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The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals

Najati Al-Bukhari

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

The news of the sudden and unexpected death of the professor of the National University spreads in a short time all over the Centre of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. The news of this calamity spreads all over the Quarter of the Rich and in all the other quarters of the City. The dead professor was a well known personality in the whole community.

Outside the Assembly Hall in the corridor, a noise and even an uproar could be heard. Also the four-steps could be heard of the persons who walk quickly and hastily. For a short time, no-one enters into the Assembly Hall and Amr remains all alone for some time with the dead body of the centenarian, the professor of languages.

However, the first to enter into the Hall is the little man, the president of the Circle, who gives his orders and instructions for taking the dead professor of modern languages to his home in the Quarter of the Rich.

The members of the family and his close friends arrive at the house of the professor so that they receive the body of the head of the family and make the necessary arrangements for the burial of the defunct.

"The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals is in a place where an old man dies either because of natural causes or because of committing suicide." said one of the close relatives of the old professor.

"The suicide of the retired members of the Circle, in spite of the fact that it is not very frequent, raises many questions regarding the real justification for asking an old man to commit suicide." commented another relative of the professor in a tone full of sarcasm and doubt.

"It is said that the act of suicide is really imposed on the member by the decision taken through the lottery machine." answered the first relative of the defunct.

"I am really wondering how a member of the Circle accepts to kill himself for no reason at all. It is just because his name is drawn on the basis of chance from a small black box containing small pieces of papers on which is written the names of the fifty members." said an old man.

"It is said that the victim, who is going to kill himself, accepts the verdict of the lottery machine with pleasure and content which is reflected on the face of the victim." said another relative of the professor, the defunct.

"Whatever that may be, we should know that the professor gave his last breath because of a heart attack and not because he committed suicide. This fact has been discovered and ascertained be the medical autopsy and the post-mortem examination, or, otherwise because of shock which he had after knowing the result of the lottery and which he could not bear or support." explained one of the relatives.

"Frankly speaking this Circle of the Retired Intellectuals always surprises and astonishes me. Even I am always stupefied by the mentioning of its name in front of me. Nobody knows exactly what goes on inside the walls of the Centre of the Circle, of course, with the exception of the members of the Circle, who know everything. But they refuse to tell others what goes on there." said a friend of the professor who has been listening to the dialogue between the two relatives of the defunct.

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In the Centre of the Circle, the President of the Circle announces the name of the new member who should occupy the place of the professor, the defunct.

Amr is extremely surprised to know that the name of the new retired old man who is going to join the Circle is Monkar, the ancient Ambassador and the friend of the ex-consul, Amr.

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Monkar has neither told at all his friend Amr nor anybody else, that he is, or has been since several years, a candidate to the membership of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

His application to be a member of the Circle has been kept secret to himself only. Since two years, Monkar has been waiting with a lot of nervousness the news of his final acceptance to the Circle. Like Amr, he has been waiting the news of his admission with patience.

On the next day, the dead professor is buried in the magnificent mausoleum in the garden of his house constructed for him by Sari, the cousin of Amr.

It is said that the moment the dead body of the professor was carried into the grave, one of the bearers of the coffin says that the corpse of the dead professor moves and that he raises his right hand between now and then. It is said that one of the bearers of the coffin hears equally the defunct saying that he is still alive and that he is not dead but is certainly alive.

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However, nobody in the funeral procession with the exception of the bearers, witnesses the resurrection of the dead man. Whatever that may be, the bearer who claims that he hears the dead man, the professor, speaking, has already disappeared. All the people who are standing in the mausoleum have become totally upset and disturbed.

Nevertheless, no one could witness the resurrection of the dead with the exception of the bearer. Whatever is the case, the bearer, who claims that he heard the dead speaking some words, has all of a sudden disappeared.

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All people who are present around the mausoleum are really stunned to know of the sudden disappearance of the mysterious bearer.

"The bearer has disappeared, and I do not know where or how." said a man who helps in the process of the burial of the dead.

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"I have never seen this man before, I mean the bearer, in the Quarter of the Rich or in the other quarters of the City. I am sure that he comes from outside of our community, maybe he comes from a far village, or even from a neighboring country. Or, is he an angel, the angel that guards the dead? The phenomenon of the appearance and then the disappearance of this man have taken here and for the first time in our community." said another spectator.

"I think that the most important aspect of the event is the claim of the bearer that he has seen the dead man move. Or in other words, he has seen the defunct resuscitated. I think that the professor is still alive and certainly is not dead." said the man who initiated the whole discussion.

"No! It is only the bearer who has disappeared and who claims that he saw the corpse move. No other witness is available. May be he left the place secretly and rapidly." said the second man.

The ceremony of the burial of the defunct continues in spite of the claim of the bearer regarding the return to life of the old professor or his resurrection. The corpse of the dead professor is finally buried under the soil of the tomb. All those who attend the burial ceremony have left the place where the mausoleum has been constructed.

In spite of the fact that the burial of the dead has come to its end, the news of the resurrection of the old professor of modern languages in the National University has spread at once in all the quarters of the City especially in the Quarter of the Rich.

On the same day, people of all ages come in group or individually to the villa of the professor of modern languages, the defunct. All the visitors and the spectators stand around the villa. They look at the mausoleum with respect and veneration. Most of the spectators are at the front of the residence from where they could see the tomb clearly in the garden.

All the crowd is standing there with the conviction that the professor has been resuscitated and therefore, as a consequence, the tomb in the mausoleum is now vacant. All of them want to be sure that the tomb is empty and that nobody is buried there.

Some of the spectators, who are mostly old students of modern languages of the professor at the national university, have started to tell strange and extraordinary stories about their professor and about his eloquence in all the thirty modern languages which he mastered.

Their professor, they say, was clever in the presentation of his ideas and in making all the students listen to him with interest. Every day, more and more spectators come to the residence of the professor just to have a look at the marvelous mausoleum.

Inside the Centre of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals, the admission of the ancient ambassador, Monkar, to the Circle, has a positive effect and a good impact. The new member, Monkar, of the Circle, is warmly welcomed and even cheered by the President of the Circle, the little man, and by all members.

Inside the Centre of the Circle, it is Amr, the friend of the new member, who introduces the new member to all the other colleagues, the other members of the Circle. It is also Amr who orients and guides the new member, the ex-ambassador to all the activities undertaken inside the Centre. Amr gives special attention to the introduction and the orientation of the new member to the activities of the intellectual discussion session that usually takes place in the Assembly Hall.

The following day, and for the first time, very strange and bizarre phenomena start to take place and for the first time in the Centre of the Circle.

The occupants of the contemplation room nine say that their new colleague, the new occupant Monkar, metamorphoses in an extremely miraculous way into another person who looks like the professor of the modern languages who was their room-mate and who was buried in the mausoleum in the private garden of his house. Notwithstanding the difference in age between the two, almost a difference of twenty five years, the four other occupants of room nine affirm with conviction that the Ambassador has really metamorphosed into the personality of the professor of languages.

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During all the session of the contemplation of two hours, it is the professor who makes his appearance in room nine instead of the ancient ambassador, Monkar, the new member.

Moreover, it is reported that it is Monkar, the ancient ambassador, who chooses the newspaper or the book to read in the library of the Centre of the Circle. And it is the professor of modern languages and not the ancient ambassador, Monkar, who finally leaves the library.

Yet, it is only Amr and the occupants of room nine who see and witness such extraordinary phenomenon in the library. In the Assemble Hall, it is the professor, who is supposed to be already dead, who enters into the Hall and who actively participates in the intellectual discussion and who insists to say 'no' all the time.

On the other hand, it is Monkar, the ancient ambassador, who leaves the hall at the end of the discussion session. In spite of all of these events that are extraordinary and abnormal that take place in the hall, the President of the Circle does not see except Monkar, the new member. All the other members see sometimes the professor who is supposed to be dead, and sometimes the ancient ambassador.

Little by little and day after day, the appearance of the phantom of the dead professor becomes less and less frequent till the day of its total disappearance. All the members of the Circle do not see except Monkar. The professor of modern languages becomes for all of them of them a story of the past.

Amr, with the passing of time, and day after day, attached himself more and more to the company of Monkar in the Centre of the Circle. The two do not separate from each other in all the activities of the Centre.

Sometimes, when it is possible, they talk so often to each other about their past when both of them visited the houses of the bereaved families to offer their condolences to the families of the defunct. They especially remember their disguised visits as veiled women to attend the condolence morning sessions attended only by women.

Amr reminds Monkar how the professor of modern languages died in the Assembly Hall of the Centre of the Circle because of a heart attack and not because of suicide which he should have executed as a result of the death sentence pronounced by the lottery machine and declared by the President.

The two, Amr and Monkar, go back daily to their houses together in the car of Amr and both of them come back the next morning to the Centre of the Circle in the same car. The two, Amr and Monkar, do not do anything of importance in their homes with the exception of taking a copious dinner. Then each takes a rest for one hour in the main salon in his house. After that, each would take a bath, most of the time with the help of some male servants. The bath could be taken sometimes before dinner. After all of these activities each sleeps in his bedroom till early morning. In most nights each sleeps very well in the sense that he could sleep without taking at all sleeping pills.

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Amr who smokes in very rare occasions has absolutely stopped smoking since a long time. On the other hand, Monkar does not smoke at all, but he used to have some alcoholic drinks, like most of the inhabitants of the Quarter of the Rich, when he used to be invited, daily to reception parties.

Notwithstanding all of this pre-sleeping tranquility and serenity, Amr sometimes wakes up terrorized and bewildered at the middle of the night after having some extraordinary and terrifying nightmares.

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In some of these nightmares he sees before him in his bedroom the lottery machine, the small carton black box and sees also the chief of the Circle, the little man who puts his left hand in the black box and then he takes out his hand with a small piece of paper on which is written his name, Amr, and in capital letters. He discovers that he is sentenced to death and that he should shoot himself in the mouth by using the small revolver that was provided for him by the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

Later on, when he puts the front of the pistol in his mouth, he gets up from his horrible nightmare in crying in a loud voice and in perspiring abundantly in all his body.

More frequently when Amr awakes violently from his sleep during the night because of a horrible nightmare; his servant Abdu, who knows the voice and the shouting of his master echoing and resounding in the whole house, rushes rapidly to his bedroom. In such cases, he discovers his master standing in the midst of the darkness of the night a little bit far from his bed.

Abdu, with a certain vigilance lights the room by the small lamp and then he immediately looks at Amr, his master. He is surprised to find himself in a mournful and lamentable condition. The horror dominates all his face. All of this fear and terror is really manifested in his behavior and in his conduct.

Amr trembles and perspires and looks as if he struggles and finds difficulty to breathe and as if he is about to die. Was he living his last moments in life?

Amr is now somewhat pacified and appeased the moment he sees before him his faithful servant standing nearby the door of the bedroom which is in fact widely open.

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"I am extremely sorry my master to be at this time of the night inside your bedroom. Master, I beg your pardon; you should excuse me to be here in your presence. I could not help it at all. It happened that I was in fact asleep in my room when I heard the cries of distress and agony coming from your bedroom. I could not have been mistaken regarding the source of the cries. It is not difficult for me to identify and to know and recognize your voice, the voice of my master. I could tell you that such an event, such an incident, has happened do far several times. I heard such cries for the last few nights but I could not tell you at all about such disturbing events. I thought I should not. This night I could not resist the temptation to come to your room to discover what has happened. Perhaps I could tell you that this is the third time that I hear such cries of suffering during the preceding nights." said the servant Abdu in addressing himself politely and courteously to his master.

"Listen to me, Abdu, my loyal servant. Listen to me carefully. I have witnessed in front of me in my sleep hell. It is very difficult for me to describe to you what I have seen in my dream, in my nightmares. Actually, it is the scaffold, and then I found myself hanged on this scaffold. Frankly speaking, I cannot say to you more than this. This is all what I witnessed in my sleep. In summary, I have been plunged into hell and I cannot bring myself out of this hell. I could not come out of it. It is very normal that in a nightmare it is impossible to do whatever you want to save yourself" Explained Amr to his servant.

"Nevertheless, all people of all ages, the young as well as the grownups have nightmares in their sleep. In a short time, it would be very easy to forget the nightmares and the dreams. Later on, it is very easy to resume sleeping after being awake for a short time. It is easy to resume the sleep and life becomes normal." answered the servant with respect and courtesy.

"This is not true in my case. What you say does not apply to me. It is not easy to resume deep sleep after a horrible nightmare. It takes a long time to resume sleeping. In my case, I cannot forget the nightmares. They chase me night and day and without fatigue or interruption. Little by little I would come to the conclusion and to the conviction that I cannot liberate myself of those nightmares. Frankly speaking, I am looking for a way by which I can come out of this unbelievingly ponderous and suffocating impasse of nightmares." confessed Amr to his servant, Abdu.

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The dialogue between the two, the master and the servant, arrives finally and hastily to an end. Abdu goes quickly out of the bedroom to bring to his master a glass of water and some sedative tablets. Amr takes a little bit of water to moisten his lips and his mouth. He does not touch the tablets. After that he gives back the glass of water to Abdu and says 'good night.' The servant leaves immediately the bedroom of his master.

Amr goes back to his bed so as to resume his sleep. But he could not close his eyes in order to sleep and remains awake for a long time. He is looking for a solution for the impasse, the deadlock in which he is found now. The problem which he faces nowadays and for which he tries to realize a solution is how to avoid the possibility of being chosen by the lottery machine so as to take his own life, to commit suicide.

So Amr passes his days. At the end of each month somebody of the members of the Circle might die because of natural death. As a consequence to this there is no reason to choose the member who should die by means of the lottery machine.

However, at the end of every month Amr imagines that there is the possibility for him to be chosen by lottery to commit suicide. The moment when somebody is declared dead of natural causes from amongst the members of the Circle; Amr stops to be worried and disturbed till the end of the month. He somewhat becomes emotionally relieved because he will continue to live for the coming month.

After that and at the beginning of the following month, Amr starts again to worry a lot because he thinks that he would be chosen by lottery as the member of the Circle who should kill himself, commit suicide.

In another month, probably August, nobody has been declared dead of natural causes. Therefore, the President of the Circle, the little man, announces that the choice of the one who should die would be determined by lottery before the final acceptance of a new member of the Circle.

The moment Amr knows that there would be a lottery operation in the evening; he becomes overwhelmed by inquietude and worries. The idea that he could be the person to be chosen by the lottery machine to kill himself, to commit suicide, so that his place would be occupied by the new accepted member, continues to chase him, to follow him every moment of his life on that day.

Two hours before the lottery operation Amr starts to hallucinate and to live in a world of phantasm and illusion. Amr begins to say words, sometimes in a loud voice and sometimes in a low voice, that have no meaning at all. This kind of behavior on the part of Amr signifies that he is in the process of losing his reason, to be a madman.

All what he says could not be understood by anybody whatsoever. All the members of the Circle look at him with pity and compassion. All of his colleagues are more or less convinced that their friend, the ex-consul, Amr is about to be a fool or a madman and that their colleague, the ex-consul, is about to do something silly to himself.

Slowly and little by little, Amr behaves violently and sometimes foolishly to the extent that nobody could come near to him or dare to talk to him. The hallucinating cries of the madman, or thought to be a madman, echo and resound in all the corridors and the rooms of the building of the Centre of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. But all at once, the madman, the ex-consul, falls on the floor of the corridor and he faints, loses consciousness. Somebody from the servicing staff of the Centre brings him hastily a glass of water. As expected, Amr refuses categorically to drink the water.

On the floor of the narrow corridor, the madman continues to breathe, to respire. The drops of sweet cover all his face especially his forehead as well as his hands. Several of his colleagues rush to him worried and annoyed. All of them attempt to carry him. But it is evident that these very old retired intellectuals could not carry him because it seems that the ex-consul insists to remain lying on the floor of the corridor.

But all of a sudden, and in a much unexpected way, Amr utters this time words and phrases that are more or less, comprehensible. "Mother, mother, I am afraid. The ceiling is going to fall on me. Save me, save me, mother." Then he stretches out his two hands and then he raises them high above his head. Then he utters some moaning and groaning. At the same time he utters cries of agony and distress. Then, afterwards, he repeats to call his mother in a strangled voice.

Yet slowly and little by little, the voice of the man lying on the floor becomes lower and lower and his eyes close between now and then. He looks more or less already fainted, totally fainted. As an effective way to save the fainted man, somebody brings the stretcher from the office of the President of the Circle which was used in the past by the late President, Ashams.

Some members of the Circle and of the servicing staff carry the fainted man to the contemplation room six. There in the room, the stretcher is placed in a corner of the room. The ex-consul is left to rest in there. All of those who participated in carrying the stretcher went out of the room and the members of the Circle went to the Assembly Hall.

In the Assembly Hall, the President of the Circle, the little man, is already installed in his seat with some grimaces that could be seen on his face especially on his forehead. Besides; the little man frowns his eyebrows and leans over his elbows which are placed over the surface of the oval table.

Apparently, the little man is in a pensive and perhaps in a melancholic mood. Without any doubt, the chief of the Circle, like all the other members of the Circle, suffers from some real fear and panic which he tries his best not to show in his behavior and conduct. Naturally, the little man like all the other members of the Circle is afraid of the result which would be shown by the lottery machine.

As it is known, the President of the Circle is not excluded at all from the judgment of the lottery machine, from this game of chance and death. Like all the others, he could be the one chosen by the lottery machine operation to take his own life.

The small black carton box of lottery is placed as usual before the little man. The members of the Circle enter into the Assembly Hall solemnly. They absolutely observe and respect all the rules of order and discipline in their conduct inside the Assembly Hall.

Each one of them sits calmly in his seat around the oval table. Evidently Monkar, the ancient ambassador is already installed comfortably in his seat. Nonetheless, all the members of the Circle are aware of the absence of Amr. His seat remains vacant while all the other seats are occupied. The lottery machine should be asked to choose the name of the member who should commit suicide in order to make a seat vacant. This month nobody of the members died of a natural death.

The much waited hour to go home by all the members is six o'clock. Frankly speaking only twelve minutes are left to finish the operation of the lottery process so as to know the name of the member who would commit suicide.

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The little man does not dare at all to push, insert, his hand inside the mysterious black carton box. Abruptly, suddenly, a member of the Circle, a very old man says: 'Take a paper, take a piece of paper from inside the carton box. Do not hesitate. I tell you, take hold of one small piece of paper from inside the box. Actually we want to finish with this comedy and with this torturing experience. Take hold of any paper. I repeat any paper, Do not be afraid. This is a pure game of luck, a pure game of destiny.'

The little man takes out his hand from inside the black box without having in his left hand any piece of paper. The hand is certainly without any piece of white paper.

As a result of this incomprehensible behavior on the part of the little man, the President of the Circle, a noise, even an uproar, takes place inside the Assembly Hall. Each of the members present in the Hall talks with his neighbor in whispering.

In a very short time a sort of an atmosphere of embarrassment and amazement dominates in the Assembly Hall as if this is the calm and the serenity that precedes the arrival of the tempest or the coming of a catastrophe to the Centre of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

This is the second time in which the little man as President of the Circle is asked to exercise his duty, to make a judgment through the operation of the process of chance and the lottery.

In the past, Ashams never hesitated to plunge his hand inside the black carton box in order to bring out his hand catching a piece of white paper on which is written the name of a member of the Circle who would commit suicide. But in the case of the actual President of the Circle, the little man, he does not have the needed courage to pick a piece of paper from inside the box that might contain his name.

The chief of the Circle looks around himself in order to examine more closely the situation with a very visible embarrassment on his pale and ghostly face. The fear and the panic and the fright are all visible in the furtive looks of the little man and his strange and bizarre behavior.

For him, it is impossible and unimaginable that his hand comes out with a piece of white paper from inside the black carton. Somebody, anybody, a voluntary from among the members of the Circle, should accept the duty, the inevitable duty, to take out of the box a piece of paper instead of the actual President of the Circle, the little man.

At once, a member of the Circle, the youngest in age, who actually does not talk a lot, but keeps himself in silence by listening attentively and thoughtfully to others who discuss a certain topic, is asked to draw the paper from the black box.

This voluntary is an ex-teacher, a distinguished teacher of mathematics, in the secondary school of the Quarter of the Rich. This intelligent member walks solemnly towards the box. Without any hesitation, he inserts his right hand inside the small carton box, the lottery machine. He takes a small paper from among the fifty papers and brings his hand outside the box.

There, in his right hand is a small piece of folded white paper. With a much surprising courage and audacity the young member of the Circle unfolds the paper and he reads in a very clear and distinct voice the name of the member of the Circle who is designated to die, to commit suicide.

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At this particular moment, and simultaneously, everybody in the Assembly Hall is petrified and is stupefied. All of those present in the Hall and seated around the oval table are looking with astonishment at the hands of the youngest member of the Circle, the teacher who tries diligently to manipulate the folded paper for opening it.

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Finally, the young teacher of mathematics declares solemnly 'Amr'. Immediately the relief and the consolation have become perceptible on the faces of all of those who are present in the Assembly Hall. Some of them smile and others whisper to their neighbors some words indicating their satisfaction and their joy. However, the most important member is absent. He is not in the hall. Therefore, the search for this man, the ex-consul, begins at once because he is the one sentenced to death. Somebody should look for him so as to tell him the result of the lottery machine process.

Monkar and another member of the Circle, an ancient scoundrel, left the Assembly Hall hastily and went to room six of contemplation. When the two arrive at the room, they find it empty. Nobody is there, and there is no trace for Amr in this room of contemplation.

Most probably, Amr has all of a sudden disappeared, or he might have escaped somewhere in the quarter. The two members who look for the ex-consul stay more time in the room. They look at each other fixedly. The unexpected disappearance of Amr could not be explained. The only possible explanation is that he has awakened from his fainting. Perhaps he could be somewhere in the Centre of the Circle and not in his house or in any other place outside the Centre of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

"Perhaps he could be now in the toilets." said Monkar.

While these two members speak to each other and without any stop about the escape of Amr, the door of the room is opened and there is Amr standing in front of them. He looks to be completely recovered from his indisposition, from his malaise. Amr enters into the room slowly and even leisurely.

He becomes stupefied and bewildered to see in front of him in the room Monkar and the scoundrel whom he knows very well before joining the Circle and after that.

"What do you want both of you? Tell me what is going on in the Centre? Why are you, both of you in the room, my room of contemplation?" asked Amr with nervousness and irritation.

"Nothing, nothing, really nothing of importance, we just want to communicate to you at once and without any introduction the result of the lottery machine which has taken place just few minutes ago and in your absence." answered Monkar with an embarrassment and perplexity.

"I cannot understand why do you want to inform me, to communicate to me, and more specifically, the result of the lottery? I am really surprised as well as astonished." said Amr in showing his bewilderment.

"It is very easy to explain to you the reason for our presence in this room of contemplation. We know that this is your room. This is why we are here." answered the scoundrel wickedly.

"Please, I request you to tell me the result of the lottery operation if you think that I have to know it." said Amr.

"I am sorry to tell you that it is your name which is mentioned on the small piece of paper. You have to kill yourself during the coming one hour. You have only one hour to live. Because at that time, the name of the candidate to be the new member of the Circle for this month should be declared, or would be declared." said the scoundrel.

Hearing the declaration about the choice of his name in the lottery operation, Amr gets stunned for a while. He could not believe what he already heard and does not have a lot of time to live in this life. Without saying a single word, he goes out of the room of contemplation and takes his car and goes to his house located in the Western section of the Quarter of the Rich. Strangely enough the door of the house is wide open and nobody is there waiting for him.

This is not the exact time of his normal daily return from the Centre of the Circle to his home. This is why nobody is waiting for him at the doorsteps of the villa which is full of illumination and flooded with the light of the sun that is disappearing at that time in the horizon. The moment he mounts the few stairs leading to the interior of the house, all of a sudden he feels tired, fatigued and even exhausted. He has some kind of dizziness. Amr, with a lot of difficulty, resumes mounting the stairs till he arrives at the last step of the entrance. For a short time, he hesitates to enter into his house because he knows that this is the last time that he enters into this beautiful house.

All of a sudden he remembers that his age is about to exceed the seventy years. In normal conditions he would have lived for a long time beyond the seventy years if he had not been chosen to die, to kill himself by lottery judgment. Nevertheless, he tells himself that he has accepted voluntarily this end, this destiny, the moment he has become a member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

In crossing the frame of the door, he instantaneously calls his servant Abdu and then he calls the maid-cook. Unfortunately, nobody responds, nobody at all. It is certain that no one is there in the big house. Amr asks himself if the two, Abdu and the maid, already know the coming suicide of their master. Do they know that their master is condemned to death and that he has to disappear from this life and forever before six o'clock of this evening? It seems that the two do not wish to witness their master committing suicide.

Amr advances prudently and carefully towards the main salon of his house, his small luxurious palace. Because of a strange feeling which he cannot explain to himself, he cannot, it seems, open the door of the salon. For some minutes, Amr keeps himself standing in front of the magnificent closed door. With a little bit of effort he wants to hear what goes on around him.

He categorically realizes that a very low and feeble noise is coming from inside of the closed salon. Amr hears some kind of a low uproar. Actually, the more he listens to this noise the more he realizes the nature of the noise coming from the interior of the salon.

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It seems to him that a lot of people, men, women and children speak to each other in a somewhat low voice. With some astonishment, he discovers little by little that he knows the persons who produce the voice and can easily identify the voice of certain men and women.

Before the door, he tries to be patient and to calm and to pacify himself so that he could hear the low noise coming to him from the salon. Nevertheless, and gradually, Amr becomes more and more nervous and excited.

He has now the real and the strong desire to discover the reality, the truth. At this particular moment, he finds himself left with some time before he is supposed to put an end for his life. It is certain that the little man in the Centre of the Circle is waiting impatiently the news declaring the death of the ex-consul so as to announce the name of the new member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

Abruptly, the door of the main salon of the villa opens. What a mysterious and enigmatic world??!! Inside the sumptuous and the magnificent salon and on the luxurious blue colored sofa sits the grandfather of Amr who is supposed to have died since many years, perhaps since fifty years. His father and mother, who are supposed to be dead since twenty years are seated on other sofas. With all of these ancestors who seem to have been miraculously resuscitated Amr stands stupefied.

The brothers, the sisters and all the cousins of Amr are standing nearby their parents. Some of these cousins, brothers and sisters gave their last breath just few years ago.

But in addition to all of these adults of all ages, children of all ages could be seen playing and amusing themselves without causing any trouble or disturbance to the adults who are talking to each other in an easy way.

The moment the door of the main salon is opened, all of those present inside look at the member of the family who is outside the salon and who seems to be unable to enter where they are found. This member, Amr, stands just few steps far from the open door of the salon. When Amr makes some steps inside, an absolute silence dominates everywhere. The children stop moving and all of them look like small statues.

The mouths are closed and the noise totally disappears, vanishes, and fades away. Amr is actually now over-run, overwhelmed, by a banal sentiment. He asks himself: "From where did all of these people come?" He is absolutely sure that more than half of the adults amongst them are dead, and since a long time. How is it possible that the dead are resuscitated, resurrected, in order to come to his house and to be witnesses to the last minutes of his life?

Amr could not believe that what he is seeing at this particular moment is real. The enigmatic scene which he sees before him disrupts and disturbs him. In order to know the reality Amr rubs his eyes several times before he ventures to go inside the salon. He convinces himself that he is either in a dream or that he is living in another world created by his own imagination and sometimes by his own hallucination.

The two grand-parents died since Amr was a small child living with the other children of the big extended family house. With a lot of difficulty he could recall the main features of their faces. He could remember the way in which they used to treat the small children of the extended family around them.

Equally, his parents, his mother and his father, both dead since thirty or forty years, do not make a single gesture indicating that they want to embrace him, to kiss him, or to hug him. Amr was absent for twenty years or more than that outside his country serving in the diplomatic corps in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The same is the attitude of the other members of the extended family who are present in the salon. Like statues of marble without life, all remain petrified in their places in the salon while Amr is advancing towards them in the Centre of the place. Amr is disturbed to see his cousins, the males and the females, his brothers and sisters, not being able to say anything to him. They remain silent, speechless.

On the contrary, he remarks that these persons, his very close relatives, who are supposed to be of about his own age, are the only members of the family who are frowning and who have visible and discernable grimaces in their faces.

As for the children of the extended family, they do not make any movement and they do not manifest and desire, inclination or interest to make any gesture towards the man who walks towards them slowly and in a total perplexity.

Nevertheless, and little by little, Amr could regain his courage, his audacity and his confidence. He does not care at all to what he sees in front of him of carelessness, of negligence and of inattention shown towards him by the members of the extended family.

All at once, he remembers very well that he has come to his house with the main aim and sole intention of putting an end to his life. From time to time he throws furtively a glimpse of his eye here and there looking for his servant Abdu amongst all of these persons who are present before him.

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Yet each time he fails to find his servant Abdu amongst the audience, the on-lookers, the spectators, he abruptly calls the name of his servant in a very high and resounding voice, 'Abdu, Abdu, Abdu'. But unfortunately, nobody answers, nobody at all. The voice of the master of the house re-echoes in the salon.

At last, Amr comes at the important conclusion that his servant, Abdu, is not amongst those who are present in the spacious and extensive place of his villa. He comes to the conclusion that his servant could be busy somewhere else in the big house.

Amr comes to the conclusion that Abdu does not belong to this bizarre and apocalyptic world. Unfortunately, the ex-consul, who is sentenced to death by the judgment pronounced by the lottery machine, could not see a single vacant empty seat in the salon so as to seat himself.

In reality, he abruptly discovers that he is at this particular moment caught up in a trap, in an ambush, in a deep pitfall and that he is encircled and surrounded from all sides by people whom he knows in the past and at present.

He absolutely realizes that he cannot escape and save himself. He cannot redeem and deliver himself from this trap, from this cunning will of destiny.

Amr is now totally sure that there is not a single chance for him to save himself, to rescue and to liberate himself. The Circle of which he is a member and which has been his only aim and objective in life to realize, is now almost encircling him. He discovers that wherever he turns he sees himself totally encircled by a high and an impenetrable wall composed of human beings who are all his relatives, all are members of his extended family. All are surrounding him and are shouting at him, 'guilty, guilty, and guilty! You have pronounced blasphemy, and sacrilege and injustice against your relative. You are guilty and your crime is unpardonable. You are cursed and you are damned to stay without posterity. You have been pronouncing blasphemy, sacrilege and profanity against the ideal, the honorable and the most virtuous member of your family, our family. You tried to tarnish the reputation of your cousin, the most ideal lady of the family, our family. Your only motive and intention is jealousy. You are the Devil of your world, you are really Satan. You have been sentenced to death the moment you have started with your friend, the other Devil, Monkar, pronouncing blasphemous rumors against the holy and the respectable woman, your cousin, the supreme lady of your family.

Amr is stunned, stupefied and extremely staggered to find out that all the members of his family in the salon have their eyes totally closed. In addition some of the old aged members are snoring. All the members of the group of the extended family are sleeping in their seats in spite of the fact that it is too early for anybody to sleep, the young as well as the old.

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es/ Green Ladders In Love
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In a certain corner of the salon, there is a table on which is placed a pistol that belongs to the master of the house. Silence establishes itself in the salon with the exception of the monotonous snoring of one or two old members of the family. The table is visible to the ex-consul. He sees it from a distance. From the centre of the salon, Amr looks at the pistol. Then he advances solemnly towards the table.

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As soon as he arrives nearby the table he takes and without any hesitation the little revolver. At once a bullet is fired at the head of Amr and at once Amr falls down on the floor next to the table.

The moment when the bullet is fired and the body of Amr falls down instantaneously on the ground, the whole scene in the salon of the villa undergoes some basic changes. Nobody can be seen in the whole salon with the exception of the dead body of the corpse of Amr, the member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals who committed suicide.

A lot of blood is flowing abundantly from the head of Amr. It is absolutely certain that he is finally dead. As it is expected, the servant, Abdu, comes hurriedly to the place where his master is lying on the floor in a pool of blood. The big clock on the wall rings declaring that it is at that particular important moment exactly six o'clock in the evening.

In the Centre of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals, the President of the Circle, the little man, has already been informed by somebody that Amr has committed suicide in his house, in his little palace, in the western section of the Quarter of the Rich.

Instantaneously, the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals declares that the candidate who would automatically join the Circle as an active member, to replace Amr, as the fiftieth member of the Circle is Sari, the cousin of the defunct.

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The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals

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