"We're being raped!" the people howled. "It's fraud!" The ballots flew through the air, piled in the street like snowdrifts, shredded under sandals.
A slight man stood at the edge of the crowd, watching with weary eyes. A 47-year-old engineer, Moustapha Haddad, said he was not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
"I did my best to be a good man in this society," he said, carefully pronouncing the English words. "But I feel too much small. I cannot find myself in my own country."
He waved an arm at the ballots. "I am feeling that I am nothing," he said. "I want to feel that I am a man, that I am a member of this society." He shook his head.
Boots clattered on the sidewalk as police conscripts arrived. Wearing helmets and toting shields, they lined up and probed the crowd with nervous eyes. Some of the Muslim Brotherhood members approached and spoke quietly over the police shields.
"All of this is just for you," one of the members said. "It's just for you, so you shouldn't beat us."
The conscripts nodded and smiled self-consciously. "What a black night," one of the conscripts muttered to his neighbor.
When the skies opened up with rain, the streetlights sizzled and snapped overhead. On the street, the storm was greeted like an omen.
The Muslim Brotherhood members prayed out loud for the drops to fall all around them but leave them dry, for the water to go straight down to the roots of the plants. Their voices rang through the wet streets, over the heads of the police generals with their shoulders full of stars who hid beneath the dripping trees.
Midnight came and went, and Heshmat was winning. He'd gotten 25,000 votes to Fiqi's 7,000, people inside the counting station said. As he hovered over the count, he remembered later, some of the supervising judges began to wander over and shake his hand. It was a landslide, they told him.
Then the provincial security director arrived and asked Heshmat to leave the schoolroom where the votes were being counted. He agreed to wait outside. It was only a matter of time, he told himself. He felt at peace.
But hours went by. Dawn broke. No results were announced. Legions of security forces were being trucked in from neighboring provinces. The government, it seemed, was bracing for unrest.
It was after 7 in the morning when the head judge and the security director emerged together to announce the results: Fiqi had won by a landslide.
The election was over.
All the threats and fights and rage drained away that day as if they had never happened.
Heshmat had put out word that nobody should create a ruckus. The people obeyed.
Dozens of people had already been rounded up; this was a warning against trouble. Heshmat's 22-year-old son, an art student, was among those arrested. In his living room, Heshmat sat looking wearily at the floor.
An older man, a neighborhood elder, broke into the room. His beard was untamed, his eyes wild with indignation. He was keen to start a street rebellion.
"So many people have already been arrested," Heshmat told him evenly.
"So what? So what? Even if they arrest 1,000, so what?" the man replied. "We were all willing to die for the ballot boxes yesterday."
Heshmat just nodded and listened.
A few days later, one of the judges who'd supervised the count in Damanhur broke her silence. In a letter to opposition newspaper Al Masri al Youm, she accused security officers of ballot fraud.
In a last-ditch effort, Heshmat traveled to Cairo to give a news conference. He called on Mubarak to intervene. He asked more witnesses to come forward. And finally, he appealed to Fiqi's conscience.
Parliament will reconvene in a few months. When it does, Fiqi will almost certainly sit as the Damanhur representative.