GilThis is the part eight of my short story, Friends. Please would you proofread it.
Before he stepped onboard, a young, overweight soldier stopped him and ordered him to show him his watch. He gave it a look and ordered Omer to give it to him. Omer did what the soldier demanded, and saw his expensive watch disappearing inside the solder’s uniform. “You’ll not need it any more,” said the young soldier laughingly. The watch was the present he received from his parents when he had become a doctor. The way it was taken from him was an ill omen of what was awaiting him in the near future. They were going to rob him of every material object he possessed, to humiliate him, to torture him, and probably kill him in the end.
He glanced at his neighbours who were already sitting in the bus, and they all had the same gloomy faces. They knew that their lives were in the hands of angry people, who would not hesitate for a moment to eliminate them if they received orders from their commanders.
When the buses became full, they set off. After a few hundred meters, a guard growled, “Bend your heads!” The prisoners obeyed his order immediately. He was a middle-aged man who wore dark sunglasses and fiddled with his rifle all the time. Omer sensed that the man had a chip on his shoulder. He just waited for an opportunity to vent his fury on an innocent man. After about 20 minutes, the bus stopped and the soldier ordered them to alight. When Omer looked up, he saw
some kind oftwo warehouses surrounded by barbed wire. At the entrance, there were two heavy machine gun nests. About thirty meters from the warehouses, there was a two-storey building, painted in white. The guards ordered the prisoners to stand with their legs apart and raise their hands in the air. They carefully body-searched each of them and then opened the door of the warehouse and ordered them to go inside. It took Omer some moments to adjust his eyes to the semi-darkness. Then he saw hundreds of eyes gazing at him. There were men of all ages, from teenagers to old men. How they could have been a threat to the new government, Omer asked himself. Maybe drunken soldiers had mistaken their canes for rifles. Some men had visible marks of beatings on their faces, black eyes, scratches and swellings. The light came from the windows close to the ceiling and fell on a dusty concrete floor. There was neither furniture nor beds inside, and people sat and lay on cardboards or their own jackets. Someone asked him if he had a cigarette and Omer answered that he did not smoke.
He sat down beside the two young men, who were in their twenties. He asked them how long they had been imprisoned. One of them told him they were brought here two days ago. They described the same procedure Omer had just gone through. They told him they did not care about politics or independence and they only wanted to live an ordinary life, but the nationalists did not leave them in peace. Omer lay down on the sheet of cardboard, put his hands under his head and started thinking about his situation. He was not afraid of death, but the possibility of being tortured for days filled him with horror. There was no the Red Cross or other international organisations which could help them, there were no journalists or media which could report on their condition. They had become an anonymous, hopeless crowd, who would lose their lives only because they had “wrong” names. Omer knew that he, as a doctor, and other intellectuals, would be the first to perish. The Serbian nationalists knew that they did not need to kill every Croat and Bosniak to destroy their identities. They only had to eliminate their intelligentsia.
The door opened and a guard threw inside about a dozen of bread loaves. The prisoners, who until that moment chatted in groups, jumped to their feet and hurled themselves upon them as if there were animals. The guard stood laughing, watching the spectacle, enjoying seeing hungry Bosniaks and Croats losing their dignity. All this came as a shock to Omer, who only read about such things in the books describing the life in the Nazi prison camps. Now he had a rare opportunity to experience a prison camp at the end of the 20th Century in the middle of Europe. That night he slept intermittently. It was not only because of the hard floor under his back, but rather because of anxiety, which filled every cell, every atom of his being. Early in the morning, a guard opened the door and called his name. Omer sensed that they were going to beat him. His heart began to pound. Drops of sweat ran down his spine. There was a cramp in his stomach. Despite his fear, he jumped up, and followed the guard outside and to the white building. They walked down the corridor and then the guard knocked at a door and opened it. Omer went inside and found himself in front of the three men sitting at the wooden table. They all wore combat uniforms, which seemed to be completely new. They told him to sit down on a chair in front of them, which he did.
FirstAfter a while he recognized Milan. The uniform had changed him, and also fatigue, which covered his face like a grey layer. This was another shock for Omer, who could never have imagined his friend as someone who would actively support the ethnic cleansing. Omer did not dare to look at his eyes. He would never dare to call him a friend again.
TO BE CONTINUED