The Executioner's Nightmare


They laid his body in the street, in a row with other dead bodies. He was not dressed all in black as he had been dressed on the video where he beheaded an American. He wore street clothes, and his face was naked, visible, recognizable, not wrapped in black. At this place, at this moment, he was just another in a long line of dead bodies stretching from this 21st century Syrian city to the beginning of human history. No breath, no heartbeat, no sign of life, except that his mind was alive. His eyes refused to close, and he could see. He could see the blue cloudless sky, but he could only see up since he could not move his eyes or turn his head.
The men laying the dead in rows tried to close his eyes, but they could not. The dead executioner had no way of communicating that he was alive. He could hear and smell and feel. His skin burned in the sun and hurt. He heard the screams and the lamentations of women mourning the dead. The wailing women called on Allah for mercy and for revenge. Their tears streamed down their faces carving a path through the dust on their cheeks. He could not see their tears but he felt every tear as a drop of fire on his skin. He wanted to scream, but he could not. His vocal cords could not vibrate, still he could feel the pain of every tear, every lamentation.
The bodies were soon to be moved to a mass grave. “I’m alive,” he shouted inside himself. Creation heard no sound. He could not blink, so dust grated against his eyeballs. His own tears were dry, creating another kind of pain. So he concentrated on the blue sky above him, a refuge, and a calming friendly presence. Then he saw a thin silver line, a vertical line from the earth to the sky to somewhere beyond. He was not aware of the tradition that on Halloween, all Hallows Eve, the Day of Death, the silver thread that divides the living from the dead appears and disappears. The dead come back. They return for a reckoning. Suddenly the sky burst in flames and a series of images emerged, the first of which was a headless horseman riding from the sky fire straight toward him. He wanted to run, but he could not move. “I am alive,” he thundered to the Cosmos inside himself.
The headless horseman spoke one word. “Think.”
His body could not, would not move, but his mind took him to places he did not want to go. His own mind thinking challenged his long-held assumptions. “Why did you hide your face?” he asked himself. If you thought you were doing a righteous thing, if you were doing Allah a favor with kidnapping and war and torture and beheadings, then show your face. His mind asked another question: “Why does the All Powerful Creator of All there is need you to do harm to human beings? Is not Allah powerful enough to punish wrong and to distribute mercy according to Allah’s own perfect will?” Then he heard the challenge from Islamic authorities speaking in his own voice:
“It is forbidden in Islam to kill the innocent.” His brain burned with the flames from the sky. He wanted to run, to find water or something that would stop the horror. He still could not move.
“It is forbidden in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors, and diplomats; hence it is forbidden to kill journalists and aid workers.” Now he felt the distant sorrow of the families of the Americans and the British that he and his group had killed. Now deep grief invaded his soul, and the grief he caused became his own burden.
“It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat — in any way — Christians or any ‘People of the Scripture.'” A new fear transformed into a new agony in his body, mind, and soul. He was lost with no idea where in creation he was. The sky was fire. He could not turn his head to fix his sight upon a landmark, a point of departure. Nothing was familiar or known. All he knew was that he had not yet entered the grave. He could no longer hear the men’s voices talking about the chore of digging a mass grave. He could no longer hear the wailing women. He could only hear the pronouncements of Islam.
“The reintroduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It is abolished by universal consensus.”
“It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert.”
“It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights.”
“It is forbidden in Islam to deny children their rights.”
“It is forbidden in Islam to torture people.”
“It is forbidden in Islam to disfigure the dead.”
“It is forbidden In Islam to attribute evil acts to God.”
“It is forbidden in Islam to declare a caliphate without consensus from all Muslims.”*
He could feel his body being lifted, hoisted on the back of a truck, and driven to a vast hole in the ground. He felt the hard thump as he fell in upon other dead bodies. “I AM ALIVE.” His silent screams could not be heard. He wondered if he were the only one or if all the dead bodies were also shouting with all their might. He could hear nothing. The headless horseman was gone. The sky was no longer on fire. He could see the dirt pouring down upon him and into his still open eyes.
He wanted to pray for mercy, for true death or better for the paradise he had always expected after death. There was only the sound of clumps of soil upon his body and on the bodies all around him. When would his soul fly away to paradise? Or had his actions against Islam shut the door to the garden of cool waters and dark-eyed virgins? Now he hoped for blessed oblivion. Let nothingness come. Dirt came and desolation and agony and misery and suffering that contained no hint of redemption. He felt only the merciless earth and now the sting of insects eating his flesh for supper.
Then came the worst fear of all, that he would live through eternity suffering a thousandfold all the pain and all the grief that he caused when his body could move and when the world could hear the sound of his voice.
*For the Executive Summary and the Open Letter to the Islamic State from Muslim clerics and scholars, click here.
Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation”

One thought on “The Executioner's Nightmare

  1. Wow, this is so beautifully written. It is very thought provoking, the imagery is astounding and I fully agree with its message.
    Thank you

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