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16.08.2018.

Aldi by Umorni

http://umor.blogger.ba/arhiva/2018/07/19/4105972

Nisam pitao Umornog za dozvolu da postam ovu njegovu priču na engleskom, ali pretpostavljam da ne bi imao ništa protiv. Imao sam neku ideju da se prevedu izabrane price bloggera ono od pocetka pa dosad, pa sam htio da vidim kako bi to izgledalo na papiru...

First he tried to impose his authority by force. Issuing orders to us. Because he was, for all intents and purposes, our commander. Orders that we were supposed to obey. My comrades, however, cared little for his orders. Nobody was in a rush to die. And besides, it was great in this basement of ours. On the other hand, we needed that damn ammunition badly. In order to get it, we would have to get out of the nicely sheltered basement – though slightly damp, but it was a rather insignificant detail given the circumstances – move for about a kilometer amid a shower of shells, have the ammunition loaded on our backs as on mules, and return the same way with shells raining down on us once again. A rather unpleasant and dangerous mission. Actually, the main problem was a clearing – a front yard of one of the nearby houses – where one had to run at lightning speed to have any hope of not being hit by M84 machine gun, popularly known as the sower of death. If you managed to get unscathed, awaiting you next was the task of evading their so called random mortar fire that essentially was targeting no one else but you. Without the ammunition we were done for anyway. So, we fuckoffed the commander and pulled matches. Fire sticks, that is. The lucky winners, who no doubt were looking at the prospect of having a short life span, were: King, Aldi and myself. I was in a good company because both of them were good soldiers. They were brave enough and I reckoned if I were hit, they were not going to leave me behind. And it meant a lot.

We set off running for our lives over the clearing, trying not to pay attention to grass chunks being uprooted all around us by a machinegun fire. Having crossed the clearing, we hid from mortar fire in some repository filled with stale wheat. We smoked a few fags there, waiting for those shitheads to stop, to give their deadly arsenal a short break. The break finally came and we were able to make it to the staff headquarters. Once there, we loaded ourselves with ammunition to the point of nearly collapsing under all that burden. I felt that all that metal on my back was pressing me into the damp ground under my feet. In the damn war, there is this pervasive feeling of everything happening for one sole purpose, that of placing you under the ground. On the way back, they again searched for us by firing shells our way. It’s a nasty feeling knowing that it’s exactly you who they’re trying to blow to pieces. And really making an effort at succeeding. Having found a shelter behind a house, we agreed to cross the clearing together by holding to one another. I mean we should run the distance, but running with a burden that amounted to 70-80 percent of your own weight didn’t seem like a realistic option. Not in those circumstances at least. The machine gun was again uprooting the chunks of green grass all around our legs. This time it was impossible to ignore them. Bullets were whizzing creating gusts of air around our ears. But, we managed to make it to our basement unscathed.

Unloading the heavy load, we sank into an armchair and sofa that we had earlier moved to the basement. That was it, we succeeded. I extended a lit cigarette to Aldi who was sitting right across. Smiling at him I said: “Let others now fucking deal with the distribution of this ammo!” He smiled back and replied: “Let them loafers do it.” I then turned to talk to others, moving my gaze away from Aldi. There was another round of shelling of the area around the house. Maybe there was a reason for it, or maybe not. It was difficult to figure out what those shitheads were thinking. One after the other. Dozens of shells. But we were in the basement and they could not get to us now. At least not with the ones they were currently using. They could fire them for days on end to no effect. I felt an urge to say something to Aldi again. But something, something was wrong. His expression changed, his face assumed an ashen color and tightened a bit, and it appeared as if his eyes retracted in their sockets. He had a strange burning look in his eyes. He was looking in my direction, but I had a distinct impression that he did not see me. I waved my hand in front several times, but his eyes remained fixed. I also noticed a slight trembling of his body. And beads of sweat on his forehead. It was then that I recognized madness in his eyes, an unmistaken and genuine madness. He suddenly leaped on his feet and screamed: “Murderers, murderers, you will not get me out... No, no... I don’t want out... There is no one out there... Never...” While others were trying to figure out what was happening, he ran over me, reached for an automatic rifle and started shooting bursts of fire in the basement room. Bullets ricocheted all around the room and we all threw ourselves on the floor looking for shelter where there was none. He then pulled out a hand grenade from the front pocket of his jacket. Being the only one at the time who realized that he had lost it, I jumped on him and grabbed his arm. In the next moment, I found myself thrown away a couple of meters. Others jumped on him too, but he was throwing them around the room as if they were made of paper and entirely weightless. He became the strongest man on the planet. He then started releasing these unarticulated blood-curdling screams, flailing his arms all around. But he did not get to pull the safety fuse out of the grenade. He probably forgot to do it, with madness holding him strongly in its grip. In those couple seconds, we regrouped and seven of us descended on him. We punched and kicked with all our might, but still he floored all of us one by one. We were powerless against him as he became stronger than all of us combined.

As on many occasions in the past, the most lucid member of our unit, Rale pulled out his gun from the holster and hit him on the face with all the power he could muster. Mercilessly and without holding back in the slightest. Aldi swayed a bit trying to hold his balance, at the same time reaching with his other hand for the safety fuse. Rale struck again with his pistol hitting the same spot on Aldi’s face and causing him to fall on his knees. The left side of his face turned into a puffed-up fritter. Running at full speed Kralj buried both of his legs in Aldi’s chest, but it took the third strike with the pistol to finally knock him unconscious. After a minute or so of working on it, I managed to untangle his fingers from the grenade. He was two millimeters short from pulling out the safety fuse. Two fucking short millimeters. We all collapsed around the room, entirely exhausted and scared out of our wits. Someone asked: “What the hell was this?!” We had no idea, the guy snapped in less than two minutes. Could it happen this way too? From the practical presentation that we had just witnessed, it seemed that it could. We tied him up with whatever we could find, double-checking every single knot. A medic gave him a shot to make sure he remained sedated for a while. For the next couple of hours he was out, and as the dusk settled we carried him off to the field medical unit. After some additional explaining on our part, they gave him some other shots and transported him to the psychiatry ward.

He spent a couple of months on sick leave. I saw him several times at the staff headquarters when he came to collect cigarettes and food parcels. Or rather, what our logistics called food parcels. Ashen color of his face and a burning look were still there. He lost weight and his shoulders sapped. And then the day came when he was supposed to show up for a line-up together with the rest of us to go to the frontline again. There is an end to everything and sick leave is no exception. He failed to show up. And the rest of us left. Upon return, we found out that the night before the departure, he accidentally shot himself in the leg while cleaning his gun. The recovery was going to take another couple of months. This was the official version, I guess. For a while, we came back to the incident in our conversations. Was it accidental or done on purpose? An act of cowardice or bravery? Each of us looked at it differently. I never saw him in uniform again. After the war, I saw him a couple of times. The ashen color of his face and a burning look in his eyes subsided somewhat. He did not recognize me. It seemed that he had seen me before, but there was no place to associate with the face. He was dragging his leg behind him. Much in the same way as one would drag an unwanted burden. This appeared to be the only, visible, change on him...

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