The blinding lights of the bullet from the soldier’s bayoneted rifle knocked me out of consciousness and, my face dropping on the wet asphalt thinly covered by falling snow, I could instantly taste the blood dripping from my head to my mouth and then my ears registered the second blast that hit Majid in the eye killing him instantly.
A moment earlier we were writing a silly graffiti on the school’s wall, long live live Pars Team, zendeh bad Pars, taking the risk of getting caught by the soldiers enforcing the curfew, or not thinking about it at all, this after Majid questioned my bravery while we were playing cards and I made a bet on his playboy magazine that I could do it, sneaking out at midnight with an orange chalk in my hand, convinced that it was absolutely safe to venture out three blocks, with all the lights in the neighborhood out.
A distant thunder of machine gun fire froze my steps a block away and I turned around in a hurry and was confronted at the door by my older cousin smiling broadly for the money he was about to collect from me. “I told you you’re a chicken.” It was a most humiliating moment and I knew how to fight back – by throwing the insult at him. “You’re so brave, why don’t you do it?” Suddenly a thought crossed our minds, to do it together and then, without uttering a word to each other, we headed toward the school first in small steps and then running, almost racing each other and then, we got there and I broke the chalk into half and we started the writing on the wall, I was finished with my part, long live, and Majid was really taking his time with a huge Pars when all of a sudden we heard an army truck approaching in full speed and began running but the chasing vehicle was too fast for us and a mean-looking soldier on the passenger side yelled STOP, eest.
Scared to death, Majid and I were circled by a half a dozen of soldiers who jumped out of the back of the truck pointing their rifles at us, with our hands raised and our chalks, our veritable evidence of crime, still in our hands. Their leader, a heavy set, mean-looking officer smoking a cigarette stepped out last, crushed his cigarette and, as if bothered by the light snow, looked up and cursed under his lips before checking us out and then looking back at the school wall glaring at us from the distance.
“So what should we do with these little rats,” the officer asked rhetorically and then took quick steps toward us and asked our names and then where we lived. With tears in my eyes, I answered for both of us, seeing that Majid was too overwhelmed with fear, and, swallowing with difficulty, added, “agha please forgive us, we were just playing.” The officer’s loud “shut up” silenced me. “Playing? No, you were playing with fire. On your knees and keep your hands up.” We did. For a fleeting moment, I closed my eyes and wished it were all a nightmare, that I was hallucinating it all, that I would open my eyes and see that I was drowsing on the bed still playing cards with Majid, that I could pray for a miracle and get it granted by the almighty. “Let them go sarkar,” I heard one of the soldiers and half opening my eye saw that it was the driver. The officer looked at him and, reflecting for a moment, responded, “I would, but you know the orders for tonight, no exceptions. I have strict order against any one violating the curfew tonight.”
“These are just kids Sarkar, they didn’t know.”
The officer suddenly landed a powerful slap in the man’s face and began yelling at him, “kids? These little dogs, tooleh sagha, are counter-revolutionaries. We must set an example out of them. I have my orders, didn’t you hear? You want me to lose my badge, ha?” He then turned to the soldiers and ordered, “kill ‘em.”
We were both crying, wailing for mercy and I was now too scared to open my eyes, whispering a prayer in my head for God’s mercy, waiting for the bullets to pierce my body and end my life, and then I heard the officer’s voice again, “I said shoot.”
The soldiers, their fingers on their triggers, were not responding, I realized a second later and looking at them I could see the pain and anguish they were experiencing. “I will put you all before a firing squad if you disobey me, I said shoot.”
Again, the soldiers were not heeding the order and a couple of them simply lowered their rifles in a clear sign of refusal, a great refusal imposed by the call of their conscience over their duty. Unable to fathom rebellion in his ranks, the officer then suddenly changed his mind and said, “alright, if that is the case, let’s take them in” and, yet, he had not finished his sentence when a call came in from the truck’s radio. The officer took the call and came back a minute later, with Majid and I now having a sigh of relief still mixed with pounding fear, and he told his men, “that was the general, sepahbod. The orders for tonight, and tonight only, are clear cut. No exceptions.”