Short tale: The Photos

[Music of Mozart’s Requiem starts]

Rows of photos. Pictures of people.

Sometimes I focus on a person. Just because he has a patch on his face. Or because the look on her face is unusually intent. Every picture is moving. Behind every picture there was a life. Behind every picture there was the same ending.

I am in a prison museum. This place once kept around 1,500 people at a time. Some 20,000 people were here. Only 7 survived.

After they were transported here, their picture was taken. Sitting on a special device, to keep their head up. A sort of pin sticking in the back of their head.
They carried a number round their neck. Sometimes you can see they had been interrogated already.

After the picture was taken, they were stripped to their shorts. And got to sleep with a 100 people in a cell , spoonwise. No permission to turn your head unless asked. For every whisper or movement there was a flogging. Then there were the interrogations. 24 hours a day. The interrogators took four hour shifts. The ones interrogated took longer shifts.

Many many pictures. Also of young children. A mother with her baby. One white guy.

None of them seemed to look scared. Didn’t they know what lay ahead of them? Or did they accept the inevitable? None of them looked angry or defiant. Were they apathic, could they not think anymore? Most of them looked relaxed, a bit sad at most.
I felt a lump inside my stomach.

What were they thinking?

That is what I think when I am sitting here. It was so long ago, and still these faces and these rooms haunt me. The torture rooms where they kept a steel bed without a mattress. In some an unfocused greyish picture of how they found the last ones, when they ‘liberated’ the place. The tiles were a warm yellow. As were the walls. The rooms were spacious. The windows looked out over packed balconies and busy alleys, you can hear people chat and children laugh. Tree branches wave in the wind. Why then this chill up your spine. Because it is clear what happened. No need for the music. No need for special effects. True teeth clenching mind blowing horror in your face. Knowing this was then, but probably happening as you are standing there somewhere in some remote or less remote part of the world.

Every 10 seconds a baby is born, every 9 seconds a person dies. How many seconds before another person takes some torturing?

The leg of the chair cuts inside my calf. I squint. I try to move my butt but my arms are too tightly wrapped around the back of the chair.

They said they would take my picture first. I wish I could get some water. And a smoke, although I do not smoke.

Sometimes a dry wind brushes my face. I feel drops of sweat run down the the back of my calves. At least they let the window, barred, open. At least I get to sit in a chair.

Oh, there they are.

I do not understand what they are saying. Their faces are not that unfriendly. A bit detached maybe. One carries a camera and points it at me.

I look straight into the lens and try to keep my chin up.

[Music fades away]

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