.The warm, musty air made the young man sleepy, and he rolled his jacket and put it under his head. He drifted off to sleep quickly and had a beautiful dream. Jasmine woke up in her bed in the middle of the night beside her husband, of whom hardly his head was visible under the duvet. He was snoring noisily. The full moon peeked though the slits of the Venetian blind. Jasmine slid out from under the duvet, opened the front door and barefoot went outside. She walked noiselessly on the wet streets, through the steam rising from the asphalt. Her flowing hair and
whitelight, white pyjamas billowed in the breeze. The streets were empty; not a sound disturbed the silence of the night. When she reached a meadow, she started to dance, her dainty feet as light as a gazelle's. She twirled and whirled in the dew, which sparkled under the moonlight. Her movements mesmerized him, and he was close to holding her by her waist and dancing with her, when horrific screams chased awayshattered his wonderful dream.
Once he had watched pigs being slaughtered on TV, and their squeals and shrieks were ear piercing.
shattering.But these were the screams of a human being, right above his head. Heavy boots pounded the floor while their owners battered the victim. The man pleaded with them and appealed to their humanity, but that seemed to make them only more vicious. They cursed and laughed at the poor fellow while his voice reached a high pitch. Through the paneless windows, the moonlight shone across the room, revealing dozens of motionless bodies lying crammed together. Some of the men slept snoring away. How could they sleep so soundly while their fellow prisoner was being tortured in the cruelest way? How can human beings adapt to hell so quickly? He turned to Father to ask him these questions, and winced because Father’s body was shaking. He was lying on his back with his eyes closed, and he breathed heavily and erratically. His large body looked shrunken, as if the fear was devouring him from inside. The young man put his hand on his arm. “Father, are you all right?” HeFather opened his dark eyes and stared and him. “They’re worse than animals,” he whispered. “Who brought them up to behave in such a disgusting way? Who taught them to hate?” Father closed his eyes again and turned his head towards the ceiling. His arm still shook under the young man’s hand.
The blows and shrieks went on until dawn when the sudden silence was even more frightening. Soon the four men in camouflage uniforms and black berets ambled down the courtyard. They guffawed, shouted and patted each other on the shoulders. The young man sat on the
cartoncardboard and watched them walk through the entrance door, which was open all the time. They reminded him of a ganggroup of friends after they had spentan enjoyable night out, and werereturning home to sober up. They got into a red BMW and drove off at speed. With the first sunlight coming behind the hill, birds started to twitter and insects buzzed in the thickets. TheNature seemed to be saying, “You stupid humans, you’ll never learn your lesson. The sooner you exterminate each other, the better for other creatures.”
After a few days, the young man had learnt that not all the guards were killers and torturers. Among them
, theywere ordinary people who had no choice but to follow theorders or risk being imprisoned themselves. They hated the war and wanted it to end soon. before long.They pitied their neighbours who had been killed or expelled, and they wished for the old days to return. Sometimes they gave him a sardine tintin of sardines and a chunk of bread, which he shared with Father. They were all losing weight rapidly. Their meals consisted mostly of bread, watery bean soups, and boiled potatoes, which they devoured quickly under the watchful eyes of the guards, who would beat anyone who exceeded the prescribed two minutes for eating. The prisoners sat in the canteen and filled their empty stomachs in haste, while the guards circled above them like wasps, looking for their victims. The hot food burnt his mouth and oesophagus, and the young man wanted to pause for a second or two, but the burly guards brandishing their clubs and thick cables reminded him of what would happen if he did not hurry. Their perverted imagination and hatred seemed to feed on each other. They constantly dreamed up new ways to humiliate and hurt the prisoners.
TO BE CONTINUED
Student or Learner