Prisoners of War
Benjamin Belew / Sakagch Akeala
An elderly lady sitting in the couch chair set her tea cup into the saucer on the small desk next to her. Her room was modest and contemporary with a window showing trees that were going bare.
“So Manam…. Manam. I’m saying it wrong.”
A younger woman seemingly in her twenties sitting across on a bed replies as she continues to type into a laptop next to her. The lady continues.
“Right, sorry. Did you get everything?”
“Just about. Hold on one moment. I need to save… here.”
She spoke with an accent, looking at the computer screen, finishing her work.
The lady spoke.
“It was quite pleasant, Mana-mi. I don’t know if I had gone on with another interview if you weren’t a student.”
She too had an accent; a different one than Manami’s. Manami spoke.
“Oh… umm… I’m not. But I’m just starting. Well I have for a while… but still trying.”
“So a student basically.”
Manami hit a key on the keyboard.
“We covered your story, the accounts from the start of the invasion all the way to you…”
She looked up.
“… moving to the U.S. Oh, and it’s…”
She looked into the computer screen again.
“ … N, A, D, ‘Y’… A.”
Nadya replied. She looked at Manami, who was typing something into the laptop again. Nadya continued.
“So you studied journalism in college.”
“Move here for school?”
Nadya took her tea cup again to drink from it. Manami scrolled to a section on the screen on her laptop before looking up at Nadya again.
“May I ask one last question?”
“I’ve researched a lot, and found this account of a man; a member of the so called Resistance that was one of the victims who made contact with you during your imprisonment.”
Nadya looks at Manami intently, teacup in hand. Manami continues.
“He gave you important information about the coup before he was executed. You were kept alive because you didn’t give that information away. That’s why you were tortured during your imprisonment.”
Nadya looks at Manami suspiciously. She asks.
“Is this accurate?”
“You are a good student.”
Manami preps her self and continues.
“I don’t want you to go through any more memories of violence. But is it possible to share what he said? Did it have to do with any political directives that was part of the counter attack that led afterwards?
Nadya puts the teacup down again.
“It’s a secret.”
“Everyone of them asks me about him.”
“But, but then, so you know this man?”
Nadya takes time.
“Can you share anything, about him?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Why? Have you ever share it to anyone?”
“Even your family?”
“It is a secret.”
“But there might be something we can learn from it. I mean, the world. That war has ended a long time ago. It’s been decades.”
Nadya was silent.
“Well, do you think there is anything for us to know?”
Nadya stays silent. Manami insists.
“Can you at least tell me that?”
“You tell me.”
“I don’t know what he told you.”
“This man, I knew him well. We were captured together because we were running together.”
“Who was this man?”
“He was someone… important.”
As Nadys starts to recall, Manami instinctively picks her phone up into her hands. It was still recording the audio.
“Someone that I needed especially when there were things to endure… difficult things, like Evil. But after they caught us, we were forced into separate camps. And after 6 months of days of warcrime, I was taken to a field with the other women. See, We were all suspects of conspiracies, passing information, as a type of resistance organization.”
Manami listened intently. Nadya continues.
“Anyone suspicious was mercilessly killed. So when they took my blinds off me, what surprised me wasn’t that we were out in the fields to be executed, but that I saw him there. Yes, the man. He was in another group of men, ready to be killed as well. He looked awful, and dying. I did too. But I couldn’t keep my eyes on him, because they made us, the women sit on the ground, and started shooting the men one by one. The sounds of the gunshots made me blink every time. I wasn’t sure if he noticed me, but I tried to look at him, and get his attention. Then after one loud gun shot, I opened my eyes and I saw him coming towards me. It was quick, and I think they, the guards didn’t notice it at first. They were looking at the next man being ready to be shot. Anyway, he comes to me and I instinctively stand up. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. Maybe because I didn’t want to miss whatever was going to happen in front of me. You know, with tears getting in the way. He came right up to me. We both had our hands tied so we couldn’t hug or anything, but our bodies met, and he put his cheek next to mine and whispered into my ear.”
Nadya clears her throat.
“Then the guards took him away, dragging him. They hit me and I fell on the ground. I tried to get up, but they kept on hitting me. I saw glimpses of him being taken away, and then I heard a gun shot. I could hardly open my eyes because they were still hitting me. But I saw it. Him falling on the ground. Dead.”
A gust of wind outside hits the window.
“As I was getting beaten, I heard more gun shots. Many. They shot all the rest of the men and the women. But they didn’t take me as you know. I didn’t know at first, but after they started to torture me, I understood why they didn’t. They wanted to know what he told me. The torturing got worse every day. I think they were desperate. Looking back, I can see why. It wasn’t only the Resistance, but others, you know from outside were intervening. And I was saved. Rescued.”
Manami speaks cautiously.
“And you kept quiet the whole time.”
“I’m sorry to hear your loss. That must’ve been unimaginable.”
“Another month passed until the invasions ceased.”
“So you never had to share this information.”
“Well, I guess it’s a good thing then. Thank you for telling me your experience.”
Manami tries to smile. Nadya continues.
“I’ve never shared it, because what he said to me was meant for the two of us only.”
Manami looks at Nadya questionably. Nadya speaks.
“You see, he was not in the Resistance. He and I were lovers. We lived together before any of this happened. That day, when both of us were going to die, he came and said to me;
‘You look beautiful.’
He used to tell me that everyday.”
Manami sits quietly before remembering her phone in her hand. She stops the recording.
“I can omit that.”
“It’s up to you.”
Nadya replies to the young journalist and looks out the window. Another leaf was slowly descending the cool air.