Here is part four my short story Shooting the Sparrow. Part five is soon to come. I hope you enjoy it.
Andrei was out for a walk, when his life betrayed him.
He was thinking about Petya, and how much he loved him, loved the boy. The two were so close, it was the most beautiful thing for Andrei. And he couldn’t wait to see him again, hopefully soon.
But his life, controlling him like the universe, already had a plan for him, and he may not have been able to prepare for that, for that event, but it was going to happen anyway.
“I love you,” Andrei said to himself, as he continued to walk.
“You mean so much to me, Petya.”
And he did. Andrei didn’t know what he would do without Petya in his life. The two had so much in common, the two understood so much about each other, they were close in a way that was almost transcendental and otherworldly. And the best part was that Andrei didn’t need to explain it, it was just something that he felt deeply. And those were the feelings that he lived for.
It was the stark simplicity of love, that kept Andrei begging for more, as though begging for his life. His world wasn’t going to collapse because he loved another guy, those ideas were reserved for more conservative parts of the world.
And so, because this was Andrei’s outlook in life, thinking that he was going to always be alive because of Petya, he continued to walk, walking straight into the trap.
They already knew about him, of course. They already knew that Andrei was gay, and they had plans to destroy his life, they had plans to betray him. They already knew that Andrei didn’t deserve to be in this world, he deserved to die, because he was nontraditional. And he meant nothing to the regime. Andrei was nothing in the eyes of the state, if only he could see that, realize how much he was hated and how much he deserved to die. If he hadn’t been such a coward, perhaps he would know, know the truth, and his life would be taken away with more grace and respect. But since he was weak in the eyes of the state, all the state could think about was how he needed to die.
He didn’t have a right to love, he didn’t have a right to truth, everything that existed for him was out of reach, just as he was out of touch.
So they didn’t hesitate to shoot him without warning, without hesitation.
At first, Andrei wasn’t sure what had happened: had a gun gone off? Was he hearing things? Had war just broken out on this quiet evening?
He wasn’t sure, all of these possibilities seemed to be the truth.
It wasn’t until he began to have feeling in his chest, close to his heart, that he had an idea of what had happened.
He was bleeding. He saw the blood flowing gently, from a hole in his chest, from where the bullet had entered. And this was his battle wound. If he was going to fight for what he believed in, he couldn’t be a victim, he had to be strong and rebellious, he had to really understand the gravity of the situation, of who he was, of being gay: and he couldn’t be afraid. He couldn’t fear for his safety, his life, even as his life was slipping away from him.
The blood continued to flow. The second gunshot went off, and pierced Andrei’s back. They were shooting in a way that would maximize hell, where they always said Andrei was going, simply because he loved Petya. And the blood was a warning, the blood was a symbol. The wound, killing the bird, shooting the sparrow, you couldn’t commit such a cruel act to such a beautiful creature in God’s kingdom without cursing your own life. It was treason to God’s kingdom. You were thereby damning the will of God.
It was like killing a child. In war, in violence.
The pain was steady, because Andrei wasn’t sure this was happening. But as he slowly began to process the situation, he realized that he’d been shot twice, and it was perfectly okay if he acknowledged the pain that he felt. He knew they were after him because he was gay, he’d heard about these atrocities happening, of homosexuals being targeted and murdered, and so close to home. Such ignorance, then, to think that it could never happen to him.
Letting out a strained sigh of pain, Andrei allowed himself to fall, like the sparrow shot from the sky, like killing the albatross without remorse or shooting the dove, the eagle. He fell, in more ways than one in the eyes of the state, the government that wanted to destroy his capacity for love, for compassion, for companionship, for connection. He was nothing to those who only wanted to murder him.
As Andrei forced himself to get comfortable on the ground, knowing he’d been shot hard enough to eventually die, and probably painfully rather than quickly and painlessly, rather than with mercy, he saw someone approaching him, someone wearing very dark clothes, blending in with the setting night, blackened by all of the ash they’d consumed, blinded by fury for order and privilege.
“You’re going to die,” he said to Andrei. “It’s your punishment from God. You don’t fit in our nation, you’re in line to die. You have no right here, in this world. When they used to burn homosexuals at the stake, they were only doing what God had commanded. And we are purging all of you vermin out of the system. You are a disease, a plague, a contamination. I have no forgiveness for you.”
Andrei listened to this scourging indictment, but the only reason why he was sad wasn’t because he was dying, but because he knew he was never going to see Petya again. Who knew what happened when one died, but one was obviously never going to go to Heaven, if one could twist love into a sin, Heaven couldn’t really exist if religious people murdered others in the name of God in Heaven.
“He’s going to survive,” Andrei said. “You need to know, he’s going to be okay. He’ll find a way without me.”
The man in shadow didn’t say anything for a moment, just smiled cruelly at Andrei as he slipped away. “Such is your dream, of course, that your partner survives. But God has a plan for him as well.”
“If God can allow this, maybe he is impotent,” Andrei said. “If He can allow us to suffer, maybe we don’t actually understand Him, understand His will. What you do, it’ll never be pure, ordained in the eyes of God.”
“You think you understand cosmic laws, you think you understand the way. But you’re oblivious and clueless as to what the natural order of things is. You’ve been hated for centuries, surely you can understand there’s a reason for that.”
Andrei didn’t say anything, because he didn’t need to, he just smiled. He didn’t need to justify anything. His time had come, but he knew Petya would carry on his legacy, would keep his soul safe, Andrei would live through Petya.
He didn’t need to justify it. He didn’t owe anyone anything. If this was the way he was going to go, then perhaps it was ordained. Because he would be going to a better place.
“Any last words?” the man in shadow asked.
Andrei shook his head, and continued to smile. “Just that you’ll never win. Because I have Petya. Because I’m okay in the eyes of the Law. Because I’m all right. And because I am loved, even if you, with your cold heart, seek to destroy that for me.”
The man laughed quietly, cruelly. “It looks like your time is up. Your judgement has been decided, your verdict,” he said, and then shot Andrei one more time.
As Andrei slowly died, he drifted in and out of consciousness. The man was gone, but the shadow was still there. He was going to die here, but somehow, he understood, he was dying for a reason, he was dying for a cause. Part of which was keeping Petya safe. Part of which was understanding the motivations and desires of his heart. He knew who he was, and he couldn’t stop thinking about Petya, he couldn’t stop thinking of how Petya had changed him, given him hope in life, given him love. He could only think about all of the times the two had made love, and really felt each other’s spirit and body, really understanding why they were intertwined.
But Andrei knew, by dying today, he’d made a decision, he’d made a commitment, to something beyond himself. To all of the other gay kids around the world, he hoped they would find the strength they needed to make it, to survive. Because he believed in them, and he didn’t need to justify this belief.
And as Andrei faded, he saw Petya in his mind, he felt himself making love to him again, he felt himself going through all of the memories of the two together, hoping one day they’d be accepted, by family, by friends, for being who they were.
And he did not believe that it was in vain.
“I love you, Petya,” Andrei said quietly, and at long last, he closed his eyes and fell asleep in death’s embrace, and like Gavroche when he was shot, the gentle sparrow took flight.