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••• The International Writers Magazine - 21 Years on-line - From Our Archives

The White Shack
Sidi Benzahra

I decided to confront my fear and go to the white shack and see all that blood and gore. I was eleven going on twelve when the fear of a white shack started to grow in the back of my mind.

Photo R. Macaulay

It happened a long time ago in Rabat, Morocco. I was a kid back then. The only things that existed in the world were my family, my friends, and the white shack. Everything else was insignificant. But the white shack was always there, standing in the back of my mind, shining like a misty picture from a mysterious dream. I always feared that white shack. Kids in my neighborhood feared it also. They told me about their fear so many times. They avoided walking by the white shack whenever they went out hunting for birds, or hanging out, killing time, in the old woods that stood between a large clearing and the Casablanca Highway.

It was the beginning of summer when this fear intensified. And since school was out, and there was nothing shaking, my friends would often come to my house and knock on my door to ask me to go with them to either the seashore or to the old woods. The sun would shine brightly over our heads, and the sky was always blue and cool, as though to cool down the sun. And there was always this breeze that would ruffle our shirts and hair, as we would walk down the dirt roads, scramble down the ditches, to places where there were train tracks, shitpiles, and construction sites.
We would collect copper wires by cutting them from rusted equipment in shitpiles behind small companies. We would collect broken glass, bottles, jars, from restaurant dumpsters, and we would haul all this in cardboard boxes to Father Mustapha junkyard to sell it for a couple of Dirhams. A Dirham was good money back then. Now it won't even buy you a loaf of bread. This was a part of my childhood, and it was a good one. And what made it good, was that sometimes during these excursions, I would stand on grass with a copper wire in my hand, or a piece of glass, look out to the landscape and the sky, feel the breeze gently brushing my face, and hear the murmur of my friends' voices coming out from the nearby dumpsters as though they were the only voices in the whole world. It was a great feeling. Sincerely.

There was a large hotel, still is, erected down a back road if you walked a quite distance further north. We would find women's cigarette butts–we could tell from the stain of the red lipstick on filters–in the back of that hotel, scattered on grass, and we would smoke them. One day I found a cigar butt. I smoked most of it, of course, but then after I dropped it on the floor and mashed it, I got dizzy. Extremely dizzy to the point that I couldn't walk straight. I decided to never smoke cigars again. I stuck to women's cigarette butts instead, cherishing every moment.

My fear of the white shack was based on a legend that somebody had been bludgeoned to death inside. Blood was still splattered on the white walls, I had been told. When I first heard of this, the fear was just a scary thought. A year later, the fear grew to a horrifying dream, and just lately it became an obsession, depending on how lonely I was. So I decided to confront my fear and go to the white shack and see all that blood and gore.

There were not many crimes happening at the time when I was kid. Or maybe they were, but we were too young to hear about them from the grown-ups. But the white shack murder leaked out somehow, and all the kids in the nearby neighborhoods became aware of it. Some let it go by as usual, but others like me became obsessed with it. So when my brother's best friend, Rushdie, asked me to go hunt for birds, I said okay automatically, because I knew we would pass by the white shack on our way out to the train tracks and the shitpiles.

You might think that we hunted birds with guns, but actually we didn't. We hunted birds with glue instead. We would walk to Omar's bike shop on Al-Farabi Street, not far from my house, and get a piece of inner tubes from a dented metal barrel where Omar threw junk and useless bike shit. We would melt the inner tube and drip the liquid on several small sticks-about six inches tall-and spread the glue all around the sticks. We would then sprinkle seed in a place where birds usually hang out, and lay these sticky sticks in a way to trap them. The birds, unaware of the trap, would come to pluck the seed and get stuck to the sticks and couldn't fly. If the caught bird were a common gray bird, we would kill it instantly and save it for the barbecue at the end of the hunt. If the bird was good looking or exotic, we would bring it home, put it in a cage, and turn it into a pet until it would die later on, within a week or two.

Rushdie and I took the piece of the inner tube, which I poked into my front pocket and a lighter I hawked of my dad's bureau at his auto body shop, and both head for the train tracks and the clearing. We passed the white shack, looking at it as though it was a scary person looking back at us. I was afraid of it even though Rushdie, who was older and stronger, was with me. But I knew that I would stop by and go into it on my way back home. I had to the do it because if I didn't, I would be constantly bothered by it to the point of madness. I felt like I was programmed to look into that white shack and see the blood that was splattered on the walls.

The day had passed. The sun had gone down behind the trees and the bushes, and the circle of the sky above the clearing had begun to change its color into a reddish blue. We spent a considerable amount of time shooting rocks at a chameleon we found lurking in a tall tree nearby. We never could hit it even though we almost did many times. Fortunately, our day wasn't somewhat wasted after all, because we caught five common gray birds with the sticky sticks, and ate them all after we cooked them in a good fire we built in a hole in the middle of that clearing, which regulars and bums used.

Now the time had come for me to walk back and confront the white shack. I found it necessary to tell Rushdie about my decision, because the fear had become too overwhelming to keep it to myself.
"You're crazy," he said. "I'm not going to go with you to that shack. I am sorry."
"Why?" I asked.
"That guy-the killer-could be there waiting for another victim," Rushdie said, looking at me as though he was begging me to listen to him.
Meanwhile we were getting closer to the white shack as I was trying hard to convince him to go with me inside.
"No!" he kept on saying.
We could now see the white shack behind the brush wobbling as we were walking, arguing, and approaching it. It looked lonesome and scary from here.
"Rushdie," I said. "I have to go in. I am sorry. I don't care if somebody's there. I have to go inside and see that blood on the wall."
"You're crazy," Rushdie said, his head looking down as though he was talking to the ground. He couldn't look at me. He was probably afraid of my thoughts, if not of me.
We were now a few yards away from the white shack and it looked like somebody was in it. We both stopped and we both looked at each other, talking with our eyes instead. All of sudden, Rushdie ran away and crashed into the brush. It happened in a split second. It felt like he had never been there with me. I couldn't scream at him to come back because I was afraid somebody might be there in the white shack, lurking, waiting for the kill.

After Rushdie had gone and calm came back down, I looked at the white shack and focused on it. The grass around looked blurry and dark, but the white shack was clear and bright.
"Forward," I heard a voice in my head say. "Forward, my little one. I am waiting for you, my white skinned one."

I walked forward but slowly. The voice in my head began to take control as I moved forward. "Keep going, my little one, keep going," the voice kept on saying gently as though not to disturb my hypnosis. Finally I got closer to the entrance. There was no door. The voice said, "Go in, my dear little one." And suddenly the skin on my skull pulled against itself. My heart started to beat hard; I could feel the beatings in my chest. Now, I could see the lines and spots of blood on the wall. I could see this from outside. I had never seen such thing before. I finally got in. "Welcome!" the voice said loudly in my head. "Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!" the voice kept on saying while I was staring at the blood on the wall. The voice started to laugh but I quickly turned around and ran out of the shack as fast as I could. I kept on running, crashing through the brush and the briers. They hurt so bad, the briers. I tumbled down, but then I stood up quickly and started running and speeding as though somebody was right behind me, stretching his arm trying to grab me. I ran and ran until I got to the train tracks. I flew over the tracks and kept on running until I could hear the noise of cars coming from the Casablanca highway. When I got to the highway and saw the cars, I felt kind of safe. I crossed the highway quickly breathing heavily and kept on alternately running and walking until I got home.

Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra
© Nov 7, 1998

Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra

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