Frozen butter and the Fedaii

The story of Arash Pouyan

Chapter 6

They knew Amir was going to be executed. But no one knew when. The guards had done this on purpose, being trained experts in torture. The uncertainty of when they were to be executed made the waiting more painful. For both the prisoners in wait and their comrades waiting to hear about their execution, but more so for the former of course.

The next night they heard something coming from the prison yard. Arash, Masoud and Jalil looked at each other, startled. All three climbed onto the top mattress of the bunk bed and looked out their cell window. Outside they saw guards, shorter and thinner than most, walking Amir and two other prisoners in the yard toward the trees. The guards were young, about the same age as the prisoners. Their long rifles made the guards look silly and small. They tied each prisoner to a tree. They blindfolded them. A ranking prison guard spoke about how they were charged for being enemies of Islam and their sentence was death. Then the three guards stepped toward the trees. They each dropped to a knee and pointed their rifles at the prisoners.

And then they all fired.

They shot all three prisoners, killing two, but only wounding Amir.

"Mom!" he cried.

The rest of the guards looked at him with surprise and disappointment. The little guard who shot Amir was embarrassed he had not killed him. He quickly got up from his knee and ran closer toward Amir and dropped to his knee again. He fired.

Everyone was quiet. Everything was quiet. Not just in the prison. Not just in Iran. But the entire world. The wind. The birds. Nothing could make noise. All matter had ceased to move and generate noise. The stars, the planets, the universe. The old cars with old tires.

"Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!" the guards yelled, ending the silence.

Arash, Masoud and Jalil cried quietly, softly in their cell. Arash felt as if he had died too. The despair consumed him and numbed him. This is death. Then he stopped crying.

"Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!"

They got down from the bunk bed, silently.

"Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!"

The guards left their small dead bodies tied to the trees. They left them there all night for everyone to see. Some would go on to be tortured by the uncertainty of not knowing if they were next. And some would be.

Arash wanted to continue being a 14-year-old boy. Not a man. Not a man in prison. Men don't piss their pants. Men don't cry when the guards shave their long hair. Men have noble mustaches, beards and machine guns. Boys have only the small promising whiskers of a future mustache. Men get tortured and executed. Baby-faced boys don't. Or they aren't supposed to. Men can watch their friends die as martyrs without doubling over in anguish.

In the early morning, the guards untied their bodies and took their shoes. They loaded their bodies into an unmarked car that drove out of the prison and to an unknown destination.

The trees still stood there, but the prisoners avoided looking at them.




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 AnxietyThe 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.

You can find him on Substack at

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.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Wednesday, January 10, 2024 - 06:31