From Lek Gjoka
Memorie.al / Except a cold rain seemed to have cooled the atmosphere more in that military car, which could barely climb the uphill of that weary road that ended at the Neck of the Dead, close to an abyss. Nik Vladi looked sadly at the next three victims who, without even appearing in court, were going to shoot them. Sadness came and went through his feelings, when he looked at the face of one of them, who was not yet seventeen. The silence of the grave hung in that winter night, where the morning light was barely trying to come out.
– Oh God! I hope this death machine that went up this hill almost every month breaks down, I don’t want to kill children, the devil take this communism. When they got close to the shooting site, they took them down in handcuffs and led them up the hill. Below the steep chasm, the usual wail of the river could be heard, the only eternal witness of the gunned down. They were given the shovels to open the common grave.
Agimi, a schoolmate of Nika’s, gave him a furious look and came close to his ear whispering loudly.
– If the enemies of the people suffer, this Party will lead them all to the bullet, the kulaks of hell. Nika didn’t make a sound. He gave him an angry look and headed towards the convicts.
– Where are you going, Nika?
– To remove their handcuffs because, with their hands tied, they will be too late to open the grave and it is a sin to shoot them like that.
– No, I said no back.
That’s how the last minutes of life suffer, the masqueraders of communism…!
– It’s a sin, God kill you!
Ha ha ha! – Agimi laughed loudly, – where is Mr. Nik, or did he comes there from your village?!… Nik Vladi did not stop. He went to them and started to remove their handcuffs, when he heard a crack and a bullet flew near him. He turned his head when he saw that his comrades were sitting in a fighting position and called out forcefully.
– Don’t remove the handcuffs because we will kill you too, together with them because they will run away from us and we will find a hole to enter.
Nika stepped up somehow and began to speak in a soft voice to the three, who looked at her with compassion in the last minutes of her life, with the vain hope that they might be saved.
– I’m sorry but I cannot. You will die before the sun rises, so when I get close to them, who can throw themselves into the abyss, dead for dead try the last fate.
– OK! – Shouted Nika loudly and headed towards the firing squad, – don’t shoot because I’m not solving them.
In the blink of an eye, a raven’s voice was heard joining the countless shrieks that were launched towards them.
A thin fog as if by order, came and on that mountain top everything was covered with sadness. Then there was a grave silence.
Dawn reloaded the rifle and headed towards the gunmen. When he got close to the pit filled with blood, amid the groans of the dead who gave up their souls, he started to shoot again, when at one point he was stunned. There were only two people in the pit. He looked surprised and shouted loudly to his friends.
– Come quickly, come quickly.
The firing squad approached the grave, where the bodies of the two killed with a sign of prayer for life, had died with their eyes open. Nika looked at her with compassion and cursed herself, why the hell had she chosen that profession?!
– Better to herd in the village than to shoot people, – he said to himself, – but it is too late because there is no turning back. Any regret, pain in the butt or backtracking is rewarded with a bullet to the head.
Just thinking, he heard a sound like a knife behind his head. – Play the country or hell; let’s look for the kulak because he got away from us. They approached the abyss, but it was so steep that they all lost their minds.
– Where did he get away from us! – Shouted Agimi with anger and irony, – did your lord take Nik Vladi!
– Shut up, mascara, who you are kidding!
– With your lord, but don’t worry, one day I will have you in their place.
Angrily, Nika loaded his rifle and shouted at him.
– Don’t play, Agim Karadaku! You will go to the devil too!
– Moss Nik, I’m sorry, don’t shoot me, I ate you…, I was joking, we are school and work friends.
Other friends approached him and calmed down the situation. As an easy peace fell, they covered the killed and went in search of the third, who did not even know where he had fled from. Nika passed by the Goat Path. Behind a bush, he saw a trembling man. He approached him, when he saw the young man who had been thrown into the abyss at the moment of the shooting.
– Please don’t kill me; I’m the only boy after nine sisters…
– No, no, I will not kill! Nika approached him and removed his handcuffs.
– Stay here until night falls, then cross the river and after that mountain you will reach Selitë, where to the left of Lak i Kroji, there is a village and there is a big tower. It’s from Bushpepaj there, go and say that Niku, uncle Zef, sent me. Take one of their sons and set off for Lura. There they will help you and escape from Albania. OK!
– Yes Yes! – Mark Gega spoke in a low voice, shaking from cold and fear. He started without breathing towards a big bush that even the wolf had no chance to enter…!
The opening of the cafe door made Nik Vladi turn his head. From a distance he noticed a somewhat fat man approaching him, the table where he was sitting with John.
How are you! – He greeted them in Albanian.
– Good, – returned John.
– John, what’s new?
– Nothing to note. Are you waiting for anyone or will you sit with us?
– No one, I’m sitting down.
– What are you going to drink?
– A coffee.
– What coffee?
– Of course, this is a strong coffee, coffee for us Albanians who have fought with death for thousands of years and are still alive. They slowly entered the cafe and sat down. As they looked into each other’s eyes, a surprise hung over them both.
– Do you have time in Florida? Mark broke the silence.
– A couple of years.
– How is it possible that I haven’t seen you? Do you drink coffee here?
– Rarely, very rarely, because some Albanians come here from those who want to solve the problem of Albanian politics, after the overthrow of the communist dictatorship where some of their fathers have stained their hands with blood.
– Why don’t you love Albanians?
– Hey son, how can I not love them, am I Albanian too? Shouldn’t I love myself, but the time that has passed has left us with many problems.
– I know it was a terrible time; the communism that bloodied Albania changed the Albanian a lot.
– What is your name? – Nika couldn’t stand it and asked him in one breath.
– Enjoy it.
– Thank you.
– Mark who?
– Mark Gaga. What about you, as if I’ve seen you somewhere.
– What did you do in Albania?
– Rifleman. I killed people with and without trial.
Notttt! – shouted Marku with a loud voice, you’re the one who saved my life, when my uncle and aunt were shot at the Goat Path, oh my god, they didn’t say that, mountain and mountain don’t meet, while man and man do…! When the pitch black night covered the entire mountain, Mark, shivering from the cold, came out of the bush and headed towards the river. As he drank the water well, he entered it and crossed to the other side.
He climbed slowly to the top of the mountain and when he passed the Kroi Loop, he saw a faint light coming from the tower that the policeman had told him about.
Walking in fear, he headed towards the tower.
– How can I tell him! – He started stammering to himself, – uncle Zefi sent me and…! Unknowingly, he had arrived in front of the centuries-old door of the tower where a carved cross seemed to dispel his fear. He approached and knocked on the door.
– Do you want friends or men?
– Welcome and welcome, sir!
An old man of Bushpepai with the pride of the mountaineers slowly opened the door with a small lighted candle in his hand.
– Come on, son, because you are made like spoons.
– Do you believe that…?!
– Bushpepaj hasn’t preyed on anyone in centuries, not expecting a child.
– Thank you in your faith and God’s.
It sat at the top of the chimney on a sheep post. The warmth of the house made him recover. They made him a cup of coffee, brought him to wash his hands and sat him down on the mahogany table to eat.
– How good it was to bring you to this night in the midst of deer and wolves.
– One of your men sent me, he told me to tell him that he was Uncle Zef’s son and to send me to Lure as soon as possible.
When he found out about his plight, the old man of Bushpepaj took the rifle and together with his son and Mark, they left through the night for Lure…!
– Where did you go to Lura? Nika interrupted Mark.
– I don’t know the name; I think Vladi had the last name, but… As they passed Kurbnesh and headed for the valley of Krejë-Lura, a snowflake started to fall. The cold tried to tire us, but the mountaineers had always scared the cold and the enemy. Shortly before the light came out, we reached a village in Lura.
– Oh master of the house, – shouted the old man of Bushpepaj, – do you want friends.
– Come and God bless you, on this snowy night that even the night itself is tired and you are looking for a cave to stay a little warmer.
As they entered, the owner of the house handed over the cigarette case. Before long, a small woman with a sad face came and brought us four coffees.
– What good brought you so early, my friend? You gave us the day for your daughter’s wedding, don’t you regret it?
– It’s not Vladi’s first hour, another trouble has brought me tonight, so I took your son-in-law with me. I know the Kanun, but when it comes to the faith of the man and the god, the Kanun always says you are fine.
– Yes, go on, how are you?! The old man of Bushpepaj began to speak slowly and told him the story of this unfortunate man.
As they ate breakfast, they left Mark there and left where they came from…!
– Mark! – Nika interrupted his memories, – I’m glad you’re alive; it was a bad dream that tired us a lot.
– That was my life, thanks to you and the Albanian faith, that today I am not in the pit like my uncle and aunt, but I have a family and the Gegaj tribe has five sons.
– I saw him alive.
– Thank you, but the great god brought you here because, I have searched a lot in Albania and I know that the kind-hearted and faithful old man of Bushpepaj has died, but I know nothing about the old man of Vlad, nor about a boy from the village of Kaçorri , who to save me, we escaped together.
– Even Vlad’s old man has been dead for many years…!
– Right? – He said regretfully, – how do you know?
– Because it was my father!
Mark threw himself on his neck and started to cry. She couldn’t stop her tears, so everyone turned their heads to see what was happening.
– Calm down because life is like that, with birth, love, unexpected events, death and sadness.
– I know, but I would never have believed that in Florida I would meet you after the shooting, that you sent me to your blood to save me. But life is life that must be lived, so I live with pain in my soul that because of a communist dictator for many years, Albanians could not enjoy life and thousands of others were killed. Outside, a light breeze seemed not to be a witness to this meeting, but as if her body shuddered from this story and life’s pain./Memorie.al
(Taken from the book “Devil’s Creek”)