I think you were expecting someone else—a monster perhaps. Sorry to disappoint you, sir. I’m not who they say I am. Please, have a seat. I will tell you more. In a few days, as you know, I’ll be executed for the murder of Salim Agha. The charges levelled against me are of terror and barbarism. They say I am the Scimitar, the Sword of the Caliphate, sent forth by a brutal empire to unleash horror upon the West. Perhaps there’s some truth to that claim, perhaps not. I’ll let you be the judge. It’s true that I murdered Salim Agha and I alone will take the fall. But I believe we were all responsible for his death. Because we, the people of his nation, stood silently when the storm arrived, watching our culture and our way of life vanish before our eyes. The black flag of the Caliphate approached us like a giant broom and, just like that, swept everything away. They seized town after town, levelled our buildings, and snatched children from their mothers’ bosoms. That’s when entire nations faded. Darkness fell. Since then, every anecdote has been rewritten, our histories altered, and whatever lay there before is lost forever. We know that out of all the forgotten homelands this storm devoured, there was one that was revered by all. Yet the world didn’t even notice when, with an almost suddenness, Pureland disappeared. Salim’s legacy, and that of his beloved nation, Pureland, will perish with me when I die, and soon it will be as if he never existed at all. I have been unable to live with this reality. Had I gone to a hypnotist, instead of sitting here in your pleasant company, he might have extricated from my mind these taunting thoughts and absolved me of this remorse. But you’re not here to listen to a remorseful plea. You’re here to learn about the Caliphate, the assassin they call the Scimitar, and what compelled me to carry out this archaic execution. After all, it’s not every day that a person of your distinction enters these daunting walls.
I see you are a bit overdressed for this place. Please, take off your jacket, loosen that tie, it gets quite warm in here. I would put away that pen and notebook too; you won’t need them. Just listen. You see, sir, at this very moment, Salim Agha lies in an abandoned cemetery in a forgotten town of this dominion we now call the Caliphate. On any given day you will find his grave pitilessly surrounded by trash and shit. The epitaph is obscured. Ruthless chiseling has left the inscription unrecognizable. For the townsmen, it’s just another heretic’s grave; no one knows who lies below the headstone, only that its violation is a celebrated custom. I can tell from your face that you find all this deeply unsettling. What was his crime, you ask? The answer: he fell in love. Sometimes, in a world like this, that’s all it takes.