Safi, the Dark Mountain

by Mona Salem

Safi was trying to cheer up that morning although she suffered from the kidney pain all last night. Raj, her husband, usually feels so weak and fragile when she is in pain. She avoids to let him know about what she goes through when pain starts every time ,specially at night .Its not only because he has been a loving, caring husband for all the past twenty years, but because she has been deeply in love with him. He means the world to her. They couldnt have any children of their own, but that did not affect their life nor their love negatively. His presence always brings her a sense of comfort and relief.

She always loves to remember the first time she saw Raj helping an old man, who lived in their neighborhood, to carry the heavy goods he brought from the far market in the nearest town to his shop in their small and quiet village. The village that was located between two huge mountains. She was never a person to fall in love at first sight but there was something in Raj she wanted to welcome at once. She was attracted by the first sight to Raj, the handsome, strong and honest young man. Everyone in their village knew how honest that man was.

That first time when she saw him, she couldnt continue her walk with her friends. She stopped at the corner of the only small bakery in the village to look at Raj and the strong muscles of his body with drops of sweat shining all over his calm face. He walked so smoothly on the tweedy street,eyes pointed inwards. But for a black-clothed bow lazily tied around his forehead, and his outstretched and overly used short stick,he could have been anyones man. He refused to accept anything from the old man for the help he did that day. He noticed Safi standing there looking at him with the sweetest smile on her lovely face. He nodded his head to let her know that he saw her watching him from a distance. A month after that day Safi and Raj were married. During all the years of their marriage, she did not regret being his wife not even for a second. She was overwhelmed with the sweetness of his love , loyalty and tenderness. Nothing could affect their happiness not being poor..Not being childless. She adored him also for his strong determination; one of the most prominent characteristics she admired him for.

She remembered all these things with a soft smile on her lips struggling pain,pain which was beyond tolerance. Something different was happening to her that morning.She felt as something was breaking her soul.She sat down and gazed out a window, sobbing.. Raj went to work early that day. She found a glass of milk next to her bed as usual. He never forgot to do that every morning before going to work. She put her hand around the glass and closed her eyes for a moment as if she could feel his hand there too. A warm touching feeling that made her heart beat fasta- feeling of ample gratitude and deep love. Pain was increasing..She certainly needed help. She tried taking weak, slow steps towards the door of her humble house. With her shivering hands, she opened the door and stepped outside so she could call her neighbor ,Rana, who was always there for her. Safi called Ranas name twice then she fell on the ground unconscious. Rana heard the sound of the fall. She rushed out of her house and she found Safi lying there. She called her name and shook her shoulders looking at her pale face but safi was not responding at all.

Rana pulled Safi into her house and ran quickly to tell Raj. Raj left work and went to the office of the sheriff of their village to seek help. The sheriff called the nearest hospital. They replied that they would send an ambulance as soon as possible. Raj went to see Safi and to take her to the only clinic they had in their village. The clinic in which one doctor worked with no assistance of any nurses.

For the first sight, he thought Safi was only sleeping. But when he sat on his knees next to her and held her cold hand between both his hands, he felt that he was losing her..His eyes were full of tears he did not want Rana to see.He dropped his head to whisper in Safis ear. Rana noticed that. I will bring you a glass of water. Rana told him. She knew he needed some moments with Safi alone. But he told her,No please ,I do not need any water. I just need to take her to the doctor. Ill go with you; you and Safi. Rana said that and felt like this was the last time the three of them were going anywhere together.

At the clinic, the doctor told Raj that the condition of the kidneys was very bad. She should be transferred immediately to the hospital. Raj left Safi and Rana at the clinic and went to the sheriffs office again. He was not thinking about anything except saving her life. Lots of images were flashing in his brain ; losing her, saving her, seeing her talking to him again, growing old with her. He was running as fast as he could. At the sheriffs office, Raj was not accepting what the sheriff said. He told him that the distance from the hospital to their village was more than 70 kilometers. The ambulance could not arrive before midnight. Even if they tried to arrive at midnight, that must have been a kind of impossible because of the mountains surrounding the village. Raj knew very well that there were no tunnels through these mountains. But he couldnt accept the idea of being helpless; of not saving t his love of life.

He went back to the clinic to tell the doctor that no one could do anything about transferring Safi to the hospital. On the way back, he was looking at the ground watching his pare feet prints. He thought about the disappointment he was carrying to Safi. When he arrived , he found Safi still lying down unconsciously on the bed. Rana was sitting on that bed putting Safis head on her lap. They both , the doctor and Rana, did not need to ask him about the ambulance. They already knew the whole problem. It happened so many times before when the people in the village could not save their loved ones because of the same reason.

It was eleven before midnight when they heard a weak sigh by Safi. She opened her beautiful eyes looking for Raj.She found Raj near her. When he put his hand under her head and called her name, she looked at his face like the way she used to do .But this time, She seemed not to see him. She seemed like looking through him not at him. Her heart was fluttering and her life seemed to go cold and dark. Even though she wanted to live for her Raj, yet she found darkness everywhere slowly swallowing her. He did not try to say anything. He was just smiling at her with love. She touched his lips with the tips of her soft fingers and then closed her eyes. He thought she was unconscious again. The doctor asked him to step away so he could examine her. He did quietly. Then the doctor told him that there was no pulse. Raj did not want to understand. His eyes were freezing. He asked the doctor if he could do anything about the pulse. But the doctor did not reply. Rana was crying. And Raj sat on his knees at Safis feet kissing them talking to her about how she was sleeping all last night very close to his heart.

That was the end of Safis pain. She left life even before midnight. No need for the ambulance. The ambulance that did not arrive to their village not that night..Not any other night.

Safi was 40 when she died. Raj was 42. He spent many long nights after her death thinking about life in his village. A month has passed and he has not been able to live his normal life again. That morning, he went to Ranas house to ask her to look after Safis plants in their house. He told her that he was going away for some time. When she asked him to where, he replied, I will dig a tunnel through the Dark Mountain. He walked away. She was looking at his image fading while he was walking towards the location of the Dark Mountain and she felt that Safi was also there smiling to him.

Raj stood infront of the Dark Mountain holding his ax with both his hands and carrying a strong determination deep in his heart. Her face was there between him and the mountain. He wanted her to be always proud of him. The thought that he disappointed her in her last hours in this life was annoying him day and night. He knew that a very hard work was waiting for him but no matter what, he will dig the tunnel and conquer the excuses to save another soul.

The first week has passed. He was there totally alone digging the tunnel. It seemed to him that nothing was done; that he would never be able to have this tunnel done. But he was motivated by his loneliness.

Early in the morning of the first day of the second week, he heard Ranas voice calling his name. He came out of the small tent he spent his life in these days. Looked around to see that Rana was there bringing him food and water enough for another week. She told him that she would bring him food and water every week. Raj asked her to stay for awhile. He made her some tea. She saw him using stones and wood to lit fire and boil the water. She sat on one big stone and started to talk to him about how he felt during the first week. Raj told her, I dont care how I feel any more. , Stars are around me every night reminding me of her eyes. She is with me ...she never left.

Another month had passed. Raj was living there day and night with his fear to die before he could finish digging the tunnelwith his thoughts about the difficulties of facing heat of the sun leaving signs on his skin and harshness of cold eating his fingers.

Months passed and Raj was becoming more determinedmore familiar with the sounds of wolves every night warning of these wolves was a white young wolf ,that had only one eye. He tried so many times to come close to Rajs tent when Raj was not around. When he heard the sound of Rajs foot steps, he acted like attacking Raj but Raj stood still for awhile then he sat down holding his knees and legs to his chest. Raj remained like that for half an hour staring in the white wolfs eyes. The wolf left after that and came back the next morning Raj knew that a friendship had started between him and the white wolf. He also knew that a battle of some kind left two signs on the wolfs face; his eyeand inside his mind; the desire to be close to a human Raj enjoyed the silent company of that wolf for years after that.

By the end of the first year, some people from Rajs village decided to help Raj digging the tunnel whenever they could. But no one was able to dig for more than two or three hours every now and then. No one had the determination that Raj had. Although he appreciated their help, but he knew that he had to finish what he started aloneAnd that what really happened. Twenty years passed digging that tunnel. Raj had never smiled during those yearsHe had never enjoyed deep night sleep.Once he achieved what he was there for, he looked at the tunnel cutting that great dark mountain and smiled. He took twenty years to dig the tunnel but he knew at that moment that Safi was saved..

That morning, Raj stood at the beginning of the tunnel smiling to Safis face that was filling the sky all over him and the soul of the white wolf who left Raj few years before finishing the tunnel.

Raj was smiling when people of the village came to celebrate the opening of the tunnel. Other people from press also came to take photos of Raj and the tunnel.

Raj came back that night to his home for the first time after twenty years. He felt so exhausted although he never felt so far all the past years. That moment, only that moment, he felt the heavy burden of being old and lonely.

Early in the morning, Rana came to tell him that people of the village decided to call that mountain Safi instead of The Dark Mountain. She found Raj sitting on the floor outside his front door looking aimless. She told him about the news. He smiled. He just smiled.

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