Sûrah XCI
THE SUN
"When the basest of them broke forth."

91
LET THERE BE LIGHT

ZAHRA

I suffered rape.

The word is foreign to her own ears, moot, detached from real experience, like a faint reverberation or the echo of a cry that loses force with time and distance yet retains a haunting timbre. Franchone's silence is respectful. He had guessed before she spoke and though his fingers maintain contact with the region most offended, they press gently, unassumingly; almost chaste is his resolve to make no move she might construe as unsolicited.

ZAHRA

They who did this to me sinned in ways for which their souls are forfeit; they defiled in the name of Allah. Him who led them, I saw killed. He lies not far from here, in a hotel, where I kicked him into senselessness for attempting to avenge what heretofore I judged immoral. Then a stranger came, unbidden, who, for reasons never stated, thrust a knife into Ahmed's midriff. I escaped; Al-Hijr did not.