Rift in the veil

I was having my morning coffee when it all began. I heard the doorbell chime. I peeked through the curtains of the drawing room. I saw a thin person clad in black. I was little wary since the men dressed in black I have met in my life have been rarely decent. I walked to the door with the coffee mug in my hand and opened. It was a catholic priest as per his dress. I was albeit suprised. Catholics tend to hate me for my blasphemous activities. I ushered him in. He was visibly upset, something gnawing at him. He sat down and wiped the sweat off his face.

I asked, “Would you like to have some coffee or something?”

“Just a glass of water please. Thank you.”

I brought him some water from the kitchen and sat down on my chair facing him.

He started, “I am father Aaron from Biskra, Algeria. Something happened at the Convent for Benevolent Sisters situated outside Biskra day before yesterday. One the nuns, Agatha had gone to the basement to check on the wine casks. It was her turn that night. She saw something unfortunate, one of her fellow nuns, Susan was floating in the air. She was trying to say something but only a black fluid oozed out of her mouth. Agatha flipped out and ran back to their dining hall. She reported everything to the head sister. The sister went to the basement with the rest of the girls to investigate. They only found Susan’s dead body covered in a black sticky liquid. They could hear a faint hum. They followed the sound whose source was found in an old cellar. That cellar has been sealed for about 3 centuries. The key was found in the restricted section of the library. When opened up, they saw a thin red line pulsating, floating in the air. It hummed with a low pitch but clear enough to be heard beyond the walls.”

I smiled, “So, you people do have restricted sections. Why the hell do you behave so high and mighty? Whatever, this red floating line, what do you think it is?”

The priest looked offended, I ignored that. He replied, “We think it is a gateway to another world. We aren’t sure yet.” Before he could speak any further, his smartphone buzzed. He picked up the call and almost instantly his face looked disturbed. He spoke into the phone, “Let me get back. I’ll do something.”

He looked at me with pleading eyes,”There has been another instance of the same. This time it was a child. She died horribly. You must come with me.”

I knew he meant what he said. I replied,”I expect fair compensation from your church in return of my services and I don’t like haggling. Of course, my transportation will be borne by the church again.” And thus began my journey to Algiers.

I am Graham, a professional hunter of supernatural beings. Monsters commonly called have always been there. My services come at a price which isn’t negotiable. I have killed werewolves, vampires, liberated spirits and demons stuck in this world. I am fairly popular in my circles.

Biskra airport was larger than I expected. I took my luggage from the conveyor belt and moved to the immigration. The airport seldom received any new visitors which was evident from the surprise among the immigration officials. A Rolls Royce was waiting for me outside the airport which took me to my destination.

The convent was more like a palace carved inside a mountain. The car entered through a large gate into a massive parking space large enough to house a Boeing Jet. Mother sister was waiting along with two of her pupils. She said hello, I am Mother Margaret. We don’t encourage outside visitors especially males but here we didn’t have a choice. The safety of the girls is in question.

I replied, I don’t really like working with priests or priestesses but the case is challenging.

The lady took me to a guest room which was inside the large gates but outside the main covent, adjacent to it. Security was housed alongwith. I smirked at their arrangements. Isolating themselves from the world to serve a fictitious entity and they claim to be benevolent.

I told the head, “I would need to enter the convent to investigate properly. Also, where was did the second death take place?”

She replied, “Yes, I realised that with immense displeasure. The other child died in the lawn of her house. That place is a few kilometres from here. Her parents are devastated. Please be less forward with them.

I smiled a little,”Ma’am, as it happens it’s not my first case. I know how to approach grieving parents. Just point me to the necessary locations and I’ll do the rest. I’ll get freshened up and meet you at the inner gate of the convent in twenty minutes. Please don’t poke into my luggage. There’s sensitive equipment inside.”

The lady was taken aback, “Why would I search through your belongings? I respect a man’s privacy.”

“I certainly hope so”, and I beckoned her to leave.

After a brisk shower, I wore my typical uniform, a denim jacket over a cotton shirt and a pair of cargo pants. I pulled out the necessary equipment from my luggage and placed them in my backpack. I got out of my room and started walking towards the entrance. Two of the security guards were on guard at each side of the large pair of doors. The mother sister along with two of her disciples was waiting just beyond the doors.

“No man other than the grand bishop has walked through this gate till date. Please maintain the dignity of the convent.”

“I have little interest as to who walked through these doors. I’d like to finish my job soon and leave for home. Where is the humming red line?”

And she lead me through a long yellow stone corridor with doors on both sides till we reached the last door which was smaller than the others. She brought out a huge key from her gown and opened the door. Stairs led downstairs. The light was dim.

She said, “the basement primarily houses the wine but at the far end there is a cellar which has never been opened in three hundred years. I had been told that the room contained important documents and rarest of books. You will know the rest when we reach the room.”

Large wine casks, arranged in four rows occupied the basement forming two narrow aisles. There was only enough light to see where everything was. We walked through one of the aisles to reach the other end. I could hear the humming with increasing intensity as we approached the room. It was clear yet very subtle. Then I saw a reddish glow from underneath of what seemed to be an iron door. I looked at mother Sister with inquisitiveness and she looked back with a hint of fear in her eyes. The glow brightened as we finally reached the end. The door was small but seemed strong. Rivets adorned the iron frame on all sides to which the door was hinged. The door seemed to be made of one thick iron sheet with a pentagram engraved on it. I stoked my hand across the surface of the door and found some more engravings. I pulled out my torch to look closely, the engravings were sigils strong enough to ward off demons and similar dark entities. I wondered about the reason for such strong warding. What were they trying stop?

I turned to Mother Margaret, “What can you tell me about these sigils?”

She was taken aback,”These are sigils? I always thought they were some sort of decorations. There’s nothing mentioned in our Bible.”

“Ma’am, it seems you have a lot more to learn about your religion. These sigils are there keep off demons from the underworld. The question is why are these sigils here? Please open the door.”

Margaret brought out another large brass key, this time one with two heads with some markings on it. I was curious if she had a special pocket inside her gown made only for keeping such keys. She put the key inside a keyhole at the centre of the pentagram and twisted it twice counterclockwise and once clockwise. The door clanged loudly, the sound reverberating throughout the large basement and opened to its back. Smell of sulphur filled the air. It was dark inside except for a faint red glow at the centre of the room. Apparently, nobody in last hundred years thought it needed some electric lighting. I took out my lighter, flicked out a flame and moved it around. Two wooden torches hung from wrought iron frames at both sides of the door and more were placed at regular gaps. I went ahead and lit half of the torches. Things were clearer now and Margaret looked like a spectre in a black gown. It was funny. I approached the red glow, I could see a thin red line pulsating amidst the glow which was increasing and decreasing in intensity at regular intervals.

Margaret exclaimed, “The line is slightly smaller than what we last saw. What does it mean?”

I said calmly,”That can mean only one thing, the doorway is closing. Which means we have to grab that fucker ASAP.” Margaret drew a cross on her chest hearing the cuss word. I said, “Please give it a rest. Don’t take the lord’s name in vain. Let’s move out. I need to investigate further and for that first I need to talk to the last person who saw Susan. I believe her name is Agatha.”

“Alright but remember that she hasn’t spoken to a man since she was a child. She might not speak much.”

“Don’t worry about it. She is not the first nun I have interviewed.”

“If you say so.” And she ushered me from the basement and led me to their dining hall. She beckoned me to sit on one of the chairs.”Please wait here while I get her.”

After a while sister Margaret came back with three nuns. I didn’t bother to introduce myself. One of them came forward and sat on the chair across the table in front of me. The rest stood near the door.

“I presume you are Agatha. I am here to investigate the cause of death of your fellow nun Susan. Are you comfortable talking about it?”

Agatha nodded her head in confirmation.

I continued,”If there’s any discomfort let me know. I’d understand. Shall we continue?”

She nodded again.

“As I heard, you had gone to the basement to procure some wine and you saw Susan. Can you describe what you saw?”

“That night will be forever etched in my mind. I went down to the basement and reached the specified wine cask. I heard a faint humming noise. I turned and went ahead to check the source of the sound, it was coming from the sealed door. I was little scared and as soon as I turned to leave the place, I heard groaning. Then I saw Susan, her eyes were all white, fixated on me and she was floating, as if someone had grabbed her neck from behind and lifted her. Her arms and legs seemed lifeless. She tried to tell me something and lifted her hand but only black fluid came out of her mouth. I couldn’t help myself and I screamed out of fear. I ran from there. I even fell down once but I got up and ran till I reached the dining hall.”

I nodded deep in my thoughts. It was a clear case of possession but I wasn’t sure if it was demonic. I turned to the sister, “Ma’am, I think Agatha needs to rest now. Could you please take a seat and tell me the rest of what happened?”

Margaret whispered to the other two nuns who came forward and took Agatha to their living quarters. Margaret sat on the chair previously occupied by Agatha.

“Shall I start?”

Sister nodded in confirmation.

“What happened after Agatha reported to you about Susan?”

“I made Agatha sit down and asked Emily to look after her. Then I took three disciples and went to the basement. It was colder than usual. We all could hear the humming and the whole place reeked of sulphur. Susan’s body was on the ground, lifeless in a pool of thick black liquid. Her eyes were open, specks of the same liquid could be seen on her eyes, nostrils and mouth. We were repelled and afraid at the same time.”

Margaret exhaled audibly and then continued, “I followed the sound of humming and could see the pulsating red glow coming from under the door of the cellar. I was astonished because that cellar door has been closed for so long. I remembered that the key was in the restricted section of our library inside a chest. I ran back to the nuns and asked them to bring the body out of the basement. Then I strode fast to the library to find the key. I ran back and opened the door and saw the thin red glowing line floating in the air. I had to take a step back and take support of the wall. It was overwhelming.”

“Please have some water. Take a deep breath”, I said to her. She took a sip of water.

“I am alright. There was no one around and I was scared. I came out of the room and locked the door. Then I straight went to the dining hall where everyone was present. Agatha was better as I could see. I went and sat down on a chair and asked for a glass of water. It was almost midnight by then. All of us except Emily and Agatha waited in the dining hall till daybreak”, she took another sip, “As soon as the first light struck, I went to my office and called father Aaron for help. He suggested we need a specialist. I didn’t know it was you he was talking about. You know the rest.”

“Hmmm, I need to talk to father Aaron to shed some light on my queries. Is it possible to meet him in the evening. Tomorrow I’d like to meet the parents of the child who died.”

“I’ll make a call. Till then you can have your lunch and get some rest.”

“Yes, that would be nice.”

I must say, for a old ignorant convent the food was pretty good of not so elaborate. I went to my room afterwards and fell into a deep slumber. Loud knocks broke my sleep. It was 5PM already. I got up, groggy from my sleep and walked upto the door. A security guard stood there. Behind him was a black car. I could see sister Margaret sitting in the back seat. I told the guard, “Please ask her to give me five minutes.” And I went in to get ready.

We reached father Aaron’s chapel in about half an hour. He had just returned to his chambers after finishing his sermons. Margaret knocked on his door.

“Come in Sister Margaret. I was wondering when you would come.”

Sister Margaret bowed to the father and he reciprocated by bowing to her. I stepped forward and shook his hand and then we took our seats. Aaron looked at me, “Are you comfortable with the arrangements?”

“Yeah, stone walls with no windows make me real happy” I said sarcastically, “However, I must say that the food is good. Filled the hole in my stomach. I am already looking forward to the dinner.” Margaret looked at me sternly and said,”I think it’s better to get down to the matter at hand. I am not really comfortable staying away from the convent for long.”

“Yes, of course. I understand staying outside the dimly lit cave in the mountain can be overwhelming” Margaret glared at me again. I continued,”Father Aaron, I saw something in the cellar. Care to explain?”

“What are you talking about?”

“What is a pentagram doing on the door to the cellar and another inside the cellar? Also, why are there sigils on the door?”

“I was hoping I won’t have to answer those questions but I don’t believe it can be kept a secret anymore since you found the markings on the door. Whatever I tell you would help towards your investigation but no one outside this room should know about it.” He took a deep breath and continued, “As you may know, there’s the underworld which is the home to demons and other cursed souls. The dimensional demarcation between our world and theirs is especially thin in the space inside the cellar. The whole convent was built to keep such evil inside. The pentagrams and the sigils are to trap anything dark that might be able to come into our world. This secret has been handed down over generations of priests of Biskra chapel. We always believed that the wardings were strong enough to keep any dark entity inside but we were wrong. What would you do now?”

“As far as I could gather from the smell of sulphur and the deal with the black goo, it is a demon. So, first we need to find the demon, then we need to exorcise it and we need to do it as soon as possible. That red pulsating line of light seems to be a rift between the two worlds and is closing. I think the demon is ancient and that is why the wardings were useless against it. Moreover, given the nature of deaths, the demon is on its way to find a suitable host. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope it hasn’t found one yet. Whom do you know in the police?”

“Why? What do you need from the police.”

“Well, I need a large net to catch the demon and only the police can drop such a net. If possible call your contacts in the police and run any report of weird behaviour through you. Make up a story if you feel like. There are religious nutters everywhere. I think we should return to the convent now. I need to make preparations for the exorcism. If we wait for another day after tomorrow, the damage might be irreversible.” Saying this, I got up from my chair. Sister Margaret followed suit. We both bid good night to father Aaron and started towards the convent.

Margaret was quiet throughout our journey. I could understand her shock upon hearing such a secret about the convent where she spent most of her life. She asked me to meet in her office as soon as we reached the convent. Her office was adjacent to her living quarters on what we can call the first floor. I went to her office after keeping my stuff in my room. The office was modest with a few shelves for books, a large desk and three chairs. She asked me to come in as I knocked on the door.

“Mr. Graham, please have a seat”, she continued as I sat down, “I knew this place had its history but I never knew there would be secrets that I won’t be informed about. I am not angry, just surprised and now concerned for the wellbeing of my girls. How do you plan to curb this evil?”

“Let’s first meet those parents tomorrow and then I can devise a proper plan. I need to find out ways to exorcise an ancient demon and for that I need access to your library and also the restricted section”

She nodded in agreement, “If you don’t mind, Emily would stay in the library till you are done, not to keep an eye on you but just to keep the books in their places after you are done.”

“That won’t be a problem. I’ll call father Aaron so that we can discuss anything relevant I find.”

We went to the library which was on the ground floor adjacent to the dining hall. Margaret turned towards me,”I believe it’s wise to have your dinner before you go inside the library. Emily would accompany you.”

I nodded. Emily was waiting at the door by the time I finished my dinner. She led me to the library, opened its door and moved on to sit on a chair by the side of a large reading table. I went in search of the relevant books. The library was huge to say the least with at least a few thousand books. It took me a while to find books on demonic possession. Normally, demonic possession proceeds by occupation of the host body through some form of permission given by the host. The hosts are generally weak willed and unknowingly provide “legal rights” to the demon. However, an ancient demon may be strong enough to bend the laws and occupy any host at will. However, it would need some form of permission. I kept on searching for a demon that leaves black sludge while possessing a host or after killing the host. It must have been hours. Emily had dozed off in her chair with a book in her hand. I tried calling Aaron but there was no cellphone reception. I moved towards the restricted section and suddenly felt a chill run down my spine. This place was haunted. I didn’t pay much heed, most spirits are harmless. I brought out my EM wave meter which flickered weakly. Yes, indeed it was a spirit. Since, no one was harmed here to my knowledge, it didn’t seem dangerous. I kept searching and a shadow passed by me. I would have done something but I don’t hunt spirits that don’t hurt others. I had found my book and it was very old. The writings were in old latin and spoke of entities older than the Bible. I went to the reading table and flipped through the pages till I saw a diagram of a man lying lifeless and black fluid spread around him. Yes, this demon indeed was ancient, about a few thousand years old and needed a strong host to sustain its existence in our realm. It didn’t need much legal rights. Any nearby human asking for help was enough for it to possess the body.

I understood why the sigils or the pentagram were not enough to hold it. A completely different set of signs was needed for warding off the entity and only the pentagram was not enough. Those sigils needed to be also drawn inside the pentagram with something that resembles blood for the trap to work. My job was clear now, first I had to draw the sigils on the door with red paint and also inside the pentagram in the cellar. Next move was to find the host and bring it to the trap and chant the incantation written in the book in its parent language that would force the demon out of the host. I believed as soon as the demon was pushed out the rift would pull in the demon to the other side. It was past midnight and I had to start early the next morning. I woke up Emily and asked her to go to the living quarters. I went to my room after she left the library and fell asleep.

The blare of my alarm woke me up. It was 6AM. I finished my morning duties and approached the gate of the convent. The security called in Sister Margaret who led me to the basement. On the way I explained my plan as to how I needed to draw a new set of signs for the trap. I asked her to procure some red paint till I began chanting the initial incantations. It was long and I wasn’t habituated with old Latin. Within a few minutes one of the nuns came and placed a can of red paint with a brush beside me. I was almost done with the chanting till then. I brought out the paper on which I had made the required diagram along with the sigils. It took another half an hour to complete ward the cellar and draw a new trap. The red line had thinned out as compared to yesterday. We were running out of time.

I came out of the cellar, closed the door and went straight to the dining hall. Sister was chatting with a few disciples and the rest were having their breakfast. I heard faint murmuring which I assumed was directed towards me. I gave a smile and walked towards Margaret,”The trap is set. Let’s go to the parents. I am sure we would find some clues to the next target.”

I called father Aaron as we came out of the convent. He had arranged a meeting with the parents of the child that died. Basira and Sami Touati, both were in the police force, the wife being senior to the husband. Weirdly, we didn’t get any further news of anyone behaving in any manner that might resemble demonic possession. Their home was just outside the city about forty minutes from the convent. We reached their before 9AM. Basira welcomed us into their home. It was colder than was supposed to be. Something was wrong. She asked if we would like some coffee which we politely declined. She sat on a single chair across the table from where I sat. Margaret and Aaron made themselves comfortable on the couch by my side. Grief was visible on her face. Dark circles beneath her eyes said she had trouble sleeping. I looked at Sister who nodded back as a hint to start my investigation.

“I regret disturbing you at this moment. Father Aaron might have told you that I intend to catch whatever caused your daughter’s death.”

Hearing about her daughter, Basira started sobbing, “She was just a child you know. We never expected she would die let alone like this.”

“Can you tell what did you see?”

I could see she had trouble speaking. Margaret went to the kitchen to get a glass of water for Basira. She needed it.

Basira took a small gulp of water. She took a deep breath and started again,”That night we heard a loud bang from Saida’s room. Sami went to check and I was behind him. The view shocked us to the core. Saida was stuck on the ceiling, above her bed. Her eyes were glowing red and a black liquid was dripping from her mouth and nose. Her bed was covered in that liquid. All we could hear were groans coming from her. Then suddenly her body dropped to the bed with a loud thud. Sami dashed to check on her. He was thrown back as soon as he touched her.”

She paused for a moment, “I was still in shock. Saida’s body was thrown to the ceiling again, I started crying. Sami was knocked unconscious. As if an invisible hand had caught her and throwing her about. The ceiling was red where her head struck. I started crying profusely. I couldn’t do anything to help her. Sami had regained consciousness by then. He started begging and crying to leave Saida alone but nothing helped. Then we saw Saida’s body arch backwards. There was a loud crack and then she fell to the bed. Everything became suddenly calm. Sami crawled to her bed and took her lifeless body in his arms. Saida was no more. We wept and then we heard a sound. It sounded like a laugh but more like hissing. The next morning we buried her. Sami hasn’t been the same since then. He has locked himself in Saida’s room and refuses to come out or talk to me.”

I stood up and said, “I need to see him right now. I need to check if he is alright.”

Basira looked at me, “But how? The door is locked.”

“I have to break the door. Your husband might be in danger.”

Basira stood up and took us upstairs to Saida’s room. I put my ear to the door, I could hear a faint sound, sound of groaning. The smell of sulphur choked my lungs. My hunch was correct. The demon was latched on to the family. Grieving parents are the best targets for demonic possession. They are depressed and would do anything to get out of the grief.

I kicked on the door. Sound of laughter could be heard from the other side.

Basira shrieked, “What is happening inside? Is Sami ok?”

“Let me break down the door first.”

I kicked harder and the door flew open. There was Sami, stuck on the wall a foot above the ground. A malicious grin could be seen on his face. His whole face was covered in the black liquid which streamed down his body till the floor. A hoarse voice came out of his mouth, saying something illegible, most probably some ancient tongue which I couldn’t understand followed by crackling. I screamed,”Dude, you need to speak in English for us to understand”

He uttered something in his own language, more black fluid oozed out of his mouth. He needed to be put down. I was out of my wits. Father Aaron started calling the Holy spirit. Sami laughed at Aaron and his body was lifted further with his hands being stretched outwards. Sami screamed now, “HELP ME!!!” followed by that hoarse laughter. With an evil grin, again he said some illegible. A cut appeared on Sami’s right cheek followed by another laughter. This demon was not gonna be easy to tackle. Fortunately, I had procured an incantation to weaken the demon from the book I read last night but that spell wasn’t going to hold him for long. I turned to Basira, “get a thick rope or anything to bind him right now.” I’ll weaken the demon and we will tie him up to halt his movements.” Basira stayed still, eyes open wide. Sami was being turned over still stuck to the wall.

I moved towards her, held her shoulders and shook her. She came out of her trance and said,”I’ll get the rope. Please help him ”

As soon as she tried to move, the door slammed shut. I heard Sami cackle loudly. This was bad. The demon had locked us in. I had no choice but to recite the chant to weaken the demon.

And I began chanting, “Consummatum est. Diabolo fuge. Diabolo fuge!” again and again. All hell broke loose. A storm brewed up in that room. Everything in the room flew in all directions and the laughter was deafening. I didn’t stop, I kept on chanting till storm died down. The laughter stopped, I could hear only groaning. Basira was waiting and as soon as Sami dropped she ran to get a rope. I gave the diagram of the trap to Sister Margaret and asked her to draw it inside the lid of the trunk. It was impossible to contain the demon for such a long distance without the trap. Sami had to be carried in the trunk of the car. Basira ran inside within a few minutes with a rope and handed over to me. I asked father Aaron to lend a hand to tie up Sami. I was shaking with excitement. Sami was spewing the black liquid continuously and stank like a garbage dump. We somehow tied his hands and legs. Basira stood near a corner not being able to believe what she was seeing.

We carried Sami to the car. Basira also had to lend a hand,, her husband was quite heavy. Just before we could shift him, the demon woke up. Sami’s body started convulsing violently along with illegible curses from the demon. We could barely contain him. With a jolt, I dropped him inside the trunk and closed the lid.

The rest of the journey was not smooth. The demon inside Sami kept kicking the trunk. He could not kick the lid because of the wardings inside the pentagram. Aaron had a difficult time keeping the car in control such was the force of the demon. The forty minute ride took ages. Margaret recited bible. I knew that wasn’t going to help.

“Sister, please give it a rest. If bible was so helpful you wouldn’t have required my help. Father, try to reach as fast as possible. That demon won’t be able to do much other than kick and punch.”

Finally, we reached the convent. I asked Sister to get the guards and myself ran to the back of the car. I recited the incantation again to weaken the demon. The guards had arrived by then. Sami was groaning and the black fluid oozed out of his mouth. I knew he was slowly dying and everything had to be done fast. The rift was closing and Sami had to be saved. Me, Aaron and the guards carried him to the cellar as fast as we could. The other nuns had gathered outside to see what was happening. They had never seen a demonic possession before. We placed him inside the pentagram near the rift. We had to wait till the demon woke up. The demon needed to hear the exorcism to be pushed out of Sami’s body.

The demon woke after a few moments. He started cursing us all. He was trapped.

“Sister Margaret and father Aaron, I have to start now. Brace yourselves.”

And I started, Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii, omnis legio, omnis congregatio et secta diabolica. Ergo, omnis legio diabolica, adiuramus te…cessa decipere humanas creaturas, eisque æternæ perditionìs venenum propinare…Vade, satana, inventor et magister omnis fallaciæ, hostis humanæ salutis…Humiliare sub potenti manu Dei; contremisce et effuge, invocato a nobis sancto et terribili nomine…quem inferi tremunt…Ab insidiis diaboli, libera nos, Domine. Ut Ecclesiam tuam secura tibi facias libertate servire, te rogamus, audi nos.

As soon as the chanting was over, a black smoke emerged out of Sami’s mouth and his body fell down. The rift was pulsating with higher frequency now. The black smoke howled while hovering inside its trap. It was visibly being pulled by the thin red line and all of a sudden it was gone, sucked inside the rift. The rift closed behind the demon. Everything was calm now. Basira ran towards Sami crying. She took his head in her lap. Margaret and Aaron sat down on the floor, exhausted. I was still shaking with the events that just happened. Aaron rose up slowly and walked towards me. He took my hands in his and exhaled loudly, “Thank you for saving us and this city. I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t been here.”

I shook his hands and said,”it’s time that I take my leave.”

The sun shone bright over Biskra.

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