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Retribution
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 2

The loader, Akhmetov, laughed harshly. "All these days and you still expect gratitude?" He knelt on the ammunition crates on the floor to peer over Alyosha’s shoulder. "Wonder if they were all in bed with the Nazis."

Alyosha watched the corporal in charge of the squad of soldiers walk over and talk to the old man with the moustaches. He nodded and came back to the tank.

"He says the Nazis weren’t here," he called up to Tereshchenko in the turret. "He says nothing happened here, no one came."

"Yes?" The senior sergeant’s voice was heavy with sarcasm. "Ask him about those trenches we drove past in the field."

"I already asked him, Starshina. He says they dug them to stop German armour coming, in case they turned up." He spat eloquently on the ground. "A likely story, seeing they left the track untouched and the trenches are all pointing east."

"Take your men and search the village," Tereshchenko said. "Stay ready to move fast if anything happens. Akhmetov, load anti-personnel. Everyone on alert."

Alyosha watched the villagers through the front hatch. They stood where they were, looking uncertainly at the tank and at the soldiers who were now beginning to move through the village. A chicken began clucking and quickly fell silent.

"How long," Sasha the gunner muttered, "are we planning to stay here, Starshina?"

"As long as it takes," Tereshchenko said irritably. He sounded on edge, and this worried Alyosha because Tereshchenko was normally as emotional as a block of wood. "I want to find out what’s going on here."

"Starshina," Fyodor said. The old man with the moustaches was stepping warily towards the tank. "Looks like we have complaints."

"The soldiers," the old man said to Alyosha through the hatch, since he was the most easily visible. "The soldiers are stealing the chickens."

"What’s it to you, dedushka?" Fyodor leaned over to glare up at the old man. "We’ve come to liberate you, and all you can talk about is chickens? The soldiers need food.We need food."

"Enough, Fyodor," Tereshchenko called from the turret. "Listen, Dyadya," he said to the old man. "We haven’t had a proper meal or sleep in days now, and we still have a long way to go. I think a few chickens are the least of your worries."

"If you want food," the old man said eagerly, squinting myopically up at the turret, "we have bread and even a few eggs. You’re welcome to them." His watery blue eyes blinked earnestly. "But please don’t disturb the chickens, and the women –"

As though on clue, someone screamed in the village, a woman yelling. Alyosha glanced uneasily at Fyodor, but he was fumbling with the lock of his machine gun.

"Listen to them!" the old man said.

"What do you expect in a war?"’ Akhmetov leaned across Alyosha’s shoulder. He squinted at the afternoon sunshine, his narrow Kazakh eyes almost disappearing. "Soldiers are men, old man, and they need their fun."

"Fun?" The old man was outraged, his jaw quivering. "You call that fun?"

"Oh yes." Fyodor didn’t look at anyone, and he might have been talking to his machine gun. "After days and weeks of facing death constantly, not knowing if you’ll ever even see a woman again, I’d call it fun. All right."

"That’s enough," Tereschchenko said. "We aren’t the Nazis. Get them back here."

At that moment, there was a shot, ringing out sharp and loud, from the other side of the village. Everyone in the tank stiffened. Alyosha grabbed at the steering tillers. Fyodor swivelled his machine gun, the stubby barrel traversing the street.

"Zhopa," Sasha swore softly. "What the hell is going on?"

Nothing happened for a long moment. Alyosha, watching the old man, suddenly had a feeling that he’d been expecting the shot, that this was what he’d been trying to head off with his complaint about the chickens. He hadn’t made the slightest attempt to crouch in the dust like the others. He’d just turned round and was looking back at the village.

[ Continue to page 3 ]

Information
Genre:General Horror
Type:Short story
Rating:6.44 / 10
Rated By:11 users
Comments: 1 user
Total Hits:9123

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