Saturday, 30 July 2011

An Awkward Death

I was a prisoner in a prisoner of war camp. It was halfway between The Great Escape and The Sound of Music. We were in the mountains, and it was grassy and sunny and a little cool, and we were herded through barbed wire compounds. I had been here a while. The guards were all generic - faceless to me - but there were two officers whom we feared. There was Officer Kelly. Some new guy sniggered when I spoke his name, and I wondered if there was an Officer Kelly in a movie. But I was trying to warn this guy. Officer Kelly strode before us. He was earnest and intense, and he could not stand still for more than a couple of seconds at a time. He would keep a distance from you and lean forward, and his eyes would open really wide. He never smiled. He was the torturer guy; he would extract information with the greatest ease. I don't know what he was talking to us about - I think because I was too terrified to listen. My whole body was definitely shaking.
He stood before a woman who wore a headscarf and he ordered her to approach him. She stepped forward. He yelled at her and told her she could only approach him from the valley at the bottom of our mountain peak. I left pov and entered omniscience and watched from the opposite side of the valley as the guards pushed her from the camp, and she hurried down the grassy slope to the valley, and she was struggling for breath, and then she climbed back as fast as she could, holding the hem of her skirt.

Officer Kelly marched off, and I wandered into this stone guard house which was a bare room with a door at either end and an antique wooden desk to one side. I think an officer lived here, in a small but luxurious room just through a door behind the desk. I think I could hear music playing on a gramophone. We didn't fear her so much. She was in her fifties and had red hair. Her face was much like Officer Kelly's: it perpetually scowled and the cheekbones were pronounced and the skin tight and heavily dimpled and the nose hooked and sharp. Her son worked at the desk when she took breaks. He was about seven. He wore oversized, round-framed glasses and looked a little goofy. He sat reading his comic. I think he might have been a mute. His mother ushered us outside, waving a Luger.

In another room, an American officer had just arrived. He had been made to stand with his back to a wall. I think he had been there a while. He was dirty and a little bloodied. He had fair hair and a fair moustache, and he smiled at me. In that instant, I felt I knew what women looked for in a man. He made me feel safe. All that terror which I lived inexorably with vanished. Well, just for a moment. I told him he was going to be tortured and he didn't seem to mind. He smiled more. I liked him.

Officer Kelly came and shouted at me to come with him. Immediately, we were in a pitch black room, illuminated by a single cone-shaded lightbulb. He would walk into the light and then back into darkness. I said I would tell him anything, and that I knew lots of useful things. The smallest spark of courage fired inside me and I amended my statement to... I know a few useful things.

Then we were outside. The sky was wide and blue, and we sat twenty abreast at field tables eating and chatting. I was relieved that my interrogation had not been physically painful. The red-haired female officer came and shouted at us about something and she fired her pistol a few times.

I was on the floor, and I don't know how I got there. I could see people's legs like a tunnel in the shade beneath the table, and I could hear the female officer talking still but her voice was muffled and I was lying a bit and sitting a bit, and I shifted my weight to one arm, to my elbow, and felt the back of my head and ran my finger over the soft lip of the hole and pushed my finger gingerly into the hole. My first reaction was annoyance: I was annoyed that she had taken my - I thought about it a bit - my future. I spat the F word. Then I realised I didn't want my last word to be a swear word, and was going to say something else, but was too confused to think of anything else and a black vignette was filling my vision and some female prisoner looked under the table at me in horror and I tried to smile at her like the American officer had smiled at me. I don't think I replicated it very well, but I don't know because I was clumsy and then I was dead and I knew as I scurried from my bed to the computer in my pants that I could demonstrate the clumsiness and the stupidity of my death by not ending with I was dead or use any punctuation marks in the last line or even pause between dream and reality because I could really use a coffee and I am flipping between tenses across thoughts as I desire and that is better to create the clumsiness of the death and what I think of as controlled madness which was what it felt like. But then I wondered if everyone tries to smile at the end.

And for those with a fancy for a refresher, here's the distinction between who and whom.Link

8 comments:

esruel said...

A funny thing, solvey, but, just like brackets, I try to avoid the use of 'whom' altogether. Just a quirk of mine. I do feel that so many people can't decide on the distinction, causing the use of 'whom' to almost become redundant. The word seems (to me) out of place in just about any sentence in which it appears. In my proofreading days, I moved words around to fit the sense of the thought, as opposed to what was the object/subject.
Dr Whom? lol

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shobhana said...

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esruel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
esruel said...

I agree entirely, Shobhana. One could spend all day here, educating oneself. An Aladdin's cave of information.
Erm, Shobhana, ahem, er, what about my comments? Any good? :-)

solv said...

:D
Well, thankee Mister Es for the vote of confidence. Although I suspect that Ms Shobhana has posted the exact same comment across a multitude of blogs, none of which she has any interest in.
And thanks for holding the fort during my hiatus. I'm on my way back...

esruel said...

lol Would have been a shock if shobhana had replied in bot language! Who would have been monitoring and why, who for etc. You have a significant blog, otherwise why would they come here...