Sunday
Nov032013

The Future of Giraffes

By Yuriy Tarnawsky


JEF Books
August 2013
978-1884097263


 The Quarry: A Mininovel

 

 “Es ist ein eigentümlicher Apparat,” sagte der Offizier . . .

Franz Kafka

 

1. the quarry

Outside the town there is a quarry where a boy ten years old is being kept. Its walls go more than one hundred fifty feet up and are unscalable, being nearly vertical and perfectly smooth. The quarry is round and measures about a thousand feet in diameter. Its bottom is flat, strewn with boulders and overgrown with bushes and coarse sparse grass. A tiny brook dissects the quarry in two flowing out from a hole under one of its sides and disappearing in another one on the opposite end. It grows dry during prolonged periods of drought in the summer but during the rest of the year it flows full. The bottom of the quarry stays reasonably dry even during heavy rainfalls but in exceptionally wet years it floods to a height of as much as three feet. It takes then weeks to dry out.

There are holes in the sides of the walls here and there including and especially on the very bottom and the few deeper ones form what may be considered shallow caves.

The land around the edge of the quarry on top is flat and covered with thick short grass and bushes similar to the ones on the bottom.

A barbed wire fence runs around the perimeter of the quarry about one hundred feet from its edge so that it cannot be seen from the bottom, encircling it completely. There is a gate in the fence on the side of the quarry facing the town with a small wooden barrack next to it that serves as the command post. A sentry box stands next to it. A sentry is posted near the gate day and night marching back and forth with a long rifle that has a likewise long bayonet affixed to it on his shoulder. There are three more sentry boxes positioned at equal distances from each other along the outside of the fence with a sentry next to it carrying a similar rifle and marching day and night in similar fashion back and forth.

Stations are set up among the bushes inside the fence close to the edge of the quarry in such a way that they cannot be seen from the bottom that include high-powered telescopes on metal stands, fixed wooden tables and benches respectively to write and sit on, and telephones for the purpose of communicating between the stations as well as with the command post all for the purpose of spying on the boy and reporting on it. There are seven of these distributed at unequal distances from each other around the edge of the quarry in such a way that the boy can be seen from at least two of them at the same time no matter where he might find himself at a given instant in the open.

At night binoculars with infra-red capabilities are used to keep track of him if it is so desired.

 

2. a visit

Thin gray clouds above the quarry cover the sky like the short mustard-brown grass the ground below. The former is the same color as the uniforms of the sentries patrolling along the fence and the tarpaulins covering the objects in the spying stations.

Two boys approach the fence from the direction of the town walking along grass. They both look the same age—ten—except one of them is small for his years and the other one big—nearly a full head taller. The smaller boy has straight blond hair carefully combed and trimmed short, a smooth oval face with fine features, and blue eyes, and is dressed in a white short-sleeved shirt and short gray pants cut off almost at the groin. He wears white socks and good quality white sandals on his feet. The tall boy has very thick dark hair that has grown over his ears and onto the neck in the back and falls down over his forehead nearly hiding his deep-set dark eyes. It looks like a big fur hat fit for an adult rather than a boy. His face is long and bony with hollow cheeks and a long curving nose. He is dressed in a dirty long-sleeved white shirt somewhat small for him and with a button missing on the right sleeve and tight black shorts which reach below his knees. He wears badly worn heavy shoes the color of rusty iron on his likewise bare feet. The shoe strings on them have been broken in a few places and are tied in big careless knots.

The boys walk next to each other, the smaller one on the right of the bigger one, and stop about thirty feet away from the sentry.

The latter has been pacing back and forth about five steps on each side of the sentry box which is painted with red and mustard-brown diagonal stripes. On seeing the boys stop he stops himself, turns toward them, takes his rifle off his shoulder, aims it at the boys without pressing its butt to his shoulder, and opens and closes the lock on the gun without putting the bullet in the chamber, making a loud dry sound. He stares at them sternly without saying a word.

As that happens he boys quickly turn around and run down the slope in the direction they came from, the smaller one first and the bigger one following him, seemingly reluctant, as if being pulled by an invisible rope attached to his companion. They look like a couple of boulders rolling on their own, the smaller one first and the bigger one lazily behind it.

The town fills the broad flat valley nestling among the low rolling hills covered with the same kind of short mustard-brown grass as that around the quarry. There are no trees visible on any of them except here and there clusters of round bushes like those around the quarry.

The houses in the town for the most part have white walls and red-tiled roofs from among which here and there again stick up spires of churches, some sharp, Gothic- style, and others with round cupolas, Baroque. The crosses on them cannot be seen.

 

3. garbage

An observer and a visitor on a bench next to each other at one of the spying stations behind a bush. A telephone and a pair of binoculars on the table before them (before the observer). The telescope on its stand next to the table on the right (visitor’s) side.

The visitor (in a hushed voice): So you dump the stuff every day . . . I mean night?

The observer (amused, in a similar voice): No, not every night . . . not even once a week. . . . Twice a month perhaps . . . or at the most three times. . . . But if there’s a need we’ll do it once a week . . . not sooner.

The visitor (loudly): You mean if there isn’t enough food in the load?

The observer (in a whisper; puts his index finger to his lips): Shhh. . . . He mustn’t hear us. (Back to answering the question.) That’s right . . . If we see that there’s nothing left for him to find we bring in a new load. (Chortles.) The good Lord always provides. . . . Don’t we all feel that way until the day that he doesn’t?

The visitor doesn’t comment. Resumes his questioning after a pause.

The visitor (likewise whispering; the conversation continues this way until when noted otherwise): And you do this always at night?

The observer: Yes, when he’s asleep, so that he doesn’t see us.

The visitor: And he has never been woken up by the noise?

The observer: We don’t think so although we don’t know. But it doesn’t matter in the end because he knows it’s coming from the outside. So someone must be dumping it. But he mustn’t see who’s doing it . . . see even the outline of the people . . . so that he might think it’s coming by itself. . . . (Through a half-smile.) The good Lord always provides. . . . So we take special care. The personnel are dressed in black and wear black face masks. . . . And it’s always at night.

The visitor (still unbelieving): And the noise of the engine doesn’t wake him up?

The observer (smiling): Oh we don’t bring it in a truck. We do bring it in from the town in a truck but then transfer it to a cart and pull it over by hand to the edge and dump it quietly and quickly . . . preferably in one dump. . . . There isn’t much noise. . . . Just the stuff falling. . . . But it’s in the middle of the night when he’s sound asleep.

The visitor (still not quite satisfied): And you dump it always in the same spot?

The observer: Pretty much so. . . . Roughly in the same area . . . as you saw. (Points with his finger through the bush.) Over there. . . . But we vary it a little so that the new stuff doesn’t fall on top of what’s left. . . . So that he has a chance to pick out everything . . . and so that everything decays quickly and doesn’t fester . . . I mean rot . . . underneath. . . . We don’t want any disease to start from there. (After a pause.) But we also don’t want to mess up the whole area . . . to stink it up. . . . So we stick to that part of the quarry.

The questions that had arisen in the visitor’s mind have been answered and he pauses to come up with new ones. This happens in a few seconds and he continues.

The visitor: That’s food. . . . And he drinks from the brook?

The observer: That’s right.

The visitor: And what about clothes? Does he get them from what’s dumped too?

The observer: That’s right. . . . Everything. . . . Food, things to make utensils with, bedding, clothes. . . .

The visitor (incredulous): But is there enough stuff for him to clothe himself in?

The observer: There is. . . . Not that much but over a period of time . . . a few months . . . something always turns up. . . . At least it has so far. You’d be surprised how much useful stuff is being thrown away all the time even by people who don’t have that much themselves.

The visitor (still unbelieving): And in the winter . . . he has enough clothes to keep himself warm? . . . When it gets really cold?

The observer: So far it hasn’t been a problem. But we haven’t had bad winters in the last few years.

The visitor: But what if it got really cold and he didn’t have warm clothes? What would you do?

The observer: Oh we would then do something. . . . Make sure there’re enough things in what we dump. . . . But as I said so far it hasn’t been a problem and we didn’t have to do it. (After a pause.) And I don’t think we ever will. . . . Things always somehow work themselves out in the end.

The visitor (pressing on): And with food too? . . . If there weren’t enough food in the stuff you bring in from the town you’d add something yourself?

The observer: In theory yes, of course. . . . We wouldn’t let him starve to death. That’s not the object. But so far we never had to do it and again I don’t think we ever will. People always throw things out you can eat. . . . Even people that don’t have much themselves as I said earlier. . . . We are a very wasteful society. (After a pause.)  He’ll always be fine.

The visitor (quickly, as if afraid he will loose his train of thought): And what if he got sick? Would you rescue him? . . . Bring him up or send down a doctor?

The observer (grows serious; waits; then speaks in a normal voice): The object is for him to survive on his own. His wits must be quick enough and his body strong enough for him to do it.

The visitor (amazed and clearly upset but likewise in a normal voice): So you mean you would let him die down there if he didn’t get well on his own!

The observer (a sign of confusion appears on his face; he quickly gets a hold of himself however and speaks again in a normal voice in a calm and measured way): We believe it will never come to that. We believe that his body is strong enough and his mind tough enough for him to cope with anything that may come his way. Judging from what we know of him so far there will never be any need for us to intervene on his behalf. He will live to a ripe old age and will die of natural causes. We are sure of that.

It isn’t certain if the observer has stopped for good or will continue. The visitor waits to find out. There are momentarily no questions in his mind and he waits. The silence continues like a drone.

 

4. sand

The boy’s dream.

It is night. Everything is dark around him except the sky straight up is lighter—gray rather than black although there are no stars in it. He sits in his cave with his back to the wall, legs drawn up, his arms around them, waiting for the garbage to be thrown down. It has been days since the last dump and he is ravenous. Saliva is gathering in his mouth at the thought of eating and drips out of its corners onto his bare chest. It feels unpleasant and from time to time he wipes it off with his hands. This makes him think of a dog drooling and time and time again he tries to push the thought out of his mind but it just won’t go away.

Suddenly he hears sounds coming from the opposite end of the quarry where garbage is usually dumped. They are soft and whooshing like the sound of water coming down. He jumps to his feet and sees big white stains coming down from above against the distant dark wall. They do look like water rushing down in a waterfall except not continually but in splashes. Higher up on the rim he sees the outlines of dark figures moving around furtively as they always do.

They are dumping garbage—and so soon! They have never done it so quickly after the previous dump. He is overjoyed, rushes out of the cave, and runs like mad through the dark space toward where the garbage is falling.

He can’t see anything because of the darkness and runs into boulders, hurting his hands, knees, and forehead, gets entangled in bushes which clutch him with their sharp, scratchy, claw-like branches, stumbles on rocks, and sprawls on the ground face down hurting his hands and knees again, but always jumps up and keeps on running.

Soon he is near where the garbage is falling and sees it looming white up ahead. It keeps coming down from above continually now like water in a regular waterfall and he can’t wait until he is there. He will let it spill over him.

Finally he is there and dives under the stuff that falls down. It spills over his head like water splashing around, making him laugh with joy. They had never dumped so much garbage before! He spreads his arms out wide, opens his hands, and catches something round in both of them. It is fruit—an apple and a plum. He closes his eyes, bends his head down, and feeling the things raining down on him bites first into the apple and then into the plum. They are juicy and delicious. He proceeds devouring them.

Then the garbage stops falling. He has finished eating the apple and the plum and is down on his knees searching with his hands in the garbage around him. There is a huge pile of it and it feels soft and bouncy. He will never be able to eat up all that is hiding in it. He digs his hands in deeper, finds two firm round forms, pulls them out, and bites first into one and then the other. They are a potato and a tomato. The former is raw but he likes the taste of it this time. Usually he doesn’t. The tomato is also raw and tastes delicious as always. In a few seconds he has eaten them both and starts looking for something new. He does this for a while, finds all kinds of fruit and vegetables, eats them, and finally has had enough of them. He will look for something else. He digs his hands in deeper than ever before, almost up to his armpits, and comes across something soft and moist. He pulls it out and sees it is a huge piece of meat. He stands up and holds it out in his hands and it drapes from them like a piece of heavy blanket soaked in water. He will take it to his cave and eat it there.

He gets off the pile of garbage and runs again. This time for some reason his way stays clear for a while but then suddenly he catches his foot on something like a root and sprawls on the ground face down. He tries not to let the meat fall onto the ground but even though it stays in his hands it does this anyway and he is upset about it. He sits up and decides to eat the meat right there. He bites into it, tears off a big chunk, and starts chewing on it. It is covered with sand which crunches unpleasantly under his teeth but he disregards it and goes on chewing. He swallows the piece, tears off another one, and proceeds eating like that. The meat has no taste but he doesn’t notice it as if this is the way it should be. Sand collects in his mouth as he goes on eating however and with time it builds up inside it. It fills the space between his gums and cheeks and gets all piled up in the back between his jaws so that he has trouble chewing. Then his mouth is full of it and he can’t bite anything let alone chew. He starts choking on the sand and can’t breathe. He will suffocate! In despair he tries to shout and wakes up.

It was quiet and dark all around but through the wide opening of the cave he could see the sky was much lighter than the walls of the quarry. Soon it would be dawn.

 

5. riding

The commandant’s daughter’s dream.

She is standing on the edge of the quarry looking down. She is holding a rope which hangs down into the quarry all the way to the bottom. The boy is standing next to where it coils on the ground. He is looking up as if not knowing what she wants him to do. She yells for him to grab the rope and climb up. He shakes his head yelling back he is afraid of falling down. The rope might slip out of her hands. She replies that she is strong and will not let go of the rope. He should climb.

The boy still shakes his head and says he is afraid.

If he climbs out she will give him something to eat, she yells. She will give him an apple.

Will she really? he asks.

She will, she repeats. She has an apple in her pocket and she takes it out and shows it to the boy.

This changes the boy’s mind and he says he will climb out. He asks her to hold the rope tight.

She sticks the apple back in her pocket, grabs the rope with both hands, and steps back so that the rope drapes over the edge of the precipice. The boy has vanished from her sight but he does start climbing—the rope tautens up and she steps back even further to hold it tight.

She can feel the boy climb by the periodic tugs on the rope and soon she hears the sounds his feet are making on the wall and even his breathing. Then his head pops up from under the edge of the precipice, he climbs out, comes up to her, and goes down on his knees.

She takes the apple out of her pocket and offers it for the boy to bite. He does this, chews on the piece, swallows it, and bites on the apple again.

She likes feeding the boy like that. It makes her think of an animal—a dog or a cat.

There is less and less of the apple left as the boy bites into it and she feels his lips and tongue touch her fingers as he is biting around the core. This is even more pleasant. She had a baby goat do that to her once and it was wonderful. There is just the bare core left of the apple now and she throws it away and sticks her fingers inside the boy's mouth. He sucks on them like the kid goat did that one time. The sensation is wonderful.

Then the scene changes and now she is sitting on the boy's shoulders with her legs hanging down his chest and he is galloping through the field carrying her along. She hits him with her heels in the ribs from time to time to make him go faster.

He is going fast but she wants to go still faster. She hits him real hard with her heels but this doesn't help. She yells for him to go faster and starts pulling on his hair.

As this doesn't help she digs her fingernails into his face and twists his head. This sill doesn't help however. She decides then to go for his eyes. This will make him do what she wants!

He can't see where he is running however and in addition worries about his eyes, so he twists his head way to the side and falls down.

She comes down with him and sprawls on the ground. She gets up instantly however and finds herself with a piece of short thick rope in her hand. It is much thicker than the one she had the boy climb out on. The boy stays lying on the ground and she starts hitting him with the rope. It is heavy and she can feel and hear it hit him with a thump. He has curled up in the fetal position on his side with his knees pressed to his chest and his hands around his head. She keeps on hitting him and gradually gets more and more tired. She doesn't know how much longer she can go on but is determined not to give up.

 

6. the rat

The same observer and a different visitor at a different spying station looking down into the quarry between the branches of a bush carefully so as not to be seen—the former through binoculars and the latter through the telescope. They are observing the boy who has just pounced on a rat and is holding it in his right hand.

The visitor (excited, loudly): Did you see him jump?!

The observer (concerned, softly): Shhh. . . . He mustn't hear us. (In a whisper. The conversation continues this way until noted otherwise.) Yes, he has gotten to be pretty quick.

The boy is framed in the viewer of the telescope as if in a glass cage. He is tall and thin, with matted dark hair that falls below his shoulders and over his eyes. His face is black with grime and when he tosses his head to better see the whites of his eyes flash blinding white contrasting sharply with the dirty skin. His teeth are blinding white too and they flash like the blade of a knife catching sunlight when he opens his mouth. He wears a loose sleeveless garment of an indeterminable color (dark gray but this is probably only because of its being dirty) which reaches to below his knees and looks like a man's jacket with the sleeves torn off and holes in it all over through which you can see his body. It is naked and looks surprisingly clean, almost lily-white and therefore very delicate, unequal to the difficult task it is faced with.

The boy holds the rat high up by its back squeezing it tightly as it wriggles desperately in his grip. There is a satisfied sneer on his face.

Suddenly he grabs the rat's head with his left hand, brings the rat close to his mouth, adjusts the grip of his right hand, and bites the rat on its neck trying to sink his teeth in deep.

He shakes his head violently from side to side like a dog trying to kill an animal it has caught visibly straining in order to make his teeth go in deeper. This lasts a few seconds only however—five at the most—and then he lets go of the rat with his left hand and lifts it high up so as to have a better look at it.

It hangs limp in his fist, clearly dead, a big red gash in its gray neck like a piece of ragged red rag.

Apparently satisfied with the job he has done the boy brings the rat back to his mouth and tears away with his teeth at its flesh in the spot he has bitten into. He tears off a piece of the flesh, chews on it, spits something out (probably a piece of the furry skin), goes on chewing for a few seconds, swallows what he has in his mouth, and bites into the rat again. This time he tears off a big piece of the skin, spits it out, and tears away at the flesh he has cleared off.

The visitor (shocked): My God! He's a savage!

The observer doesn't react to what the visitor said as if not having heard him and keeps on looking attentively through the binoculars.

Down below the boy continues skinning the rat with his teeth and tearing away at its flesh.

The visitor is visibly upset at what he sees and leans away from the telescope.

The visitor (scrunching up his face, in disgust): Whew!

The observer (continues looking, casually): It's not a pleasant sight to be sure.

The visitor: Does he eat like this all the time?

The observer (still looking): No. It differs. Sometimes he eats quite normally, even daintily . . . surprisingly so. (After a pause.) He must be excited by the catch . . . and hungry. . . . We haven't thrown anything down to him for a while. (He takes the binoculars away from his eyes and holds them in his hands on the table. Turns to the visitor and speaks in a normal but soft voice.) He's really good with the rats . . . an excellent hunter. . . . Catches lots of them with his hands or kills them with a club or a stone. His aim is fantastic. He skins them and lets them dry in the sun to have when there's nothing else. . . . Impales them on sticks and sticks them in the ground . . . in long rows. . . . They look like crucifixions . . . offerings. . . . (After a pause.) He has a place for that . . . where there's lots of sun, facing south. . . . You can't see it from here. We'd have to move to another station. (After a longer pause.) Do you want to look at it?

The visitor (likewise in a normal but soft voice, sincere): Yes, of course. (Almost immediately, clearly intrigued by the subject.) You mentioned offerings. . . . Do you think those impaled rats are offerings? . . . To gods? . . . God?

The observer (calmly): I don't think so. He eats them so they couldn't be offerings. He doesn't seem to worship anything. (Hesitates.) But perhaps. . . . You never know. . . . (Changes the subject. Getting up.) Come let's go and have a look.

The visitor gets up.

 

7. the escape

For days the boy has been piling up garbage against the wall where it is always dumped and has built up a mound about fifteen feet tall. Then he has built something resembling a scaffold on top of the pile which goes up roughly another ten feet.

It is puzzling. What is he trying to do? Climb out? There is no way he can build some kind of a structure that would go all the way to the top—another hundred and twenty-five feet or so. And climbing up the sheer wall is impossible.

Still one morning he appears at the scaffold wearing a piece of cloth wrapped tightly around his loins and a tattered tight-fitting shirt with a bottle full of water and what appears to be a bundle of provisions tied to his back and starts climbing up the scaffold.

He must be planning to climb out of the quarry and envisions it to take him a long time.

How is he going to do it?

He reaches the top of the scaffold in a matter of seconds and surveys the wall above him. Then he starts climbing, finding little crevices in the rock into which he sticks his fingers and projections on which he steps with the sides of his feet or toes or grabs onto. He has been seen climbing up the wall like this before and it appears it wasn't just to amuse himself but to practice with his escape in mind.

But how is he going to make it all the way to the top? It is unthinkable that he has enough strength and stamina to climb that high without gloves and shoes even if there were enough irregularities in the rock for him to stand on and hold on to. He is plainly foolish.

But the telescope reveals there is a little niche not quite a foot deep and about three feet tall and wide about fifteen feet higher above the top of the scaffold and somewhat to the right. It is toward it that he is climbing. He will rest there and then climb on toward another niche if there is one.

And there is another niche about twenty or twenty-five feet higher directly above the first one. There are more similar niches and narrow ledges at roughly the same distance from each other what looks like to the very top of the wall in that spot. The boy must have done his homework! He must have studied the walls of the quarry carefully and selected the easiest path for him to climb along. And it happened to be where the garbage is being dumped which made it easier for him to stack it up and get a slight head start. By resting up in places where it is possible for him to do it and fortifying himself during those times with what he has brought along he might be able to get to the top of the wall even if it takes him a while! He certainly is very determined and clever. But given the circumstances he has been forced to live in he has to be. It was to be expected that if he were able to survive under the conditions in which he is being kept he should be the kind of person who would try to get out of the quarry if it were at all possible.

He is making slow but steady progress. His body clings to the wall as if held by suction and his hands and feet perform a complex slow-motion dance which makes him advance all the time higher and higher and at the same time to the right. Occasionally he takes a rest when he finds a good enough spot to do this, checks if he is moving in the right direction, and then climbs on.

About twenty minutes have gone by and he has reached the first niche, has climbed inside it, and is resting there, his feet on the ledge, his chest and left cheek pressed to the rock, his hands holding onto its edges. He breathes heavily and his face shows signs of exertion.

He rests for about five minutes and when his breathing has gotten normal he turns his head right and craning his neck looks downward to see how much he has climbed. He appears to be pleased with what he has accomplished and after waiting for about another five minutes sticks his head out of the niche and surveys the wall about him in preparation for climbing again.

He appears to have decided on his path and after searching with his hands for something to grab on to he moves out of the niche and resumes climbing.

The next niche as was said is another twenty or twenty-five feet almost directly above the first one. The boy climbs to the right however at about the same angle as he had climbed before either out of habit or because of not being sure where the second niche is. After he climbs some fifteen feet however he realizes he has made a mistake and tries to correct it. He looks for something to grab on to but there isn't anything. To move back to the left he will have to move down a few feet and then go straight up. He tries to move down but then his left foot slips, his fingers are unable to hold his weight, and he falls down along the surface of the wall. He doesn't seem to have made any sound while slipping (doesn't seem to have screamed) but he is probably too far away to be heard even if he did. (Being used to living alone he might have lost the instinct of calling out for help. So it is possible he hasn't bothered screaming.)

His light body moving on the dark background of the wall looks like a foamy patch in a waterfall spreading and contracting, changing its shape as it plummets faster and faster. It rotates clockwise as it falls and lands on its right side.

The boy has fallen beyond where he had piled up the garbage although there is still a little of it there. His body blends in with where it is piled up against the wall so that it is hard to find it. It can be made out in the end however. The bottle and the bundle of provisions are nowhere to be seen. They must have fallen off his back and landed somewhere else.

The boy lies still his face turned to the wall with no sign of life. He isn't stirring and his chest doesn't seem to move. Is he dead?

No, he isn't. After a few minutes he stirs. He has survived the fall.

He stirs a few more times and slowly rolls over onto his back. He must have hurt himself badly because his face is twisted with pain. Sweat has run down it and left wide white marks on the grimy skin like traces of big fat worms. He takes short shallow breaths and keeps on grimacing from time to time as if the pain came in spurts.

Little by little he calms down however and starts raising himself on his arms. He props himself up on his left arm and reaches out with his right hand for his right leg. He raises himself some more on his left arm and puts his right hand on his right leg below his knee.

He falls back instantly however apparently having caused himself more pain. His face is twisted out of shape with pain. He must have injured his right leg badly—probably broken it.

He lies motionless for a while and then slowly rolls over onto his left side trying not to move his right leg. He rests in this position for a while, raises himself up on his left elbow, looks at his right leg, touches his right thigh with his right hand, apparently feels no extra pain, moves the hand down to the knee, massages the knee, again apparently does not feel any extra pain, then pulls the leg up a little with his hand, grimacing as he does that.

He lies back on his left side again, rests with his eyes closed breathing normally, then raises himself up on his left elbow again, and stares in the opposite direction to the other side of the quarry. It is where the cave he usually stays in is.

He waits a few seconds, twists his body in the direction he had looked in, and starts crawling forward. He pushes himself with his left arm and leg keeping the right leg dragging on the ground. From time to time it catches on something and then pain shatters his face like a rock breaking a mirror. He continues moving forward however. He moves slowly but makes continuous progress. From time to time he rests breathing heavily lying flat on the ground.

While crawling he stares with his eyes and mouth wide open in the direction he is moving an expression of infinite hope on his face as if certain help is awaiting him there which will put an end to his suffering.

 

8. shooting

The observer's dream.

He is looking at the boy down in the quarry through the telescope on his rifle. The perfectly formed thin black cross follows the latter continually dissecting his body into four equal quadrants.

It is summer. The sun is strong and the boy is naked except for the usual dirty white cloth tied around his loins. He is walking around in a bare spot among the bushes looking attentively at the ground before him. He seems to be looking for something or trying to find a spot well suited for whatever he wants to do.

His skinny back is bent into an arc and shines with sweat. The bumps on his spine run like a string of beads forced under his skin down the middle of his back from above his shoulder blades almost to his waist.

The boy must have found what he was looking for. He stops.

His finger is on the trigger, he squeezes it, hears the puff-like sound of the bullet coming out of the barrel muffled by the silencer, and sees the boy crumple down on the ground like a stiff cloth. He has hit him square between the shoulder blades where the bumps start. You can see the black hole where it has entered like a big fly that has settled there.

The boy lies still with his face down, his body in an awkward position, his long hair like a pot of black ink spilled in front of him.

It is possible the boy hasn't been killed because of where he has been hit so he centers the cross hairs on the boy's head, makes sure his own hands are steady, and squeezes the trigger.

The same sound is heard, the boy's body stirs like something light disturbed by a puff of wind, and stays still.

He can't see if he has hit the boy in the head because of the hair but he most probably has. There is no sign of a bullet hole on the body except for the first one and he couldn't have missed completely. He wants (has) to make sure though the boy is dead so he decides to fire again.

He aims at the boy's body almost at random somewhere around the middle of his back and fires.

The body jumps up like an item of clothing hit with a stick.

He has to be absolutely sure the boy is dead and fires again this time without much thought where he is aiming.

The body jumps up as the last time.

Then he stops planning and fires on and on purely at random.

He must be missing frequently now because dust rises up from the ground from time to time as he fires obscuring the body. Some of his shots obviously are hitting the body however because it jumps up now and then.

He is determined to go on firing forever but eventually when he squeezes the trigger nothing happens. He has emptied the magazine.

The dust has settled on the ground and he can see the boy's body spread out on it like a twisted up item of clothing. It lies still face down and he can see black holes all over the back and the side facing him. They look like flies that have come to feast on it.

There is nothing coming out of the holes but something dark is spreading on the ground around the boy's torso. It must be blood flowing out from where the bullets have come out underneath.

There is no doubt the boy is dead. He has accomplished his task.

 

9. mmmmm

The boy's dream.

It is night. The field stretches flat in all directions covered with tall silvery grass that reaches up to his knees and shimmers in the moonlight. The moon is full high up in the silvery sky.

He keeps on walking and the grass tickles his bare legs. There must be dew on it because his skin keeps on tickling even after he lifts his feet out of the grass.

Suddenly not far ahead trees appear like clouds of black fog rolling on the ground and from behind them shine through some yellow lights. There must be a house there.

He walks in among the trees and sees that a house does stand in fact a little farther among them. It has a tall dark roof and white walls. The latter shine bright in the moonlight.

The windows in the house are lit up with a soft warm light the color of honey. They are all open and an indescribably beautiful sound comes flowing out of them. It is a woman singing. He has never heard anything so beautiful in his life and feels he has to see who it is that sings.

He passes between the trees and the house is just a few steps before him.

There is a door in the center of its front wall and it is dark and closed.

It doesn't matter. He will open it and go inside.

He comes up to the door, puts his hand on the handle, pushes down on it, and the door opens obediently, letting him in. He is now inside the house.

It is totally filled with the soft honey light which blinds him so that he can't see anything. But the woman keeps on singing.

Then suddenly she is in front of him. Her face is framed in long hair the color of dark honey and radiates kindness and warmth. A pair of huge blue eyes stare at him smiling. She has been waiting for him! His eyes fill with tears. He tries to say something in return but his lips won't open as if permanently stuck together trying to make the sound "mmmmm."

 

10. flood

It is cold. Thick dark clouds hang low over the land. It is not raining but the ground is soggy with water which has gathered here and there along it in shallow pools. It must be the rainy season and therefore likely it will rain again soon.

The four sentries march back and forth in front of their boxes like pendulums swinging first this way then that about their points of suspension. Their steps are even like the ticking of a clock. Although moving constantly the bayonets on the end of the rifles seem stuck painfully into the sky like needles deep into a person's flesh.

Down below in the quarry all is still. Water has filled its bottom to what looks like the depth of a foot hiding under it the grass and most of the debris leaving only boulders and bigger bushes to stick out. They are reflected in its surface as if in a mirror adding a touch of beauty to the bleak scene. When an occasional gust of wind makes its way to the bottom of the quarry it causes the water to ripple in big dark burrs.

Over where garbage is dumped some of it has risen to the surface and floats in the water lifeless like drowned persons lying face down with their limbs floating alongside them,

There is no sign of life anywhere.

 

11. a game

The sunshine presses down on the earth like a huge stone slab on a person's shoulders certain to crush eventually him or her. It is stifling hot up above in the open but must be unbearable in the quarry below.

The boy has been doing something with his hands squatting down on the ground and then gets up and goes into the cave swaying from side to side as he limps on his crooked right leg. After a few seconds he comes back. It isn't clear why he had gone into the cave since it doesn't seem that he took anything with him or has brought anything back.

He sits down on the ground in the spot he had squatted in before with his legs crossed, leaning forward, his head hanging down. He is naked except for a piece of dirty white cloth tied around his loins.

He has grown even thinner than he has been lately.

His spine stands out sharp under his skin almost about to tear through in places, his ribs seem two huge hands with many fingers greedily clutching his torso from below, and when he moves one of his arms its shoulder blade looks like the wing of a giant insect rearranging itself so as to find a more comfortable place to rest in. It seems to permanently reside there. The two tendons on the sides in the back of his head look like pegs that have been stuck under his skin to help support it. It seems it is too big and heavy to stay up by itself.

He has cut his hair short apparently with something sharp like the top of a tin can or a piece of glass—for obvious reasons very unevenly, sometimes right at the skin, at others much longer, perhaps as long as an inch. It covers his head like a ragged thatch.

Surprisingly his hair is light now, almost blond, probably partly because it is easier for him to wash it due to its being short and partly because it is bleached by the sun.

From what you can see of his face it looks clean. He seems to be washing himself at least sometimes. His body is tanned the color of polished bronze and shines with sweat.

The latter runs down his back and the side of his face in big drops. He seems to be oblivious of it however as he is bending down, pulling something out of the ground and then sticking it back in elsewhere.

What is he doing? Weeding? Pulling up sprouts and replanting them?

No, that couldn't be it. Those are little sticks which are dry and he is merely moving them around.

Is he preparing them to support plants which will grow along them?

That isn't it either. They are too short for that and too close together. Besides, they aren't smooth but shaped like little human figures with arms and sometimes legs, fashioned out of twigs.

It is odd. . . . They are arranged in two bunched up groups which face each other like armies in a field before a battle.

It doesn't make sense. . . . What in God's name is going on?

The observer (it is the same one again) picks up the telephone receiver, dials a single digit number on the telephone, and speaks into the mouthpiece. (He is calling a colleague at a different spying station.)

The observer (in a hushed voice here and throughout the conversation): What is he doing? I can't see him well from here. Can you? (After a pause.) I thought he was planting something but that's not it.

Voice in the receiver (likewise hushed here and throughout): No, he's not planting anything. That's what I thought too at first but it's not that. He seems to be playing a game.

The observer (surprised, almost peeved): A game? What sort of a game? . . . (After a pause, incredulous.) Chess?

Voice in the receiver (hesitates): I don't know. . . . (Hesitates some more). It could be chess. . . . There are two groups facing each other and there are bigger and smaller sticks . . . like pawns and other pieces. . . . And one or two on each side are bigger than the rest . . . like king and queen. . . . (After a longer pause.) But there are more than two rows on each side and they're too close together . . . too close to each other. . . . And there are way too many pieces.

The observer (intrigued): He might be trying to recreate what he remembers of the game of chess from his childhood. . . . He's too young to remember the rules if he ever played chess. . . . He may have just watched adults play and is sort of aping it now like kids do.

Voice in the receiver (after some hesitation): That could be it. (After a long pause.) But no, I doubt that. He just had one of the sticks . . . pieces . . . sort of grapple with the other one and then knock it over. Did you see it?

The observer (regretful): No, I couldn't from here. (Excited.) But that's it. . . . He probably thinks that that's what playing chess is. . . . Pieces fighting with each other and one knocking the other one down.

Voice in the receiver (after a pause, excited): No, no! . . . He has moved the two groups together . . . intermingled them. . . . Can you see it?

The observer (also excited): Yes . . . a little. (After a pause.) I don't understand what he's doing.

Voice in the receiver (more excited): They're in a battle . . . a fray. . . . Those are two armies fighting. . . . He's playing at soldiers fighting on a battle field.

The observer (after a brief pause, likewise excited and amazed): You're right! It's amazing he'd be playing a game like that! . . . (After a long pause.) They're mowing each other down.

Voice in the receiver (laughing): His side is winning. . . . There are fewer and fewer of the other ones left. . . . Soon they'll be all gone. . . . He's going to win. . . . (After a long pause, with contempt.)  Oh it's just a silly child's game. It's nothing.