This is a work of fiction. A short story of 500 words.

Elyas stroked the head of his young son, Tarek. The boy’s head was warm from the sunshine, his face flushed from running around and playing. “Rest now, have something to drink”, he told the child. “You can play some more later.”

The man watched as his wife brought their son a cool drink. She smiled as she saw her husband’s eyes move to her swollen belly. Only two months more, and there would be another in their family. “How are you today, my lovely Amira?” She blushed a little. Elyas was a good husband, more affectionate than most. She was lucky.

Meeting his older brother, they enjoyed a refreshing mint tea on the shaded terrace of the cafe. Elyas watched the striped shadows move in the breeze that afternoon. They discussed the latest project. With contracts signed, they would soon be employing a larger team to work on the new houses west of the city. Things were good. Business was going well, and he would be a father again soon. As he said farewell to Ahmed, he embraced him fondly. Family was everything. Family endured.

The interior of the car was hot, so he opened the window all the way down. Stopping at the market on his way home, he bought some fruit. Raising the ripe fruit to his face, he could smell the perfume of nature, the freshness. He nodded to the vendor; yes, he would take them all. Back at home, all was quiet. He guessed that Amira and Tarek would be asleep in the cool bedroom, avoiding the heat of the late afternoon. He sat outside smoking a cigarette, picturing his slumbering wife and innocent child in his mind. He had never been happier.

Something woke him. At first he was confused, wondering where the plastic chair and table had gone. A rough hand was shaking his shoulder, and there was a taste of something in his mouth. It was hard to breathe, and he shook himself, overwhelmed by panic and fear. “Elyas, get up. They are coming again. Get up and get ready!” He recognised the man shouting close to his face. It was Sami. Then he realised what was in his mouth. Concrete dust. He turned to spit, and noticed something in the corner. It was Rifat, crumpled and bloody, not moving. “Get to the window. Now! Quickly, there’s no time.” Sami sounded hysterical.

Elyas fumbled in the dust for his rifle, and dragged himself across to the window. He looked down the street and could see tracer fire coming in close to their position. As he inserted a fresh magazine into the AK-47, he just had time to realise it had all been a dream. A dream of another Aleppo, a different place. Amira was gone. Tarek was gone. And Ahmed was gone too. He raised the rifle and placed his finger around the trigger.

But he couldn’t see to shoot, for the tears that filled his eyes.


46 thoughts on “Elyas

  1. A late comment . . I really ‘enjoyed’ this story. I have just finished reading some Khaled Hosseini novels and this tale reminded me of the atmosphere within them.
    A highly perceptive piece of writing Pete . . thanks for sharing it.
    Love, Ro x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sad but brilliant, how you manage to convey so much in just 500 words amazes me. As for this much discussed hook, I’m hooked the minute I start reading anything you write because I know it will be great and there will invariably be a twist; bait in itself!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I actually quite liked this Pete, from beginning to end. I may not be a professional writer, but I guess you could definitely call me a “professional” reader. I thought the beginning was lovely and I felt the closeness of Elyas and his family. Having read several of your stories now I expected a twist, but you still managed to surprise me. I felt like I had gotten sucker-punched when Elyas woke from his dream. Seeing the horror of Aleppo and Mosul on the news every day I had no problem connecting to Elyas. I don’t read a ton of short stories partly because even if I connect with a character, the story is over too quickly for me to become emotionally invested in them. Somehow though I don’t seem to have that problem with your writing. I hope this makes sense and I’m not babbling here. I’ve got a bit of a migraine.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I don’t know that a “hook” is all that necessary in a short story, novella, or book. A short story is brief by definition, so the investment of one’s time in reading it is minimal, and therefore not much of an issue. To my mind, the short story’s title is the so-called “hook.” I’ve read many classic novels that were incredibly slow in the beginning, making the reader wait for dozens of pages before the main story kicks in. Despite this lack of a “hook,” people still read the classics. When it comes to novels in general, most people pretty much know what to expect. They’ve either read the blurb on the back cover, read a review online, heard about it from a friend, or figured out the subject matter based on the title (though some titles, like “Gone With the Wind,” admittedly don’t offer much of a clue). As for a novella, it might be well served by a “hook” on the first page, as it is neither brief nor likely to have had much of a promotional readership, but whether it actually needs a “hook” is highly debatable.

    To be honest, I sometimes find “hooks” quite annoying, as they can come across as being formulaic. Okay, so the author took Writing 101. Give him a pat on the back. Oftentimes, the author’s “hook” is throwing the reader into the middle of an action of some kind, or throwing an unidentified character at him. A cloud of confusion hangs over the reader’s mind as he continues to read, hoping that the author will soon have mercy on him by providing the information needed to grasp the context of the action as well as who’s performing it. This sort of approach doesn’t “hook” me. It tries my patience. If it’s a short story, or maybe a novella, I can hold out for answers. If it’s a novel, I’m likely to abandon ship.

    I’m not saying that the introductory sentence, paragraph, or page(s) should be dull and uninteresting. But there are other ways to pique interest without treating the reader like a fish.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sarah. I think I could probably improve most of my stories, in hindsight. But I tend to write them quickly, as the idea comes to me. Part of me is happy to let them stand as they are, though I appreciate Jack’s comments and advice a great deal.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Polishing. Take each sentence and rewrite it using different words that mean the same thing. As I said the story is good. But its lacking in several areas. First of all with a short story it needs a ‘hook’ for any reader to want to go any further than the first sentence. It also needs a climax at the end as well. Even novels need a hook and something spectacular at the end, or an unexpected ending. πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks very much, Jack. I will take all those thoughts on board.
          I don’t know if you have read any of my other short stories, but I usually attempt a twist. I don’t think that I have ever knowingly created a ‘hook’, but then again, I am not an experienced writer.
          On this occasion, I was exploring something completely different, and it was more by way of a comment about events in Syria.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

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