Student or Learner
Would you please correct my mistakes in the eight part of my short story?
Although I had not eaten anything or slept since I arrived here, I did not feel hunger or fatigue. My mind was reeling with memories, and I tried to find an incident when I had quarrelled with a Serb in the past, but I could not remember such a moment. I had never insulted anyone, never come into conflict with anyone, and never said anything bad about Serbs, but the more I tried to assure myself of my innocence, the more an irrational fear grew inside me. What if someone had whispered lies about me in Zoran’s ear? Someone might have coveted our house and our beautiful orchard, and the easiest way to get it would be to eliminate me. These thoughts made me almost psychotic, and in one moment, I wanted to run towards the machine-gun nest and be killed to make an end to my fear.
The evening was quiet and the sky sparkled with stars. The silence was unearthly, shattered occasionally by few gunshots in the distance. Although the road was close to the factory, not a single vehicle passed by. It was hot inside, and I was glad I sat near the entrance and could breathe in the fresh air. Our guards sat in silence, the red glows of their cigarettes burning in the darkness. They seemed to be apathetic, probably wishing to return to their homes and families as soon as possible. It could not have been enjoyable to guard their former workmates, acquaintances and neighbours. Despite the campaign of hatred and propaganda against Bosniaks and Croats, they might have preserved at least a bit of sanity, which would remind them of the peaceful coexistence they had with the other two nations just a few weeks before.
People around me slept deeply, as if they didn’t have a care in the world, but I could not get a wink of sleep. I thought of Zoran and his threat. Time passed slowly, and as the evening turned into night, I hoped he had forgotten his promise. But after midnight, the silver metallic BMW pulled up in front of the main gate, its brakes screeching through the night. Four soldiers jumped out and strode to the courtyard. They all wore red berets on their heads, and instead of weapons, they carried baseball bats. Zoran was in his dress uniform, his sword sparkling under the moonlight. He stood with his legs wide apart and yelled, “Listen carefully! When I call your name, get up, run to the courtyard and stand to attention.” He took a piece of paper from his pocket and read the first name. I heard commotion on the other side of the wall, and then an old, stooped man came out, his frail body shuffling on the courtyard. “Get a move on, Anto!” Zoran growled, but the old man for some reason was unable to walk faster. The second name belonged to a man from our hall. He stood up in darkness for a second or two and rushed outside. Zoran yelled the third name, but nobody stood up. “If you don’t come up, I’m going to shoot you all!” he yelled. Some people urged that poor wretch to get up. “He is mad, he’ll kill us all. Please go out.” After a short moment of hesitation, a young man got up and ran outside. More names were called, and then seven men stood in line while Zoran paced around, sizing up each of them, and tapping his bat against his palm.
He ordered the old man to step forward. “Where are your sons, Anto?” he shouted.
Anto answered in a shaky, plaintive voice, “I don’t know. They don’t live with me anyway.”
“They’re not with us,” Zoran said, the bat in his hand swinging like a pendulum. “They’re on the other side, with our enemies.”
Suddenly, the bat in his hand flashed and hit Anto’s head. The old man slumped down with a moan like a sack of potatoes.
“Get up!” Zoran ordered. “On your knees and pray!”
Anto did as ordered. He kneeled with the palms of his hands pressed together in front of him, looking up at the starlit sky and God who had abandoned him. Zoran’s companions turned on him as if on cue, their blows and kicks reducing him to a lifeless heap. They swore and shouted insults and seemed to be enjoying beating the old man, who could have been their grandfather. When Anto’s body did not give any signs of life, the soldiers turned on the others who were standing to attention. They pulled at their hair, slapped them on the face, punched them in the stomach, and hit them on the body. But they did not want to finish them off quickly, instead the torture went on for hours. My body shook with fear. Tears run down my face. Anger and exasperation grew inside me. I wished I could muster up courage and go and hit Zoran at least once in the face, and then be killed with my dignity intact. “Where is the USA now?” He shouted and guffawed. “Where is NATO and Europe?” As an answer, he received howls and moans from the victims in pain. When the first light of dawn appeared, the torturers called it a day. Zoran ordered the prisoners to return to halls. With their heads bent, their shambled and tottered inside and lay down without a word. Anto was unable to move and was carried by two other men inside.
Just when I thought that our tormentors would finally leave, Zoran strode inside the hall. “I need four volunteers to clean up the courtyard,” he said. His eyes swept over the prisoners, but nobody stood up. People did not trust the man with the black fingerless gloves and a baseball bat.
He turned in my direction and pointed the bat at me. “You.” he said. I shot up, but felt my legs buckling under me. He pointed the bat at Omar and three other men and ordered us to walk to the spot where he had just a few minutes before tortured people. The guards gave us brooms, brushes, plastic bags and buckets with water. The scene turned my stomach. Tufts of hair lay in the puddles of blood. A few teeth were scattered on the ground. Pieces of torn clothing and torn-off buttons covered with blood lay spread around – the silent witnesses of the horror that went on for hours.
TO BE CONTINUED