What has been seen cannot be unseen, doubly so when there is photographic evidence.
|They are coming for me. I know it. I race back, further into the deserted silver mine, back until the moonlight disappears and the walls cease to glint, silver reflecting the calm night sky, back until I can no longer find my way in the dense, enveloping darkness. I can’t let them catch me; it would ruin everything if they did.
I am on the run, not for murder or anything horrible like that, but for seeing the government killing its people; dismembering its women as their children watched, beheading their fathers, letting the streets run red with the blood of young and old. The children, the poor, poor, children, were tortured and starved within an inch of their lives, and kept hanging there, just for their captors’ amusement, just so they could be taunted and abused a bit longer. Dead people are less amusing than terrified alive ones. The thought makes me physically sick. I am on the run. I have seen too much, so much I shouldn’t have. All with my camera hanging around my neck, then in my hands, clicking furiously. My camera has captured the truth.
I slow my pace and feel my way around one of the corners; I feel a hollow in the wall and shove my roll of film in it. I’ll come back for it later, I have to. I keep going, turn another corner, then move into a recess in the mine wall; it probably had some purpose when the mine was active, but now it serves a higher duty: to hide me and the truth, ensconced in the cloying darkness. If I stay quiet for long enough, I’ll be able to hear them approach. I slump to the ground and wait for them. They’re at home here. I am the stranger, the trespasser. I have no idea where the escape route is. I have no chance of outrunning them.
The government here are brutal to their people. They are corrupt to the last, from the local police right to the top. People disappear from their beds in the middle of the night, sometimes with their whole family. This government claims it’s fighting a war, but we know that no war exists but the one they make: the war on their own people. I’m not here to start a revolution. I just take photographs. The truth is captured on my film. People should know about this, care about this. The truth must survive. It has to.
A slight, distant thumping; the sound is even enough to be footsteps, but random enough to be someone tripping or falling. I shrink back into the recess and a jagged rock pokes into my side. In my effort to get comfortable, I fall sideways and end up scraping my hand and drawing blood. I feel its warm trickle as their voices rise to the sound of yelling; voices are approaching shouting chaotically in their foreign tongue.
They are closer now, and infinitely louder. Momentarily, I stop breathing. I clench my body in on itself in the recess; if they don’t see me straight away I can attack them. I become aware of how white I am, the luminosity of my skin in the darkness. It’s almost like I’m glowing. Panic fists in my belly as I realise my own skin will give me away. I scrape to dislodge a rock to use as a weapon. They are right around the corner now; I can see the torchlight bouncing off the silver in the mine walls, a beautiful light show, horrifying in its implications, for me and the truth.
I hear a voice, though it sounds more animal than human. It makes me flinch into the rock wall, and I can feel the blood pooling in my palm from the cut.
A scuttling in the dirt. A torch burns my eyes. A large bulk is thrown against me and the rock I am holding is flung from my hands. I hear it hit the ground. With that brief thud goes my hope. Exhaustion and terror take me. I fall against the wall, a vice-like grip around my arm, holding me up.
A different voice, guttural and foreign in the extreme. The sounds mean nothing to me. I’m glad I can’t understand. I simply don’t want to know. A uniform grabs me and pulls me to my feet. I can’t resist, I’m frozen in fear like the subjects in my photos.
The torchlight burns my retina, and through the blinding light I see again the two small children standing over their parents’ bodies. I squeeze my eyes shut and my hearing kicks in: I can hear more of them approaching. My sweat mixes with blood on my palms and stings the skin.
I move my mouth, begging my throat to work, to plead for my life, for mercy. There is no sound. I don’t know if they know what mercy even is. I don’t think anything can reach them. I just know I don’t want to die.
I’m shaking, terrified. I’ve been near guns before, but I’ve never noticed how cold and clinical they are. Bullets change everything, and there’s no digital erase button in real life.
I try to step back and I stumble again, crashing into the wall. I can hear them laughing at me through the sound of blood roaring in my ears.
I can’t give up now. Not now. Not now.
I hear a gun cock.
Not now. Not now. Not--.