By late afternoon the scorching sun was losing its sting. Aban welcomed
the change. He noticed a moving silhouette in the sky. It was dark
against the descending golden ball. He quickly pointed it out to Abdul.
Abdul dabbed the sweat off his brow, and raised the binoculars to his
eyes. He recognized the distinct shape of the AWACS. "Get ready," he
commanded Aban. Aban grabbed his already loaded missile launcher and
aimed it at the oncoming aircraft. Abdul raised his hand.
That's it Aban told himself as he pointed his launcher at the oncoming
aircraft. The annoying flies were biting at his sweat-beaded face. His
entire life now flashed in front of him. If he missed his target or
struck it head on, within seconds the Americans would attack their
hideout with vengeance. He was only thirteen, the oldest of ten
siblings, when his father was killed in an airstrike by the Coalition
Forces. Not long after, his family plunged into poverty, and he decided
to join the al-Qhilāfa organization as a Shaheed and avenge his
father's death. Now at seventeen, he wasn't certain that he was ready to
die. But soldiering was all he knew, and it paid him well.
"Ready… aim… fire!" Abdul commanded him, his voice
Aban squeezed the trigger, and the missile bolted out of the launcher.
He watched the trail of white smoke as the missile aimed directly at the
AWACS. Out of the blue, two air to air missiles honed on it, and he
watched Abdul bring the binoculars to his eyes and follow the drama in
the sky. Seconds later, he saw the Chinese missile's laser defense
mechanism blow the two smaller missiles out of the sky. A fighter jet
expeditiously interjected in the missile’s path, and lured it away
from the AWACS. Aban anxiously watched the pilot perform impressive and
daring evasion maneuvers, and then fire an air to air missile. Seconds
later the Chinese wonder was blown to smithereens.
Abdul was infuriated. "Iben-kalb, sonofabitch," he muttered. "Get your
second missile ready," he told Aban. "And remember, your life depends on
the success of this operation."
Aban loaded the second missile. The palms of his hands felt clammy, and
the sweat was running down his brow and into his eyes. It burned. He
aimed his launcher at the AWACS with one finger tight on the trigger,
and awaited Abdul's orders. From the corner of his eyes he saw a fighter
jet diving directly at their hideout. Alarmed, he swung the launcher
away from the AWACS and fired his missile at the oncoming jet. Abdul's
jaw dropped with disbelief.
"What the hell…" he screamed at Aban. He pulled out his pistol,
pointed it at him.
"Sir… he was going to kill us all… what’s the point… I would've
never made it…" Aban pleaded.
Abdul squeezed the trigger, and Aban froze with terror as the bullets
from the pistol raised small puffs of dust only inches away from his
Excerpted from "Soul Custody" by Daniel BenTal. Copyright © 2012 by Daniel BenTal. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.