“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” William Shakespeare
Inside the Occupied Slovakian Republic
His strength wouldn’t carry him very far at a time, but still he ran. The underbrush caught at his already torn pants, ripping new holes in the thin fabric and tearing at his diseased skin. But at that point, he didn’t care. He had tasted freedom for the first time in years and it washed over him like a wave at high tide. But even the increased adrenaline didn’t help him move much further than a hundred meters before being so out of breath he was forced to stop and catch his breath by leaning on a large tree. But he knew he needed to keep moving and walked forward at even a slower pace. He was barely a shell of the man who started out his journey some years before. Originally overweight and out of shape, the only reason he had lasted this long was the fat he carried around for many years. And even then, it only helped him somewhat.
A noise to his rear spurned him on. Voices carried through the forest; searching him out and ringing in his ears as loudly as a gunshot. At least they didn’t have dogs looking for him, but he thought he heard one of them as well. He took off at a jog once again and continued running west and towards supposed safety. If he remembered correctly, there was a town nearby where he might seek shelter and relative safety. But safety meant many things to many people.
A root from a tree tripped him up and he fell face first into the mud. The cold mess stuck to his tattered clothing and his face, but he thought it might help conceal him. However, the yellow jumpsuit he had on was a clear indication to his location and even at night would show up very well against the dark background of Eastern Europe. He picked himself up once again and went forward, ever forward.
The dog was heard louder now. An attack dog. The same dogs the guards used to sic on the prisoners of the camp and cheered them on as they tore a man to shreds. Sometimes as an example to the other prisoners even remotely thinking of defiance, sometimes just because they could. The dog was heard barking and straining at the leash as he caught the scent of the man and continued to lead the search party towards him. But he would not give up that easily. He looked around for a place to hide, but knew the dog would find him easily no matter where he was hiding. So he continued to run as fast as he could.
But the guards were in far better shape than he was. Daily physical training kept them in decent shape and they weren’t that far from the camp anyway. The dog caught a stronger scent and moved the pursuers in a different direction towards the path of the man. They stopped very briefly at the spot where he had fallen in the mud before continuing on the “path” the dog could smell rather than see. They ran a little faster knowing victory was within their grasp.
A fleeting glimpse of the yellow suit was seen and a shot rang out along with an order in Arabic. These guards had been brought in special from the former nation of Syria to run the camp and their regional dialect showed in their speech. The shot didn’t hit the man and he ran slightly faster. Considering slipping the dog off the leash, the handler decided not to and the guards ran a little faster to catch their prey. It wasn’t as much of a chase as it was just catching up to the man. Eventually they got close enough to have a decent shot and engage the running form.
The man was hit once in the shoulder by the AK fire from the guard and fell to the ground once again. He knew he was at his end. He could run no further. But he also knew he could at least stand one final time. There was a remote possibility of them sending the dog to end their work and save another bullet, but even then, he would die on his feet. He stood and watched as the guards came closer. But even at the end he would resist. He was not going back to the camp, no matter what. He would resist and force them to kill him. Better to die out here than to go back to the camp where I will eventually die anyway, just slower, he thought as he watched the four approach him with a look of hatred on his face.
“Where did you think you were going?” asked the leader in Arabic. The man didn’t understand it, even after being around the language for three years. “Did you think you would escape?”
The second man walked up and smashed at his ribs with the plastic folding stock of the AKM. In his weakened state, the man crumpled to the ground. But he knew they would only take him back to the camp to die slowly. He strained to stand once again and was rewarded with another hit to the head. It almost knocked him out entirely, but he managed to remain conscious throughout the affair. He was feeling the strength slip away from his body. His mind became cloudy, but a strange primordial thought rang through his head. A thought of boldness. A thought of freedom. A final thought of defiance to his captors. A final thought to stand up and face them like a man. He attempted to stand only to fall over to the laughing of the guards. But strength returned to his limbs for one final time. He managed to grab hold of a nearby branch and pull himself up. The thorns picked at his skin and blood flowed freely from his palm. He wobbled unsteadily, but he was standing once again.
He was feeling weak, but strong and alive at the same moment. Feelings of his impending doom shot through his body. But he also knew that with increased resistance, his death would come quicker. He shot the guards a look of anger and direct hostility in hopes they would end his life sooner rather than later. Some would call his actions suicidal, but he knew it was something to be discussed with God later on and he was sure He would understand.
“I may die here, but I will die free!” said the man very proudly in Slovakian as he straightened up. Strangely the pain from the gunshot wound didn’t hurt any more. Whether from shock or just from knowing his death was impending he wasn’t sure. But there was no pain in standing tall. But the guards had other plans.
The leader of the group had enough of the situation and walked forward while pulling his Glock copy pistol from the holster flapping at his waist. He strode up to the weakened man, cocky and sure of himself and pointed the muzzle right between his eyes. The former prisoner’s expression never changed from what he was still feeling even as his body was beginning to die.
“Infidel pig,” said the leader as he pulled the trigger to the rear and the striker engaged. He wasn’t close enough to be covered by the blood spatter coming from the man, but was close enough to see the wreckage of the bullet immediately after. “Let’s go. It is cold out here and we have wasted enough time on this garbage.”
“What of him?” asked a second guard and motioned with his head towards the now dead prisoner.
“Leave him to rot,” said the leader as he paused for a moment. Typically they brought the prisoners back and left them in the middle of the camp for several days as an example to the others about resistance and escape. But this time, they decided not to. There would be little need to in two weeks as the camp population would no longer need that kind of encouragement. They had orders in hand and only needed another supply shipment before taking care of that problem and moving on to another camp.
As they turned to leave, the dog turned back and strained at the leash. He was intent on something in the general area of the man and the handler pulled at his chain. The dog was still intently looking at the area where the man was lying and around the woods. It sensed something in the local area, but its brain could not determine what it was. The handler looked at the area and could only see the dead man lying in the moonlight, his night vision ruined by the flashlights they had on earlier. He snapped at the chain and pulled the dog away from the area.
The dog looked once more before taking his position beside the handler and going back to camp. He stopped once and looked back, much to the annoyance of the handler. “Let’s go crazy dog,” he said and tugged at the leash once again.
What he didn’t know, but the dog sensed, was danger lurked in the woods nearby. As the guard team departed, two sets of eyes watched intently from a nearby clump of trees. It had tried to “tell” the handler by changing its normal behavior, but he was new and didn’t know what the dog was alerting him to yet. The eyes continued to watch with rage as the four Islamic Union troops walked away, wishing for the world they could have stopped the madness to their front.
Soon, very soon, they would have their time.
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