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On September 27th fellow blogger Kelly Grifiths challenged her readers thusly:

Write a 300-word short story (maximum) based on the image below. Post it in the comment section by Monday, September 30th at noon (EST). Winners will be chosen by myself and a guest judge, TBA. I’ll announce the winners in a post on October 2nd. Happy writing!

Not being known for my brevity I took Kelly’s challenge and wrote Al-Hujurat, a story of insanity in 300 words. 

“If orange is the new black then what’s the new orange?!” Being awakened in the night and commanded to perform had become routine but even for Mary Merrick this was odd.

“Blue,” I shouted, vaulting from my high, narrow plank with its pancake thin mattress, landing and simultaneously saluting, “ma’am!”

“Why?” Mary aspirated, head tilted and eyes the narrowest of slits.

“Ma’am, black’s not on the color wheel, blue is. Navy’s a color, oranges can be navel so blue’s the new orange. QED, ma’am!”

“Good, Barbara Jean,” she whispered. Adding conversationally, “Very good. Perhaps now I can sleep. Carry on!” she concluded imperiously.

Appearing to comply, I climbed to my bunk, though heightened pulse and blood pressure belied my calm exterior. I’d survived. Again. Allah be praised.

Mind cartwheeling I impotently reviewed my position vis-à-vis Major Mary Merrick. “‘Major’ my gluteus maximus,” I whispered, mindful of my cell’s bugs. “History repeats itself,” I added thinking of the mad Twentieth Century corporal who’d risen to power. “We must right the wheel,” I said, touching the Mandala I’d painstakingly etched into my wall. “Mandela is my mentor.”

I raced back to May 2013 and the peace rally where Mandela had spoken. My ten-year-old self had found his imprint indelible and it was to keep the peace that I’d earned a commission with the UN Peace Keeping Forces. “Peace keeping,” I sneered, “indeed.”

Peace Keeping was why we’d introduced Al-Hujurat into Syria’s food supply. Al-Hujurat, laboratory tested and deemed safe, was still in clinicals when Syria’s al-Asaad forced our hand. The  psychosis of one-in-ten-thousand that Al-Hujurat induced had not been anticipated nor had jihad junta from corporal Merrick.

Al-Hujurat turned Merrick from Malak into Ifrit and the UN’s peace to plague and destruction. “Mandela would be ashamed. I must turn the Mandala,” I whispered.