The rhythmic sound of our black combat boots colliding with the floor echoed onto the deserted streets. It was the only sound that could be heard. Not to forget the screeching of the bullets bursting out of our guns at incredible speed and the sound of bombs smacking into innocent people’s homes. All I wanted to do was focus on the calming rhythm of our footsteps and observe the dust particles’ upsurge from the ground into the hot and humid air with every stride we took, and pretend. Pretend that none of this was going on. My eyes travelled up to the sky and saw nothing. I wanted nothing.
I could feel my heart-rate accelerate and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end at the sound of the metallic voice.
Mehmet, my partner, had the tip of his blindingly shining AK-47 pointing at a young woman. Her delicate, pale arms wrapped around what seemed to be a swelling stomach in protection. Her glassy grey eyes grew wide with fear at the sight of us, her gazelle body cowering away from us. Mehmet looked furious; his lips were thin and pale, set into a permanent scowl.
“Çfarë vend jeni?” he spat out in pure venom. The young woman made no move to respond. She stood silent and scared. Even though he had a strong accent, he spoke very well in Albanian considering he came from Ankara, Turkey. I grabbed his head and forced him to stare me in the eyes “Mehmet, Sakin ol!” I mumbled in Turkish, keep calm, I said. “The answer to your question is Kosova, she is from Kosova, can you not tell from the necklace she is wearing? The two-headed eagle and the way the headscarf is wrapped?”
“Don’t tell me to relax, and she is not a Kosovare, she is a witch!”
I was blown away by his ruthlessness. How could anyone be so thoughtless and uncaring? I felt the blood in my veins sizzle. A sudden realisation. This man was not well and wasn’t capable of controlling himself.
My eyes darted to meet the terrified woman’s and I begged her. I begged her with my eyes to get away from him as fast as she could. But like me, she was stuck; her feet were firmly fixed onto the ground beneath us. I took in her figure, her face…like a baby’s, she seemed very innocent. Lost. So scared. Her eyes seemed unfocused, dilated, her round face scrunched up trying to hide her tears. Proud. She reminded me of my wife, Saranda, the day I had left her. I only have faint memories of my past, the severe blood loss I suffered a few weeks ago left me unconscious for almost two months.
“You don’t have to do this, you don’t have to go. Please, we can run away. Nuk kam deshiré qe ti té vdes!” Her sobs echoed around the empty halls of what I called home and what other people will call a dump.
“Zemer, I won’t die I will be back shortly it’s only for a few months” My hands reached out in front of me and rubbed her bloated belly, “And when I come back Baby boy will be here too, waiting for me.” I dropped onto my knees and placed a tender kiss where I thought Baby might be.
She sniffed, her small nose wrinkling up as she did so and stifled a giggle “You mean Baby Girl,”
Mehmet brought out a piece of rope from the back pocket of his army pants and swung it around the air in victory. A sadistic silky laugh slipped from his mouth which sent me off the edge.
Why was he laughing?
“You will do more than scream my darling,” He sounded so pleased to say these words and his smile stretched out so far I was afraid his cheeks would tear open that it made my heart-rate escalate and goose bumps raise from my dark skin. Her eyes watered and squinted, every so often, darting to meet my own. Mehmet’s fingers were viciously digging into her flesh. He pushed her roughly against the bark of a tree and held out one end of the rope to the young woman waiting her to take hold of it, and she did, with trembling hands.
He ran around the tree bark and the young woman, and he laughed, and laughed as if it were a game, whilst the young woman cried and shrieked because she knew.
She knew her life would soon be over.
Her arms were still protectively wrapped around her stomach, as if somehow they would create a barrier from him or from death. Tears fell freely whilst her body jerked as she sobbed. I didn’t understand why she would not speak. I didn’t understand why I could not speak.
Mehmet walked up to the young woman and tenderly stroked her face, and kissed her tears away whilst whispering, “There is no need to fear me.” It was clear to me that purpose was to make her body quiver with fright. It was working, too because I felt my own fingers shake uncontrollably at his sickly sweet smile. His left hand roamed around her body, occasionally lingering around her sexual organs. He would forcefully squeeze those areas, and when he did, the young woman groaned in pain. The sound of her in pain seemed to satisfy him because he sighed in utter pleasure -leaving me paralysed. It was as if my mind and body were not working together because as much as I tired to move…It was impossible.
“And don’t forget to send me a letter every week or I will go crazy out there.” A tear leaked out of my eye as I turned around and slowly made my way to the coach that will be taking us to Serbia to fight. “Te dua Saranda, and make sure you tell Baby boy that I love him too and can’t wait to see him,” with those words I turned my head to glance for the final time at the woman I would return to, she will be the same next time I see her, except she will have our baby in her arms. Our baby, I cannot wait. Our baby is what will be keeping me alive.
“Love you too, zemer,” Her voice distant sounded and far away.
Clenching her fists, tensing her whole body and emitting an agonising cry for help, like a small deer captured by a lion. The woman’s voice shrilled, bringing my attention back to the present.
The sky, a smoky grey blanket, suffocated the surroundings as a swarm of ravens flew around above our heads. The deafening silent night drowned out all the sounds in the atmosphere. Except the only sound to be heard was the strangled noise of the woman’s cry through the smothering rain. I was aware of everything around me, yet, I couldn’t make sense of anything. My vision before me was blurred yet, the sight before me was so vivid. As soon as I focused my attention on what was really going on, I wished I could go back to my thoughts.
“STOP LAUGHING!” I bellowed, finally taking action. Late. My heart was beating rapidly and my whole body trembled with fear, the blood in my veins boiled with fury.
My legs buckled under me as I ran to the young woman. She was still screaming, screaming from the open wounds, her arms still clutched around her stomach revealing a volcanic mess of something that should never be seen. Her flesh. Wet and dripping with blood like a freshly cut pomegranate. Her hands frantically scattered around her body in search for her baby, lingering over her belly where she would clutch her skin and tug hard, as if it would somehow bring her baby back to where it belonged.
I felt bile rise up to my throat and tears threatening to spill, sobs wracked through my body. I took her tear stained face in my hands and whispered soothing words into her ear, trying to calm her over and make her pain simmer whilst her crimson ribbon-like red blood flowed out of her body uncontrollably. My hands scattered around aimlessly, searching for a way to make her death less agonizing. Death. All my life death has been cursed upon, but now I praise it. And wish for it. I cursed at myself. Why wasn’t I able to help her earlier? What man would allow this to happen?! My face burned with fury at myself.
“Why didn’t you stop him? Why did you let him kill our baby?” She cried before her body sagged in my arms and her glossy eyes, wet with tears, closed for the final time, allowing a tear to travel down her cold skin slowly and drop onto the dirty, bloody ground.
And in a way, it was our baby.