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Short Stories


By July 18, 2022No Comments


We buried Orbek near the top of a mountain ridge overlooking the Charvak Reservoir, an hour’s drive outside Tashkent. It’s a popular weekend destination during the summer, but in the middle of late autumn, with a bitter wind scouring the hills and the promise of snow hanging in the air, we knew it would be deserted. We found a quiet spot ringed by mature trees, between which we could see the water of the reservoir, blue in the summer, grey now as the sun began to set.

The ground was hard but not yet frozen, so we were able to dig a grave fairly quickly, even one-handed. The only sounds were the blade of the spade striking against stones, the sifting of earth as it piled up, and my occasional gasps of pain as my stitches burnt.

While I worked, pausing to rest every few minutes, Saltanat sat in the back of the car, holding Orbek’s hand. We’d driven in silence, but I knew we’d have to talk about his death at some point. He was one of the reasons we were together, and I didn’t know whether our relationship could survive his death. Perhaps our own child would be the glue that kept us together. Until then, it was time to grieve and to revenge him.

When the grave was a metre deep, I climbed out, wiped the sweat from my face, carried the body over. He looked very small in my arms, a broken doll, fallen into sleep. I began to shovel the earth over the body. Each spadeful spurred my anger at the people behind the men who’d carried out the raid upon us.

We all know death is the inevitable last stop on our journey. On our way there, we hope for a peaceful ending, a life well lived. But for some people, their journey ends before its time, destroyed by the evil or cruelty or stupidity of others. It’s for those people I exist. And I believe nothing is a greater crime than the murder of a child. The end of promise, of joy, of wonder at a new world. The end of everything.
The grave finally filled in. I replaced the squares of grass that I’d cut out, stamped them flat into place. I hoped the grave was deep enough to leave the body undisturbed by animals, kept the thought to myself.

Saltanat walked over to join me, put her arm through mine.

‘Is there anything you want to say?’ I asked.

She considered for a moment, looked around and down towards the water.

‘This is a peaceful place,’ she finally said, infinite weariness in her voice, ‘Poor boy, he didn’t have much luck in life, did he?’

‘He had you,’ I said.

And it was only then that she began to cry.

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