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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 13 page 13


Prisoner 75 walked away from the destroyed crematorium and headed to crematorium number five, three hundred meters away, with the guard by his side, the muzzle of his firearm clanking against his belt buckle with every step. When they arrived, prisoner 19 (short for 2012419) awaited them. Prisoner 75 scrutinized the man's feet, ankles, legs, mid-section, arms, upper body, neck, face — all healthy, limber, strong. He had to be a new arrival. The new man extended his hand, but 75 refused to shake it.

"My name is —"

"Names don't matter," said 75.

"You're going to get a fresh batch of bodies," the guard said. He turned and walked away, the gun clanking against his belt.

The two prisoners stared at each other silently.

"Did you see what happened this morning?" said 19.

"No," said 75. "I didn't see anything, but I heard the explosion, then the shots, then the screams, followed by more shots silencing the screams."

"Good for them, doing what they did," said 19, "I overheard a guard telling another guard how much damage they caused."

Prisoner 19 sat on the ground, while 75 remained standing, reluctantly curious to hear what happened.

"It started just before the sun came up. There were about a hundred of them. Most were men, but there were a few women, even some children. They managed to get some dynamite. A few of the women had been smuggling it in for weeks, bit by bit. The whole group ran to crematorium number four, set up the explosives, lit the fuse, and blew it up. A pack of guards came out, some in their underwear, they must have thought it was an accident. They probably never thought in a million years that the prisoners did it. The rebels attacked them, even killed a few. I heard it was three. They beat them to death. It didn't take long for more guards to come — this time they were fully dressed and fully armed, and they killed every single one of the rebels. Those that weren't killed in the fight were executed right after. The whole thing only lasted a few minutes, but what a way to go out."

"What a way to go out?" retorted 75, "They were slaughtered, and for what? To destroy one crematorium, when there are still four left, to kill a few guards, when there are hundreds left?"

"You answered your own question. Before they fought, there were five crematoriums, now there are four. Say there were a thousand guards last night, today there are only nine-hundred and ninety-seven. But it's not the numbers that matter, it's the impact. They all knew they were going to die. At least they died taking down some of what was going to kill them."

"You sound like my old partner," said 75.