Crescent Totah

The May Second Selected Writer is Crescent Totah

Please feel free to email Crescent at: hytotah24@gmail.com


by Crescent Totah

As I went down the stairs of our apartment building and opened the door, a cool breeze blew, trying to push me back in. It was an eerie, forceful push.

I continued to fight the invisible force. It was a confusing struggle because there was no wind present earlier that day. As I went outside, sagging clothes flapping like loose skin all around, I noticed that there was nobody around in the night. Cars that usually filled the streets were gone. All of the street lights were off but Hani’s light was ironically the only one on. The light felt not like a guiding comforting sign but a calling devious lighthouse in an ocean surrounded by blinding fear. I felt the call of sirens as I was ready to crash ashore.

I needed to go to Hani’s Store because my mother wanted Ras al Abed and a bag of bissley to munch on while she relaxed on the balcony, resting her strains from a busy day of cleaning. Hani is an aged store owner in our community who had suffered from polio his whole life. Hani could not speak and his body and face had prominent abnormalities, visual permanent that were symptoms of his ailment. He is aided by his worn-out wife who takes care of him and is also the only one who is able to communicate with him. They have lived their whole lives in the Valley of Fire, in the Arabian Desert.

As I finally arrived to their small light hanging out in front, I moved down the steps to peer through their narrow open door. I closed my peripheral senses as I walked down, until Hani and his wife were all I could see. Hani was seated in his wheelchair as always, and they were smiling as if they knew I was coming—like I was the only one coming. It was as if they were waiting for me to come.

I walked in and greeted them, scanning around for the specific items that my mother wanted. Hani smiled and squirmed with a correlated noise that showed his joy for a welcomed customer. His wife told me about her shoulder pain.

As I pulled out three shekels worth of snacks, Hani was waiting with a small black plastic bag. It surprised me how dark the bag was, and when placed inside, the items appeared fully gone, tinted the in same murky color of the sack.

“I guess if I couldn’t feel the weight, I wouldn’t know anything’s in the bag,” I joked.

Hani howled a moaning sound with no solid syllables. He placed a bent, shaky hand out for a leaving handshake as his eyes glistened. His already abnormally-shaped expression was heightened as he pushed for another awkward smile. I figured he was waiting for a response to his sounds but I didn’t know what he said.

I felt awkward; embarrassed. I don’t know why it seemed so different from many past encounters but it did. I could feel my face flush as his wife moved from his side to hobble past me. She wasn’t going to translate.

My right hand slowly went to shake his hand. As my hand reached the discomfort of Hani’s weak flesh, I heard the store’s front door shut behind me. I whirled around, still holding Hani’s hand, puzzled and annoyed.

Hani’s wife appeared almost frozen, standing completely still in front of the door’s window, head cocked to the side as if she were listening. She seemed to look beyond the blackness of the night, staring past the store light to find the darkness. She moaned achingly, as though yearning for the shadows. She then slowly wobbled her head around to look at me.

It’s a trap! my subconscious alarmed. My heart hit a quick bounce as Hani’s hand squeezed hard to break my trance, turning me back to him as he sent electrifying bumps of fear throughout my body; no ice wind could pierce any deeper.

I tried to jerk my hand out of his grip, but he held tighter. I was shocked at his strength. How could such a sick man be so incredibly strong?

I felt horror as his face slowly began to change. As if gravity consumed him, his face looked pressed, aligned to its proper places, like pieces of a puzzle finding their rightly flattened home. His eyes were focused, piercing as he smiled wide with a following laugh that set my bowls in a working rush. I was frozen but everything inside of me was going a hundred miles an hour.

“Let me go!” I shouted and finally pulled my hand out of his. I whirled to run.

The lights flickered and went out as I found myself flying towards the door, pushing Hani’s wife aside. I hit my shoulder on something and howled in pain as my right arm went limp. I stumbled and fell to the floor, when suddenly the lights came back on.

I was terrified to see Hani get up out of his wheelchair, on his own, and terrifyingly unusual he was walking normally. He went in front of me, gargantuan in his straightened stature. He looked too normal; too normal for a man that had suffered from polio his whole life.

He spoke for the first time that I have known him. Not in his native Arabic but in English for me to understand. His grimacing smile faded as he worked to make solid words, killing my soul with the prominent, unheard sound of his.

“The darkness is coming for you,” he said and the sound seemed to echo, finishing burying me in my dirt-filled fear. He then sat back as he allowed me to comprehend the echo that bounced around the disbelief in my beating head.

He routed to a horrific laughter as it snapped me from my daze. I got up to run out, holding my right arm with my left hand. I barely noticed that I was still holding on to the dark bag. The door blew wide open as the wind that was pushing me back suddenly stopped as if to rescue me. I ran out in a panic trying to reach the light outside.

The street lights were back on as noisy cars filled the road. I ran across and stood on the island before crossing the whole street. Life was back and the wind subsided.

I stared at the manmade stars all around, bewildered. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t stop myself from peeking back at Hani’s Store. Two snake-like figures huddled together. Hani limped with his wife by his side as they became visible in the orange fluorescent street light in front. They both smiled a final fear of their proven aberration, then turned away from their lighthouse, passing the invisible tides into the black ocean…moving like ghosts back to their home in the dark. 

Crescent Totah is from the holy city of Jerusalem. He is a graduate of the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State. He has a background in theology and religion. He has traveled around parts of the world and is fluent in two languages and currently working on his third in Hebrew. He plays many sports, basketball, running, and weight training. But writing is his main passion, and since he was a toddler, he has told many culturally-spiced stories from all the places he has visited and villages he has crossed. Crescent’s novel Planting Eden was published in November of 2014. He is currently working on two projects that will be available soon.