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A World apart

One evening, when Marusia, who never spoke to anyone in our barrack, was sitting as usual next to Koval, her arms entwined round his waist, one of the urkas tapped her lightly on the shoulder and spoke a few words to her. The girl slowly unwound her arms, turned her head and looked at the man with loathing; suddenly she raised her whole body and, with the gleam of a mortally wounded animal in her eyes, spat straight in his face. The blinded urka took a step back, wiped his face with his sleeve, and spreading out the two fingers of his right hand, drew back for the dreaded blow. At that moment Koval sprang up from the bunk and threw himself at the other. They struggled for a moment, and when they were separated, Koval found himself facing seven pairs of hostile eyes. He turned to the girl, who was cowering in the corner, pulled his torn shirt round him and through clenched teeth said in a voice which chilled my blood: "Lie down, you bitch, and off with your clothes, or I'll choke the life out of you." Then to his friends: "She's yours, brothers."

First came the urka at whom she had spat. Marusia now took them without any resistance, gently opening her thighs, cupping her hands round the swinging buttocks above her, and not complaining even when their impatient hands crushed her breasts. Her head hung down over the end of the bunk, and her wide eyes looked

persistently at Koval, who was sitting by the table, while her pale lips whispered softly: "Forgive me, Timosha, forgive me." Koval did not get up from his seat even when, as she was leaving the barrack, she looked back at him once more with eyes full of an unbounded, down-trodden love. Long after she left, the air was full of a sharp smell of sweat, sperm and hvoya.