The body lay twitching on the raised platform. The head, now severed, rolled out of it’s black cloth bag, and rested, eyes staring right at me. God is great, God is great the crowd roared in approval. Inside the head dress covering my face, a hot tear rolled down my cheek. It was anything but great.
If I think back, it was about purpose. At least it should have been about purpose. There had been no purpose in the office where day after day, week after week, year after year I sat at the same desk, having the same conversations, with the same people.
‘I am leaving’ I had told my good friend Karim.
‘It’s only three man, there is at least another hour before we can leave, come on, you must have some work to do man.’
‘No. I am leaving. As in leaving this desk, this job, this life.’
‘Ah man. This again. Where are we going this time? Dubai? To open a nightclub? Thats my favourite man. I’m ready for that one man. I’ve got the dancing girls auditioning in my head man.’
‘I am serious Karim. This time it’s true. See, I have my letter here. I am handing it in today’
‘What?’ The playful mocking tone of Karim’s voice was replaced with a concerned nervousness.
‘I am resigning. I have a new career, a new future, something with purpose.’
’W-what? w-where?’ said Karim, taking a deep sip of his coffee
‘The Ministry of Justice’
Coffee spewed out of Karim’s mouth and nose, as he struggled to laugh and cough at the same time. ‘Man. Don’t do that to me. Don’t joke like that when i’m drinking coffee. One day you’ll kill me man. Eeuurghh. I hate it when it comes out of your nose man’
‘i’m not joking.’
‘The ministry of justice? What do you want with them nutters man? They’ll have you up on charges after ten minutes man. Wayyyyy too serious’
‘That’s the point. Serious. They have a serious purpose. A meaning to life. They carry out God’s work’
‘God? What’s got into you man? Are you ill or something man?’
‘No. Just ready to grow up’
‘Ah. It’s her isn’t it man? Forget her man. You’ve only ever seen her once. The world is full of hot chicks. Just wait till we get to Dubai man. Come on, I have a plan. Things are going to happen man.’
He was right of course. Not about Dubai, that was his dream, not mine. About her. I had seen her once, but that was enough. Her father worked for the ministry. We managed his accounts at the office, and i used to drop off statements occasionally on the way home. She would bring sweet tea, whilst he studied the papers and i waited for any instructions. Once, and only once. For some reason, whilst he was deep in study of the documents i had delivered, as she poured, she gazed at me with her dark, mysterious eyes. Eyes that sparkled in such a way, i sparkled. For some reason, and only once, she lifted aside her veil for me to see. In that briefest of moments, she stole my heart.
The Ministry. Of all places, I had seen the advertisement in the Riyadh daily newspaper. State executioner required. No experience needed, full training provided. Serious work. God’s work. Perfect for showing my new commitment to The Ministry and God. Perfect for showing the father, i was worthy of the daughter.
I stood on the raised platform, wearing the traditional black head dress, which hid my face from the crowd. I’d been in training for a couple of months. In the morning i had prayed for a clean action. Just one swing of the mighty sword of justice. I had never killed a man before. In my head I’d reconciled that i wasn’t going to kill one now. They had done it to themselves. I was just a tool, carrying out God’s work. They had chosen to break the law, not me, I felt no pity, they had sealed their own fate.
As the severed head looked up at me, the world stopped turning. Karim. I couldn’t breath. Karim. I knew the conviction had been for smuggling alcohol from Dubai, but never for a second had i thought. Karim. A hot tear rolled down my cheek.
So this, was purpose.