Looking up at the mountains, in spite of the wind blowing around them which mussed one's hair, one saw the circling eagles, the blue sky with clouds. Tremors shook the mountains at slow regular intervals but oddly it was not frightening, just expected. It was such a pleasure to lie on one's back on the cushiony ground of this far planet, looking up, way up, the mountains topped with snow, only this snow was dark like chocolate. Eagles landed on them and drank, fastening their large alien mouths around the tips. Now more wind, another tremor, up and then down, and the eagles with their six wings flew off to circle the brown mountains yet again. . .
Dareen didn't have to be told; though Monday was her day at the new library branch in Alpharetta, she would be more needed at the main office to help repair the damage caused by the "pulse bomb". The operation was organized by Jamal, who was not a librarian but a computer database specialist; Ms. Hom and Dareen worked under his guidance as they tested drives, tested and restored the accessibility of every known database. It was hard work for three people; Jamal even found himself saying, "Too bad Billy isn't here." During his vacations Billy Gibbs would fall off the edge of the earth, out of contact. He was probably drunk on corn whiskey at some bluegrass festival, not even having heard of the bomb.
Fortunately the damage was not total. Not much data had actually been erased. It was more like somebody had shut off the electricity everywhere for a time, though the problems that created were bad enough. Jamal kept his radio to the news all morning. The city was slowly getting back to normal. Thankfully, and much to Dareen's relief, those people in hospitals in critical condition had all recovered. But the day seemed so unreal. In a way it hadn't really sunk in on people, the fact that a strange new anti-technology bomb had really been exploded right over downtown Atlanta, without being detected. Where did it come from? Nobody knew. Except, of course...
Dareen was very tense around Jamal. She ached to tell him her secret. But it was just impossible. Yet she owed it to him, somehow. It was now a part of her life as real as what she was doing this minute. She had lain awake half the night, naked in the dark, her super powers at the ready, feeling the warm wind waft over her breasts from the half-opened window. Certain that she would be "called" to do something, in a way hoping, so as to relieve her guilt at not stopping that bomb somehow. Her mosque was in danger. People she knew and cared about were in danger. It was a vague but strong feeling.
Finally she could no longer stay awake and had that weird dream: her breasts as mountains. She looked down at her chest, the size hardly concealed by her sweater and the frilly shirt underneath. Something was about to happen, she just knew it.
Perhaps Jamal sensed that she wanted to say something. Or maybe it was because he had just turned the radio off after hearing the commentator, apparently the actual news anchor, say, "We're still waiting for area Muslim groups to denounce this dangerous and potentially tragic act." But in the middle of everyone's checking the system and backing up files, he came over to her office and said, "Anybody been bothering you?"
Jamal was a minister's son, very conscious of people's religion, respectful of Dareen's.
"No," she said.
"How about the mosque? No vandalism?"
"No. Well yes, a few days ago, but that happens every now and then. We had a special service last night and they were all scared." She looked up at Jamal. "Like everyone is scared."
"Yes, it was scary. I was out at my folks' and the lights flickered. Where were you?"
She bit her lip. She couldn't tell him she had actually seen the rocket. "Near our place. I heard a whistling sound."
"Bet your parents are worried."
"They want me to stay with them."
"I don't blame them." Jamal looked at Dareen with concern, though partly he was appreciating the beauty of her big brown eyes. "Look Dar, why don't you stay with them. The city is a terror target. No two ways about it."
Dareen took a deep breath, looking down and now noticing her breasts surging up at him. "No thanks." ‘I can take care of myself,’ she thought, ‘with my new powers.’ Jamal went back to work. He was so sweet, so concerned. And good-looking. At times she wished she could feel "attracted" to him, but she just wasn't. Was it because she was just too shy?
She had her morning pray, and shortly after that the two federal cops came.
They were white, of course, but not in the dark suits one might expect. One even had a closely-cropped beard. At first she thought they might even be salesman for some software. But salesmen usually came in ones, not twos. Ms. Hom appeared with them in her doorway. "I told them they could only be a few minutes, we are very busy," she said to Dareen. Jamal's tall form lurked behind attentively.
"Dareen Alkaras? Ms. Alkaras, could we ask you a few questions? Alone, of course."
Dareen took them to one of the microfiche rooms where there was a little table with chairs. "What's going on?" she said. Her first thought was that someone had done something to the mosque.
"We just need to ask some questions," the bearded one said. He flashed the same badge he had shown the very concerned Ms. Hom. "Detective Samuelson, FBI." Dareen found herself trying to memorize the badge number. "What is your address?"
Dareen's eyes flashed. Why are they questioning me? It obviously had something to do with the pulse bomb. Were they just grabbing any Arab they could find? But then again, she did have something to hide. Being uncooperative would only get her into trouble. Just answer the questions. "36-E Boylston Street, Atlanta". She hated giving that address, so close to her bra size. To hear a big-breasted woman say "36-E"...
"How long have you lived there?"
"A year and a half."
"Does anyone share that apartment with you?"
"What is that person's full name?"
Dareen just couldn't go on without objecting. She wasn't going to drag Elly into this, no matter what it was. "I insist you tell me what this is about. Is this a criminal investigation?" she found herself saying. And kicking herself for saying it.
"We don't have to tell you that," the clean-shaven agent said. "But you do have the obligation to answer."
"Otherwise we will have to, uh, take you in," the bearded man said.
"You have to tell me my rights," Dareen said, again kicking herself.
The two agents looked at each other. "Your knowledge of the law is, shall we say, out of date," Detective Samuelson said. "What is the person's full name," he repeated.
Dareen exhaled. "Yasmeen Randhawa", she said. "Elly" was a childhood nickname that stuck.
"Is this a male or a female."
"Spell that please. Is she your friend or a relative?"
Samuelson was writing all this precious information on a closely-held little pad. Dareen didn't know it but his partner was also wearing a wire.
"Are you a member of the Al-Hijeera Mosque?"
"That's Al-Hijia," Dareen said. "What business is that of yours?"
"Please, Ms. Alkaras, I ask that you be cooperative," Samuelson said. Our task is very important."
Maybe these folks were just following up on a lead. Well, whatever they were after, it was a dead end. Best to give answers and help them come to that conclusion. But then they asked a question that made Dareen's jaw drop.
"Ms. Alkaras, do you have any knowledge of aviation?"
"Just answer my question."
She caught her breath, then said, "Of course not. I'm a librarian."
The clean-shaven agent shot a quick look down to her breasts, which made her angrier still. Then the two agents looked at each other.
"Thank you, Ms. Alkaras," Samuelson said, flipping closed his pad. "We will contact you if we need anything further."
"Did anything happen to the mosque?" She just had to ask it.
"Unfortunately Ms. Alkaras, it is for us to ask the questions, not the other way around. Good day." Dareen showed them out.
When she got back to her office Jamal and Ms. Hom quickly appeared in the doorway.
"They asked my address, and Elly's name, and then they asked me if I knew anything about aviation," she said, shaking a little.
"What!" Jamal was outraged. Ms. Hom was surprised. "Just because you're Arab-American, they think you fly airplanes into buildings??"
Dareen knew the answer was a little more complicated than that, at least as her relationship with the topic of flying was concerned. She gulped. "It's just a dead end they're following. I'll tell Elly they might be calling her."
Ms. Hom said, "I don't understand this. Why would they be questioning you?" She seemed uncharacteristically at a loss. Then she said, "Ms. Alkaras, we support you. I will talk to the Education Department about this if you want." She was about to say, "We cannot have federal police coming in here and questioning innocent librarians," but of course, there was nothing that could be done about that.
"No thanks," Dareen said, just wanting the whole thing over. They went back to work. Not that she could take her mind off what happened. Fortunately all this database accessing was pretty mindless. A little later she closed the door, took out the sajjada, and had a long pray which made her feel a little better.
It also made her feel better when she got home and broke the news to Elly.
"Great," Elly said, who because of her temperament was not as nervous about this as Dareen was. Both she and Dareen knew people who had been "questioned" since 9/11. "They'll probably think I'm an Arab too. What if I give my answers in Urdu?" This was a pet peeve of Elly's. "Like, duuuhhh!" she would say, relating scenes she'd had with her co-workers. "Look at the freaking' map. From Pakistan you have to go through Afghanistan and Kazakhstan and all the other 'stans', then go a thousand miles through Iran, before you get to any Arabs."
"If they call, just cooperate. It's a dead end," Dareen said. She smiled a bit. "Don't be a wise-ass with these guys."
Dareen went out later to the mosque, just to see how it was. No, nothing had happened to it. Just the American flag covering the graffiti like before. She quickly looked around if the place was under observation. Nope. Nobody sitting a car observing the mosque. Or her.
After night fell she got back behind the curtain and curled up on her bed, turned off the light, then did the only thing that gave her her special gift from Allah. She took off her shoes, socks, pants, sweater, blouse, bra, and panties, and sat there totally naked. Then she contemplated the skyline outside the window.
A motion behind the curtain. "Dar?"
"Don't come in," she said.
"Are you nakey - nakey? Time to do your Naked Girl thing? Can I come along?"
"Don't come in. No, I'm just thinking."
"It's not like I haven't seen you in your super costume before," Elly pointed out.
"Well... you know me," Dareen said.
"Good old modest Dar. O.K., good night."
Dareen sat there and felt her powers returning. Please, Allah, give me strength. She knew she would be called, she just knew it. She put on the nightlight and took out her Koran, to one of her favorite verses. "We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to all the prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah." She didn't know why, but it seemed fitting.
She turned out the nightlight and lay down, looking up at her two brown mountains. And then the call came.