Like a desert caravan, a long line of gaudily painted old cars crawl towards the desert venue. With their heads out of the windows, young people sang loudly, banging the sides of the vehicles in time with their voices.
As the vehicles stopped, the participants of the rave erupted and swarmed over the site, still excitedly singing at the top of their voices. Unloading their equipment, the musicians soon joined in the general euphoria before long music blasted out through loudspeakers over the area.
The air of excitement was palpable as revellers in multi-coloured clothes erected flimsy tents in designated rest areas. Sleep was not an option, but the young people might need to take a break from the restlessness brought on by the music and probably, for some at least, drink and drugs.
Mariam was zinging. This was her first attendance at a rave. Determined to experience every aspect, she wandered about, bopping up and down in time to the deep, visceral beat of the drums. Her dreadlocks with beads at their ends emphasise all her movements. Many of her friends were there too. She could hear them squealing and embracing other participants. All show off their loose, brightly dyed baggy trousers and soft cotton tops. It got cold in the desert at night, but they were here to dance the night away. She did not anticipate getting cold, how could they if they were dancing? Nevertheless, her mother insisted on her bringing a loose jacket. “Just in case you feel the early morning chill.” Rather than spoil the anticipation, she acquiesced, thinking to herself, “I can tie it round my waist like a skirt.”
The sky was clear. The stars appeared to twinkle more brightly here in the desert than in the city. Any wildlife had disappeared down burrows or flown rapidly away from this human invasion. A voice announced the few rules over the PA system. “There are toilets at each corner of the site. Please use them and think of other participants. There are rubbish and recycle bins to the north and south of the area. Unrestricted access to water is available at tables all around the venue. Remember, keep well hydrated. Enjoy yourselves. Welcome to this, the first rave in the desert.”
By now, music was blasting the silence. Ravers moved like a strange pulsating creature with appendages rising and collapsing without any pattern. Mariam twirled about her friends and then flung off into different orbits. Tied to her belt, her water bottle rose and fell like her body. She did make sure to sip frequently.
The hours passed, and the euphoria, an essential component of this experience, gave her energy. Not once did she consider resting in her tiny purple tent. Imperceptibly, the sky in the east changed from inky darkness to a soft, rosy glow, not noticed by most of the dancers until a strange noise intruded.
Dark gun toting figures silently paraglided into the area, and motorbikes with spare riders roared. Automatic gunfire shattered the dreamy state the dancers had achieved. Then all hell let loose. Invaders indiscriminately sprayed the revellers with bullets. People started running, like rabbits frightened in the headlights, colliding with each other while screaming into their phones. “We are under attack!” none had any idea where they could go to escape the continuous deafening guns or the screams of the dying and injured. Mariam was no different. She ran blindly until she hit one of the big recycling bins, now lying on its side. The smell of blood and other unspoken body effluvia, added to that of unwashed bodies and stale sweat, made an olfactory hell for her hypersensitive sense of smell. She had to escape. She looked down and instinctively pulled the lid open and clambered inside. Pulling the lid close, she was instantly in a dark, quiet space which smelt of plastic, not dead bodies. Shaking violently and clasping at the pain in her side. She wondered whether it was a stitch or a wound. Her chest heaved as she gasped for breath. She reached for the phone in her jacket pocket. Nothing.
For a moment, panic engulfed her. She forced herself to take slow, deep breaths. Her common sense reappeared. The chest pain abated, so it was not a mortal wound then.
Straining to hear what was happening outside her dark cell, she could make out voices speaking Arabic. Gunfire punctuated their conversation. She stayed still. Cramps played up and down her legs. At last, exhaustion washed over her. Not meaning to do so, her eyes closed, and she fell asleep.
Hours later, she awoke and took a sip from her nearly empty water bottle to ease her dry throat. She strained to hear any sounds, no more gunfire, but she thought she heard voices. Hope surged through her. Maybe they were the IDF. She thought to push the lid open, then decided on a more cautious approach. Inching the lid open a crack, she listened. Still Arabic voices. She pulled the lid closed again, fighting the fear and her racing heart. Without her phone and in the dark enclosed space, she had no idea of time. Her stomach rumbled, her mouth was dry, and her water bottle empty. Her legs were hurting from her curled position. Surely it must be evening? Tentatively, she pushed the lid open a crack, hoping it would not betray her position to the enemy. She stayed still, every nerve on alert.
She listened again. This time, they were speaking Hebrew. The army had arrived at last. They would sort things out. She had no idea what had happened. Silence hung like a miasma. She knew she would need to catch the soldiers’ attention. She tried to move, to stand. Her legs could not function. She pushed the lid a little more, and then it stuck. She banged on the side and called. Her voice came out as a whisper. “Help. Help.”
A short distance away, a soldier was walking past while checking out the surroundings. He was concerned the bins had been booby-trapped. Then he heard a sound, a rasping voice, definitely human. He ran over, saw the bin on its side, and heard the calling. Quickly, he freed the lid and peered inside. A girl was lying on her side, her legs curled up, looking anxious.
“Are you alright? Have you been in here all day?”
Tired, sore and frightened, she despised herself as she burst into tears. “I don’t know. When the shooting started, I accidentally ran into the side of this bin and then decided I would take shelter here. I’ve been in this ever since. What is happening?”
The soldier put his hand out. “Here. Take my hand, let’s get you out.”
Shaking, she grasped his hand, but her legs refused to work. “I can't stand!”
Two others came over and helped her out, then carried her over to the first aid station.
When she learned what had happened and her lucky escape, she started shaking all over again.
Her parents rushed to fetch her after hearing their daughter had escaped harm, grateful there was at least one happy ending.
© Felicity Edwards