Castle Incense

The noisy buzz of the carriage spices up the dark road while you sit far apart from each other: You, the bridegroom, look back to avoid seeing her. He, your best man, looks in front of him to avoid looking at you, though the carriage is empty except for both of you.


You feel blurred, so bored, so strange…

A cold question shakes your breathing before you can forget about it in the long journey:
-“Where are they driving their dark caravans?”

The smoke of your golden-filter cigarette swirls up leaving you in such an ecstasy.


Why did you not ask your mother?


Do not ask yourself. Do not bother to ask anyone either. Probably the castle, Saint Bouya Omar’s shrine, is at the end of the road. There, Grace and Salvation are surely waiting.

Saint Bouya Omar, lying within his shrine in his dark and heavy box across clouds of incense and odours of human sweat, expects, everyday at dawn, the women yearning to have their children come back to their wits.

Will you prove your virility under Saint Bouya Omar’s iron chains to declare yourself man enough in your conjugal life?


There comes that question again:


-“Where are they driving you?”


You breathe smoke with ecstasy and suppress your joy.

The women were in the first carriage celebrating their journey: clapping, dancing and singing. You, the bridegroom and your best man are not at the front. Frogs croaking along the passage outside the carriage.

The buzz of the engine stops. Then, everyone flows through the door-like crack in the darkness to find yourselves in a marble-decorated hall where you shall spend the night eating, joking, dancing and sleeping… leaving the remaining part of the night for incense to dance in the space of the shrine.

You have to hurry to the end of the dream to find your bride waiting for you, lying in bed in her bridal dress while your mother receives guests and urges maids to serve drinks, food, and fragrance…

You are shy when that heat overwhelms you. You desire her when she is asleep. You make love to her without waking her up and you run away, as if afraid of an arrow chasing your imagination. You yearn to play, quite proud of your virility…

-“But for whom is that celebration?”


Dust draws its circling arches in Abkar River, demon’s river. The croaking of frogs reigns over the universe.
-“Are you scared or does that blurred vision makes you look scared?”

Between the women, your bride gets lost and terrified. Cool water coolly and bodies lie like living arrows near the stream. There is a smell of virility refreshing the air…


-“O Virility! How long shall you endure this torture?”

Tents are put up around you. Horses gallop; women mumble their wishes while you are armed with all the wounds of the world. Sharp swords stab you and you protest having to wait such a long time.


-“Where is my bride?”


The old women in the shrine comment:


-“The bridegroom is bewitched.”

Your mother crosses herself and brings a flaming brazier. You started taking off your clothes in the midst of the hazy incense peering at the faces of women around you.

Now, nobody doubts in your madness. Everybody crosses themselves and your mother bursts out crying. She used to dream of seeing you in your wedding ceremony with a big turban on your head, wearing a chastity djellabah like the one you are wearing now. She used to dream of women circling around you on your wedding day, while she receives gifts and congratulations like she experienced in her own wedding ceremony.

She grieves for you but you leave her to the gossiping tongues in the shrine and you go out across the clouds of incense, across the bang on drums and the sound of flute…

You invade your bride’s bedroom and you lie in bed opposite her with your feet next to her face. Both of you sleep while the guests outside spend the night awake, waiting for you to sign your virility on her virginity.

* * * *


-“Who can be that beauty?”


Terrified from this endless smoke, you ask your mother, your father, your grandmother… running ahead, scared of your own visions.

* * * *


-“Was she dead?!”


Braziers proliferate and women grow certain of the scandal. You flush with wrath within a world of chains hanging from Saint Bouya Omar’s roofs and lunatics crossed to the walls or chained throughout the corners of the shrine under the sounds of clubbing and lashing behind the clouds of incense.


* * * *



What remains of you after the long journey of whiteness, incense and dust?


* Mohamed Zitoune is a Moroccan short-story writer, born in Beni Mellal, Morocco.


*Mohamed Saïd Raïhani is a Moroccan translator, scholar & short-story writer, born on December 23rd 1968 in Ksar El Kébir. His works in Arabic include "The Will of Singularity" (A Semiotic Study on First-names) 2001, "Waiting For the Morning" (Short stories) 2003, "Thus Spoke Santa Lugar-Verde" (Short stories) 2005, "The Season Of Migration to Anywhere" (Short stories) 2006. He will soon publish: "Beyond Writing & Reading “, (Testimonies) and "Kais & Juliet" (An E-Love Novel).


* “Castle Incense” is the fourteenth narrative text in the "The Moroccan Dream", An Anthology of Moroccan new short story directed by Mohamed Saïd Raïhani.