You sit back in the comfort of your lounge chair and watch the television news.
The woman dressed in a dark blue business suit smacks of professionalism. Impeccably dressed and blonde hair held tight in a bun at the back of her head. No wispy ends escape.
A mixture of excitement and fear escapes her lips as she reports the scene playing out behind her. The words tremble as they escape over the Reporters shiny red lips,
“....blast and people running out from the building.”
Images flash from one bloody scene to the next. Blasts are heard over people screaming and yelling in confusion.
You see momma’s face; someone’s mother’s face is bruised, battered, black and bloodied. She rushes towards the roadside. She looks helpless and needs a hug.
A skinny young girl in white underpants lies on the side of the road. She is dead.
You, the television audience, look on, unaware of any connection between the woman and the girl.
The next day:
The dark haired woman her eyes brown and bloodshot speaks to an American reporter,
"Yesterday was a special day for my daughter.”
The elderly woman grips a white handkerchief in her right hand moves it from right to left and back repeatedly. It is blood-stained. Softly she says,
“Supposed to be special.”
The Reporter saying nothing hangs on every word, while looking into the woman’s large black pupils in the dim light of her darkened home.
The camera is rolling.
“The first day of school should hold excitement and a little fear for children. It has a way of burning itself into a child’s memory. That is how it is. That is normal. That is how it should be. This day, torched its way into our memories forever. For those lucky or unlucky enough to survive it will remain."
The person behind the camera zooms in close-up on the woman as a way to encapsulate her grief or for the drama of viewers at home.
"My name is, Zinaida. I am the woman you watch on your television. You watch me from the comfort of your lounge chairs."
The replay of yesterdays events come up on part of the television screen to show the audience the woman’s description of yesterday’s events.
She explains with numb monotone, “I search the mess around me." The picture shows people delegated to control the situation running terrified and confused. I see anguish and fear. I feel it too." A fully-grown man unable to walk is carried away like a sack. His face shows grief, pain and loss.
Zinaida goes on, "Urgent fear, the need to get away grips me, but hope for my daughter’s life keeps me in this horrible place. Nine years old." her eyes glaze over and she continues,
"God hear my calls, please. Where are you God?
Urgency screams at me. I search the grounds for my child. I am lost but I am aware of where I am. I am afraid. People trying to help, run around in confusion.
I trust no one and I trust everyone.
I walk quickly and carefully around the lumps of sheets around my feet. I lift every sheet. Some have blood on them and I know under one of these sheets I may find my child. I fear and sense in my heart and soul nothing but dread.
I hope, I pray.
I see a child who looks like my flesh. I touch her. She is soft, still warm, bruised and stale dry blood sticks around her eyes, nose and mouth. I look closely.
She is not my child.
I feel relief.
I know it is only a matter of time before I find my daughter.
I lift another sheet. I feel guilty for lifting the sheet, which allows someone else’s daughter to sleep in peace. I kiss her forehead and place the sheet back over her, once lovely face. I hate this. I hate the pain. I hate the fear. I hate fighting and I want everyone to find a way to live in peace."
Tears squeeze their way from Zinaida's eyes but are suspended by fear and pain in the bottom of her eyelids.
"I attended this school when I was younger. I held happy memories of this place - not anymore.
My husband is not here. I feel he is a stranger. Like him everyone is outside of me. I am alone. I cannot understand. I will not.
So many confused thoughts roll around and things I believed true are now lies and lies are the reality of this horrible time.
I am distraught. I am hurt in a way that will never heal. I will not live anymore. I can only exist. I do not want to exist either.
That man walking up to me.” She points at the footage on the screen. “He informs me of the death of my daughter. Anger rises in me. I want to hit him and scream at him. But it would do no good. I let it pass. I know I have to support the resistance in order to gain freedom. My strength is fading and I would rather be dead like my child."
The Reporter thanks Zinaida solemnly and ends the interview.
A few days later:
The Reporter calls Zinaida at home for a follow up interview.
“For the viewers at home, Zinaida. They want to know how things are for you now.”
She replies, “Many days pass. I still feel as though I am in the school grounds. Putin said 'All Russia grieves with you' but when innocent, helpless, children are victims. The whole world grieves except the people with no souls. I have felt love from others but…”
The phone line is silent. The grief-stricken woman continues,
“It is not enough. I question the people who perpetrated these crimes in my mind. I ask them. What is it you are tying to say? What are you trying to teach us? You are different to me. What do you want me to do? I am tired. I am confused. My husband died that day too.
I found out later he died trying to save children on the other side of the building. I have no one left. No hope.”
The Reporter says nothing. There is a longer silence.
The aggrieved woman gently places the phone on the cradle, lowers herself down to the floor, curls up in a ball and closes her eyes. She sees vivid images of that horrible day. They haunt her days and nights.
She reaches for a pen and writes:-
Пожалуйста помогите мне,
Я - ваш ребенок, также.
The reporter hangs up and calls the airport to book a flight.
The next day:
The reporter enters Zinaida’s home. She notices writing on the floor near the woman’s crumpled lifeless body.
The next day, the reporter enters Zinaida’s home. She notices writing on the floor near the woman’s crumpled lifeless body.
She interprets the words as:-
Please help me,
I am a child of yours, too.
The Reporter picks up the blood stained handkerchief beside the woman's hand. Stares at it. Implores it to speak and explain all these atrocities. She closes the woman’s eyes. Closes her own for a moment. Leans down and places the handkerchief in Zinaida's right hand.
The reporter leaves the building. No Police investigate the suicide. No family attend the funeral.
Like so many before. This woman, Zinaida… Alone.
Authors Note: Zakgirl does not speak Russian. The words for the letter were taken from an interpretation website. She trusts they are correct but has no way of knowing. This is a piece of fiction inspired by a photograph of the recent Russian school massacre. I hope it moves you.