Mustafa’s Last Well

Mustafa’s Last Well

Tony Preedy

Format: 13.5 x 21.5 cm
Number of Pages: 260
ISBN: 978-3-99107-637-7
Release Date: 28.07.2021
AD 1776: Mustafa the water-diviner rests, having unknowingly divined his last well. AD 1948: With the discovery of oil in Naamlah, the lives of the Emir and the ladies of his harem are transformed; but can they safely navigate the shifting sands of change?
The day passed without Bernhardt regaining consciousness. As darkness fell and the heat faded from the sand, the jackals emerged from their daytime slumber and soon found the scent of the bodies of Bernhardt’s companions. They smelt him later, but made no effort to dig into his cover because, apart from one, they had by then already satiated their hunger. The last to depart was about to taste his outstretched hand as Bernhardt regained consciousness, his ears still ringing. The animal departed when the fingers began to move unexpectedly. Slowly, he recalled what had happened to put him in this situation; trapped beneath the hot steel belly. Whilst he had been unconscious grains of sand beneath him had moved to accommodate his body, such that the pressure of the smooth armoured underbody of his panzer was evenly distributed along his vertebrae. He tried to wriggle free but found that he could only move his head, in which the sound of the exploding shell still reverberated, plus the fingers of the extended left hand that had frightened the jackal. By moving his chin, he formed a pocket in the sand beneath his mouth and with his tongue, he cleared the sand that adhered to his lips and teeth. He was at least able to get air into his lungs via his throat, he realised. He exhaled in a futile and painful call for help that went unanswered. The depression by his mouth slowly filled with hot oil as it leaked from the damaged engine and trickled down his cheeks. He felt a different kind of depression as he became afraid that he would die a slow death. In a panic, he wet himself. Again, he lost consciousness. …

They had watched the grey ship approach their favourite spot on the sandy shore, washed by the blue waters of the Persian Gulf. It had passed many times over the past week. Today it had come close enough for her to see the men in their white uniforms standing on the deck. The ship, from which a small boat was being lowered into the sea, was now held by a chain. She knew every type of shell on that beach and had collected each in different sizes and with various coloured patterns to decorate the walls of her little room. Nahla, now seven years old, had been lonely ever since her two brothers had departed to schools in Europe a month ago. She missed her brother Saif, but not the older, teasing Moosa, who she loathed more than ever since he had killed her pet. Moosa habitually made the sound of a bee whenever he wanted to annoy Nahla, for that was what her name meant. Both boys were her stepbrothers, born to her father’s first wife, Layla, who had earlier borne three daughters before Moosa, but the older pair had been given in marriage to their cousins soon after they started puberty, Layla said. Layla’s third daughter, Fousia, who was many years older than Nahla, still lived in the harem, which Layla dominated. Layla was now beyond her menses and barren, she once confided to Nahla, but this meant nothing to her. Now Nahla’s only male company, and that definition was questionable, was Ali the eunuch, who doted on her like a mother hen with a solitary chick.
Ali was, as usual, sleeping in what might have otherwise been the natural shade of a date palm while she gathered shells from the sand in front of the fort. It was winter, and the sun, hidden by cloud, did not now force them to spend their days sheltering in the harem. In there it was always dark, even by day, with shutters that blocked their world from men, closed behind the pierced teak screens that gave ventilation; screens through which the mosquitoes came, in search of blood, attracted by the scent of sleeping bodies; Screens through which she watched the stars and through which at night the cool breeze came, but not from the sea, for only the men slept on that side of the fort. …

“We shall render him unable to repeat this treachery,” whispered Abdulazziz. They each drew their khanjar and crept up the stairs that lead to the gallery, where they found the door to the harem unlocked. Pushing open the door and by the moonlight that filtered through the screens, they could see four pitchers outside four doors but neither knew who slept in which room, as they had never previously entered this part of the fort. Abdulazziz signed for his brother to remain still whilst he listened in turn at each door that led from the main room. There was no mistaking the suppressed orgasmic sounds of delight that emanated from the room that was obviously hers. Abdulazziz beckoned Hammed to his side, and between them they forced open the locked door. They tore away the mosquito net, grabbed the naked, startled Ali and dragged him from the moaning girl. Her beauty was revealed by moonlight to excite their jealousy of the servant. She wanted to scream, but knew the price would be her death by stoning, if others learned of her adultery. …

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