by Dennis Zaslona
This is it. Me and Danny have turned our backs on them. They don’t like that. They’ve shouted but haven’t done anything, yet.
A hand's width from my face is the wall. Red ants scurry in and out of lead-blasted craters. Look at them, gathering, excited. They know what's coming.
'Please don't do this!'
Danny’s shout has silenced the monkeys and the parrots beyond the barbed wire but not the insects. They keep on that relentless, static hiss. Like our captors they can’t comprehend human despair, a man’s call for his mother.
‘Sorry Sarge,’ says Danny.
His eyes plead for me to tell him that it won’t happen. Instead, I whisper, ‘Look at the ants.’
The ratcheting of bolts gets me shaking.
A shout. Not Danny, not me. My wrists stiffen against the ropes.
The wall explodes. Bits hit my face and chest.
Danny’s down. He stares at me, unblinking, his cheek pressed against fallen chips of brick, debris of previous murders. He’s gone. But I’m on the ground also. How did that happen?
I’m drifting, being absorbed into the wall, beneath the ants and inside brickwork poxed with the blood and the pain of many passings.
Eventually, concrete buildings force back the jungle. A neat lawn now surrounds my wall. Names engraved in gold sit in marble slabs on either side. My name’s there, so is Danny’s.
People look, photograph with tiny cameras to show they have seen. They’ve seen nothing really. I hope they never will. Sometimes, giggling girls or confident young men step onto the grass and pose in a parody of terror before me and I whisper, ‘look at the ants.’ And without knowing why, they do and I touch them with just a hint of the horror that stains these bricks. They laugh as they leave, but I know that when they are alone and in the current of descending sleep, what I have given will chill their soul and cause them to think. That is all I ask, that they don’t forget.
Others come. Time-folded bodies encased in wheelchairs or scaffolded by the loving arms of a younger generation. They come to remember and to cry.
The last enemies who themselves now face the slow bullets of old age and death also come but it’s too late to say sorry. If I could, I would reach out and fill their remaining nights with pain and terror. There is no forgiving in me. Perhaps that is why I am here, a punishment or to learn?
I know that when the last enemy has passed, when there are no comrades left to stand before me and make the final salute, then I too will go. The wall will be taken by time and will crumble into the earth. Memories will slip from the living and the world will go on, with lessons still to be learnt.