Bethany sat on the edge of Ash’s bed. “Mom, do you believe in reincarnation?” Bethany smiled at Ash, “What brings up that kind of question?” Ash shrugged, “It’s just something I read about. Some people believe the soul can come back over and over. I mean, could that be a real thing?” Bethany patted her daughter’s leg, “Honey, you have a long time before you have to worry about things like that.” Ash huffed, “Mom! It’s not that. Sheesh. I just wanted to know what you think about it. I guess I shouldn’t have asked.” Bethany sighed, the last few months had found her struggling to talk with her daughter. “I’m sorry Ash. Look, do I believe that people come back? I don’t think so, if we did come back we would remember the previous life, right?” Ash looked at her mom, “Some people say they can remember previous lives.” Bethany smoothed the comforter, “I know, but Ash, most of those people are just trying to get money out of people. Some of them just do it for the attention. There isn’t any scientific proof for most beliefs. If people could come back, don’t you think some University would have proved it? You can’t believe everything you read online. Now get some sleep, tomorrow is a big day!” Ash shook her head and turned over, “Ok, thanks mom. G’night.” Bethany didn’t know what to say to her little girl’s snarky tone. “I love you, Ash, goodnight.” She opted to ignore the tone as she softly closed Ash’s door.
Ash lay thinking and staring into the darkness for a long time. It took a moment for her to become aware of the dream. She silently thanked learning the techniques from the sleep therapist. She would do her best to remember. The alarm woke her early and she grabbed her laptop:
I was walking along a rocky path, sound erupted in the distance. I paused for a moment, I recognized the specific sound of gunfire. I knew it because it was so common, so normal. A woman, my aunt, grabbed my hand and pulled me forward into a lumbering run. My skirts were heavy and tangled around my feet. I fell and the woman helped me scramble to my feet. My palms were bleeding and my ankle hurt. I started crying. The woman was carrying a small child in one arm and kept a firm grip on my hand with the other. The gunfire came again, closer than before. The woman turned off the trail and headed for a rocky outcropping. The baby began to cry. The woman pulled me along harder, “eajjil fatatan, yjb ‘an nakhtabi. Hurry girl, we must hide.” I realized that I had translated the Arabic as easily as if the woman had spoken English. We reached the outcropping as the heavy boom of mortar rounds began to sound in the distance. I squatted low beneath a stone ledge. The woman did her best to sooth the infant and silence its cries. Finally, she wrapped the baby beneath her hijab and hummed softly under her breath to keep the baby asleep. I wrapped my arms around my knees. My skin was dirty from long days on the run. The red-brown dirt of the mountain stained every bit of my exposed skin. I turned my hands up and used the edge of my skirts to dab the blood from my hands. I glanced at the woman who rested against the rock with her eyes closed, “kayf ‘abead min dhlk bkthyr? How much further?” The woman shook her head and waved her hand. I knew the universal sign language of an adult shushing a child. I looked around at the barren mountain, little grew here, we had been without water for a full day. My breathing settled but my mouth was dry, my throat scratchy. I angrily wiped the damp trail of my tears with my skirt. I felt like I should be past crying. I hadn’t eaten in so long, I didn’t even feel hungry any longer. The sound of running footfalls interrupted our rest. The woman pressed her hand to my mouth, her other cradled the baby. Men’s voices, shouts, and curses drew closer. More footfalls, running past were we hid, then gunfire, and a yelp of pain. The men shouted excitedly and were very near. I heard yelling, begging, shouting, all the noise was interspersed with cries of agony. The suffering man began praying. I heard him call on Melek Tawwus and heard his plea, ‘kiras guhorin’. The other men yelled angrily, then one sharp report sounded. The noise startled me, then silence poured over the area. A man cleared his throat and spat. Others laughed and conversations continued. The woman looked at me, her eyes were wide with panicked fear. The men began to move away from the outcropping. I felt the baby move beneath the woman’s clothes and I heard it begin to whimper. The woman’s eyes widened and she grasped the baby. A single cry sounded out and the woman clasped her hand over the infant’s mouth. The soldiers hesitated. A commanding voice barked orders and the sound of the men turned closer. Tears fell from the woman’s eyes as the infant struggled beneath her hand. She looked at me and whispered, her words barely a sound, “Narin, min fadlika, la tasmah lahum tajid li walttifl, min fudlika! Narin, please don’t let them find me and the baby, please!” I now knew my name, Narin. I felt myself stand and kiss my Aunt’s free hand. I peered around the edge of the outcropping. The men were making a sweep of the area and headed toward them. I looked at my Aunt again and then I slipped away from our hiding place. I moved quickly as I could away from the last of my family. The rocks bruised my hands and shins but I kept moving. I tried to stay down and more hidden but it was nearly impossible. When I was close to the top of the hill, I glanced back. Two of the men were climbing rapidly after me, one was grinning happily.
I turned back uphill and moved as fast as I could. I heard the men call to me, “waqf , fatat , fa’innana ln yadurr bik. Stop, girl, we won’t hurt you.” I knew better. I was 11, but far from an innocent child. This war had left no innocence in its wake. The soldiers had entered my home in the dark of night. They shot my brothers in the head and took the women and us girls back to their stronghold. I saw what the soldiers had done to my mother and older sister. We were all slaves in the day, cooking, cleaning washing. They were slaves in the night as well. My dreams still ring with the memory of my sister’s screams. My mother died the first week. After two weeks, my sister became catatonic after one terrible night of repeated rapes. Then she began screaming when she was conscious. She bled constantly, she didn’t eat or drink. I tried to tend to her, but was called away to chores constantly. One morning, the commander walked up to the filthy pallets where I sat trying to quiet and comfort my battered sister. The commander pulled me away and threw me to the ground. He drew his pistol and I clung to his leg, begging and sobbing for my sister’s life. The commander kicked me away and scowled at me, “’innaha matt balfel . ‘ana mjrd waqf sawt. She is already dead. I am just stopping her voice.” He aimed, and fired. I screamed as the bullet silenced my sister’s wailing. Innocence had no place in this hell. I continued to scramble over the loose rocks and dirt. I moved toward the crest of the hill. Behind me the men closed in. My throat burned, my heart pounded and I felt sick. The thought of my sister and mother made tears come again and I didn’t see the split in the rocky ground. My weak ankle bent sharply and I couldn’t suppress a wail of pain as I fell. My head hit hard against a stone and the grinning man found me just as darkness claimed me.
Ashlynn finished up her new entry on the site. She was trying to document the dream. She re-read through what she’d gotten so far and shivered. She was trying very hard to capture the details but dreams were slippery. At least the dream didn’t have her screaming in the night but she also knew there was more to the dream than what she’d gotten down so far. She had looked for information about Narin online but found nothing other than what Grandma Ann had discover the prior year. The dream definitely took place in the Sinjar mountains, the temple, the Yazidi people and beliefs. She did find the meaning of ‘kiras guhorin’ that the injured man said in her dream. It was a plea to the Peacock Angel for a ‘changing of the clothes’ a specific reference to reincarnation. Ash discovered, and kept to herself, that she was fluent in Arabic as well as Kurmanji. This was another of those skills she opted not to share.
Ash glanced at the clock, her family would be awake soon. Today was the day! She was headed to a horsemanship camp in Montana! She dressed quickly and headed downstairs. She wanted to fix the coffee for her parents. She rounded the corner and nearly ran headlong into Grandma Ann, “Whoa, kiddo you nearly took me off my feet! What’s up?” Ashlynn gasped then laughed, her grandma had a steaming cup of coffee in her hand. “Well, I was gonna make coffee and surprise everyone.” Ann smiled at the girl, “Not only did I beat you to that, there are pecan waffles and bacon waiting for you in the kitchen.” Ash whooped, “Yeah! My favorite!” She took off for the kitchen and food. Bethany and Mike wandered in, “Morning mom, coffee?” Ann sipped at her cup, “Yep in the kitchen, breakfast too. I figured we would need a head start this morning.”
Ann waved goodbye to the family at the curbside drop zone at the airport. She hugged Ash, “Remember what I said kiddo, enjoy every day and every experience. Don’t worry, just have fun.” Ash smiled and thought of how much her grandma sounded like Andrew’s journal entries. Mike, Bethany, and Ash boarded the morning flight for Montana. Ash had chosen a four-week camp program on a Montana ranch. The program focused on developing horsemanship and leadership through activities, daily rides and other events. Bethany and Mike had argued a bit over the expense but eventually decided that with all the problems of the previous year, medical testing and therapy appointments, Ash had earned a real adventure. Bethany’s mother, Ann, had pitched in on the cost as well and that had helped make the decision. Ash watched as the ground dropped away and giggled as the vibration of the plane tickled her feet. In just a few hours, she would be setting foot in horse country for a whole month!