way out.

7 AFT

A phone call woke Aft up. She saw a familiar number of her mum's nursery home. Before answering, a million thoughts arrived.

"Hello, Aft?"

"Good morning Maya."

Aft stopped there not daring to continue.

"Your mum had a brain stroke last night. We called the ambulance and she's in the hospital now."

"Oh. Aha. I understand."

Aft had to take a deep breath there.

"OK, thank you for calling me. Where's she, which hospital?"

Aft texted her daughters about their grand-mum's condition.

Then Aft sat on her sofa, with her mind switched to the robot-operational-mode, screening the backup options in the case of her mum's death.

Then, Joan texted back.

"Do you want me to pick you up, or to meet in front of the hospital".

That was so unexpected.

Aft was so moved by that message. Her daughter was there.

And before Joan arrived some half an hour later, Aft called Hera.

"Could you please lend me some money... just in case... Mum had a brain stroke again."

"But of course. Don't worry about that. That's settled."

Aft started crying.

"Thank you. Thank you so much."

Then, Aft received another message from Grace.

"Keep me updated about granny's condition".

Lace texted minutes after.

"So sorry, mum. Let me know if I could help."

Aft put the phone down, feeling covered by the most precious blanket.

On the way to the hospital, Joan inquired about her granny, and Aft laid down all the details with enthusiasm and appreciation for the concern.

Luckily, Aft found her mum alive.

Lying all curled up like a foetus, she recognized them. She looked so small and left without any fuel to keep fighting. Yet, she was hooked by Joan's presence, her bother, which probably ignited some extra power on her path to shutting down.

At first she talked coherently, asking Joan about the boys, Backer, her life, and then slowly she lost the picture and started mentioning things which made no sense.

Then a nurse came and asked for diapers, wet wipes and a baby cream for mum. Joan gave Aft the money to go buy all the stuff.

It was on the way back from the pharmacy that Aft became aware that she limped no more. She walked normally, even without a leg pain. The limping was gone.

When Aft came back, there was Joan, holding her granny's hand, standing by her bed.

Aft gave all the consumables to the nurse, kissed and hugged her mum.

Just a day later, she was to learn that it was for good.

Walking back into the apartment, Aft made sure there were no notes, no intruders inside.

8 EVE

When Eve received a phone call from an unknown number, she hesitated before answering. This, because there were many debt collectors who kept giving her those unpleasant calls. Anyway, since it was a land line call, Eve reckoned it was probably harmless.

"Hello."

"Eve?"

"Yes."

"I'm calling from the hospital. Your mother died."

Eve kept silent for quite some time.

"Eve, Eve... are you there?"

Eve started crying.

"Yes, yes, I'm here."

"Are you OK?"

Eve cried again in the phone.

Within a few seconds she managed to speak.

"Yes, I'm OK."

"My condolences."

"Thank you."

"You need to come here and bring her ID Card..."

When Eve hung up, she kept sitting for some time, just staring.

It took her a while before she was ready to get up and prepare to go. Before that, Eve texted her daughters, relatives and close friends about the case. She was simply felt incapable of uttering any words.

Her daughters replied. Joan texted back, offering to lend some cash.

Hera called her immediately, as well as her dear Boniface, offering all sorts of possible assistance on a plate.

It was a dire situation, but there were helping hands to hold on to.

In the hospital, Eve had to identify her mum, and see her the way she has never seen her before.

Dead.

9 NIGHTLY

Ahead of Nightly there were so many red tape matters to complete. The whole day was like running from one institution to the other, providing and in turn getting some documents.

Sometime during this paperwork agony, Nightly texted Miles.

He called back immediately.

"Where are you".

"In the chapel, I still have to do many things today and tomorrow..."

"Who's with you?"

"Nobody, I'm alone."

"I'll come and pick you up tomorrow, we'll go together wherever you need to go."

What was Nightly to say to that?!

And the next day they drove to the nursery home where her mother used to live. As they parked, Nightly stood in front of her mother's "used to be" shelter, knowing that it was the last time ever to visit that place. Nightly gazed at the terrace of her mum's room; there were those wind-fluttering lines where Nightly often spread her mum's laundry. She did not know then that the alike laundry lines would make her sad years and years after.

Together with Miles, she came to her mum's bed which was so empty, and so, so overwhelmingly silent.

Miles was collecting her mum's things while Nightly was standing.

With many burial chores ahead, they continued step by step and covered that whole path together.

"I guess we've completed everything for now. Let's just go to my place to give you a bottle of brandy; you'll need it for the funeral; for the visitors."

In his apartment Nightly sat on the chair and lit a cigarette. He came back with a glass of mineral water, stood in front of her, handing her over a sum of money.

"Thank you, Miles."

"You'll need it."

That was the day before the funeral.

More than anything else, the funeral was, like a very tightly scheduled set of actions; an expected and imposed screenplay where all actors played their respective archetype roles.

There were many relatives and neighbours, but her mum's friends boiled down to zero, as they had all reached the zone of eternity.

While walking behind the coffin, on the way to the grave, Nightly couldn't help noticing how her daughters were so scattered, separated from each other, and her. Each in her own trooper uniform.

After the ceremony, the closest ones came to Nightly's apartment and had something to eat and drink. Nightly was encouraging the stories and anecdotes referring to her parents, just as any good tour-guide would do.

In the middle of the session, Boniface dropped by from his pretty distant whereabouts, just to lend her some extra cash for the grave fees. Having completed his saver mission, some ten minutes later, he left. And, Nightly was so proud of having him as a friend.

10 MIDN

Another hot morning showed up.

After walking her poodle, there was yet another horrific shock awaiting on her table. It was another message. Midn looked at it without reading, and in a millisecond she ran out. Below, between the stairs Midn saw this individual with Hezbollah logo on the back of the T-shirt. The only difference was that now he was the one limping, and Midn was capable.

Reaching him was not difficult, and Midn was not scared. Somewhere between the first and the second floor she grabbed him by the back, all furious and impelled by the urge to see that face.

As Midn approached closer, she noticed that behind the ski mask there was some kind of a pasteboard, resembling of a face. She looked closer and was shocked. It was something like an avatar which stood still for some time, and then decomposed, producing the sound of tearing and splitting. Midn was standing with disbelief, just staring at the pile in front of her.

Some kind of tremor stretched from her tows to brain. Slowly kneeling to investigate further, Midn first tore the mask and then the shirt. Inside, there were like sets of different labelled, mailing compartments: Dusk, Dawn, Twilight, Sunrise, Morn, Noon, Aft, Eve, Nightly, Midn.

The messages were quite explicit, leaving no space left for further elaborations:

-Your daughters are deceptive-

-Lace hates you-

-Grace hates you-

-Joan hates you-

-Your daughters laugh behind your back-

-You are a horrific parent-

-You are incompetent-

-You hurt your children-

-You are just so very bad-

-You hurt others-

-You are guilty-

-You are a drunkard-

-You are absolutely worthless-

-You are a disgrace for you children-

-Your children are ashamed of you-

-You are a manipulator-

-You are a liar-

-You should kill yourself-

-Kill yourself-

Then, Midn stopped reading. She collected the bits and pieces, and dropped them all in the nearby street trash container.

And that was it.

After a long and hot shower, Midn called Miles. She wanted to join him in his six-day camping tour with his friends. Although Midn knew he could never help her with her interior, she was aware he could handle her exterior pretty good. And that was enough.

RELAYS

The ten ladies were invited to interpret at a big conference with participants speaking five different languages. Five pairs of interpreters, entered the five interpretation booths, with microphones, headphones and the relay buttons inside. Organizer's idea was that each pair would interpret from their native language into English, whereas all others would listen to that English interpretation, via the relays, and transpose it into their respective languages.

Before the beginning, the ladies, exchanged a couple of polite introductory phrases. They all turned off their mobiles, took papers and pencils, and all looked once again at each other through the window-mirror between the booths.

When the conference started, their minds switched and started working like one, inputting and outputting, connected at all times to a single source of communication. While one was interpreting, the others were listening, summarizing and transmitting.

Topic of the Conference was "HERIDITARY AND COMMUNICABLE BUGS".

MY FAMILY AND OTHER TERORISTS

1 DUSK

In summer days like those, urban infantry becomes a hostage of the clenching heat, stuck between the sky and pavement ovens. Humble, grape-clustered commuters try to hide under the moderate available islands of illusive shades at bus stations, while the fully exposed walkers helplessly withstand sun's radiation driven by their life agendas. With no sanctuary for the destitute pedestrians, all outdoor activities become soaked in sweat. The ultimately loyal corporate foot-servants submissively hold on to their suit and tie costumes, while the less automated individuals opt for a diverse selection of robes and shields.

Dusk was sitting in the same room which, before her nestlings had fled away to some other zones, used to be hers. Her entire home life style remained confined there, just as if the long gone living arrangement had never been changed. Although everything seemed ordinary, her life was somehow tending to take a gloomy turn and her brain's recent, but acute, swallowing mental disorder was slowly taking its toll.

The cheap, long not maintained air conditioner in Dusk's apartment emitted a very strange smell, and once she persuaded herself that it was unhealthy to use it anyway, all she had left was the natural ventilation, as a bogus source of chill.

So, there she was, with her more than ten-years old sofa bed, the fifty-eight years old soul, and with yet another bizarre corporate document resting on her laptop screen for translation.

Dusk briefly gazed at the neighbouring modern block of buildings. And next to that window, in the corner, stood her notorious cabinet with a hefty drawer designated for the piling up, pending bills and tax fees. As she glanced at it, the pain in her stomach and chest spread, releasing a choke of desperation.

In her quarantined work-from-home environment, Dusk continued typing, with a background TV-live buddy. The news about the latest terrorist attack made her stop working. She watched and listened because she wanted to see and hear. Her mind was triggered. It started processing and interpreting the meaning of terrorism as a social phenomenon. Has it been a companion of human race, trenching the targets both as preys, and troopers; as members and sufferers, all infected by the same universal syringe?!

Dusk's new, inner misery urged her to deal with the questions about terrorist tentacles and how they found ways to peak, sneak and infiltrate in her family bubble.

The whole thing seemed so huge, with such a tremendous impact on humankind in general; with many questions about its roots, consequences, reasoning, functioning, and the programmed recruits.

And, there was Dusk, just another climacteric female leftover, lolled in her sofa, meddling with language interpretations and fighting with the discomfort in her stomach. After a period of tranquillity, being once again trapped by her own colourful luggage, this TV news just added fuel to the fire in her mind.

The first terrorist lethal species she had met in person, were her parents.

As far as she could remember, it was sometime around the age of five. Back then, she could not have known that the exposure to terrorism was actually a recruitment procedure; an enlistment of envoys and executors; a trickery used for managing the families.

Her unawareness and the steady merging with a terror group did not make Dusk immune to the hits; on the contrary. Every punch was more painful, leaving lesser space to hide and preserve the sense of belonging and safety, within her house-terrorist-hold. Too often was she left behind to endure, just as any dispensable consumable. And the more punches she got, the more expedient terrorist grew inside her.

After being infected by that concept, it took quite some time, before she became a real follower and a subtle achiever. Usually, terrorists do not perceive themselves as such, and if they sporadically do, the pain of the respective historical wounds, drives them away from any remorse.

But, Dusk's infection was also followed by the guilt bug. She would often wear sackcloth and ashes, yet never hesitating to neglectfully disregard and betray her vulnerable, helpless, biological dependants. Terrorism was her parental model and a handy self-gadget. Her doings were rooted and shaped by that paradigm, and the absorbed patterns which had been served to her by those she trusted and loved the most as a child.

Now, it was her time to settle up accounts. Of course, Dusk knew and was profoundly aware of her guilt. But, what she did not know was the duration of her sentence, and if she was ever be pardoned.

After all, could and should terrorists ever be pardoned? Has she ever pardoned them?

So, there she was, stuck with this burdensome haversack. It was full of her children's piled, code-locked memory packages, pressing her chest, causing the pain that spread like a cloud. So many issues and questions were stacked there, haunting Dusk like her own black shadow, like hints of some implied, judgemental and scary messages.

Dusk badly needed to handle the ongoing mind agony which gave her physical shivers and tremor. The growing endless hole settled in her upper stomach, and the captivating fears, were a reason enough to call her old friend, Forger.

"Forger?"

"Oh, hi there, old chump. How's it going?"

"Listen... I need to see you as soon as possible."

"Aha. Well, let's see; how about tomorrow at one?

"Fine. I've been waiting for quite some time, you know... now, now things got out of control."

"Listen, hunn... now worries, gotta go now fix some things, but hang on, and see you tomorrow. OK?"

"Yes, thanks, see you then".

This calmed her a bit. Forger was a person and a spot where she could seek remedy; perhaps a shredder that could suck all her chaos. And now, for the first time, she also wanted to speak to him about her handicap; an alleged condition planted by her mother that deprived Dusk of being a normal human being. Dusk has never been definitely positive if she was really limping on her right leg.

As far as she could remember, with a reason or not, her mother would have often got carried away by some kind of a pandemic fury, giving Dusk amuck looks, yelling at her about her right leg; sometimes using the cudgel and hitting the leg real hard. So hard that Dusk could not walk. Being as small as she was, she thought it was a way to cure the thing, as mum knew best.

When she started her primary school she was unsure about the visibility of her handicap and whether it was evident or not. Usually she could not help behaving as a cripple, which was not without some profound consequences to her entire life. That phase was just a stepping stone to the intrusion of terrorism into Dusk's DNA.

2 DAWN

At one o'clock that very afternoon Dawn had to be in the nearby Welfare Centre to deliver as a certified interpreter. This time she was to do the so called "chuchotage" technique. A kind of simultaneous interpreting, with no headphones and microphone, just whispering into the listener's ear, transposing the speech as it goes.

Dawn was hired for the job in the case of an Egyptian, who had been issued a restriction order for contacts with his daughter and son, in response to the allegations made by his wife in divorce. Their meetings were to take place under the "controlled" circumstances, in the Welfare Centre. Dawn's role was to be there and interpret to the Egyptian whatever his children said, in the presence of a social worker.

So, preparations for the job started. She had a shower, styled her hair, and selected the appropriate outfit for her fattened figure. Dawn took her vanity case, the magnifying mirror, and set on the sofa to put on some makeup, basically the blush and lipstick.

Her hands were shaking, and the entire fixing procedure seemed as if done by a zombie rather than a sane person. Dawn was undergoing yet another panic attack. Frequency and duration of those attacks raised no resistance in her mind and body. She simply handled her condition quietly, ashamed of it, horrified and with a strong feeling of humiliation because she was affected by a disability.

Once ready, Dawn first took her dog out for a walk, fully business-like armed. Her poor poodle followed her, trained to do whatever it had to in a very fast and time-saving way. Afterwards, Dawn went off to the agreed address. She expected the assignment to be easy, and herself recuperated by then.

But, the devil never sleeps, and on her way there, Dawn fell on the street. For a few seconds her face was almost touching the pavement. Her entire body seemed to be helplessly fighting to restart its already poorly operating system. During those instances, the shock was so horrific, leaving her with a feeling of complete disorientation. And, as she was stretching there on the street, the prevailing feeling was the one of ultimate abandonment. She was petrified by the need to lean on; a provision that has not available to her. Unlike her body, her infected mind somehow did not stop. It kept processing and construing, sending clear and killing messages about her perpetual inner homelessness and destitute, evidencing all that with the current position of her very self; the broken self, lying there, on the street. In the end, Dawn's dormant mind-palace lodger, her inner, mental handyman, grouchily budged, opened the self-preservation kit, and started the recovery process. Dawn slowly moved to get up on her feet, when a passing-by stranger stopped and offered her a hand. She gratefully took that hand, still traumatized and shaking. With a candid concern about her well-being, he stood close by her side. Dawn thanked, reassuring the stranger that she would be good; and only then, he left. As she did assemble, Dawn noticed that the right leg of her trousers was torn and knee was bleeding. With hands trembling, she took out a hankie from her bag and put it underneath the trousers. The incident seemed like yet another sinister and blood-freezing sign of her problem, adding up to the flooding mental disorientation. And just as any robot would do, Dawn brushed the trousers, and moved on.

Even under the given circumstances, her mind just switched as she entered the venue. With an apologetic, polite smile on her face, Dawn gave a brief and laconic explanation about the fall, the trousers, the knee, set down next to the client and concentrated on the job, performing to the best of her knowledge.

As things finished, Dawn wanted to rush back to her safe sofa-base, frantically looking for some peace with her canned, ever loyal spirit-friend.

Yet, for some reason, the Egyptian wanted to stay with her; to hear her advice, tell her about his fears and hurdles in the pursue of the parental rights. And there they were; the two levitating strangers, exchanging some seemingly personal, but nonetheless universal emotional contents.

The reason why Dawn was so responsive to this guy, considering her psychosomatic status, was probably his extremely tender and loveable behaviour to his children which she witnessed during the meeting. Also, she was appealed by his admirable level of honesty and the worrisome burden which was so heavily depressing his eye lids. All that inevitably opened doors of Dawn's compassion casket. Although his presence on her way home was inconvenient, she was aware that he needed someone to lean on.

As he was following her back home, it happened again. Dawn stumbled once again and fell. However, this time not so heavily, and with him by her side, not hesitating to sincerely engage, and heartily help her get up. It was the second encounter in a single day where she sensed a stranger's care for her bodily safety. And for a second, it crossed Dawn's mind how humans had an inborn sensitivity to visual effects; they could easily relate to physical incapacities, while mental drawbacks had a completely different status.

Eventually, Dawn parted the Egyptian with a handshake and truly appreciative looks. The rest of the day was yet another portion of time she had to cope with, using all available notorious, canned, ammunition just to fight the torment. This abuse of alcohol could be a part of the destructive terrorist heritage, or else, an alternative exit created by her mind palace's handyman.

That day she had to deliver a seven pages long translation. So, there she was again, on her sofa, with her laptop, a telly, and a cup of coffee.

Once she was done, the only thing she yearned for was a canned "flashlight" that would temporarily alleviate the darkness from her numerous tunnels.

3 TWILIGHT

As the morning arrived, before opening her eyes, Twilight first felt the familiar devastating, upper-stomach and the right leg ache.

For a few seconds she really thought about quitting, and just doing it; but, the well-trained copers normally don't act accordingly. Be it out of a simple social decency, or a responsibility to the descendants, the "not doing it", always prevails.

With thousands of inner bees wildly bustling and hurting her, Twilight prepared for the meeting with her psychologist.

Walking to his place, she felt a dose of trepidation as to the effectiveness of his delivery.

After her brief exposé, the psychologist looked at her compassionately for a while. That was so healing.

Then, he started.

"Our minds process and interpret the psychographics; they output the readings regardless of their impact. We all need to keep re-entering and scanning the hideous, robust and cumbersome mind fortresses, looking for alternative arrangements and spaces."

Twilight began with her eyes fixed to the floor.

"On the top an oak china closet, my mum used to keep a cudgel, which was presented to me as an apparent cure for my supposed limping. She used this offending object far too often and unlimitedly. The pain which followed was dreadful.

My father was a follower of a bit different up-bringing clan with a final goal to cushion my needs, dismiss my own self, as if I were a troublesome organism imposed on him."

While talking, Twilight would burst into tears from time to time, and the psychologist would offer his Kleenex, not taking his eyes from her.

"I was pretty much confused with my vague disability; I desperately looked for a helping hand. Terrorists turned the recklessness, arrogance and torment, into my family pattern."

The psychologist was listening to her attentively and Twilight was feeling that they had some kind of a cognitive and emotional bond.

His reply was, as always, very soothing and elaborative.

"The word terror originates from Late Middle English; terrorism was used in the late 18th century, during the rule of the Jacobin fraction in the period of the French Revolution. So, this is really not a new animal, it is rather an elephant which has been haunting us.

Terrorist actions causing massive attacks are more visible and alarming. It is about the massiveness; the number of physical fatalities. It is the bodily injuries, and the deadly, visible scores that count in this matter.

But the issue building up to the micro terrorism impact, is the severity of the invisible infection that soon turns the exposed ones into the "spokes" and the "do-it" persons. The micro-terrorists, and their terrorist-to-become offspring, are simply infected, with hardly any options to make a turn.

Howsoever disguised, the family terror, keeps destroying the integrity, the self, the identity of the children, producing eventually dysfunctional household cells. Ultimately, terrorism pilots to the collapse of the micro homogeneity, sometimes creating individuals susceptible to broader, horrific terrorist attacks. It is all like a social clockwork.

Families should be suitable both for kids, as well as for adults. And that is the very idea the terrorists disrupt and defy."

Twilight listened attentively.

"But, how come the desperate victims choose to be cruel? Where is the boundary between tricking others and being tricked by our own minds?

How to handle and interpret the highly sophisticated, deep-rooted messages we receive? How come the recruitment process of family members is so contradictory? And why we nag later about the reckless acts, cruel and hurting behaviour of our beloved inheritors, whereas we had been the very implanters of that same behavioural model?"

"That has to do with individual interpretations, which frequently offer almost no tools to grow unaffected perceptions. From my experience, I think all it takes is simply to reconceptualise.

Nothing starts from the point where you stand. The hereditary tape decodes messages, reshapes them; all within the capacities of the given mind kit.

It is also about the reinvesting in the family, instead of being passively poisoned and tucked up by the terrorist aggressive aloofness. Not just for the sake of a created comfort zone, but for a broader and indeed more humane goal of passing an assertive behavioural pattern onto the offspring.

There is just one way of being a good family member. That means playing your role aptly. Otherwise, you'll be hurled back into the terrorist lap."

He was talking and Twilight was sitting on his sofa like a five-year old child, with drooping shoulders, physically distorted and freaking out to hear the magic word that would change her condition.

She felt the panic creeps overwhelming her body and mind, again.

Although her response was the one of a seemingly collected person, Twilight was just an obedient, yet craving infant, sitting in front of her psychologist.

"Yes, I can relate to that."

Twilight looked at her own humbly positioned feet.

"But, let's get back to the yesterday's event. So, you told me that you fell, tore your trousers, and with a bleeding knee went on and interpreted?

How, I mean how could you do that? Many people would just turn back, cancel the job..."

"I don't know. I was just like a soldier; had to move on and do it. Couldn't afford cancelling a job."

He raised his eyebrows and kept silent for a while.

Twilight started sobbing, with her face in her hands.

"I have no one. I'm so scared because of my disability. What if it prevents me from working!? What will happen to my children?"

"But your twins... what were their names, Lace and Grace?

"Yes."

"So, Lace and Grace are not that small, they are grown up young ladies. Aren't they by your side? I mean specifically now, when you feel as you do? And what about your eldest daughter?"

"I didn't tell them anything. And, after all, our entire relationship has been like an echo of the terrorist concept."

After yet another burst of crying, she continued.

"Speaking to them about this would be so narcissistic and unjustified. Because I see them like... like my own grown-up babies that I was supposed to nourish...but, obviously I kept leaving them wretchedly behind to survive all of my terror.

Was I so reckless, so driven by the terrorist inside me? And most importantly, have I... have I really ever mindfully understood the basic meaning of parenting?"

We both kept silent for a few seconds. Eyes of the psychologist showed deep concern. Watching him, she was all in tears. So often, during their talks Twilight had a feeling that he had the part she was missing. And more often than not, she longed to captivate and internalize the feeling he had for her.

"You know, I see my daughters wearing their own, hand-made, bullet proof, zipped up, coded, self-preservation vests.

They are survivors, trying to handle the boiling pots of the genuine anger inside. And this anger comes from their mind palaces whose contents were deviously contaminated by others... mainly, by me."

At that point she was simply driven by the need to keep talking, to follow her stream of consciousness.

"You know, I cannot say for sure, but it seems likely that my family has been entrenched in this terrorist pattern for as far as remember.

For example, my mother was a member of the Child-Mutilating Gang. She was an easy pick to be recruited. Her family was killed during the War, when she was like... about fourteen. With lots of space for manipulation, she had been receiving the messages which, opened door to her new shouldering habitat. She learned that terrorism could be a handy tool.

And as for my father, it was a different story. He joined the Red Brigades, after revealing the mighty idea of communism in the Second World War. Being quite of a skirt chaser, and a person pretty much focused on indulging himself, there was this specific kind of absenteeism and remoteness. With age, he became more of a caring father, and specifically a grandfather. When he died, I felt a deep loss."

    is where she stopped.

Twilight felt the creeps of her panic again. She shivered, afraid of drifting away from her current impelling problem.

The psychologist did not say a word. As if he could understand what was going on, he approached her, kneeled down, held Twilight's hand.

"You are ok. You have yourself, with so many ways to perceive and reconstruct."

Twilight nodded trustingly.

"I have never told you some details, the events... about me... Maybe you'll reject me for this?!"

She looked pleadingly at him.

"I would never reject you. I'm on your side. Actually, you have the two of us. We don't abandon. Our mission is to reach that long frozen concept of a battered, weak and handicapped wretch; to unfreeze it slowly, get closer to your immensely resourceful self, and eventually, if not fully, at least lightly, embrace it; to coach you how to dare open the doors of your self-palace... and you know... you have a mighty rich palace with lots of precious rooms you've never opened. Yet, through these tiny door gaps, the content behind, has always managed to creep out and guide you. You see... you're sitting here... you've been surviving."

Twilight just stared at him. Perhaps it was the idea about her handicap that prevented her from moving throughout the self-palace and benefiting from the many undiscovered rooms inside!?

When she started, her eyes were hitting the ceiling, the floor, the walls, restlessly roaming about.

"It was some time in the early eighties when I joined the Hezbollah. I was probably not even aware of that at the time... They simply started sending me the instructions, using different means, finding their way to my interface. By far, the most detrimental orders were those which affected the parental part of my mind. As a mum, there were times when I would be hurled by an overwhelming fury; the fury which I would splash onto my children, acting like any properly trained terrorist, simply ignoring my children's feelings, dismissing their needs, stepping on their most sensitive body parts. At other times my mental and physical absenteeism would produce neglect and lack of minimal care."

Twilight stopped there for a few seconds with crying eyes and permeating sadness.

"These are just some of the many, terrorist actions I've exercised against my own offspring.

But terrorism hits back, serving you with your own fabricates. It's like an endless self-propelling process.

You remember that I tend to believe that Joan converted into radicalized Muslims some ten years ago; she's been even wearing a burka... at least for the most of the time when I happen to be at their household. Safely hiding her face from me. Maybe it's her way of coping.

I have no right to disrupt my daughters' fragile survivorship patterns. I had done my share long ago.

That's just how things are. And that is why I cannot interfere, or confront them now with my handicap."

"I understand. But, what I see is the feeling of guilt which drives you below any level of human dignity.

Nobody is born as a terrorist. It's the circumstances that do the meddling.

Human race is intrinsically a fan of kindness, and good guys. I'm positive about that.

What happens after our birth, those external shots we get later on in our lives, that's something every individual is left to deal with; to wrap up the events in personally acceptable packages.

In your case, you have this never-ending need for self-flagellation, self-pitting, and self-distressing.

You don't forgive yourself. You perceive the self-forgiving as yet another reckless act towards your "victims". You have no available space for self-forgiving; it's like your own tacitly imposed conviction.

Since you know me as a non-believer, I don't want to preach about the forgiving concept; I mean, to me it's a concept over-exploited by religious middle men.

Instead I would rather talk to you about the reconstruction; perhaps you could try sometimes to observe yourself from the outside; as if you were at the same time an actor and the audience.

Try to distance yourself from your own box within which you function, open its cap and look into it as an outsider. Experiment, and see how you'll perceive yourself then, simply dare. Dare to have the right to be angry. Dare to set up your limits. Dare to forgive yourself, just a bit, one crumb at a time. Dare to leave the empiric blueprints you took on."

There he stopped, watching her with compassion and anticipation.

"But you need to share this situation with your daughters. Your condition might be quite serious. You don't want to scare them, but you need support now.

You have a lot of weight to pull and there's nobody to help you.

And don't worry, don't panic, I'm here.

Try to understand that you have a someone. But, as I have told you, more importantly than me, there is your own capable self.

Have more confidence in it and try to cherish it. It's a wonderful self, and I'm sure that deep, deep down you know that. Let it speak up to you. Let it be active, let it be a participant; not just an uninvolved observer; let it hug you, lead you, let it voice its bosom words. In your case, that is of course easier said than done, but just start thinking about this idea."

He stopped there and stared at her with those piercing eyes.

She kept silent. She knew that it would take a lot of digging and reconstructions; a lot of discipline and time.

Then he continued in a more enterprising manner.

"Now, back to our rescue plan.

Please take the current situation seriously and do speak to your children. Don't be afraid of that because of the luggage you keep dragging from the past on your already overburdened back. Let the bygones be bygones. Don't shy away from being their mother. Whatever they do and how they react now is their own responsibility. We all make mistakes. And, trust me, they do, too.

We have to see what to do with your leg concretely. You can always come and talk to me, but I think that's not enough to get rid of that pain. You also need to get some medical treatment, for the leg.

Let me see. I have this colleague, perhaps you could go and see him?"

"Of course, I also feel that's something I must do now."

Psychologist took a piece of the paper from his notebook, and wrote down the name and phone number of the doctor.

"Ok, thank you so much.

Now, I must leave you. I must go, I have a job to finish.

I'll call this doctor immediately to make an appointment."

As Twilight got up, she could hardly stand on her right leg.

He took her by the right arm.

"Are you sure you can walk. I'm worried about you."

"Yes... yes, I'll walk carefully. Don't worry, and... thank you so much."

Before parting, they exchanged the looks which seemed like the ones of a terrified child and a carrying parent.

So, she left, and headed to complete another job on time, at the nearby scheduled address. This time she had to verify some contracts as a certified translator. Twilight was insensible to anything around her, focused on getting ready to confront the situation.

Some five minutes later, before arriving to the location, she called the number the psychologist had given to her and made an appointment.

After that, Twilight calmed a bit. She will see an expert; he'll surely know how to help her.

Soon after, she arrived to the location of her business engagement. Twilight could not find the entrance, as the building was one of those with many offices and labyrinths on the ground floor. So she called her agent who then navigated her to the venue.

She got inside this flashy company facility, making sure her appearance seemed composed.

Everything there, starting from the dress code, high heels, suits and other achiever-gear, was so artificial, and somehow unfriendly, just like any other modern corporate casemate.

The secretary who took Twilight to the first floor, was a humble, yet ambitious student; a nerd ignited by the socially imposed self-confidence performance, compelled to remain a yes-man to her mentor.

The mentor showed up in a very costly clothing, decorated by fancy costume jewellery. She was very kind and respectful to Twilight. After exchanging a couple of the meaningless but necessary small talk and moderate appropriate jokes, they entered another phenomenal office, corresponding to the idea of a bombastic successful establishment. There, they waited for the client. It was an Arab guy, posh and very polite; socially defined as a professional.

Having finished the job, Twilight left those cyber-looking, and money-making premises. Walking back home she thought about the pending translation, and a class scheduled with one of her ever loyal students.

As soon as she dragged her body back home, she set on her sofa, feeling the creeps and shivers in her shoulders and arms. Although she completed all the tasks, steered by the fixation to be always fit for the job, the restless leg syndrome drove Twilight to cry, scream, kneel, plead, freak, tremble. Later in the night, she turned to her only loyal friend - the cans.

4 SUNRISE

The same pain woke up Sunrise the next day; an immense stomach, mind and leg pain, with daunting misery running all over her. And again Sunrise hesitated whether to do it once and for good. Right there and then. But, against all odds, Sunrise just went on; anyway, "the doing it" would always be there, she thought. So, she started with some simple moves, had a shower and set down. Sunrise knew that ultimately she would have to cope. As a trained soldier, she managed to finish another translation and started preparing for the meeting with the doctor.

While commuting to the private medical centre which was realistically too expensive for Sunrise, she was trying not to be bothered by that money issue.

Sunrise managed to get a grip of herself, and put on a polite smile for the nurse who awaited her. Fifteen minutes later, the doctor came.

At first sight he seemed like an experienced, knowledgeable expert; a medical wizard who, after being over-flooded with other people's pains, has formed an outer crust of a screening scrutinizer.

Anyway, his know-how was bolstered by the grey hair, and his encash by the classy king-blue shirt and trousers, the brown leather belt and shoes. Consulting room was plain, just like any other office. He sat opposite Sunrise, with a view of the window behind her back.

Not long after Sunrise started talking, she burst into tears, trying desperately to reflect her interior guts in an as readable form as possible. Sunrise suspected that nobody, other than her fellow sufferers, could ever really understand the mess inside her. All this specialist sitting in front of her could really do, was to properly classify her case, put it in a right drawer, which would in turn, output an appropriate pharmaceutical juju.

He looked at her with examining eyes; asked her several specific questions, and then Sunrise could feel that he started processing the information. That was a good sign. He was listening and Sunrise was delivering her narrative. In the end he asked her a question which seemed more like a conviction.

"How about staying in a hospital for some time?"

Sunrise was profoundly stunned. It took her breath away. Her first thought which went like a swift cold snake from her head all the way down to her toes was "am I really that sick". And that idea was absolutely paralysing.

"No, no... it's not an option, I have to work, my children depend on me."

"Well, do you have any income, I mean, are you employed?"

"No, no, I'm a freelancer... if I don't' work I don't get paid. And that's also something that drowns me, leaving me just enough time to take my nose out of the marsh, to get a quick breath; that's how I operate; and my children's subsistence literally clings on me. I mean...I feel so responsible for the twins; they have no one else. It is now, in this period, that they need my help; they need support in order to get hold of their own engines; they're still studying and their future fully depends on my help. You know... I often feel like, like... do you know the Tom and Jerry cartoon?"

He nodded.

"Well, I feel like Tom defencelessly trying to close all the leaking holes in his room. I'm simply burnt out by that, by everything...I don't have enough limbs to close all the pits.

I don't know if you understand, but... but... I feel I've reached a point where I cannot respond. And that terrifies me. Cannot play the role of being a balanced self. And this limping only underpins the helplessness."

Her whole elaboration of the circumstances was followed by crying and babble.

Doctor hesitated for some time, looking at her in a professional and assessing manner.

"If you stay in a hospital, maybe later on, we could plan some kind of a disability pension for you...I mean... hospitals are for people; you know?!"

"No, no... no way. That's just impossible."

"Ok then, let's leave that aside for now.

Have you ever had similar episodes?"

"Yes, several times."

"When was the last one?"

"Four years ago."

"Also in late spring?"

"Yes, in springtime."

It made her wonder how he knew that.

"What did you do then?"

"I appointed a visit to a doctor. She was a very good doctor in the City Hospital, gave me some pills and they worked."

"Which were those pills?"

When Sunrise told him, he simply replied.

"You don't discard a winning horse from the race. Let's try with the same pills... and we'll see. I'll be on a holiday for a month, and after that... let's meet again. Let's wait and see you and your leg then. I know it hurts a lot now, but you must be patient, it takes time. You'll keep track, and we can always increase the dose, that's simple. Is that ok with you?"

Sunrise nodded, she paid for the session on her way out, leaving her wallet with just enough money to get the pharmaceutical supplies, and enough cans.

Intuitively, Sunrise felt she was never to see that doc again.

Once Sunrise came home, there was her sofa. And along with it, there came a drive for a call, for a contact, for acceptance, for a shoulder.

Sunrise called her friend, Hera, who was very euphoric.

"Hi Sunrise, what's up. Oh, you should just see me here in the cottage, arranging the flowers right now, with a big straw hat, it's wonderful! You must come here some time. How's it going with you?"

"Hera, I'm not well."

Sunrise just started weeping, and mumbling something in a broken voice.

"Sunrise, Sunrise... what's going on, what's wrong."

Sunrise couldn't speak for a moment.

"Sunrise? Sunrise... are you there? Sunrise?"

"Hera, my right leg... it's horrible."

There came another burst of crying.

"Tell me, tell me, what's happening with you, tell me all."

By hook or by crook, Sunrise's story found its way.

After that, Sunrise remained quiet for a while.

"Sunrise, why don't you come here? You'll feel better here. There's nature... you could stay with us for some time."

"No, no... thank you so much."

And Sunrise started crying. It was the self-pity, the neediness, and the thankfulness.

"I have to work. I just have to work."

"But, Sunrise, for Chris sake, how could you possibly work now?! The doctor wanted to put you in a hospital. You should be in bed waiting for the leg to heal, with your daughters around you.

I guess you have told them?"

"No."

"You're insane! You must tell them. How could you possibly not tell them?

You're really sick. I mean... your leg...it is just like, like any other illness. I hope you understand that."

"Yes, yes, Hera, I do, but... that's not how things work in our family."

"Jesus! Will you come here then?"

"No, no, I couldn't possibly, thank you."

"What are you going to do now?"

"Try to get some sleep and tomorrow I'll go to visit my mum."

"You are really so bloody unreasonable! How could you go visiting your mum in such condition? That's crazy."

"I must bring her the diapers and other stuff. I must."

"Isn't there anyone else to do that for you? Your daughters?"

"No, that's not an option."

"I have no words. Please, and this time understand me well; you must speak to your children. You understand that? They must know?"

"Hera, you can't be serious about me doing that?"

"But of course, how could you even ask something like that!?"

"Ok, I'll do it."

"But don't scare them, don't freak them out. Just tell them so that they can understand."

"OK."

"And call me. Call me any time... whenever. Let me know how you're doing."

Back in her silent space, Sunrise picked her trustworthy, dedicated, tinned friend, and not long after she fell asleep.

5 MORN

Her same old same old system was restarted. That day, Morn was to pay a visit to Joan's family and her mum's.

Contacts with her grandsons, where the only moments when all discomfort from Morn's body was simply swept away; they were like the sensitive Martians with antennas directed towards the world around them, esoterically cherishing every bit of affection and every new experiential encounter. With them, she indulged in the primal need to bond and exchange love. Those were also the moments when Morn could somehow reinstall her self-image.

Normally, Morn would borrow Joan's car to go visit her mum in the nursing centre. But this time, given her condition, Morn knew it was a mission impossible.

Morn took a bus to her daughter's place, navigated by her mind-integrated GPS which operated unaffected by the hullabaloo in the other parts of the brain.

Her son in-law opened the door, welcoming her, while Joan was changing diapers to Morn's younger grandson. Joan gave her a fair smile from the room, but Morn could not make out if Joan was wearing a burka at the time.

As usually, Morn took her shoes off, washed hands, and was ready to hug her grandsons. Her son in-law, Backer, asked her the habitual questions. He often seemed like a middleman in the imaginary communication between her and Joan.

Backer asked Morn the usual questions about her wellbeing, and the job. Morn always earnestly appreciated his queries, as they contributed to her own perception of someone who mattered.

This time, not as a translator, but rather as a communicator, Morn had to interpret her head-mutant state.

"Well, I've stumbled a bit. It happens. My right leg is not working properly and I'm limping heavily... But I guess...I'll be OK. It's just a phase..."

After appeasing mention of some further details, the medical referral for hospital, etc., even though Morn did her best to hush the possible turmoil, she could not help feeling like a bogeyman.

By that time Joan had her burka tightly on, entirely ignoring the conversation, while her son in law looked for a way out from the mine field he had unexpectedly entered.

Joan kept silent behind her outfit for the rest of the time, leaving Morn to wonder about the extent of her unacceptability. On the top of everything, Morn had a feeling that the looks received from both, were the ones of the auditors, screening primarily the aptitude to meddle with her grandsons.

At the doorstep, Backer saw her off, with a cold, polite, pretty much controlled smile.

And after that, Morn felt like a rag, realising that the whole thing was a detrimental failure.

Nobody mentioned the car, or her health issue, ever again.

As Morn went out, she felt the hooks ploughing through her mind unbearably. With the growing and deeper limping, she wondered if she would actually still be allowed to see her grandsons. But, that was just another useless, self-made, detrimental fear.

And so, while standing in the crowded bus with hands full of stuff for her mum, Morn impulsively took a double dose of the prescribed pills, desperate to release at least a small portion of the inner desperation. Before reaching mum's nursing home, she could feel the medication working.

With a hefty package of diapers and many other things her mother had asked for, Morn reached the place. The main idea was to hideaway the limping from her mum, as Morn childishly feared the consequences. Although her mother had been in a pretty bad shape for some time, she remained to be a demanding person. And, somehow, Morn could understand that. It was her irresistible need to sustain some kind of her precious comfort, some self-respect, importance and dignity; even more so, under the circumstances, where she was just another number, another occupied bed, another lifelessness.

As Morn entered her mum's room, she shook hands with her endearing roommate, said hello to the other two ladies in the next door room, and then she approached her mum. Morn kissed her in the cheek and noticed that her eyes were blurred more than before. For the first time, after only one week of not seeing her, Morn could notice that her whole body seemed to be vanishing, shutting down.

Still, there were some things that hadn't changed.

Her mum started talking.

After a long elaboration of her intestinal problems, blood pressure, head and other issues, she switched to another topic, whispering about her mates, the house intrigues and gossips. She stopped once she exhausted all the items on her agenda.

Then she wanted to see what Morn brought. In her meticulous way she unpacked and then repacked every single thing, applying her own enveloping technology, and putting the goods into the space she had dedicated for each particular item in her nightstand. Morn could tell that this time she was satisfied with the batch of supplies.

Then mum looked back at her.

"And you? How are you and the children?"

"All is fine mum, we're all fine."

"And Joan, Lace and Grace?"

"They're all doing well".

"Do the two study?"

"Yes, Lace and Grace study and Joan is very successful at her job. They are really good girls."

"Does Joan call you sometimes?"

"Well... not really."

"What can you do..."

Then Morn sighed.

"And your grandsons, how are they?"

"Let me show you their photos."

Morn's mum liked that a lot, making some humorous comments about them, and laughing at how cute they both were.

Morn took her by the hand and held her.

"My dear daughter. I love you so much."

"I know, mum. And I love you, too."

Morn stepped up, cuddled her forehead and head, and mum started crying.

"What's gonna happen to me?"

"Nothing, mum. It's just another crisis. It will pass. It happens all the time. We all undergo crisis."

Mum got that sombre look immediately and asked Morn if she was drinking.

"Of course not, mum, how could you even ask me something like that now. I don't drink."

"And your leg? You know that it needs to be treated?"

"I know mum, I treat it, daily... It's perfect."

Her mum had an urge to keep Morn attached to her as a single source of Morn's cure, and a person indispensable in her life. But, that kind of dependence had been long gone. Now, the hits with mum's stick were merely her way of communication and imaginary bonding.

Making a huge effort not to show the profoundness of her limping, Morn went out to the terrace of her mum's room for a smoke.

A nurse joined her there and told her that mum was not well, that they had all been trying to help her, and that they would let Morn know within days if it would be necessary to put her mum in a hospital.

Morn stayed, captivated with the reality, her own, her mum's, the painful reality booming in her mind.

As Morn came back into the room, her mum was asleep. Morn kissed her in the forehead, said goodbye to all her mates and left.

On her back home bus tour, Morn felt a bit better due to the medication, and in a zombie-coded way towed herself back to her sofa.

It was then, that something extremely peculiar happened. It was a situation beyond the comprehension of her reasoning.

There, on her table, just in front of her sofa, laid a message written in big letters: JOAN HATES YOU.

Morn looked around. There was nobody. Morn limped her way through all the rooms and opened the entrance door. Looking down the stairs she saw a figure wearing a ski mask, running like hell. Although Morn did try, chasing and getting hold of that creature that was simply far beyond her capacities. The only thing Morn managed to notice was the Hezbollah logo at the back of his tight black top.

As Morn closed and locked the door twice, ideas came flooding her mind. An unknown somebody had been there just seconds before she came. She set down on the sofa, took the printed message and looked at it carefully. There was nothing leading to the discovery of its origin.

At first Morn thought about calling for the housebreak, but then, supported by the very moderate but memorable experience with police, Morn quickly dismissed that idea.

Morn picked her mobile.

As Morn was dialling the psychologist's number, her cell phone was actually quavering in her hand. In fragmented sentences Morn breathlessly uttered what had happened. As always, the very sound of psychologist's voice had this curing effect on her. They appointed to meet the day after.

Morn put the phone down and opened her most reliable, intimate, alcohol container. Instead of jumping on it immediately, she kept examining the room to see if there was anything moved, replaced, making sure she was all alone on her sofa. Even though her dog was just a friendly and harmless poodle, Morn knew that in the case of another burglary it would definitely detect it and bark. Morn looked at the printed message again, just to verify if it was real, or if she simply went nuts.

Then, Morn gave a call to her old sweet heart, that she had split with some twelve years ago. Since they've been in contact occasionally, her call did not really come as much of a surprise.

He arrived half an hour later. Morn waited for him at the local bus station and rushed into his arms, leaning on his shoulder.

"Oh, Miles...."

The rest of their encounter was about her sobbing and frantic restlessness with severe limping on the way to the nearby café. He was looking at her leg worriedly and listening to her attentively, while Morn kept mumbling about her leg, the doctor, her grandsons, her daughters, the pain, the message... Then Morn told him she could no longer sit there, and asked him to keep walking for a while. Although hobbling, she believed that moving would cushion the inner cyclone agitation. To her misfortune, it didn't. After a while, Morn told him that she had to be alone, which was a blatant lie, since all Morn really wanted to do was to knock herself down.

He stood there confusedly looking at her.

"Are you sure you can walk home safely?"

"Yes, yes, Miles, I'll walk my way home. Thank you so much for coming. You are such a... such a wonderful person. Please excuse me for troubling you and thank you... thank you so much."

Before he could say anything, Morn put her arms around his neck.

"I'll call you. Thank you, thanks a million."

And they parted, but this time not for long.

It had always been like that with Miles; Morn could never really tell what he felt. He often seemed like a boy zipped up in his simplified version of the world where he felt safe. He preserved such setup just by submissively following the mainstream habits and rituals, and adding some spice to his neat life-arrangement, through many hobbies which coupled him with other people. Sometimes, Morn thought that Miles's only criteria for accepting those numerous others was just to be accepted. Features of the others simply seemed not to be within Miles's periscope.

But, Miles proved to be a true friend to Morn, and definitely more than that; fully devoted and ready to hold her lingering hand. Unfortunately, at the time, her state was unrepairable from the outside.

As Morn finally got hold of her safe sofa, she drank fast, trying to get to the point of the tranquilizing indifference as soon as possible.

Before dozing away, her very dear, exceptional friend and a colleague texted her, telling her that he was no longer in the roaming area. Even during his stay in Belgium, Boniface used to call her every now and then, just to tell her how some things in Brussels reminded him of her, and how he wished Morn was there. And that was so remedying; the validation which proved that she had preserved some of the fertile soil for the self-confidence in her distorted picture.

They spoke briefly on the phone, arranging to meet in two days. Morn left her limping exodus story for some time later, or perhaps for never after, which in their relationship wouldn't make much difference anyway.

    and Morn had something in common, and that was the addiction; actually her "alcoho" and his "foodo"-lism. When in action, consumption of their hooch was so fast and so frantic as if both had to silence their cravings speedily.

6 NOON

The next afternoon, Noon decided to call her daughter, Lace. And to her, Lace was another very delicate curve to climb, just as were the other two.

Some three years ago, at the age of seventeen Lace had started having serious problems with her mandible whenever she was to eat. And not before long, probably like most mums do, Noon could smell the handicap. Maybe because it was, just like hers, nourished with years, and just like Noon's, sustained by her own mum, the dodgy terrorist in disguise. There were times when Lace simply could not open her jaw to eat, and at other times she could not close it; and that was more often than not, a life threatening condition.

It's one thing if a parent is hit by a handicap, but it's a whole different kettle of fish when it captures your kid. Noon had secure techniques to catch a breath, but as for her child... she wasn't sure. Although Lace's pain was readable to her mum, Noon could no longer truly get hold of Lace's hand which was so, so very precious. That hand was lost, lingering somewhere, in some other, unknown spaces, helpless, tiny as it was, and all alone.

With time, Lace started physically disappearing.

Noon suspected that it was the Isis that sneakily and slowly recruited her, using the terrorist frequency which had been tuned in Lace's mind. It was an embracing anger ideology, an antagonizing tunnel, wherefrom Lace saw no way out. Lace must have felt that there was no reason to exit, as outside, the one and only thing awaiting, was her family.

Whenever Lace was let to come back home from Syria, Noon could notice her radical ideas and bodily injuries. Isis had her under their thumb. They got hold of her child's hand, instead of her.

Noon's intuitive guide instructed her just to stick to Lace. And Noon blindly followed that, sending regular notices which were mostly ignored in the beginning. However, months later, Lace started giving some hints about her own self reunion, somewhere else.

At the time of Noon's call, Lace was living with her boyfriend, someplace else, for more than a year. Noon truly tried to sound calm.

"Hi, Lace, how are you?"

"I'm Ok. And you?"

"Well, I'm not good".

"Why?"

Their conversation ended with her restrained support and acknowledgment of the situation.

When Noon hung up, she was somewhat worried about the impact of her delivery, yet reassured by Hera's advice that her children should know.

A phone call brought her back to business. It was one of the translation agencies Noon worked for.

"Noon?"

"Oh, hi. What's up?"

"Just as busy as always. We've sent you a document for translation. Please take a look and see if you could accept it."

Noon opened her e-mail and as usually, found a huge paper with a very short deadline.

For the sake of her financial situation, there was no option but to accept it, and work like hell. So, the process started.

Soon after, another agency called.

"Hi Noon, listen, will you be available next week to deliver simultaneous interpreting? It's going to last two weeks."

"Sure, no problem. Could you send an e-mail with all the details?"

"Of course, Noon. Bye".

"Bye, and see you there. Thanks."

Noon spent the whole day working as fast as she could. The translation was due by 8 the next evening.

Then, there was a phone call.

"Hi, mum. How are you? I planned to come today to pick some things as Ace and I will travel to visit his parents. Will you be at home this afternoon, around... like 4, 5 o'clock?"

"Yes, honey, I will. And please make some time for, 10 minutes for us to talk."

"Why, is there anything wrong?"

"Well, not really, I just want to talk with you."

"What do you mean by 'not really'? Is there something wrong or not?"

"Well, yes...".

When Noon finished, she could feel Grace being utterly taken aback and scared, probably recollecting the handicaps running in the family.

As a member of an anti-terrorist intelligence, SIGINT, Grace operated by means of technical equipment, distanced from any unwanted close human contacts. Grace often used silent signals, and most frequently just observational studies in her reports to the headquarters. It was an operational pattern Grace had adopted. Noon's guess was that Grace joined the group at the age as early as seven. And Noon knew it was Grace's own preciously developed preservation link.

Being, so physically fragile ever since her birth, and living in a limited space with her twin room-mate, Grace managed to connect with the group where she found shelter. It was a connection which helped her survive within the family nucleus. And Grace was undoubtedly one of the best SIGINT's recruits, with her pragmatic, yet very sensitive and delicate sensors.

Given her mode of operation it was more acceptable for her to process all information over the phone, than in person.

Noon walked her dog and coming back home she found the door unlocked. She slowly and fearfully half-opened it, not knowing what to expect behind. Another message? Another ski-masked guy? A face to face encounter?

"Hi, mum."

"Oh, oh Grace, Jesus! It's you. You scared me. Uh. I thought it was a burglar. Let me hug you."

Noon hugged her with huge relief. Grace, on the other hand, tried to keep distance, and get out of the clinch. As Grace was collecting the things from the once-to-be-her room, Noon asked her to sit down, which she reluctantly did.

"Listen Grace, I'm not well. I don't know exactly why, but I really feel horrible. Please try to understand. This won't be my permanent condition. It's just a phase. I'm a survivor and will overcome this. You know me, I've always survived."

Grace looked down with obvious unease.

"I know mum, but I'm simply scared. I don't know what to expect... will you also go to Syria like Lace... I just don't know what's gonna happen now. What does all this mean!? What's next? And that's something that horrifies me."

Grace was looking down at her knees, where she was nervously messing with her hands.

Noon started crying; it was the guilt and the incompetence that crushed her. Then, she collected herself in order not to lose Grace's hand, too.

"Listen Grace. This with me, it's gonna pass, just like one of the many episodes behind me, and you see, I'm here, coping. I'll be OK. You'll see. But... just please..."

And then Noon burst into tears, sobbing with her face in her hands.

"Please don't reject me, don't abandon me because of this. Please... I'll be OK. I've always managed to get a grip. It's just that now... now I'm limping; but that will pass, I know that. Nothing lasts forever."

There was a pause before Grace replied, on the verge of crying.

"Mum, I will not reject you, I'm not gonna abandon you. Now, that you explained all like this, I feel more confident. Don't worry, I won't leave you".

We hugged again on her way out.

7 AFT

A phone call woke Aft up. She saw a familiar number of her mum's nursery home. Before answering, a million thoughts arrived.

"Hello, Aft?"

"Good morning Maya."

Aft stopped there not daring to continue.

"Your mum had a brain stroke last night. We called the ambulance and she's in the hospital now."

"Oh. Aha. I understand."

Aft had to take a deep breath there.

"OK, thank you for calling me. Where's she, which hospital?"

Aft texted her daughters about their grand-mum's condition.

Then Aft sat on her sofa, with her mind switched to the robot-operational-mode, screening the backup options in the case of her mum's death.

Then, Joan texted back.

"Do you want me to pick you up, or to meet in front of the hospital".

That was so unexpected.

Aft was so moved by that message. Her daughter was there.

And before Joan arrived some half an hour later, Aft called Hera.

"Could you please lend me some money... just in case... Mum had a brain stroke again."

"But of course. Don't worry about that. That's settled."

Aft started crying.

"Thank you. Thank you so much."

Then, Aft received another message from Grace.

"Keep me updated about granny's condition".

Lace texted minutes after.

"So sorry, mum. Let me know if I could help."

Aft put the phone down, feeling covered by the most precious blanket.

On the way to the hospital, Joan inquired about her granny, and Aft laid down all the details with enthusiasm and appreciation for the concern.

Luckily, Aft found her mum alive.

Lying all curled up like a foetus, she recognized them. She looked so small and left without any fuel to keep fighting. Yet, she was hooked by Joan's presence, her bother, which probably ignited some extra power on her path to shutting down.

At first she talked coherently, asking Joan about the boys, Backer, her life, and then slowly she lost the picture and started mentioning things which made no sense.

Then a nurse came and asked for diapers, wet wipes and a baby cream for mum. Joan gave Aft the money to go buy all the stuff.

It was on the way back from the pharmacy that Aft became aware that she limped no more. She walked normally, even without a leg pain. The limping was gone.

When Aft came back, there was Joan, holding her granny's hand, standing by her bed.

Aft gave all the consumables to the nurse, kissed and hugged her mum.

Just a day later, she was to learn that it was for good.

Walking back into the apartment, Aft made sure there were no notes, no intruders inside.

8 EVE

When Eve received a phone call from an unknown number, she hesitated before answering. This, because there were many debt collectors who kept giving her those unpleasant calls. Anyway, since it was a land line call, Eve reckoned it was probably harmless.

"Hello."

"Eve?"

"Yes."

"I'm calling from the hospital. Your mother died."

Eve kept silent for quite some time.

"Eve, Eve... are you there?"

Eve started crying.

"Yes, yes, I'm here."

"Are you OK?"

Eve cried again in the phone.

Within a few seconds she managed to speak.

"Yes, I'm OK."

"My condolences."

"Thank you."

"You need to come here and bring her ID Card..."

When Eve hung up, she kept sitting for some time, just staring.

It took her a while before she was ready to get up and prepare to go. Before that, Eve texted her daughters, relatives and close friends about the case. She was simply felt incapable of uttering any words.

Her daughters replied. Joan texted back, offering to lend some cash.

Hera called her immediately, as well as her dear Boniface, offering all sorts of possible assistance on a plate.

It was a dire situation, but there were helping hands to hold on to.

In the hospital, Eve had to identify her mum, and see her the way she has never seen her before.

Dead.

9 NIGHTLY

Ahead of Nightly there were so many red tape matters to complete. The whole day was like running from one institution to the other, providing and in turn getting some documents.

Sometime during this paperwork agony, Nightly texted Miles.

He called back immediately.

"Where are you".

"In the chapel, I still have to do many things today and tomorrow..."

"Who's with you?"

"Nobody, I'm alone."

"I'll come and pick you up tomorrow, we'll go together wherever you need to go."

What was Nightly to say to that?!

And the next day they drove to the nursery home where her mother used to live. As they parked, Nightly stood in front of her mother's "used to be" shelter, knowing that it was the last time ever to visit that place. Nightly gazed at the terrace of her mum's room; there were those wind-fluttering lines where Nightly often spread her mum's laundry. She did not know then that the alike laundry lines would make her sad years and years after.

Together with Miles, she came to her mum's bed which was so empty, and so, so overwhelmingly silent.

Miles was collecting her mum's things while Nightly was standing.

With many burial chores ahead, they continued step by step and covered that whole path together.

"I guess we've completed everything for now. Let's just go to my place to give you a bottle of brandy; you'll need it for the funeral; for the visitors."

In his apartment Nightly sat on the chair and lit a cigarette. He came back with a glass of mineral water, stood in front of her, handing her over a sum of money.

"Thank you, Miles."

"You'll need it."

That was the day before the funeral.

More than anything else, the funeral was, like a very tightly scheduled set of actions; an expected and imposed screenplay where all actors played their respective archetype roles.

There were many relatives and neighbours, but her mum's friends boiled down to zero, as they had all reached the zone of eternity.

While walking behind the coffin, on the way to the grave, Nightly couldn't help noticing how her daughters were so scattered, separated from each other, and her. Each in her own trooper uniform.

After the ceremony, the closest ones came to Nightly's apartment and had something to eat and drink. Nightly was encouraging the stories and anecdotes referring to her parents, just as any good tour-guide would do.

In the middle of the session, Boniface dropped by from his pretty distant whereabouts, just to lend her some extra cash for the grave fees. Having completed his saver mission, some ten minutes later, he left. And, Nightly was so proud of having him as a friend.

10 MIDN

Another hot morning showed up.

After walking her poodle, there was yet another horrific shock awaiting on her table. It was another message. Midn looked at it without reading, and in a millisecond she ran out. Below, between the stairs Midn saw this individual with Hezbollah logo on the back of the T-shirt. The only difference was that now he was the one limping, and Midn was capable.

Reaching him was not difficult, and Midn was not scared. Somewhere between the first and the second floor she grabbed him by the back, all furious and impelled by the urge to see that face.

As Midn approached closer, she noticed that behind the ski mask there was some kind of a pasteboard, resembling of a face. She looked closer and was shocked. It was something like an avatar which stood still for some time, and then decomposed, producing the sound of tearing and splitting. Midn was standing with disbelief, just staring at the pile in front of her.

Some kind of tremor stretched from her tows to brain. Slowly kneeling to investigate further, Midn first tore the mask and then the shirt. Inside, there were like sets of different labelled, mailing compartments: Dusk, Dawn, Twilight, Sunrise, Morn, Noon, Aft, Eve, Nightly, Midn.

The messages were quite explicit, leaving no space left for further elaborations:

-Your daughters are deceptive-

-Lace hates you-

-Grace hates you-

-Joan hates you-

-Your daughters laugh behind your back-

-You are a horrific parent-

-You are incompetent-

-You hurt your children-

-You are just so very bad-

-You hurt others-

-You are guilty-

-You are a drunkard-

-You are absolutely worthless-

-You are a disgrace for you children-

-Your children are ashamed of you-

-You are a manipulator-

-You are a liar-

-You should kill yourself-

-Kill yourself-

Then, Midn stopped reading. She collected the bits and pieces, and dropped them all in the nearby street trash container.

And that was it.

After a long and hot shower, Midn called Miles. She wanted to join him in his six-day camping tour with his friends. Although Midn knew he could never help her with her interior, she was aware he could handle her exterior pretty good. And that was enough.

RELAYS

The ten ladies were invited to interpret at a big conference with participants speaking five different languages. Five pairs of interpreters, entered the five interpretation booths, with microphones, headphones and the relay buttons inside. Organizer's idea was that each pair would interpret from their native language into English, whereas all others would listen to that English interpretation, via the relays, and transpose it into their respective languages.

Before the beginning, the ladies, exchanged a couple of polite introductory phrases. They all turned off their mobiles, took papers and pencils, and all looked once again at each other through the window-mirror between the booths.

When the conference started, their minds switched and started working like one, inputting and outputting, connected at all times to a single source of communication. While one was interpreting, the others were listening, summarizing and transmitting.

Topic of the Conference was "HERIDITARY AND COMMUNICABLE BUGS".

MY FAMILY AND OTHER TERORISTS

1 DUSK

In summer days like those, urban infantry becomes a hostage of the clenching heat, stuck between the sky and pavement ovens. Humble, grape-clustered commuters try to hide under the moderate available islands of illusive shades at bus stations, while the fully exposed walkers helplessly withstand sun's radiation driven by their life agendas. With no sanctuary for the destitute pedestrians, all outdoor activities become soaked in sweat. The ultimately loyal corporate foot-servants submissively hold on to their suit and tie costumes, while the less automated individuals opt for a diverse selection of robes and shields.

Dusk was sitting in the same room which, before her nestlings had fled away to some other zones, used to be hers. Her entire home life style remained confined there, just as if the long gone living arrangement had never been changed. Although everything seemed ordinary, her life was somehow tending to take a gloomy turn and her brain's recent, but acute, swallowing mental disorder was slowly taking its toll.

The cheap, long not maintained air conditioner in Dusk's apartment emitted a very strange smell, and once she persuaded herself that it was unhealthy to use it anyway, all she had left was the natural ventilation, as a bogus source of chill.

So, there she was, with her more than ten-years old sofa bed, the fifty-eight years old soul, and with yet another bizarre corporate document resting on her laptop screen for translation.

Dusk briefly gazed at the neighbouring modern block of buildings. And next to that window, in the corner, stood her notorious cabinet with a hefty drawer designated for the piling up, pending bills and tax fees. As she glanced at it, the pain in her stomach and chest spread, releasing a choke of desperation.

In her quarantined work-from-home environment, Dusk continued typing, with a background TV-live buddy. The news about the latest terrorist attack made her stop working. She watched and listened because she wanted to see and hear. Her mind was triggered. It started processing and interpreting the meaning of terrorism as a social phenomenon. Has it been a companion of human race, trenching the targets both as preys, and troopers; as members and sufferers, all infected by the same universal syringe?!

Dusk's new, inner misery urged her to deal with the questions about terrorist tentacles and how they found ways to peak, sneak and infiltrate in her family bubble.

The whole thing seemed so huge, with such a tremendous impact on humankind in general; with many questions about its roots, consequences, reasoning, functioning, and the programmed recruits.

And, there was Dusk, just another climacteric female leftover, lolled in her sofa, meddling with language interpretations and fighting with the discomfort in her stomach. After a period of tranquillity, being once again trapped by her own colourful luggage, this TV news just added fuel to the fire in her mind.

The first terrorist lethal species she had met in person, were her parents.

As far as she could remember, it was sometime around the age of five. Back then, she could not have known that the exposure to terrorism was actually a recruitment procedure; an enlistment of envoys and executors; a trickery used for managing the families.

Her unawareness and the steady merging with a terror group did not make Dusk immune to the hits; on the contrary. Every punch was more painful, leaving lesser space to hide and preserve the sense of belonging and safety, within her house-terrorist-hold. Too often was she left behind to endure, just as any dispensable consumable. And the more punches she got, the more expedient terrorist grew inside her.

After being infected by that concept, it took quite some time, before she became a real follower and a subtle achiever. Usually, terrorists do not perceive themselves as such, and if they sporadically do, the pain of the respective historical wounds, drives them away from any remorse.

But, Dusk's infection was also followed by the guilt bug. She would often wear sackcloth and ashes, yet never hesitating to neglectfully disregard and betray her vulnerable, helpless, biological dependants. Terrorism was her parental model and a handy self-gadget. Her doings were rooted and shaped by that paradigm, and the absorbed patterns which had been served to her by those she trusted and loved the most as a child.

Now, it was her time to settle up accounts. Of course, Dusk knew and was profoundly aware of her guilt. But, what she did not know was the duration of her sentence, and if she was ever be pardoned.

After all, could and should terrorists ever be pardoned? Has she ever pardoned them?

So, there she was, stuck with this burdensome haversack. It was full of her children's piled, code-locked memory packages, pressing her chest, causing the pain that spread like a cloud. So many issues and questions were stacked there, haunting Dusk like her own black shadow, like hints of some implied, judgemental and scary messages.

Dusk badly needed to handle the ongoing mind agony which gave her physical shivers and tremor. The growing endless hole settled in her upper stomach, and the captivating fears, were a reason enough to call her old friend, Forger.

"Forger?"

"Oh, hi there, old chump. How's it going?"

"Listen... I need to see you as soon as possible."

"Aha. Well, let's see; how about tomorrow at one?

"Fine. I've been waiting for quite some time, you know... now, now things got out of control."

"Listen, hunn... now worries, gotta go now fix some things, but hang on, and see you tomorrow. OK?"

"Yes, thanks, see you then".

This calmed her a bit. Forger was a person and a spot where she could seek remedy; perhaps a shredder that could suck all her chaos. And now, for the first time, she also wanted to speak to him about her handicap; an alleged condition planted by her mother that deprived Dusk of being a normal human being. Dusk has never been definitely positive if she was really limping on her right leg.

As far as she could remember, with a reason or not, her mother would have often got carried away by some kind of a pandemic fury, giving Dusk amuck looks, yelling at her about her right leg; sometimes using the cudgel and hitting the leg real hard. So hard that Dusk could not walk. Being as small as she was, she thought it was a way to cure the thing, as mum knew best.

When she started her primary school she was unsure about the visibility of her handicap and whether it was evident or not. Usually she could not help behaving as a cripple, which was not without some profound consequences to her entire life. That phase was just a stepping stone to the intrusion of terrorism into Dusk's DNA.

2 DAWN

At one o'clock that very afternoon Dawn had to be in the nearby Welfare Centre to deliver as a certified interpreter. This time she was to do the so called "chuchotage" technique. A kind of simultaneous interpreting, with no headphones and microphone, just whispering into the listener's ear, transposing the speech as it goes.

Dawn was hired for the job in the case of an Egyptian, who had been issued a restriction order for contacts with his daughter and son, in response to the allegations made by his wife in divorce. Their meetings were to take place under the "controlled" circumstances, in the Welfare Centre. Dawn's role was to be there and interpret to the Egyptian whatever his children said, in the presence of a social worker.

So, preparations for the job started. She had a shower, styled her hair, and selected the appropriate outfit for her fattened figure. Dawn took her vanity case, the magnifying mirror, and set on the sofa to put on some makeup, basically the blush and lipstick.

Her hands were shaking, and the entire fixing procedure seemed as if done by a zombie rather than a sane person. Dawn was undergoing yet another panic attack. Frequency and duration of those attacks raised no resistance in her mind and body. She simply handled her condition quietly, ashamed of it, horrified and with a strong feeling of humiliation because she was affected by a disability.

Once ready, Dawn first took her dog out for a walk, fully business-like armed. Her poor poodle followed her, trained to do whatever it had to in a very fast and time-saving way. Afterwards, Dawn went off to the agreed address. She expected the assignment to be easy, and herself recuperated by then.

But, the devil never sleeps, and on her way there, Dawn fell on the street. For a few seconds her face was almost touching the pavement. Her entire body seemed to be helplessly fighting to restart its already poorly operating system. During those instances, the shock was so horrific, leaving her with a feeling of complete disorientation. And, as she was stretching there on the street, the prevailing feeling was the one of ultimate abandonment. She was petrified by the need to lean on; a provision that has not available to her. Unlike her body, her infected mind somehow did not stop. It kept processing and construing, sending clear and killing messages about her perpetual inner homelessness and destitute, evidencing all that with the current position of her very self; the broken self, lying there, on the street. In the end, Dawn's dormant mind-palace lodger, her inner, mental handyman, grouchily budged, opened the self-preservation kit, and started the recovery process. Dawn slowly moved to get up on her feet, when a passing-by stranger stopped and offered her a hand. She gratefully took that hand, still traumatized and shaking. With a candid concern about her well-being, he stood close by her side. Dawn thanked, reassuring the stranger that she would be good; and only then, he left. As she did assemble, Dawn noticed that the right leg of her trousers was torn and knee was bleeding. With hands trembling, she took out a hankie from her bag and put it underneath the trousers. The incident seemed like yet another sinister and blood-freezing sign of her problem, adding up to the flooding mental disorientation. And just as any robot would do, Dawn brushed the trousers, and moved on.

Even under the given circumstances, her mind just switched as she entered the venue. With an apologetic, polite smile on her face, Dawn gave a brief and laconic explanation about the fall, the trousers, the knee, set down next to the client and concentrated on the job, performing to the best of her knowledge.

As things finished, Dawn wanted to rush back to her safe sofa-base, frantically looking for some peace with her canned, ever loyal spirit-friend.

Yet, for some reason, the Egyptian wanted to stay with her; to hear her advice, tell her about his fears and hurdles in the pursue of the parental rights. And there they were; the two levitating strangers, exchanging some seemingly personal, but nonetheless universal emotional contents.

The reason why Dawn was so responsive to this guy, considering her psychosomatic status, was probably his extremely tender and loveable behaviour to his children which she witnessed during the meeting. Also, she was appealed by his admirable level of honesty and the worrisome burden which was so heavily depressing his eye lids. All that inevitably opened doors of Dawn's compassion casket. Although his presence on her way home was inconvenient, she was aware that he needed someone to lean on.

As he was following her back home, it happened again. Dawn stumbled once again and fell. However, this time not so heavily, and with him by her side, not hesitating to sincerely engage, and heartily help her get up. It was the second encounter in a single day where she sensed a stranger's care for her bodily safety. And for a second, it crossed Dawn's mind how humans had an inborn sensitivity to visual effects; they could easily relate to physical incapacities, while mental drawbacks had a completely different status.

Eventually, Dawn parted the Egyptian with a handshake and truly appreciative looks. The rest of the day was yet another portion of time she had to cope with, using all available notorious, canned, ammunition just to fight the torment. This abuse of alcohol could be a part of the destructive terrorist heritage, or else, an alternative exit created by her mind palace's handyman.

That day she had to deliver a seven pages long translation. So, there she was again, on her sofa, with her laptop, a telly, and a cup of coffee.

Once she was done, the only thing she yearned for was a canned "flashlight" that would temporarily alleviate the darkness from her numerous tunnels.

3 TWILIGHT

As the morning arrived, before opening her eyes, Twilight first felt the familiar devastating, upper-stomach and the right leg ache.

For a few seconds she really thought about quitting, and just doing it; but, the well-trained copers normally don't act accordingly. Be it out of a simple social decency, or a responsibility to the descendants, the "not doing it", always prevails.

With thousands of inner bees wildly bustling and hurting her, Twilight prepared for the meeting with her psychologist.

Walking to his place, she felt a dose of trepidation as to the effectiveness of his delivery.

After her brief exposé, the psychologist looked at her compassionately for a while. That was so healing.

Then, he started.

"Our minds process and interpret the psychographics; they output the readings regardless of their impact. We all need to keep re-entering and scanning the hideous, robust and cumbersome mind fortresses, looking for alternative arrangements and spaces."

Twilight began with her eyes fixed to the floor.

"On the top an oak china closet, my mum used to keep a cudgel, which was presented to me as an apparent cure for my supposed limping. She used this offending object far too often and unlimitedly. The pain which followed was dreadful.

My father was a follower of a bit different up-bringing clan with a final goal to cushion my needs, dismiss my own self, as if I were a troublesome organism imposed on him."

While talking, Twilight would burst into tears from time to time, and the psychologist would offer his Kleenex, not taking his eyes from her.

"I was pretty much confused with my vague disability; I desperately looked for a helping hand. Terrorists turned the recklessness, arrogance and torment, into my family pattern."

The psychologist was listening to her attentively and Twilight was feeling that they had some kind of a cognitive and emotional bond.

His reply was, as always, very soothing and elaborative.

"The word terror originates from Late Middle English; terrorism was used in the late 18th century, during the rule of the Jacobin fraction in the period of the French Revolution. So, this is really not a new animal, it is rather an elephant which has been haunting us.

Terrorist actions causing massive attacks are more visible and alarming. It is about the massiveness; the number of physical fatalities. It is the bodily injuries, and the deadly, visible scores that count in this matter.

But the issue building up to the micro terrorism impact, is the severity of the invisible infection that soon turns the exposed ones into the "spokes" and the "do-it" persons. The micro-terrorists, and their terrorist-to-become offspring, are simply infected, with hardly any options to make a turn.

Howsoever disguised, the family terror, keeps destroying the integrity, the self, the identity of the children, producing eventually dysfunctional household cells. Ultimately, terrorism pilots to the collapse of the micro homogeneity, sometimes creating individuals susceptible to broader, horrific terrorist attacks. It is all like a social clockwork.

Families should be suitable both for kids, as well as for adults. And that is the very idea the terrorists disrupt and defy."

Twilight listened attentively.

"But, how come the desperate victims choose to be cruel? Where is the boundary between tricking others and being tricked by our own minds?

How to handle and interpret the highly sophisticated, deep-rooted messages we receive? How come the recruitment process of family members is so contradictory? And why we nag later about the reckless acts, cruel and hurting behaviour of our beloved inheritors, whereas we had been the very implanters of that same behavioural model?"

"That has to do with individual interpretations, which frequently offer almost no tools to grow unaffected perceptions. From my experience, I think all it takes is simply to reconceptualise.

Nothing starts from the point where you stand. The hereditary tape decodes messages, reshapes them; all within the capacities of the given mind kit.

It is also about the reinvesting in the family, instead of being passively poisoned and tucked up by the terrorist aggressive aloofness. Not just for the sake of a created comfort zone, but for a broader and indeed more humane goal of passing an assertive behavioural pattern onto the offspring.

There is just one way of being a good family member. That means playing your role aptly. Otherwise, you'll be hurled back into the terrorist lap."

He was talking and Twilight was sitting on his sofa like a five-year old child, with drooping shoulders, physically distorted and freaking out to hear the magic word that would change her condition.

She felt the panic creeps overwhelming her body and mind, again.

Although her response was the one of a seemingly collected person, Twilight was just an obedient, yet craving infant, sitting in front of her psychologist.

"Yes, I can relate to that."

Twilight looked at her own humbly positioned feet.

"But, let's get back to the yesterday's event. So, you told me that you fell, tore your trousers, and with a bleeding knee went on and interpreted?

How, I mean how could you do that? Many people would just turn back, cancel the job..."

"I don't know. I was just like a soldier; had to move on and do it. Couldn't afford cancelling a job."

He raised his eyebrows and kept silent for a while.

Twilight started sobbing, with her face in her hands.

"I have no one. I'm so scared because of my disability. What if it prevents me from working!? What will happen to my children?"

"But your twins... what were their names, Lace and Grace?

"Yes."

"So, Lace and Grace are not that small, they are grown up young ladies. Aren't they by your side? I mean specifically now, when you feel as you do? And what about your eldest daughter?"

"I didn't tell them anything. And, after all, our entire relationship has been like an echo of the terrorist concept."

After yet another burst of crying, she continued.

"Speaking to them about this would be so narcissistic and unjustified. Because I see them like... like my own grown-up babies that I was supposed to nourish...but, obviously I kept leaving them wretchedly behind to survive all of my terror.

Was I so reckless, so driven by the terrorist inside me? And most importantly, have I... have I really ever mindfully understood the basic meaning of parenting?"

We both kept silent for a few seconds. Eyes of the psychologist showed deep concern. Watching him, she was all in tears. So often, during their talks Twilight had a feeling that he had the part she was missing. And more often than not, she longed to captivate and internalize the feeling he had for her.

"You know, I see my daughters wearing their own, hand-made, bullet proof, zipped up, coded, self-preservation vests.

They are survivors, trying to handle the boiling pots of the genuine anger inside. And this anger comes from their mind palaces whose contents were deviously contaminated by others... mainly, by me."

At that point she was simply driven by the need to keep talking, to follow her stream of consciousness.

"You know, I cannot say for sure, but it seems likely that my family has been entrenched in this terrorist pattern for as far as remember.

For example, my mother was a member of the Child-Mutilating Gang. She was an easy pick to be recruited. Her family was killed during the War, when she was like... about fourteen. With lots of space for manipulation, she had been receiving the messages which, opened door to her new shouldering habitat. She learned that terrorism could be a handy tool.

And as for my father, it was a different story. He joined the Red Brigades, after revealing the mighty idea of communism in the Second World War. Being quite of a skirt chaser, and a person pretty much focused on indulging himself, there was this specific kind of absenteeism and remoteness. With age, he became more of a caring father, and specifically a grandfather. When he died, I felt a deep loss."

    is where she stopped.

Twilight felt the creeps of her panic again. She shivered, afraid of drifting away from her current impelling problem.

The psychologist did not say a word. As if he could understand what was going on, he approached her, kneeled down, held Twilight's hand.

"You are ok. You have yourself, with so many ways to perceive and reconstruct."

Twilight nodded trustingly.

"I have never told you some details, the events... about me... Maybe you'll reject me for this?!"

She looked pleadingly at him.

"I would never reject you. I'm on your side. Actually, you have the two of us. We don't abandon. Our mission is to reach that long frozen concept of a battered, weak and handicapped wretch; to unfreeze it slowly, get closer to your immensely resourceful self, and eventually, if not fully, at least lightly, embrace it; to coach you how to dare open the doors of your self-palace... and you know... you have a mighty rich palace with lots of precious rooms you've never opened. Yet, through these tiny door gaps, the content behind, has always managed to creep out and guide you. You see... you're sitting here... you've been surviving."

Twilight just stared at him. Perhaps it was the idea about her handicap that prevented her from moving throughout the self-palace and benefiting from the many undiscovered rooms inside!?

When she started, her eyes were hitting the ceiling, the floor, the walls, restlessly roaming about.

"It was some time in the early eighties when I joined the Hezbollah. I was probably not even aware of that at the time... They simply started sending me the instructions, using different means, finding their way to my interface. By far, the most detrimental orders were those which affected the parental part of my mind. As a mum, there were times when I would be hurled by an overwhelming fury; the fury which I would splash onto my children, acting like any properly trained terrorist, simply ignoring my children's feelings, dismissing their needs, stepping on their most sensitive body parts. At other times my mental and physical absenteeism would produce neglect and lack of minimal care."

Twilight stopped there for a few seconds with crying eyes and permeating sadness.

"These are just some of the many, terrorist actions I've exercised against my own offspring.

But terrorism hits back, serving you with your own fabricates. It's like an endless self-propelling process.

You remember that I tend to believe that Joan converted into radicalized Muslims some ten years ago; she's been even wearing a burka... at least for the most of the time when I happen to be at their household. Safely hiding her face from me. Maybe it's her way of coping.

I have no right to disrupt my daughters' fragile survivorship patterns. I had done my share long ago.

That's just how things are. And that is why I cannot interfere, or confront them now with my handicap."

"I understand. But, what I see is the feeling of guilt which drives you below any level of human dignity.

Nobody is born as a terrorist. It's the circumstances that do the meddling.

Human race is intrinsically a fan of kindness, and good guys. I'm positive about that.

What happens after our birth, those external shots we get later on in our lives, that's something every individual is left to deal with; to wrap up the events in personally acceptable packages.

In your case, you have this never-ending need for self-flagellation, self-pitting, and self-distressing.

You don't forgive yourself. You perceive the self-forgiving as yet another reckless act towards your "victims". You have no available space for self-forgiving; it's like your own tacitly imposed conviction.

Since you know me as a non-believer, I don't want to preach about the forgiving concept; I mean, to me it's a concept over-exploited by religious middle men.

Instead I would rather talk to you about the reconstruction; perhaps you could try sometimes to observe yourself from the outside; as if you were at the same time an actor and the audience.

Try to distance yourself from your own box within which you function, open its cap and look into it as an outsider. Experiment, and see how you'll perceive yourself then, simply dare. Dare to have the right to be angry. Dare to set up your limits. Dare to forgive yourself, just a bit, one crumb at a time. Dare to leave the empiric blueprints you took on."

There he stopped, watching her with compassion and anticipation.

"But you need to share this situation with your daughters. Your condition might be quite serious. You don't want to scare them, but you need support now.

You have a lot of weight to pull and there's nobody to help you.

And don't worry, don't panic, I'm here.

Try to understand that you have a someone. But, as I have told you, more importantly than me, there is your own capable self.

Have more confidence in it and try to cherish it. It's a wonderful self, and I'm sure that deep, deep down you know that. Let it speak up to you. Let it be active, let it be a participant; not just an uninvolved observer; let it hug you, lead you, let it voice its bosom words. In your case, that is of course easier said than done, but just start thinking about this idea."

He stopped there and stared at her with those piercing eyes.

She kept silent. She knew that it would take a lot of digging and reconstructions; a lot of discipline and time.

Then he continued in a more enterprising manner.

"Now, back to our rescue plan.

Please take the current situation seriously and do speak to your children. Don't be afraid of that because of the luggage you keep dragging from the past on your already overburdened back. Let the bygones be bygones. Don't shy away from being their mother. Whatever they do and how they react now is their own responsibility. We all make mistakes. And, trust me, they do, too.

We have to see what to do with your leg concretely. You can always come and talk to me, but I think that's not enough to get rid of that pain. You also need to get some medical treatment, for the leg.

Let me see. I have this colleague, perhaps you could go and see him?"

"Of course, I also feel that's something I must do now."

Psychologist took a piece of the paper from his notebook, and wrote down the name and phone number of the doctor.

"Ok, thank you so much.

Now, I must leave you. I must go, I have a job to finish.

I'll call this doctor immediately to make an appointment."

As Twilight got up, she could hardly stand on her right leg.

He took her by the right arm.

"Are you sure you can walk. I'm worried about you."

"Yes... yes, I'll walk carefully. Don't worry, and... thank you so much."

Before parting, they exchanged the looks which seemed like the ones of a terrified child and a carrying parent.

So, she left, and headed to complete another job on time, at the nearby scheduled address. This time she had to verify some contracts as a certified translator. Twilight was insensible to anything around her, focused on getting ready to confront the situation.

Some five minutes later, before arriving to the location, she called the number the psychologist had given to her and made an appointment.

After that, Twilight calmed a bit. She will see an expert; he'll surely know how to help her.

Soon after, she arrived to the location of her business engagement. Twilight could not find the entrance, as the building was one of those with many offices and labyrinths on the ground floor. So she called her agent who then navigated her to the venue.

She got inside this flashy company facility, making sure her appearance seemed composed.

Everything there, starting from the dress code, high heels, suits and other achiever-gear, was so artificial, and somehow unfriendly, just like any other modern corporate casemate.

The secretary who took Twilight to the first floor, was a humble, yet ambitious student; a nerd ignited by the socially imposed self-confidence performance, compelled to remain a yes-man to her mentor.

The mentor showed up in a very costly clothing, decorated by fancy costume jewellery. She was very kind and respectful to Twilight. After exchanging a couple of the meaningless but necessary small talk and moderate appropriate jokes, they entered another phenomenal office, corresponding to the idea of a bombastic successful establishment. There, they waited for the client. It was an Arab guy, posh and very polite; socially defined as a professional.

Having finished the job, Twilight left those cyber-looking, and money-making premises. Walking back home she thought about the pending translation, and a class scheduled with one of her ever loyal students.

As soon as she dragged her body back home, she set on her sofa, feeling the creeps and shivers in her shoulders and arms. Although she completed all the tasks, steered by the fixation to be always fit for the job, the restless leg syndrome drove Twilight to cry, scream, kneel, plead, freak, tremble. Later in the night, she turned to her only loyal friend - the cans.

4 SUNRISE

The same pain woke up Sunrise the next day; an immense stomach, mind and leg pain, with daunting misery running all over her. And again Sunrise hesitated whether to do it once and for good. Right there and then. But, against all odds, Sunrise just went on; anyway, "the doing it" would always be there, she thought. So, she started with some simple moves, had a shower and set down. Sunrise knew that ultimately she would have to cope. As a trained soldier, she managed to finish another translation and started preparing for the meeting with the doctor.

While commuting to the private medical centre which was realistically too expensive for Sunrise, she was trying not to be bothered by that money issue.

Sunrise managed to get a grip of herself, and put on a polite smile for the nurse who awaited her. Fifteen minutes later, the doctor came.

At first sight he seemed like an experienced, knowledgeable expert; a medical wizard who, after being over-flooded with other people's pains, has formed an outer crust of a screening scrutinizer.

Anyway, his know-how was bolstered by the grey hair, and his encash by the classy king-blue shirt and trousers, the brown leather belt and shoes. Consulting room was plain, just like any other office. He sat opposite Sunrise, with a view of the window behind her back.

Not long after Sunrise started talking, she burst into tears, trying desperately to reflect her interior guts in an as readable form as possible. Sunrise suspected that nobody, other than her fellow sufferers, could ever really understand the mess inside her. All this specialist sitting in front of her could really do, was to properly classify her case, put it in a right drawer, which would in turn, output an appropriate pharmaceutical juju.

He looked at her with examining eyes; asked her several specific questions, and then Sunrise could feel that he started processing the information. That was a good sign. He was listening and Sunrise was delivering her narrative. In the end he asked her a question which seemed more like a conviction.

"How about staying in a hospital for some time?"

Sunrise was profoundly stunned. It took her breath away. Her first thought which went like a swift cold snake from her head all the way down to her toes was "am I really that sick". And that idea was absolutely paralysing.

"No, no... it's not an option, I have to work, my children depend on me."

"Well, do you have any income, I mean, are you employed?"

"No, no, I'm a freelancer... if I don't' work I don't get paid. And that's also something that drowns me, leaving me just enough time to take my nose out of the marsh, to get a quick breath; that's how I operate; and my children's subsistence literally clings on me. I mean...I feel so responsible for the twins; they have no one else. It is now, in this period, that they need my help; they need support in order to get hold of their own engines; they're still studying and their future fully depends on my help. You know... I often feel like, like... do you know the Tom and Jerry cartoon?"

He nodded.

"Well, I feel like Tom defencelessly trying to close all the leaking holes in his room. I'm simply burnt out by that, by everything...I don't have enough limbs to close all the pits.

I don't know if you understand, but... but... I feel I've reached a point where I cannot respond. And that terrifies me. Cannot play the role of being a balanced self. And this limping only underpins the helplessness."

Her whole elaboration of the circumstances was followed by crying and babble.

Doctor hesitated for some time, looking at her in a professional and assessing manner.

"If you stay in a hospital, maybe later on, we could plan some kind of a disability pension for you...I mean... hospitals are for people; you know?!"

"No, no... no way. That's just impossible."

"Ok then, let's leave that aside for now.

Have you ever had similar episodes?"

"Yes, several times."

"When was the last one?"

"Four years ago."

"Also in late spring?"

"Yes, in springtime."

It made her wonder how he knew that.

"What did you do then?"

"I appointed a visit to a doctor. She was a very good doctor in the City Hospital, gave me some pills and they worked."

"Which were those pills?"

When Sunrise told him, he simply replied.

"You don't discard a winning horse from the race. Let's try with the same pills... and we'll see. I'll be on a holiday for a month, and after that... let's meet again. Let's wait and see you and your leg then. I know it hurts a lot now, but you must be patient, it takes time. You'll keep track, and we can always increase the dose, that's simple. Is that ok with you?"

Sunrise nodded, she paid for the session on her way out, leaving her wallet with just enough money to get the pharmaceutical supplies, and enough cans.

Intuitively, Sunrise felt she was never to see that doc again.

Once Sunrise came home, there was her sofa. And along with it, there came a drive for a call, for a contact, for acceptance, for a shoulder.

Sunrise called her friend, Hera, who was very euphoric.

"Hi Sunrise, what's up. Oh, you should just see me here in the cottage, arranging the flowers right now, with a big straw hat, it's wonderful! You must come here some time. How's it going with you?"

"Hera, I'm not well."

Sunrise just started weeping, and mumbling something in a broken voice.

"Sunrise, Sunrise... what's going on, what's wrong."

Sunrise couldn't speak for a moment.

"Sunrise? Sunrise... are you there? Sunrise?"

"Hera, my right leg... it's horrible."

There came another burst of crying.

"Tell me, tell me, what's happening with you, tell me all."

By hook or by crook, Sunrise's story found its way.

After that, Sunrise remained quiet for a while.

"Sunrise, why don't you come here? You'll feel better here. There's nature... you could stay with us for some time."

"No, no... thank you so much."

And Sunrise started crying. It was the self-pity, the neediness, and the thankfulness.

"I have to work. I just have to work."

"But, Sunrise, for Chris sake, how could you possibly work now?! The doctor wanted to put you in a hospital. You should be in bed waiting for the leg to heal, with your daughters around you.

I guess you have told them?"

"No."

"You're insane! You must tell them. How could you possibly not tell them?

You're really sick. I mean... your leg...it is just like, like any other illness. I hope you understand that."

"Yes, yes, Hera, I do, but... that's not how things work in our family."

"Jesus! Will you come here then?"

"No, no, I couldn't possibly, thank you."

"What are you going to do now?"

"Try to get some sleep and tomorrow I'll go to visit my mum."

"You are really so bloody unreasonable! How could you go visiting your mum in such condition? That's crazy."

"I must bring her the diapers and other stuff. I must."

"Isn't there anyone else to do that for you? Your daughters?"

"No, that's not an option."

"I have no words. Please, and this time understand me well; you must speak to your children. You understand that? They must know?"

"Hera, you can't be serious about me doing that?"

"But of course, how could you even ask something like that!?"

"Ok, I'll do it."

"But don't scare them, don't freak them out. Just tell them so that they can understand."

"OK."

"And call me. Call me any time... whenever. Let me know how you're doing."

Back in her silent space, Sunrise picked her trustworthy, dedicated, tinned friend, and not long after she fell asleep.

5 MORN

Her same old same old system was restarted. That day, Morn was to pay a visit to Joan's family and her mum's.

Contacts with her grandsons, where the only moments when all discomfort from Morn's body was simply swept away; they were like the sensitive Martians with antennas directed towards the world around them, esoterically cherishing every bit of affection and every new experiential encounter. With them, she indulged in the primal need to bond and exchange love. Those were also the moments when Morn could somehow reinstall her self-image.

Normally, Morn would borrow Joan's car to go visit her mum in the nursing centre. But this time, given her condition, Morn knew it was a mission impossible.

Morn took a bus to her daughter's place, navigated by her mind-integrated GPS which operated unaffected by the hullabaloo in the other parts of the brain.

Her son in-law opened the door, welcoming her, while Joan was changing diapers to Morn's younger grandson. Joan gave her a fair smile from the room, but Morn could not make out if Joan was wearing a burka at the time.

As usually, Morn took her shoes off, washed hands, and was ready to hug her grandsons. Her son in-law, Backer, asked her the habitual questions. He often seemed like a middleman in the imaginary communication between her and Joan.

Backer asked Morn the usual questions about her wellbeing, and the job. Morn always earnestly appreciated his queries, as they contributed to her own perception of someone who mattered.

This time, not as a translator, but rather as a communicator, Morn had to interpret her head-mutant state.

"Well, I've stumbled a bit. It happens. My right leg is not working properly and I'm limping heavily... But I guess...I'll be OK. It's just a phase..."

After appeasing mention of some further details, the medical referral for hospital, etc., even though Morn did her best to hush the possible turmoil, she could not help feeling like a bogeyman.

By that time Joan had her burka tightly on, entirely ignoring the conversation, while her son in law looked for a way out from the mine field he had unexpectedly entered.

Joan kept silent behind her outfit for the rest of the time, leaving Morn to wonder about the extent of her unacceptability. On the top of everything, Morn had a feeling that the looks received from both, were the ones of the auditors, screening primarily the aptitude to meddle with her grandsons.

At the doorstep, Backer saw her off, with a cold, polite, pretty much controlled smile.

And after that, Morn felt like a rag, realising that the whole thing was a detrimental failure.

Nobody mentioned the car, or her health issue, ever again.

As Morn went out, she felt the hooks ploughing through her mind unbearably. With the growing and deeper limping, she wondered if she would actually still be allowed to see her grandsons. But, that was just another useless, self-made, detrimental fear.

And so, while standing in the crowded bus with hands full of stuff for her mum, Morn impulsively took a double dose of the prescribed pills, desperate to release at least a small portion of the inner desperation. Before reaching mum's nursing home, she could feel the medication working.

With a hefty package of diapers and many other things her mother had asked for, Morn reached the place. The main idea was to hideaway the limping from her mum, as Morn childishly feared the consequences. Although her mother had been in a pretty bad shape for some time, she remained to be a demanding person. And, somehow, Morn could understand that. It was her irresistible need to sustain some kind of her precious comfort, some self-respect, importance and dignity; even more so, under the circumstances, where she was just another number, another occupied bed, another lifelessness.

As Morn entered her mum's room, she shook hands with her endearing roommate, said hello to the other two ladies in the next door room, and then she approached her mum. Morn kissed her in the cheek and noticed that her eyes were blurred more than before. For the first time, after only one week of not seeing her, Morn could notice that her whole body seemed to be vanishing, shutting down.

Still, there were some things that hadn't changed.

Her mum started talking.

After a long elaboration of her intestinal problems, blood pressure, head and other issues, she switched to another topic, whispering about her mates, the house intrigues and gossips. She stopped once she exhausted all the items on her agenda.

Then she wanted to see what Morn brought. In her meticulous way she unpacked and then repacked every single thing, applying her own enveloping technology, and putting the goods into the space she had dedicated for each particular item in her nightstand. Morn could tell that this time she was satisfied with the batch of supplies.

Then mum looked back at her.

"And you? How are you and the children?"

"All is fine mum, we're all fine."

"And Joan, Lace and Grace?"

"They're all doing well".

"Do the two study?"

"Yes, Lace and Grace study and Joan is very successful at her job. They are really good girls."

"Does Joan call you sometimes?"

"Well... not really."

"What can you do..."

Then Morn sighed.

"And your grandsons, how are they?"

"Let me show you their photos."

Morn's mum liked that a lot, making some humorous comments about them, and laughing at how cute they both were.

Morn took her by the hand and held her.

"My dear daughter. I love you so much."

"I know, mum. And I love you, too."

Morn stepped up, cuddled her forehead and head, and mum started crying.

"What's gonna happen to me?"

"Nothing, mum. It's just another crisis. It will pass. It happens all the time. We all undergo crisis."

Mum got that sombre look immediately and asked Morn if she was drinking.

"Of course not, mum, how could you even ask me something like that now. I don't drink."

"And your leg? You know that it needs to be treated?"

"I know mum, I treat it, daily... It's perfect."

Her mum had an urge to keep Morn attached to her as a single source of Morn's cure, and a person indispensable in her life. But, that kind of dependence had been long gone. Now, the hits with mum's stick were merely her way of communication and imaginary bonding.

Making a huge effort not to show the profoundness of her limping, Morn went out to the terrace of her mum's room for a smoke.

A nurse joined her there and told her that mum was not well, that they had all been trying to help her, and that they would let Morn know within days if it would be necessary to put her mum in a hospital.

Morn stayed, captivated with the reality, her own, her mum's, the painful reality booming in her mind.

As Morn came back into the room, her mum was asleep. Morn kissed her in the forehead, said goodbye to all her mates and left.

On her back home bus tour, Morn felt a bit better due to the medication, and in a zombie-coded way towed herself back to her sofa.

It was then, that something extremely peculiar happened. It was a situation beyond the comprehension of her reasoning.

There, on her table, just in front of her sofa, laid a message written in big letters: JOAN HATES YOU.

Morn looked around. There was nobody. Morn limped her way through all the rooms and opened the entrance door. Looking down the stairs she saw a figure wearing a ski mask, running like hell. Although Morn did try, chasing and getting hold of that creature that was simply far beyond her capacities. The only thing Morn managed to notice was the Hezbollah logo at the back of his tight black top.

As Morn closed and locked the door twice, ideas came flooding her mind. An unknown somebody had been there just seconds before she came. She set down on the sofa, took the printed message and looked at it carefully. There was nothing leading to the discovery of its origin.

At first Morn thought about calling for the housebreak, but then, supported by the very moderate but memorable experience with police, Morn quickly dismissed that idea.

Morn picked her mobile.

As Morn was dialling the psychologist's number, her cell phone was actually quavering in her hand. In fragmented sentences Morn breathlessly uttered what had happened. As always, the very sound of psychologist's voice had this curing effect on her. They appointed to meet the day after.

Morn put the phone down and opened her most reliable, intimate, alcohol container. Instead of jumping on it immediately, she kept examining the room to see if there was anything moved, replaced, making sure she was all alone on her sofa. Even though her dog was just a friendly and harmless poodle, Morn knew that in the case of another burglary it would definitely detect it and bark. Morn looked at the printed message again, just to verify if it was real, or if she simply went nuts.

Then, Morn gave a call to her old sweet heart, that she had split with some twelve years ago. Since they've been in contact occasionally, her call did not really come as much of a surprise.

He arrived half an hour later. Morn waited for him at the local bus station and rushed into his arms, leaning on his shoulder.

"Oh, Miles...."

The rest of their encounter was about her sobbing and frantic restlessness with severe limping on the way to the nearby café. He was looking at her leg worriedly and listening to her attentively, while Morn kept mumbling about her leg, the doctor, her grandsons, her daughters, the pain, the message... Then Morn told him she could no longer sit there, and asked him to keep walking for a while. Although hobbling, she believed that moving would cushion the inner cyclone agitation. To her misfortune, it didn't. After a while, Morn told him that she had to be alone, which was a blatant lie, since all Morn really wanted to do was to knock herself down.

He stood there confusedly looking at her.

"Are you sure you can walk home safely?"

"Yes, yes, Miles, I'll walk my way home. Thank you so much for coming. You are such a... such a wonderful person. Please excuse me for troubling you and thank you... thank you so much."

Before he could say anything, Morn put her arms around his neck.

"I'll call you. Thank you, thanks a million."

And they parted, but this time not for long.

It had always been like that with Miles; Morn could never really tell what he felt. He often seemed like a boy zipped up in his simplified version of the world where he felt safe. He preserved such setup just by submissively following the mainstream habits and rituals, and adding some spice to his neat life-arrangement, through many hobbies which coupled him with other people. Sometimes, Morn thought that Miles's only criteria for accepting those numerous others was just to be accepted. Features of the others simply seemed not to be within Miles's periscope.

But, Miles proved to be a true friend to Morn, and definitely more than that; fully devoted and ready to hold her lingering hand. Unfortunately, at the time, her state was unrepairable from the outside.

As Morn finally got hold of her safe sofa, she drank fast, trying to get to the point of the tranquilizing indifference as soon as possible.

Before dozing away, her very dear, exceptional friend and a colleague texted her, telling her that he was no longer in the roaming area. Even during his stay in Belgium, Boniface used to call her every now and then, just to tell her how some things in Brussels reminded him of her, and how he wished Morn was there. And that was so remedying; the validation which proved that she had preserved some of the fertile soil for the self-confidence in her distorted picture.

They spoke briefly on the phone, arranging to meet in two days. Morn left her limping exodus story for some time later, or perhaps for never after, which in their relationship wouldn't make much difference anyway.

    and Morn had something in common, and that was the addiction; actually her "alcoho" and his "foodo"-lism. When in action, consumption of their hooch was so fast and so frantic as if both had to silence their cravings speedily.

6 NOON

The next afternoon, Noon decided to call her daughter, Lace. And to her, Lace was another very delicate curve to climb, just as were the other two.

Some three years ago, at the age of seventeen Lace had started having serious problems with her mandible whenever she was to eat. And not before long, probably like most mums do, Noon could smell the handicap. Maybe because it was, just like hers, nourished with years, and just like Noon's, sustained by her own mum, the dodgy terrorist in disguise. There were times when Lace simply could not open her jaw to eat, and at other times she could not close it; and that was more often than not, a life threatening condition.

It's one thing if a parent is hit by a handicap, but it's a whole different kettle of fish when it captures your kid. Noon had secure techniques to catch a breath, but as for her child... she wasn't sure. Although Lace's pain was readable to her mum, Noon could no longer truly get hold of Lace's hand which was so, so very precious. That hand was lost, lingering somewhere, in some other, unknown spaces, helpless, tiny as it was, and all alone.

With time, Lace started physically disappearing.

Noon suspected that it was the Isis that sneakily and slowly recruited her, using the terrorist frequency which had been tuned in Lace's mind. It was an embracing anger ideology, an antagonizing tunnel, wherefrom Lace saw no way out. Lace must have felt that there was no reason to exit, as outside, the one and only thing awaiting, was her family.

Whenever Lace was let to come back home from Syria, Noon could notice her radical ideas and bodily injuries. Isis had her under their thumb. They got hold of her child's hand, instead of her.

Noon's intuitive guide instructed her just to stick to Lace. And Noon blindly followed that, sending regular notices which were mostly ignored in the beginning. However, months later, Lace started giving some hints about her own self reunion, somewhere else.

At the time of Noon's call, Lace was living with her boyfriend, someplace else, for more than a year. Noon truly tried to sound calm.

"Hi, Lace, how are you?"

"I'm Ok. And you?"

"Well, I'm not good".

"Why?"

Their conversation ended with her restrained support and acknowledgment of the situation.

When Noon hung up, she was somewhat worried about the impact of her delivery, yet reassured by Hera's advice that her children should know.

A phone call brought her back to business. It was one of the translation agencies Noon worked for.

"Noon?"

"Oh, hi. What's up?"

"Just as busy as always. We've sent you a document for translation. Please take a look and see if you could accept it."

Noon opened her e-mail and as usually, found a huge paper with a very short deadline.

For the sake of her financial situation, there was no option but to accept it, and work like hell. So, the process started.

Soon after, another agency called.

"Hi Noon, listen, will you be available next week to deliver simultaneous interpreting? It's going to last two weeks."

"Sure, no problem. Could you send an e-mail with all the details?"

"Of course, Noon. Bye".

"Bye, and see you there. Thanks."

Noon spent the whole day working as fast as she could. The translation was due by 8 the next evening.

Then, there was a phone call.

"Hi, mum. How are you? I planned to come today to pick some things as Ace and I will travel to visit his parents. Will you be at home this afternoon, around... like 4, 5 o'clock?"

"Yes, honey, I will. And please make some time for, 10 minutes for us to talk."

"Why, is there anything wrong?"

"Well, not really, I just want to talk with you."

"What do you mean by 'not really'? Is there something wrong or not?"

"Well, yes...".

When Noon finished, she could feel Grace being utterly taken aback and scared, probably recollecting the handicaps running in the family.

As a member of an anti-terrorist intelligence, SIGINT, Grace operated by means of technical equipment, distanced from any unwanted close human contacts. Grace often used silent signals, and most frequently just observational studies in her reports to the headquarters. It was an operational pattern Grace had adopted. Noon's guess was that Grace joined the group at the age as early as seven. And Noon knew it was Grace's own preciously developed preservation link.

Being, so physically fragile ever since her birth, and living in a limited space with her twin room-mate, Grace managed to connect with the group where she found shelter. It was a connection which helped her survive within the family nucleus. And Grace was undoubtedly one of the best SIGINT's recruits, with her pragmatic, yet very sensitive and delicate sensors.

Given her mode of operation it was more acceptable for her to process all information over the phone, than in person.

Noon walked her dog and coming back home she found the door unlocked. She slowly and fearfully half-opened it, not knowing what to expect behind. Another message? Another ski-masked guy? A face to face encounter?

"Hi, mum."

"Oh, oh Grace, Jesus! It's you. You scared me. Uh. I thought it was a burglar. Let me hug you."

Noon hugged her with huge relief. Grace, on the other hand, tried to keep distance, and get out of the clinch. As Grace was collecting the things from the once-to-be-her room, Noon asked her to sit down, which she reluctantly did.

"Listen Grace, I'm not well. I don't know exactly why, but I really feel horrible. Please try to understand. This won't be my permanent condition. It's just a phase. I'm a survivor and will overcome this. You know me, I've always survived."

Grace looked down with obvious unease.

"I know mum, but I'm simply scared. I don't know what to expect... will you also go to Syria like Lace... I just don't know what's gonna happen now. What does all this mean!? What's next? And that's something that horrifies me."

Grace was looking down at her knees, where she was nervously messing with her hands.

Noon started crying; it was the guilt and the incompetence that crushed her. Then, she collected herself in order not to lose Grace's hand, too.

"Listen Grace. This with me, it's gonna pass, just like one of the many episodes behind me, and you see, I'm here, coping. I'll be OK. You'll see. But... just please..."

And then Noon burst into tears, sobbing with her face in her hands.

"Please don't reject me, don't abandon me because of this. Please... I'll be OK. I've always managed to get a grip. It's just that now... now I'm limping; but that will pass, I know that. Nothing lasts forever."

There was a pause before Grace replied, on the verge of crying.

"Mum, I will not reject you, I'm not gonna abandon you. Now, that you explained all like this, I feel more confident. Don't worry, I won't leave you".

We hugged again on her way out.

7 AFT

A phone call woke Aft up. She saw a familiar number of her mum's nursery home. Before answering, a million thoughts arrived.

"Hello, Aft?"

"Good morning Maya."

Aft stopped there not daring to continue.

"Your mum had a brain stroke last night. We called the ambulance and she's in the hospital now."

"Oh. Aha. I understand."

Aft had to take a deep breath there.

"OK, thank you for calling me. Where's she, which hospital?"

Aft texted her daughters about their grand-mum's condition.

Then Aft sat on her sofa, with her mind switched to the robot-operational-mode, screening the backup options in the case of her mum's death.

Then, Joan texted back.

"Do you want me to pick you up, or to meet in front of the hospital".

That was so unexpected.

Aft was so moved by that message. Her daughter was there.

And before Joan arrived some half an hour later, Aft called Hera.

"Could you please lend me some money... just in case... Mum had a brain stroke again."

"But of course. Don't worry about that. That's settled."

Aft started crying.

"Thank you. Thank you so much."

Then, Aft received another message from Grace.

"Keep me updated about granny's condition".

Lace texted minutes after.

"So sorry, mum. Let me know if I could help."

Aft put the phone down, feeling covered by the most precious blanket.

On the way to the hospital, Joan inquired about her granny, and Aft laid down all the details with enthusiasm and appreciation for the concern.

Luckily, Aft found her mum alive.

Lying all curled up like a foetus, she recognized them. She looked so small and left without any fuel to keep fighting. Yet, she was hooked by Joan's presence, her bother, which probably ignited some extra power on her path to shutting down.

At first she talked coherently, asking Joan about the boys, Backer, her life, and then slowly she lost the picture and started mentioning things which made no sense.

Then a nurse came and asked for diapers, wet wipes and a baby cream for mum. Joan gave Aft the money to go buy all the stuff.

It was on the way back from the pharmacy that Aft became aware that she limped no more. She walked normally, even without a leg pain. The limping was gone.

When Aft came back, there was Joan, holding her granny's hand, standing by her bed.

Aft gave all the consumables to the nurse, kissed and hugged her mum.

Just a day later, she was to learn that it was for good.

Walking back into the apartment, Aft made sure there were no notes, no intruders inside.

8 EVE

When Eve received a phone call from an unknown number, she hesitated before answering. This, because there were many debt collectors who kept giving her those unpleasant calls. Anyway, since it was a land line call, Eve reckoned it was probably harmless.

"Hello."

"Eve?"

"Yes."

"I'm calling from the hospital. Your mother died."

Eve kept silent for quite some time.

"Eve, Eve... are you there?"

Eve started crying.

"Yes, yes, I'm here."

"Are you OK?"

Eve cried again in the phone.

Within a few seconds she managed to speak.

"Yes, I'm OK."

"My condolences."

"Thank you."

"You need to come here and bring her ID Card..."

When Eve hung up, she kept sitting for some time, just staring.

It took her a while before she was ready to get up and prepare to go. Before that, Eve texted her daughters, relatives and close friends about the case. She was simply felt incapable of uttering any words.

Her daughters replied. Joan texted back, offering to lend some cash.

Hera called her immediately, as well as her dear Boniface, offering all sorts of possible assistance on a plate.

It was a dire situation, but there were helping hands to hold on to.

In the hospital, Eve had to identify her mum, and see her the way she has never seen her before.

Dead.

9 NIGHTLY

Ahead of Nightly there were so many red tape matters to complete. The whole day was like running from one institution to the other, providing and in turn getting some documents.

Sometime during this paperwork agony, Nightly texted Miles.

He called back immediately.

"Where are you".

"In the chapel, I still have to do many things today and tomorrow..."

"Who's with you?"

"Nobody, I'm alone."

"I'll come and pick you up tomorrow, we'll go together wherever you need to go."

What was Nightly to say to that?!

And the next day they drove to the nursery home where her mother used to live. As they parked, Nightly stood in front of her mother's "used to be" shelter, knowing that it was the last time ever to visit that place. Nightly gazed at the terrace of her mum's room; there were those wind-fluttering lines where Nightly often spread her mum's laundry. She did not know then that the alike laundry lines would make her sad years and years after.

Together with Miles, she came to her mum's bed which was so empty, and so, so overwhelmingly silent.

Miles was collecting her mum's things while Nightly was standing.

With many burial chores ahead, they continued step by step and covered that whole path together.

"I guess we've completed everything for now. Let's just go to my place to give you a bottle of brandy; you'll need it for the funeral; for the visitors."

In his apartment Nightly sat on the chair and lit a cigarette. He came back with a glass of mineral water, stood in front of her, handing her over a sum of money.

"Thank you, Miles."

"You'll need it."

That was the day before the funeral.

More than anything else, the funeral was, like a very tightly scheduled set of actions; an expected and imposed screenplay where all actors played their respective archetype roles.

There were many relatives and neighbours, but her mum's friends boiled down to zero, as they had all reached the zone of eternity.

While walking behind the coffin, on the way to the grave, Nightly couldn't help noticing how her daughters were so scattered, separated from each other, and her. Each in her own trooper uniform.

After the ceremony, the closest ones came to Nightly's apartment and had something to eat and drink. Nightly was encouraging the stories and anecdotes referring to her parents, just as any good tour-guide would do.

In the middle of the session, Boniface dropped by from his pretty distant whereabouts, just to lend her some extra cash for the grave fees. Having completed his saver mission, some ten minutes later, he left. And, Nightly was so proud of having him as a friend.

10 MIDN

Another hot morning showed up.

After walking her poodle, there was yet another horrific shock awaiting on her table. It was another message. Midn looked at it without reading, and in a millisecond she ran out. Below, between the stairs Midn saw this individual with Hezbollah logo on the back of the T-shirt. The only difference was that now he was the one limping, and Midn was capable.

Reaching him was not difficult, and Midn was not scared. Somewhere between the first and the second floor she grabbed him by the back, all furious and impelled by the urge to see that face.

As Midn approached closer, she noticed that behind the ski mask there was some kind of a pasteboard, resembling of a face. She looked closer and was shocked. It was something like an avatar which stood still for some time, and then decomposed, producing the sound of tearing and splitting. Midn was standing with disbelief, just staring at the pile in front of her.

Some kind of tremor stretched from her tows to brain. Slowly kneeling to investigate further, Midn first tore the mask and then the shirt. Inside, there were like sets of different labelled, mailing compartments: Dusk, Dawn, Twilight, Sunrise, Morn, Noon, Aft, Eve, Nightly, Midn.

The messages were quite explicit, leaving no space left for further elaborations:

-Your daughters are deceptive-

-Lace hates you-

-Grace hates you-

-Joan hates you-

-Your daughters laugh behind your back-

-You are a horrific parent-

-You are incompetent-

-You hurt your children-

-You are just so very bad-

-You hurt others-

-You are guilty-

-You are a drunkard-

-You are absolutely worthless-

-You are a disgrace for you children-

-Your children are ashamed of you-

-You are a manipulator-

-You are a liar-

-You should kill yourself-

-Kill yourself-

Then, Midn stopped reading. She collected the bits and pieces, and dropped them all in the nearby street trash container.

And that was it.

After a long and hot shower, Midn called Miles. She wanted to join him in his six-day camping tour with his friends. Although Midn knew he could never help her with her interior, she was aware he could handle her exterior pretty good. And that was enough.

RELAYS

The ten ladies were invited to interpret at a big conference with participants speaking five different languages. Five pairs of interpreters, entered the five interpretation booths, with microphones, headphones and the relay buttons inside. Organizer's idea was that each pair would interpret from their native language into English, whereas all others would listen to that English interpretation, via the relays, and transpose it into their respective languages.

Before the beginning, the ladies, exchanged a couple of polite introductory phrases. They all turned off their mobiles, took papers and pencils, and all looked once again at each other through the window-mirror between the booths.

When the conference started, their minds switched and started working like one, inputting and outputting, connected at all times to a single source of communication. While one was interpreting, the others were listening, summarizing and transmitting.

Topic of the Conference was "HERIDITARY AND COMMUNICABLE BUGS".

MY FAMILY AND OTHER TERORISTS

1 DUSK

In summer days like those, urban infantry becomes a hostage of the clenching heat, stuck between the sky and pavement ovens. Humble, grape-clustered commuters try to hide under the moderate available islands of illusive shades at bus stations, while the fully exposed walkers helplessly withstand sun's radiation driven by their life agendas. With no sanctuary for the destitute pedestrians, all outdoor activities become soaked in sweat. The ultimately loyal corporate foot-servants submissively hold on to their suit and tie costumes, while the less automated individuals opt for a diverse selection of robes and shields.

Dusk was sitting in the same room which, before her nestlings had fled away to some other zones, used to be hers. Her entire home life style remained confined there, just as if the long gone living arrangement had never been changed. Although everything seemed ordinary, her life was somehow tending to take a gloomy turn and her brain's recent, but acute, swallowing mental disorder was slowly taking its toll.

The cheap, long not maintained air conditioner in Dusk's apartment emitted a very strange smell, and once she persuaded herself that it was unhealthy to use it anyway, all she had left was the natural ventilation, as a bogus source of chill.

So, there she was, with her more than ten-years old sofa bed, the fifty-eight years old soul, and with yet another bizarre corporate document resting on her laptop screen for translation.

Dusk briefly gazed at the neighbouring modern block of buildings. And next to that window, in the corner, stood her notorious cabinet with a hefty drawer designated for the piling up, pending bills and tax fees. As she glanced at it, the pain in her stomach and chest spread, releasing a choke of desperation.

In her quarantined work-from-home environment, Dusk continued typing, with a background TV-live buddy. The news about the latest terrorist attack made her stop working. She watched and listened because she wanted to see and hear. Her mind was triggered. It started processing and interpreting the meaning of terrorism as a social phenomenon. Has it been a companion of human race, trenching the targets both as preys, and troopers; as members and sufferers, all infected by the same universal syringe?!

Dusk's new, inner misery urged her to deal with the questions about terrorist tentacles and how they found ways to peak, sneak and infiltrate in her family bubble.

The whole thing seemed so huge, with such a tremendous impact on humankind in general; with many questions about its roots, consequences, reasoning, functioning, and the programmed recruits.

And, there was Dusk, just another climacteric female leftover, lolled in her sofa, meddling with language interpretations and fighting with the discomfort in her stomach. After a period of tranquillity, being once again trapped by her own colourful luggage, this TV news just added fuel to the fire in her mind.

The first terrorist lethal species she had met in person, were her parents.

As far as she could remember, it was sometime around the age of five. Back then, she could not have known that the exposure to terrorism was actually a recruitment procedure; an enlistment of envoys and executors; a trickery used for managing the families.

Her unawareness and the steady merging with a terror group did not make Dusk immune to the hits; on the contrary. Every punch was more painful, leaving lesser space to hide and preserve the sense of belonging and safety, within her house-terrorist-hold. Too often was she left behind to endure, just as any dispensable consumable. And the more punches she got, the more expedient terrorist grew inside her.

After being infected by that concept, it took quite some time, before she became a real follower and a subtle achiever. Usually, terrorists do not perceive themselves as such, and if they sporadically do, the pain of the respective historical wounds, drives them away from any remorse.

But, Dusk's infection was also followed by the guilt bug. She would often wear sackcloth and ashes, yet never hesitating to neglectfully disregard and betray her vulnerable, helpless, biological dependants. Terrorism was her parental model and a handy self-gadget. Her doings were rooted and shaped by that paradigm, and the absorbed patterns which had been served to her by those she trusted and loved the most as a child.

Now, it was her time to settle up accounts. Of course, Dusk knew and was profoundly aware of her guilt. But, what she did not know was the duration of her sentence, and if she was ever be pardoned.

After all, could and should terrorists ever be pardoned? Has she ever pardoned them?

So, there she was, stuck with this burdensome haversack. It was full of her children's piled, code-locked memory packages, pressing her chest, causing the pain that spread like a cloud. So many issues and questions were stacked there, haunting Dusk like her own black shadow, like hints of some implied, judgemental and scary messages.

Dusk badly needed to handle the ongoing mind agony which gave her physical shivers and tremor. The growing endless hole settled in her upper stomach, and the captivating fears, were a reason enough to call her old friend, Forger.

"Forger?"

"Oh, hi there, old chump. How's it going?"

"Listen... I need to see you as soon as possible."

"Aha. Well, let's see; how about tomorrow at one?

"Fine. I've been waiting for quite some time, you know... now, now things got out of control."

"Listen, hunn... now worries, gotta go now fix some things, but hang on, and see you tomorrow. OK?"

"Yes, thanks, see you then".

This calmed her a bit. Forger was a person and a spot where she could seek remedy; perhaps a shredder that could suck all her chaos. And now, for the first time, she also wanted to speak to him about her handicap; an alleged condition planted by her mother that deprived Dusk of being a normal human being. Dusk has never been definitely positive if she was really limping on her right leg.

As far as she could remember, with a reason or not, her mother would have often got carried away by some kind of a pandemic fury, giving Dusk amuck looks, yelling at her about her right leg; sometimes using the cudgel and hitting the leg real hard. So hard that Dusk could not walk. Being as small as she was, she thought it was a way to cure the thing, as mum knew best.

When she started her primary school she was unsure about the visibility of her handicap and whether it was evident or not. Usually she could not help behaving as a cripple, which was not without some profound consequences to her entire life. That phase was just a stepping stone to the intrusion of terrorism into Dusk's DNA.

2 DAWN

At one o'clock that very afternoon Dawn had to be in the nearby Welfare Centre to deliver as a certified interpreter. This time she was to do the so called "chuchotage" technique. A kind of simultaneous interpreting, with no headphones and microphone, just whispering into the listener's ear, transposing the speech as it goes.

Dawn was hired for the job in the case of an Egyptian, who had been issued a restriction order for contacts with his daughter and son, in response to the allegations made by his wife in divorce. Their meetings were to take place under the "controlled" circumstances, in the Welfare Centre. Dawn's role was to be there and interpret to the Egyptian whatever his children said, in the presence of a social worker.

So, preparations for the job started. She had a shower, styled her hair, and selected the appropriate outfit for her fattened figure. Dawn took her vanity case, the magnifying mirror, and set on the sofa to put on some makeup, basically the blush and lipstick.

Her hands were shaking, and the entire fixing procedure seemed as if done by a zombie rather than a sane person. Dawn was undergoing yet another panic attack. Frequency and duration of those attacks raised no resistance in her mind and body. She simply handled her condition quietly, ashamed of it, horrified and with a strong feeling of humiliation because she was affected by a disability.

Once ready, Dawn first took her dog out for a walk, fully business-like armed. Her poor poodle followed her, trained to do whatever it had to in a very fast and time-saving way. Afterwards, Dawn went off to the agreed address. She expected the assignment to be easy, and herself recuperated by then.

But, the devil never sleeps, and on her way there, Dawn fell on the street. For a few seconds her face was almost touching the pavement. Her entire body seemed to be helplessly fighting to restart its already poorly operating system. During those instances, the shock was so horrific, leaving her with a feeling of complete disorientation. And, as she was stretching there on the street, the prevailing feeling was the one of ultimate abandonment. She was petrified by the need to lean on; a provision that has not available to her. Unlike her body, her infected mind somehow did not stop. It kept processing and construing, sending clear and killing messages about her perpetual inner homelessness and destitute, evidencing all that with the current position of her very self; the broken self, lying there, on the street. In the end, Dawn's dormant mind-palace lodger, her inner, mental handyman, grouchily budged, opened the self-preservation kit, and started the recovery process. Dawn slowly moved to get up on her feet, when a passing-by stranger stopped and offered her a hand. She gratefully took that hand, still traumatized and shaking. With a candid concern about her well-being, he stood close by her side. Dawn thanked, reassuring the stranger that she would be good; and only then, he left. As she did assemble, Dawn noticed that the right leg of her trousers was torn and knee was bleeding. With hands trembling, she took out a hankie from her bag and put it underneath the trousers. The incident seemed like yet another sinister and blood-freezing sign of her problem, adding up to the flooding mental disorientation. And just as any robot would do, Dawn brushed the trousers, and moved on.

Even under the given circumstances, her mind just switched as she entered the venue. With an apologetic, polite smile on her face, Dawn gave a brief and laconic explanation about the fall, the trousers, the knee, set down next to the client and concentrated on the job, performing to the best of her knowledge.

As things finished, Dawn wanted to rush back to her safe sofa-base, frantically looking for some peace with her canned, ever loyal spirit-friend.

Yet, for some reason, the Egyptian wanted to stay with her; to hear her advice, tell her about his fears and hurdles in the pursue of the parental rights. And there they were; the two levitating strangers, exchanging some seemingly personal, but nonetheless universal emotional contents.

The reason why Dawn was so responsive to this guy, considering her psychosomatic status, was probably his extremely tender and loveable behaviour to his children which she witnessed during the meeting. Also, she was appealed by his admirable level of honesty and the worrisome burden which was so heavily depressing his eye lids. All that inevitably opened doors of Dawn's compassion casket. Although his presence on her way home was inconvenient, she was aware that he needed someone to lean on.

As he was following her back home, it happened again. Dawn stumbled once again and fell. However, this time not so heavily, and with him by her side, not hesitating to sincerely engage, and heartily help her get up. It was the second encounter in a single day where she sensed a stranger's care for her bodily safety. And for a second, it crossed Dawn's mind how humans had an inborn sensitivity to visual effects; they could easily relate to physical incapacities, while mental drawbacks had a completely different status.

Eventually, Dawn parted the Egyptian with a handshake and truly appreciative looks. The rest of the day was yet another portion of time she had to cope with, using all available notorious, canned, ammunition just to fight the torment. This abuse of alcohol could be a part of the destructive terrorist heritage, or else, an alternative exit created by her mind palace's handyman.

That day she had to deliver a seven pages long translation. So, there she was again, on her sofa, with her laptop, a telly, and a cup of coffee.

Once she was done, the only thing she yearned for was a canned "flashlight" that would temporarily alleviate the darkness from her numerous tunnels.

3 TWILIGHT

As the morning arrived, before opening her eyes, Twilight first felt the familiar devastating, upper-stomach and the right leg ache.

For a few seconds she really thought about quitting, and just doing it; but, the well-trained copers normally don't act accordingly. Be it out of a simple social decency, or a responsibility to the descendants, the "not doing it", always prevails.

With thousands of inner bees wildly bustling and hurting her, Twilight prepared for the meeting with her psychologist.

Walking to his place, she felt a dose of trepidation as to the effectiveness of his delivery.

After her brief exposé, the psychologist looked at her compassionately for a while. That was so healing.

Then, he started.

"Our minds process and interpret the psychographics; they output the readings regardless of their impact. We all need to keep re-entering and scanning the hideous, robust and cumbersome mind fortresses, looking for alternative arrangements and spaces."

Twilight began with her eyes fixed to the floor.

"On the top an oak china closet, my mum used to keep a cudgel, which was presented to me as an apparent cure for my supposed limping. She used this offending object far too often and unlimitedly. The pain which followed was dreadful.

My father was a follower of a bit different up-bringing clan with a final goal to cushion my needs, dismiss my own self, as if I were a troublesome organism imposed on him."

While talking, Twilight would burst into tears from time to time, and the psychologist would offer his Kleenex, not taking his eyes from her.

"I was pretty much confused with my vague disability; I desperately looked for a helping hand. Terrorists turned the recklessness, arrogance and torment, into my family pattern."

The psychologist was listening to her attentively and Twilight was feeling that they had some kind of a cognitive and emotional bond.

His reply was, as always, very soothing and elaborative.

"The word terror originates from Late Middle English; terrorism was used in the late 18th century, during the rule of the Jacobin fraction in the period of the French Revolution. So, this is really not a new animal, it is rather an elephant which has been haunting us.

Terrorist actions causing massive attacks are more visible and alarming. It is about the massiveness; the number of physical fatalities. It is the bodily injuries, and the deadly, visible scores that count in this matter.

But the issue building up to the micro terrorism impact, is the severity of the invisible infection that soon turns the exposed ones into the "spokes" and the "do-it" persons. The micro-terrorists, and their terrorist-to-become offspring, are simply infected, with hardly any options to make a turn.

Howsoever disguised, the family terror, keeps destroying the integrity, the self, the identity of the children, producing eventually dysfunctional household cells. Ultimately, terrorism pilots to the collapse of the micro homogeneity, sometimes creating individuals susceptible to broader, horrific terrorist attacks. It is all like a social clockwork.

Families should be suitable both for kids, as well as for adults. And that is the very idea the terrorists disrupt and defy."

Twilight listened attentively.

"But, how come the desperate victims choose to be cruel? Where is the boundary between tricking others and being tricked by our own minds?

How to handle and interpret the highly sophisticated, deep-rooted messages we receive? How come the recruitment process of family members is so contradictory? And why we nag later about the reckless acts, cruel and hurting behaviour of our beloved inheritors, whereas we had been the very implanters of that same behavioural model?"

"That has to do with individual interpretations, which frequently offer almost no tools to grow unaffected perceptions. From my experience, I think all it takes is simply to reconceptualise.

Nothing starts from the point where you stand. The hereditary tape decodes messages, reshapes them; all within the capacities of the given mind kit.

It is also about the reinvesting in the family, instead of being passively poisoned and tucked up by the terrorist aggressive aloofness. Not just for the sake of a created comfort zone, but for a broader and indeed more humane goal of passing an assertive behavioural pattern onto the offspring.

There is just one way of being a good family member. That means playing your role aptly. Otherwise, you'll be hurled back into the terrorist lap."

He was talking and Twilight was sitting on his sofa like a five-year old child, with drooping shoulders, physically distorted and freaking out to hear the magic word that would change her condition.

She felt the panic creeps overwhelming her body and mind, again.

Although her response was the one of a seemingly collected person, Twilight was just an obedient, yet craving infant, sitting in front of her psychologist.

"Yes, I can relate to that."

Twilight looked at her own humbly positioned feet.

"But, let's get back to the yesterday's event. So, you told me that you fell, tore your trousers, and with a bleeding knee went on and interpreted?

How, I mean how could you do that? Many people would just turn back, cancel the job..."

"I don't know. I was just like a soldier; had to move on and do it. Couldn't afford cancelling a job."

He raised his eyebrows and kept silent for a while.

Twilight started sobbing, with her face in her hands.

"I have no one. I'm so scared because of my disability. What if it prevents me from working!? What will happen to my children?"

"But your twins... what were their names, Lace and Grace?

"Yes."

"So, Lace and Grace are not that small, they are grown up young ladies. Aren't they by your side? I mean specifically now, when you feel as you do? And what about your eldest daughter?"

"I didn't tell them anything. And, after all, our entire relationship has been like an echo of the terrorist concept."

After yet another burst of crying, she continued.

"Speaking to them about this would be so narcissistic and unjustified. Because I see them like... like my own grown-up babies that I was supposed to nourish...but, obviously I kept leaving them wretchedly behind to survive all of my terror.

Was I so reckless, so driven by the terrorist inside me? And most importantly, have I... have I really ever mindfully understood the basic meaning of parenting?"

We both kept silent for a few seconds. Eyes of the psychologist showed deep concern. Watching him, she was all in tears. So often, during their talks Twilight had a feeling that he had the part she was missing. And more often than not, she longed to captivate and internalize the feeling he had for her.

"You know, I see my daughters wearing their own, hand-made, bullet proof, zipped up, coded, self-preservation vests.

They are survivors, trying to handle the boiling pots of the genuine anger inside. And this anger comes from their mind palaces whose contents were deviously contaminated by others... mainly, by me."

At that point she was simply driven by the need to keep talking, to follow her stream of consciousness.

"You know, I cannot say for sure, but it seems likely that my family has been entrenched in this terrorist pattern for as far as remember.

For example, my mother was a member of the Child-Mutilating Gang. She was an easy pick to be recruited. Her family was killed during the War, when she was like... about fourteen. With lots of space for manipulation, she had been receiving the messages which, opened door to her new shouldering habitat. She learned that terrorism could be a handy tool.

And as for my father, it was a different story. He joined the Red Brigades, after revealing the mighty idea of communism in the Second World War. Being quite of a skirt chaser, and a person pretty much focused on indulging himself, there was this specific kind of absenteeism and remoteness. With age, he became more of a caring father, and specifically a grandfather. When he died, I felt a deep loss."

That is where she stopped.

Twilight felt the creeps of her panic again. She shivered, afraid of drifting away from her current impelling problem.

The psychologist did not say a word. As if he could understand what was going on, he approached her, kneeled down, held Twilight's hand.

"You are ok. You have yourself, with so many ways to perceive and reconstruct."

Twilight nodded trustingly.

"I have never told you some details, the events... about me... Maybe you'll reject me for this?!"

She looked pleadingly at him.

"I would never reject you. I'm on your side. Actually, you have the two of us. We don't abandon. Our mission is to reach that long frozen concept of a battered, weak and handicapped wretch; to unfreeze it slowly, get closer to your immensely resourceful self, and eventually, if not fully, at least lightly, embrace it; to coach you how to dare open the doors of your self-palace... and you know... you have a mighty rich palace with lots of precious rooms you've never opened. Yet, through these tiny door gaps, the content behind, has always managed to creep out and guide you. You see... you're sitting here... you've been surviving."

Twilight just stared at him. Perhaps it was the idea about her handicap that prevented her from moving throughout the self-palace and benefiting from the many undiscovered rooms inside!?

When she started, her eyes were hitting the ceiling, the floor, the walls, restlessly roaming about.

"It was some time in the early eighties when I joined the Hezbollah. I was probably not even aware of that at the time... They simply started sending me the instructions, using different means, finding their way to my interface. By far, the most detrimental orders were those which affected the parental part of my mind. As a mum, there were times when I would be hurled by an overwhelming fury; the fury which I would splash onto my children, acting like any properly trained terrorist, simply ignoring my children's feelings, dismissing their needs, stepping on their most sensitive body parts. At other times my mental and physical absenteeism would produce neglect and lack of minimal care."

Twilight stopped there for a few seconds with crying eyes and permeating sadness.

"These are just some of the many, terrorist actions I've exercised against my own offspring.

But terrorism hits back, serving you with your own fabricates. It's like an endless self-propelling process.

You remember that I tend to believe that Joan converted into radicalized Muslims some ten years ago; she's been even wearing a burka... at least for the most of the time when I happen to be at their household. Safely hiding her face from me. Maybe it's her way of coping.

I have no right to disrupt my daughters' fragile survivorship patterns. I had done my share long ago.

That's just how things are. And that is why I cannot interfere, or confront them now with my handicap."

"I understand. But, what I see is the feeling of guilt which drives you below any level of human dignity.

Nobody is born as a terrorist. It's the circumstances that do the meddling.

Human race is intrinsically a fan of kindness, and good guys. I'm positive about that.

What happens after our birth, those external shots we get later on in our lives, that's something every individual is left to deal with; to wrap up the events in personally acceptable packages.

In your case, you have this never-ending need for self-flagellation, self-pitting, and self-distressing.

You don't forgive yourself. You perceive the self-forgiving as yet another reckless act towards your "victims". You have no available space for self-forgiving; it's like your own tacitly imposed conviction.

Since you know me as a non-believer, I don't want to preach about the forgiving concept; I mean, to me it's a concept over-exploited by religious middle men.

Instead I would rather talk to you about the reconstruction; perhaps you could try sometimes to observe yourself from the outside; as if you were at the same time an actor and the audience.

Try to distance yourself from your own box within which you function, open its cap and look into it as an outsider. Experiment, and see how you'll perceive yourself then, simply dare. Dare to have the right to be angry. Dare to set up your limits. Dare to forgive yourself, just a bit, one crumb at a time. Dare to leave the empiric blueprints you took on."

There he stopped, watching her with compassion and anticipation.

"But you need to share this situation with your daughters. Your condition might be quite serious. You don't want to scare them, but you need support now.

You have a lot of weight to pull and there's nobody to help you.

And don't worry, don't panic, I'm here.

Try to understand that you have a someone. But, as I have told you, more importantly than me, there is your own capable self.

Have more confidence in it and try to cherish it. It's a wonderful self, and I'm sure that deep, deep down you know that. Let it speak up to you. Let it be active, let it be a participant; not just an uninvolved observer; let it hug you, lead you, let it voice its bosom words. In your case, that is of course easier said than done, but just start thinking about this idea."

He stopped there and stared at her with those piercing eyes.

She kept silent. She knew that it would take a lot of digging and reconstructions; a lot of discipline and time.

Then he continued in a more enterprising manner.

"Now, back to our rescue plan.

Please take the current situation seriously and do speak to your children. Don't be afraid of that because of the luggage you keep dragging from the past on your already overburdened back. Let the bygones be bygones. Don't shy away from being their mother. Whatever they do and how they react now is their own responsibility. We all make mistakes. And, trust me, they do, too.

We have to see what to do with your leg concretely. You can always come and talk to me, but I think that's not enough to get rid of that pain. You also need to get some medical treatment, for the leg.

Let me see. I have this colleague, perhaps you could go and see him?"

"Of course, I also feel that's something I must do now."

Psychologist took a piece of the paper from his notebook, and wrote down the name and phone number of the doctor.

"Ok, thank you so much.

Now, I must leave you. I must go, I have a job to finish.

I'll call this doctor immediately to make an appointment."

As Twilight got up, she could hardly stand on her right leg.

He took her by the right arm.

"Are you sure you can walk. I'm worried about you."

"Yes... yes, I'll walk carefully. Don't worry, and... thank you so much."

Before parting, they exchanged the looks which seemed like the ones of a terrified child and a carrying parent.

So, she left, and headed to complete another job on time, at the nearby scheduled address. This time she had to verify some contracts as a certified translator. Twilight was insensible to anything around her, focused on getting ready to confront the situation.

Some five minutes later, before arriving to the location, she called the number the psychologist had given to her and made an appointment.

After that, Twilight calmed a bit. She will see an expert; he'll surely know how to help her.

Soon after, she arrived to the location of her business engagement. Twilight could not find the entrance, as the building was one of those with many offices and labyrinths on the ground floor. So she called her agent who then navigated her to the venue.

She got inside this flashy company facility, making sure her appearance seemed composed.

Everything there, starting from the dress code, high heels, suits and other achiever-gear, was so artificial, and somehow unfriendly, just like any other modern corporate casemate.

The secretary who took Twilight to the first floor, was a humble, yet ambitious student; a nerd ignited by the socially imposed self-confidence performance, compelled to remain a yes-man to her mentor.

The mentor showed up in a very costly clothing, decorated by fancy costume jewellery. She was very kind and respectful to Twilight. After exchanging a couple of the meaningless but necessary small talk and moderate appropriate jokes, they entered another phenomenal office, corresponding to the idea of a bombastic successful establishment. There, they waited for the client. It was an Arab guy, posh and very polite; socially defined as a professional.

Having finished the job, Twilight left those cyber-looking, and money-making premises. Walking back home she thought about the pending translation, and a class scheduled with one of her ever loyal students.

As soon as she dragged her body back home, she set on her sofa, feeling the creeps and shivers in her shoulders and arms. Although she completed all the tasks, steered by the fixation to be always fit for the job, the restless leg syndrome drove Twilight to cry, scream, kneel, plead, freak, tremble. Later in the night, she turned to her only loyal friend - the cans.

4 SUNRISE

The same pain woke up Sunrise the next day; an immense stomach, mind and leg pain, with daunting misery running all over her. And again Sunrise hesitated whether to do it once and for good. Right there and then. But, against all odds, Sunrise just went on; anyway, "the doing it" would always be there, she thought. So, she started with some simple moves, had a shower and set down. Sunrise knew that ultimately she would have to cope. As a trained soldier, she managed to finish another translation and started preparing for the meeting with the doctor.

While commuting to the private medical centre which was realistically too expensive for Sunrise, she was trying not to be bothered by that money issue.

Sunrise managed to get a grip of herself, and put on a polite smile for the nurse who awaited her. Fifteen minutes later, the doctor came.

At first sight he seemed like an experienced, knowledgeable expert; a medical wizard who, after being over-flooded with other people's pains, has formed an outer crust of a screening scrutinizer.

Anyway, his know-how was bolstered by the grey hair, and his encash by the classy king-blue shirt and trousers, the brown leather belt and shoes. Consulting room was plain, just like any other office. He sat opposite Sunrise, with a view of the window behind her back.

Not long after Sunrise started talking, she burst into tears, trying desperately to reflect her interior guts in an as readable form as possible. Sunrise suspected that nobody, other than her fellow sufferers, could ever really understand the mess inside her. All this specialist sitting in front of her could really do, was to properly classify her case, put it in a right drawer, which would in turn, output an appropriate pharmaceutical juju.

He looked at her with examining eyes; asked her several specific questions, and then Sunrise could feel that he started processing the information. That was a good sign. He was listening and Sunrise was delivering her narrative. In the end he asked her a question which seemed more like a conviction.

"How about staying in a hospital for some time?"

Sunrise was profoundly stunned. It took her breath away. Her first thought which went like a swift cold snake from her head all the way down to her toes was "am I really that sick". And that idea was absolutely paralysing.

"No, no... it's not an option, I have to work, my children depend on me."

"Well, do you have any income, I mean, are you employed?"

"No, no, I'm a freelancer... if I don't' work I don't get paid. And that's also something that drowns me, leaving me just enough time to take my nose out of the marsh, to get a quick breath; that's how I operate; and my children's subsistence literally clings on me. I mean...I feel so responsible for the twins; they have no one else. It is now, in this period, that they need my help; they need support in order to get hold of their own engines; they're still studying and their future fully depends on my help. You know... I often feel like, like... do you know the Tom and Jerry cartoon?"

He nodded.

"Well, I feel like Tom defencelessly trying to close all the leaking holes in his room. I'm simply burnt out by that, by everything...I don't have enough limbs to close all the pits.

I don't know if you understand, but... but... I feel I've reached a point where I cannot respond. And that terrifies me. Cannot play the role of being a balanced self. And this limping only underpins the helplessness."

Her whole elaboration of the circumstances was followed by crying and babble.

Doctor hesitated for some time, looking at her in a professional and assessing manner.

"If you stay in a hospital, maybe later on, we could plan some kind of a disability pension for you...I mean... hospitals are for people; you know?!"

"No, no... no way. That's just impossible."

"Ok then, let's leave that aside for now.

Have you ever had similar episodes?"

"Yes, several times."

"When was the last one?"

"Four years ago."

"Also in late spring?"

"Yes, in springtime."

It made her wonder how he knew that.

"What did you do then?"

"I appointed a visit to a doctor. She was a very good doctor in the City Hospital, gave me some pills and they worked."

"Which were those pills?"

When Sunrise told him, he simply replied.

"You don't discard a winning horse from the race. Let's try with the same pills... and we'll see. I'll be on a holiday for a month, and after that... let's meet again. Let's wait and see you and your leg then. I know it hurts a lot now, but you must be patient, it takes time. You'll keep track, and we can always increase the dose, that's simple. Is that ok with you?"

Sunrise nodded, she paid for the session on her way out, leaving her wallet with just enough money to get the pharmaceutical supplies, and enough cans.

Intuitively, Sunrise felt she was never to see that doc again.

Once Sunrise came home, there was her sofa. And along with it, there came a drive for a call, for a contact, for acceptance, for a shoulder.

Sunrise called her friend, Hera, who was very euphoric.

"Hi Sunrise, what's up. Oh, you should just see me here in the cottage, arranging the flowers right now, with a big straw hat, it's wonderful! You must come here some time. How's it going with you?"

"Hera, I'm not well."

Sunrise just started weeping, and mumbling something in a broken voice.

"Sunrise, Sunrise... what's going on, what's wrong."

Sunrise couldn't speak for a moment.

"Sunrise? Sunrise... are you there? Sunrise?"

"Hera, my right leg... it's horrible."

There came another burst of crying.

"Tell me, tell me, what's happening with you, tell me all."

By hook or by crook, Sunrise's story found its way.

After that, Sunrise remained quiet for a while.

"Sunrise, why don't you come here? You'll feel better here. There's nature... you could stay with us for some time."

"No, no... thank you so much."

And Sunrise started crying. It was the self-pity, the neediness, and the thankfulness.

"I have to work. I just have to work."

"But, Sunrise, for Chris sake, how could you possibly work now?! The doctor wanted to put you in a hospital. You should be in bed waiting for the leg to heal, with your daughters around you.

I guess you have told them?"

"No."

"You're insane! You must tell them. How could you possibly not tell them?

You're really sick. I mean... your leg...it is just like, like any other illness. I hope you understand that."

"Yes, yes, Hera, I do, but... that's not how things work in our family."

"Jesus! Will you come here then?"

"No, no, I couldn't possibly, thank you."

"What are you going to do now?"

"Try to get some sleep and tomorrow I'll go to visit my mum."

"You are really so bloody unreasonable! How could you go visiting your mum in such condition? That's crazy."

"I must bring her the diapers and other stuff. I must."

"Isn't there anyone else to do that for you? Your daughters?"

"No, that's not an option."

"I have no words. Please, and this time understand me well; you must speak to your children. You understand that? They must know?"

"Hera, you can't be serious about me doing that?"

"But of course, how could you even ask something like that!?"

"Ok, I'll do it."

"But don't scare them, don't freak them out. Just tell them so that they can understand."

"OK."

"And call me. Call me any time... whenever. Let me know how you're doing."

Back in her silent space, Sunrise picked her trustworthy, dedicated, tinned friend, and not long after she fell asleep.

5 MORN

Her same old same old system was restarted. That day, Morn was to pay a visit to Joan's family and her mum's.

Contacts with her grandsons, where the only moments when all discomfort from Morn's body was simply swept away; they were like the sensitive Martians with antennas directed towards the world around them, esoterically cherishing every bit of affection and every new experiential encounter. With them, she indulged in the primal need to bond and exchange love. Those were also the moments when Morn could somehow reinstall her self-image.

Normally, Morn would borrow Joan's car to go visit her mum in the nursing centre. But this time, given her condition, Morn knew it was a mission impossible.

Morn took a bus to her daughter's place, navigated by her mind-integrated GPS which operated unaffected by the hullabaloo in the other parts of the brain.

Her son in-law opened the door, welcoming her, while Joan was changing diapers to Morn's younger grandson. Joan gave her a fair smile from the room, but Morn could not make out if Joan was wearing a burka at the time.

As usually, Morn took her shoes off, washed hands, and was ready to hug her grandsons. Her son in-law, Backer, asked her the habitual questions. He often seemed like a middleman in the imaginary communication between her and Joan.

Backer asked Morn the usual questions about her wellbeing, and the job. Morn always earnestly appreciated his queries, as they contributed to her own perception of someone who mattered.

This time, not as a translator, but rather as a communicator, Morn had to interpret her head-mutant state.

"Well, I've stumbled a bit. It happens. My right leg is not working properly and I'm limping heavily... But I guess...I'll be OK. It's just a phase..."

After appeasing mention of some further details, the medical referral for hospital, etc., even though Morn did her best to hush the possible turmoil, she could not help feeling like a bogeyman.

By that time Joan had her burka tightly on, entirely ignoring the conversation, while her son in law looked for a way out from the mine field he had unexpectedly entered.

Joan kept silent behind her outfit for the rest of the time, leaving Morn to wonder about the extent of her unacceptability. On the top of everything, Morn had a feeling that the looks received from both, were the ones of the auditors, screening primarily the aptitude to meddle with her grandsons.

At the doorstep, Backer saw her off, with a cold, polite, pretty much controlled smile.

And after that, Morn felt like a rag, realising that the whole thing was a detrimental failure.

Nobody mentioned the car, or her health issue, ever again.

As Morn went out, she felt the hooks ploughing through her mind unbearably. With the growing and deeper limping, she wondered if she would actually still be allowed to see her grandsons. But, that was just another useless, self-made, detrimental fear.

And so, while standing in the crowded bus with hands full of stuff for her mum, Morn impulsively took a double dose of the prescribed pills, desperate to release at least a small portion of the inner desperation. Before reaching mum's nursing home, she could feel the medication working.

With a hefty package of diapers and many other things her mother had asked for, Morn reached the place. The main idea was to hideaway the limping from her mum, as Morn childishly feared the consequences. Although her mother had been in a pretty bad shape for some time, she remained to be a demanding person. And, somehow, Morn could understand that. It was her irresistible need to sustain some kind of her precious comfort, some self-respect, importance and dignity; even more so, under the circumstances, where she was just another number, another occupied bed, another lifelessness.

As Morn entered her mum's room, she shook hands with her endearing roommate, said hello to the other two ladies in the next door room, and then she approached her mum. Morn kissed her in the cheek and noticed that her eyes were blurred more than before. For the first time, after only one week of not seeing her, Morn could notice that her whole body seemed to be vanishing, shutting down.

Still, there were some things that hadn't changed.

Her mum started talking.

After a long elaboration of her intestinal problems, blood pressure, head and other issues, she switched to another topic, whispering about her mates, the house intrigues and gossips. She stopped once she exhausted all the items on her agenda.

Then she wanted to see what Morn brought. In her meticulous way she unpacked and then repacked every single thing, applying her own enveloping technology, and putting the goods into the space she had dedicated for each particular item in her nightstand. Morn could tell that this time she was satisfied with the batch of supplies.

Then mum looked back at her.

"And you? How are you and the children?"

"All is fine mum, we're all fine."

"And Joan, Lace and Grace?"

"They're all doing well".

"Do the two study?"

"Yes, Lace and Grace study and Joan is very successful at her job. They are really good girls."

"Does Joan call you sometimes?"

"Well... not really."

"What can you do..."

Then Morn sighed.

"And your grandsons, how are they?"

"Let me show you their photos."

Morn's mum liked that a lot, making some humorous comments about them, and laughing at how cute they both were.

Morn took her by the hand and held her.

"My dear daughter. I love you so much."

"I know, mum. And I love you, too."

Morn stepped up, cuddled her forehead and head, and mum started crying.

"What's gonna happen to me?"

"Nothing, mum. It's just another crisis. It will pass. It happens all the time. We all undergo crisis."

Mum got that sombre look immediately and asked Morn if she was drinking.

"Of course not, mum, how could you even ask me something like that now. I don't drink."

"And your leg? You know that it needs to be treated?"

"I know mum, I treat it, daily... It's perfect."

Her mum had an urge to keep Morn attached to her as a single source of Morn's cure, and a person indispensable in her life. But, that kind of dependence had been long gone. Now, the hits with mum's stick were merely her way of communication and imaginary bonding.

Making a huge effort not to show the profoundness of her limping, Morn went out to the terrace of her mum's room for a smoke.

A nurse joined her there and told her that mum was not well, that they had all been trying to help her, and that they would let Morn know within days if it would be necessary to put her mum in a hospital.

Morn stayed, captivated with the reality, her own, her mum's, the painful reality booming in her mind.

As Morn came back into the room, her mum was asleep. Morn kissed her in the forehead, said goodbye to all her mates and left.

On her back home bus tour, Morn felt a bit better due to the medication, and in a zombie-coded way towed herself back to her sofa.

It was then, that something extremely peculiar happened. It was a situation beyond the comprehension of her reasoning.

There, on her table, just in front of her sofa, laid a message written in big letters: JOAN HATES YOU.

Morn looked around. There was nobody. Morn limped her way through all the rooms and opened the entrance door. Looking down the stairs she saw a figure wearing a ski mask, running like hell. Although Morn did try, chasing and getting hold of that creature that was simply far beyond her capacities. The only thing Morn managed to notice was the Hezbollah logo at the back of his tight black top.

As Morn closed and locked the door twice, ideas came flooding her mind. An unknown somebody had been there just seconds before she came. She set down on the sofa, took the printed message and looked at it carefully. There was nothing leading to the discovery of its origin.

At first Morn thought about calling for the housebreak, but then, supported by the very moderate but memorable experience with police, Morn quickly dismissed that idea.

Morn picked her mobile.

As Morn was dialling the psychologist's number, her cell phone was actually quavering in her hand. In fragmented sentences Morn breathlessly uttered what had happened. As always, the very sound of psychologist's voice had this curing effect on her. They appointed to meet the day after.

Morn put the phone down and opened her most reliable, intimate, alcohol container. Instead of jumping on it immediately, she kept examining the room to see if there was anything moved, replaced, making sure she was all alone on her sofa. Even though her dog was just a friendly and harmless poodle, Morn knew that in the case of another burglary it would definitely detect it and bark. Morn looked at the printed message again, just to verify if it was real, or if she simply went nuts.

Then, Morn gave a call to her old sweet heart, that she had split with some twelve years ago. Since they've been in contact occasionally, her call did not really come as much of a surprise.

He arrived half an hour later. Morn waited for him at the local bus station and rushed into his arms, leaning on his shoulder.

"Oh, Miles...."

The rest of their encounter was about her sobbing and frantic restlessness with severe limping on the way to the nearby café. He was looking at her leg worriedly and listening to her attentively, while Morn kept mumbling about her leg, the doctor, her grandsons, her daughters, the pain, the message... Then Morn told him she could no longer sit there, and asked him to keep walking for a while. Although hobbling, she believed that moving would cushion the inner cyclone agitation. To her misfortune, it didn't. After a while, Morn told him that she had to be alone, which was a blatant lie, since all Morn really wanted to do was to knock herself down.

He stood there confusedly looking at her.

"Are you sure you can walk home safely?"

"Yes, yes, Miles, I'll walk my way home. Thank you so much for coming. You are such a... such a wonderful person. Please excuse me for troubling you and thank you... thank you so much."

Before he could say anything, Morn put her arms around his neck.

"I'll call you. Thank you, thanks a million."

And they parted, but this time not for long.

It had always been like that with Miles; Morn could never really tell what he felt. He often seemed like a boy zipped up in his simplified version of the world where he felt safe. He preserved such setup just by submissively following the mainstream habits and rituals, and adding some spice to his neat life-arrangement, through many hobbies which coupled him with other people. Sometimes, Morn thought that Miles's only criteria for accepting those numerous others was just to be accepted. Features of the others simply seemed not to be within Miles's periscope.

But, Miles proved to be a true friend to Morn, and definitely more than that; fully devoted and ready to hold her lingering hand. Unfortunately, at the time, her state was unrepairable from the outside.

As Morn finally got hold of her safe sofa, she drank fast, trying to get to the point of the tranquilizing indifference as soon as possible.

Before dozing away, her very dear, exceptional friend and a colleague texted her, telling her that he was no longer in the roaming area. Even during his stay in Belgium, Boniface used to call her every now and then, just to tell her how some things in Brussels reminded him of her, and how he wished Morn was there. And that was so remedying; the validation which proved that she had preserved some of the fertile soil for the self-confidence in her distorted picture.

They spoke briefly on the phone, arranging to meet in two days. Morn left her limping exodus story for some time later, or perhaps for never after, which in their relationship wouldn't make much difference anyway.

Boniface and Morn had something in common, and that was the addiction; actually her "alcoho" and his "foodo"-lism. When in action, consumption of their hooch was so fast and so frantic as if both had to silence their cravings speedily.

6 NOON

The next afternoon, Noon decided to call her daughter, Lace. And to her, Lace was another very delicate curve to climb, just as were the other two.

Some three years ago, at the age of seventeen Lace had started having serious problems with her mandible whenever she was to eat. And not before long, probably like most mums do, Noon could smell the handicap. Maybe because it was, just like hers, nourished with years, and just like Noon's, sustained by her own mum, the dodgy terrorist in disguise. There were times when Lace simply could not open her jaw to eat, and at other times she could not close it; and that was more often than not, a life threatening condition.

It's one thing if a parent is hit by a handicap, but it's a whole different kettle of fish when it captures your kid. Noon had secure techniques to catch a breath, but as for her child... she wasn't sure. Although Lace's pain was readable to her mum, Noon could no longer truly get hold of Lace's hand which was so, so very precious. That hand was lost, lingering somewhere, in some other, unknown spaces, helpless, tiny as it was, and all alone.

With time, Lace started physically disappearing.

Noon suspected that it was the Isis that sneakily and slowly recruited her, using the terrorist frequency which had been tuned in Lace's mind. It was an embracing anger ideology, an antagonizing tunnel, wherefrom Lace saw no way out. Lace must have felt that there was no reason to exit, as outside, the one and only thing awaiting, was her family.

Whenever Lace was let to come back home from Syria, Noon could notice her radical ideas and bodily injuries. Isis had her under their thumb. They got hold of her child's hand, instead of her.

Noon's intuitive guide instructed her just to stick to Lace. And Noon blindly followed that, sending regular notices which were mostly ignored in the beginning. However, months later, Lace started giving some hints about her own self reunion, somewhere else.

At the time of Noon's call, Lace was living with her boyfriend, someplace else, for more than a year. Noon truly tried to sound calm.

"Hi, Lace, how are you?"

"I'm Ok. And you?"

"Well, I'm not good".

"Why?"

Their conversation ended with her restrained support and acknowledgment of the situation.

When Noon hung up, she was somewhat worried about the impact of her delivery, yet reassured by Hera's advice that her children should know.

A phone call brought her back to business. It was one of the translation agencies Noon worked for.

"Noon?"

"Oh, hi. What's up?"

"Just as busy as always. We've sent you a document for translation. Please take a look and see if you could accept it."

Noon opened her e-mail and as usually, found a huge paper with a very short deadline.

For the sake of her financial situation, there was no option but to accept it, and work like hell. So, the process started.

Soon after, another agency called.

"Hi Noon, listen, will you be available next week to deliver simultaneous interpreting? It's going to last two weeks."

"Sure, no problem. Could you send an e-mail with all the details?"

"Of course, Noon. Bye".

"Bye, and see you there. Thanks."

Noon spent the whole day working as fast as she could. The translation was due by 8 the next evening.

Then, there was a phone call.

"Hi, mum. How are you? I planned to come today to pick some things as Ace and I will travel to visit his parents. Will you be at home this afternoon, around... like 4, 5 o'clock?"

"Yes, honey, I will. And please make some time for, 10 minutes for us to talk."

"Why, is there anything wrong?"

"Well, not really, I just want to talk with you."

"What do you mean by 'not really'? Is there something wrong or not?"

"Well, yes...".

When Noon finished, she could feel Grace being utterly taken aback and scared, probably recollecting the handicaps running in the family.

As a member of an anti-terrorist intelligence, SIGINT, Grace operated by means of technical equipment, distanced from any unwanted close human contacts. Grace often used silent signals, and most frequently just observational studies in her reports to the headquarters. It was an operational pattern Grace had adopted. Noon's guess was that Grace joined the group at the age as early as seven. And Noon knew it was Grace's own preciously developed preservation link.

Being, so physically fragile ever since her birth, and living in a limited space with her twin room-mate, Grace managed to connect with the group where she found shelter. It was a connection which helped her survive within the family nucleus. And Grace was undoubtedly one of the best SIGINT's recruits, with her pragmatic, yet very sensitive and delicate sensors.

Given her mode of operation it was more acceptable for her to process all information over the phone, than in person.

Noon walked her dog and coming back home she found the door unlocked. She slowly and fearfully half-opened it, not knowing what to expect behind. Another message? Another ski-masked guy? A face to face encounter?

"Hi, mum."

"Oh, oh Grace, Jesus! It's you. You scared me. Uh. I thought it was a burglar. Let me hug you."

Noon hugged her with huge relief. Grace, on the other hand, tried to keep distance, and get out of the clinch. As Grace was collecting the things from the once-to-be-her room, Noon asked her to sit down, which she reluctantly did.

"Listen Grace, I'm not well. I don't know exactly why, but I really feel horrible. Please try to understand. This won't be my permanent condition. It's just a phase. I'm a survivor and will overcome this. You know me, I've always survived."

Grace looked down with obvious unease.

"I know mum, but I'm simply scared. I don't know what to expect... will you also go to Syria like Lace... I just don't know what's gonna happen now. What does all this mean!? What's next? And that's something that horrifies me."

Grace was looking down at her knees, where she was nervously messing with her hands.

Noon started crying; it was the guilt and the incompetence that crushed her. Then, she collected herself in order not to lose Grace's hand, too.

"Listen Grace. This with me, it's gonna pass, just like one of the many episodes behind me, and you see, I'm here, coping. I'll be OK. You'll see. But... just please..."

And then Noon burst into tears, sobbing with her face in her hands.

"Please don't reject me, don't abandon me because of this. Please... I'll be OK. I've always managed to get a grip. It's just that now... now I'm limping; but that will pass, I know that. Nothing lasts forever."

There was a pause before Grace replied, on the verge of crying.

"Mum, I will not reject you, I'm not gonna abandon you. Now, that you explained all like this, I feel more confident. Don't worry, I won't leave you".

We hugged again on her way out.

7 AFT

A phone call woke Aft up. She saw a familiar number of her mum's nursery home. Before answering, a million thoughts arrived.

"Hello, Aft?"

"Good morning Maya."

Aft stopped there not daring to continue.

"Your mum had a brain stroke last night. We called the ambulance and she's in the hospital now."

"Oh. Aha. I understand."

Aft had to take a deep breath there.

"OK, thank you for calling me. Where's she, which hospital?"

Aft texted her daughters about their grand-mum's condition.

Then Aft sat on her sofa, with her mind switched to the robot-operational-mode, screening the backup options in the case of her mum's death.

Then, Joan texted back.

"Do you want me to pick you up, or to meet in front of the hospital".

That was so unexpected.

Aft was so moved by that message. Her daughter was there.

And before Joan arrived some half an hour later, Aft called Hera.

"Could you please lend me some money... just in case... Mum had a brain stroke again."

"But of course. Don't worry about that. That's settled."

Aft started crying.

"Thank you. Thank you so much."

Then, Aft received another message from Grace.

"Keep me updated about granny's condition".

Lace texted minutes after.

"So sorry, mum. Let me know if I could help."

Aft put the phone down, feeling covered by the most precious blanket.

On the way to the hospital, Joan inquired about her granny, and Aft laid down all the details with enthusiasm and appreciation for the concern.

Luckily, Aft found her mum alive.

Lying all curled up like a foetus, she recognized them. She looked so small and left without any fuel to keep fighting. Yet, she was hooked by Joan's presence, her bother, which probably ignited some extra power on her path to shutting down.

At first she talked coherently, asking Joan about the boys, Backer, her life, and then slowly she lost the picture and started mentioning things which made no sense.

Then a nurse came and asked for diapers, wet wipes and a baby cream for mum. Joan gave Aft the money to go buy all the stuff.

It was on the way back from the pharmacy that Aft became aware that she limped no more. She walked normally, even without a leg pain. The limping was gone.

When Aft came back, there was Joan, holding her granny's hand, standing by her bed.

Aft gave all the consumables to the nurse, kissed and hugged her mum.

Just a day later, she was to learn that it was for good.

Walking back into the apartment, Aft made sure there were no notes, no intruders inside.

8 EVE

When Eve received a phone call from an unknown number, she hesitated before answering. This, because there were many debt collectors who kept giving her those unpleasant calls. Anyway, since it was a land line call, Eve reckoned it was probably harmless.

"Hello."

"Eve?"

"Yes."

"I'm calling from the hospital. Your mother died."

Eve kept silent for quite some time.

"Eve, Eve... are you there?"

Eve started crying.

"Yes, yes, I'm here."

"Are you OK?"

Eve cried again in the phone.

Within a few seconds she managed to speak.

"Yes, I'm OK."

"My condolences."

"Thank you."

"You need to come here and bring her ID Card..."

When Eve hung up, she kept sitting for some time, just staring.

It took her a while before she was ready to get up and prepare to go. Before that, Eve texted her daughters, relatives and close friends about the case. She was simply felt incapable of uttering any words.

Her daughters replied. Joan texted back, offering to lend some cash.

Hera called her immediately, as well as her dear Boniface, offering all sorts of possible assistance on a plate.

It was a dire situation, but there were helping hands to hold on to.

In the hospital, Eve had to identify her mum, and see her the way she has never seen her before.

Dead.

9 NIGHTLY

Ahead of Nightly there were so many red tape matters to complete. The whole day was like running from one institution to the other, providing and in turn getting some documents.

Sometime during this paperwork agony, Nightly texted Miles.

He called back immediately.

"Where are you".

"In the chapel, I still have to do many things today and tomorrow..."

"Who's with you?"

"Nobody, I'm alone."

"I'll come and pick you up tomorrow, we'll go together wherever you need to go."

What was Nightly to say to that?!

And the next day they drove to the nursery home where her mother used to live. As they parked, Nightly stood in front of her mother's "used to be" shelter, knowing that it was the last time ever to visit that place. Nightly gazed at the terrace of her mum's room; there were those wind-fluttering lines where Nightly often spread her mum's laundry. She did not know then that the alike laundry lines would make her sad years and years after.

Together with Miles, she came to her mum's bed which was so empty, and so, so overwhelmingly silent.

Miles was collecting her mum's things while Nightly was standing.

With many burial chores ahead, they continued step by step and covered that whole path together.

"I guess we've completed everything for now. Let's just go to my place to give you a bottle of brandy; you'll need it for the funeral; for the visitors."

In his apartment Nightly sat on the chair and lit a cigarette. He came back with a glass of mineral water, stood in front of her, handing her over a sum of money.

"Thank you, Miles."

"You'll need it."

That was the day before the funeral.

More than anything else, the funeral was, like a very tightly scheduled set of actions; an expected and imposed screenplay where all actors played their respective archetype roles.

There were many relatives and neighbours, but her mum's friends boiled down to zero, as they had all reached the zone of eternity.

While walking behind the coffin, on the way to the grave, Nightly couldn't help noticing how her daughters were so scattered, separated from each other, and her. Each in her own trooper uniform.

After the ceremony, the closest ones came to Nightly's apartment and had something to eat and drink. Nightly was encouraging the stories and anecdotes referring to her parents, just as any good tour-guide would do.

In the middle of the session, Boniface dropped by from his pretty distant whereabouts, just to lend her some extra cash for the grave fees. Having completed his saver mission, some ten minutes later, he left. And, Nightly was so proud of having him as a friend.

10 MIDN

Another hot morning showed up.

After walking her poodle, there was yet another horrific shock awaiting on her table. It was another message. Midn looked at it without reading, and in a millisecond she ran out. Below, between the stairs Midn saw this individual with Hezbollah logo on the back of the T-shirt. The only difference was that now he was the one limping, and Midn was capable.

Reaching him was not difficult, and Midn was not scared. Somewhere between the first and the second floor she grabbed him by the back, all furious and impelled by the urge to see that face.

As Midn approached closer, she noticed that behind the ski mask there was some kind of a pasteboard, resembling of a face. She looked closer and was shocked. It was something like an avatar which stood still for some time, and then decomposed, producing the sound of tearing and splitting. Midn was standing with disbelief, just staring at the pile in front of her.

Some kind of tremor stretched from her tows to brain. Slowly kneeling to investigate further, Midn first tore the mask and then the shirt. Inside, there were like sets of different labelled, mailing compartments: Dusk, Dawn, Twilight, Sunrise, Morn, Noon, Aft, Eve, Nightly, Midn.

The messages were quite explicit, leaving no space left for further elaborations:

-Your daughters are deceptive-

-Lace hates you-

-Grace hates you-

-Joan hates you-

-Your daughters laugh behind your back-

-You are a horrific parent-

-You are incompetent-

-You hurt your children-

-You are just so very bad-

-You hurt others-

-You are guilty-

-You are a drunkard-

-You are absolutely worthless-

-You are a disgrace for you children-

-Your children are ashamed of you-

-You are a manipulator-

-You are a liar-

-You should kill yourself-

-Kill yourself-

Then, Midn stopped reading. She collected the bits and pieces, and dropped them all in the nearby street trash container.

And that was it.

After a long and hot shower, Midn called Miles. She wanted to join him in his six-day camping tour with his friends. Although Midn knew he could never help her with her interior, she was aware he could handle her exterior pretty good. And that was enough.

RELAYS

The ten ladies were invited to interpret at a big conference with participants speaking five different languages. Five pairs of interpreters, entered the five interpretation booths, with microphones, headphones and the relay buttons inside. Organizer's idea was that each pair would interpret from their native language into English, whereas all others would listen to that English interpretation, via the relays, and transpose it into their respective languages.

Before the beginning, the ladies, exchanged a couple of polite introductory phrases. They all turned off their mobiles, took papers and pencils, and all looked once again at each other through the window-mirror between the booths.

When the conference started, their minds switched and started working like one, inputting and outputting, connected at all times to a single source of communication. While one was interpreting, the others were listening, summarizing and transmitting.

Topic of the Conference was "HERIDITARY AND COMMUNICABLE BUGS".

MY FAMILY AND OTHER TERORISTS

1 DUSK

In summer days like those, urban infantry becomes a hostage of the clenching heat, stuck between the sky and pavement ovens. Humble, grape-clustered commuters try to hide under the moderate available islands of illusive shades at bus stations, while the fully exposed walkers helplessly withstand sun's radiation driven by their life agendas. With no sanctuary for the destitute pedestrians, all outdoor activities become soaked in sweat. The ultimately loyal corporate foot-servants submissively hold on to their suit and tie costumes, while the less automated individuals opt for a diverse selection of robes and shields.

Dusk was sitting in the same room which, before her nestlings had fled away to some other zones, used to be hers. Her entire home life style remained confined there, just as if the long gone living arrangement had never been changed. Although everything seemed ordinary, her life was somehow tending to take a gloomy turn and her brain's recent, but acute, swallowing mental disorder was slowly taking its toll.

The cheap, long not maintained air conditioner in Dusk's apartment emitted a very strange smell, and once she persuaded herself that it was unhealthy to use it anyway, all she had left was the natural ventilation, as a bogus source of chill.

So, there she was, with her more than ten-years old sofa bed, the fifty-eight years old soul, and with yet another bizarre corporate document resting on her laptop screen for translation.

Dusk briefly gazed at the neighbouring modern block of buildings. And next to that window, in the corner, stood her notorious cabinet with a hefty drawer designated for the piling up, pending bills and tax fees. As she glanced at it, the pain in her stomach and chest spread, releasing a choke of desperation.

In her quarantined work-from-home environment, Dusk continued typing, with a background TV-live buddy. The news about the latest terrorist attack made her stop working. She watched and listened because she wanted to see and hear. Her mind was triggered. It started processing and interpreting the meaning of terrorism as a social phenomenon. Has it been a companion of human race, trenching the targets both as preys, and troopers; as members and sufferers, all infected by the same universal syringe?!

Dusk's new, inner misery urged her to deal with the questions about terrorist tentacles and how they found ways to peak, sneak and infiltrate in her family bubble.

The whole thing seemed so huge, with such a tremendous impact on humankind in general; with many questions about its roots, consequences, reasoning, functioning, and the programmed recruits.

And, there was Dusk, just another climacteric female leftover, lolled in her sofa, meddling with language interpretations and fighting with the discomfort in her stomach. After a period of tranquillity, being once again trapped by her own colourful luggage, this TV news just added fuel to the fire in her mind.

The first terrorist lethal species she had met in person, were her parents.

As far as she could remember, it was sometime around the age of five. Back then, she could not have known that the exposure to terrorism was actually a recruitment procedure; an enlistment of envoys and executors; a trickery used for managing the families.

Her unawareness and the steady merging with a terror group did not make Dusk immune to the hits; on the contrary. Every punch was more painful, leaving lesser space to hide and preserve the sense of belonging and safety, within her house-terrorist-hold. Too often was she left behind to endure, just as any dispensable consumable. And the more punches she got, the more expedient terrorist grew inside her.

After being infected by that concept, it took quite some time, before she became a real follower and a subtle achiever. Usually, terrorists do not perceive themselves as such, and if they sporadically do, the pain of the respective historical wounds, drives them away from any remorse.

But, Dusk's infection was also followed by the guilt bug. She would often wear sackcloth and ashes, yet never hesitating to neglectfully disregard and betray her vulnerable, helpless, biological dependants. Terrorism was her parental model and a handy self-gadget. Her doings were rooted and shaped by that paradigm, and the absorbed patterns which had been served to her by those she trusted and loved the most as a child.

Now, it was her time to settle up accounts. Of course, Dusk knew and was profoundly aware of her guilt. But, what she did not know was the duration of her sentence, and if she was ever be pardoned.

After all, could and should terrorists ever be pardoned? Has she ever pardoned them?

So, there she was, stuck with this burdensome haversack. It was full of her children's piled, code-locked memory packages, pressing her chest, causing the pain that spread like a cloud. So many issues and questions were stacked there, haunting Dusk like her own black shadow, like hints of some implied, judgemental and scary messages.

Dusk badly needed to handle the ongoing mind agony which gave her physical shivers and tremor. The growing endless hole settled in her upper stomach, and the captivating fears, were a reason enough to call her old friend, Forger.

"Forger?"

"Oh, hi there, old chump. How's it going?"

"Listen... I need to see you as soon as possible."

"Aha. Well, let's see; how about tomorrow at one?

"Fine. I've been waiting for quite some time, you know... now, now things got out of control."

"Listen, hunn... now worries, gotta go now fix some things, but hang on, and see you tomorrow. OK?"

"Yes, thanks, see you then".

This calmed her a bit. Forger was a person and a spot where she could seek remedy; perhaps a shredder that could suck all her chaos. And now, for the first time, she also wanted to speak to him about her handicap; an alleged condition planted by her mother that deprived Dusk of being a normal human being. Dusk has never been definitely positive if she was really limping on her right leg.

As far as she could remember, with a reason or not, her mother would have often got carried away by some kind of a pandemic fury, giving Dusk amuck looks, yelling at her about her right leg; sometimes using the cudgel and hitting the leg real hard. So hard that Dusk could not walk. Being as small as she was, she thought it was a way to cure the thing, as mum knew best.

When she started her primary school she was unsure about the visibility of her handicap and whether it was evident or not. Usually she could not help behaving as a cripple, which was not without some profound consequences to her entire life. That phase was just a stepping stone to the intrusion of terrorism into Dusk's DNA.

2 DAWN

At one o'clock that very afternoon Dawn had to be in the nearby Welfare Centre to deliver as a certified interpreter. This time she was to do the so called "chuchotage" technique. A kind of simultaneous interpreting, with no headphones and microphone, just whispering into the listener's ear, transposing the speech as it goes.

Dawn was hired for the job in the case of an Egyptian, who had been issued a restriction order for contacts with his daughter and son, in response to the allegations made by his wife in divorce. Their meetings were to take place under the "controlled" circumstances, in the Welfare Centre. Dawn's role was to be there and interpret to the Egyptian whatever his children said, in the presence of a social worker.

So, preparations for the job started. She had a shower, styled her hair, and selected the appropriate outfit for her fattened figure. Dawn took her vanity case, the magnifying mirror, and set on the sofa to put on some makeup, basically the blush and lipstick.

Her hands were shaking, and the entire fixing procedure seemed as if done by a zombie rather than a sane person. Dawn was undergoing yet another panic attack. Frequency and duration of those attacks raised no resistance in her mind and body. She simply handled her condition quietly, ashamed of it, horrified and with a strong feeling of humiliation because she was affected by a disability.

Once ready, Dawn first took her dog out for a walk, fully business-like armed. Her poor poodle followed her, trained to do whatever it had to in a very fast and time-saving way. Afterwards, Dawn went off to the agreed address. She expected the assignment to be easy, and herself recuperated by then.

But, the devil never sleeps, and on her way there, Dawn fell on the street. For a few seconds her face was almost touching the pavement. Her entire body seemed to be helplessly fighting to restart its already poorly operating system. During those instances, the shock was so horrific, leaving her with a feeling of complete disorientation. And, as she was stretching there on the street, the prevailing feeling was the one of ultimate abandonment. She was petrified by the need to lean on; a provision that has not available to her. Unlike her body, her infected mind somehow did not stop. It kept processing and construing, sending clear and killing messages about her perpetual inner homelessness and destitute, evidencing all that with the current position of her very self; the broken self, lying there, on the street. In the end, Dawn's dormant mind-palace lodger, her inner, mental handyman, grouchily budged, opened the self-preservation kit, and started the recovery process. Dawn slowly moved to get up on her feet, when a passing-by stranger stopped and offered her a hand. She gratefully took that hand, still traumatized and shaking. With a candid concern about her well-being, he stood close by her side. Dawn thanked, reassuring the stranger that she would be good; and only then, he left. As she did assemble, Dawn noticed that the right leg of her trousers was torn and knee was bleeding. With hands trembling, she took out a hankie from her bag and put it underneath the trousers. The incident seemed like yet another sinister and blood-freezing sign of her problem, adding up to the flooding mental disorientation. And just as any robot would do, Dawn brushed the trousers, and moved on.

Even under the given circumstances, her mind just switched as she entered the venue. With an apologetic, polite smile on her face, Dawn gave a brief and laconic explanation about the fall, the trousers, the knee, set down next to the client and concentrated on the job, performing to the best of her knowledge.

As things finished, Dawn wanted to rush back to her safe sofa-base, frantically looking for some peace with her canned, ever loyal spirit-friend.

Yet, for some reason, the Egyptian wanted to stay with her; to hear her advice, tell her about his fears and hurdles in the pursue of the parental rights. And there they were; the two levitating strangers, exchanging some seemingly personal, but nonetheless universal emotional contents.

The reason why Dawn was so responsive to this guy, considering her psychosomatic status, was probably his extremely tender and loveable behaviour to his children which she witnessed during the meeting. Also, she was appealed by his admirable level of honesty and the worrisome burden which was so heavily depressing his eye lids. All that inevitably opened doors of Dawn's compassion casket. Although his presence on her way home was inconvenient, she was aware that he needed someone to lean on.

As he was following her back home, it happened again. Dawn stumbled once again and fell. However, this time not so heavily, and with him by her side, not hesitating to sincerely engage, and heartily help her get up. It was the second encounter in a single day where she sensed a stranger's care for her bodily safety. And for a second, it crossed Dawn's mind how humans had an inborn sensitivity to visual effects; they could easily relate to physical incapacities, while mental drawbacks had a completely different status.

Eventually, Dawn parted the Egyptian with a handshake and truly appreciative looks. The rest of the day was yet another portion of time she had to cope with, using all available notorious, canned, ammunition just to fight the torment. This abuse of alcohol could be a part of the destructive terrorist heritage, or else, an alternative exit created by her mind palace's handyman.

That day she had to deliver a seven pages long translation. So, there she was again, on her sofa, with her laptop, a telly, and a cup of coffee.

Once she was done, the only thing she yearned for was a canned "flashlight" that would temporarily alleviate the darkness from her numerous tunnels.

3 TWILIGHT

As the morning arrived, before opening her eyes, Twilight first felt the familiar devastating, upper-stomach and the right leg ache.

For a few seconds she really thought about quitting, and just doing it; but, the well-trained copers normally don't act accordingly. Be it out of a simple social decency, or a responsibility to the descendants, the "not doing it", always prevails.

With thousands of inner bees wildly bustling and hurting her, Twilight prepared for the meeting with her psychologist.

Walking to his place, she felt a dose of trepidation as to the effectiveness of his delivery.

After her brief exposé, the psychologist looked at her compassionately for a while. That was so healing.

Then, he started.

"Our minds process and interpret the psychographics; they output the readings regardless of their impact. We all need to keep re-entering and scanning the hideous, robust and cumbersome mind fortresses, looking for alternative arrangements and spaces."

Twilight began with her eyes fixed to the floor.

"On the top an oak china closet, my mum used to keep a cudgel, which was presented to me as an apparent cure for my supposed limping. She used this offending object far too often and unlimitedly. The pain which followed was dreadful.

My father was a follower of a bit different up-bringing clan with a final goal to cushion my needs, dismiss my own self, as if I were a troublesome organism imposed on him."

While talking, Twilight would burst into tears from time to time, and the psychologist would offer his Kleenex, not taking his eyes from her.

"I was pretty much confused with my vague disability; I desperately looked for a helping hand. Terrorists turned the recklessness, arrogance and torment, into my family pattern."

The psychologist was listening to her attentively and Twilight was feeling that they had some kind of a cognitive and emotional bond.

His reply was, as always, very soothing and elaborative.

"The word terror originates from Late Middle English; terrorism was used in the late 18th century, during the rule of the Jacobin fraction in the period of the French Revolution. So, this is really not a new animal, it is rather an elephant which has been haunting us.

Terrorist actions causing massive attacks are more visible and alarming. It is about the massiveness; the number of physical fatalities. It is the bodily injuries, and the deadly, visible scores that count in this matter.

But the issue building up to the micro terrorism impact, is the severity of the invisible infection that soon turns the exposed ones into the "spokes" and the "do-it" persons. The micro-terrorists, and their terrorist-to-become offspring, are simply infected, with hardly any options to make a turn.

Howsoever disguised, the family terror, keeps destroying the integrity, the self, the identity of the children, producing eventually dysfunctional household cells. Ultimately, terrorism pilots to the collapse of the micro homogeneity, sometimes creating individuals susceptible to broader, horrific terrorist attacks. It is all like a social clockwork.

Families should be suitable both for kids, as well as for adults. And that is the very idea the terrorists disrupt and defy."

Twilight listened attentively.

"But, how come the desperate victims choose to be cruel? Where is the boundary between tricking others and being tricked by our own minds?

How to handle and interpret the highly sophisticated, deep-rooted messages we receive? How come the recruitment process of family members is so contradictory? And why we nag later about the reckless acts, cruel and hurting behaviour of our beloved inheritors, whereas we had been the very implanters of that same behavioural model?"

"That has to do with individual interpretations, which frequently offer almost no tools to grow unaffected perceptions. From my experience, I think all it takes is simply to reconceptualise.

Nothing starts from the point where you stand. The hereditary tape decodes messages, reshapes them; all within the capacities of the given mind kit.

It is also about the reinvesting in the family, instead of being passively poisoned and tucked up by the terrorist aggressive aloofness. Not just for the sake of a created comfort zone, but for a broader and indeed more humane goal of passing an assertive behavioural pattern onto the offspring.

There is just one way of being a good family member. That means playing your role aptly. Otherwise, you'll be hurled back into the terrorist lap."

He was talking and Twilight was sitting on his sofa like a five-year old child, with drooping shoulders, physically distorted and freaking out to hear the magic word that would change her condition.

She felt the panic creeps overwhelming her body and mind, again.

Although her response was the one of a seemingly collected person, Twilight was just an obedient, yet craving infant, sitting in front of her psychologist.

"Yes, I can relate to that."

Twilight looked at her own humbly positioned feet.

"But, let's get back to the yesterday's event. So, you told me that you fell, tore your trousers, and with a bleeding knee went on and interpreted?

How, I mean how could you do that? Many people would just turn back, cancel the job..."

"I don't know. I was just like a soldier; had to move on and do it. Couldn't afford cancelling a job."

He raised his eyebrows and kept silent for a while.

Twilight started sobbing, with her face in her hands.

"I have no one. I'm so scared because of my disability. What if it prevents me from working!? What will happen to my children?"

"But your twins... what were their names, Lace and Grace?

"Yes."

"So, Lace and Grace are not that small, they are grown up young ladies. Aren't they by your side? I mean specifically now, when you feel as you do? And what about your eldest daughter?"

"I didn't tell them anything. And, after all, our entire relationship has been like an echo of the terrorist concept."

After yet another burst of crying, she continued.

"Speaking to them about this would be so narcissistic and unjustified. Because I see them like... like my own grown-up babies that I was supposed to nourish...but, obviously I kept leaving them wretchedly behind to survive all of my terror.

Was I so reckless, so driven by the terrorist inside me? And most importantly, have I... have I really ever mindfully understood the basic meaning of parenting?"

We both kept silent for a few seconds. Eyes of the psychologist showed deep concern. Watching him, she was all in tears. So often, during their talks Twilight had a feeling that he had the part she was missing. And more often than not, she longed to captivate and internalize the feeling he had for her.

"You know, I see my daughters wearing their own, hand-made, bullet proof, zipped up, coded, self-preservation vests.

They are survivors, trying to handle the boiling pots of the genuine anger inside. And this anger comes from their mind palaces whose contents were deviously contaminated by others... mainly, by me."

At that point she was simply driven by the need to keep talking, to follow her stream of consciousness.

"You know, I cannot say for sure, but it seems likely that my family has been entrenched in this terrorist pattern for as far as remember.

For example, my mother was a member of the Child-Mutilating Gang. She was an easy pick to be recruited. Her family was killed during the War, when she was like... about fourteen. With lots of space for manipulation, she had been receiving the messages which, opened door to her new shouldering habitat. She learned that terrorism could be a handy tool.

And as for my father, it was a different story. He joined the Red Brigades, after revealing the mighty idea of communism in the Second World War. Being quite of a skirt chaser, and a person pretty much focused on indulging himself, there was this specific kind of absenteeism and remoteness. With age, he became more of a caring father, and specifically a grandfather. When he died, I felt a deep loss."

That is where she stopped.

Twilight felt the creeps of her panic again. She shivered, afraid of drifting away from her current impelling problem.

The psychologist did not say a word. As if he could understand what was going on, he approached her, kneeled down, held Twilight's hand.

"You are ok. You have yourself, with so many ways to perceive and reconstruct."

Twilight nodded trustingly.

"I have never told you some details, the events... about me... Maybe you'll reject me for this?!"

She looked pleadingly at him.

"I would never reject you. I'm on your side. Actually, you have the two of us. We don't abandon. Our mission is to reach that long frozen concept of a battered, weak and handicapped wretch; to unfreeze it slowly, get closer to your immensely resourceful self, and eventually, if not fully, at least lightly, embrace it; to coach you how to dare open the doors of your self-palace... and you know... you have a mighty rich palace with lots of precious rooms you've never opened. Yet, through these tiny door gaps, the content behind, has always managed to creep out and guide you. You see... you're sitting here... you've been surviving."

Twilight just stared at him. Perhaps it was the idea about her handicap that prevented her from moving throughout the self-palace and benefiting from the many undiscovered rooms inside!?

When she started, her eyes were hitting the ceiling, the floor, the walls, restlessly roaming about.

"It was some time in the early eighties when I joined the Hezbollah. I was probably not even aware of that at the time... They simply started sending me the instructions, using different means, finding their way to my interface. By far, the most detrimental orders were those which affected the parental part of my mind. As a mum, there were times when I would be hurled by an overwhelming fury; the fury which I would splash onto my children, acting like any properly trained terrorist, simply ignoring my children's feelings, dismissing their needs, stepping on their most sensitive body parts. At other times my mental and physical absenteeism would produce neglect and lack of minimal care."

Twilight stopped there for a few seconds with crying eyes and permeating sadness.

"These are just some of the many, terrorist actions I've exercised against my own offspring.

But terrorism hits back, serving you with your own fabricates. It's like an endless self-propelling process.

You remember that I tend to believe that Joan converted into radicalized Muslims some ten years ago; she's been even wearing a burka... at least for the most of the time when I happen to be at their household. Safely hiding her face from me. Maybe it's her way of coping.

I have no right to disrupt my daughters' fragile survivorship patterns. I had done my share long ago.

That's just how things are. And that is why I cannot interfere, or confront them now with my handicap."

"I understand. But, what I see is the feeling of guilt which drives you below any level of human dignity.

Nobody is born as a terrorist. It's the circumstances that do the meddling.

Human race is intrinsically a fan of kindness, and good guys. I'm positive about that.

What happens after our birth, those external shots we get later on in our lives, that's something every individual is left to deal with; to wrap up the events in personally acceptable packages.

In your case, you have this never-ending need for self-flagellation, self-pitting, and self-distressing.

You don't forgive yourself. You perceive the self-forgiving as yet another reckless act towards your "victims". You have no available space for self-forgiving; it's like your own tacitly imposed conviction.

Since you know me as a non-believer, I don't want to preach about the forgiving concept; I mean, to me it's a concept over-exploited by religious middle men.

Instead I would rather talk to you about the reconstruction; perhaps you could try sometimes to observe yourself from the outside; as if you were at the same time an actor and the audience.

Try to distance yourself from your own box within which you function, open its cap and look into it as an outsider. Experiment, and see how you'll perceive yourself then, simply dare. Dare to have the right to be angry. Dare to set up your limits. Dare to forgive yourself, just a bit, one crumb at a time. Dare to leave the empiric blueprints you took on."

There he stopped, watching her with compassion and anticipation.

"But you need to share this situation with your daughters. Your condition might be quite serious. You don't want to scare them, but you need support now.

You have a lot of weight to pull and there's nobody to help you.

And don't worry, don't panic, I'm here.

Try to understand that you have a someone. But, as I have told you, more importantly than me, there is your own capable self.

Have more confidence in it and try to cherish it. It's a wonderful self, and I'm sure that deep, deep down you know that. Let it speak up to you. Let it be active, let it be a participant; not just an uninvolved observer; let it hug you, lead you, let it voice its bosom words. In your case, that is of course easier said than done, but just start thinking about this idea."

He stopped there and stared at her with those piercing eyes.

She kept silent. She knew that it would take a lot of digging and reconstructions; a lot of discipline and time.

Then he continued in a more enterprising manner.

"Now, back to our rescue plan.

Please take the current situation seriously and do speak to your children. Don't be afraid of that because of the luggage you keep dragging from the past on your already overburdened back. Let the bygones be bygones. Don't shy away from being their mother. Whatever they do and how they react now is their own responsibility. We all make mistakes. And, trust me, they do, too.

We have to see what to do with your leg concretely. You can always come and talk to me, but I think that's not enough to get rid of that pain. You also need to get some medical treatment, for the leg.

Let me see. I have this colleague, perhaps you could go and see him?"

"Of course, I also feel that's something I must do now."

Psychologist took a piece of the paper from his notebook, and wrote down the name and phone number of the doctor.

"Ok, thank you so much.

Now, I must leave you. I must go, I have a job to finish.

I'll call this doctor immediately to make an appointment."

As Twilight got up, she could hardly stand on her right leg.

He took her by the right arm.

"Are you sure you can walk. I'm worried about you."

"Yes... yes, I'll walk carefully. Don't worry, and... thank you so much."

Before parting, they exchanged the looks which seemed like the ones of a terrified child and a carrying parent.

So, she left, and headed to complete another job on time, at the nearby scheduled address. This time she had to verify some contracts as a certified translator. Twilight was insensible to anything around her, focused on getting ready to confront the situation.

Some five minutes later, before arriving to the location, she called the number the psychologist had given to her and made an appointment.

After that, Twilight calmed a bit. She will see an expert; he'll surely know how to help her.

Soon after, she arrived to the location of her business engagement. Twilight could not find the entrance, as the building was one of those with many offices and labyrinths on the ground floor. So she called her agent who then navigated her to the venue.

She got inside this flashy company facility, making sure her appearance seemed composed.

Everything there, starting from the dress code, high heels, suits and other achiever-gear, was so artificial, and somehow unfriendly, just like any other modern corporate casemate.

The secretary who took Twilight to the first floor, was a humble, yet ambitious student; a nerd ignited by the socially imposed self-confidence performance, compelled to remain a yes-man to her mentor.

The mentor showed up in a very costly clothing, decorated by fancy costume jewellery. She was very kind and respectful to Twilight. After exchanging a couple of the meaningless but necessary small talk and moderate appropriate jokes, they entered another phenomenal office, corresponding to the idea of a bombastic successful establishment. There, they waited for the client. It was an Arab guy, posh and very polite; socially defined as a professional.

Having finished the job, Twilight left those cyber-looking, and money-making premises. Walking back home she thought about the pending translation, and a class scheduled with one of her ever loyal students.

As soon as she dragged her body back home, she set on her sofa, feeling the creeps and shivers in her shoulders and arms. Although she completed all the tasks, steered by the fixation to be always fit for the job, the restless leg syndrome drove Twilight to cry, scream, kneel, plead, freak, tremble. Later in the night, she turned to her only loyal friend - the cans.

4 SUNRISE

The same pain woke up Sunrise the next day; an immense stomach, mind and leg pain, with daunting misery running all over her. And again Sunrise hesitated whether to do it once and for good. Right there and then. But, against all odds, Sunrise just went on; anyway, "the doing it" would always be there, she thought. So, she started with some simple moves, had a shower and set down. Sunrise knew that ultimately she would have to cope. As a trained soldier, she managed to finish another translation and started preparing for the meeting with the doctor.

While commuting to the private medical centre which was realistically too expensive for Sunrise, she was trying not to be bothered by that money issue.

Sunrise managed to get a grip of herself, and put on a polite smile for the nurse who awaited her. Fifteen minutes later, the doctor came.

At first sight he seemed like an experienced, knowledgeable expert; a medical wizard who, after being over-flooded with other people's pains, has formed an outer crust of a screening scrutinizer.

Anyway, his know-how was bolstered by the grey hair, and his encash by the classy king-blue shirt and trousers, the brown leather belt and shoes. Consulting room was plain, just like any other office. He sat opposite Sunrise, with a view of the window behind her back.

Not long after Sunrise started talking, she burst into tears, trying desperately to reflect her interior guts in an as readable form as possible. Sunrise suspected that nobody, other than her fellow sufferers, could ever really understand the mess inside her. All this specialist sitting in front of her could really do, was to properly classify her case, put it in a right drawer, which would in turn, output an appropriate pharmaceutical juju.

He looked at her with examining eyes; asked her several specific questions, and then Sunrise could feel that he started processing the information. That was a good sign. He was listening and Sunrise was delivering her narrative. In the end he asked her a question which seemed more like a conviction.

"How about staying in a hospital for some time?"

Sunrise was profoundly stunned. It took her breath away. Her first thought which went like a swift cold snake from her head all the way down to her toes was "am I really that sick". And that idea was absolutely paralysing.

"No, no... it's not an option, I have to work, my children depend on me."

"Well, do you have any income, I mean, are you employed?"

"No, no, I'm a freelancer... if I don't' work I don't get paid. And that's also something that drowns me, leaving me just enough time to take my nose out of the marsh, to get a quick breath; that's how I operate; and my children's subsistence literally clings on me. I mean...I feel so responsible for the twins; they have no one else. It is now, in this period, that they need my help; they need support in order to get hold of their own engines; they're still studying and their future fully depends on my help. You know... I often feel like, like... do you know the Tom and Jerry cartoon?"

He nodded.

"Well, I feel like Tom defencelessly trying to close all the leaking holes in his room. I'm simply burnt out by that, by everything...I don't have enough limbs to close all the pits.

I don't know if you understand, but... but... I feel I've reached a point where I cannot respond. And that terrifies me. Cannot play the role of being a balanced self. And this limping only underpins the helplessness."

Her whole elaboration of the circumstances was followed by crying and babble.

Doctor hesitated for some time, looking at her in a professional and assessing manner.

"If you stay in a hospital, maybe later on, we could plan some kind of a disability pension for you...I mean... hospitals are for people; you know?!"

"No, no... no way. That's just impossible."

"Ok then, let's leave that aside for now.

Have you ever had similar episodes?"

"Yes, several times."

"When was the last one?"

"Four years ago."

"Also in late spring?"

"Yes, in springtime."

It made her wonder how he knew that.

"What did you do then?"

"I appointed a visit to a doctor. She was a very good doctor in the City Hospital, gave me some pills and they worked."

"Which were those pills?"

When Sunrise told him, he simply replied.

"You don't discard a winning horse from the race. Let's try with the same pills... and we'll see. I'll be on a holiday for a month, and after that... let's meet again. Let's wait and see you and your leg then. I know it hurts a lot now, but you must be patient, it takes time. You'll keep track, and we can always increase the dose, that's simple. Is that ok with you?"

Sunrise nodded, she paid for the session on her way out, leaving her wallet with just enough money to get the pharmaceutical supplies, and enough cans.

Intuitively, Sunrise felt she was never to see that doc again.

Once Sunrise came home, there was her sofa. And along with it, there came a drive for a call, for a contact, for acceptance, for a shoulder.

Sunrise called her friend, Hera, who was very euphoric.

"Hi Sunrise, what's up. Oh, you should just see me here in the cottage, arranging the flowers right now, with a big straw hat, it's wonderful! You must come here some time. How's it going with you?"

"Hera, I'm not well."

Sunrise just started weeping, and mumbling something in a broken voice.

"Sunrise, Sunrise... what's going on, what's wrong."

Sunrise couldn't speak for a moment.

"Sunrise? Sunrise... are you there? Sunrise?"

"Hera, my right leg... it's horrible."

There came another burst of crying.

"Tell me, tell me, what's happening with you, tell me all."

By hook or by crook, Sunrise's story found its way.

After that, Sunrise remained quiet for a while.

"Sunrise, why don't you come here? You'll feel better here. There's nature... you could stay with us for some time."

"No, no... thank you so much."

And Sunrise started crying. It was the self-pity, the neediness, and the thankfulness.

"I have to work. I just have to work."

"But, Sunrise, for Chris sake, how could you possibly work now?! The doctor wanted to put you in a hospital. You should be in bed waiting for the leg to heal, with your daughters around you.

I guess you have told them?"

"No."

"You're insane! You must tell them. How could you possibly not tell them?

You're really sick. I mean... your leg...it is just like, like any other illness. I hope you understand that."

"Yes, yes, Hera, I do, but... that's not how things work in our family."

"Jesus! Will you come here then?"

"No, no, I couldn't possibly, thank you."

"What are you going to do now?"

"Try to get some sleep and tomorrow I'll go to visit my mum."

"You are really so bloody unreasonable! How could you go visiting your mum in such condition? That's crazy."

"I must bring her the diapers and other stuff. I must."

"Isn't there anyone else to do that for you? Your daughters?"

"No, that's not an option."

"I have no words. Please, and this time understand me well; you must speak to your children. You understand that? They must know?"

"Hera, you can't be serious about me doing that?"

"But of course, how could you even ask something like that!?"

"Ok, I'll do it."

"But don't scare them, don't freak them out. Just tell them so that they can understand."

"OK."

"And call me. Call me any time... whenever. Let me know how you're doing."

Back in her silent space, Sunrise picked her trustworthy, dedicated, tinned friend, and not long after she fell asleep.

5 MORN

Her same old same old system was restarted. That day, Morn was to pay a visit to Joan's family and her mum's.

Contacts with her grandsons, where the only moments when all discomfort from Morn's body was simply swept away; they were like the sensitive Martians with antennas directed towards the world around them, esoterically cherishing every bit of affection and every new experiential encounter. With them, she indulged in the primal need to bond and exchange love. Those were also the moments when Morn could somehow reinstall her self-image.

Normally, Morn would borrow Joan's car to go visit her mum in the nursing centre. But this time, given her condition, Morn knew it was a mission impossible.

Morn took a bus to her daughter's place, navigated by her mind-integrated GPS which operated unaffected by the hullabaloo in the other parts of the brain.

Her son in-law opened the door, welcoming her, while Joan was changing diapers to Morn's younger grandson. Joan gave her a fair smile from the room, but Morn could not make out if Joan was wearing a burka at the time.

As usually, Morn took her shoes off, washed hands, and was ready to hug her grandsons. Her son in-law, Backer, asked her the habitual questions. He often seemed like a middleman in the imaginary communication between her and Joan.

Backer asked Morn the usual questions about her wellbeing, and the job. Morn always earnestly appreciated his queries, as they contributed to her own perception of someone who mattered.

This time, not as a translator, but rather as a communicator, Morn had to interpret her head-mutant state.

"Well, I've stumbled a bit. It happens. My right leg is not working properly and I'm limping heavily... But I guess...I'll be OK. It's just a phase..."

After appeasing mention of some further details, the medical referral for hospital, etc., even though Morn did her best to hush the possible turmoil, she could not help feeling like a bogeyman.

By that time Joan had her burka tightly on, entirely ignoring the conversation, while her son in law looked for a way out from the mine field he had unexpectedly entered.

Joan kept silent behind her outfit for the rest of the time, leaving Morn to wonder about the extent of her unacceptability. On the top of everything, Morn had a feeling that the looks received from both, were the ones of the auditors, screening primarily the aptitude to meddle with her grandsons.

At the doorstep, Backer saw her off, with a cold, polite, pretty much controlled smile.

And after that, Morn felt like a rag, realising that the whole thing was a detrimental failure.

Nobody mentioned the car, or her health issue, ever again.

As Morn went out, she felt the hooks ploughing through her mind unbearably. With the growing and deeper limping, she wondered if she would actually still be allowed to see her grandsons. But, that was just another useless, self-made, detrimental fear.

And so, while standing in the crowded bus with hands full of stuff for her mum, Morn impulsively took a double dose of the prescribed pills, desperate to release at least a small portion of the inner desperation. Before reaching mum's nursing home, she could feel the medication working.

With a hefty package of diapers and many other things her mother had asked for, Morn reached the place. The main idea was to hideaway the limping from her mum, as Morn childishly feared the consequences. Although her mother had been in a pretty bad shape for some time, she remained to be a demanding person. And, somehow, Morn could understand that. It was her irresistible need to sustain some kind of her precious comfort, some self-respect, importance and dignity; even more so, under the circumstances, where she was just another number, another occupied bed, another lifelessness.

As Morn entered her mum's room, she shook hands with her endearing roommate, said hello to the other two ladies in the next door room, and then she approached her mum. Morn kissed her in the cheek and noticed that her eyes were blurred more than before. For the first time, after only one week of not seeing her, Morn could notice that her whole body seemed to be vanishing, shutting down.

Still, there were some things that hadn't changed.

Her mum started talking.

After a long elaboration of her intestinal problems, blood pressure, head and other issues, she switched to another topic, whispering about her mates, the house intrigues and gossips. She stopped once she exhausted all the items on her agenda.

Then she wanted to see what Morn brought. In her meticulous way she unpacked and then repacked every single thing, applying her own enveloping technology, and putting the goods into the space she had dedicated for each particular item in her nightstand. Morn could tell that this time she was satisfied with the batch of supplies.

Then mum looked back at her.

"And you? How are you and the children?"

"All is fine mum, we're all fine."

"And Joan, Lace and Grace?"

"They're all doing well".

"Do the two study?"

"Yes, Lace and Grace study and Joan is very successful at her job. They are really good girls."

"Does Joan call you sometimes?"

"Well... not really."

"What can you do..."

Then Morn sighed.

"And your grandsons, how are they?"

"Let me show you their photos."

Morn's mum liked that a lot, making some humorous comments about them, and laughing at how cute they both were.

Morn took her by the hand and held her.

"My dear daughter. I love you so much."

"I know, mum. And I love you, too."

Morn stepped up, cuddled her forehead and head, and mum started crying.

"What's gonna happen to me?"

"Nothing, mum. It's just another crisis. It will pass. It happens all the time. We all undergo crisis."

Mum got that sombre look immediately and asked Morn if she was drinking.

"Of course not, mum, how could you even ask me something like that now. I don't drink."

"And your leg? You know that it needs to be treated?"

"I know mum, I treat it, daily... It's perfect."

Her mum had an urge to keep Morn attached to her as a single source of Morn's cure, and a person indispensable in her life. But, that kind of dependence had been long gone. Now, the hits with mum's stick were merely her way of communication and imaginary bonding.

Making a huge effort not to show the profoundness of her limping, Morn went out to the terrace of her mum's room for a smoke.

A nurse joined her there and told her that mum was not well, that they had all been trying to help her, and that they would let Morn know within days if it would be necessary to put her mum in a hospital.

Morn stayed, captivated with the reality, her own, her mum's, the painful reality booming in her mind.

As Morn came back into the room, her mum was asleep. Morn kissed her in the forehead, said goodbye to all her mates and left.

On her back home bus tour, Morn felt a bit better due to the medication, and in a zombie-coded way towed herself back to her sofa.

It was then, that something extremely peculiar happened. It was a situation beyond the comprehension of her reasoning.

There, on her table, just in front of her sofa, laid a message written in big letters: JOAN HATES YOU.

Morn looked around. There was nobody. Morn limped her way through all the rooms and opened the entrance door. Looking down the stairs she saw a figure wearing a ski mask, running like hell. Although Morn did try, chasing and getting hold of that creature that was simply far beyond her capacities. The only thing Morn managed to notice was the Hezbollah logo at the back of his tight black top.

As Morn closed and locked the door twice, ideas came flooding her mind. An unknown somebody had been there just seconds before she came. She set down on the sofa, took the printed message and looked at it carefully. There was nothing leading to the discovery of its origin.

At first Morn thought about calling for the housebreak, but then, supported by the very moderate but memorable experience with police, Morn quickly dismissed that idea.

Morn picked her mobile.

As Morn was dialling the psychologist's number, her cell phone was actually quavering in her hand. In fragmented sentences Morn breathlessly uttered what had happened. As always, the very sound of psychologist's voice had this curing effect on her. They appointed to meet the day after.

Morn put the phone down and opened her most reliable, intimate, alcohol container. Instead of jumping on it immediately, she kept examining the room to see if there was anything moved, replaced, making sure she was all alone on her sofa. Even though her dog was just a friendly and harmless poodle, Morn knew that in the case of another burglary it would definitely detect it and bark. Morn looked at the printed message again, just to verify if it was real, or if she simply went nuts.

Then, Morn gave a call to her old sweet heart, that she had split with some twelve years ago. Since they've been in contact occasionally, her call did not really come as much of a surprise.

He arrived half an hour later. Morn waited for him at the local bus station and rushed into his arms, leaning on his shoulder.

"Oh, Miles...."

The rest of their encounter was about her sobbing and frantic restlessness with severe limping on the way to the nearby café. He was looking at her leg worriedly and listening to her attentively, while Morn kept mumbling about her leg, the doctor, her grandsons, her daughters, the pain, the message... Then Morn told him she could no longer sit there, and asked him to keep walking for a while. Although hobbling, she believed that moving would cushion the inner cyclone agitation. To her misfortune, it didn't. After a while, Morn told him that she had to be alone, which was a blatant lie, since all Morn really wanted to do was to knock herself down.

He stood there confusedly looking at her.

"Are you sure you can walk home safely?"

"Yes, yes, Miles, I'll walk my way home. Thank you so much for coming. You are such a... such a wonderful person. Please excuse me for troubling you and thank you... thank you so much."

Before he could say anything, Morn put her arms around his neck.

"I'll call you. Thank you, thanks a million."

And they parted, but this time not for long.

It had always been like that with Miles; Morn could never really tell what he felt. He often seemed like a boy zipped up in his simplified version of the world where he felt safe. He preserved such setup just by submissively following the mainstream habits and rituals, and adding some spice to his neat life-arrangement, through many hobbies which coupled him with other people. Sometimes, Morn thought that Miles's only criteria for accepting those numerous others was just to be accepted. Features of the others simply seemed not to be within Miles's periscope.

But, Miles proved to be a true friend to Morn, and definitely more than that; fully devoted and ready to hold her lingering hand. Unfortunately, at the time, her state was unrepairable from the outside.

As Morn finally got hold of her safe sofa, she drank fast, trying to get to the point of the tranquilizing indifference as soon as possible.

Before dozing away, her very dear, exceptional friend and a colleague texted her, telling her that he was no longer in the roaming area. Even during his stay in Belgium, Boniface used to call her every now and then, just to tell her how some things in Brussels reminded him of her, and how he wished Morn was there. And that was so remedying; the validation which proved that she had preserved some of the fertile soil for the self-confidence in her distorted picture.

They spoke briefly on the phone, arranging to meet in two days. Morn left her limping exodus story for some time later, or perhaps for never after, which in their relationship wouldn't make much difference anyway.

Boniface and Morn had something in common, and that was the addiction; actually her "alcoho" and his "foodo"-lism. When in action, consumption of their hooch was so fast and so frantic as if both had to silence their cravings speedily.

6 NOON

The next afternoon, Noon decided to call her daughter, Lace. And to her, Lace was another very delicate curve to climb, just as were the other two.

Some three years ago, at the age of seventeen Lace had started having serious problems with her mandible whenever she was to eat. And not before long, probably like most mums do, Noon could smell the handicap. Maybe because it was, just like hers, nourished with years, and just like Noon's, sustained by her own mum, the dodgy terrorist in disguise. There were times when Lace simply could not open her jaw to eat, and at other times she could not close it; and that was more often than not, a life threatening condition.

It's one thing if a parent is hit by a handicap, but it's a whole different kettle of fish when it captures your kid. Noon had secure techniques to catch a breath, but as for her child... she wasn't sure. Although Lace's pain was readable to her mum, Noon could no longer truly get hold of Lace's hand which was so, so very precious. That hand was lost, lingering somewhere, in some other, unknown spaces, helpless, tiny as it was, and all alone.

With time, Lace started physically disappearing.

Noon suspected that it was the Isis that sneakily and slowly recruited her, using the terrorist frequency which had been tuned in Lace's mind. It was an embracing anger ideology, an antagonizing tunnel, wherefrom Lace saw no way out. Lace must have felt that there was no reason to exit, as outside, the one and only thing awaiting, was her family.

Whenever Lace was let to come back home from Syria, Noon could notice her radical ideas and bodily injuries. Isis had her under their thumb. They got hold of her child's hand, instead of her.

Noon's intuitive guide instructed her just to stick to Lace. And Noon blindly followed that, sending regular notices which were mostly ignored in the beginning. However, months later, Lace started giving some hints about her own self reunion, somewhere else.

At the time of Noon's call, Lace was living with her boyfriend, someplace else, for more than a year. Noon truly tried to sound calm.

"Hi, Lace, how are you?"

"I'm Ok. And you?"

"Well, I'm not good".

"Why?"

Their conversation ended with her restrained support and acknowledgment of the situation.

When Noon hung up, she was somewhat worried about the impact of her delivery, yet reassured by Hera's advice that her children should know.

A phone call brought her back to business. It was one of the translation agencies Noon worked for.

"Noon?"

"Oh, hi. What's up?"

"Just as busy as always. We've sent you a document for translation. Please take a look and see if you could accept it."

Noon opened her e-mail and as usually, found a huge paper with a very short deadline.

For the sake of her financial situation, there was no option but to accept it, and work like hell. So, the process started.

Soon after, another agency called.

"Hi Noon, listen, will you be available next week to deliver simultaneous interpreting? It's going to last two weeks."

"Sure, no problem. Could you send an e-mail with all the details?"

"Of course, Noon. Bye".

"Bye, and see you there. Thanks."

Noon spent the whole day working as fast as she could. The translation was due by 8 the next evening.

Then, there was a phone call.

"Hi, mum. How are you? I planned to come today to pick some things as Ace and I will travel to visit his parents. Will you be at home this afternoon, around... like 4, 5 o'clock?"

"Yes, honey, I will. And please make some time for, 10 minutes for us to talk."

"Why, is there anything wrong?"

"Well, not really, I just want to talk with you."

"What do you mean by 'not really'? Is there something wrong or not?"

"Well, yes...".

When Noon finished, she could feel Grace being utterly taken aback and scared, probably recollecting the handicaps running in the family.

As a member of an anti-terrorist intelligence, SIGINT, Grace operated by means of technical equipment, distanced from any unwanted close human contacts. Grace often used silent signals, and most frequently just observational studies in her reports to the headquarters. It was an operational pattern Grace had adopted. Noon's guess was that Grace joined the group at the age as early as seven. And Noon knew it was Grace's own preciously developed preservation link.

Being, so physically fragile ever since her birth, and living in a limited space with her twin room-mate, Grace managed to connect with the group where she found shelter. It was a connection which helped her survive within the family nucleus. And Grace was undoubtedly one of the best SIGINT's recruits, with her pragmatic, yet very sensitive and delicate sensors.

Given her mode of operation it was more acceptable for her to process all information over the phone, than in person.

Noon walked her dog and coming back home she found the door unlocked. She slowly and fearfully half-opened it, not knowing what to expect behind. Another message? Another ski-masked guy? A face to face encounter?

"Hi, mum."

"Oh, oh Grace, Jesus! It's you. You scared me. Uh. I thought it was a burglar. Let me hug you."

Noon hugged her with huge relief. Grace, on the other hand, tried to keep distance, and get out of the clinch. As Grace was collecting the things from the once-to-be-her room, Noon asked her to sit down, which she reluctantly did.

"Listen Grace, I'm not well. I don't know exactly why, but I really feel horrible. Please try to understand. This won't be my permanent condition. It's just a phase. I'm a survivor and will overcome this. You know me, I've always survived."

Grace looked down with obvious unease.

"I know mum, but I'm simply scared. I don't know what to expect... will you also go to Syria like Lace... I just don't know what's gonna happen now. What does all this mean!? What's next? And that's something that horrifies me."

Grace was looking down at her knees, where she was nervously messing with her hands.

Noon started crying; it was the guilt and the incompetence that crushed her. Then, she collected herself in order not to lose Grace's hand, too.

"Listen Grace. This with me, it's gonna pass, just like one of the many episodes behind me, and you see, I'm here, coping. I'll be OK. You'll see. But... just please..."

And then Noon burst into tears, sobbing with her face in her hands.

"Please don't reject me, don't abandon me because of this. Please... I'll be OK. I've always managed to get a grip. It's just that now... now I'm limping; but that will pass, I know that. Nothing lasts forever."

There was a pause before Grace replied, on the verge of crying.

"Mum, I will not reject you, I'm not gonna abandon you. Now, that you explained all like this, I feel more confident. Don't worry, I won't leave you".

We hugged again on her way out.

7 AFT

A phone call woke Aft up. She saw a familiar number of her mum's nursery home. Before answering, a million thoughts arrived.

"Hello, Aft?"

"Good morning Maya."

Aft stopped there not daring to continue.

"Your mum had a brain stroke last night. We called the ambulance and she's in the hospital now."

"Oh. Aha. I understand."

Aft had to take a deep breath there.

"OK, thank you for calling me. Where's she, which hospital?"

Aft texted her daughters about their grand-mum's condition.

Then Aft sat on her sofa, with her mind switched to the robot-operational-mode, screening the backup options in the case of her mum's death.

Then, Joan texted back.

"Do you want me to pick you up, or to meet in front of the hospital".

That was so unexpected.

Aft was so moved by that message. Her daughter was there.

And before Joan arrived some half an hour later, Aft called Hera.

"Could you please lend me some money... just in case... Mum had a brain stroke again."

"But of course. Don't worry about that. That's settled."

Aft started crying.

"Thank you. Thank you so much."

Then, Aft received another message from Grace.

"Keep me updated about granny's condition".

Lace texted minutes after.

"So sorry, mum. Let me know if I could help."

Aft put the phone down, feeling covered by the most precious blanket.

On the way to the hospital, Joan inquired about her granny, and Aft laid down all the details with enthusiasm and appreciation for the concern.

Luckily, Aft found her mum alive.

Lying all curled up like a foetus, she recognized them. She looked so small and left without any fuel to keep fighting. Yet, she was hooked by Joan's presence, her bother, which probably ignited some extra power on her path to shutting down.

At first she talked coherently, asking Joan about the boys, Backer, her life, and then slowly she lost the picture and started mentioning things which made no sense.

Then a nurse came and asked for diapers, wet wipes and a baby cream for mum. Joan gave Aft the money to go buy all the stuff.

It was on the way back from the pharmacy that Aft became aware that she limped no more. She walked normally, even without a leg pain. The limping was gone.

When Aft came back, there was Joan, holding her granny's hand, standing by her bed.

Aft gave all the consumables to the nurse, kissed and hugged her mum.

Just a day later, she was to learn that it was for good.

Walking back into the apartment, Aft made sure there were no notes, no intruders inside.

8 EVE

When Eve received a phone call from an unknown number, she hesitated before answering. This, because there were many debt collectors who kept giving her those unpleasant calls. Anyway, since it was a land line call, Eve reckoned it was probably harmless.

"Hello."

"Eve?"

"Yes."

"I'm calling from the hospital. Your mother died."

Eve kept silent for quite some time.

"Eve, Eve... are you there?"

Eve started crying.

"Yes, yes, I'm here."

"Are you OK?"

Eve cried again in the phone.

Within a few seconds she managed to speak.

"Yes, I'm OK."

"My condolences."

"Thank you."

"You need to come here and bring her ID Card..."

When Eve hung up, she kept sitting for some time, just staring.

It took her a while before she was ready to get up and prepare to go. Before that, Eve texted her daughters, relatives and close friends about the case. She was simply felt incapable of uttering any words.

Her daughters replied. Joan texted back, offering to lend some cash.

Hera called her immediately, as well as her dear Boniface, offering all sorts of possible assistance on a plate.

It was a dire situation, but there were helping hands to hold on to.

In the hospital, Eve had to identify her mum, and see her the way she has never seen her before.

Dead.

9 NIGHTLY

Ahead of Nightly there were so many red tape matters to complete. The whole day was like running from one institution to the other, providing and in turn getting some documents.

Sometime during this paperwork agony, Nightly texted Miles.

He called back immediately.

"Where are you".

"In the chapel, I still have to do many things today and tomorrow..."

"Who's with you?"

"Nobody, I'm alone."

"I'll come and pick you up tomorrow, we'll go together wherever you need to go."

What was Nightly to say to that?!

And the next day they drove to the nursery home where her mother used to live. As they parked, Nightly stood in front of her mother's "used to be" shelter, knowing that it was the last time ever to visit that place. Nightly gazed at the terrace of her mum's room; there were those wind-fluttering lines where Nightly often spread her mum's laundry. She did not know then that the alike laundry lines would make her sad years and years after.

Together with Miles, she came to her mum's bed which was so empty, and so, so overwhelmingly silent.

Miles was collecting her mum's things while Nightly was standing.

With many burial chores ahead, they continued step by step and covered that whole path together.

"I guess we've completed everything for now. Let's just go to my place to give you a bottle of brandy; you'll need it for the funeral; for the visitors."

In his apartment Nightly sat on the chair and lit a cigarette. He came back with a glass of mineral water, stood in front of her, handing her over a sum of money.

"Thank you, Miles."

"You'll need it."

That was the day before the funeral.

More than anything else, the funeral was, like a very tightly scheduled set of actions; an expected and imposed screenplay where all actors played their respective archetype roles.

There were many relatives and neighbours, but her mum's friends boiled down to zero, as they had all reached the zone of eternity.

While walking behind the coffin, on the way to the grave, Nightly couldn't help noticing how her daughters were so scattered, separated from each other, and her. Each in her own trooper uniform.

After the ceremony, the closest ones came to Nightly's apartment and had something to eat and drink. Nightly was encouraging the stories and anecdotes referring to her parents, just as any good tour-guide would do.

In the middle of the session, Boniface dropped by from his pretty distant whereabouts, just to lend her some extra cash for the grave fees. Having completed his saver mission, some ten minutes later, he left. And, Nightly was so proud of having him as a friend.

10 MIDN

Another hot morning showed up.

After walking her poodle, there was yet another horrific shock awaiting on her table. It was another message. Midn looked at it without reading, and in a millisecond she ran out. Below, between the stairs Midn saw this individual with Hezbollah logo on the back of the T-shirt. The only difference was that now he was the one limping, and Midn was capable.

Reaching him was not difficult, and Midn was not scared. Somewhere between the first and the second floor she grabbed him by the back, all furious and impelled by the urge to see that face.

As Midn approached closer, she noticed that behind the ski mask there was some kind of a pasteboard, resembling of a face. She looked closer and was shocked. It was something like an avatar which stood still for some time, and then decomposed, producing the sound of tearing and splitting. Midn was standing with disbelief, just staring at the pile in front of her.

Some kind of tremor stretched from her tows to brain. Slowly kneeling to investigate further, Midn first tore the mask and then the shirt. Inside, there were like sets of different labelled, mailing compartments: Dusk, Dawn, Twilight, Sunrise, Morn, Noon, Aft, Eve, Nightly, Midn.

The messages were quite explicit, leaving no space left for further elaborations:

-Your daughters are deceptive-

-Lace hates you-

-Grace hates you-

-Joan hates you-

-Your daughters laugh behind your back-

-You are a horrific parent-

-You are incompetent-

-You hurt your children-

-You are just so very bad-

-You hurt others-

-You are guilty-

-You are a drunkard-

-You are absolutely worthless-

-You are a disgrace for you children-

-Your children are ashamed of you-

-You are a manipulator-

-You are a liar-

-You should kill yourself-

-Kill yourself-

Then, Midn stopped reading. She collected the bits and pieces, and dropped them all in the nearby street trash container.

And that was it.

After a long and hot shower, Midn called Miles. She wanted to join him in his six-day camping tour with his friends. Although Midn knew he could never help her with her interior, she was aware he could handle her exterior pretty good. And that was enough.

RELAYS

The ten ladies were invited to interpret at a big conference with participants speaking five different languages. Five pairs of interpreters, entered the five interpretation booths, with microphones, headphones and the relay buttons inside. Organizer's idea was that each pair would interpret from their native language into English, whereas all others would listen to that English interpretation, via the relays, and transpose it into their respective languages.

Before the beginning, the ladies, exchanged a couple of polite introductory phrases. They all turned off their mobiles, took papers and pencils, and all looked once again at each other through the window-mirror between the booths.

When the conference started, their minds switched and started working like one, inputting and outputting, connected at all times to a single source of communication. While one was interpreting, the others were listening, summarizing and transmitting.

Topic of the Conference was "HERIDITARY AND COMMUNICABLE BUGS".

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