Friday, July 2, 2010

week twelve: children of the damned

From an unmarked tape discovered at a thrift store in Iowa.

First voice: Describe that night for me.

Second voice: I remember just how hot it was. It was sweltering even though it was in the middle of the night. And there they were, just walking. There must have been thousands of them. Of course, I wasn't counting, only watching. It was my turn to do a night-guard, which every one us naturally dreaded. This night was different though.

First voice: Different how?

Second voice: Well, it isn't every night that you see thousands of children walking in a line towards nowhere.

First voice: Tell me about these children.

Second voice: They were poor, all of them. Not one of them wore much and all of them seemed so tired. My guess is that they were refugees, since there weren't any adults. They weren't really close enough for me to see their faces, but I could sense their fear.

First voice: They were afraid because you were soldiers?

Second voice: They were afraid because they were walking past a military guard post. Whatever they were fleeing from was caused by us, since my government was performing an ethnic cleansing at the time.

First voice: Did you report this to your senior officer?

Second voice: Of course I did. If I did not, I am certain that evidence would have been found of the children and if I had lied, they would have assumed I had fallen asleep on my watch. The punishment for that is death.

First voice: What happened then?

Second voice: My officer saw the children and then woke the rest of us. He told us to grab our rifles and that there was a standing order to capture or kill as many of the children as possible. I did not want to do this, but orders are orders.

First voice: Why didn't you want to do this?

Second voice: Because these are only children! And what's worse, I cannot imagine what these children have been through. They are damned because of their race, which is little more than a few differences in their faces. That isn't something worth killing a man over, least of all a child.

First voice: What happened next?

Second voice: We chased them down and grabbed as many as we could. The children started to run and we could no longer give chase. So, the officer gave the order to take aim and fire.

First voice: Did you?

Second voice: There was apprehension in all of us. None of us really wanted to do it.

First voice: But did you pull your trigger?

Second voice: Yes.

(There is a long pause)

First voice: Please, continue.

Second voice: We captured maybe seven of them, all boys. We weren't sure what to do with them that night, but we knew what would happen to them eventually. They would all become child soldiers or maybe they would be put to work somewhere. Either way, it isn't good for them. I remember standing over them, they all stared at us with crying faces. Part of me just wanted to shoot them there and have it done with, but that was even worse than what was already happening.

First voice: So, what did you do with the boys?

Second voice: Since I was on the night-watch, I was left to guard them overnight while the others slept. I stood there and watched the boys and hoped that they would sleep, but they seemed intent on driving my guilt as far as it could go.

First voice: And how far did it go?

Second voice: I should have been killed that night.

First voice: For what?

Second voice: I had to help them somehow. I could not just stand there and let their lives be ruined. So I came up with a plan. I took one of the Makarov pistols and handed it to one of the boys; the oldest one. It was loaded and ready to shoot. He looked at me confused through his tears. I then told him to do what he least expected. I told him to shoot me.

First voice: Did he?

Second voice: Of course, I told him to shoot me somewhere where it would not kill me. He shot me though. He shot me right in the leg, which is why I am here with a prosthetic one today.

First voice: Keep going.

Second voice: Then they ran, taking the pistol with them. I shot the entire magazine from my AK-47 into the air to make it sound good. When the other soldiers and the officer came around, I explained that the boy must have had a pistol with him that we did not see. I do not think my officer bought the story, though.

First voice: So, were you punished?

Second voice: Yes, but only with extra hours of work. I suspect that my officer did not want to do this any more than I did. I believe that he knew what I had done and did not blame me for it. I don't know this for sure, but it is what I would like to believe.

(There is another long pause)

First voice: Is this what really happened that night?

Second voice: Of course it isn't, but it's what your American people would like to believe. They like to hear tales of heroism and sacrifice, but my country is not like yours. We decided that night that those boys were too much for us and that it was not our problem. We lined them up and killed them. I do wish that I had done what I told you I did, but you must understand that I had orders.

First voice: So, why do you have a prosthetic leg?

Second voice: When I moved to America, I got a job working construction. It was mangled beyond any repair on some equipment.

First voice: I guess that's some kind of justice then?

Second voice: I do not believe in justice. I certainly haven't seen any.

This is the end of the tape.

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