“Now you tell me what you did!”
“I did nothing!” I shouted.
“The Geneva Convention would love to hear of your little act of genocide. When they are finished with you it will make me seem as a lamb.”
“I did nothing!” I repeated. “Nothing…!”
She raised her arm, violently slapping me with the back of her hand. The chair rocketed sideways by the force as I watched the floor nearing, helplessly. The blood was beginning to stream out of my nose and onto the floor. My gums were sore and bleeding as blood swirled around my mouth. I used my tongue to survey the damage counting each tooth with slow precession.
I swallowed a piece of my chipped tooth and felt it slide painfully down my throat. I coughed violently as a pool of blood formed around my head.
“Will you co-operate now?” She roughly pulled the back of the chair up. I was propped up again, staring into her face.
“Do you want me to confess?” I questioned as a drizzle of blood slipped onto my mouth and then slid down my chin.
“And if I confess?”
“Our government will have leniency on you. They have political prisoners of ours, we will enter into an exchange.”
I took a deep sharp gulp of blood and teeth. Survival was the main thing who cared about the details if what she wanted to hear was that I was some serial killer or murderer then I would feed her fascination if only it would stop the torture.
“I’ve killed before…” I inhaled the cold air and left my half finished sentence linger. She stood there waiting for an answer, watching me in my nakedness. She didn’t have to say anything her wrinkled nose and scrunched brow cajoled me into continuing.
“I used to hunt rabbits in the mountains when I was a child.”
I closed my eyes and imagined a brown ball of fur bounding over a stretch of white while I aimed my shotgun and took aim. Bang! Right between the eyes!
She pursed her lips realising it was going somewhere. “Please continue,” She said folding her arms across her chest and sitting her round full ass on the table.
FLOOR, FLOOR, FLOOR!
“We cooked it in a good warming stew…”
I watched the blood roll down my chin and form a pool in my bellybutton.
“How did you get in the army?” She lit another cigarette.
“Haven’t you heard it’s your duty to serve? It’s mandatory.” I shook with fear and from the cold. My voice that been raised, and the sarcasm had not been masked.
“Yes, I am well aware of that,” She blew smoke in my face.
“I am also aware you are a Christian,”
“Well if you say so…” I rolled my eyes.
She veered at me, her eyes shooting out of her sockets and her mouth erupting in a volcano of curses.
“Do you know what I can do to you?”
She leapt off the table with the cigarette raised in the air.
“Please for God sake, no!” I screeched.
She stopped in mid motion.
“You will tell me everything and truthfully this time.”
“Truthfully…?” I muttered.
She threw me a disapproving look.
“Ok,” so I started again.
“The village, we were told was to be protected at all cost…”
She interrupted with her deep throaty voice. “Did you know the village was predominately Muslim?”
“No,” I shook my head. “It didn’t matter. What mattered was that we had been given orders to protect it.”
“So Muslims mean nothing to you?”
“No, I never said that. Muslims are human beings just like me,” I paused. “And you.”
She didn’t seem convinced that I meant it. I never meant it; I only thought that I could soften her enough to get her to let me go.
“She would say, “Mr Slav means no harm. Yes he is our enemy and a threat to our cause but he doesn’t deserve to suffer in this way. Send him home.’
No she would have me flogged to death first and then she would send me home.
My resistance had surprised her, although it surprised me even more that I would put up with such torture just for the sake of withholding any bit of information from her. I had been put into a cell. It was difficult to tell if it was the same one I was in before. I couldn’t stand up the ceiling had been made for a midget. I could only sit and stretch my legs.
“Mr Slav you are a War Criminal!”
“You put a bullet to a little boy’s head!”
“You ordered the executions!”
“You killed your own people!”
“Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha!”
“Shut up!” I screamed. A bright neon light lit up my cage and covered me in a blinding hallucinogenic pool of light.
Some mad conductor was above my head conducting a violent symphony. The cymbals collided with the trumpets; the violinist tore the bow across the strings. I covered my ears. The light lit me up again.
“You killed the villagers like rabbits. You shot them right between the eyes!”
“You enjoyed killing every one of them.”
“It had been your life long fantasy. You were just waiting for the moment.”
“God told you to kill innocent people, didn’t he?”
Then I asked the question that I had never been brave enough to ask.
“Why does this concern you? They are not your people you were destroying their land and killing them. You should be patting me on the back if I did carry out such an act.”
The shouting stopped. The music died down and the light never shined on me again that night.
It was the question I wanted answered, “Why are you concerned?” But I was frightened too death, propped up once again on the wooden chair with my hands handcuffed. They had the decency to clothe me, although my feet were shoeless.
What do you want with me? What do you want with me? What do you want with me?
“Mr Slav,” She was staring at me again, standing in the dim light.
“Yes?” I replied, slowly lifting up my head.
“Today you will tell us what you were doing in the forest.”
“Yes, you were in the forest weren’t you?”
She lifted her boot to show she could have sent it crashing into my skull.
I sighed, a big disheartened breath.
“We were protecting the village from you…I got lost in the forest…stumbled across…a burial site…”
She stomped wilding around the chair each footstep thudding into my heart.
“Yes, you know where dead people are buried.”
I shouldn’t have. I saw the hand raised high in the air smacking down hard into my face. The nose took the brunt of it as the waterfall of blood flowed into my mouth.
“Any more of that,” she roared, the pitch of her voice echoed off the roof. “And I won’t show you any mercy.”
So you’ve been having mercy on me?
I shook my head as I tried plugging my nose with my fingers. It didn’t seem like it.
“It was dark, I think I heard the sound of gunfire and then I started to fall.”
I closed my eyes and tried to get away from the cold dark room. The woman was circling me as if she was spinning a magic web and then she would strangle me and swallow me whole. The heels were sharp and hard, smacking off the concrete floor.
The sound of marching, gunfire, an explosion of shells, screams and then silence. Eyes were staring at me from out of the dirt, trained on my every movement.
“One, two, three,”
“Come in its dinner time.”
“Once I caught a fish this big.” A child’s arms stretched into the sky.
“A, B, C, D, E, F, G”
A small faint voice was singing, “Happy Birthday…!”
“I’ll race you home!”
“Sweet Sixteen and never been kissed!”
“It’s a girl!”
The sound of running feet
An explosion of sound
Smiles on a young freckled face
The clattering of a machine
the roar of a bomber
“You killed my child!”
“You’ll die for this! God will have his judgement on you!”
“You’re a son of Satan!”
“Lucifer has his grip on you!”
Downstairs the father was dancing; upstairs the child was stretching the bow across the varnished violin. She could make the sun rise with each melting note. The girl dressed in white skipped to her wedding as her life’s symphony swirled around her. Flowers played the game of romance. The stars shot across the walls, her future a melting pot of notes and concerts.
The notes were weeping, and I was weeping sitting in my chair, my body inside a coarse harsh shirt, the pants itched my legs like a red hot sunburn. The blood continued to pour.
I killed the father and the child, breaking her fingers that could never again hold onto the violin.
One finger gone!
Another one broken!
She wore white, the little girl, and it was speckled with red. Her soft young feet bounced off the floor.
Her small rose mouth opened and she cried, “Look daddy! Look at me!”
She stretched out her hands as a shower of blood rained down on her.
I started to shout. The rain seemed to be melting her and I was fading into my thoughts. The voice!
“Tell me about the grave!” A high pitched squeal broke through my thoughts. A cigarette butt raised in the air as my eyes pleaded, fought, and screamed all at once. I smelt the burnt horrid smell as it gnawed at my leg.
She bent her head as far to the grey ground as possible. She held the baby in her arms as close as she could without suffocating it. When the baby came out of its mother’s womb the first thing it saw was light—bright glorious light! Inside the blackness was closing up, the womb was sliding shut. His eyes were the first thing that opened, but his mouth was the first to respond. The glass cabinets shook and the sound reverberated off the wall as the new adorable baby roared over the passing jumbo jet.
I was a baby once, bright blue eyed, fair haired, not a wrinkled spot or blemish. I was proud of my mother. She was everything I ever wanted, a perfect parent who pampered me with her love. I was what she ordered, although she never let on if she was unhappy with me. I was a loud baby always crying, it was a way of telling my mother where I was.
I saw his head peering out from his mother’s blanket. His tiny red eyes christened with his face. His hair was covered. He was maybe a few months old. I couldn’t tell anymore. His lips were puckered and he looked like he had been near beetroot. His small pale white arm reached out for life, for air.
Mary lifted her dropping head and looked into my eyes, piercing me.
“Please help!” She moaned as the baby in her arm spasmed. “My baby is dying!”
I looked at the child with its weeping eyes, oozing leftover sleep. It was scrunching up his face fearful, afraid, and dying for the first time.
“If the infant child was here you would help, would you not?” It was, God his voice a mere whisper that collided with my heart.
I shook my head; I didn’t know what to say. I could feel the ground moving from under my feet as the room sped past me. Light warm red heat. Trees dotted the green grass as shooting sprouts competed for the first time for life. I could hear the birds chattering away to each other, each note blossomed like a budding rose or a blossoming chrysanthemum. A wave crashed over me as I fell deep into the soft grass and slept.
The noise was unbearable as I fought to stay asleep. I would do anything to fall into a deep sleep and forget everything. I dreaded reliving the harsh angry slap that seemed to be embedded on my left cheek like a death sentence. I could still feel the time I was pushed by an oversized child onto a frozen lake. I could hear the ice twisting and splitting like the logs in the fireplace crackling under the heat. Then the ground exploded like a gunshot as I slipped into the hole of ice. My booted feet went first then the legs, chest and all. My face submerged as I kicked and fought for life and air. The water was heavy, I tried to find an opening, any opening would have done. Maybe if I swam down I could somehow reach the surface.
My mind went blank; I stopped kicking and opened my eyes under the stinging cold. White-bluish ice swam past me as I was lost in the moment, surrounded by the eerie sound of winter. Above I could hear the wind howling, the sheet of ice that covered me creaked like a whining whale. Then two arms reached in and pulled me out— my saviour.
I never saw him enter. I opened my eyes and saw him standing next to me with his large white spotless coat. He held a clipboard, his chewed back nails were brought to my attention. He was tall, a lanky sort of fellow that seemed to be sweating uncontrollably. I watched the droplets form on his brow; slowly it dripped down his long elevated nose over the tip and then ran down his mouth sliding down his chin. It was amazing to watch. He stood there with his black pasted back hair and his brown tired eyes. I glanced down at his legs that were unsteady and shaky.
“Mr Slav,” He called out with a slow monotonous voice. “We are ready to see you.”
I shook as I thought of all the medical procedures that were possible. A saw would lay on the operating table and a drill. I would be hooked up to every tube and surround by every wire and machine that was humanely possible.
He sounded again, “Mr Slav, We’re ready to see you.”
I leaned over and tried to spring myself up.
One, two, three,
It was no use, I was going nowhere.
I looked at the woman with her child in the corner she lifted her hand in the air and gently slapped her baby’s back.
I felt her hand smack off my face.
Another one for good measure.
I looked up at the doctor his hand reaching out to help me out of my predicament.
The letters appeared on the wall.
The baby started to cry and jerk uncontrollably as if it ran right into an electric fence.
I could feel God trying to get through. I reached out my hand towards the doctor, his soft sweaty palm felt good. I could feel him tugging on my tired arm as my entire body resisted. The baby had turned into a fire engine, the wails and moans frightened the life out me as I watched him turn red.
“God,” I drew my hand out of the doctor’s grasp. “What will I do?”
“Compassion,” came back the reply.
I shook my head. I knew what I had been asked yet I didn’t have the strength for it.
I turned my head towards Mary and the infant. I felt like screaming above the wail and shouting at them.
“You are trying to make me feel bad!” I would have roared at them.
I understood compassion I understood mercy, but why the word forgiveness? It flashed in front of my eyes.
Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.
“Forgive her? But what has she done to me?”
“She reminds you of someone.”
I closed my eyes. She reminded me of Mary, sweet and innocent Mary, with her long black hair and sweet choral voice. I watched her skipping through the school yard in her sky blue dress, the summer always following her. If Mary would have lived she would have looked like the woman I had christened her namesake, tall, defiant, astute and brave. A kidney was all she required but her family never had the courage to offer her one and so she died. I had plans to marry her but it was useless. I hated her for having such a horrible family.
She never needed to be forgiven it was me.
“Ask for forgiveness?”
I struggled to open my mouth as the tears leapt out of my eyes. Mary was dying, her infant child had no real chance with life.
“Forgive me Mary,” I pleaded holding out my hands. She looked at me with her widening eyes and gaping mouth, surprised and shocked.
“Forgive me Mary!” I raised my voice; she sprung back afraid I would hurt her. She pressed the baby up against her chest.
I looked at the spot on the wall and then back at Mary. She was smiling the rosiest smile I had ever seen that stretched like a boat on open water. The sails blowing in the breeze as a mob of chattering white seagulls swarmed around the sailing vessel.
“Thank you!” She whispered.
I had made up my mind the white angel of light ushered her and the baby away as I continued to sit in the yellow chair alone with my thoughts and God.
I could tell he was happy, the spot on the wall. I could feel sympathy and joy, perhaps a tear or two as well.
I stumbled across the bodies like a little child seeing his parents at it for the first time. I was afraid and coming close to experiencing death.
The little boy should have been in bed, away from the commotion, away from the act but he was inquisitive and too bloody nosy to make any sense of it. I cringed when I saw the naked bodies’ fixated lying in the dirt, pale and starting to decay. They were not my parents they were someone else’s, but they had been just as real and animated. Something was wrong when I slid into the dirt and then a leather boot kicked me roughly on the jaw. But the voice was familiar, gruff and curt. A deep raspy voice that would scare anyone to death.
She was asking me questions again.
“Who was he?”
“What was he doing there?”
She kept on assuring me that there were only soldiers loyal to my government situated there. The rebels were situated one hundred miles south. I shook my head I couldn’t believe her, I couldn’t.
Foxes are red they are sly conniving creatures that tour the streets in the dark looking for scraps of meat in knocked over rubbish bins. Twelve o’clock a lone fox is spotted prancing around a freshly cut lawn when one o’clock hits the entire community of foxes descended on the town. I hated foxes.
I had watched him every night come dancing into town on all fours, drooling at the mouth in search for food. He never saw me, never knew what hit him as I drew my gun and shot him. Shooting was always in me, killing a man wouldn’t be much different.
I opened my eyes the woman that was standing over me was large and excited. Her steel cold glare bit me in the neck and made me shake violently. She was holding a piece of paper in the air shouting, “Sign! Sign! Sign…!”
I saw the sliver pen lying on the desk waiting to be picked up. I looked at my pant’s legs that were burned; I could see my legs red and raw from all the cigarette burns. I could feel the burn biting into my stomach, the very pit was burning.
I knew where it was leading. I was to take the blame for the massacre and then they would let me go and the voices would leave me alone. I could go back to my normal life.
What is normal? People say: “Look there’s George isn’t he a normal sort of guy? He’s go a dog and a wife and two kids.” The dog is always mentioned first, strangely.
Does normal mean average or does it mean the same as everyone else?
What is normal?
Rain falls down in large teary drops out of the sky—is that normal?
The storm clouds break and the sky is blanketed in blue—is that normal?
A skylark fights to live in the midst of angry mortar shells while a solider stares at his own blood thinking back on his life. The clouds shed a tear as a little boy drags his wooden dog with wheels for legs. His hair is a tangled mess, blonde dirty curls. His face stained with the dirt of the earth. I was the little boy oblivious of the complexity of life, the little things that would explode in front of my eyes. If I thought about it then and there I would have treasured each tiny moment, fishing by the babbling brook with my wooden makeshift rod that never caught more than a sliver stickleback. My eyes should have appreciated the green fields that a six year old could get lost in the. The small chubby arms groping in the dark as giggles were heard bouncing through the countryside. My eyes were big and bright, caught up with everything but as soon as I reached maturity those simple little things meant nothing.
A circus full of fun.
A sweet sticky bun
Hair in the eyes
Blue endless skies
And then it was dark. The light flickering in the distant as a low flutter of wings sounded like helicopters booming through the sky. Wings bring back memories. A bright red butterfly perched high on a perfect pink flower, sucking the nectar dry as an Admiral flies by, a ship sailing in the sky. White spots against the walls, stars sitting happily on the ceiling glued to the blackness. Voices are all I can hear amongst the blurring, the whispers, a short curt bark, and then whispers again.
“What is your name?”
“Who are you?”
“What are you doing here?”
“How many were there?”
“You can’t be serious?”
Voices began to communicate in deep babbling tones. Baby talk or just a language I was unfamiliar with?
I’ll sign. I’ll sign anything.
The pen is in my hand. With one painstaking stroke I sign. It could have been my life I was signing away; I didn’t care at that point.
The swans were flying again over the still glassy lake. The white feathers blanketed the landscape below like snow covering the earth on a cold December day. The swans were easily angered when they were approached. But high in the air away from the pestering crowds that forced them to eat the stale greening bread they were on their own. Up in the sky they were majestic; they were conquerors, they could fly. What could I do to match such a feat? I had no wings like them, no duffle feathers to catch the breeze and soar.
Some of the local village boys got it in their head that they were pests like the foxes. I was sitting next to the lake with my wooden fishing rod knowing that I would never catch a slippery fish. I watched a swan skiing on the lake with his large webbed feet creating white spray.
The sound jolted me like it had been aimed at my heart. I saw the swan flop into his watery grave, no warning, no explanation. And the feathers scattered into the sky the bird no more. I was furious, the anger rose to my cheeks as I threw my rod down. Forget the fish!
There would be no fishing today. And I hated the shooter, I hated him for killing the very thing I loved to sit and watch as I pretended to fish.
I saw the heads bobbing along the shoreline giggles were coming from them. I ran into the crowd. The boy with yellow hair that held the rifle was my first target as I threw a punch high above his head and then smashed it down into his young fresh face. The face exploded in red, the nose pulsing and dripping in blood, his white face red, much like the feathers of the swan that was now soaking in his blood. I felt it suddenly, a boot against my ankles and then a clenched fist into my ribs. Then a torrid of activity as the gun dropped and I was invited into the middle of the circle where the most of the action was taken by me.
Was it worth it for the swan?
A bloody nose, a bruised ankle, a head that had a thousand pulses twitching all at once? When it was all over we vowed to keep it silent and went back to our parents making up any story that would take the pain away. But they knew what happened as they sat and watched me eat in silence. I sat on the wooden chair; father looked at me with his blue eyes that had seen everything at least that’s what it looked like as he sat upright, his posture positively good for a man of his age. His hair was greying and his moustache was in need of a trim. I sat there toying with the hot boiled potatoes and the red meat that could have been the swan that was so terribly killed. I lifted the fork to my mouth trying desperately not to cry or show that all the bruises that I was carrying was taking me to hell. Mother reached for a damp white cloth and swabbed my face. She was quiet father’s constant chewing on the meat and mother’s monotonous tone of her feet shuffling across the stone floor drove me to guilt. Father would have known that falling on the ground would not result in a perfectly round black eye. They knew but they kept quiet; silence crept up the sides of the table.
Only God knows the situation, I whispered to myself.
“God what are you going to do with me?” I was sliding endlessly down the plastic chair that was designed to increase back strain.
He was slow to respond but he finally said, “It’s up to you. What do you want me to do?”
“You’re God you tell me,” I interjected, looking down at my hands, they were turning red. Sunsets are red, so are apples, and love. But this was different, the pain was intensifying. I could feel a war going on inside my body. Little men dressed in fatigues were fighting it out. It seemed like the artillery were missing their targets and instead firing cruelly at me.