Short Story

A Palace of Dark Windows

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Sometimes we think that just because there is light everything is clear. We fail to see the shades. We are blind to the shadows of their stories.

On one of your semi-solitary strolls along the river of cement, you encounter a palace whose only openings are windows.

You reach for a broad bright window and swing it open. There, you see a very respectable-looking man. Driven by curiosity, you observe him with his friends, his boss and his co-workers.

Light seems to be radiating from all around him. So courteous, so lively, so ready to help everyone with prompt generosity, you need not even ask and he will deliver. He smiles at every poor or humble stranger he meets; every word of his resounds as a lesson in wisdom. He’s the one to trust even if you commit a grave mistake. He’d never hold grudges; he would always ready be ready to forgive.

What a noble man! What a great example to follow! Let’s not disturb him further. You gently close the bright window and move to another one in search for an entrance to this spellbinding palace.

While searching, you come across a desperately small little window shrouded by dust and a strange black, dense liquid. Your hands hesitantly reach to pry it open, but every effort, every attempt results in a series of vain efforts. Defeated, you resort to simply look through the obscure opening.

Visibility and darkness blink at you at the rhythm of the hearts of three young brothers playing together. Their soft laughter lights up the house, wiping away your thoughts of the dirty window. What a warm atmosphere – a happy family for sure.

The clock strikes ten.

The faces of the kids turn pale and the games freeze. They glance at each other expectantly; you can see their nervousness through the nail biting, the restless finger tapping and the general sense of alertness which wasn’t there just few minutes before. Someone knocks at the door. The eyes of every one turn to that direction, almost holding their breaths.

Then one of the children runs to open the door and a man strikes the child’s face as he enters.

“Why didn’t you open sooner, you little heathen? What were you doing? One of these days I’ll find out about your evil affairs and I’ll have you pay for them!”

The kid didn’t even think of answering. Instead, he set his gaze on the ground, silently sobbing. Another son came handing him the home shoes.”Good evening, dad”, he dares, wishing him with a broken smile. The parent looked odiously at him. “Good evening, Dad”, he mocks, “You think yourself so smart, huh? Who do you think you are? What’s good in this evening or in anything at all when I have the misfortune of having three retarded kids? You, go bring me a glass of water! Now! Fast!”

The third kid ran coming back with the glass, but in his hurry, tripped over and spilled some water over the father’s clothes.

Everything remained still.

Time was frozen. The sons were petrified. Each one of them knew exactly what was going to happen.

The window was blinded by darkness but you could still hear the sound of the belt, of lacerated skin, of hopeless tears and crushed hearts…

You are horrified. There are other windows, but you have had enough; you don’t want to see anything else. You run, letting row upon row, story upon story of windows pass you by. You push the wind away, ride on time’s shoulders, and try to move away – but from their stories, you cannot escape.

Every window, every floor screams out a story. From the corner of your eye, you make out the figure of a young man behind a window composed of broken shards. You see his misery, the ever-so-slight bend of his back, the snowy powder descending from his shaky hands onto his faded jeans, and the company of empty bottles all around him.

Each window blends chaotically into the next like a train zooming past a train station on tracks that go on forever. Tired, exhausted of this palace of horror, you clutch your head in your hands, shaking away what you have seen. The young man, the little boys, the life behind those windows.

You walk away, trying to close the shutters of your mind.

But alas, you realize that won’t be possible. After seeing this palace’s many stories, you now have a story of your own to tell, a story that others should peek into. A short story that unfortunately describes the life of too many families.

It’s no longer an exception to find parents who behave impeccably among their favorite companions yet turn merciless at home. It’s no longer unheard of to hear of abuse at home, the parents not realizing that their violence – whether physical, emotional or psychological – has a profound impact on the children and leaves deep scars in their memories.

They never realize that this violence leads the children to later become miserable and dangerous members of the society. The abuse chain only continues, with these same children now treating their own families in the same way that they have been treated in childhood…

You now see that these stories must be learned from, to end this vicious cycle. After peeking into these windows, you emerge with a better realization that no healthy society can prosper from this behavior…

We must all see that every window sparkles and shines when the sun is out, but its real beauty is revealed when the darkness sets in and there is only light from within.

The Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The best of you is the best one towards his family”.

May Allah (glorified and exalted be He) make us among them.

Jihan is a sister that has set her mind to change the world. In the meanwhile, she’s studying to get a BA in MIS and working for the National Yemen newspaper. She enjoys getting in touch with different cultures and an intellectual curiosity prompts her to seek knowledge in different fields.


  1. SumaiyahKhan Reply

    Wow, masha Allah, great job!!! For some reason, it made me think of the book series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” But much better ;)

  2. Masha Allah, I liked it.  Made me feel like I was there, in the corner watching the whole thing. 

  3. That was great, MashaAllah. I couldn’t wait to keep seeing what would happen next and sure enought, there was a beautiful lesson to be learnt at the end.

  4. I agree with you; society can’t be a healthy place with these problems, and people tend to ignore them. We can’t pretend that these things don’t happen.

  5. masha’Allah this was a well-written story. It was very creative and the description of the palace and the windows and everything was amazing. I really felt like i was there.

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