Would You Kindly (Rainbows)
Tariq al Haydar

They took me to the riverbank, where a giant lime tree covered the horizon and only a few rays of sun managed to seep through the leaves. I swatted at one of the translucent green insects that buzzed around us. The man walked around the cage, his red cloak dragging behind him, gathering sand and scattering pebbles. He stopped, and I stood beside him as we both eyed the leopard, which was now circling the inner perimeter of the cage, perhaps searching for an opening, an opportunity to pounce.
"Do you have any questions?" he asked as he masked his face from the sun.
I leaned against my staff, which penetrated the outer surface of the ground. Then I picked it up and tapped it against the sand. "Yes," I said.
He looked me in the eye in a way that suggested he knew all the inner workings of my mind. All my fears and doubts were laid bare before him. I knew that my mind was a blank page, concealing nothing from his gaze. Sweat dripped down my face. Finally, I asked him, "Do you think I'm ready?"
The left side of his mouth twitched upwards into the beginning of a smile. From one of the folds of his cloak, he revealed the key to the cage, a miniature black monolith. The leopard, which had been pacing back and forth, stopped and turned towards me, as if it realized what was about to happen. For a moment, its white whiskers protruded outwards in a sharp stillness, then it licked its black lips. I stared into its dark yellow suns.
"You are," said the man in the red cloak.

Tariq al Haydar's work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, DIAGRAM, The Los Angeles Review and others. He lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Detail of art on main page courtesy of Imajica Amadoro.

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