It was a warm night in summer. I was awake until 11 o’clock because I wanted to study, but I couldn’t concentrate. Every time I tried to focus on my lessons, the image from the TV news of the twenty-year-old girl in the Chesht district of Herat who had been kidnapped by the governor’s guards and raped by a group of men popped into my mind. I finally decided to go to bed and study in the early morning.

It was summer and we slept in the yard then because the electricity often went out and without the fans the rooms inside were too warm. My mother and my sister and I slept in the yard, and my father and my two brothers slept on the roof. Out in the yard a slight breeze blew, shaking the branches of the trees and flowers in front of me in the garden. Everywhere was silent as I lay on my bed and stared at the stars shining in the sky until sleep made my eyelids heavy and closed them.

I was almost in a deep sleep when a sharp sound woke me and I jumped and listened carefully. It was the sound of tires on the road and a car driving at high speed but in the night’s silence it was a very scary sound.

I tried to relax. I didn’t need to be afraid; it was only a car. Again I put my head on the pillow and closed my eyes, but other thoughts prevented me from sleeping. I had a feeling that danger was near. I was thinking how Afghan women are not safe, how all the women are in danger and how God himself really should help the women in Afghanistan to be safe. I asked myself how God could help, but it was a difficult question and I was still thinking about it when I fell asleep.

***

Suddenly a black car braked beside the street and two men wearing turbans and hiding their faces walked up to me. I was so scared I started to run. I was using all my power and energy, but my feet didn’t move. I tried to go faster but couldn’t. When I awakened I was afraid, but relieved to know it was only a bad dream.

But then I saw something that I thought was not a dream. On the wall of our yard I saw what looked like a man with a gun and he was peering into our yard. I rubbed my eyes and looked again; it couldn’t be real. But now the man was waving the gun. My soul started to count down and I felt my heart beating. I closed my eyes again and opened them. Now the man was sitting on the wall. I could not see him clearly, but then the moon brightened the sky and I saw the shadow of a tree in our small garden, but not the man.

I thought he might be a Talib and that I must tell everyone. I wanted to shout, but I thought if I shouted he would shoot immediately and kill all of us, so instead I shook my sister sleeping next to me and told her to wake up.

She opened her eyes and said, “What’s the problem?” I said, “There is someone on the wall who has a gun. She said,  “No, it’s his brother’s gun; it doesn’t belong to him.” She put her head back on the pillow.  I realized she was talking in her sleep.

I decided I must get up and switch on the lamp, knowing that the light would wake my mother. By now I was sweating with fear, but I got up, moved nearer to the lamp and switched it on and looked towards the wall. There was nothing except the branches of a tree and jasmine flowers climbing up the wall. There was no man. I was so surprised, but when I turned off the lamp again and looked at the wall, I could see how the tree’s branches and flowers really did look just like an image of a man with a gun.

Fortunately there are no Talibs roaming around my city, although there are some in villages around Herat, and we constantly hear from the media how the Taliban have rushed into people’s houses and killed them.

As an Afghan girl, my biggest fear is that one day the Taliban will take control in Afghanistan again. I think this fear caused me to dream about it and to even believe there was a real Talib on our garden wall.

By Zahra M.