Khaled and I stood where we were in the sand dune, with our eyes locked upwards to the cloudless evening sky. We saw a thick trail of grey smoke in the half light, before hearing a loud explosion that left us rattled. A fierce ball of fire broke the solemness of the slowly inching dusk.
We are Bedouins, we are the people of the desert. And this sight is not new to us. Since 1939, we had seen these iron birds falling from the sky. That was the time when the white men started warring among themselves. Father said that although they battle in our land, this war is not our war.
It sounded like thunder when the iron bird hit the desert ground. Bending our backs and with hands over our heads, Khaled and I ran for cover. The iron bird skidded into a hill of sand and laid there dead, while yet still burning furiously. I could feel the heat radiating towards us. Father had warned my brother and I not to go anywhere near a burning iron bird without him. And so we stayed put.
Most of the time, after the fire had died down, Father would ask us to accompany him to check the wreck. The men who fell from the sky would have died from the explosions. Sometimes we would find their bodies separated from the iron bird, and often times tangled in the huge white sheet that they used to glide through the sky. No matter how mangled the men were, Father always gave them a proper burial. He said that is the decent thing to do.
Father was not around tonight. And so my brother and I stood there, just watching the plume of fire engulfing the wrecked iron bird. It was quiet but for the crackling of fire.
“Ali! Look!” I turned to where Khaled was pointing at.
We could see a silhouette of a person standing and staggering slowly. As he moved, he dragged both his legs like they no longer belonged to him. His right hand was limp, while his left hand was in front of his body, like it was helping him navigate his way in the dark.
“Allahu! His head is burning! We need to help him Khaled!"
Father’s words were lost to us as my brother and I ran to the burning man who had fallen from the sky.