They were playing chess in their cell and taking turns to watch out for the guard. Chess was banned in the prison—early on the Islamic Republic saw chess as sinful or "haram" because it was seen as a form of gambling. A decade later, Iran would lift the ban in a benevolent act of "my bad." Arash was on look-out duty but he kept turning toward the game every time a player made a move. Amir was winning.
Arash was distracted by the game and didn't see the two guards walking down the hall.
Both of the guards came to the cell and looked inside. But they weren't there to punish them for playing chess. One of the guards took out a piece of paper and read from it.
Everyone looked at Amir, and then at each other. Their eyes met but they didn't see each other.
"That's me," Amir said.
"Get your stuff!" the guard said and smiled. "You're going to sleep forever tonight."
No one said anything. Amir started crying. Everyone looked away.
I am not here, Arash thought. This isn't happening. I am not here. He touched himself on the arm, his stomach. He was there. His body was still a body. He was still a boy, but he stopped existing. His body turned into a shell of heavy flesh and blood and bone. But there was nothing inside. The air turned into concrete, indistinguishable from the walls, floor and ceiling. No one spoke.
Amir got up. He, too, was heavy. Skinny but heavy as concrete. Amir saw his own hand move toward his stuff. He grabbed some clothes randomly. His hand didn't feel like his hand.
No one said anything.
Arash looked at Amir.
"Goodbye," Arash said.
"Goodbye," Amir said.
I'll see you tomorrow in school, OK? Arash thought to himself. I'll see you tomorrow. I will. I will. I will. Arash thought if he kept repeating the words it would somehow come true. I'll see you tomorrow. I will. In School.
The prison still stood. The guards still smiled.
Amir, with wet eyes, turned away and walked out of the cell and down the hall with the guards.
They sat down on their beds, heavy and defeated.
They lay there and stared at the ceiling. No one thought of anything. Their minds, quiet and numb with terror. Everything was quiet. No one slept.
Facundo Rompehuevos is an activist, writer, husband, father and recovering alcoholic and drug addict born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. He writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. His work has appeared in zines and literary magazines and poetry journals, such as Rusty Truck, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, The Rising Phoenix Review, Red's Not White and Delirium. He has two books of poetry: Irreconcilable Contradictions (2017) and Grabbing the Stars from the Sky (2021), both published by Fourth Sword Publications. He is currently working on his debut novel and a collection of short stories.
Arash Pouyan was born in 1966 in Tehran. By the age of 12 he participated in the 1979 Iran Revolution. Later on he was arrested for his participation and support of the Fedaii. After three years as a political prisoner, he was released and left to Europe—where he continued his political activism against the Islamic Republic. Afterward, he moved to the U.S. He returned, briefly, to Iran in 2009 to participate in the Green Movement. Today, he continues to keep up to date with the popular movements not just in Iran but all over the world.