July 15, 2027

Silence is good. Too much silence isn’t. It’s a sign something bad is about to happen. 

When people think of the Middle East, they think of war and terrorism. However, there is another hidden battle being waged; the one surrounding human rights. Homosexuality is accused of being a violation of societal norms. It’s a crime that could lead to exile or even worse, death. The backlash reaches a higher level when you’re a political or public figure, someone whose life is continuously documented by the media and seen by the public. In today’s age, news travel fast and gossip and rumors have become a sensation, making tabloid headlines and causing widespread scrutiny. Once something’s out there, there’s no controlling how it would be perceived nor its consequences. Princes for instance, have a huge responsibility because they represent the head of an islamic monarchy. They represent a whole community and their actions must result in a positive outcome.

Been around Prince Salman Khan and Prince Hussein Pasha was like walking on eggshells. As soon as our plane landed in Dubai, Shawn’s cellphone as well as mine were taken by one of the bodyguards right at the airport’s exit. We were given basic outdated flip phones with no camera or internet access to make sure discretion doesn’t get breached. Demands were imposed upon us and we had to comply with everything asked. Those people clearly meant business; there was no negotiation and no compromise, and we were expected to be on our best behavior. We didn’t mind since the money we were getting was worth it; it would’ve permitted both of us to be well off for at least a couple of years.

At night, we were taken to Boudoire, a modern baroque club, in our own private limo. Entering the club was like entering an exotic alien setting yet the decor which mainly consisted of curved mirrors as well as the oriental pop music’s frantic beats put both of us in an enticing mood as we modishly walked around in our ten-thousand dollar suits. Our bodyguards escorted us into the private lounge where both Princes were waiting for us. Although both seemed highly uninterested in making conversation, giving mostly one-word answers to our questions, we managed to learn the two were distant cousins who belonged to royal families of the oil-rich emirate; their glittering lives were so effortlessly lived they didn’t have to work one day in their lives. They were flaunting their vast amount of money at us by indulging us in pricey alcohol and hundred-dollar bills.

The sex was terrible, at least from my end. It couldn’t be clearer that Hussein’s sexual education was limited to the the simple act of missionary fucking; he also had a strong foot fetish. It was by far the strangest sexual experience of my life that all I wanted was to shut myself off completely. I let him take charge and indulge himself until he became restless, and I could tell my passiveness was rubbing him off the wrong way at some point. My night with him was so painful I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning and obliterate it from my memory. 

In the morning, I woke up in my own room to a deadening silence. There wasn’t one single sound. The blinds were open which hurt my eyes, so I closed them. I was so worn out from the night before that all I wanted to do was sleep. Then I heard a clicking sound. I opened my eyes again, but I didn’t move. I felt an intrusion. An unbidden company; I sensed something bad coming. I turned around and there he was; a hitman, dressed in a black suit, holding a silent pistol, his index finger going in circles around its muzzle. My eyes widened, and as he got ready to aim the gun at me, I rolled around and fell on the floor. He shot twice, and as he got up and moved over to my side, I swiftly grabbed the table lamp located on my nightstand and threw it right at him before running over to the bar and jumping over to the other side. I hid behind it and thought about what to do next. I raised one arm up and tried reaching for the stainless steel tray. I grabbed it and swept it off, making the glasses on top of it fall and crash on the floor around me. I grabbed one of the shards and held the tray with both hands. I stayed behind the counter and started anticipating his next move. I felt him tiptoeing his way to the left side of the bar so I started moving to the right. As soon as he turned to shoot, I lurched up and meandered around it, prompting him to aim his gun at my face and firing it. Assuming he’d do that, I already had the tray in front of my face. I sprinted and struck the hand holding the gun to disarm him before smashing the bottom of my weapon right into his face, causing both of us to fall. I kept on smashing it into his face, impacting against it until it bent, then dropped it and, using the small piece of glass, slashed his throat, killing him instantly.

I wasted no time trying to acknowledge what had just happened and kept on moving. I cleaned myself up, put some clothes on, grabbed my duffle bag and left the room. Little did I know I’d come across two other hitmen dragging a body out of one of the room next door; it was Shawn’s. They immediately noticed me and one of them ruthlessly took his gun out and fired it at me. I dodged the first bullet as I raced to the exit door located at the end of the corridor. The second bullet however, didn’t miss. It hit me hard, but I couldn’t stop. I ran to the stairs and trudged down like a crazy person. The hitman followed me, but when I reached the ground floor, he disappeared. I put on my coat and discreetly walked by the lobby and left the hotel.

It was difficult for me to assess the extent of damage done by the gunshot wound, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to treat it myself with first aid. But I couldn’t go to a hospital either, so my only plan was to grab a few things from a pharmacy to treat it, and hopefully make it to the airport and back home. I made it out of the hotel and into a cab. I asked the driver to drive to the nearest pharmacy. Using the palm of my hand, I applied direct pressure to control the bleeding while monitoring my breathing. My wrist was throbbing and the pain was too distracting that it was all I could focus on. Five minutes later, I was out of the car and inside the pharmacy. I picked up a pack of bandage, sponges, a syringe, scissors, a bottle of Isopropyl and Bactrim to prevent an infection although I knew that was very precarious because bullets are usually essentially sterile from coming out of the gun. I didn’t want to take any chances, though, so I grabbed everything I thought was necessary. The pharmacist saw my distressing physical state as I struggled to pay at the register, and he insisted on calling for emergency. He rambled a few words in Arabic that I obviously couldn’t understand. I ignored him and made my way out. I fast-walked and stopped in front of a gas station and ran inside the bathroom. 

Thirteen years ago, after I tried to commit suicide, I became fascinated with guns and developed an interest in the treatment of gunshot wounds. I’ve read books and watched countless educational videos on the internet. Then one day, I came across a news report that introduced this new technique soldiers used on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. This technique consisted of inserting tiny bits of sterilized, coated sponges inside a syringe and injecting it in the wound to stop the bleeding. It spared additional pain by plugging the wound faster than a regular gauze bandage would.

The process was agonizing to say the least. I dumped some isopropyl on the wound which hurt like hell; my body was shivering uncontrollably and my lips were quivering. I cleaned up the sponges and cut them into one-centimeter circles. I filled the syringe, closed it and pulled out the handle before inserting the cylinder into the wound. Last step was pushing the plunger back down to inject the sponges as close to the wound as I possibly could to stop the bleeding. In less than ten minutes, I was done. I added a bandage over it just to make sure it was intact.

At the airport, getting through security was stressful but ended up being easier than I thought it would be. I had changed into a cleaner shirt and kept a straight face as I got through security. Before getting on the plane, I had two glasses of straight up vodka at the bar. The first half of the flight was bearable to say the least, but during the rest of it, especially when we were about to land, the pain got too excruciating and blood was hemoraging profusely I could feel it soaking through my coat. I almost kicked the seat in front of me in reaction to the pain, but instead excused myself rather rudely from the woman next to me, got up right before the pilot announced we were landing, and stumbled my way to the lavaratory, first aid kit in hand, to control the bleeding. Inside, I took my coat and shirt off as well as the soaked bandage and replaced it with a newer one. Nausea followed, and before I even knew it, vomit was spewing out of my mouth. As I looked closer to the mess I’ve made, I saw signs of blood in my discharge. I rested my arms around the sink, the top of my head glued against the mirror, and tried talking myself through my hellish torment. As I repeatedly asked God for mercy, I ironically realized how in the midst of struggles, I always seemed to seek shelter in the divine. I was never a firm believer in religion, but I’ve been raised a Christian so it was only natural for me to automatically say things like “God, help me” when going through a tough situation. Saying it, though, has always felt forced to me because I didn’t want to be the coward who relied and confided in God only during harsh times. The fact that pain brought me closer to God was shameful to me because otherwise I’d have no interest or will to abide by the rules of religion. I’ve spent my whole life defying them and any other kind of supreme importance. I think I’ve grown to embrace and desire suffering. I now see it as a beneficial way to test my limits. Over the years, I’ve become more and more addicted to it; it’s the most fueling physical stimulation anyone can ever experience. The power it gives you is boundless.

I sprawled out of the exit gate like a drunk and collapsed from exhaustion but managed to play it cool and keep it together so security doesn’t notice anything. Going through customs, I kept a facade of comfort while my body slowly crumbled from the inside. As soon as I stepped out of the airport, I grabbed a taxi and texted Lance asking if he’s home. He said he was at the hospital and I told him I needed medical assistance. He insisted I went to the emergency room but I kept declining due to the nature of my injury. 

When I arrived at the hospital, he was waiting for me outside. He took me inside and as we took the elevator up to a private room, I summed up what happened without telling him about Shawn. In his office, a nurse had prepared the essentials. When he took a look at my wound, he was surprised I managed to go through a flight without completely losing consciousness. He was also amazed at the sophisticated way I’ve treated myself. When my condition finally stabilized, I urged him not to tell the police and he promised he wouldn’t. 

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