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ALTAN, Ahmed

I will never see the world ageain
I was in a cage.

In the damp dimness, in the shadows of the iron bars that cut into this dimness, in the young schoolteacher’s murmurs of prayer, in the shiny stone-like feet of the colonels, in the moans that came from across the cell, in all of these, there was something more startling than death, something that resembled the empty space between life and death, a no-man’s-hollow which reached neither state.

We were lost in that hollow.

No one could hear our voices. Nobody could help us.

I looked at the walls. It was as if they were coming closer.

Suddenly, I had this feeling that the walls would close in on us, crush and swallow us like carnivorous plants.

I swallowed and heard a groaning noise escape from my throat.

Something was happening.

I felt an army of ghosts stir within me. It was as if that famous army of terracotta warriors, which the Chinese emperor had built to guard his body after death, was coming alive inside me. Each carried with him a different fear, a different horror.

I sat up and leaned my back against the wall.

The heat was brushing my face like a furry animal. My forehead was sweating. I was having difficulty breathing.

This place was so narrow, airless. I wouldn’t be able to stay here.

For a moment, I had an irresistible urge to get up, hold the iron bars and shout, ‘Let me out of here. Let me out of here, I am suffocating.’

With horror I realized I was lurching forward.

I clenched my fists as if to stop myself.

I knew that with a single scream I would lose my past and my future, everything I had, but the urge to get myself out of that cage with its walls closing in on me was irresistible.

The terrifying urge to shout and the pressure of knowing that this shout would destroy my whole life were like two mountains colliding and crushing me in between.

My insides were cracking.

The young teacher stood up and put his hands together on his belly; the colonel across from me groaned and turned over to his other side.

I tucked in my legs and put my arms around my knees.

My vision was getting blurry, the walls were moving.