The Whip – Part 1
Darlington, Western Australia
Wild Competition Entry
Another day had passed, the angry red of the middle eastern sunset stretched itself over the horizon, like it was the last one before it lay it’s troubled head. I found myself here, in Saudi Arabia, nine years ago, accepting a job that sounded exciting, a promising engineering contract in the developing world. The money was flowing through the country like a spring down a mountain, the oil filling the gaps of the greedy mouths of the western world. There was a mass of wealth, but there was still the massive divide, and of course there were going to be teething problems.
I lived in a compound, where the outside contractors were housed, and was told to never venture out of it, especially at night. The compound was surrounded by slums, the guys who would actually do all the work getting paid peanuts, while the guys behind the designs like me would get paid a king’s ransom. Naturally, with the poor outside and rich inside, it bred animosity. Most of the things I would notice were small, like leaving my washing inside, because if I left it out on the line, it was always getting stolen. Even my old underwear would get taken, and why something like that would want to be taken is beyond me.
It was another calm night, where the heat and intensity of the sun was gone, and what was left was stars, it was like the bare bones of the universe, and you could only see it when the sun had finished its elaborate charade. I was outside, smoking a cigarette out of a pack I’d bought the day before. They were reds, and they felt strong, but seemed to soothe me after a long day at work. It wasn’t long before the noise started again. The cacophony of shouting next door had started already, and it was peculiar timing, because my friend, John Grosen, walked up to the house just as it started. I walked over to the front door from the side, and he greeted me with his usually cheery, ‘Ello Mate! How are ya?’ and on any other night perhaps he might have stayed that way, but this was a different night.
I blew out a billow of smoke into the night, cigarette in one hand, beer in the other.
‘Hi John, I’m good, buddy, how about yourself?’
The noise had gone from a minor distraction to a major din now, the yelling and shouting had increased in volume. It was unfortunate that I lived on the edge of the compound, because otherwise I might have never heard it, and it would truly be “out of sight, out of mind”.
John leaned on the side of the house, a few meters away. ‘I can’t fucking take it man. The yelling … its non-stop, and its going every time I walk near your house.’
I knew exactly what he was talking about. ‘Yeah I know John, I have to live next to it. Sometimes I turn up the music really loud and I can’t hear the guy wading in on his wife …’
He walked up and I gave him one of my cigarettes, he lit up and stood next to me, arms resting on the handrails lining the entrance to the house. We both stood for a short while and looked out towards where the house was, being fairly visible from the high rise where I lived.
‘You know, we oughta’ go over there and teach him a lesson … It’s no way to treat a woman …’ I would have loved to, but I knew the laws here, and it would just cause trouble, but for the sake of the conversation, I agreed with him out loud, leaving my reservations in my own mind.
‘Yeah, he needs to have a little taste of his own medicine …’
I remembered one night I could hear it, the shouting would begin, then I could hear things smashing in the house, plates or the like, then … the guy would bring out the whip he used for his cattle … I continued my train of thought, not really knowing the can of worms I was opening.
‘You know, I’ve heard him … he brings out the whip he uses on the cattle … he brings it in, and just starts hitting her with it … over and over, and you can hear it, the piercing sound of the whip and the otherworldly screams of his wife … It’s bloody heinous …’
He looked over to me, blowing out a puff of his cigarette. ‘A Whip? Really? That sick bastard … Did you call the Police?’
I looked at him like he was a child, like he was born yesterday. ‘John, you really think the Police would ever do anything about it? What a joke …’
There was a good few minutes of silence that followed, and I could tell that the shouting was really getting to John. It got louder and louder, and I saw him suck down his cigarette like a vacuum, his fists clenched in the twilight. I didn’t pay it too much mind, I just found myself wondering why Arabic was a language that sounded so angry to western people like me. It seemed to make the yelling more exacerbated, and I thought about why he was yelling at her, perhaps the dinner she cooked was not good enough, or the house wasn’t clean enough.
Perhaps it was nothing, and he was just a bad man.
Then, that’s when it started. The crashing of plates, or something that sounded like plates, and then the door smashed open, almost flying off it’s hinges by the sound it made. I heard the man curse, muttering to himself as he left the house. For a little while, there was silence, but then … he went back into the house, whip in hand, and John and I could hear every little sound coming from that tiny squalid of a house. It was then when John just snapped.
‘That’s it. I’m going over there!’ He put his empty beer can on my porch and stamped out his cigarette, reminding me of the angry drunks I would see in the club districts. He looked primed and ready for a fight.
‘Wait! John, you can’t, it’s way too dangerous!’
To be continued tomorrow …
Bio: Adrian tells us that this piece was inspired by a true story, told to Adrian by a client as a Community Nurse. Adrian says that ‘although I do not remember his name, I dedicate this story to him and only hope that it does his story justice.’