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Snow silently falls outside of his small bedroom window as gunshots fire while Muhammad tries to fall asleep. His black alarm clock shows 11:11 p.m. Make a wish! Muhammad thinks to himself, I wish this war was over!
He is snuggled tightly under his favorite cartoon blanket and matching comforter, yet he is still afraid. He looks over to see his younger brother sleeping placidly. How can he sleep so easily? Does he not have nightmares about these soldiers? Frustrated with his inability to sleep, Muhammad decides to go look out his window. Tip toeing, Muhammad soundlessly makes his way. The first thing he sees when he looks out the tiny window is three Sunni soldiers, dressed with guns in their hands. Every time the fearsome soldiers take a step, the leaves beneath their feet split open.
Muhammad begins counting the leaves on a tree outside his window, one of his favorite hobbies to do when he is unable to sleep. Ever since the Sunni tried to take over Iran, three years ago, Muhammad has had difficulty sleeping. Muhammad has been waiting for the Sunni to come into his neighborhood. He is a Shia, and one by one the Sunni have tried to take over Iran, his country. Many nights he lies awake counting floorboards, snowflakes, leaves, and anything else he can find. Tonight he decides to count leaves.
“One, two, three...” Muhammad counts aloud, touching his finger to the glazed glass to point to each leaf. His finger leaves small circles on the foggy glass. Two of the circles seem like eyes to Muhammad. He chuckles quietly and draws a smile beneath the eyes.
“Four, five, six,”, Muhammad continues on, too distracted to notice the Sunni soldiers walking towards his home.
Then, Muhammad hears the noise of a tank and looks up. Muhammad looks up to find a dark headed Sunni soldier staring at him. Looking right into his eyes, Muhammad panics. He knows he must hide; the solider will surely come into his house and find him. Then what would he do with me? Beat me? Kill me? Muhammad was not about to wait and find out.
Muhammad dashes towards his closet, not even thinking of his little brother nor parents. His bright blue eyes are streaming with tears as he pictures that Sunni soldiers dark brown eyes staring into his. Muhammad thought the soldiers eyes looked like mud, dirty mud. As he opens his closet door, it creaks, making his brother turn onto his side. Muhammad opens his closet door and crawls behind the clothes. He tries to calm his breathing down, but seems to be unable to do so. He knows he should go wake his parents but he is too frightened, too “chicken”. Maybe the soldiers won’t come here. Maybe they won’t hurt my family. Maybe this is a bad dream. Muhammad pinches himself, trying to wake himself up from this nightmare. Man, who am I kidding? I hate the Sunni! Who do they think they are to kill all us Shia?
Right then Muhammad hears footsteps on the hardwood floor of his entrance. His front door closes, causing his stomach to drop. “Oh no!” Muhammad whispers to himself.
“No sir! No! Not me. Please! I didn’t do anything. I was just sleeping,” Muhammad’s mom yells to one of the soldiers.
“Please sir, take me. Leave her alone!” Muhammad’s dad tries to plead with the Sunni soldier. Muhammad pictures his parents, still in their pajamas, being woken up by the soldiers. Muhammad hears a slam as the door hits the wall. The Sunni soldier yells to Muhammad’s younger brother. Muhammad wants to go out there and save him, beat the Sunni up and kill him. Muhammad’s younger brother whines as the Sunni soldier drags him outside his room.
“Don’t act like you were asleep, boy. I saw you looking at me through the window” the Sunni soldier tells Muhammad’s little brother.
“No! Not the boy! Leave him, leave the woman. Kill me!” Muhammad’s dad yells.
Silence. Erie, yet calming. Silence.
And then, BOOM! BOOM! Two gunshots. Muhammad begins to bawl. Tears falling down his baby-smooth face like a waterfall.
Once again, the front door closes. Silence. No footsteps, no whispers. No gunshots. Just, silence.
Muhammad creaks open his closet door, breathing heavily, bracing himself to find no one in his home, just blood. Muhammad pokes his bony head outside his bedroom door. His mouth drops as he sees his parents on the floor of their home.
“Mom! Dad! No!”
Muhammad’s mother lay on the hardwood floor outside of his bedroom. She is face down on the hardwood with a gunshot wound to her head. Blood is flooded around her in a dark red pool. Muhammad’s dad, while trying to save his beloved wife, was also shot in the head. He lays on top of his wife, trying to sacrifice himself for her life. He did not succeed, and in the end, they both were killed.
Then, Muhammad looks up. He sees his younger brother, hanging by an electrical wire that had plugged in their Christmas tree lights. The Christmas tree had been flipped over and the ornaments had fallen off, each shattering into a million pieces. His brother’s baby face has turned purple, his lips blue, and his tongue, blue and swollen, hangs out. His eyes are bugged out and his arms dangle from his body. Muhammad is in shock. He is devastated. This is all my fault! Why didn’t I warn them? I deserve to die! Me! Not them! They didn’t do anything!
“God, kill me now! I’m begging you! Please! Just shoot me! ” Muhammad screams to his Lord, “Wait! I’ll do it for you!”
Muhammad turns his head and looks in the direction of his family room. His eyes scatter over the room and find what they had hoped to see. On top of the marble coffee table, there is a shiny black handgun. Muhammad has never picked up a gun before, but he has seen people shoot themselves in movies. Without a sound, Muhammad walks casually towards the gun, his newly found savior. With his cold, shaking hands, Muhammad picks up the gun. He places his diminutive index finger on the trigger as the rest of his fingers fall into place around the cold black grip. Without hesitation, Muhammad places the handgun to his throbbing temple and pulls the trigger. The gun falls to the floor with a loud thump, while the rest of the house remains silent.
And in a tiny two bedroom house, in a quiet neighborhood, in a troubled Iran, all is quiet, the night before Christmas