Dying Every Minute
As they entered, one of the men got
up walked across the room to the wall, bent down, and pushed a small sliding
door open. A dark hole gaped in silence.
He called out in a harsh voice “...Come
on out you dirty swine!”
No answer was heard from within.
He came down to his knees and peeped into the hole. An offensive smell
pinched his nose, and his nostrils quivered.
“...It’s to you I am talking! You
dirty rat! What are you lying on your back for? Can’t you hear me?”
Again, he didn’t get an answer. Then,
holding his breath, he stuck his head into the opening, and reaching with
his right hand, he dragged something out; a shapeless mass of a human being.
He dragged him out by his leg to the center of the room, joining his men,
who stood on each side of the dying unfortunate. He commanded: “...Ready!”
The men uncoiled their long black lashes and let them lay a moment on the
floor. Then, to the rhythm of the sergeant’s harsh voice, they went
into action “...One...Two...Three...Four...”
The lashes whined and cracked on
the dying man’s body. They coiled and uncoiled like rattlesnakes and their
black marks girdled his bare, emaciated and faintly breathing chest.
He couldn’t scream, nor cry.
He had no strength left for that.
After the sergeant reached the hundred
and fiftieth time, he stopped, and with a disdainful motion of his hand,
he said: “Drag him out and throw him into the ditch, with the others.”
And turning to Mustapha, said with an ironical smile. “The floor is yours
now...” And he left the room with his men.
Mustapha, a satanic glint in his
eyes, took the stand, nodded to his men to get ready, and beckoned to Arsen
to take the dying man’s place on the floor.
A few minutes later, they dragged
him, unconscious, threw him in the dark hole and closed the door behind.
Mustapha suddenly remembered he had
forgotten a very important matter and he hurried back to the hollow where
the massacre had taken place. He took a big stick from the bushes,
stuck it into the ditch, and began pushing the corpses to one side, trying
to discover Hasmik’s body.
The sun had gone down, and the dusk,
like a thin black haze, covered the valley. The ditch was a gruesome sight.
Indescribable sounds came out of the disfigured , dismembered and bleeding
bodies. Here an arm jerks spasmodically; there a leg. The muscle of an
eye twitches, as if the dead persons were winking, and a lifeless convulsion
breaks the thickening blood in the throat with muffled gurgles.
Someone stirred in the bushes. Mustapha
turned and listened. He listened and slowly approached the suspected spot.
His pistol in his hand, he got closer and peeped into the thick chaparral,
then, with a broad smile on his face he stopped and looked at his men who
were scurrying the countryside.
“...Here she is!...Right here!” Slowly,
and dejectedly, Hasmik came to her feet, dishevelled and bloody.
He rode to the village, high in the
mountains. He dismounted and carried her into a deserted house and flung
her on the bed. She kicked and bit and scratched, and struggled violently.
He finally overpowered her.
Her unconscious state didn’t bother
Mustapha...A moment later, he stood looking at the still unconscious body
of Hasmik who lay on the bed. A fiendish smile curled the corners of his
“...It will take time to tame her...Just
a little patience, and everything will be all right...” Then he curled
his mustache and walked out humming a cheerful song.
The little village was situated in
one of the upper recesses of Amanos ridges, overlooking a vast scene of
deserted towns. He stood in front of his house and gazed at the desolate
distance: at the fields with no workers, at the houses with no dwellers,
at the churches with no worshippers, and chuckled.
An immeasurable mass of human avalanche
was being rolled down to the burning sands of Arabia. An entire race was
being thrown into the crackling flames. Mustapha, remembered his
dream and felt fine.
Months rolled on, and Mustapha would
ride, now and then, with his men to surprise the rolling caravans, to rape
the girls, to attack the women, and to kill anyone they pleased and come
back with all their belongings.
In the meantime, Hasmik was getting
bigger and bigger. She couldn’t conceal it any longer. Her eyes were red
from continual weeping.
Many times she heard shrill screams
from the village where she now lived. Many times, she saw Mustapha coming
home with bloody hands and bloody clothes.
What has become of Arsen? Is he dead,
like her mother and brother, or, is he still alive drifting along...No
hope? How can she live without him?
She couldn’t bear to see Mustapha.
She couldn’t stand his voice. Every time he came home, she would go and
hide herself in a dark corner of the house and cry.
He would drag her out, and would
struggle to kiss her; but, she always kicked and struggled and scratched,
and then fainted.
She could never go out alone. Always,
someone spied on her. How she wished to be able to go out and throw herself
from the cliff, into the precipice, and finish everything!...
had become very big now...The fruit of the crime was ripening fast. The
thought of it pained her, tortured her...But Mustapha was happy, and he
anxiously waited for the birth...The birth of a boy...He even tried to
be more humane toward her. But in vain. She just couldn’t stand the sight
And a baby was born. A son,
who was named Ahmed, after Mustapha’s father. How happy he was!
A few days after the birth, the entire
village celebrated the event. They ate and drank and danced. There was
nobody in the house, but Hasmik and the baby. Outside, everybody was having
fun. The shouts of the celebration pierced her heart like the blade of
a knife. She couldn’t look at the baby’s face. His cries alone were enough
to drive her mad. Who was he, anyway? Wasn’t he the little Mustapha?...How
could she willingly let his filthy lips touch her breast?...They were not
created to nurse him...They belonged to Arsen’s children...
A huge kettle of soup was boiling
on the fire, and the flames leaped gracefully and licked its black sides.
Now and then, the boiling liquid would spill over the brim into the fire,
hissing and crackling.
A thought flashed into her mind.
A dark thought. She stared a moment, at the boiling soup, her nerves
taut, her heart in suspense. She kept looking at it. Her entire being
was in the grip of a whirlpool.
The baby kept crying, from hunger.
Flashes leaped into her brain, like glares of lightning in a stormy night.
She got up, lifted the crying baby,
walked toward the fire, and with a cold and merciless hatred in her eyes,
she threw him into the boiling soup.
...Shrill screams...muffled sounds...the
hiss of the spilled soup in the fire...everything was over.
Hasmik stealthily walked out of the
house, plunged into the dark woods and disappeared.
Here, Vartan stopped with a yawn,
put his diary back into his pocket and cast a tired look at the greying
The bugler suddenly sounded reveille
and the legionnaires grouped on the deck.
“...Land!...Land!” exclaimed Arsen,
who with his knapsack and rifle hanging carelessly from his shoulder, pushed
his way through the packed deck toward Vartan.
“...What are you doing all by yourself?”
“...I’ve been up all night...couldn’t
sleep,” said Vartan.
“...I couldn’t sleep either.
How excited I am!”
“...The story of our experiences
kept me awake...Part of them, I should say...I haven’t covered everything
yet...like, how you escaped from the torture chamber in Islahie and how
you came to join the French Foreign Legion on Cyprus Island.”
Arsen’s eyes became gloomy, and he
looked silently at the bright outline of the Amanos mountains, bordering
the Gulf of Alexandrette.
Strips of rosy clouds appeared in
the east, and suddenly, flames of the rising sun splashed a huge fire upon
the top of Musa Dagh.
It was cold and windy. White crested
waves crashed against one another, and the ship plowed its way through
the roaring surf toward the port of Alexandrette, in the shadow of the
The disembarkation took all morning.
The hustle and bustle subsided around noon, and the battalion marched out
of Alexandrette toward Deurt-Yole. Creeks, ravines and a mantle of thick
vegetation marked the way.