For Our Souls
This is my final fit,
my final bellyache.
I was released on a grey November day. My face ached of freedom; my hair slapped my half-closed eyes in the chilly wind. I had nearly lost track of time; I guess that’s what you get after you’ve been held captive for at least four years. That was what I made it. In reality, it had been over six years and two months.
Never had I wanted to take part in any acts of terrorism whatsoever. But I had become involved with the wrong people, gone to the wrong places, wound up trying to infiltrate the armed corps where the bad guys gathered. Bad guys, according to the extreme ideals of those I had mingled with. I had got caught red-handed planting a bomb in an old brewery, which was one of our enemies’ meeting places.
I had been beaten and battered; kicked in the side, punched in the face. Tortured days on end and made to confess whatever little I knew about the wing I belonged to. I was a pigeon; not much I could add to the lot my captors already knew. I had been partly brainwashed, stripped of my integrity, made a slave to their most sadistic whims. I had become a puppet, a servant, a dummy.
I had nearly lost interest in being released; all hope of getting my old life back. I had been half-alive, sleeping on the floor, blinded by pain. As time elapsed, they began pitying me, or so I gather. Atrocities became few and far between. Until one fine day they could no longer find any pleasure in keeping me, and decided to fling me out of a racing van in the outskirts of my hometown.
I hobbled my long and painful way back home across the far-east neighbourhoods, wandering about amidst people who would not look me in the face; along the walls of the old town, where I used to go with childhood friends. My friends must have all settled down, I thought to myself. It all seemed so close, yet so distant. As if I no longer belonged there.
By the time I got to my grandparents’ house, the street seemed deserted. It was about mid-morning, or shortly beforenoon. I felt neither cold nor hungry anymore; I climbed the front fence with great difficulty, went up the side stairs, forced my bedroom window open. It was as rickety as usual, only what I saw as I got in had greatly changed. It was as if a shrine had been erected on my disappearance. All dead silent and dead untouched; every picture of me stuck on the wall over my desk, and the desk itself crammed with countless dusty newspaper clippings. The police had been looking for me after I was reported missing. They had thought me dead, or escaped, or both, and ceased the search.
The grief must have been too much, unbearable for my grandmother to take. As I looked around the house, I peeped into her room and saw the heavy sandalwood rosary, which had always hung on the headboard, stretched along her bed, covered in dust and a delicate film of cobweb from the now-greyish sheets down to the legs of the bed. I felt responsible for her death.
Beside her bed was another one, undone, which was my grandfather’s. I gathered he must be at work, or out to see someone, I could not tell after those years gone by, and left the room to continue inspecting the old house. I went to the living-room, and instinctively locked the front door.
I had only been there about ten minutes, when I heard a knock on the door. I thought it must be the milkman or something like that. So, I went to the door and opened it and there was a man; he said, “What are you doing here?” It was a very old man, looking worn out and tired of living on memories; it was my grandfather. His dark eyes, deep-set in his sallow face and void of any tears after years weeping over his lost family, filled with confused tears. They were the saddest ones I had seen in my whole life. He had the look of disbelief, a look of irritated wonder, almost, hovering over his old and tired visage.
He shook, coughed, and collapsed. No other sign, no warning. I gathered he must be having a heart attack; his old pump could take no more. I did some CPR on his weak chest, at the time I cried “Breathe, keep breathing. I can’t do this alone!” I was back home, alone by his side, and I was losing the only thing I had left in life. I held him close to me and prayed “Don’t die on me now!”
He stopped crying. His heart stopped beating frantically; it stopped for good.
This is not a story of myself. This is a story of loss and solitude. I was released on November 11, 1988; six days before today. I have been trying to find a reason to live ever since. I have not. Whoever finds this letter will be shocked and disgusted at the sight of my dead body lying beside my grandfather’s rotting corpse. That will be my final evil deed to the world; the last bit of pain I will cause. I beg whoever finds this forgiveness, and the will to see to our burial. And a prayer for our souls.