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Fiction by Kim Farleigh

The Hole
Published December 29, 2016
Wax Poetry & Art International: "The Hole", fiction by Kim Farleigh
Wax Poetry & Art International. http://waxinternational.com.
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The Hole

Paramilitaries had forced the nearby village’s surviving men to dig a hole on
a green slope. Black fumes rose from the burning village below the hole,
heavenly serenity unaffected by evil.

A man slumped to his knees and screamed: "Whyyyyyy?"

An AK-47 butt smacked his head. Blood streams covered his face. Optimists
try reasoning with racism. The paramilitary leader raised a pistol, air
swishing as a bullet whipped through the kneeling man’s heart, concentrated
laser air, the man’s face hitting grass, palms facing skywards.

"Why not?" the leader replied.

He spun to face his men who smiled when seeing their leader's hands
opening out with incredulous surprise.

Another man’s legs twitched so violently that the paramilitaries had to drag
that man to the hole, the man's sweaty crown glinting in the sun.

“Kneee ohhhh,” that man wailed. "Kneeeoohhh...."

Amazed that others diminished the value he placed on himself, the wailing
man howled under an indifference that valued nothing.

“Kneeeohhhh—”

A bullet's crack caused a long rumbling grumbling to ricochet through the
valley. They tossed his corpse into the hole.

“Dreadful singing,” the paramilitary leader said. “I prefer Pavarotti to
howling.”

The leader’s sunglasses reflected the slope whose incline increased above
the hole. The timber butt of his AK-47 matched the brown in his khakis. His
black beret displayed his nation's flag. Patriotism glamorises robbery with
violence.

The leader's mouth was small, seemingly sucked in by distaste.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “remove that scum there. I advocate green slaughter.”

They picked up the man who had been shot through the heart. The man’s
head hung back, mouth open as if gasping for air. Red on green where the
corpse had flattened daisies suggested jealousy and envy, the silent
mountains above serene with pitiless supremacy.

They hurled the corpse into the hole. Coming unexpectedly over the slopes,
the paramilitaries had dragged that man off his harvester, black birds having
ascended from yellow wheat whose swishing in the breeze reflected the
yearning in men's hearts for release from this daily grind, insects carrying on
with their metronomic renditions of time's consistent beating.

The village had been selected for “elimination;” a villager had shot a
paramilitary, excessive retribution a criminal's privilege. Lust for luxury makes
people support those capable of doing anything, this moral distortion driving
history on.

Five men remained to be executed. Four looked away from the farmer’s
upside-down, open mouth and eyes, death’s postures suggesting that death
holds unimaginable tragedies.

The fifth man, who accepted his worthlessness, whom they called a “cynic”,
undertook observation because he adored analysis.

“Who’s next?” the leader inquired. “I promise sweet deaths to volunteers.
You can trust me," he added, grinning beautifully.

Since seeing his father slaughtering animals on his parents’ farm when
young, the leader had been enthralled with death. His men saw him as he
who did control life and death, for the leader had the charisma of amoral
liberation, the ultimate modus operandi.

“Come on,” he said, “you have to go sometime. What about you?”

The “cynic” eyes lifted from the soil that surrounded the hole. Worms
slithered and slid in that loamy mound that the "cynic" knew was his coffin.
He was going to be buried with the same status as a worm. He almost
smiled at that. His raised eyes lightened in the sun as a paramilitary cut a
worm in half, worm halves writhing, fate indifferent to writhing.

“You’ve forgotten something,” the "cynic" said.

“So what's that, wise one?" the leader asked.

“You,” the “cynic” replied, “are just a man.”

“Meaning, oh wise one?” the leader inquired.

“When power wants you dead,” the “cynic” replied, “you’ll be finished.”

The leader spat into the “cynic’s” face; he who belittles self-imposed
supremacy is a “terrorist”.

“Power's my best friend,” the leader said.

The “cynic”, wiping his face, said: “Was.”

The leader said: “Wasn't going to be long for you, but, wise one, now it will
be.”

He shot the “cynic” in the foot. The “cynic” wailed like a bird being hounded
by a cat, his fingers quivering like strings plucked by pain, his neck tendons
like girders beneath a fierce grimace.

“So, gentlemen,” the leader asked, “any volunteers?”

“Me,” another man said.

“That’s the spirit,” the leader replied.

The volunteer's plump, gentle face, and small, blue eyes, exuded surprising
tranquillity. He was satisfied that death stops suffering. Soon, he wouldn’t
know anything; and if he did, he presumed it would be good.

He kissed the other men, squeezing their hands, saying: “It was wonderful
knowing you.”

One of his friend’s eyes moistened, something swelling through this man’s
chest, the leader saying: “So touching. Goran, the tissues?”

Goran grinned beautifully. The leader had taught him how to grin.

“It was a terrible oversight not bringing them,” Goran said. “It won’t happen
again.”

The “cynic” was sweating, his chest heaving like a churned-up sea, the red
at his feet expanding. His wailing, echoing off the slopes, dissipated into a
silence that was magnified by nature’s tranquillity.

The wailing wasn’t just due to physical pain. All the beautiful things and
people the “cynic” had seen and met in his life entered his head, the loss
evoked by these images creating a howl that caused the leader to say:
“Look, you're not Pavarotti.”

As punishment for this “attack on” the leader's “delicate sensitivities,” the
leader shot the “cynic” in the other foot, saying: “Let’s see if his singing
improves.”

The other paramilitaries grinned. Grinning increases status by appeasing
leadership ego.  

The volunteer knelt beside the hole. Because he couldn’t tolerate the
“cynic’s” howling and grimacing, or the horrifying postures below, he
observed the peaks, wondering what would have happened had he survived;
he accepted he would only have been living with pain, absence and loss, so
he relaxed.

Kerrrack......Saved from torment.

One of the remaining villagers rushed at the leader, swinging fists,
screaming: “Arsehole!”

A bullet snapped the screaming man's spine, gravity plunging him straight
down, his legs folding under his prostrate torso, the sudden vast emptiness
in his eyes mirroring the indifference those vacant irises now faced.

Justice and grace are as random as fate.

“Terrible manners,” the leader said, “but a novel way of volunteering. And
there are various methods of doing that. Are you two going to produce
creative methods? Or should we expect something more traditional?”

The remaining two on foot remained silent. No response seemed adequate.
Torment set their faces in casts of indecision.

“Well?” the leader said; “we're waiting.”

The “cynic’s” clenched fists had whitened.

“Don’t be shy,” the leader continued. “We don’t want to end up like him, do
we?”

The other paramilitaries grinned again. Their self-esteem, dependent upon
approval from narcissistic authority, created self-obliteration.

“Now, gentlemen,” the leader said, “shall we be reasonable and finish this
correctly?”

One of the men knelt beside the hole. He avoided looking at the twisted
limbs, distorted hands and empty faces below him that looked so pale
against the hole's dark soil. He clenched his fists, stopping his fingers from
trembling. Shoot straight, he thought; please, please, shoo--

Kerackkk, falling forward dead, rumbling-gunfire aftermath slithering through
the valley as wafting wheat released black birds into a fume-stained sky.

The gun's discharge made the remaining man shudder, as if taken by
surprise. He observed the valley’s loveliness, hoping that that last glimpse
could be taken with him on that inevitable journey.

“How about a cigarette before I go?” he asked.

He wanted one last pleasure while observing the valley’s delights.

“A cigarette?” the leader asked. “Is this a Hollywood movie?”

The other paramilitaries chortled, laughter obligatory if the leader grins.
Inappropriate seriousness suggests disloyalty.

“What brand do you prefer?” the leader inquired.

“You choose,” the man replied. “Health is no longer an issue.”

Straight after the leader started laughing, the other paramilitaries yelped
and guffawed. Submission means mastering instant hilarity.

“So you’re the village comic, eh?” the leader asked.

“Being the last one left,” the man replied, “I’m now the village everything.”

The pistol the leader removed from a holster was a present from the
president who had sent the leader to the disputed zone “to eliminate
problems.” Its barrel touched the man’s nostrils.

“I think I'll kneel down,” the man said.

Instantaneous death now looked attractive for it was now the most
pleasurable option.

“No, no, no,” the leader said. “Let’s test that wonderful sense of humour of
yours.”

The other paramilitaries now weren’t smiling because the leader was
serious.

“Goran,” the leader said, “should we offer him a cigarette, and while he
smokes it, should we try and blow it out of his mouth from, say, ten paces?”

“That, as usual,” Goran replied, “is a brilliant idea.”

“Thank you, Goran,” the leader said. “For recognising that fact, you go
first.”

“Thank you,” Goran replied. “I just hope my hand doesn’t shake. It would be
terrible to shoot badly because of shakiness.”

Goran also adored playful wit. The leader’s crow-like chuckle inspired big
grins in the others.

The man’s nose got lifted by the barrel. The only hope this healthy man now
had was instantaneous death. But that looked unlikely. He was probably
going to suffer a fate worse than the “cynic's” whose face now resembled
snow. The contrast between that face and the darkness of the soil was
sickly.

The smoker clenched his fists to stop his fingers from rattling; those fingers
had shaken like a freezing cat. He dismissed the idea of trying to strangle
the leader because he knew he would have been shot in the foot like the
“cynic”. His only hope was that someone would fail to hit the “target,” killing
him instantly.

The cigarette placed in his mouth shook. Even courageous people need
time to defeat nerves.

Goran paced out ten steps. His hands opened in exasperation. The
cigarette was shaking.

“How can I hit a moving target?” he asked. “He's not taking this seriously.
This play-acting is disgraceful.”

“Look,” the leader said, “we offer you a cigarette and you repay us with
this– this,” he shook his head with mock astonishment, “this silly game of
Dancing Cigarette. Now, hold still. Still!”

The man clenched his jaws. His cheeks quivered. The cigarette twitched.

“Oh, well,” the leader said. "He loves silly games so we'll just have to
accept it."

The leader lit the cigarette.

“You’re not inhaling,” he said.

The leader spun to face his men, saying: “He asks for a cigarette and now
he won’t inhale.”

The man inhaled, the cigarette’s end burning orange.

“That’s better,” the leader said. “Goran, remember, no shaking.”

"I'll try," Goran said, "but I can't guarantee anything under these
unacceptable conditions of a target that refuses to stop moving."

The leader faced his men and said: “We don’t want shaking hands, do we?”

The men shook their heads.

“No shaky wakies, now,” the leader said.

The man’s fists whitened from clenching.

“Good,” the leader said.

The man thought: My susceptibility towards pleasure is going to kill me
badly.

Goran's left hand braced his right as he aimed. Buzzing insects maintained
their rhythms, like natural atomic clocks measuring time's irresistible march,
the man’s chest thumping, sweat sliding like mercury spiders down his back,
the long, cool run of a massive drop tingling his spine, the insects' objective
rendering of chronology flowing on dispassionately against this game of
human retribution.

The “cynic’s” teeth gritted. Lines radiated out from his closed eyes, his lips
tight against his teeth, pain throbbing in the bones of his legs, the cigarette
quivering in the other man’s lips.

The "cynic" vomited because of the pain.

Goran's discharge’s aftermath ricocheted off the mountains like a grumbling
beast flying through the valley, the leader treated to what would dominate
his memory until death: Flying red beads, seemingly in slow motion, dotted
with calcium, spouted from each side of the man’s face; then the man was
prostrate, choking in blood, a panicked gurgling bubbling from his mouth, his
severed tongue sliding out of a hole that the bullet had torn in one of his
cheeks.

“Oh, dear,” the leader said, “you missed.”

“He’s to blame,” Goran replied. “He refused to stop that cigarette from
moving.”

“It’s your fault,” the leader told the man. “We warned you about moving
targets. And you also foolishly ignored the dangers of smoking.”

The man twisted his legs around each other, trying to brace himself
against the horror.

“Gentlemen,” the leader said, “deposit this garbage in the hole.”

The man’s fists clenched as they lifted him, his head hanging down. They
had to clutch his legs tightly as he fought to avoid being thrown face first
into the hole. He landed on his hands and knees. He got to his feet. He put
his hands on the hole's edge, trying to climb out, the leader shooting him in
the right hand, the man jumping back, crashing against the other side of the
hole, his left hand clutching his right, blood seeping through his fingers,
frustration like drills in his temples because he couldn’t shout.

They picked up the “cynic” who braced his fall into the hole by using his
palms. The other man stood up, the “cynic” at his feet. The paramilitaries
began shovelling the dug-up soil into the hole.

“Down,” the leader said, to the man who had been shot in the face. “Or
would you prefer it if I made you go down?”

The man sunk to his knees. His face was burning. He saw the corpses and
his feet disappearing under the soil. He was in agony and he couldn’t cry.
Fast asphyxiation was now his only hope, the soil the sedative he needed.
He wished to see his wife again and the pain of this distracted him
momentarily from the terrible throbbing in his face. His wife had been
bundled onto a bus with the village’s women and children, so many people
on that bus that cheeks had got pressed hard up against the bus’s windows.

As his wife was entering a refugee camp, the smell on the bus from urine
and vomit having made her vomit, the whining sobbing of the bus’s
passengers a symphony of despair, he saw the soil rising, his arms clutched
against his torso. All the emptiness in the universe seemed to enter his body
as he recalled his wife's face hard up against the bus's back window,
looking at him with terrified eyes, as the bus had driven away.

From birth, he thought, we’re in a hole, the soil slowly rising.

If he had tried to climb out, he knew the leader would have shot him in the
legs, the agony of this too much. The soil would kill him more quickly and
peacefully and he waited impatiently for this, having already seen the
“cynic’s” legs stop twitching and kicking after the “cynic’s” body had been
covered for a minute. He saw the “cynic” die just before the soil would have
done the job and he felt glad that the “cynic’s” suffering had finished.

He finally understood the “cynic”, who had displeased others by exposing
their pretentions, finally realising that the so-called cynic had been appalled
by the unnecessary excesses of ego that had culminated in the paramilitaries
victimising their village; he wished he had had the opportunity to apologise to
the man who had just died, the moral pain of this so intense that it made the
leader’s posturing look pathetic. He wished he could have told the leader:
“You’re pathetic. I really feel sorry for you.”

But that opportunity was now also lost and his last wish was that he was
going to be re-united with his wife in some mystic union and the knowledge
that we know so little about life and the universe and its creation braced him,
producing a tranquillity that he could not have expected in the face of such a
violent death.

When the soil reached his neck, the shovelling stopped. The leader, who
wanted one last thrill, had discovered just how much he enjoyed inflicting
pain when as a boy he pitch-forked rats in the hay shed, getting excited as
he turned the prongs, the rats yelping and thrashing in agony.

“That head,” the leader observed, “makes a great target.”

His men nodded ebulliently.

“Time, gentlemen,” the leader said, “for sport.”

They collected rocks. The man in the hole looked up without hatred, full of
pity for their “bitter immaturity,” pure chance, he thought, if you end up an
animal or not.

Bewildered compassion filled his eyes as he thought: They know not what
they do.

He recalled the “cynic’s” words: “Remember: you’re just a man.”

But men, he thought, have pity.

The leader stood beside the hole with some of his men. Two others were
twenty metres away with a pile of rocks.

“Fire,” the leader said.

The first rock hit the hole's edge above the man’s head. The paramilitaries
cheered, amused by this near miss. The target, too immersed in other
matters to pay attention to the paramilitaries’ antics, considered the
paramilitaries to be irrelevant because they weren’t going to add to
humanity’s knowledge of itself. The target now only found significance in the
remote possibility of goodness existing elsewhere.

His heavy eyes closed. A rock landed in front of his face. He heard cheering.

“Nearly a hole in one,” the leader quipped.

Weariness filled the target’s body. He visualised, before weariness took
him into permanent unconsciousness, his wife flying, arms wide, towards
the sun.

When a rock finally hit him in the head he was already dead.

*

A black, sloping roof, dotted with round, lemon lights, sat above black,
leather sofas that sat before round, red tables. Round red-and-black
ashtrays sat on the round, red tables. A fern in a marble dish drooped from
a cylindrical stand beside where the leader was sitting with a bodyguard
and a lawyer, "one client," as some lawyers say, the three beside a round,
red table.

The round, red tables looked like pools of blood.

Sunlight entered through a sloping-glass wall that met the black ceiling
above where a red carpet stopped on the white floor. The red carpet
resembled a rectangular pool of blood.

On the white floor, beside the glass, sloping wall, were white, leather
armchairs around white, circular tables. Vertical red tubes lined the glass
wall, like streaks of blood facing the black sofas and the black ceiling whose
round lights gave black a cheery glint.

"The cigarette wouldn't stop shaking," the leader said. "And it's so difficult
trying to hit a moving target with a handgun. Ahhh," the leader sighed, "the
dangers of smoking. When will smokers learn?"

The lawyer and the bodyguard grinned as the leader lit up a cigarette.

"Suddenly I saw blood spurting out from his cheeks and I thought: 'Goran
needs to improve his aim.' So now I've got him practising every day in police
headquarters."

The leader had received a call from the president's son, asking him to meet
in the hotel's lobby.

"Let's split the sale of oil imports," the son had said on the phone. "There's
no point squabbling over this. There's plenty to go around."

"I agree," the leader had said.

The leader had placed bodyguards around the lobby just in case. The self-
proclaimed "international community" was now looking for evidence to make
arrests for war crimes after they had forced the paramilitaries to leave the
disputed zone. The leader was also wanted for bank robberies in Europe.

His head spun to look behind after he saw the look on his lawyer's face.
Three men wearing black balaclavas were aiming pistols at the seated
threesome. A bullet blasted the leader's right eye, blowing out the back of
his head. The bodyguard and the lawyer got hit in the chest. The dull
garloop of bullets thudding into bodies shocked the lobby. The leader's fallen
cigarette started leaving a black patch on rectangular red. White smoke
swirled towards the black ceiling, disappearing into nothing above pools of
red.

The bodyguard's around the room sipped their drinks; people ran for the
stairs; others dived under tables. The coughing from the throats of the
gunmen's pistols had an eerie tone of blood-spilling success, a cough
transmitting the virus of death.

The security doormen stepped aside as the three killers left and drove
away.

*

Goran put the champagne he was drinking down to answer his phone; he
said: "My dear young man, what can I do for you?"

"Tell your men to do nothing in the hotel this afternoon. And I mean nothing.
Okay?"

Goran sat up. His smile flashed away, leaving behind morbid shock. The
blonde model, who had hold of his penis, let go.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"If you and your men do nothing," the voice said, "you walk free. You won't
be touched."

"Touched by whom?"

"Those on high."

"How high?"

"As high as it goes."

"Oh."

Goran asked: "Why?"

"Can't say now; but don't worry; do what I say and you're free."

Goran hung up and said: "Pack up, baby, we're heading for Brazil."

*

The leader's president was called to Geneva to see the US ambassador.
The nervous president's temples fizzed and ached on the plane. Anything
was possible, including arrest. Someone was going to have to face
prosecution to appease the Western powers' charade of probity as they
grabbed the disputed land.

The light inside the plane seemed to sear the president's brain. His stomach
churned like his thoughts, mind and gut reeling under shock waves of
concern.

He was taken out of the airport in a black limousine that had picked him up
directly from the plane. The temperature inside the limousine seemed higher
than it was, the car's air-conditioning soothing things down to a pleasant
twenty-two degrees Celsius; this didn't stop sweat seeping from the
president's armpits.

The limousine entered a car park under the US embassy. The closed-in
concrete made the president's heart beat an extra beat. The US
ambassador got into the car.

"Sorry to have to tell you like this," the ambassador said, shaking the
president's hand, "but this is top secret."

The ambassador's amiability made the president's headache disappear
immediately. Suddenly the air-conditioning seemed adequate.

"This might look like a threat," the ambassador continued, "but I'm sure you'll
understand. The resistance in that problem you've had recently said they'll
stop revenge killings if you execute the heads of paramilitary groups. We
want to stop the killings to normalise the place quickly. If you do what we
ask, you're free."

"And the paramilitaries themselves?" the president asked.

"They've been told to do nothing. If they do that, they walk free as well."

"How do I know what you're telling me is true?"

"We need to stop the revenge attacks. They look bad for us given that we're
now occupying the place and we intend to keep it. Your enemies have been
told that if there are anymore unsanctioned killings they won't get what they
want. The president'll ring you tonight. He's going to tell you to leave
politics."

The leader's ex-president felt the relief from having escaped from a long,
dreary, humiliating descent in prison into death.

*

After the hotel killing, the US Secretary of State announced: "It's a pity. We
wanted to arrest him and take him before the International Court of Justice
in The Hague."

The ambassador smiled at this "charming nonsense."

The leader's ex-president told the press: "It's now time to retire after years
of devotion to my country. I wish to spend more time with my family whom I
have not seen much of in recent years due to the conflicts that we have
been forced into against our will."

The president's pretentious sincerity, based on the lie of his sacrifice, made
the US ambassador laugh. The president's wife had convinced the
president to send the paramilitaries into the disputed zone.

"Beautiful," the ambassador said.

Some people adore the creative originality inherent in lying, an art not yet
widely recognised for its genius.

"One of the guys we shot," Goran told his girlfriend on the plane, "said he'd be
finished once power wanted him dead. It was awkward because we knew it
was true. But it's difficult quitting when you're having such a great time. You
just hope it goes on and on and on."

Goran already felt nostalgic for that "wonderful time" that "won't be returning in
my lifetime."

THE END


Biography
Kim has worked for NGO's in 3 conflicts: Kosovo, Iraq, and Palestine. He
takes risks to get the experience required for writing. 131 of his stories
have been accepted by 81 different magazines.

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