An excerpt from Ahmad Al-Khatat's new collection of short stories, Buried in the Flowers.
The Sound of Silence
Mustafa was nine years old. He was the only boy in his family to survive the war and he was the only man to hear and recognize the sound of silence when he would count the stars in the night.
When he looked up into the sky and saw the stars, he felt himself staring into the eyes of his brothers and his friends, who had all died during the long wars in his country.
He told me about when he decided to become a boy responsible for his actions. He simply made the decision to go outside and walk to his school across the street from where he lived. His parents had warned him about not going outside that day, so he left the house silently. The sights of the horrid streets terrified him. There were bloodstains all over the walls and corpses on the sidewalks and streets.
His school gates were damaged, and within the gates, dead bodies lay in the schoolyard. Mustafa started hearing angels weeping and moaning over the families of the dead victims. Mustafa was both terrified and mournful. He would remember that day for his entire life.
He became mute as the images of war engulfed his mind and swallowed his voice. He decided to draw his entire life on a small canvas while using the colours he remembered from his brothers and friends' death.
He died shortly after - as a child, having only memories from when he was nine years old.