It is Sunday. Bells are ringing all over the city. Large bells. Small bells. Medium-sized bells. Hand bells. It is impossible to hear anything above their incessant clamour. With your hands bound tightly behind your back and your naked body covered in blue and purple welts of varying size, shape and hue, you stand at the crossway of two dimly lit alleys. Several of your fingers are broken. With the tip of your tongue you explore the cavity where your two front teeth used to be. Once again you taste blood.
Stood beneath the glare of a perigeal moon, a listing telegraph pole casts the shadow of the cross onto damp, moss-encrusted cobbles. Beside it, tall and erect, stands a telecommunication mast from which are hung the battered and bloodied bodies of a sixty-two-year-old man and his thirty-four-year old mistress——a woman who had suffered with primary amenorrhea and chronic renal failure. The bodies hang upside-down on meat-hooks. Beneath them, a patient vulture stalks an emaciated Sudanese child.
From the alleyway to your rear comes the sound of screaming and the smell of burning flesh. You are unable to ascertain if these are the screams of men, women or children. Impulsively your mind drags up a memory of excited children chasing squealing pigs at a summer barbecue attended only by uninvited guests——this, in turn, drags up the scene of power drunk Serbians enjoying a ''Live Pire'' in Srebrenica.
General Nguyen Ngoc Loan holds a loaded revolver to your temple. His face displays a complete lack of emotion and his body language is apathetic. You recall the image of Thich Quang Duc self-immolating on a busy Saigon street.
It is Sunday. You are sitting at a table, reading about King Æthelstan, and all across the city bells are ringing. Suddenly there is a huge explosion and you are knocked off your feet. As an enemy aeroplane flies overhead, its machine guns chattering, two men come crashing breathlessly down the stairs carrying carcasses of beef.
A waiter brings you a glass of sacramental wine and sets down a small silver salver containing a piece of unleavened bread. You tip in a niggardly fashion and turn your attention to the busy high street. A motorcade rolls by, resplendent in mile after mile of shiny coachwork. The floral tributes read: ''MUM'', ''DAD'' and ''PEACE''. Among others, you recognise Vazgen Sargsyan, Ahmed Maher Pasha and Anwar Sadat, Spencer Perceval, Muhammad Mansur Ali, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, Yitzhak Rabin, Hazza al-Majali, Luis Carrero Blanco, Hasan-ali Mansur, Mohammad Ali Rajai and Mohammad-Javad Bahonar, René Moawad, Sidónio Bernardino Cardoso da Silva Pais, Liaquat Ali Khan and Benazir Bhutto, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Zoran Đinđić, John F. Kennedy. The procession lasts for several hours.
You purchase a broadsheet from a passing news vendor, only to discover that it is a misprint. The broadsheet contains no date; however, the headline seems strangely familiar. You experience a feeling of deja vu. The artillery fire on the front positions reaches crescendo. Alone, you man the trench, shooting forwards. The candles have all blown out and it is impossible to hear anything above the noise of Howitzers thundering their shells into the night, but it now seems much quieter than in the past few weeks.
In the alleyway before you stand four hooded youths, each of them armed with a weapon you instantly recognise as a Colonial Marine incinerator. The image is surreal; and yet the seductive aroma of gasoline is undeniable. A young child comes running towards you. She has torn off her clothes and is screaming, “Nong qua! Nong qua!” When you see that she is burned, you drop your camera beside the road and run to help her. Hanging from her back are strips of fire-blackened flesh that you at first mistake for the remnants of her umber coloured ao dai.
You turn your eyes and look to the alleyway on your left. A young woman is lying in the gutter, her left hand pressed to a stomach wound that bleeds profusely. She raises her tremulous right arm and points towards a darkened doorway, her eyes filled with terror. You hear a guttural growl and catch a glimpse of two dispassionate, unholy eyes. Moonlight flashes on a cold steel blade of perverse proportions and your olfactory system is assailed by the stench of an abattoir.
It is Sunday. The alarm bells are ringing out all across the city. You run from the cafeteria and stare up. It is then that you see them——hundreds upon hundreds of torpedo bombers swarm in the early morning sky. You run towards the ships, planes zooming overhead and explosions ringing out across the harbour. The smell of smoke and gunpowder fills the air. As you turn the corner the dock explodes into oblivion.
You turn your head to the right and stare into the depths of the last of your prospective routes. The pitiful lowing of the cows as they stumble through a pool of fluorosulfuric acid is pathetic. Drawn to the stumps of these floundering beasts' once-legs, your eyes dilate involuntarily. You catch the scent of a furnace and hear the sound of a round being chambered.
You hear the hammer fall.
Exploding propellent roars in your right ear.
You feel your ear's timpanic membrane shatter like glass.
“Going, going, g—”
Time stops. All the lights go out. Slowly the roar fades, turns into a whisper, the whisper into an eerie voice that echoes down the alleyways of your subconscious mind: “I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.”
It is Sunday. With your hands bound behind your back, and your naked body covered in blue and purple welts, you stand at the crossway of two dimly lit alleys. Standing beside you to your right, General Nguyen Ngoc Loan cocks his pistol.
'Choose wisely,' he murmurs, in pidgin English.
It is Sunday.
Bells are ringing all over the city.