Student or Learner
Would you please correct my mistakes in the seventh part of my short story?
The bus was crammed, and without air conditioning, it became hot and muggy. Two soldiers, one at the front beside the driver and one at the back, held their rifles high, ready to use them at any moment. As soon as the bus turned onto the main road, a teenage soldier in the middle started removing watches and jewellery from the prisoners. The young man and his father did not wear expensive watches or jewellery, and the soldier left them in peace. People parted with their valuables in silence. Wedding rings, gold chains and bracelets given as birthday presents, and watches awarded to their owners after decades of hard work, they all disappeared in the pockets of the soldier with a smug smile on his pimply face.
The road passed through the beautiful undulating landscape under the dazzling sun. To the right of the motorway, a green river meandered calmly downstream, its banks covered in graceful willows. But the pastoral landscape suddenly transformed into a gruesome scene when the road reached the village whose inhabitants refused to acknowledge the new government. The houses lay in ruins, their walls crumbled under the force of explosions and fire, which was still burning in some of them. Cattle, horses, dogs and poultry roamed aimlessly, looking in vain for their owners. A few corpses lay on the ground, their faces buried in the grass. A group of soldiers was loading a refrigerator onto a truck, its platform bursting with loot. So this is how a war looked like, the young man thought. Humans transmuted into the evil creatures, like at the flick of a switch. Teenagers with guns who killed innocent people for the heck of it; manual workers turned masters of life and death; teachers who gave orders to the executions of their former students; tradesmen and office workers who threw grenades at the old and disabled and returned home with booty, as if they had been on a spree. After thousands of years of European culture, knowledge and sophistication, the 20th century was ending in bloodshed—a clear proof that stupidity and evil would never be eradicated, as long as the masses were ready to follow a deranged leader and his generals.
The bus turned to the right and rumbled along a smaller road filled with potholes and cracks. It ended at the dilapidated, disused brickworks. Even before the metal gate opened and the bus came to a halt, the young man sensed what kind of treatment the new government had reserved for the prisoners. About a dozen guards stood in the concrete courtyard. Some carried weapons, others baseball bats, truncheons, thick cables and bicycle chains. They yelled at the prisoners to come off the buses and line along a brick wall. Everyone had to spread his legs apart and put his hands on the wall. They were body-searched by the guards, who did their job thoroughly and quick, as if they had trained for years. Then they were ordered to run the gauntlet towards the main building, about thirty meters away. The first prisoner, a fat middle-aged man, managed to take only a few steps before being tripped by a guard. He fell with a thud to the ground. As if on cue, the others charged at him, hitting him so viciously that the poor, wretched man screamed and pleaded with them to stop. They let him crawl into the building, only to find more victims who underwent the same treatment.
The young man stared at the scene and panicked. He wanted to go back to the bus, where at least a few moments before, he was safe. His body shook. He glanced at the fence and saw it was unguarded. He could climb over, run through the thicket and disappear in the woods. They would all be killed anyway, tortured slowly by the madmen whose hatred seemed to be bottomless. He glanced at Father. His tired face was ashen, beads of sweat sparkled on his forehead. He grabbed his son’s arm and they run together towards the guards. They were yelling and swearing, hitting people all over their bodies, pushing some to the ground and beating them ferociously while allowing others to escape with just a few blows and kicks. A baseball bat hit the young man on his shoulder and head, which caused him to stumble. He would have certainly collapsed to the ground if it had not been for his father’s strong hand, which pulled him forward, away from the guards’ bloodshot, gleaming eyes, spittle trickling and flying out of their mouths, and the rank smell of alcohol and sweat.
They staggered into the building, gasping for breath. When his eyes adjusted to the gloom, the young man saw hundreds of people who lay side by side, sat on the bare concrete floor, squatted or paced nervously. A man in his twenties with a scraggly beard, swollen face and a black eye shuffled to him and asked if he had a cigarette. When the young man told him he was not a smoker, he turned to his father, but got the same reply. The disappointment was written all over his battered face. He asked the same question to everyone who stepped inside, and received the same answer. The young man felt sorry for him and wished he had a cigarette to give him.
The prisoners made room for them and gave them two sheets of cardboard, which would be their beds for the coming months. The young man lay on his back, his hands behind his head. He stared at the grey concrete ceiling and the dust particles swirling in the sunbeams steaming through the barred windows. He heard Father and other prisoner around him discussing their ordeal. “The world will come to our rescue soon. The other nations can’t stand by and watch what our neighbours are doing to us,” a voice said and others concurred. Then another voice said, “Don’t be a fool. Nobody is going to help us. They don’t care.” The discussion went on for hours. It seemed that people had a need to talk just to keep fear at bay. Their voices reached him like a distant murmur, devoid of life. He pitied them. They refused to acknowledge that in this isolated place, their lives were worth nothing. They would be sacrificed for the sins they had not committed themselves—their wrong names and their origin.
TO BE CONTINUED