When Mustafa finds a ring that gives him power over all men, he decides to conquer the world in the name of Allah.
The Voice of the Prophet
by John Bushore
The cave opening appeared to be nothing more than a burrow but Mustafa desperately crawled in to hide from Abdul bin Omar’s soldiers, pushing his bundle of belongings before him. Squirming several feet into the tunnel, he suddenly emerged into a room-sized cavern. Pulling himself all the way in, he sat in the gloom, waiting until the soldiers had enough time to leave the area.
In the small amount of light entering the cavern from the tunnel, he glanced about and his heart leaped like a young goat. Someone sat in the cave already, directly across from him. Mustafa expected to be attacked at any moment, yet nothing happened. Then he realized why. The cave’s other occupant turned out to be a skeleton, clothed in rags.
Mustafa crept closer and felt in his bag for his cigarettes and matches. He flicked a match into flame and became aware that he shared the cave with the remains of an ancient warrior, for a deadly looking scimitar and a round shield lay by the skeleton’s side. Whispering a quick prayer, he picked up the sword. It appeared to be extremely old, with a dried and yellowed bone hilt. The wooden shield also looked ancient.
Ah, he had made a great find! Antiquities could be sold to foreigners for great sums - if one was careful not to let the authorities find out.
He lifted the shield and discovered a small packet beneath it. Picking up the pouch, which seemed to be some sort of old, brittle parchment, perhaps goatskin, he felt a lump in the center. Holding his breath with anticipation, he carefully unfolded the package.
A ring was revealed, as he had guessed, but not the dazzling jewel he had hoped for. It was merely a plain metal band with a raised flat surface where a design had been etched, a looping spiral crossed by two horizontal lines.
Oh well, something so old probably had some value. He slipped it on the smallest finger of his right hand. Then he noticed ornate writing on the parchment. It resembled Arabic, but it had been written in an old style and he couldn’t make it out in the dim light. He folded the document and slipped it into his bag.
He waited in the cave until he felt safe, then crawled out. The soldiers were nowhere about.
He stood and stretched his long-limbed frame, stiff from his time underground. Looking down, he saw that his loose-fitting clothing had become stained from crawling, but it had been far from clean in the first place.
Having attended the funeral of his father, Mustafa had been hiking east toward the religious school he had been attending for two years, but now he turned his swarthy face to the north, deciding to detour to the city of Ar Rutbah. He had heard foreign traders could be found there and he wanted to sell his treasures before he could be robbed. He wrapped the scimitar and shield in his spare robe, hoping no one would suspect such an obviously poor man of carrying valuables.
But as soon as he reached the road to Ar Rutbah, a truckload of soldiers appeared. He saw nowhere to hide. Since he was still in Sheik Abdul’s territory, Mustafa feared the worst.
The truck slid to a halt and a man leaned out of the passenger-side window, his dusty face creased with lines where sweat had run down.
“What do we have here?” he cried with a laugh. “I believe Allah has sent a poor pilgrim for us to help on his way. How may we serve you, honored traveler?”
The driver and the four rifle-carrying men in the bed of the pick up truck joined in the laughter.
“Look, Farouk, he carries a bundle,” said one of the men. “Perhaps he has a present for us.”
“Maybe he has,” the man named Farouk said, opening the door and stepping over to Mustafa. “What have you brought us in the package, stranger?”
“It is nothing,” Mustafa pleaded. “I am just a poor religious student. Please leave me alone to go my way in peace.”
Farouk raised his arm and swung his open hand toward Mustafa, who winced and closed his eyes. But instead of striking him, the hand clasped his shoulder firmly. He opened his eyes and peeked. To his surprise, the other man’s face showed a broad smile.
“As Allah wishes, my friend. We will not trouble a man of the faith such as you. May Allah smile down on you.”
“It is the will of Allah,” echoed the men in the truck.
Mustafa watched in amazement as they sped off. Allah must indeed be smiling on him; he had expected to be robbed and perhaps killed. He uncapped the dented, two-liter, soft drink bottle he carried and let some of the tepid water slide down his dry throat.
He trudged on up the road. A bit later, he heard a vehicle behind him. Since there was again nowhere to hide, he moved to the side of the road and waited as a battered Citroen came over a rise.
Hoping desperately for a ride, since his water supply was meager and Ar Rutbah was still many miles away, he held up his hand and called to the driver, whose window was open.
“Stop,” he pleaded.
Fortunately, the driver heeded the cry and brought the car to a halt next to Mustafa. Men, women and children packed every bit of the car, with luggage piled high atop. His hopes dwindled; obviously not one person more could squeeze in. But he decided to try anyway.
“Greetings in the name of The Prophet,” he said. “I journey to Ar Rutbah. I beg you, kind sir; allow me to ride with you.”
“As Allah wishes,” the man smiled. “Children, move over and make room for the holy man.”
It surprised Mustafa to be taken for a sanctified man, though he was not about to argue if it meant he would ride. Somehow they managed to squeeze him in and the car soon arrived in Ar Rutbah, where he thanked his benefactor and then walked to the center of town.
He asked discreetly around the market until a ragged beggar – for a small fee - directed him to a certain building. He knocked on the door and waited until a small hatch opened. A pair of blue eyes looked out at him.
“I understand you deal in . . . er, items that might not be new. I have something that might interest you.”
The eyes darted both ways along the street. “You are alone?”
“You have the item with you?”
The door opened and he stepped inside. The tall, moustached man standing in the small foyer wore Arabic clothing, but he was obviously European. His eyes dropped to the bundle and then rose to Mustafa’s face.
“Where are you from?”
Not English, Mustafa guessed from the man’s accent. Perhaps Belgian. “An Najaf.”
The non-believer stared suspiciously. “Who sent you to me?”
“I asked around. Discreetly, I assure you.” Mustafa forced himself to smile. “As I said, I have something to sell. Something very old.”
“I do not deal in such things. It is against the law.”
Mustafa’s heart sank.
“But you may come in and show me,” the infidel continued with a wink. “I might know someone who would be interested.”
The man led him to a Western-style dining room and pointed to the table. Mustafa set his package there and unwrapped the sword and shield.
“Where did you find these?” the westerner asked as he examined the items.
“In a small cave. Two days walk south of here.”
“I will give you four thousand Darzas.”
Mustafa nearly gasped in surprise. He had not expected half that much. But he knew better than to accept the first offer. “You must give me at least six thousand for such treasures,” he said.
The dealer looked startled, then smiled. “As you wish.” he agreed. Mustafa cursed himself for not asking for more.
Then he remembered the ring. But it was plain; perhaps the parchment would be worth more. He had heard that ancient documents were valuable. Taking the empty packet out, he handed it to the man.
“And how much would you give for this?”
The man carefully spread it out and made a hissing noise. He turned on a lamp and studied the writing.
“This is amazing,” he said.
“You can read it?”
“Of course. I have studied these things. It speaks of a ring. It says all men must obey him who wears the ring, as the voice of Allah, The Prophet. Was there a ring with this?”
Mustafa tried to put his right hand behind him, then realized he had given himself away by the action.
The European smiled. “This document and the ring together are priceless. I can make you wealthy beyond your dreams, my friend. Name your price.”
“You may not have them. Just give me the money for the sword and shield and forget about the ring.” Mustafa knew he would be a fool to give up the ring. Why should he let the infidel make a profit when he could have it all?
“As you wish.” The dealer unlocked a small drawer in a nearby desk while Mustafa worried that the infidel would pull out a gun. But the man peeled bills from a stack and counted out six thousand Darzas. He handed the money over, along with the parchment.
“And don’t mention the ring to anyone,” Mustafa said.
“What ring?” The European looked at him with true bewilderment in his eyes, as though he’d never heard of it.
Mustafa folded the money, quickly tucked it away and backed out of the house, not trusting the European. He did not relax until he was outside, walking away.
He had become rich! Gleefully, he entered a restaurant and ordered a large meal. When sated, he checked into a boarding house and slept for a day in a bed soft as clouds. Then he ate again, bought new robes in the market and went to a steam bath.
As he luxuriated in the moist, cleansing heat, he pondered his good fortune. His luck had taken a dramatic change since he had found the items in the cave. No, not the other things, just the ring. Every man he met since putting it on had done anything Mustafa asked. Apparently it really held the power spelled out in the ancient script. What had the infidel dealer said? All men must obey the wearer of the ring, as the voice of Allah. That was clear enough. But was it really true ?
All that day, he tested the power of the ring. He walked up to strangers and told them to do things. “Give me your shoes!” “Follow me wherever I go!” “Stop following me!” “Buy me some food!” He even ordered one man to kneel down and bark like a dog and was instantly obeyed.
Now that had become convinced of his power, what would he do with it? Wealth? Possessions? Power? His teachers had taught him those things were evil. He had been brought up in a religious family, attended Islamic schools and happily knelt toward Mecca five times a day. He knew almost without thinking what he must do. The parchment had said that his commands would be as the will of Allah. So be it. He would sanctify his power for the glory of Allah. He would use his control over other men to ensure that the laws of Islam were followed. Completely.
Buying a used truck, he drove back to his hometown and formed a cadre of relatives and friends to be the core of his new jihad, a holy struggle for Allah. He had no doubt that he would succeed. In addition to the four ways of fulfilling a jihad: the heart, the tongue, the hand and the sword, he had a fifth - the ring. His movement grew quickly.
But the ring had some limitations, he soon learned. He could not command over a telephone or radio, needing to be within natural earshot of those he wished to influence. And the infidels who could not understand his language were not affected. No matter. Once he had united the Islamic world, he would deal with them. For the world was destined to have only one God.
And, as he became gradually accustomed to being Allah’s anointed, he began to enjoy the privileges of the holy. He dined on the best food and ordered his followers to put him up in their finest houses. Businessmen gladly bankrolled his movement and he soon had money for everything he wished. But he kept a heavy guard of men surrounding him, for he knew that no power was absolute. He was powerless against infidels and the deaf. And, once he began the true jihad against the infidel world, he would not be immune to bombs or missiles, so he had an impregnable, but luxuriously appointed, bunker prepared for his use alone. He traveled rarely, but purchased an armor-plated Rolls Royce motorcar and several plain Rolls Royces for his armed escort.
Mustafa also learned the pleasures of the flesh. If he saw a girl or woman he desired, he had her brought to his room where he would enjoy commanding her to fulfill his every desire. All of the women meekly obeyed, no matter what his demand, which excited him with his own power.
His armies moved across the country and territories were taken. The leaders of the conquered forces were brought before Mustafa al Uzma, as he was now called, and he bound their loyalties to him so that his forces swelled with every victory. Those who annoyed him with their resistance or impure Islamic practices, he ordered to kill themselves. They obeyed, of course. Less than a year after he began, he ruled the country with an iron fist.
The jihad became a spiritual and physical juggernaut. People embraced Ayatollah Mustafa’s fundamentalist view of religion and soon began purging dissidents of their own volition. Women were stoned in the streets for adultery and improper attire. No man dared trim his beard.
State after state came under his power until Islam became united as never before. He controlled vast oil reserves, so infidel countries curried his favor to gain preferential treatment. New weapons were acquired from arms dealers and he was on the verge of becoming a new world power, one to equal any that had come before.
When convinced of his superiority of arms, he waged war in the name of Islam. The western nations fought in the name of oil. The infidels were powerful, but Mustafa had planned well and his forces resisted them, winning several major battles.
Then, as the fighting was at its height, his soldiers brought him a prize. They had captured an American television reporter. A female.
Held firmly by two soldiers, the hussy was dressed in shorts, and her shirt left her arms and neck bare. She glared at him defiantly. Mustafa had never seen a woman with such flaming red hair, and the wench had the brazen nerve to show it in public.
“She was wearing Arabian clothing over her western garments to pass as one of us,” one of her captors said.
Mustafa decided the time had come to teach her a lesson, as he would soon teach all infidels.
“Do you speak Arabic?” Mustafa asked her.
“Yes. My father was ambassador to your country when I was a child.”
Good. She would obey him then. “Put her in my rooms,” he ordered, laughing in anticipation as he watched her being dragged away.
All that afternoon, while Mustafa consulted with his generals, he thought about the woman’s red hair. He would enjoy chastising her for her godless ways. After he won the war, all western women would be forced to follow the laws of Islam.
As soon as possible, he retired to his secure living area, telling the guards posted outside that he was not to be disturbed. He locked the huge, counter-weighted door behind him, knowing that the incredibly thick steel plates would not allow any sound through to the guards outside.
The American female stood in the corner, but she wasn’t cowering. She had put her back to the wall and the look in her eyes warned him away. He laughed, reminded of a posturing kitten, and walked over to face her.
“Woman, I have decided to teach you a lesson. You have come into my country uninvited, an infidel hiding in the garments of a devout woman. Take off your barbaric clothing and lie down on the bed so I may show you how a devout woman should submit to a true man. You will do your best to please me. I command it.”
The woman’s demeanor immediately softened. “As you command, my master,” she said.
She looked him coolly in the eyes as she unbuttoned her shirt and let it drop. Then she reached behind her and removed her black, lace-fringed bra, her breasts full, the soft skin pale and freckled. He felt himself becoming aroused as the half-naked woman sat on the edge of the bed and removed her footwear.
Mustafa removed his head covering and pulled his robe over his head. He lost sight of the woman for a moment. When he looked at her again, she slipped her shorts down to reveal her indecent underwear. Unwilling to wait any longer, he ripped off the rest of his clothing and pushed her back onto the bed. He tugged her underpants off to reveal that the hair between her legs was red, as he had fantasized.
She smiled up at him as she lay on her back, with him astraddle her waist. He reached down and fondled her breasts. The woman ran a hand slowly up his leg to his groin and took him firmly into her grasp. She began stroking him, to his delight. He felt a slight pinch, but ignored it in his pleasure. Then he began to lose his arousal and it became difficult to pay attention to what she was doing.
Suddenly he slumped down on top of the woman. He could no longer sit up, floundering helplessly while she pushed and pulled herself from beneath him. Then her hands grabbed his shoulders and she rolled him onto his back.
“You’re disgusting,” the infidel woman said in her near-perfect Arabic. “And you smell bad. I’ll never feel clean again, no matter how often I wash.”
“What. . .,” he croaked, “what have you done to me?”
“Oh, just a little injection of my organization’s most potent nerve poison. You’ll be dead in less than two minutes.”
Mustafa was fast becoming befogged, but he thought he might have a chance.
“I command you,” he slurred, “to open the door.”
“Oh, yeah, right Mustafa. After all the trouble I took to pose as a journalist and be brought before you? I don’t think so. We knew about your one-man bunker. My boss was pretty certain you wouldn’t be able to resist bringing me in here. He was right and now all I have to do is sit tight and live off the supplies you’ve stockpiled in here while my country’s forces take over outside. It shouldn’t take long. After all, a headless serpent isn’t much of a foe.”
“But. . . you must. . . obey me.”
“Not me, I’m a woman.”
“All. . .must obey.”
“No, not all. You’ve underestimated our intelligence services. We learned about your ring from tle Dane you sold some stuff to. He said it was only men who would be affected, not women. So, since I speak Arabic, I volunteered to let myself be captured.”
He gathered his strength for one last burst of energy. “But. . . women . . . have also. . . obgyed. . . me.”
“Surg, Arab women. Trained from birth to be subservient and, no doubt, scargd to death of the all-powerful Mustafa al U~ma. Under your thumb, just lika you wanted me to bg. You won’t be telling people what to do anymore. We’ll destroy that ring so it can never be used again.”
One last word. More of a breath, really. “How?”
She held her right hand in front of his face to reveal a small, plain ring he hadn’t noticed before. He could see a tiny hole in the metal and a smear of blood on her finger.
“I was sent to keep you from imposing your one-sided brand of religion on the world.”
She squeezed her fingers together in an odd way and a tiny needle flashed out.
“Get the point?”
Published in Chaos Theory, Tales Askew – Sep. 2003