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Extracts From The Diary of Dr JA Earnshawe (Part 10)




Heavens Gate, Phnom Penh, Cambodia Saturday 26th March 2005

The Bangkok Hilton was overbooked. Unaccountably, the management had decided that the problem was best solved by shooting their excess customers! Since I had only recently checked in, I had been sent to face the firing squad. Nevertheless, I was an Englishman and ready to maintain a stiff upper-lip as an example of fortitude to the other condemned men. My last words were taken from Charles Swift (A Tale of Two Tubs):

‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done. It is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.’

My prophetic speech was disturbed as I gradually became aware of several people surrounding and jostling me. Presumably, I was about to be tied to a post and blindfolded by a mob of guards. But then a familiar voice broke through the melee;

‘G’day Professor!’

‘Foreskin?’ I said, ‘Could it be really you? But…t…t – how long have you worked as an executioner here?’

‘I’ve got some good news mate. I’ve explained the misunderstandin’ to the warden here and he’s agreed to let the whole thing drop. You are a free man.’

‘Strewth,’ was the only response that would pass from my quivering lips. My eyes filled up with tears of joy. Saved at the eleventh hour! Foreskin and his compatriots – my colleagues Cummings and Walker – all my good old friends were here, embracing me and pumping my hands in theirs.

We indulged in a small celebration party before I returned to my Hotel. Taking care of the bill was the least I could do after my friends had met what I understood were rather considerable conditions for my release.

Afterwards, I repeated my gratitude and made my apologies, for I had to make a hasty departure for my reputable Hotel off the Sukhumvit Road. I just had time to shower and change my clothes in time to get down to the foyer for my most cardinal of appointments – one which I had despaired of ever being able to make – the first real date of my life; with a real woman!

I waited around for several minutes, but the only lady I observed was a rather old and large specimen, with an unfortunate complexion – not unlike a Thai version of my own sister Grissel. She smiled and waved towards me a few times and then beckoned me over to her.

Was my memory fading so badly? Surely this could not be Nok – the woman of my dreams?

‘Hello,’ she said, ‘my name Khan.’

‘How do you do?’ I said shaking her hand, ‘John Earnshawe. I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure.’

‘Not yet,’ she said, ‘but soon have.’

‘I beg your pardon?’ I said. ‘I’m sorry; I was expecting to be met by a lady by the name of Nok at this location.’

‘Ah! I know you come meet Nok,’ she said. ‘Nok speak to me about you. She go her home to water buffalo – him sick. I come in her place to give you pleasure.’

‘But where is her home?’ I asked. ‘I must find her quickly – I only have three more days left in Thailand.’

‘Her home in Nong Khai Province in village call Thabo. It on border of Laos.’

‘Thank you so much,’ I said, ‘how can I repay you? I’ll give you anything you ask.’

‘OK. You sleep with me – I have baby for you – you take care for me long time.’

‘I’m awfully sorry. My heart is intended for Nok – but it would give me great pleasure if you would do me the honour of accepting a small gift instead?’ I suggested, handing her a bundle of brown notes, which seemed to render her speechless, as she took them without comment before running off into the darkness.

I went back to my room and hastily threw a few clothes into my portmanteau and took a taxi immediately to the airport.

The airport information desk explained that the quickest way to the village was to take a flight to a place called Vientiane in Laos then travel back over The Friendship Bridge to the village by bus. As the flight to Vientiane was scheduled to leave soon, I rushed to the ticket desk to make my reservation.

‘Could I have an ova-lacto western vegetarian meal please?’

‘I don’t understand sir?’

‘You see my old friend Colonel Nicholson – who knows a thing or two about the East having spent many years as a prisoner to the Japanese – he recommended I should restrict myself to victuals of a vegetable origin until I became fully accustomed to the peculiar diet of the orient, although I am not really a vegetable person myself.’

‘Your name Colonel Nicholson sir? You are not on passenger list for this flight.’

No, my name is Earnshawe, Dr John Earnshawe. I want to buy a ticket. You probably have heard of Colonel Nicholson though – he helped build a bridge here when you let the Japs in before you declared war on us. I don’t mean The Friendship Bridge of course, that is an Australian construction over the Mekong – I mean a much smaller bridge over the Kwai – you must have seen the film?’

‘Sir I can’t presently name in-flight movie – first you tell me where you go.’

‘I’m going to find my future intended. She is the woman of my dreams. At first I thought she was a katoey but now I want to ask her father for her hand in marriage. She had to go home so we could not make bum-bum in the foyer of my hotel. You see – her water buffalo is very sick.’

‘You go Buffalo sir? You go fly USA?’

‘No, I must fly to Vientiane in Laos please.’

‘Thank you sir; you pay 3500 baht, departure gate number 6, second left and first right. You have 30 minutes before take off.’

What a fuss they always make at airports – why is it they can not just give a person a ticket? I hurried towards the departure gates, taking the first left and second right as instructed. I turned the handle and pushed open the door to find myself in a small dark cupboard surrounded by brooms, mops and cleaning fluids – in my haste I failed to stop quickly and I must have upset quite a few of the containers.

Immediately realising that the assistant at the check-in desk had made a mistake in her directions (how is it that they can not get even the smallest detail correct?), I turned back to the door only to find it had closed behind me – and not only that – there appeared to be no handle on the inside.

After banging frantically for several minutes I had a rest and sat down. The smell of the displaced ammonia and chlorinated cleaning fluids was quite strong. Fortunately, such powerful agents have little affect on my constitution having spent so long in school laboratories (where one or two of my demonstrations have been rather less successful than others) and I am quite immune to such vapours, and in fact, I quite enjoyed the nostalgia these odours invoked. I must have dozed off and really imagined I was back in England, vividly feeling the door pushing against me as Mr Egglestone, our laboratory technician, tried to enter.

‘Mr Egglestone!’ I remonstrated. ‘What is the meaning of interrupting my demonstration on the dangers of mixing ammonia and chlorine based disinfectants?’

I looked towards Mr Egglestone for an answer, when I suddenly realised it was not Mr Egglestone at all, but a little Thai man in yellow overalls. He looked rather angry:

‘Why you in cupboard?’

‘I’m awfully sorry,’ I said. ‘I mistook it for my school laboratory … I mean the departure lounge.’

In my embarrassment I hurried off back to check-in to confirm the directions. I went to the front of the queue and asked; ‘Did you say departure gate 6 is first right, second left?’

‘No sir, I said second right, first left.’

Nevertheless, I took first right, second left again anyway because, by then, I realised that my portmanteau remained in the cleaner’s cupboard. As I hurried on, I heard a distinctly French voice behind me.

‘Excuse me monsieur, do you happen to know the way to the departure gates?’

‘Why certainly, if you just follow me I am going there myself.’

‘Merci, I fear at any moment I miss my plane.’

‘I went this way first’ I explained, ‘into this door – until I realised my mistake,’ I said pointing at the cupboard which had confined me, but he was in a bit of a panic and did not seem to be listening to me.

‘It is this way?’ He asked hurrying on ahead of me and straight into the cupboard.’

‘Well, I thought it was too,’ I tried to tell him, ‘but as you can see it is only a broom cupboard.’ Suddenly the door slammed shut behind him before I could get inside it myself and retrieve my portmanteau.

‘A broom cupboard?’ I heard his muffled and agitated voice call from within. ‘Why did you lead me to a broom cupboard monsieur?’

‘I only came to collect my portmanteau,’ I said sharply, not a little nonplussed at his lack of gratitude. ‘I will take you directly to the departure gates now. You should be grateful that I am here to open the door for you. I was not so fortunate – and had to wait nearly thirty minutes for the cleaner to let me out – and he was none too pleased – I can tell you.’

I turned the handle of the door and pulled it sharply towards me. Would you believe it? It came straight off in my hand. Of course, with hindsight (the only really exact science) I realised I should have pushed the door after I turned the handle, not pulled.

I tried to explain all this to the French gentleman but he was still in no mood to listen – he just bellowed and cursed in very bad English, that he was dying from the fumes and he had to catch a plane and so on. Really, there is no excuse for such impatience, my portmanteau was also locked inside the cupboard, and I had a plane to catch. Was I making a big fuss about it? But after all, what could I expect? He was a Frenchman.

‘Don’t upset yourself,’ I reassured him. ‘The cleaner must not be far. I’m sure we can have you out of there in a minute. Just try to stay calm.’

Not only do all Thai people look the same but there were so many of them around all in identical yellow uniforms. When I finally found the man I was looking for (his resentful scowl on my approach confirmed it must be him), at first, he didn’t seem to understand – or care for that matter – what I required of him. However, when I produced the broken door handle he seemed to show more interest.

‘Please help me,’ I said, ‘another man is now trapped in your cupboard – you see how it can happen to anyone? This gentleman is not so used to chemical fumes as I am and he tells me that he has an important plane to catch.’

‘This man you lock in cupboard,’ he glared – ‘he friend of you?’

‘In a way,’ I answered, ‘I was showing him the way to the departure gates.’

‘That is good.’ he said his face finally breaking into a smile, ‘He stay in cupboard long time.’ Then as quick as lightning he snatched the door handle from me before disappearing into a crowd of yellow-overalled toilet attendants.

I hurried back to the Frenchman to explain the latest surprising turn in the situation – but what a fuss he made!

‘Listen,’ I said firmly. ‘Pull yourself together. Just because you French were beaten in two world wars; sulked, and refused to fight in any others, it doesn’t mean it always has to be an integral part of your character to give in so easily.’

‘Please monsieur,’ he pleaded, ‘I think you don’t understand. I am the French Ambassador to Cambodia. I must attend important meeting this evening. It is imperative I catch my plane. Please, I beg of you. I am passing my documents under the door to you now. Please take them to departure gates and explain my situation.’

‘That’s better,’ I said, I hope not in a too much of a patronizing tone, ‘now you are acting like a big boy again. Now you stay here and I’ll go at once and sort it all out.’

As I hurried away I realised I forgot to ask him something of vital importance. If I didn’t go back and check this with him now I’m sure his distress would have been even more accentuated.

When he had finally finished retching, coughing and choking I asked him:

‘Do you want the ova-lacto western vegetarian, or are you happy to go for the chicken?’

‘What?’ he said incredulously, as though he’d never heard such a thing as meal choices on a scheduled airplane flight.

I repeated what I said before.

‘I heard what you said,’ he screamed. ‘I am just wondering why it is you are asking me. I am imprisoned in a tiny space. I am dying of fume inhalation. I have minutes to catch an important flight to an international conference which has crucial consequences for the peace of the world – and you ask me which snack I would like? Tell me monsieur; are you mad?’

I could have explained why it was important but I realised we were both in a hurry and so I said nothing. Instead, I waited patiently for his little tirade to finish and for him answer my original question – but he stayed silent. This is rather distasteful to relate, but I believe I could hear some faint sobbing.

I tried to speak to him again but he seemed to be in a world of his own. Mumbling, humming and now crying like a baby. But that is the French. The tiniest bit pressure and they just fold up.

‘Listen to me,’ I said, ‘what is it about you French that have such a grudge against the English? Do you have a chip on your shoulder because we ran away at Dunkirk? We said we would come back for you – and we didn’t we? We came back with our big Uncle Sam and sorted it out for you – didn’t we? Or does it go back even further than that? Look, I am sorry we burnt Joan of Arc – but we have never been much good at things like cookery. Do we complain when you cook frogs, snails and horses? Of course we don’t. It’s all a matter of give and take.’

I believe these things are best sorted out by bringing them out in the open. He did not make any reply but I think he was listening now – at least he had stopped crying.

‘That’s better,’ I said gently, ‘I’ll order the vegetarian. I’m sure you’ll feel better after a nice piece of brie and a glass of wine.’

My calm approach was to no avail; as I started to walk away he returned to his silly sobbing – in fact I believe, in even more desperation and intensity than before.

When I got to the departure gates the officials did not respond immediately to my implorations that the situation was an emergency. I was politely brushed off and asked to stand in line. However, when I opened the Ambassador’s passport and held it towards them, a remarkable transformation in attitude took place. I was suddenly treated with great respect and urgency, hurried past the waiting passengers and led directly to my plane – which had apparently been kept waiting for me.

As I sipped a glass of champagne in extremely spacious and comfortable surroundings, I reminded the stewardess that although I was grateful for being able to catch my own flight, not to forget about the unfortunate fellow who was still locked in the airport cupboard and probably dying of suffocation. She replied that it sounded very good, but that she could not presently confirm the name of the in-flight movie, although she would certainly find out for me, and with a lovely smile handed me the menu.

I looked around at my fellow passengers who seemed to be a rather miserable lot and appeared to be concentrating on their microphones. I held one to my own ear and immediately realised the problem – popular style western arrangements with tinny Eastern instruments and screeching foreign lyrics – so bad that an appalling depression hung over me – yet it was with some difficulty that I managed to detached the dreadful, almost hypnotic noise.

As the plane took off I remarked to the stewardess, that apart from the music, how very good the facilities were in the economy section on this flight. She told me that that she believed it was Dr Zhivago. I told her that I was, in fact, Dr Earnshawe.

‘I believe you are mixing me up with the French Ambassador.’ I said.

‘No sir, it is definitely Dr Zhivago.’ She replied rather mysteriously.

When we arrived at the airport I was again treated with great courtesy – way beyond that of the other passengers. I continued to be given the appellation ‘Ambassador,’ which was rather embarrassing. I had already explained that I was only a friend of the Ambassador, and anyway, he was travelling to Cambodia and not Laos. However, ‘Yes Ambassador, certainly Ambassador, this way Ambassador,’ and such like, is all they would say to me in reply.

While the other passengers lined up to make visa applications I was simply escorted through a desk marked ‘DIPLOMATS ONLY’ and then to an enormous black limousine parked at the front of the building, without going through the usual passport or customs formalities.

A smartly dressed man met me at the arrivals section. ‘Welcome to Cambodia Ambassador! Your limousine awaits.’

It seemed that I was perhaps not only in the wrong city and country – but perhaps I was the wrong person too! If only I hadn’t been surrounded by so any foreigners perhaps I could have explained my predicament.

As I was driven into the city, I settled into the soft leather upholstery and contemplated the desperation of my situation which was reflected in the chaos around me. As we slowed at a crossroad in which perpendicular lines of vehicles simply merged across one another there being no lights or priority given, and not particularly cautiously either – we suddenly had a change of driver; the original hauled out and replaced by a man in a white tracksuit with a red scarf over his face. Simultaneously, two similarly dressed men leaped into the back seat on either side of me, each, pointing a gun at my head.

‘Now Ambassador,’ the largest of my new back-seat companions informed me, ‘you go conference with us.’

‘That’s very kind of you,’ I replied.

Because the men looked rather fierce, I didn’t want to disappoint them by telling them I wasn’t the man they thought I was. I hoped I could contribute intelligently to the conference and that would not let down the French delegation too badly. Perhaps I could even travel back to Bangkok with the English representatives afterwards, and then try again to get to Laos. You have to be patient in this part of the world.

We drove for many miles as the houses and population grew thinner, then into a rocky countryside bare of vegetation, as the road gradually became a dirt track. Finally, I was led on foot up the side of a rocky slope, and into a cabin hidden away inside the wall of the ravine.

‘OK you now go ahead – conference in very secret place.’

In the middle of the little cabin there was a large deal table, a porcelain sink stood by the door, and at the other side a battered couch faced a wooden perch which was inhabited by a fierce looking parrot in bright green plumage – also wearing a little red scarf. International conference facilities in places such as Cambodia clearly reflect the harsh economic conditions of the country.

We immediately sat around the table; myself, the large man in a droopy moustache and his two assistants he called his cadres. The perch of the parrot was also drawn up to the table. In broken English, only the large man spoke – the cadres seemed to be subservient death mutes. Although the parrot seemed to have a lot to say for himself, I couldn’t understand a word it said either.

The large man informed the conference that his name was Poti and that he was the revolutionary leader of The Rouge Khmer. I interrupted his opening address to announce that I was leading the French delegation in the unfortunate absence of the Ambassador.

‘No you not leader of nothing.’ he barked. ‘You our prisoner Mr. Ambassador. We ransom you – get funds to liberate Cambodian people’.

‘You are the Rouge Khmer?’ I asked, ‘- is that the same as the Khmer Rouge?’

It sounded like a lot of French lipstick to me, and anyway, I thought such factions had been wiped out many years ago.

‘Khmer Rouge no good.’ Poti growled. ‘We hate Khmer Rouge.’

‘I know,’ I said, ‘they were absolutely awful, I saw the ‘Killing Fields’ at our local cinema. Around two million were killed, or died of death, disease and starvation as the year was turned back to zero.’

‘Two million die at your cinema?’ he asked, giving me a puzzled look.

‘No,’ I said, ‘I meant in your country during the rule of the Khmer Rouge.’

‘Yes that bad.’ He said, very angrily,‘ Khmer Rouge no good. In new revolution of Rouge Khmer everybody die.’

‘Everybody?’ I said.

‘Everybody,’ he answered emphatically, his face now turning to a smile, ‘- everybody, except two peoples. Marx, him says all needs for revolutions just two peoples.’

‘Who will these two people be?’ I asked him curiously. One was presumably Poti himself of course – but who was the other? There were two cadres.

‘Two people only left – it is me and…’ his finger moved round the table passing from one cadre, then on the other – before moving on the parrot. ‘…it is Poli.’

The cadres seemed relieved it wasn’t to be either of them. Poti continued:

‘Now I make video of you to give to government with ransom demand.’

While he operated his camcorder he told me some more about his revolutionary aims, which – to be honest – seemed rather ambitious.

‘We make good genocide for all our peoples. We turn clock forward to year 2020.’

‘But hasn’t something like that been tried before,’ I pointed out, ‘with rather disappointing results – as I remember from the film?’

‘No it different. Rouge Khmer opposite of Khmer Rouge. We make all peoples leave countryside and go into cities. Everybody given many consumer durables; electric white good and motorbike, plasma screen TV, mini-i-pod – all dress name-brand tracksuit and designer trainers. Equality and fraternity of all people – we strive for true socialism and democracy. Then by year 2020 everybody fed up – they kill themselves.’

‘I suppose you adapted these ideas from Marxist philosophy over many years while in the University of Sorbonne in Paris?’

‘No, I think up revolution at prison S-21 Phnom Penh.’

‘I see, similar to Hitler’s experience when he wrote Mien Kampf. The pain of incarceration must have understandably made you bitter and determined to change society.’

‘Yes, I very low. Sell not enough hotdog to tourist at prison genocide museum’.

‘But how is the revolution you envisage going to result in genocide? Simply by making everyone live in a city and wear designer clothes?’

‘All traffic in deadlock, pollution and many accident on motorbike,’

‘I really can’t see how that would drive everyone to suicide – it doesn’t work in Bangkok.’

‘Many monotony; TV soap, bad USA movie, and eat only frozen microwave dinner.’

‘It’s possible,’ I accepted, ‘but I am still very doubtful it would have the effect you anticipate.’

‘Music on mini-i-pod is bad western and Khmer mix make noise so all people very depressed’.

‘But that’s diabolical!’ I said ‘it is so evil’ – realising at once his mad scheme would destroy the entire nation – but for what? I had to find out why.

‘But when everyone dies – what then? What will happen when only you and Poli are left? I mean – just what is the point of it all?’

‘We open every city to tourist – have many genocide museum – sell many hotdog.’

I still wasn’t sure that Poti had thought this through in all its implications for his people.

‘You want submit your people to genocide – just so you can sell more hotdogs to tourists?’

‘I know it good idea!’ He smiled, bristling with pride. ‘Tourists happy – I happy – most of all Poli – him happy!’

As he said this he gazed lovingly towards his parrot. As the French say ‘Chercher le peroquet,’ (lit: look for the parrot – at the bottom of every mystery there is a parrot – or I believe they say something like that. If they don’t, then they should.)

After Poti had taken the video he wrote down his demands before going off to the local internet café to deliver them to the authorities.

While we waited, I filled my time in by doing a little housework. The place was in an awful mess. The two guards just drank vodka, and fell asleep – confident, I assumed that I presented little danger of escaping. Anyway, where could I possibly escape to? I’m not a mountain person.

The hours dragged by. Would I ever get to see the woman of my dreams? Poti had posted his demands, and the deadline for delivery of the money was edging closer. At last, he again left the cabin to retrieve the ransom. As soon as their leader was out of the cabin the cadres became relaxed and seemed to take little regard for their orders. As I walked across to finish the washing up, I tripped over something on the floor. Even Poti had taken to leaving his gun lying around.

When we had almost given up hope, the door banged open and there was a big commotion. Poti had returned carrying a huge sack over his shoulder. The ransom demand had been paid! He was in ecstasy, but immediately ran over to Poli’s perch, ignoring the rest of us.

‘Look at money – it is many – four million Riel! Look Poli’ he said displaying the bundles of notes to the bird, ‘– we are rich, we are rich!’

In my head I did a quick calculation using the current exchange rate of the Cambodian Riel and Pound Sterling. Four million Riel sound a lot – but really it was only 532 pounds and 31 pence. If only Poti had taken the trouble to ask, I could have given him as much without him going to all the trouble of him kidnapping and ransoming me. However, I had not yet exchanged my traveller’s cheques for cash, so I thought it best not to mention it.

‘Good.’ I said addressing Poti. ‘Now we can get on with our own business. I can resume my search for my intended, and you can get on with your gen… er gen…eral activities.’

‘No problem my friend,’ he smiled, ‘now take good care of you.’

‘That’s jolly decent of you.’ I said, ‘If you just drop me off at the airport I’ll take the next flight to Vientiane.’ Poti stood before me as I sat on the couch, with his cadre on his right – both now armed and looking serious. It looked as if he was about to make some kind of speech.

‘My friend you have been very useful to the revolution. Now we say goodbye to you – you take flight now.’ He nodded to each of his two cadres who then pointed their weapons directly at me. It reminded me of something I forgot to mention.

‘I should just tell you,’ I said, ‘before you do that….’

‘Silence!’ Poti yelled gruffly. ‘You not tell me nothing,’ he scowled me into silence before nodding again towards his cadres.

The guns clicked but did not bang. They clicked again and again.

‘What I was just going to tell you’ I continued, ‘I hope you don’t mind, that I took the liberty of giving the guns a bit of a wash while I was doing the tea things, they were rather grimy, only I realised rather too late that water might impair their operation somewhat – that is until they get a good chance to dry out properly. However, this one is alright’ I said dragging out the gun that I had tucked away under the couch, ‘I didn’t wash this one as it seemed clean enough.’

As I tried to hand it across their reaction was startling – they immediately raised their hands as if convinced I was about to shoot them!

‘It’s alright,’ I reassured them, ‘I’ve never fired a gun in my life.’ I said, now standing up with the gun pointing at them, although I didn’t mean to frighten them of course, that is just the direction in which it lay on the floor if you understand, and as I picked it up it aimed at them by itself – if you know what I mean.

They continued to disregard my reassurances and the triumvirate slid further down to the floor, until they were completely flat on their backs, hands still raised, and eyes bulging towards me in apparent horror.

I wanted to calm them by illustrating that I really I had no idea at all about guns – other than those at fairgrounds of course – quite a hobby of mine at one time until I was banned after accidentally shooting the proprietor instead of one of the little ducks.
I beg the reader’s indulgence for this little diatribe, and return hastily to the main story. So I said;

‘This is an AK47 I believe – and this is the trigger here? Anyway, isn’t there a safety catch somewhere?’

I don’t believe they were as comfortably reassured as I had hoped they would be, judging from their subordinate positions and the unnecessary fear on their faces. They were still reluctant to take the gun from me, and just as I was about to turn it around and hand it stock first (probably the safest way to pass a weapon – I realised only retrospectively), the wretched thing unaccountably began to have a mind of its own, exploding by itself in my hands, spraying bullets across the wall. I was thrown backwards as it discharged itself many times giving me quite a nasty shock. I am absolutely certain I did not touch any part of the firing mechanism.

As the smoke cleared and the smell of gunpowder pervaded the air, I lay back and looked across at all three revolutionaries lying prostrate before me, each smeared heavily with blood across their brows. Although their eyes continued to bulge, they did not appear lifeless. Seeing that I no longer trained the gun at them, one by one they cautiously ran their hands across their foreheads as if searching for a something. Not finding anything significant, and noticing that more blood had continued to drip from somewhere above them – which certainly was blood – it soon became clear to all that it wasn’t their blood – but then whose blood was it?

We all seemed to realise at once. Above the still stretched out revolutionaries we observed Poli; the poor bird was quite inverted, holding on to his perch as well as ever, but rocking slowly in a wide arc, his plumage otherwise unruffled and brilliant, and in all aspects he appeared to be in good order except that he now seemed to be devoid of a head (which had quite literally disappeared). It was as if his last act in life was to distribute the total sum of his body fluids indiscriminately to each of his comrades in order to make some kind of symbolic statement; to the equality and fraternity of all men.

The two cadres held the simultaneous expressions of disbelief and relief, yet I considered that the features of their leader were etched only with one of those emotions; that of profound disbelief.

He slowly and methodically took up the gun which had landed between my body and his as I had catapulted backwards away from them.

‘Now my friend,’ he said, training the gun directly towards me ‘I will take care of you. This is for Poli.’

There was no time to be afraid let alone make my peace with the world. They say that a bullet travels faster than sound. But I knew, before I had shuffled off my mortal coil, that light travels faster than either. In a split second I saw the blinding flash, but I did not hear the ear splitting noise as my head had already exploded like a water melon struck by a sledge hammer. I was gone from the world.

J A Earnshawe BSc PhD

Stickman's thoughts:

Just great. I love this series.