The Dead Passages

By Dennis J. Butler


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3 mins

Chapter 1: The Train

Although everyone at the compound said that Nadifa was ready, she was still becoming more nervous with each day. Her tutor told her that the only thing that could cause a problem was her nervousness. A doctor prescribed some medication so she could relax a little and sleep better. On her last day at the compound, a meeting was scheduled.
Aariz, the leader of the splinter group entered the classroom and began to interview Nadifa.
“Why are you going on this mission Nadifa?” he asked.
“I will do it for god and to avenge my husband Ghedi,” Nadifa replied.
“You don’t have to do this. Do you understand that?” Aariz asked.
“Yes, I understand. I want to do this. I will do this,” Nadifa said.
“There is one thing that we expect. If you want to turn back, now is the time. Once the operation is underway, you cannot change your mind,” Aariz said.
“I fully understand. When do we leave?” Nadifa asked.
Three days later Nadifa was landing at LaGuardia Airport. Nadifa checked into a hotel just outside of the entrance to the airport and tried to relax. Her assignment would begin the following morning. Nadifa tossed and turned all night and finally got up out of bed wondering why she needed to sleep. This day would be her last day in this life; what good would sleep do.
Nadifa took a cab to the train station. The cab driver remarked as he helped her put her wheeled suitcase in the trunk, “This is sure heavy. You must have some heavy cosmetics in here.” Nadifa was still attractive and had that wonderful cocoa colored skin that men like. Men always flirted with her and the Turkish cab driver was no exception. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was so preoccupied with flirting with Nadifa, he may have realized that her suitcase was way too heavy for cosmetics or clothing or even books.
“I have some books I’m giving to my sister in New York,” Nadifa said.
Nadifa entered the train and sat in the first seat next to the entry doors, leaving her suitcase on the floor in front of her. It was still early but the train car filled up a little more at each stop. There were only a few seats left when the young man wearing a yarmulke sat next to her, smiling at her as he politely asked if he could sit there. Nadifa smiled and nodded at the young man. After the next stop, the young man who had been looking past Nadifa and out the window bent down to reach into his backpack and let out a soft moan. Nadifa looked at him from the corner of her eye without turning her head.
“I am healing from a broken rib,” the young man said softly. Nadifa looked at the man and smiled.
“I guess I am getting too old to play soccer,” he said.
Nadifa didn’t want to seem out of place so she turned to the young man and said, “I am sure you are not too old to play soccer. Sports injuries will happen no matter how old or young you are.”
“I guess that is true, but I seem to get more injuries now and they take longer to heal,” the young man said. The young man noticed a slight accent in Nadifa’s speech and asked, “Are you visiting New York on vacation?”
“Well I am visiting my sister in the city. Are you on your way to work?” Nadifa asked.
“I am going to work in my uncle’s camera store. I am still taking night courses in college but I am not sure why,” the young man said.
“What do you mean?” Nadifa asked.
“Well I have been going to school part time for several years,” he said. “Next year I should earn my bachelor’s degree in education, but I will probably continue to work at my uncle’s store. I have too many bills and my uncle pays well and also is generous with commissions.”
“Do you have children?” Nadifa asked.
“Yes, I am married and I have two boys, three and six years old. Do you have children?” the young man asked.
“Yes, I have a daughter. Her name is Amina.”
“She is not with you and I can see how you miss her. My name is Ethan. My sons are named Joel and Jerod,” Ethan said.
“My name is Nadifa.”
Ethan took his wallet out and showed Nadifa pictures of his two sons. “They are quite handsome,” Nadifa said as she smiled.
“Do you know where to go, when you get off the train at the station?” Ethan asked. “If you need help finding your connection, I can help you if you like.”
“That is very kind of you,” Nadifa said.
As they entered the train tunnel that travels under the river and into Grand Central Station, Ethan looked at Nadifa and noticed she was sweating. “Are you alright?” Ethan asked. Nadifa didn’t answer.
Ethan became concerned and asked again, “Are you sure you are okay? Are you sick?” Nadifa didn’t answer.
Nadifa’s phone rang and she answered it on the first ring. The voice on the other end sounded angry. “You are still here? Why have you not completed your mission? Remember I told you there is no turning back.” The person on the other end hung up the phone.
The next time Ethan looked over at Nadifa, he noticed she was not only sweating but tears were running down her face. “What’s wrong? Is there anything I can do to help you?” Ethan asked.
Nadifa’s phone rang again. This time the call was quick. “You have one minute to complete your mission. If you do not, we will complete it anyway. The only difference is that you will not become a martyr.” The person on the other end hung up the phone.
“I am sorry,” Nadifa said as she turned her head and looked at Ethan with tears running down her face.
“What do you mean?” Ethan asked Nadifa. Ethan looked scared and confused.
Nadifa reached over and grabbed Ethan’s hand. “I am so sorry. I do not want to do this. I am so sorry. Please forgive me.”
Ethan looked at Nadifa and seemed to understand. “I forgive you for whatever you are going to do, but forgiveness from god is a different story. It is between you and…”
Ethan did not finish his sentence. For a moment, images of his children flashed in front of him. The last thing he heard was Nadifa’s sobbing.
The End - The Train

Bernard closed the book and gazed out from the porch to the woods on the other side of the street. He wondered if he should do anything this time. His previous attempt to warn people had ended with people thinking he was just a crazy old man. For now, he just felt like lying down. He walked to his bedroom and flopped on his bed, followed closely by his yellow lab. Ammo wouldn’t jump up onto the bed unless he was invited. “Come on Ammo. There is plenty of room for you.”



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