I wrote this short fiction to explore the effect stereotypes have on our methods of dealing with the increasingly frequent terrorist attacks around the world. #paris #beirut #flashfiction
The elevator ground to a halt between floors, to the noise of alarm bells and commotion from below and above. The four occupants looked at one another warily. One, a middle-eastern man in his twenties, found himself the recipient of hostile stares.
“It’s you, isn’t it? You’re the one they’re looking for,” said a middle-aged black woman, belligerently.
“But we don’t know what’s happening,” the man replied.
A burst of gunfire. They all dropped to the floor. The third occupant was a burly, florid faced man with long white hair, beard, and several tattoos. “Now folks, jest take a deep breath and stay calm. I’m sure our police officers will have us outta here in no time.”
The fourth occupant, a young woman of indeterminate heritage, was tapping on her phone. “There’s been a bomb threat, so the building is on lockdown.”
The black woman started weeping. “Oh my God, no! Those A-rabs, why are they doing this to us?”
The young man said frostily, “I’m an Arab, and I’m not doing anything.”
“How do we know? Maybe you’re the one they’re looking for.” She slid away from him.
“You’re such a racist!” hissed the young woman, still tapping on her phone.
Laughing through her tears, the black woman pointed to the white guy. “Here’s your racist, honey. Ask him if he’d let his son marry a black girl. I’ll bet he’s in the KKK!”
The younger woman turned to the older man. “Well, is she right?”
Raising himself up on his elbows, the older man said, “No, ma’am. I believe all God’s children are beloved and equal.”
The Arab man propped himself up on his side. “Friends, we may all die here today. Shall we share our names? I am Ali, a medical student.”
The black woman twisted her lips, then said, “My name is Lakesha, and I’m black and Jewish. I’m looking for work.”
“My name is Jerry. I’m from the south and y’all made some assumptions about me, but I’ve learned that we’re all just the same under the skin.”
No-one spoke for a minute.
Lakesha turned to the younger woman. “How about you, honey? You haven’t told us your name yet.”
“My name is Jasmine. My parents brought me to the US as a child, so I can never be a legal immigrant. But I found a group that accepts me. They taught me that America is evil, Christians are evil, Jews are worst of all, and you!” she pointed at Ali. “You are a disgrace to your faith! Allah Akhbar!”
The others sat up, pulling away from her, alarm on every face.
Ali extended his hand. “Jasmine, your mind is poisoned! This is not Islam!”
“It’s too late!” she screamed, tugging open her coat under her bulky backpack.
“No you don’t!” Jerry threw himself onto her as she pushed down the plunger. The elevator became a death chamber; bits of iron ricocheted off the walls, the doors blasted open, and tipped Jerry and Jasmine’s bodies out.
Police were there in minutes. They pulled Ali’s body off Lakesha, who despite injuries, was alive.
“The Arab saved my life,” was all she said before unconsciousness descended.