By Bashkim Shehu
The first part
Memorie.al / Bashkim Shehu were born in Tirana in 1955, while the origin of his family is from the village of Çorush in Mallakastra, in the district of Fier. After graduating from the “Petro Nini Luarasi” high school in Tirana, he attended higher studies at the State University of Tirana, at the Faculty of History and Philology in the Language and Literature department. From a young age he had a passion for literature and after graduation he was appointed as a screenwriter at “Kinostudio Albania e Re” and in 1980, he wrote the script for the movie “Skëterë ’43” which was made by the well-known director Rikard Ljarja . After the event of December 18, 1981, when his father, Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu, was found dead in his bedroom, and Enver Hoxha declared him an enemy of the people and a police agent, in January 1982, he was arrested and is sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment, accused, “for agitation and propaganda against the popular power”. After that, the mother and brother, Skenderi, were first interned in Belsh of Elbasan, from where they were then arrested and ended up in prison, Fiqreti in Zejmen of Lezha (where he died under mysterious circumstances in 1987), while Skenderi, in Burrel prison, from where he was released only in 1991, with the last political convict. Meanwhile, the older brother of Bashkim, Vladimir, died under mysterious circumstances, in his house in the city of Gramsh, (official version, suicide by electrocution), where he was immediately exiled as a family, after the incident with their father in December of 81’s. With the collapse of the communist regime, immediately after the 90s, Bashkim Shehu returned to his passion, literature, and besides being present in the press of the time as a publicist and prose writer, he also published many books, among which we can mention: “Autumn of Anxiety”, “Circle”, “Curse or the absence of the author”, etc. Likewise, his works have been translated into other languages. For years Bashkim Shehu currently lives in Spain with his family, where he continues to create and publish again. The writing we have selected for publication here is a triptych, which we have taken from one of his books, where he artistically describes the period of arrest and going to prison, which we are publishing on Memorie.al.
The steps of those above
Lying on a solid stone bed, a tombstone, motionless, all I can do is listen to the steps of those above. It is strange how they can climb and walk on such a steep hill, and on another equally steep one, leaning on both sides of a peak, as can be seen from the shape of this dome that I have above my head, and between my eyes, almost straight.
I avoid looking there, except for a brief moment, I look furtively out of the corner of my eye, left and right, without daring to turn my head, and I manage to distinguish, both to the right and to the left, the same thing. Little thing, after all.
Someone who pours out like me, motionless. Even, close to heart, the less I dare to talk to him, just like he doesn’t talk to me either. Also, because I can’t turn my head and only look out of the corner of my eye, sometimes with the left, sometimes with the right, my eyes must get tired quickly, even all this can’t last.
A little longer I can face the wall in front of me, but without raising my head, without making even the slightest movement of my neck to raise it. However, the viewing angle is such that it causes less fatigue, and besides that I manage to capture a wider field of view. Not the whole wall, the wall seems to go on and on from both sides, like the steep dome up there, that my vision cannot reach its edges.
However, this extensive extension on both sides makes me understand or guess that after all probability, across the one that is sent to my right and the other one on the left, there are rows of other immovable messengers, like Lipsana embalmed, lines that stretch and stretch in both directions, I almost think they stretched endlessly.
Meanwhile, in the part of the wall that can be grasped by my eyes, I see shadows, which look like huge spiders, and which change shape abruptly, as if, on the contrary, there is a uniform light with an invisible source somewhere behind, a light soft and yellowish, from which these shadows are conceived.
Indeed, their very presence makes me not dare to move from my solid bed of stone, stone of a tomb, not even to make any movement, however small, except that of the eyes. And so, with my eyes, I follow the movements of the huge shadows of the spiders, which so often look like hieroglyphs or I don’t know what letters, and which change constantly, but I can’t understand anything with my eyes.
Or, at the moment when I begin to understand, or rather, when it seems to me that I will be able to manage this, my eyes get tired and the letters on the wall cross each other. Even in that world, I take my eyes off the wall and all I have to do is sitting and listen to the footsteps of those above.
I have the feeling, still, that these steps have something to do with the shadows of the spiders, or whatever, maybe the shadows of the guards, that neither I nor others like me have been sent to my side, but we can’t see them.
But I can’t figure out how and in what way they are connected. However, I do not make any effort, as I keep an ear and hear the footsteps of those above. It’s just, I know I can’t, but I still can’t sit without listening to them. And I am amazed by their ability to climb and walk on those ridges, so steep on both sides of the peak.
From walking, maybe not only from this, maybe from any other things, that I am not able to see, I imagine them with a view like ours, however much they must have something else, something different and different , which gives them that amazing ability. Anyway, I can’t say what they are like, maybe I’m even afraid to think about it, so all I have to do is sit and listen to their steps, the steps of those above.
Sometimes, I turn my gaze back to catch, out of the corner of my eye, any slight movement of the one on my right or the one on my left, or even the briefest gliding of their gaze towards me out of the corner of my eye. . But this does not happen.
However, it is likely that they also glance, now and then, just like me, but the probability that our glances will meet remains very small, as long as the eye gets tired quickly and the time of looking is negligible, while the prolongation of this state with countless repetitions of looks, I didn’t change a thing in between. It is a fruitless, or frozen, time. I don’t know where I am and I don’t know how I got here, so much so that it feels like I’ve been here since the beginning of time.
I no longer remember anything from my previous life. Even those around me do not speak; I wait in vain to hear any words from them, let alone to show me where we are and how we came. Meanwhile, the only event that I remember, but which is not enough to shed any light on the dense fog of the past, is that of the last trip, the trip that brought me here.
I remember, then, that I sat in the dark interior of an Arab. I don’t know how long it lasted, I couldn’t even see anything, and the carriage was closed from all sides. Once, searching with my hands through the terry, although I had my legs tied, and this did not allow me to turn freely and turn where I wanted, searching with my hands through the terry, I found a narrow passage, through which I glanced out for a moment.
It was a barren, desolate camp under a dark sky with a half-moon in between. Even then, always the same view, that’s how I remember it little by little, while I don’t know and I’m not able to say, how many times I squeezed myself to see you outside, or if it was just once and the repetition was just a dream.
Or maybe the whole thing was a dream, dreams that keeps coming back to me here in the crypt where I stand motionless and wake up suddenly, without realizing where I am and sits and listen to the footsteps of those above. However, my mazgalla was once closed, perhaps occupied by some black cloth, even blacker than the night. Or maybe I had already entered that narrow tunnel where I last saw myself, if that too was just a dream.
Somewhere further, I saw a light, which kept getting bigger and bigger until it blinded me completely. Then I didn’t see anything anymore, my sight returned only to the fact that I was lying on this hard floor, like on a grave board or where I don’t know. Again, I woke up suddenly from the dream, right then and there, I automatically listen to the steps of those who are above, I must have woken up precisely because I felt a certain emptiness, that I listen to it to understand what it is, that it is the absence of the footsteps of those above, who are not being heard.
I turn my eyes left and right, always out of the corner of my eye, but I don’t see anyone near me. I dare to go up on my elbows, from both sides the single beds are empty, from both sides their appearance diminishes and dissolves somewhere in the distance.
Also, raised on my elbows like that, I look away from the wall, hoping that the big shadows in the shape of candelabra, those hieroglyphs that move and change constantly, will explain something to me, as far as what has been said so far, tell me the end of this, so that at least I can say that it wasn’t a dream, even that I heard the footsteps of those above all the time.
But even those, the shadows, the ever-changing hieroglyphs, have disappeared from the wall. I turn and look in the opposite direction, where those shadows loomed against the dim light, as if underground.
I can’t see anything, not even the source of the light, which apparently really came from underground. However, dream or dream, I was not wrong in thinking that the shadows cast by the hieroglyphs on the wall were somehow related to the footsteps of those above.
Therefore, now that the footsteps are no longer heard, the shadows are also disappearing. In a dream or in a dream, I rise from my hard bed, almost a grave, and start to walk the path between the row of now empty beds and the wall, just like that, without any definite goal. I arrive at a gate like this, not as far as I thought it would be, as I was wondering until a little while ago that I saw this whole crypt.
The gate is slightly open, but not enough to see through. But I can’t push the door. I look at a little bit of her drang, which is no longer like that, transformed into something liquid mistletoe that seems to fall drop by drop to the floor.
And I return again to where I had been, to my hard bed, grave-slab, or to any of the other beds, all the same and all now empty, and I lie there motionless, waiting to hear again the steps of those up.
There must be two, while I’m alone in my cell, but I don’t envy them one bit. So, I’d rather be alone, until my hour comes to die. Every night, at any hour, they can hit me and take me. Every time I fall asleep, I can’t stop thinking about what will inevitably happen.
The clang of the cell door, several guards entering, sometimes two, sometimes three, or more, then the noise of the long corridor with multiple, single doors on both sides in a row, the sight of the sky, fleeting sight anyway, and perhaps with a gnawed moon, the image of a bird frozen in the carvings of our most ancient ancestors at the dawn of time, this eternal moon, the first and the last, as I sink into the darkness of the closed van from all sides.
Then, after a who knows how long it will last, we stop at the foot of a cliff and there, after someone removes my space suit, not the chains with which I am tied hand and foot, the firing squad, from very close, fires a battery endless little balls of fire, and I can almost feel them bursting my skull and tearing my brains out.
At the beginning, after the trial, the visions came to me like this, one after the other and with a perfect and unmistakable order, fluidity and clarity; you mean I was literally living my death. That’s why I tried so hard to distract my mind by dragging it here and there. But now these visions come to me in bits and pieces, just like that, even when I’m falling asleep.
The day is another thing. During the day, I remember all kinds of events in my life, not only important events, but also details that do not constitute events that I had never remembered.
But that doesn’t fill me with pain or self-pity. With my death I already got used to it. That’s why I don’t envy the others around me, from whom the walls separate me, just like I don’t envy those upstairs because there are two of them, while I’m alone here.
Better to be alone like this, to memorize my life and live it again and again. Even now, at this hour, I’m sleepy and as it chases away my sleep from time to time, that dream with open eyes of what will inevitably happen to me, and which can happen even tonight, at any hour of the night. Even now, my brain is tired and my soul is tired and weak.
I have to make an effort, therefore, to get out of there, from that dream before sleep, a dream in my wide-open eyes that captures me.
Behold, the footsteps of those above have ceased, and I cannot count them, I have nothing to count, so, in order not to leave any corner for a moment in my brain to the ghastly dream of death, I try to think that tomorrow morning I will deal with other dreams, with the ones I will see during the night, and then memories will come from the most different and I will have to live my life again and again.
So, until the hour of sleep comes, of that sleep that will occasionally banish a ghastly dream, the dream before sleep in my gaping eyes, and then I will have to try, as now, to wake up there, thinking of tomorrow’s morning with other dreams that I will have seen during the night, and the continuation of the day with memories of the most different to live my life again and again, or listen to them, at that hour as sleep overtakes me and the looming of the inevitable overtakes me, let me listen to the steps of those who are above, so as to stand out from now on.
And count them, until I fall asleep. But not every night the steps of those above continue like that. It happens that they line up and I’m awake, facing the nightmare of the firing squad, bits of imagery running through my brain like fireballs from an endless battery.
Like now, in this bit. The footsteps of those above have stopped and I find myself in the dark void of the interior of a van. I want to go out there thinking about tomorrow morning, waking up to new dreams that I’m going to deal with, but the next bit I’m under a darkened sky with the frozen bird of the moon in between, just for a bit like this , and then back inside the van. Memorie.al
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