I was one of five. The middle boy bookended by four sisters.
Sara, the youngest, was my favorite sister. Six years my junior, she had a wisdom that surpassed me even before I reached adulthood, her own conviction and passion rippling positive change into the world until those threatened ended her life with cowardly bullets.
I thought of her now as they bound me with rope, unforgiving tethers that choked into my wrists and ankles. They forced me down onto my side and pulled the ropes taut until every knot ground in protest. The rough pores of the concrete floor in the death room poked at my cheeks, my bare legs.
“It will be over soon,” one of them said, kneeling behind me.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said.
The one behind me huffed a small laugh and then cupped a leather-gloved hand on my sweat-drenched hair. The touch was curiously gentle.
“You are probably right, my friend.”
I had once told Sara that life is over the moment you are born. The rest of your days are spent denying it. She had slapped me so hard for saying that, her small hand unleashing a powerful sting across my nose.
Love yourself, brother! If not for yourself, then for me. For what I do is for you and every other soul that lives in our country.
The man lifted his hand and squeezed my shoulder, a last effort at calming me before the inevitable bullet would silence me forever.
“Do you know what your problem is, my friend?”
I stretched my head to look behind me, but the ropes held me fetal-like on the cold ground.
He continued. “You tried to fight the world. That only works if you yourself are like the world, no? You have to be more powerful than the world to do that.”
“No,” I said. “You just have to do what’s right.”
The man snorted. “Right. Wrong. For the weak, it doesn’t matter. You’ll be dead soon, no? And what comes of that, my friend? No one will remember you.”
I gave a sigh to close my resolve. “Maybe no one will. But the choices I have made – for that is the gift my sister showed me – will always stay with the world. A mark left on the world in some way.”
“A very small mark,” he said. “But…yes. I believe that as much as you, my friend. Tell me, when all that are left of your people are gone, and there is no more of you to cause trouble for us, what do you think will happen?”
“We will never truly be gone. For our voices have been heard and will echo into the next lives that will listen and know what we stood for.”
He sighed tiredly and then stood up behind me.
There was a metallic click, and I understood the bullet was chambered and ready.
I closed my eyes and thought of Sara.
“For you, sweet sister.”