Sûrah LXXI
NOAH
"Lo! the term of Allah, when it cometh, cannot be delayed, if ye but knew."

71
HARD RAIN

Sunshine, like security, stows its warmth behind the clouds as if to illustrate Allah's gifts are His alone to give or take: bestow / withhold. The brilliant blue that greeted Zahra on escaping her confinement has transformed into a dismal shroud of rain-discharging gray. The droplets, scattered when she first emerged from the Lower Haight hotel, now fall in legions, hit the sidewalk with such force they appear to bounce, drenching Zahra's clothes before she gains her bearings. Lost, she turns, looks back to see three racing black-and-whites converge—alert-lights flashing, men in uniform storming the hotel, weapons drawn.

She turns away, invites the downpour to dilute her mental anguish, to disperse her fear, to dissolve her spirit's clot of mortal dread; for it is life that holds her hostage now, not slow annihilation; Ahmed's foiled attempt has delivered her... albeit to herself.

1. Would I have slain him?

2. At the instant he lay helpless, I felt moved.

3. By what; compassion?

4. Or stupidity, weakness, cowardice?

5. Only fools reprieve their foes.

6. Aboard the airplane, too, I faltered. What deficiency saps my character to the point where I lose heart when Allah's Sword is poised to purge?

7. Or should I ask "Do swords belong in Allah's holy arsenal?"

Feeling cleansed—the rain less fierce, indeed abating—Zahra's melancholy likewise lifts. Her steps grow buoyant, strides extending. She has recognized where she is and that her present course will lead to... she stops short.

8. The studio... Who...?

She straight away turns, and dashes off in an altogether new direction.