Hello! This is Phoenix. I wrote a short story called Shooting the Sparrow. I plan on serializing the story on my blog in five parts. Here I introduce the first part, the beginning. I hope you enjoy! It’s a story, fictionalized,, about what’s going on in Chechnya. I was moved to write a story about the events there, and how the state is persecuting homosexual men and teens.
Check out this NPR article for some context: http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/06/15/532977587/they-told-me-i-wasnt-a-human-being-gay-men-speak-of-brutal-treatment-in-chechnya?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social
And keep a lookout for future installments of this story! I hope you enjoy.
Petya didn’t suspect a thing. He was happy. He felt good. His life was coming together, he wasn’t wanting for good fortune. He’d heard about some of what was going on for people like him, but he wasn’t afraid. He wasn’t worried, because surely, people were just exaggerating what was going on with homosexuals. And they wouldn’t come after a kid, right? A teenager? Eighteen, full of life and mystery, passion: why would they go after him? He hadn’t done anything, it was just a spike in strange activity in his city, it didn’t have anything to do with Petya.
He’d just been at his boyfriend’s house, his date’s place, and things were going good for the two. His partner’s name was Andrei, and he was exceedingly attractive. He was vulnerable yet strong, he had a good heart. His features were smooth and nuanced, his demeanor and disposition were intelligent and possessed an air of comfort with oneself, and contentment, moderation.
And Petya didn’t suspect a thing.
He was walking home, thinking about how happy he was. Finally, he had so many reasons to be happy, and all of those reasons dealt with Andrei. Andrei was his guardian angel, in a sense, his guardian, he was the one who allowed Petya to really feel, and honestly, nothing felt better than that.
He was aware that things in life change, but he wasn’t scared for his life, he wasn’t worried that something bad was going to happen. With life being so unpredictable, he couldn’t hang on to the details and entertain those fears. Neurotic thinking didn’t usually accomplish much, and Petya was certainly aware of this.
But he was wrong. Petya didn’t know he was wrong about his safety, his life, and he realized this when it happened, so fast. When he was targeted. When the van pulled up beside him, and grabbed him without a moment’s hesitation, and threw him inside the van. When he struggled and he fought, they knocked him into unconsciousness, and it was like he didn’t even exist.
He woke up tied to a chair in a basement of some sort, as though he was with a mastermind of ISIS, and he was surrounded by really strong men. Petya wanted to fight back, but he was too scared to. He wasn’t as strong as these people, he was never going to be as strong as them, he had a smaller frame and a smaller build. He was hopelessly outmatched.
He was feeling a little sore from being knocked into unconsciousness, and he felt a little sore from being thrown into the van, but he had a feeling that things were about to get much, much worse. He didn’t want to think about what that actually indicated, but he also wanted to be ready for what was coming his way.
A man, not as strong as the others but with a cruel face and a wicked disposition, went up to Petya, and looked at him cruelly.
“You are a homosexual?” he said.
I don’t know how you would know that, Petya thought, and he couldn’t help but feel afraid for not just his life, but for Andrei’s life. Maybe this is what they’d been talking about? The government had a way of knowing who was gay and who wasn’t, so they could more accurately purge the land of all who tainted it with their homosexual taint.
Petya knew he didn’t have any options. He could deny it, but they already knew, somehow. He could tell them the truth, but that would just lead to more pain. In all honesty, he wasn’t sure what to say, he wasn’t sure there was really anything to say. His life hung in the balance. They had grabbed his heart from his body and were waiting for the precious moment to crush it.
The man looked at Petya carefully when he didn’t say anything, and without warning, he smacked Petya so hard that, had he not been tied to the chair, he would have fallen over. Blood began to pour, it was a strong and forceful hit, why was he being treated this way? Being gay was special to him, it wasn’t supposed to be a blight on culture. Being gay was sacred. Why didn’t people understand, love was love, and being gay was a very beautiful thing?
“Answer me,” he said, cruelly but also somehow relaxed, despite the fact that he’d just exerted himself so forcefully. “It’ll go better for you if you answer the questions we ask. Are you gay?”
Petya wanted to respond to the questions, but he had never been so afraid, perhaps that was the irony of juxtaposing momentary happiness with eternal punishment. Because wasn’t that where Petya was going? He was going to Hell, of course he was, because he liked other guys. And yet, he couldn’t say anything at his trial, at his hearing, to abdicate and vindicate himself. He was too afraid.
And so, to these cruel men, it looked like he wasn’t cooperating, but in truth, he was really just terrified for his life. This event, being kidnapped after loving his boyfriend, his partner, Andrei: it really didn’t go well with the happiness and innocence that he had literally just felt. This transition was jagged, bitter, and unbalanced, and he didn’t know why his happiness had derailed so suddenly. It didn’t make sense. But why hadn’t he expected this? He felt a surge of anger for the lack of imagination and morals that these people had. But what could he really say to tyrants?
So Petya remained quiet, out of fear. And the man looked at him with his trademark glare, and when silence continued, he prepared himself to hit Petya.
Petya, as he watched him prepare, said, “Please,” but it was too late: He smacked Petya hard, drawing more and more blood, creating bigger and bigger bruises, he was determined to really hurt him. To really hurt Petya. And he didn’t understand why.
When Petya cried out for mercy, the man hit him harder, and then hit him again, and continued to hit him, drawing blood, drawing fear, drawing sorrow and despair from a kid who believed in so much, even though the world could be so dark and tragic. There was hope, wasn’t there, or was that just a myth?
“Answer the fucking question!” he shouted, as he continued to hit Petya, with no mercy, with no compassion, beating him into a bloody pulp, not caring what any of this meant to his future health.
They didn’t care about preserving him, they could kill him if they wanted. They could really torture him, and for being innocent and unjustified. They could really hurt him.
And they were. They had no restraint, they didn’t care that Petya just wanted to survive this so that way he could look at his lover one more time.
Petya’s face was now covered in bruises, and stained with blood, the blood of which poured out recklessly and carelessly, everything that Petya believed in was being challenged right before him. Why was he being punished? It didn’t make sense. He knew Alan Turning was castrated for being gay, even after saving the Western world from utter devastation and destruction. He knew in America, there had been suicides and death from those who identified as homosexual. He knew, he knew indeed, that the LGBT community ached from being rejected by society, being told things that were untrue, just so they could be oppressed and repressed. It was sad, but Petya had honestly thought he’d outgrown all of that, that there was more to the situation than the persecution of homosexuals. This was not what he had envisioned for himself. Yes, he kept it secret from his family, but he was sure that when the time was right, they would be able to accept him. They would be able to love him fully. And yet, here he was now, stepping into the dystopia that he’d never noticed before, that literally blind-sided him, and his world was coming undone, as he continued to bleed, as his body began to break down from being hit so many times, as his mind spun webs of delusion because his head could only take so many hits. He could not handle the violence.
And all the while, the man was yelling out of control, yelling obscenities, yelling curse words that Petya hated, screaming a multitude of derogatory statements, telling Petya that he wasn’t important. “You’re not even human!” the man yelled in anger and persecution. “You’re nothing! Faggots should suffer, because they aren’t even a human being! They’re abominations and full of crooked desires!”
Petya was falling into unconsciousness, but as he got beaten up, these words lodged somewhere in his heart, the idea that because he was gay, he was somehow less than human, that because he was innocent, he was somehow an abomination, a monster. How backwards the ideas in society were, that the victim was somehow the monster, while the abuser was vindicated and in the right, because they had the law on their side, they had order on their side, and they could beat someone up without any punishment, with the boy Petya feeling as though no one was ever going to listen to him, and understand that he was a good person, that he was human, that he bled and hurt just like anyone else. What could possibly make him less human? Just because he was gay? Just because he enjoyed the company of other men?
He found this, amidst his pain, more tragic than his actual pain. The realization that in the eyes of the state, he was worthy of pain and death, of suffering. And they made this clear to him, telling him over and over again as they hit him, that the wages of sin was death, that sodomy was an abomination, that because he was gay, he deserved to die, and he had no rights or humanity, which could only lead to him falling into unconsciousness as they hated him, the ideas beaten into his mind as he dreamed about black static and violence, emptiness.
Part 2 soon to come!