They were told to protest; ”if you care about the world around you, if you care about the future world of your children, you will march with them, hold the signs up high and scream for justice.”
They were still boys, but they believed themselves to be men. They had to believe they were men, you couldn’t perceive yourself to be a boy in such a world. Boys get eaten, men survive.
They were taught revolutionary dreams. The recruiters showed them pictures of the young boys who were hanged for treason. ”You must honor their memory, you must resurrect their spirits. Dying is a luxury, silence is our greatest sin.”
Even in those few years before manhood, the only games they knew were the games they played as children. Unlike the parts of the world where kids can distract themselves with the affluent choice of video-games and shows, here they had to do with whatever the state allowed them to play with; whatever the children from the Western world were bored to play with, whatever the president didn’t want his children to play with. Many of these boardgames were stolen however, then put in circulation all around the country. So before these boys would protest, before their lives would never be the same, they played a game of tag. In this game of tag you couldn’t just be ‘tagged’ by being touched, you had to be touched on your bald head. You see all of those kids had bald heads. None of them had been allowed any exotic hairstyles. The state made the schools shave their heads weekly because they had decided that boys with too much hair on their heads, looked too much like ‘them”, those people that defied God and most of all; the president. If there was a holiday, it was up to the parents to remind them. Any boy caught with too many hairs on their heads, would be arrested and the parents could expect an egregious fine. This was as long as the boy hadn’t been affiliated, even mildly, with some dissident group. If so, the boy could be put behind bars. The trial would be delayed for months, sometimes years to come.
The recruiters knew that these boys’ life would change in horrific ways. But they believed that this terrible sacrifices was worth it in the end. In order to enforce any changes, leaders must lead children to their deaths. The likes of Michael Collins or Che Guevara led young men to their deaths for a greater good. If enough children suffer, enough people will rise up and demand regime change.
They told kids that they will be seen as heroes. People will read them in history books, they would tattoo their faces on their bodies. ”We must stop this new law,” the recruiter reminded them, ”if this new law passes, the police will have even more power. If you have enough passion you will inspire others and if you inspire enough people, we can topple our corrupt president. This is not a fight for justice, this is a fight for a dignified life. Any bruise, any broken limb, any mental pain is part of this revolution. Don’t be scared. March until the end of days.”
The boys marched with worn-out sandals. Sand would fill the insides of their toes. The boys would talk about the microcosms of bugs that lived in their toes. They wore clothes made by boys like them, with different colors and shapes of eyes, but ultimately made for boys who live in the Western world. They saw many families flee to that direction and never come back. Some came back and would venture to that world again. It used to be easier they were told, but now the Western world was cracking up on any uninvited visitor. They said these visitors brought unwelcoming cultures in their own much more superior cultures. Some of them had managed to mate with women in the Western world, which scared many that live there. There were instances of violences done by men who hated the Western world and these visitors, even if they despised such acts and perpetrators perception of the religion they themselves adorned, were affiliated with them- mostly by political leaders with weird blond hairs. Like the president; they would become ”them”, people to be feared and despised and thus had to be stopped and locked away- or in this case, made to leave to whatever country of origin. One hopes that those that never came back, were allowed to stay and didn’t perish on their way there, as has happened many times before.
There were girls marching too. Unlike the bald heads of boys, they wore scarves around their luscious hairs. The boys talked in secret about being close to these girls and about what they wanted to do with them. The girls did this as well, but you had to be careful and not speak to loudly about this, especially if you were a girl; girls had always been expected to be more ladylike, while the antics of horny boys was deemed typical in their natures. Certainly if a boy and a girl got too excited and actually started to meet in secret, they better not get caught or else they would be considered deviants, and there was nothing worse than being a deviant in this country.
But there came a point in all these children’s lives that they wished that they had been more courageous because none of them would ever receive the kind of intimacy they had longed for. The country in this time had been especially watchful and harsh against expression of dissidence and the kids hadn’t even marching for an hour until teargas was shot their way. One boy had lost sight in one eye because a teargas cannister hit his eye. One boy, who had been especially passionate, had been beaten so bad, he had spent months in the hospital before he was send to prison and the blows he had received on his head were so bad, that he was never the same again. All the children, boys and girls alike were put into buses and immediately send to the penitentiary. Unbeknown to all of them, they were all put in the ”anti-terror” law, something the president had decided as an emergency precaution to all those showing any form of dissidence. This meant that trial could delayed indefinitely, that for the time their family could not visit them and that they were not allowed contact with the outside world.
The boys and girls were put in separate prisons of course- this was after all a conservative country! The moment the boys were there, they were stripped naked and hosed with water. They were forced to march to their overcrowded cells while they were forced to chant the same thing while they were protesting. As the bars closed for the first night each of the boy knew that they had made a terrible mistake and none of them spoke to each other. Any word, hopeful or otherwise, would hurt too much.
It would take about a year before the outside world began to hear about the abuse they endured. The endless humiliations; having to walk around like dogs, eat food from the floors, beaten when they were ‘bad dogs.’ Their ethnicity from the specific region they hailed from was constantly being mocked, it was ”the lowest of the lows,” they said, ”you are actually being treated like royalty here!” There were the forms of torture that amazed them in its horrors; that nightmarish drop of water, the bastinado, hot water, cigarette burns, the choking. There were the guards that liked to touch the boys a little too much and there the guards that liked too much. The boys were barred from medical attention, it would raise too much attention. There were the suicides and attempted suicides, one boy in particular said that when he thought about his mother, he just couldn’t do it.
When reports came of their abuse and spread about in human-rights court and finally in some little publications in the country, the president came to the rescue. He would move them to a different facility, one where they would serve their punishment honorably. It would be nice if the horrors ended this way, but then again, don’t underestimate this country nor humanity; the horrors can keep coming, things you can never imagine.
Boys were send to prisons and received their own solitary cell; to compensate for the abuse they endured, the walls of their cells were painted with clowns with floating balloons. The boys missed each other then, some of them would never see each other again as they were send to a different facility. ”You think they can’t take more of you, but then you realize they can. And they can probably take more than that,” one boy said in a report. The guards in question were never punished, even some of them were send to the prison facilities were these abused boys were. Some of these guards, for some inexplicable mad token revenge against these kids for speaking out; received a promotion with a hefty wage hike. The publications that spoke about this prison were seized and its journalists put in prison for ”disturbing the peace” or ”aiding ‘them”,” whatever was more convenient at the time. The boys grew up in these prisons surrounded by clowns and floating balloons, some of them growing mad by solitary confinement, some of them nearly starving, some of them suffering the same abuse over and over again. In time, some of them had been allowed visitation from their parents but when they met their parents they had no idea what to say and some of them, didn’t seem to remember who they were. It was a different life, a different world, a world that didn’t seem to exist no more. ”It was just my imagination,” one boy said to himself one day, ”I’ve always lived in here. I’ve never left.”
The memory of people who have read these reports, faded. Mostly willingly; it was better not to ponder such facts in life and focus on how good you and those around you have it. The good people, especially little boys and girls (whose abuse was no less terrible and deserves to be written about by someone courageous enough to explore it) are supposed to have happy endings. But being forgotten by the lucky ones outside these prisons was not something they had been at all surprised with. There had been some hopes when they managed to speak out about this and when the buses came to move them away, but when they entered their cells and saw the clowns and floating balloons, they smiled before they cried for the last time of their lives.