Shoot Seven People Dead
By Ahmad Tohari
Dar farewells me with a firm grip. Then he turns and walks away saying he wants to go home to Jakarta and return to editing a famous periodical. But a moment later he looks back, before approaching me once more.
“One more time. Are you still sure that what I did was my fate?” Dar asks, solemn faced.
I smile and shake my head. He has asked me the question many times, every time we meet. I have just answered the question two minutes ago.
“You mean what you did when you shot seven people dead at the same time? How many times do I have to answer? That event happened fifty-four years ago. Whatever happens is called fate,” I answer, also serious.
“So you’re still sure?”
Dar looks at me but his face is still worried. Then he turns his large tall frame. Unfortunately, he walks away with steps that are not nearly as bold as the figure he cuts. I think that Dar is overweight. And like me, he too is greying. What’s certain is that fifty-four years ago Dar and I were both in the final year of secondary school.
Today we are taking our leave in the yard of a small food shop. Dar has ordered rawon beef and rice soup, the oil floating on coconut cream sauce glistening with fat.
The volleyball is fed in and Dar smashes it with a movement two seconds faster than expected by the team on the other side of the net. The ball fires unobstructed into the other team’s court. A roar explodes, especially from the female students watching. Virtually all the girls in our school always go for Dar on the volleyball court, and maybe off it too. Dar again becomes the center of attention as he prepares to serve. But this time we have to wait as someone calls him from the court. A cry of disappointment rises from a group of female students. The person calling Dar off is someone we all know well. Along with two friends, the person often takes us for marching practice, and he uses strict discipline. He also teaches us how to raise and lower the flag. In fact, the trainer also teaches a special group of students including Dar who is tall how to crawl. Not just ordinary crawling, but how to crawl while you carry a rifle and grip a commando knife between your teeth. So brave. That’s the way to take enemy territory. Also how to disassemble and assemble a weapon. This activity makes the smaller shorter ones among us feel jealous and insignificant compared to Dar.
Still on the edge of the volleyball court, the trainer hands Dar a rifle that does not have a magazine. Then the trainer salutes bravely, tough-looking face. This helps create an air full of heroism. We grow even more jealous of Dar and I know the female students are going to admire the tall guy even more. Finally Dar goes back on the court wearing the rifle, even though it doesn’t have a magazine.
From what Dar tells us we learn that the weapon is an automatic rifle. It is called a Kalashnikov, or AK-47, and it is made in Russia. Gunfire from this weapon sprayed horizontally, says Dar, can bring down a banana tree trunk by making a gash like a machete slash, and one magazine of bullets fired vertically can split the trunk from top to the bottom, making a cut like a machete slice too. Yes, Dar’s story about the fantastic rifle always manages to make us seem more and more insignificant. Although Dar is still a high school child like us we really believe that he has actually done everything he tells us.
Once the volleyball court is vacated by the hero it is as if all our enthusiasm has evaporated. All the more so as the female students also move away. I still remember him. And of course Dar receives more, and more exciting, training. Dar relates that the person training them has asked him to enrol in the military academy later. So he will have to do lots of physical training. Dar just says yes to the trainer to make sure there are no bad feelings. But in fact Dar has told me he really wants to become a painter.
Dar is picked up and because their journey takes them into the teak forest he asks the person who meets him, “Where are we going?” Dar receives the reply, “A great task awaits you there in front. Only a great youth could get the opportunity to carry out such a great task. Not even me in fact.”
Although he is not satisfied with the answer Dar is actually reluctant to push for an explanation.
The jeep travels slowly, crawling through the shadows cast by the trees. It stops where the narrow road runs along the edge of a steep embankment. There are several unarmed men standing together down there. Below the edge, only a few meters away, a river flows swiftly. As the sun is already low in the west, Dar and the others are frequently hit by the glare of the bright sunlight reflected from the surface of the water.
The trainer hands Dar a full magazine loaded with bullets. Dar accepts it with a show of bravery. Without hesitation, he deftly mounts the magazine. From the open end the bullets are visible, pointed, copper-headed, reddish in color, the size of fingers. Dar tells me the bullets burst as soon as they hit their target. If they are targeted at a person’s back, the wound is a gaping hole as large as the hole in the back of a kuntilanak vampire. That’s what Dar tells all of his high school friends. Fifty-four years ago.
The trainer smiles as he gives Dar the thumbs up. Dar returns the smile. When the trainer snaps a dashing salute to Dar, he responds with the same enthusiasm. Then Dar and the trainer descend the embankment a few steps. About five meters in front of them a woven bamboo panel is visible that is held upright by stakes at each end. Along the center of the woven panel is a thick white horizontal line some two meters long.
Dar senses that he is confronting something and a situation he does not comprehend. “What is all of this?” he asks.
And the man answers flatly, “I am going to test your accuracy. Please fire at the white line until you’re out of bullets. Let’s go, ace!”
Dar’s face warms because he feels he has been given a challenge. He takes a deep breath, moves his left leg forward, leans to the front slightly. He raises the AK-47, palms sweating. He consciously assumes a bold pose to fire. Right index finger tight on the trigger. Rat-a, tat, tat, tat, tat. Instantly the thick white line on the woven bamboo panel is erased by the spray of bullets.
There follows a second of perfect quiet. In that moment, Dar almost screams for joy because he feels he has become a great marksman. But a moment later complete confusion descends. Speechless, he notices a blotch of blood seep through the tear in the woven bamboo there in front of him. He also hears something collapse. Throwing down the AK-47, Dar runs to see what is behind the wall. Several bodies are slumped, covered in blood. Two are rolling down toward the river. Then two splashes sound and the river instantly turns red. Dar suddenly feels dizzy, sways, and faints.
Dar and I meet again a few months later at the small food shop, Dar again about to return to Jakarta. His stomach is fat and I chide him, “You should eat less. If you don’t you won’t have a long life.”
Dar defends himself. “Actually I’ve suffered from memory loss all my life because I once shot seven people dead. When I eat, I can forget I have memory problems. That’s all. I won’t ever stop liking food. And I’m also going to keep asking you if you’re still sure that what I did then was fate.”
“Yes. It was fate! It’s a deep scar! It’s our curse!” I answer rather loudly. But the words make my flesh creep and I can’t hold back the tears.
Maybe Dar’s excuse is right, that by eating all the time he can forget the deep emotional injury. But why does he have to eat another rawon beef and rice soup, and then another? Finishing the large bowl of soup, he stands up as if he wants to get into a comfortable position to belch. I stand up too but not to burp. Instead I stroke his stomach. “You have to take care of your stomach so it doesn’t get any bigger. That’s if you don’t want to die early.”
The fact is it’s just a joke. And Dar and I laugh together. But maybe it’s bad luck or something because later it turns out that my words are definitely no joke at all. A few days later I hear the news that Dar has suffered a stroke. Of course I want to go and visit him in Jakarta right away. But before I can leave more news arrives. Dar has passed away.
Oh Lord, fifty-four years ago Dar shoots seven people dead. And today he passed away. Well, what can I say? There definitely isn’t any need for me to ask for forgiveness for Dar because You are All Knowing.
Ahmad Tohari, “Shoot Seven People Dead” (Menembak Mati Tujuh Orang) was published in the Central Java daily newspaper Suara Merdeka 13 October 2019. [Retrieved from https://lakonhidup.com/2019/10/13/menembak-mati-tujuh-orang]
Ahmad Tohari was born in Banyumas on June 13, 1948. He now lives in the village of Tinggarjaya, Jatilawang, Purwokerto in Central Java province. His most popular work is the novel trilogy Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk. His collections of short stories include Karyamin’s Smile (Senyum Karyamin), Nyanyian Malam, dan Mata yang Enak Dipandang. Other works include the novels: Kubah (1982), Di Kaki Bakit Cibalak (1977), Bekisar Merah (1993), Lingkar Tanah Lingkar Air (1995), Bclantik (2001), dan Orang-orang Proyek (2002). The short story They Spelt The Begging Ban (Mereka Mengeja Larangan Mengemis) was published in Kompas Daily on 15 September 2019.
Demi menghargai "perasaan" Amerika Serikat sebagai fasilitator Perjanjian Renville, Indonesia bersikeras menutupi hubungannya dengan Uni Soviet. https://t.co/7dHKzlUw9l
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